What is the difference between temptation and sin?
In my Christian life, I can feel that I become impure when I am tempted, and that I have sinned in my thoughts. But that is not true. It is not sin to be tempted, but when I am tempted, my faith is tested, and with the help of the gospel (with what is written in the Bible), I will be able to remain standing in temptations without ever doing sin.
Sin in the flesh - sin in my human nature
Sin came into the world when the first people, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. All of Adam and Eve’s children and future generations inherited a sinful nature – they were all born with a desire to do their own self-will rather than God’s will. The Bible uses many words to describe this desire to do sin: sin in the flesh, sin in our human nature, the body of sin, the law of sin, lusts and desires, sinful desires etc. In Romans 7:18 (CSB), Paul writes, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh [my sinful nature].” Here he explains how we were all born with this desire to do sin.
Also read: What is sin?
Temptation and sin – not the same thing!
James writes very clearly about temptation and sin in James 1:13-15: “When someone is being tempted, he should not say, “God is tempting me.” Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone.” Verse 13 (ICB). “We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us.” Verse 14 (CEV). “These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” Verse 15 (NLT).
From this we can see that if we are tempted, it is not the same as doing sin; sin is when you knowingly agree with the sinful desire that lives in your human nature. So, to do sin is something I choose to do, and sin cannot happen if I do not agree with it.
Also read: What does it mean to get victory over sin?
No one has to sin!
What James is really teaching us here, is that being tempted is just a testing of my faith, and those who keep standing in the temptation without doing sin will receive the crown of life. (James 1:12.) Peter writes that we should be glad if we go through trials and temptations, because our faith is tested there, and the result is the salvation of our souls. The gospel is that even if I am tempted, I don’t have to do sin – I can follow in Jesus’ footsteps and overcome in temptation. The result of sin is death, but those who overcome sin, will receive eternal life!