Applications from the Temptations of Jesus
(Matt 4:1-11, Heb 2:18, 4:14-16)
Dr. Jay A. Quine
The Challenging Question: “How could Jesus (Who is God) be tempted?”
Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15 argue for our comfort that Jesus was tempted in every way, yet without sin. How is this comforting?
Homer Kent has a different slant on the phrase “tempted yet without sin.” He writes,
“Only in one respect did Christ’s temptation differ from ours. ‘Apart from sin’ (choris hamartias) has been understood by many to describe the result of our Lord’s temptation—that He did not sin. However, the point in the passage does not seem to be whether He sinned or not (of course, He did not), but whether He was truly tempted and thus could really sympathize. It seems better to regard ‘apart from sin’ as naming the only exception in the way Christ was tempted as compared to ordinary men. None of His temptations arose out of a sinful disposition, such as all fallen men have sins Adam. All of Christ’s temptations came to Him from outside Himself (i.e., from Satan). This in no sense violates the truth that Jesus was genuinely tempted, and that He thus understands and sympathizes with men who face such situations.” (Kent, Hebrews)
How can Jesus sympathize with my experience? To answer this question one must look at his temptations.
The first is found in Matthew 4:3 reads, “and when the tempter (dokimazo—tempt with the purpose to destroy) came to him he said, “If you are the Son of God (first class condition, conveys the sense of “since”) command these stones to be made bread.”
Satan knew and admitted who Jesus Christ was—the Son of God. He acknowledged that Jesus is God. It could be translated, “since you are the Son of God,” Satan knew who he was dealing with. The issue in these temptations is not for Jesus to prove to Satan who He is. This Satan conceded.
What is at issue here? The answer is found in the passage as we look at Christ’s responses to Satan’s challenges. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Man’s happiness does not depend upon the satisfaction or gratification of desires. The satiation of senses is not the secret to happiness. The key to happiness, and the number one priority for the Christian life, is the WORD OF GOD. The word of God means life, and happiness.
Think of the things Jesus, the Son of God could have done against Satan. But he relied upon the word of God in facing the tempter. The enemy Satan was tempting Christ to take a step outside the plan of God. But Jesus effectively said in this first temptation, “No, I will rely upon the promises of God. I will get my cues of reality, what really will make me happy, from the word of God.” This response is even more clear in the second temptation.
“Since you are the Son of God (again, no issue here) then throw yourself down, for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee…”
Satan uses against the Lord what Jesus used in his answer to the previous challenge—the word of God. As do the cults today, Satan uses the Scripture out of context, and how it should not be used. In the first temptation Jesus Christ stated that He was going to depend on the Father and the Word of God and not utilize His own ability to turn the stones into bread. Now, Satan essentially says, “Go ahead and depend on God. In fact show your compete faith and trust in the Father and throw yourself down on these stones.” Christ answers, “Do not put the Lord to the test.”
Jesus stated that He was not going to test the Father. So note, in the first temptation Satan tempts Jesus to be independent of the Father’s will or word, and in the second to appear to be dependent upon the Father so as to test His faithfulness by the experience. “Test God, if he is as faithful as he says he is, he won’t let your body break if you jump.” But that is also not how God wants us to live. When we test God this way we put ourselves in a superior position to God—we become the judge of God’s faithfulness.
We say it in slightly more subtle, but similar ways. “God, give me a new job if you love me.” Or, “God, if your promises are true, why does she argue with me all the time.” Or, “God, I hurt. How come I hurt? Didn’t you promise me happiness?” And even in a positive way, “Give me a good day, then I will know you love me.” This is how Satan tempted Jesus.
Third temptation Satan offers Jesus authority to rule over the kingdoms of the world. Satan uses another word for “if” here. It is called the second class condition and communicates the sense of, “If it were true, but it isn’t.” Using this form Satan is saying, “If you will worship me, but you won’t, I will give you the kingdoms of the earth.” Jesus answers Satan by referring to the problem Satan had when he fell—the problem was God’s authority. You can only serve God, and God only is worthy of worship.
Notice also, these temptations from Satan were not to produce evil ends, but to accomplish legitimate ends through evil means. Is it evil for Jesus to eat bread? No, but it is wrong if it means employing Satan’s methods. Is it evil to rely upon and to trust in the promises of God? No, but it is if we put God to the test in doing so. Is it wrong for Jesus to be given all authority, power, and dominion of the world? No. In fact, he has it. But he inherited this position not by capitulating to Satan, but by obeying the will of God by going to the cross, rescuing us from the hold of sin, and rising from the dead and ascending into heaven whereupon the Father said, “All authority is given to you. Sit here until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Psalm 110)
Applying Christ’s Responses to When You are Tempted
The issue in temptation is the will of God. Will you deviate from God’s will? Was Jesus Christ tempted in this way—yes, more so than we will ever be tempted to do. When was the last time someone said to you, “Get drunk and I will give you a million dollars.” Or, “If you sleep with me, then I will give you a new car.” Such overt and direct temptation doesn’t happen. Satan doesn’t have to tempt us to that degree. All he has to do is say, “Here, get drunk.” And we will—whether we intoxicate ourselves on alcohol or drugs or indulge in the intoxication of pride, or hate, or anger, or rebellion, or some other sin. Satan has to offer us nothing but the sin itself.
Our problem is that we state the question backwards. The question isn’t really, “Does Jesus know what it is like to be tempted and be without sin,” but “Do we know what it is like to be tempted and not sin?” Do we understand what Jesus went through? And the answer is NO! We cannot understand the greater, but He can understand the lesser. Take comfort.