A Question I Was Asked:

God Cannot Be Tempted, Yet Jesus Was Apparently Tempted; Can You Explain?

The Bible states that Satan tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1), and also that Jesus was 'in all points tempted as we are' (Hebrews 4:15). Yet in James it also states that "God cannot be tempted by evil" (James 1:13). Therefore does the Bible contradict itself regarding the nature of Jesus? How could Jesus be God, if God cannot be tempted? Can you help me with this?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Jesus was and is God but during His 30 or so years upon this earth He was also a man. In order for this to happen He had to temporarily 'empty Himself' of the fullest form of His godliness.

This is how Paul explains it:

5. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7. rather, he made himself nothing ('emptied Himself' - CEB) by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross! (Philippans 2:5-8).

So there you pretty much have the full explanation; God cannot be tempted, Jesus, the Second Person of the Godhead, as He presently sits in Heaven, cannot be tempted, but for Him to live upon earth, living the life of a 'suffering servant,' He had to suspend some of His godliness for that certain number of years that He sojourned here. Of course, He could still do miracles, He remained both God and Man, yet He gave up some godly attributes.

While on Earth and living 'in the flesh,' Jesus was voluntarily in a subordinate position to the Father. Christ "emptied Himself" (Philippians 2:7) for this time period. As a mere servant, yes, He became open to tempation and was tempted to do wrong on several occasions yet never yielded. During this period of time, He actually added something to Himself which He had not previously experienced; the human propensity and susceptibility to temptation - this was something He added to Himself for a most vital reason! So Jesus became subject to such things as hunger, thirst, weariness, pain and to just a degree of human uncertainty and vulnerability, well illustrated perhaps in, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?" (Matthew 2:46b). So in order to become the perfect sacrifice and Great High Priest, Jesus willingly submitted Himself to human vulnerability, temptation and, of course, death. As it states in Hebrews:

17. Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way. This was so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, in order to wipe away the sins of the people. 18. He's able to help those who are being tempted, since he himself experienced suffering when he was tempted. (Hebrews 2:17-18, CEB).

In conclusion, the Bible's depiction of Jesus as God incarnate is in no sense contradictory. As the immortal, invisible, pre-incarnate Word (1 Timothy 1:17), He is God (John 1:1). When the Word put on flesh, He was still by nature fully God (John 10:30,33; 20:28) and also became fully Man. He willingly "humbled Himself" and "made Himself of no reputation" in order to become the tempted, yet still perfect Man.

21. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

Robin A. Brace. March 11th, 2016.