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The Usefulness of Temptation

There was always going to be a fight between (our) soul and (God’s) spirit; that is what it was like with the first creation, Adam & Eve (Genesis 3:1-6), so also with us, as the Word is a pattern for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God knew the battle would take place; it did not come as a surprise to Him. Until we overcome and go back into the Glory of God, we will be battling our carnal mind as the Word of God tells us, the flesh (our carnal mind) is at war with the spirit (Romans 8:7). No doubt we have all experienced this battle, the war in our mind, between the temptations of the flesh, versus what the Spirit of God says. We can easily see in Scripture the war is prophesied, but what may be hard to understand, is the purpose in it. Why did God create man, that we would be in a battle right to the end? The Early Church (pre 325AD) taught that the battle in our minds was ultimately for us to overcome, but through the battle we are able to understand the depths of our soul, so that we will be able to overcome, and convert others once we have been through the process. 

Throughout scripture, there has always been a tug of war between good and evil, from within the camp; Adam and Eve, (Genesis 3:1-6) Cain and Abel, (Genesis 4:8) Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:29-34), Judas and Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16) to name just a few. These examples of war within the camp are for us to understand the nature of the battle we are in does not come from external means, but originates from within ourselves, it is a battle within our minds between temptation of the flesh vs the Spirit of God. Ultimately this battle will come to an end for the overcomer. The Word says that those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13) and the Word promises for those that overcome they will receive the promises of God: 

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ‘ Revelation 2:17

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Revelation 3:12  

He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Revelation 21:7  

All of the above scriptures talk about the overcomer receiving eternal inheritance from God. It is only those that overcome who receive the inheritance of a Son of God and get to reign for eternity (Revelation 2:11). According to the Hebrew language, the root to the word “overcome”, means one who is whole or complete (1)  One who is whole or complete is the bride that Jesus is coming back for – a Church without spot, wrinkle or blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). So, the Bride that Jesus is coming back for at His second coming are those who have overcome the battle in their carnal mind and no longer are drawn by the temptations of the flesh. 

Origen, Early Church Father of the second-third century, taught that the battles, or temptations we face, are to expose the hidden things of our soul: 

The use of temptation is somewhat as follows. Through temptations the content of our soul, which is a secret to all except God, ourselves included, becomes manifest, in order that it may no longer be a secret to us what manner of men we are but that we may have fuller knowledge of ourselves and realize, if we choose, our own evils and be thankful for the blessings manifested to us through temptations. That the temptations which befall us take place for the revealing of our true nature or the discerning of what is hidden in our heart, is set forth by the Lord’s saying in Job and by the scripture in Deuteronomy, which runs thus: Think you that I have uttered speech to you for any reason other than that you may be revealed as righteous? And in Deuteronomy: He afflicted you and starved you and gave you manna to eat, and He led you about in the wilderness where biting serpents and scorpions and thirst are, that the things in your heart might be discerned. (2)

Origen is saying here that the reason we all need to face temptation, is for us to see the hidden things in our heart. Origen calls this a blessing. To not know what is within, means we cannot be healed. Just like a physical ailment – if we are sick but do not recognise that we are sick, or we know we are sick, but do not know what illness we have, we cannot receive the right treatment. God wants us to know the hidden things in our soul and how to ‘treat’ them, so we can bring healing to others. 

Origen goes on to give more scriptural examples of this principle:  

And if we desire references to plain history, it is matter of knowledge that Eve’s readiness to be deceived and unsoundness of thought did not originate when in disobedience to God she hearkened to the serpent, but had already been betrayed, the reason for the serpent’s having engaged her being that with its peculiar wisdom it had perceived her weakness

Nor was it the beginning of evil in Cain where he slew his brother, for already the heart-knowing God had little regard for Cain and his sacrifices. It was simply that his wickedness became manifest when he took Abel’s life. Had Noah not drunk of the wine that he cultivated and become intoxicated and uncovered himself, neither Ham’s indiscretion and irreverence towards his father nor his brother’s reverence and modesty towards their parent would have been revealed. (2)

Through temptation, our true character shows. Origen is saying that it is not in those moments of temptation that we develop a certain character, but the battle shows us what is already within our heart. It is in God’s mercy that He allows us to experience the temptation, so we can see in us what He already sees. 

Let us therefore, in the intervals between the succession of temptations, make a stand against the impending trial, and prepare ourselves for all possible contingencies—in order that, come what may, we may not be convicted of unreadiness but may be shown to have braced ourselves with the utmost care. For when we have carried out all our part, the deficiency caused by human weakness will be filled up by God who cooperates for good in all things with those who love Him, and whose future growth has been foreseen according to His unerring knowledge. . . God delivers us from Evil, not when the enemy does not engage us at all in conflict through any of his own wiles or those of the ministers of his will, but when we make a manful stand against contingencies and are victorious. (2)

During the battle, there will be times of reprieve, and in these times we must prepare our minds for what is to come, through the washing by the water of the Word. (Ephesians 5:26) Origen says that if we show ourselves to be faithful and prepare ourselves as much as possible, God will do the rest, just a scripture says:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 [emphasis added]. God will always provide the means for us to overcome, if we have a willingness to go through the battle. Origen says that we will be delivered from temptation, not when we are out of the battle, but while we are in the battle and we are resisting the flesh

(James 4:7). 

To be in the war between our flesh and the Spirit of God is a good thing, if we are recognizing the hidden desires of our heart that God brings to the surface and are pressing in for the Lord to heal us. Through this process we get to understand the mind of Christ and how to bring healing to others. Without temptation, the evil within our hearts would stay hidden and we would not be able to receive healing and overcome the flesh. To God be the glory!

References:

  1. Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible: ‘overcome’ (H3201)
  2. Origen, On Prayer, Ch XIX [emphasis added]

All scripture references from The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010. 



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