Hank Hanegraaff, host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast, answers the question, if “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1:13), how could Jesus have been tempted (Matt. 4:1–11)? The short answer is that in saying, “God cannot be tempted by evil,” St. James is focused on the ineffability of God. God is the self-sufficient Sovereign of the universe. And as such, has no unmet needs. Conversely, St. Matthew, in his account of Jesus’ wilderness temptation, is focused on the incarnation of God. In the incarnation, God the Son experienced all the essential physical and psychological needs commensurate with our humanity—including hunger, fatigue, and the desire for self-preservation. Thus, the biblical truths—that the ineffable God cannot be tempted and yet God incarnate was—are complementary (not contradictory) truths. However, the temptation of Christ does not in any way imply that Christ was tainted by sin. For sin to take place, there must be a sinful inner response to Satan’s seductive suggestion to sin. Although Satan appealed to Jesus’ natural human desires (e.g., hunger), our Lord did not mull over Satan’s suggestion even for a moment. The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness reminds us of the words of St. Paul, who in his letter to the Hebrews says, “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
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