Trial and Temptation: A Biblical Theology Discussion

Trial and Temptation: A Biblical Theology Discussion

WONG Fook Kong

The article looks at the concepts of trial and temptation in the Old Testament and comes to the following conclusions. Firstly, the line between test/trial and temptation is not clear cut. Failure of a test/trial may result in sinning against the LORD. This ambiguity is also reflected in the translations of the word in different translations. This means that the possibility of falling into sin as a result of a test or trial is never totally absent. Secondly, while humans' testing of God is viewed negatively, the opposite is not so. God's testing of humans is presented in a positive light. There is a didactic function to the test/trial, whereby believers learn to fear God and keep His words. It is as if God uses an “app” which repeats the questions continually until the “students” have mastered the lessons. Although the possibility of sinning is never eliminated, God does not test believers in order to cause them to sin. He tests them or brings them through a trial to teach them to love and obey Him better.

With regard to James 1:2, 12, 13-15, the distinction between trial and temptation is not a semantic distinction. They have overlapping meanings in both Hebrew and Greek. Instead, the distinctions are conceptual. In 1:2, 12, "trial" refers to God's testing of humans in order for them to learn to keep His words. This is why the trial produces steadfastness. Like the app metaphor, the more a student takes the tests, the better he becomes. He gets the answers right more and more consistently as he learns the materials. The temptation mentioned in 1:13-15 is also a test or trial. However, it does not have a didactic function. Its purpose is purely to cause believers to sin. According to James , this comes from our sinful nature and not from God. Therefore, although James used similar words to describe trial and temptation, they refer to different concepts in his usage. One is good while the other is bad.

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