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Temptation, Testing

TEMPTATION, TESTING (Heb. massâh, Gr. peirasmos). The idea of putting to the proof-from either a good or bad intention-is found throughout the Bible. Thus the Lord often tests his people with the purpose of strengthening their faith, while Satan tempts them because he wishes to undermine their faith. Jesus, true man, faced both testing from God and temptation from Satan. (Note that it is only in modern English that temptation has come to mean testing for evil purposes: testing and temptation were once synonyms.)

Satan tempted Jesus (Matt.4.1-Matt.4.11). Although this was genuine testing for evil purposes, the Lord used it for testing Jesus in his vocation as Messiah. Temptation initiated by Satan is not sin: Sin is to submit.

Christians are to test themselves. Before partaking of the Lord’s Supper believers are to test themselves (1Cor.11.28) to see whether they are spiritually prepared to participate. Such testing should be a regular feature of the Christian life (2Cor.13.5; Gal.6.4).

“Lead us not into temptation” (Matt.6.13) is a part of a prayer to be addressed to the Father by his people. Some translations offer, “Do not bring us to the test/trial.” This plea seems to ask that we not be forced into tribulation, extreme testing, or great suffering. The next petition is “but deliver us from the evil one,” which recognizes that Satan is active in this world, but that God is greater than Satan.

Bibliography: D. Bonhoeffer, Temptation, 1953; E. Best, The Temptation and the Passion, 1965; P. Doble, “Temptation,” ExpT, vol. 72, 1960-61, pp. 91ff.——PT