Epistle of James --Part 5

Epistle of James
Part 5

Earl Miller

(Continued from last month)

The Temptation of Christ

In contrast to Eve’s temptation stands the temptation of Christ. Eve was tempted in a garden surrounded with everything that ministered to her comfort and enjoyment. Christ was tempted in a wilderness where nothing ministered to His comfort; He was with the wild beasts. Eve was purely a human being; Christ was the Theanthropic Person, the God-Man. Eve was capable of sinning; Christ was impeccable (not capable of sinning). Eve’s temptation proved the weakness of human nature; Christ’s temptation proved the impeccability of His hypostatic nature.

The Nature of Christ

A word about the nature of Christ may be in order before we take up the temptation itself. The word “hypostatic” means the union of two distinct and wholly opposite natures — Deity and humanity — into one being. The Person of Christ, therefore, stands out as the greatest miracle of all time. Deity, took on humanity and combined the two together into one personality in such a way that Deity was not lowered, nor was humanity exalted to make the union. The result of this union did not produce a nature which was neither human nor divine, but one which was truly human and truly divine. He was God manifest in the flesh. His acts were not sometimes performed as a human, and other times as a divine Being, but always, His actions were performed as the true God-Man. There may be mysteries about this hypostatic nature of Christ which defy explanation, but we just accept the scriptural declaration that Jesus was the Son of God.

The Impeccability of Christ

The fact that Jesus was God made Him impeccable. God cannot sin. Christ is God. Therefore, Christ cannot sin. The argument stands like the Rock of Gibralter. If the two premises of the above syllogism are correct, the conclusion must also be correct. Who would question the primary premise — God cannot sin — and who could refute the secondary premise — Christ is God. There are those who question the Deity of Christ, but no one has yet definitely proved that Christ is not God. Hence, if those two premises of the above syllogism are true, the conclusion, Christ cannot sin, is also true.

Why Should Jesus Be Tempted?

The question naturally arises, “What is the point in tempting One who cannot sin?” The answer is really twofold. In the first place, His temptation proved that He was Very God. In the second place, His temptation demonstrated the way to victory over temptation to all mankind.

When God became Man in the Person of Christ, He lived His life in this world as God intended that man should live — to be wholly dependent on Another and not on self. Christ’s whole life was lived in utter dependence upon the Father, not on Himself. He used His omnipotent power to supply the needs of others but never to supply His own needs. The most subtil attacks of Satan against Him were directed toward the intent to cause Him to step out of that path of dependence. In that path there lies absolute victory. It is written of Christ, “I have set the Lord always before Me … I shall not be moved” (Psa. 16:8). He could not be moved out of that path of dependence on His Father.

The Temptation Itself

Coming back to the temptation itself, we find the scene laid in the wilderness with the wild beasts, after Jesus had fasted for forty days. He was hungry; we may well believe, faint with hunger. Jesus had the same three basic desires that we all have. His desire to enjoy things was the basis of His first temptation. There was nothing that He could enjoy now more than food. Satan rightly prognosticated that this was the most opportune time to bring this temptation to Him. There was no food in the wilderness, and Jesus was in dire need of food. Satan said, “If thou be,” the “if” here is not the “if” of doubt. The word “since” could just as well be substituted for the “if.” “Since You are the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.”

The subtility of this temptation lay in the fact that Satan tried to induce Jesus to act independently of His Father. God had not provided food for His Son in the wilderness. When Elijah was in the wilderness, God commanded the ravens to bring him food, but He did not command the ravens to bring food to His own Son in the wilderness. To turn the stone into bread to satisfy hunger, would be to act independently of God. But he Who always set the Lord before Him, could not be moved. He said to Satan, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God” (Luke 4:4). Jesus quoted this from the book of Deuteronomy, and that repulsed the temptation.

The second temptation, according to Luke’s Gospel, was the incitement of Jesus’ desire to get things. Satan had Jesus on a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. As in a fleeting moment, all the kingdoms of the world with their glory and power in His hands, passed before His eyes. Satan said to Him “All this power will I give Thee and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If Thou, therefore, wilt worship me, all shall be Thine” (Luke 4:5-7). Jesus did not question Satan’s authority to give the kingdoms of the world to whomsoever he wills, he is the god of this world. In His desire to get things, what would be more desirous to get than the kingdoms of the world? They are to be His anyway in due time. The Father has decreed that He is to be King of kings and Lord of lords, but in His reckoning the Cross must come first. Satan offered Him a short-cut way to the kingdoms of the world. He would by-pass the cross and the suffering. It was but another attempt to get Jesus to act independently of His Father, but He who always set the Lord before Him, could not be moved. He said to Satan “Get thee behind Me, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord, thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8). Again Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy to repulse this temptation.

Finally, the third temptation is directed against Jesus’ desire to do things. Jesus was in Jerusalem during the time of a Jewish feast, and He was up on the pinnacle (the highest point) of the temple. A great crowd of people were gathered below. On this occasion, Satan said to Jesus “If (rather, since) Thou art the Son of God, cast Thyself down from hence; for it is written, He shall give His angels charge over Thee; and in, their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone” (Luke 4:9-11). This was a most subtil temptation. Jesus had repulsed Satan twice before by quoting Scripture, “It is written.” Now Satan used the same approach, “It is written.” Satan quoted a prophecy that would be fulfilled in the Messiah when He came. The Messiah is here. Now if He would just step off the pinnacle of the temple and in angels’ hands come floating down without injury to Himself, that great crowd of people would be convinced that He was the Messiah. But again, He who set the Lord always before Him could not be moved. He said to Satan, “It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Luke 4:12). He met Satan’s quotation of Scripture with another Scripture from the book of Deuteronomy which countermanded Satan’s Scripture and so Satan was repulsed again.

How to Overcome Temptation

The temptation of Christ demonstrated for us in a twofold way victory over all temptations. In the first place, there was the use of the Word of God. Jesus had memorized the Word and three times He quoted from the book of Deuteronomy. The correct word was always at His command when the temptation came. Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee”. The importance of memorizing the Word of God cannot be over-emphasized. Someone said “This Book (the Bible) will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.” That statement is only too true. Those who revel in sin, have no use for the Bible, and those who love the Bible have no use for sin. So, hide God’s Word in your heart. It will often guide you in the way of victory when temptation strikes.

Then in the second place, Jesus’ temptation emphasized the importance of dependence on Another, and not on self. The Christian life is beyond the reach of the natural man. And as for the Christian, it is impossible for him to live the Christian life in his own strength; he must learn to depend on Another, on Christ who is in him.

Christ lived His life on earth as God intended that man should live. His entire life was lived in utter dependence on the Father, and not once did He step out of that path of dependence. In that path there is victory; outside there is failure. The Christian who lives in utter dependence on Christ will never fail while he is depending on Christ. Failure will only come to the extent that he depends on himself. Christ demonstrated the way of victory; let us walk in that way.

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Albert Duter’s pictures repersenting Satan as a monster with horns and a tail are not true to the scriptural representations of the adversary. Satan is portrayed as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, but is often tranfomed as an angel of light.

A Scotchman seeing Schaefer’s painting of the Temptation of the Lord, said, pointing to Satan, “If that chiel cam’ tae me in such as ugly shape, I think he’d hae a tough job wi’ me too”.

(Matt. 4:11, 2 Corr. 11:14).