Does God Tempt People to Sin?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Does God tempt people to sin?  Is God responsible when we are tempted?  Would God tempt us with sin just to test us?

Does God Tempt People To Sin
Where it says in the Bible that “God tempted them”, the literal translation of the Hebrew word for tempt is actually “test.”

Did God Tempt Israel in the Wilderness?

The Bible describes events where God was said to tempt Israel in the wilderness.  Is God tempting Israel to stumble or sin? What does it mean when God was said to tempt Israel when the Bible says that God tempts no one (James 1:13)?  In Exodus 15, some translations say (incorrectly) that God tempted Israel to see if they would follow Him in obedience.  The correct translation should be that He tested them, not tempted them.  In Exodus 15:25-26 it says, “There the LORD issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. He said if you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.

Further, in Exodus 16:4,  “the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” Finally, in Exodus 17:1-2, “The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.  So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”   In each of these three previous passages, and elsewhere in the Old Testament where it says that “God tempted them”, the literal translation of the Hebrew word for tempt is actually “test.”  God was testing them to see if they would be obedient, so no where in the Old Testament is it recorded that God ever tempted anyone to sin.  He simply tested Israel or individuals to see if they were going to follow His instructions and laws or to see if they would fail the test and be disobedient. Of course the Old Testament shows the pattern of Israel continually failing the test and God chastising them in one way or another and often it was by allowing them to be taken into captivity.  However, each and ever time this happened, God was correcting His chosen people as a show of love for them as God equates discipline with love.

Did God Tempt Abraham?

God dealt with Abraham just like He has with all people in ancient and modern times.  He tests those who He wants to see if they will follow His ways or their own ways.  Abraham was tested by God.  Particular Bible translations incorrectly use the word “tempt” instead of “test.”  In Genesis 22:1- 2 perhaps the greatest test ever given to any one was given to Abraham, “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”  Abraham was willing to sacrifice the promised son – his only son – in Genesis 1:10-12 and as “he [Abraham] reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”  “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Clearly God was not tempting Abraham to kill his son. That seems ridiculous.  Instead, God was testing Abraham’s obedience in the most extreme test ever given to mankind.  God saw that Abraham passed this severest of tests in Genesis 22:16-18 and told him, “because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.

Was Jesus Tempted to Sin?

Jesus’ was not tempted to sin by God but by the Devil, just as humans are. God saw this early in mankind’s history, from Eve’s temptation in the Garden (Gen 3:6) up to the flood.  In Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”  Here is evidence that “every inclination…of the human heart was only evil all the time”.  The evil was from their own human heart.  It was not from God but from mankind himself.  Humans certainly don’t need any help from the Devil, although the Devil and his fallen angels (demons) certainly help the inclination to sin.

The story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness shows that temptations not only come from our own fallen human condition but the Devil.  In Matthew 4:1-4 not only did Satan tempt Jesus but he also tested Him, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [literal Greek is “tested”] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Who is “the tempter?”  It is Satan who is called the tempter (v 1).  Jesus was tempted to make stones out of bread by the Devil, but Jesus passed this temptation but this temptation did not come from God but from Satan.  Surely Jesus must have been terribly hungry after 40 days and nights of fasting and his humanity must have craved bread to eat, but He rebuked Satan and passed the temptation to end His fast at the Devil’s reckoning.  There is nothing wrong with being tempted but if you don’t flee it (1 Tim 6:11), temptation gives birth to sin (James 1:15). When Jesus finally rebuked Satan by quoting Scripture and commanded him to flee, the Devil had no choice but to flee (Matt 4:10-11).

Does God Tempt Christians to Sin?

The Bible is crystal clear that God never tempts anyone to sin as James says, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone”(James 1:13).  The only ones who tempt humans to sin are other humans and the Devil and his demons.  We sin because “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).  We are tempted because we are enticed by our own evil, human nature.  When faced with temptations, it is from our own lusts or the Devil.  When temptations come, the Bible makes it clear that we are to “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (1 Cor 6:18).

When a Christian is tempted to sin…and not if, but when, for surely it comes to all, here is what Paul tells us that we ought to do:  “flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Tim 6:11).  Even adultery starts in the human heart (Matt 5:28).  The good news is that we do not have to be slaves of sin anymore (Rom 6:22) because sin only brings eternal death (Rom 6:23) and every one of us are born into sin (Rom 3:23).  What was bad news becomes good news in Jesus Christ because, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).   We all sin and fall short of God’s glory, but Jesus has paid our “death penalty” so that we might have eternal life in Him by placing our trust and faith in Him (John 3:16-17).   Let no one say that we are tempted by God to sin.  It is not biblical.  We are carried about by our own sinful heart and it is deceitfully wicked beyond repair as Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it” (Jer 17:9)?  Jeremiah answers his own question by saying, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise” (Jer 17:14).   For that fact, I thank God and Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Was this article helpful? Let us know in the comments. You might also enjoy this one:

What is the Unforgivable Sin? A Biblical Analysis


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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Ernest July 30, 2012 at 11:04 am

Yes I agree with you totally God can never tempt any man with evil because he hates evil. But my question is why did He create good and evil? I also read in the bible in 1st Samuel that when the spirit of God left Saul an evil spirt from the Lord troubled him. Also in the bible in 2nd Chronicles 18:18- we also read when king Ahab wanted to enquire from some prophets about going to war it is recorded that there was a council meeting in heaven where an evil spirit or was it lying spirit said he will put lies in the mouths of the prophet to lie to the king so that he will be destroyed. Until Micaiah was called in by king Jehoshaphat. Please shed more light.


Jack Wellman July 30, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Thank you Ernest. Great questions. Let me say that Saul had chosen his own course and actually hardened his own heart, as did King Ahab. If you read Romans 1 you can see that God finally gives up on them and gives them up to a reprobate mind (a hardening of the heart). God does not create evil…but even evil can still perform God’s purpose as Joseph told his brother who sold him into slavery as he told his brothers, “you meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”

Romans 1:18-19 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”

Then in Rom 1:28 ” Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil.”

This says that if a person continues to harden their heart against what they know to be good and godly, then He gives them up to a depraved mind and they become filled with “every kind of wickedness and evil.”

Does this make sense Ernest?


Dwight Young December 27, 2012 at 8:04 am

Why then did the Lord include this phrase when teaching his disciples to pray (Luke 11):
“… and lead us not into temptation”


Jack Wellman December 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Thank you Mr. Young for your question sir. Scripture is never contradictory and so James 1:13 says that God tempts no one. This prayer is asking God to not lead us into it. But the word behind “temptation” in the prayer can be translated either temptation or testing and testing fits the context better. The word in the sense of testing fits as we are asking God’s help and the prayer would then ask God to not bring difficulties our way. This would be consistent with the fact that Jesus told his disciples to “rejoice and be glad” when they face persecutions (Matthew 5:11-12). Why would we pray to God to not let Him lead us into temptation? Do you believe God tempts or entices mankind to sin? This is contrary to God’s nature for He wants us to avoid sin.

Does this help Mr. Young? Thank you sir.


Ben April 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm

why did God Test Abraham


Jack Wellman April 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Thank you Ben for your question. The answer is in this article and from God’s mouth Himself, saying, “”Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Clearly God was testing Abraham’s obedience in the most extreme test ever given to mankind. God saw that Abraham passed this severest of tests in Genesis 22:16-18 and told him, “because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”


Timothy Vukomanovic January 7, 2014 at 6:57 am

Hi Jack, I have read your article and a few others on temptation. I must admit I have a hard time accepting or comprehending some things in James and some of what you have written in your article.

A sticking point of the interpretation of James for me is that God created the devil and God is eternal by nature. This means God created the devil knowing full well exactly what the devil would become. Indeed the devil was used to test Job and this activity was fully sanctioned by God. Satan can only act as far as God allows and only as far as God created Satan to have power.

God created Satan full well knowing he would be the promoter of sin and would tempt. In that regard the devil is only doing what God designed in the first place, and if God did not design it then why did he create the devil the way he was? For God is eternal knowing the begining from the end knew that the devil would tempt. How is this different from God tempting? God created a creature that he knew would tempt, the devil is only a tool to achieve Gods grand design.

So how is God not tempting? Is he not simply doing it through the devil?

Look forward to your reply


Jack Wellman January 7, 2014 at 9:21 am

Thanks Timothy for your question. God uses language that we can understand but He is outside of all human understanding. God created the world and the potential for sin because He gave Satan and us freewill. My wife and I had children and they have free will but just because they choose to disobey doesn’t mean that we are tempting them too. God knew the Devil would tempt Eve and that they would fall but God also prepared Jesus to be the Lamb of God which is said in Revelation to the “slain before the foundation (or creation) of the world. It is different in the sense that God created the potential for evil and since He is all knowing He knew it would happen but He is not responsible…we and Satan are responsible for our own evil choices because God doesn’t make us sin…we are all carried away by, as James said, our OWN sinful lusts and desires. God can use evil for good, just like with Joseph. What men or Satan means for evil, God uses for good, i.e. Romans 8:28 (I believe) and thank you Timothy for such a great question. You make me dig deeper sir and iron sharpens iron which is good since rust never sleeps.


Lanray AJAYI August 25, 2014 at 7:00 am

Thanks so much for this message, Pls what is the difference between trial and temptation?


Jack Wellman August 25, 2014 at 8:20 am

Thank you for your comment and question. A temptation is the desire to do something sinful like when we are tempted to lie or gossip or any other sin. A trial is something that we are going though like a health problem, a financial difficulty or persecution that results in a severe thing like a job loss and for some in other parts of the world, their trial is that they are jailed for their faith, separate from their family, beaten and so on. Make sense? I hope I answered your question.


Anthony Cotton January 16, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Can you tell me Jack was the power to forgive sins handed down from the Apostles.
In the bible it said Jesus breathed on the Apostles and sent them out to forgive sins,and when they came back they were very exited.
It also says in the bible that Jesus said that no man can forgive sins but God.
Has you know I used to be a catholic and you confessed your sins to the priest but he says “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Farther and of the Son,and of the Holy Ghost Amen.
Catholics believe that the priest is acting on Gods power to forgive sins.
The key word being “I” which he is referring to himself.
Since comming to this site many moons ago I find this not to be true,and only God can forgive sins.


Jack Wellman January 16, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Greetings my brother Anthony. In this verse Jesus (John 20:19-23) talks to the disciples about forgiving sins. Does this verse mean to say that 1) the disciples had the power to forgive sins, or 2) we have the power to forgive sins?

Due to the nature of Jesus’ words and actions on this occasion, I conclude that it is the apostles who are termed “disciples” in John 20:19-23.

Here, Jesus is symbolically commissioning His apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel. He had used similar language before His death (Jno. 16:7-15). Now, as the Father had sent the Son into the world (with a word and a mission, Jno. 12:49-50), He is now sending His apostles into the world (with the Holy Spirit inspired word of the gospel). At His ascension, Jesus will again restate this “commission” – Matt. 28:18-20.

When the apostles received the Holy Spirit they were empowered to preach the saving gospel (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). It is God who ultimately forgives sins (cf. Mk. 2:6). God has chosen to do so through the convicting and converting power of the gospel (Jno. 16:8-13; Rom. 1:16-17; Acts 2:37-38, 41; 3:22-26).

So, John 20:22-23 is emphasizing the effect of the Holy Spirit inspired word – the gospel – which the apostles would preach to the world. Through their message sins would be forgiven or retained (by God), depending upon the men’s reaction to the gospel of Christ. For our sins to be forgiven today, we must believe and obey the gospel preached by the apostles of Christ (Acts 2:40-41; 2 Thess. 2:13-15). I believe this is so because dozens of times in the Bible it states that “Against You and You alone have I sinned oh God” so I believe the gospel is teaching about the forgiveness of sins and the construct of the grammatical nature of the Greek (which the New Testament is written) means that they had the authority to teach how the way we can be forgiven. Does this help my brother? Thank you. Great question. Only God can forgive sins…but we can forgive others who have sinned against us but they still need God’s forgiveness for their sins…even those against us.

Thank you again for your good question. May the Lord bless you as you seek to know and do His will (Matt. 7:21-23).


Anthony Cotton January 19, 2015 at 12:41 pm

So by what you are saying it is already written in place in the bible,and has it says in the bible only God can forgive sins.
It was the catholic version that made me enquire about this.
They use a priest to forgive you on behalf of God.
I was just sitting thinking about this because I had been on got and it is said that the Catholic religion is also a false religion.
Since you told me many years ago only God can forgive you,and it`s in the Bible so it never can be disputed by any other religion.
I still find it hard to ask for forgiveness from God but this only lasts for about a day now.
I sit and go through it bit by bit,and then I accept it.
I know this to be true because a day later or so I break down thinking of the sins and it must come from God that`s His answer.


Jack Wellman January 19, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Thanks Anthony. In Mark 2:3-7 “Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Now if God alone can forgive sins, then wouldn’t we naturally ask Him (God) for forgiveness. Doesn’t it make sense my brother. My problem at times is do I forgive myself. The answer of course is sometimes no, and to my shame. Should my standards of forgiving myself be higher than God’s and do I trust God and believe Him when He says “You are forgiven?” David wrote exactly who are sin is against, therefore we should go to that same One Whom we have sinned against as David wrote in Psalm 51:4 “Against You, You only, have I sinned,And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.” You and I are much alike in many ways my brother and not just because we have the same Father, God that is. You are loved. Not just by me but infintely more by God.


Anthony Cotton January 20, 2015 at 12:49 pm

You make a very good point the way I see it has well when you said.
My problem at times is do I forgive myself.
The answer of course is sometimes no,and to my shame which is one that effects me.
As I said before it`s the shame of the sin against God but He answers that not long after the sin He hits my heart and I know it`s God.
Where years ago I would ask for Gods forgiveness and stopping me was the shame and that he would never forgive me and that stayed with me.
When I first came onto this sight I think you told me twice,and Dereck once that God would forgive me my sins all the time if I asked Him.
The vey point is He is watching me sin,and I know this and I don`t know how to handle that one,but on the other hand He will be waiting for me to ask Him to forgive me for this sin.
I think this is the key point if I don`t ask Him I will not be forgiven.
Your answer in what to do is spot on Jack.
May God keep giving you the wisdom to understand Jack.


Jack Wellman January 20, 2015 at 8:31 pm

Thanks Anthony. You are always such an encouragement and your honesty and transparency is a breath of fresh air and I believe is a strength of yours…you are sincere and the real deal…no hypocrisy. As for God watching as we sin…well, I am in the very same club as you are brother.


Anthony Cotton January 23, 2015 at 11:43 am

Quite a few people have told me that I have the strength well in the past.
I don`t know what to make of this, other than that I am never going to give up.
I have always disliked the Catholic Religion because their are quite a few topics in question especially at school.
When you went to confession everybody went to the nice priest,but when the other priest came out he said I want half of you down here now.
In short when I went in he told me I was on the road to Hell,and I said to myself he is supposed to forgive you not condemn you.
This made me feel that I was`t forgiven and it did my nerves no good at all.
You Jack have given me a key that so far have unlocked many doors that I didn`t know about,and Derek has well thanks be to God.


Jack Wellman January 23, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Thanks Anthony…sadly, people have told me this too but I am glad that they’re not on the throne and that God is and who can condemn those who have been justified (ROm 8:1)? the answer is no one!


Anthony Cotton January 23, 2015 at 11:50 am

This has nothing to do with religion at the top of your email it has this written- [Joshua’s email] Report Phishin but your link highlighted in Blue takes me straight here with no problem,and I can`t figure it out?


Jack Wellman January 23, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Anthony, I told Josh about this and we have no issues here on the website so he and I think its your own email telling you this. Have you tried “adding to contacts” the email address? This might take care of it. Your own email system might be doing this because the email address isn’t in your contacts list. Not sure what to tell you rather than it will not hurt your computer. Sorry, not much help. Off to work.


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