By Clinton D. Hamilton
This column will address two questions that were submitted together by one querist. One concerns the origin of sin and the other deals with the consequence of sin. Both have biblical answers.
Question one: Is every sin the result of temptation, i.e. James 1:14-15?
Response: Temptation is an issue with which many are uncomfortable. Some may argue that since God made all things, one can attribute temptation to sin to him. James in this first chapter has been dealing with tests or trials through which men may go. In verse three, he speaks of the proving of faith. This proof of faith is considered in the abstract, not concrete (Alford). The concrete would have reference to the medium of the proving, which would be the temptation itself. The proof of faith or the proving it, James says works endurance. One is not to be weary with this endurance but should let it have its perfect work (1:4).
Perfect is from teleios, which means to reach its end or to be complete. Endurance or patience can reach its end of bringing into approvedness in relation to God (Rom. 5:4). By letting endurance or patience come to the end that God has intended, one can be complete and whole as a man ought to be in the sight of God. In this context, perfect does not mean sinlessness. Rather, the idea is being complete or whole as a man ought to be in relation to meeting successfully his trials to the point of reaching endurance under pressure of tests or trials. Having done this, one is then approved of God.
That person who successfully endures trials is blessed.’ If this endurance is characteristic of his life, then he will have become approved by God and will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to them that love him (Jas. 1:12). This prospect as the outgrowth of successfully meeting trials or tests is most encouraging to one; consequently, the one under trials can approach his life under pressure of the proving of faith with optimistic hope. No doubt, this was the purpose of the penning of these words to the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad (Jas. 1:1).
What is the source of the temptations by ti- successful meeting of which one is proved? One is testeu Jr tried in the plan of God. But this does not mean that God is the agent that sent the desire to violate his law. One cannot say that when he is tempted that he is tempted of God because God cannot be tempted of evil (kakos, base or bad in character). God’s character is good and righteous, pure. Consequently, he is completely unversed in evil. Being thus, he certainly is not going to cause evil to arise in one’s heart (Jas. 1:13).
Deity has no part in evil whatever. Jesus, the Christ, who is God, has no darkness in him. Darkness, sin, is no part of deity for deity is light (I In. 1:5). Christ was manifested to take away sins and in him is no sin (1 Jn. 3:5). One cannot, therefore, say that the desire to do sin originates or comes from God. Man cannot transfer the responsibility for his sin to God. Human accountability demands that one be responsible for the coming of sin into his life, not God.
When sin comes into one’s life, whence is it? James proceeds to answer the question with clarity and directness. He says that one is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. This affirmation in relation to the statement that God is not tempted of evil and does not tempt any one has led some to state that scripture contradicts itself. This view appears to come of a misunderstanding of what is said in relation to its context.
Lust, from epithumia, means in this context a desire for what is prohibited. The word must depend on its context of use for its precise meaning. It basically means a desire, inclination, wish, or lust. The nature of this desire or lust must be ascertained from the particular context in which it is used. In some instances of its use, epithumia has the meaning of a good desire. Paul had a strong desire to see the face of the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:17). Jesus said that with desire he wanted to eat the passover with them (Lk. 22:15). Paul had a desire to depart and be with the Lord (Phil. 1:23). In all three of these instances of the use of the word, the meaning is a good, not evil desire. When one has a desire to participate in that which violates the will of God, the desire is evil and if it is satisified, sin is the result.
The noun form of the term occurs 37 times and the verb form 16 times in the New Testament. With the exception of the instances of the use of the term examined in the preceding paragraph, the noun does not occur in a good sense. A Christian is not to let sin reign in his/her mortal body to obey the lust thereof (Rom. 6:12). Desires or lusts are not necessarily base or immoral. A desire to procreate is a God-given desire but it becomes sinful if one seeks to satisfy it in violation of the law of God. A desire for food is wholesome and essential for one’s physical wellbeing but a desire to eat food that leads to gluttony would be a sinful one. Every natural desire has a lawful means of satisfaction in God’s system.
There are lusts based in the flesh (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 5:16,24; Eph. 2:3; 2 Pet. 2:18; 1 Jn. 2:16). When one yields to a desire in a manner in which the satisfaction of it would lead to a violation of the law of God, sin is the result. There is a proverb that says, “You cannot keep the birds from flying over your hair but you can keep them from building nests in your hair.” Desires originating in the flesh, eyes, and mind can be sinful if one proceeds to do his own will and not the will of God.
H. Leo Boles once made the statement in one of his lessons on sin, which I heard, that as every spoke in a wheel points to the hub, so does every sin point to lust from which it originates. It is my conviction that the analogy is a good one. God, James affirms, is not the source of the temptation which results in one’s sin. One’s lust is that which draws him/her away and by which the enticement occurs (Jas. 1:14). Drawn away is translated from exelko which means to lure forth. One’s desire is that which allures him to violate the will of God. The allurement does not come from God. He does not commit evil himself and he does not allure men into sin. Entice is from deleazo which conveys the idea of being lured with bait. In effect the lust is the bait. God does not produce the bait which is the lust in order to cause one to sin.
When the lust has conceived, sin is the result and when sin is finished the result is death (Jas. 1:15). Conceived is from the term sullambano which means in its metaphorical sense in the passage under consideration a decision to act as based on lust’s enticement and is based on a woman’s conceiving in the physical realm. When the conception runs its course, sin is the result. Fullgrown in relation to sin in verse 15 is from the word apoteleo which means “to perfect, to bring quite to an end” (Thayer). In this context its metaphorical sense is that the sin has come to maturity. What started out as a desire to do wrong, which desire conceived and ran its course to maturity in a completed sinful act, is the idea conveyed by the sin’s coming to its full growth.
In further amplification of his affirmation that God is not the source of temptation to sin, James states that every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow that is cast by turning (Jas. 1:17). God is not fickle or changeable, therefore, he would not of his own will beget one by the word of truth and then seek to entice him back into sin from which he rescued the person (Jas. 1:18).
One commits sin when he is lured by his own lust as the bait to violate the will of God. The question can be simply answered by stating that every sin arises from lust. The above analysis, I believe, makes this abundantly clear.
Question two: Do all sins separate man from God?
Response: In the preceding discussion, James was quoted as stating that the result of a sin brought to maturity is death (Jas. 1:15). The meaning of death is separation. The term is translated from thanatos which by definition is separation from God in this context. One’s sins and iniquities “have separated between you and your God” (Isa. 59:1-2). Adam died when he violated God’s law (Gen. 2:17).
When a Christian sins, he has an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous (1 Jn. 2:1). He ever lives to make intercession for Christians (Heb. 7:25).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: No 22, p. 6
November 18, 1993