Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life…
We are carried back by the first word to our Lord's pronouncement of the Beatitudes in the sermon on the mount. And here, as there, we are confronted with paradox. The words of the earlier Beatitudes had doubtless come with a shock of astonishment to many, who listened for statements that should accord with their carnal life. "Blessed are" - the proud, the strong, the conquering? Nay; but "the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the merciful ones." So now. Not," How blessed are they that escape the multiplied ills of life! "but," Blessed is the man that endureth." Here, of course, is a return to the strange "greeting" with which the Epistle opened.
I. THE ENDURANCE OF TEMPTATION. The word must be taken in the broad, generic sense of " testing." Of this there are two forms - enticement to sin, and afflictions of righteousness. It enters into the very essence of a moral universe that there should be testing, and certainly into the moral recovery of a fallen world that the processes of the testing should be intensified. For in a world of innocence, if innocence is to develop into an established holiness, there must be such possibilities of a fall into sin as the very fact of freedom implies; and the resistance of" temptation" (as we specifically call it) involves such self denial as makes well-doing difficult; or, in other words, positive "trials" (as we call them) are necessarily bound up with the righteousness which pursues its way in spite of "temptations" to unrighteousness, and both together constitute the test (πειρασμός) of character. And if all this be true of a world of innocence, how much more of a world into which sin has already come! Both the temptations to sin and the trials of righteousness are intensified now, the heart itself being so prone to evil, and the world an evil world. Hence the immense difficulties of salvation from sin. We have an index to this in the intensity of temptation to even a Sinless One in a world of sin, as shown in the conflicts of the Son of man. View the wrestling in the desert, and the agony in the garden! And how much more to us, whose nature is so responsive to the influence of the world! But his conquest is the pledge of ours, if we do but put our trust in him (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4). And the beatitude? We cannot write "blessed" over the fierce wrestling in the desert, nor over the agony of blood. But we can over the victorious result. And so with ourselves; not," Blessed is the man that is tossed and troubled;" but, "Blessed is the man that endureth. For what is the result of the enduring? Δόκιμος γενόμενος: we can hardly give the force of these words, save by periphrasis, in our tongue. "Having acquired the quality of triedness;" i.e. having been put to the test, having borne the test, and being now certified as true. Like gold in the fire. And the prize? "The crown of life." Figurative expression as regards the word "crown;" so 1 Peter 5:4 and 2 Timothy 4:8. Familiar thought of contention for a reward. But, dropping the figure, let us ask what is the "life" itself that is set forth as the crown of our rejoicing? And, for the answer, compare some words of Christ: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God;" "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent;" "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him;" "And my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and. make our abode with him" (Matthew 5:8; John 17:3; John 14:21, 23). Such the life; the full fruition of God, which is possible only to a pure soul.
II. TEMPTATION NOT OF GOD. Now as to the source of the temptation, the endurance of which results in blessed life. A right and a left, a good and an evil, are possible alternatives always, and to free creatures that which is possible may become actual. God cannot constrain them to well-doing, or they would cease to be free. In the case, then, of allowing for temptation in the very constitution of a moral world, God may be said to be its source, its author. But how readily men push the responsibility of their actual sin away from themselves to God! They are placed in such and. such circumstances by God, therefore God is the author of the sin to which those circumstances lead. So they argue with their own hearts. But illustrate: a position of trust, with its involved temptations. Does the employer tempt the trusted servant to wrong-doing? Nay, verily. So man is placed in a post of trust by God, and the trust necessarily involves the possibility of a betrayal of trust; but may we therefore say that God tempts us to do wrong? The very thought is blasphemy! Only an evil being can tempt to evil; on the other hand, an essentially holy Being must seek to work out holiness. This is the true genesis of sin: man's will yielding to his desire, not resisting it. The result is the presence of an actual power of sin; for sin is no longer a mere possibility to us, but a positive entity. And again, when the will weds itself to this positive power of sin, as before to the mere desire, the result is death. Just as the fruition of God is the life of a pure soul, so a godless desolation is the death of the soul that has permanently espoused itself to sin. Such the dark pedigree set forth by James.
III. EVERY GOOD GIFT FROM GOD. The negative has been stated in regard to the goodness of God; now we have the positive. The very sufferance of temptation itself is in love, that the highest good of a created universe may be wrought out. And this love is God's essential nature. He cannot, then, work harm in any way. God the author of sin? a good God work this unutterable evil? Nay; "God is Light," and a shadow can only be cast by the resisting will. And in this he is unchangeably the same; there is no parallax in these heavens. And therefore the great pledge and proof of his eternal good will of holy love towards us consists in the fact that he has already begotten us to the new life. He would not lift us from sin to holiness that then he might cast us down to sin again. No; we are "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:13, 14). And so our new creation is, as it were, the firstfruits of the new creation of all things. Our danger still is this, that we are tempted to think God is making it hard for us to be good. Our safety is in holding fast to the eternal truth that "God is love;" and that, as the Good One, and Father of all good, he can so control our troublous circumstances and troubled nature, that, if we are only willing to do his will, all things shall work together for our good (see whole of Romans 8.). - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.