Why Does God Allow Satan to Tempt Us?
James R. Aist
“Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1)
The Bible alludes to “temptations” using various terms, such as tests, adversities, trials, persecutions and tribulations. This is because temptation is portrayed primarily as a testing of our faith in, and loyalty to, God. There’s no doubt about it: every man from Adam to Jesus to us has been or will be “put to the test” (cf., Psalm 11:5; John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12; Hebrews 4:15; Revelation 3:10). To further establish the truth of this point, let’s expand, somewhat, this trail of temptation in the Bible, so that we may more fully grasp its inevitability. God allowed Satan to tempt Eve (and through her, Adam) in the Garden of Eden using a slanderous lie; God allowed Satan to tempt Job by destroying all of his earthly possessions, except his life and his wife; Abraham was tested by God when He instructed him to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering; David was tested by the fearful sight of a giant, Goliath, who was mocking the God of Israel to his face; Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil; Peter was tempted to deny that he was a follower of Jesus; we are tempted by Satan (1 Peter 5:8) to sin and to abandon our faith in Jesus; and, at the end of the millennial reign of Jesus, Satan will tempt the inhabitants of the earth to join him in mounting one last army to defeat Jesus and His followers. So, the question arises, “Why does God allow Satan to tempt us?” To put the question another way, “Why hasn’t God forbidden Satan to tempt us during this Age of Grace?” Isn’t it enough that we have declared, sincerely, our allegiance to Him?
The short answer to this question is, “No, mere words, by themselves, are not enough.” But why Does God require more than our solemn word on it? I believe that the Bible gives two, interconnected and fundamental answers to this question. First, let’s take a close look at Genesis 3, where we can find one answer. Satan was allowed to test the fidelity of Adam and Eve toward God, and the first man and woman, representing to God all of mankind, failed the test. What followed, necessarily, was a cosmic consequence of “biblical proportions”: Adam and Eve had to be banished from God’s presence in the Garden of Eden to an outside world ruled by God’s arch enemy, Satan. Adam and Eve got it wrong, and the whole of creation has been paying the price for their transgression ever since. What if God, in giving mankind a second chance, requires us all to get it right this time by willfully obeying God, not Satan, when Satan tests our loyalty to Him. Our loyalty to God must be demonstrated by our willful obedience to God when we are tested. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15).” That is the proof that God requires, beyond mere words to that effect; words are cheap, but actions can have eternal consequences. So, in my view, that is one reason why God is allowing Satan to remain active on the earth during this Age of Grace. My perception is that God is using Satan to test and prove our faith, in order to demonstrate that what we have is not mere mental ascent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:21), but saving faith that endures to the end (Matthew 10:22; 1 Corinthians 10:13). The other answer to this question can be gleaned from a study of Job 1-2. Satan challenged Job’s faith in God and received God’s permission to try to persecute Job into cursing Him. This challenge, in effect, turned into a contest between God and Satan to determine if God’s power to keep Job faithful to Him was greater than Satan’s power to get Job to deny Him. Now, the Bible says that it is by the power of God that believers are kept faithful to the end (1 Peter 1:3-5). By allowing Satan to test the faith of Job, God demonstrated that His power to keep Job faithful was greater than Satan’s power to destroy Job’s faith. The Apostle Paul said it like this, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).” So now we can surmise that God has a dual purpose in allowing Satan to tempt us: To demonstrate that a) saving faith is the kind of faith that withstands even the assaults of Satan, and b) God is more powerful than Satan in the battle for the souls of mankind. To me, these are reassuring insights concerning my own eternal destiny.
But that’s not all. In the Bible we find that the testing of our faith has other important purposes. It strengthens us against future temptations (2 Corinthians 12:10); it prepares us for future ministry in His kingdom (Hebrews 2:18; 2 Corinthians 1:4); it helps to perfect us in God’s eyes (Romans 5:2-4); and it reveals to us what is in our hearts and minds, so that we will know that He judges rightly when the time comes (Jeremiah 17:10).
And, there’s still more. When this Age of Grace is over, Satan will no longer be allowed to tempt us; he will have fulfilled God’s purposes in allowing him to tempt us during the Age of Grace, and he will be banished to the Lake of Fire for eternity, far away from us. As a result, those of us who are born again in this life will be able to enjoy the next life with Christ (Matthew 10:2) in a new and amazing world free of temptations. What a glorious day that will be!
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