Unbelievers see contradiction in the Scriptures and claim this as evidence of fallibility in God or his word. The unbelieving make a grave mistake in maligning God in this way. However, we believers often make the mistake of responding defensively or superficially when a seeming contradiction is pointed out. Instead we should not be surprised when a seeming paradox, contradiction, or anomaly is pointed out to us. After all the study of God is well above rocket science so we should not be surprised if something is not easily understood. Yet we should not be content with confusion either. Instead we should aim for rock solid confidence that every seeming contradiction or paradox will be explained by Jesus Christ in due time.
Consider an example of difficult Scripture. The absolute purity of God from sin is defended in James 1:13-15 (WEB),
13) Let no man say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God," for God can't be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14) But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. 15) Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin. The sin, when it is full grown, produces death.
This popular Scripture is rightly used to explain that though sin is in the world and in our lives God is completely innocent and not culpable in any way for man’s sin. Each man is guilty for his own sin and God has no sin to be guilty of whatsoever. This is true and accepted by Christians of all shapes and sizes.
Yet has any one ever compared James 1:13-15 with Matthew 6:13 (WEB), "Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen." At first glance there appears to be a contradiction here. The first verse explains that God does not tempt anyone while the second is a prayer that God would not lead us into temptation. If God does not tempt would not it follow that it would be impossible that God would lead us into temptation?
Yet the first Scripture explains that God does not tempt and the second instructs us to pray that God would not lead us into temptation! Perhaps we should join the ranks of unbelievers and discredit God through this observation. Perhaps we should raise our fist to heaven in complaint, and especially in this case for God claims he does not tempt, yet says we have to ask him to keep us from temptation. Is not God already doing that without the asking? Does not God always watch our backs?
A more careful explanation is needed here. The root of most if not all complaints from unbelievers is a rejection of our condemned position apart from grace. Yet grace teaches us that God has forgiven us even though he was not obligated in the least to do it. He graciously saved us through unmerited favor though he would be just as good a God had he sent all of us immediately to eternal damnation. From this vantage point the verses above are easily understood.
First God is perfectly good and certainly does not tempt us. It is we who are evil and are tempted and fall into sin through our own corrupt nature. Second Jesus graciously provides a means of escape from our own foul nature. He instructs us to call on him for help in escaping temptation. Again this is a gracious offer from the Lord who is not obligated to help us in any way. Also consider that God is not even obligated to help us on the merit of our asking for help. God would be just as good a God if he were to release his restraint all together and hand us fully over to our own sinful desires. Sin is what mankind wants and God would be perfectly just in giving us over to all our lusts. But to demonstrate his grace he tells us to call on him for deliverance and by his grace he delivers.
The unbelieving likely have no clue what I am talking about. However, it does not take much of the Holy Spirit to imagine what each us would be if God were to hand us fully over to our depravity. I know we all sin, but suppose God were to truly set us free to live by our own nature and empower us to accomplish not his will, but our own wicked will. I am not asking what would happen if God would allow us to become evil, but what would happen if God would allow our already existing evil nature to be fully manifest? The darkest, blackest, most sinister picture begins to appear.
The thought alone brings us to marvel at Jesus’ compassion in teaching us to humbly pray that our heavenly Father would, "...Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."