James 1:13-15 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. – KJV
James 1:13-15 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. – NIV
James 1:13-15 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – ESV
Greek Transliteration of James 1:15 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
eita  if, or, whether ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) epithumia  longing, desire, lust sullambano  catch, seize, take, conceive tikto  produce, bring forth, bear, be born, be delivered hamartia  a sin, an offence ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) de  and, but, now… (conjunction) hamartia  a sin, an offence apotelleo  complete, consummate, finish apokueo  breed, generate, beget, produce thanatos  death
1.15.0 Introduction to James 1:15
Verse 15 draws us to the logical end for realized temptation, namely death. We also get to look at the concept of conception and how birth relates to the start of life and death.
1.15.1 How does desire become sin?
In verse 15 James uses the analogy of conception to explain the progression from desire to the fulfillment of sin. In the natural world conception takes two, namely a father and a mother. To paint the picture more clearly in your mind, think of the human heart as female and advertisements as male.
Anyone can advertise – Satan, the world, or God. Since we know what God offers doesn’t lead to sin, let’s remove Him from the equation first. Anything Satan offers is a deception and if we buy anything he has to offer we know that it’s a sin. We also know Satan is the ruler of the world (Jn 12:31). That just means products advertised by the world are manufactured by Satan, Inc.
The human heart is a fertile place, much like a womb. It seeks fulfillment. Temptation is the kind of advertising that is appealing and plays on the natural desires of the heart. When a person pays attention to Satan’s (or the world’s) commercial message, the force of the desire mates with the ad and if the person does not resist and there’s no contraceptive (bible, Holy Spirit, etc.), the two will conceive. The conception yields action disobedient to the will and the Word of God. This is sin.
There is good news, however. Jesus Christ came to give us contraception for sin and offer us a way to find fulfillment by conceiving good fruit via the Spirit its good and imperishable seed. Every human has a need that can only be filled by the Lord. Our natural desire for God, when unrealized, is an opening for Satan to try and offer us something to fill the void in God’s place. This is the common mechanism of human failure. Through Jesus’ redeeming act of self sacrifice it is possible to wash out the alien from our heart so the Holy Spirit can fill us, satisfying that God given feeling of need for satisfaction. He is the only one that can truly and eternally satisfy.
1.15.2 Why conception?
Gen 16:1-4 Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. In the biblical sense, to have sex with someone is to wed them regardless of ceremony. In God’s eyes, sex is the ceremony. The biological purpose of sex is to conceive a child. God designed humanity to perpetuate itself. Our strongest physical urge after our most basic necessities is sexual.
Conception is the point where many people believe life begins. Regardless, birth can only happen after conception, thus conception is a necessary step. Conception happens as a result of a joining. Applying biology to James’ sin analogy we see it is necessary for there to be a temptation and a desire that results in acting on the temptation. The act itself is the point of conception. Sin is the child born of the unholy union.
Ex 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” The tenth commandment addresses desire in the ugly form of coveting. This law was given because people wanted things that belonged to others.
Gen 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Eve wanted be like God, as if she could take equality from Him.
Gen 3:4-5 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Back up. Look at what precipitated her act. Satan came and advertised. Eve had no reason to want anything other than God and to obey God and be in perfect communion with God. Then Satan came along and introduced a new concept. He provided an inducement by advertising to her the idea that God had something better than her, He wasn’t sharing it, and she somehow ought to have it. It was an outright lie to claim there would be no penalty, but then lying is what Satan’s good at. Had the idea not been put in her head, her desire would not have been aroused and she would not have been put in the position of having to choose whether to accept the offer.
It has been the speculation of scholars for centuries why Eve and her husband chose to accept Satan’s offer when God told them up front about the penalty. Regardless, it is good for us that God provided a way to pay that debt on our behalf. We have eternity to thank Jesus if we will accept his atonement on our behalf and choose to buy (ie. put our faith in and believe in) what He alone “advertises” and not what comes from the world or Satan.
1.15.3 What is the Godly opposite of sinful conception?
1 Pe 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; This verse is a key phrase within a broader yet critical message about the glorious redemptive work of Jesus. Seed is often used to describe what Jesus offers us through His word and Spirit. The good news is the advertisement God gives, one free of deceit. It is an offer we need only accept. There’s no way we can pay our end of the bargain because what the Lord gives immeasurably exceeds what we can give in exchange. Unlike Satan’s offer where you get less than you bargain for, with God you get infinitely more value than you bargain for.
Is 61:10-11 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. This passage is such a rich and beautiful expression of the true wedding analogy. It illustrates the courtship free of the serpent’s sleaze.
Rev 19:7-8 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. The hope we have to come together with our Lord is wondrous beyond imagination. We will be restored to absolute purity and will enjoy the rewards of being joined together with God. This is not to say we literally become God, but rather we are welcomed to be with him and not left outside for eternity.
Gen 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Where a man and woman join together physically, God and man join together spiritually.
Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Where temptation begets sin and sin begets death, the Good News is consummated by purification and it begets eternal life. With temptation you give up something in order to be deceived and loose even more. With God you receive salvation in order to receive eternal life and without cost. It seems incomprehensible anyone could refuse such an offer. The happily ever after at the end of this story is better than any fairy tale because its true, and its about you.
1.15.4 How does Satan’s wedding differ from Christ’s?
Rev 19:20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. Prior to the “1000 year reign” the beast and false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire.
Rev 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. The first and last parts of this passage are most important, though the entire passage is included for the sake of contextual clarity. In this final judgment at the end of the 1000 years, those who aren’t found in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire. Marriage to Satan means joining him for a hot bath.
1.15.5 Is birth the start of life?
Jer 20:17 because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Many Christians argue that life begins at conception and birth is merely the transition of that life. There are dozens of references in scripture referencing the womb. Some are far better known, such as Jer 1:5, but few are more compelling to me for this argument than Jer 20:17. I say this because it specifies that he could have died in the womb. I present this as evidence and proof of the conventional perspective because something cannot be killed unless it is first alive.
Ps 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies. Ps 71:6 Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you. I searched for examples of what definitely happens to change in a person’s life at the point of birth and instead found continuity from life in the womb to life outside the womb.
Ac 22:28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” Birth is a benchmark used by society to mark your “entrance into the world” and to proclaim certain things such as your name, your family position, birthright, citizenship, and so forth.
It would seem based on these few bits of scripture birth isn’t the start of life, rather it is the start of our life in the world’s system.
1.15.6 Is birth the start of death?
Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. If birth is the start of life within the world’s system, then what is the destiny of world’s system?
1 Jn 2:17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Since the world is passing away, people who live within the world’s system are destined for death. Both Paul and John speak very quickly after stating the damning truth of sin’s reward that we have hope for eternal life. Death does not need to be the ultimate result of birth.
1.15.7 How does sin become fully grown?
Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. This verse is often quoted as justification for the idea all sin is ultimately equal because all sin has the same ultimate penalty. This seems to me a very narrow conclusion drawn from a single line of scripture.
Jn 19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” The idea of sin growing must assume that some sins are greater than others. Jesus himself testified that some sins are greater than others. This verse is just one of many that dispel the popular myth built on a misinterpretation of Ro 6:23.
Lev 6:17 It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their portion of my food offerings. It is a thing most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering. The subject of leaven and unleavened bread comes up many times in scripture. In every case God only permits the unleavened to be used for ceremonies and forbids leaven.
1 Cor 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Leaven is yeast. A lot could be gleaned by looking at the properties of yeast, but suffice it to say its most profound property for baking is its ability to make bread rise. As bread rises it becomes less and less like its purest form. Note that it only takes a little to do a lot. It is the same with sin. A little sin causes us to deform from the purity God created us to be. As the sin takes hold of us, we not only puff ourselves up, but the sin takes hold throughout our entire being causing us to finally look nothing like the pure form, totally deformed and full of hot air. The pure (unleavened) bread was suitable for sin or guilt offerings (Lev 6:17) because it was undefiled, just as Christ is our undefiled sacrifice for sin and guilt. It is also worth noting that once leaven is added to bread it cannot be removed by natural means. Likewise, once we are stained by sin we cannot cleanse ourselves by our own power. It requires the supernatural intervention of Jesus to take away our sin.
1.15.8 Why does sin result in death?
Gen 2:7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. God is life.
Deut 32:4 The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. God is also perfect and just, without iniquity. God is sinless.
Gen 2:17 “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Sin is outside of God. Anything outside of God is outside of life, therefore dead. This explains why God warned Adam that he would die the day he ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Death is separation from God. When Adam sinned, it inserted a chasm between man and God. The good news, quite literally, is that Jesus Christ made suitable and adequate restitution for the sin of mankind for all time, restoring fellowship with God and making eternal life possible for humanity.
1.15.9 Summary of James 1:13-15
From questions asked about this passage we learned a great deal about the nature of temptation and God’s nature relative to temptation. We learned the process leading to death and the process leading to life. The very nature of life and of death has been discussed at length.
God is perfect and just. God doesn’t tempt according to the technical definition of temptation as given by this passage in James. Temptation is an invitation to sin. It is essentially a form of advertising designed to put ideas in your head that lead you away from God, into lawlessness. Temptation takes advantage of the natural human condition which seeks to satisfy an unfulfilled need. The lie making temptation so dangerous is that the need is false. Since the need is false, the solution to the need is false. The supposed solution is outside of God and by definition lawless and sin. Satan’s marketing plan is never the less effective.
Desire, the condition of feeling you are unsatisfied, is hard coded into the essence of our being. God put desire in us so we would be magnetized to Him. With the introduction of sin to the world courtesy of Satan’s first deception, human desire has caused humanity to seek satisfaction in things other than God. When we act on this feeling by pursuing anything other than God we sin. Sin divides us from God. God is life, therefore being outside of God means being outside of life. The only word we have to describe being outside of life is death.
Temptation isn’t sin, but it is an inducement that attracts us to sin. Once we sin, space develops between us and God. Without intervention the space tends to grow. How much it grows ultimately makes little different because once we’re divided from God we are dead. There is only one solution. Jesus Christ built a bridge. His sinless sacrificial death makes it possible for God to grant grace and mercy and let us finally come across that bridge. All it takes is enough faith to stand up and walk across that bridge. In other words, put your faith in Jesus and trust him, believe in him for he is the only way to eternal life.