The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.
Through the first 12 verses, James has dealt with the issue of testing and trials in the life of the believer. These have been shown to be an essential part of the maturing process for the child of God.
James concluded this section by speaking of the blessedness of the man who perseveres under trial. When this man has been approved, he will receive the crown of life.
When that refining, approving process is complete, we shall be presented in the glory of His presence as "holy and blameless and beyond reproach" (Col. 1:22). Then we shall be given the crown of life -- eternal life in the presence of our God.
James is now going to turn our attention from external trials and testing to internal temptations. With every test we face there is the possibility that we will sin and turn away from God. Because of our sinful character, every trial which God intends for good may become the occasion for sin.
James wants us to clearly understand that God never leads us into sin, but sin finds its origin within us.
The issue of sin and temptation is a very important one for the believer. James gives as clear a description of how sin unfolds in the life as is found anywhere in the Word of God.
tempted (peirazo) This is the same word translated "trials" in the first 12 verses. Here the verb form is used; there it is the noun peirasmos.
It has always been true that man's first reaction is to blame someone else for his sin or temptation. This was true of the original sin and temptation in the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 3:12,13).
Some people even blame God for their failures. Note Adam's response to God: "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate" (Gen. 3:12).
Many people feel that God is responsible for their sin. In fact, some try to excuse their sin by saying that this must be what God wanted since He put them in the situation which led to the sin.
James tells us that no one should say, "I am being tempted by God." There are two prepositions that James could have used to say by in this statement. One, hupo, would have suggested direct agency. It would mean that God was the direct and immediate cause of the temptation.
James uses another word, apo, which carries the idea of remoteness or an indirect agent. James is saying we should not even suggest that God was involved or to blame by putting us in the situation.
The point is that God has no part of any kind in leading us into sinful activity. James gives two reasons for this statement:
each one -- indicates that everyone, personally and individually, is responsible for his own sin. The temptation which leads to sin comes from within the person himself.
James uses two words which are probably drawn from the realm of fishing to describe the process of temptation:
carried away (exelkomenos) The idea of this word is "to be drawn away" or "led aside." The bait, some external lure, catches the attention and draws the fish away from its course.1:15-
James now unfolds very simply and directly the pattern that lust takes:
LUST . . . SIN . . . DEATH
lust . . . gives birth to sin -- This is always the pattern and conclusion. We make a decision to entertain the desire, to pursue the bait, but the process slips from our control.
sin . . . brings forth death -- The fish that is attracted and deceived by the beauty of the lure is led to his death. Lust culminates in indulging in the sin (taking the bait) and sin always leads to death (cf. Prov. 7:6-27).
James is stating the general principle of Scripture: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23; 7:5).
Destruction is always the end result of sin. While the believer does not lose his salvation, he can suffer great loss and ruin.
Note that each of these steps entails a process: "Lust-conceived . . . gives birth to sin." That lust which is harbored in the mind and heart will break out in time. Do not be deceived.
Some listening to this study are already in the path of ruin. You have lust in your heart -- the desire for riches, fame, power, etc.-- which will move you to take the bait at the opportune time.
Some marriages are deteriorating from within because of the thoughts that are going on in the mind of the husband or wife -- thinking wrongly about their spouses, secretly desiring a relationship with another.
Those desires cannot be harbored, but must be crushed immediately or they will lead to sin which will lead to ruin.
Only God can give power and victory over sin. That centers in His Son, Jesus Christ. He can set you free from lust and sin (John 8:36). For us as believers there is always strength and power available from Him (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13).
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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.