Once when a friend was struggling with temptation, I decided to go through the New Testament and gather the verses on temptation, then perhaps find more verses from the Old Testament, to encourage them. Not only did the verses in the New Testament gave a thorough overview of temptation, but to my surprise, they gave this thorough overview in such an orderly manner that I was able to write this whole article as I searched the New Testament for verses, with very little rearranging of verses when I was done. I realized that this collection of verses could be helpful to me and others in the future when we struggled with temptation, so I decided to post them here, and hopefully they will be helpful to you.
To start, we will look to God, which is where we should always look first in any instance. In this case, we will look to Jesus.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.
The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”
Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.
-- Matthew 4:1-11
Not only do we see that Jesus was tempted and overcame temptation, but we see that God sent angels to minister to Him, just as He will send angels to minister to us.
It also adds these fascinating facts in Luke 4:13-15:
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised Him.
It is evident that even when we overcome temptation, it will return, though it may return in other forms. However, if we can look back on the way God helped us and others overcome through His Spirit and His Word in the past, then we will be encouraged for our present and future battles.
It also notes that when Jesus overcame the temptation, the power of God rested on Him, and He was able to boldly and effectively live out God’s will for His life. Overcoming temptation is an important step upward in our spiritual walk.
Since temptations are waiting to seize onto any opportunity given to them, we have to always be on guard, for as it says in Matthew 26:41:
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
Seeking to live righteous lives will protect us from some temptations, but many temptations will assail us even while living righteously, for they came to the perfectly righteous Jesus, and so we must be ever watchful. Some people have less temptations and some more than others, but the certainty that we will have temptations should keep us ever prayerful. One thing we can pray is the Lord’s prayer, and this line from Matthew 6:13 in particular:
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Temptations were not only shown in the lives of Jesus and the saints, but were also promised, since we are all born in sin. But just as we are all born in sin, so we are also born again in Christ, and God will help us when we are tempted.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. -- 1 Corinthians 10:13
Not only will He help us, but we know that Jesus was tempted with the same temptations which we bear:
For this reason [Jesus] had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. -- Hebrews 2:17-18
He doesn’t just know what our temptations are like because He is God, He has actually been tempted like we are, and because of that, we can trust that He understands our temptations in every detail and knows how best to help each and every one of us.
Hebrews describes this even further in 4:14-16:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
When we are tempted and start to give in, there is mercy, and furthermore, there is grace to help us overcome the temptation that threatens to overwhelm us as well as to help us withstand it in the future. It is worth noting, too, that it does not say when we are tempted to come crawling to God sobbing about how we are failing. It says to come with confidence, because the point is not that we are tempted, for even Jesus was tempted, but that His grace will win out over the temptation.
What happens if we give in to temptation?
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. -- James 1:13-15
The Bible is clear not only that temptations will come, that they are of the devil, and that Jesus overcame them and can help us overcome them, but it is also clear that if we give into temptation, the consequences are terrible--ultimately, death. Fortunately, we will be saved from death by our salvation and resurrection through Christ, and until then, He will walk with us and help us in every temptation.
Due to how thorough an overview of temptation I found in the New Testament, I decided not to go through the Old Testament for this article, other than to note a few things: The first temptation was in the Garden of Eden where Eve gave in to the Serpent, and ever since then people have been giving in to temptation. But those faithful to God will be able to overcome temptation, just like Joseph resisted the temptation of his master’s wife and was later blessed for it.
Everyone, from slaves to rulers, will continue to be tempted and in some cases give in to temptation and be cursed by it, such as King David who gave in to temptation with Bathsheba and saw the loss of his son and the coming of family discord. But we have an eternal King, Jesus Christ, who overcame temptation, and through His salvation and with His help we can also overcome.
All Bible verses are from the NIV.
(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner