FFF 9:8 (August 1963)
This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.
A Review of Dr. DeHaan’s Booklet on the Temptation of Jesus
We have every respect for Dr. De-Haan as a Christian gentleman and a sincere appreciation for the great radio Gospel work he is engaged in. However, in the interests of truth we must challenge his teaching relative to the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The booklet states that it was possible for the humanity of Jesus to sin; that His temptation in the wilderness would not have been a real one if that possibility had not existed. The premise on which he builds his argument is the assumption that our Lord possessed two personalities as well as two natures and that only the human was involved in the crisis. We reject this assumption as an unsound and dangerous exegesis of the biblical revelation of the Person of Christ.
Our Lord did not become two persons at incarnation. It is true that He had two natures, the human and the divine. But it is also true that the human nature of Jesus was an impersonal nature until the Personality of the Eternal Son entered into the body which God prepared in the womb of the Virgin. He could say when about to enter that body, “Lo I come… A body hast Thou prepared Me.” Were it possible for the human nature of Jesus to yield to temptation, then it would be the will and action of the Eternal Son that would flow through that nature. The fact of the existence of such a possibility would be a flaw in the otherwise perfect character of God’s beloved Son.
Let us think for a moment of the dire consequences of our Lord’s yielding to sin. The very throne of the Universe would topple. Its moral code would disintegrate by the fall of the moral Governer of all creation. The Creator and Sustainer of all things would discover Himself devoid of the power to control the very creation He brought into being. Moreover, the relationship of the divine Trinity would be affected, resulting in a chaos we dare not contemplate.
It is true, if we may express ourselves in the words of another, “That our Lord’s temptation was fought in the field of our humanity and won by weapons available to every child of God. It was necessary (as the Example of His people and with a view to His Priesthood) that our Lord’s perfect humanity be disciplined by sorrow, matured by conflict, and strengthened by endurance.” It is also true that, while being tempted in all points like as we, He was apart from sin. Not only apart from original sin, but apart from the possibility of sinning.
There is everything in us that responds to temptation. These tendencies in the Christian are counteracted by the impartation of the new nature and the controling power of the Spirit of God. In the Man Christ Jesus there was nothing to respond to temptation. He could say, “The Prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.” The Bible says of the new nature in every believer that “It cannot sin.” Since that new nature is fashioned after the image of Christ, we ask, how then was it possible for Christ to sin?
Dr. DeHaan seeks to compare the humanity of Adam with that of Christ. He draws the conclusion that if Adam in his perfection could respond to temptation so could our Saviour. He also suggests that Adam was responsible for the act of Eve, his wife. 1 Timothy 2:11-15, clearly shows that Eve, by virtue of her disobedience, bore her own responsibility before the Lord, and brought an additional curse upon her sex. The devil waited for an opportunity when Eve was alone. In the absense of Adam Eve was a prey, and acting in the absence of her head, she fell. When Adam saw her involved in the ruin, he identified himself with her in it, not because of his love for sin, but because of his love for the woman. The devil knew not to make a frontal attack on Adam; Adam would have been superior to such attacks. Satan simply waited his time to bring Adam down through the weakness of another.
In a much greater way our Lord was superiour to the attacks of the devil. Every attack, instead of probing the weaknesses of His humanity, proved its perfections. He was the true meat-offering in whose humanity there was none of the leaven of sin. The fine flour mingled with oil was the symbol of His perfect manhood, every feature of which was in balance. The symmetry of that perfect life reflected the character of the Father and rendered the devil impotent in the field of conflict.
Adam, though innocent, lacked much that our Lord possessed in His human nature. He lacked the knowledge of good and evil. He was not conscious of the potential danger in one act of disobedience. He was therefore incapable of hating evil. Our Lord by virtue of His pre-existence had a perfect knowledge of good and evil. He watched the fall of Lucifer and his angles. He saw the havoc their sin had wrought in the universe. He hated sin with a true and holy hatred.
It may be said, too, that Adam, though innocent, was not perfected for eternal happiness. He was placed on probation with the capability of exercising the power of choice for either good or evil. Our Lord had no such probation or prohibition of “thou shalt not.” He was the Eternal Son who became incarnate for the purpose of Redemption. His Divine Personality flowed through both His natures. His was the will and choice of that perfect humanity. It could not be possible that the will of the devil, a mere creature, be stronger than the will of the Son of God. As it is impossible for God to lie, so is it for God to sin in any respect. It is not impossible for an unfallen creature, in his probationary state, to think evil. Lucifer did so and fell. recognition. What our Lord refused Adam did so and fell. Incarnate Love “thinketh no evil.” Of Him it is written, “He knew no sin,” — no sin was ever conceived; “He did no sin,” — no sin was ever committed; “in Him was no sin,” — no sin was ever inherent.
Another contrast between Adam and the Man Christ Jesus is, “That in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” This means that the full totality of the character and attributes of Deity were resident in Jesus. “God was manifest in flesh.” It was the divine will of the Eternal Son that resisted every attack of the devil in the full knowledge of what evil is in all its variety and with a holy hatred of sin, impossible in the humanity of Adam.
The writer of the booklet says that it could not be a real temptation unless there existed the possibility to sin. We ask, why not? The sensitiveness of His holy natures made temptation all the more real. “He Himself hath suffered, being tempted.” Take a sensitive, innocent little girl who has been brought up in a loving Christian home and put her in the midst of drunken, swearing and filthy men. Her sensitive soul would shrink with horror in such a foul atmosphere. Our Lord felt more keenly the filthiness of this wicked world than any other human being. Every foul suggestion, every snare or trap laid for Him, added additional suffering to the Man of Sorrows. Every sight of cruelty and injustice roused His holy and righteous indignation. The utter repulsion of His holy natures to sin, His love and zeal for the Father’s will and that loving compulsion to accomplish the work of Atonement which would satisfy the justice of a holy God and lay the foundation for the blessing of man, rendered the defeat of the devil inevitable and Christ’s fall impossible.
Why Then The Temptation ?
Dr. DeHaan says the temptation was to prove that a sinless man like Adam could have had the victory over Satan, and that we Christians too may overcome him. This, of-course, is true. But there is more to the temptations of our Lord than that. Our Lord had come from Nazareth to baptism. At His baptism He officially entered upon His ministry which climaxed in His atoning death for the salvation of mankind. But He must first bind the strong man, the devil; this He did in the conflict in the wilderness, after which He returned in the power of the Spirit to spoil his goods. Immediately He conquered three specific enemies, fever, leprosy and demon possesion (Mark 1). or the restlessness, the loathsomeness, and the power of sin. Then we view throughout Mark’s Gospel, the majestic march of Jehovah’s Servant, conquering and to conquer, on His way to the Cross, where the head of the serpent received its deadly wound (Gen. 3:15).
By entering into the conflict, our Lord as the representative man wished to expose the sublety of Satan’s attacks on all saints. The temptation revealed the fallacy of misdirecting the powers of our humanity, to do evil that good may come, to seek short cuts in the mission of life or to exchange common sense for supernatural display. The three perils, of materialsm, sensationalism, and escapism ever confront God’s people. The devil’s temptation to satisfy, to display and to glorify self is always with us. Our Lord in perfect humanity left us an example to meet such attacks effectively.
The temptation reveals that the devil’s work is to corrupt the legitimate desires of human nature. These desires seek their realization through the body, soul and spirit. These have been described as: physical satisfaction, material possession, and public from Satan, He received as a gift from the Father. The lesson we all may learn from this is, God will always compensate every act of self-denial for His glory. “He that believeth shall not be ashamed.”
Right motives preserve the purity of all legitimate desires and give quality to all the motions of our being. Our Lord, in resisting Satan’s attacks, demonstrated that motives are retained in their purity by our dependence on God, our confidence in God and our devotedness to God.
Moreover, the temptation of Jesus teaches us that what we receive by selfish means will always result in spiritual loss. It will damage our devotional life by breaking our fellowship with God. It will hurt our Church life by stumbling on the stone of sensationalism and losing the protection of God. It will impair our vocational life by missing the direction that leads to the true goal of all Christian service.
From the temptation of our Lord we are also taught the real emphasis of life, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God;” and the guiding principle of life which is faith and not presumption, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Our Lord was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. He did not deliberately run into temptation. The temptation also emphasizes the true object of Life. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.”
Jesus is the Author and Finisher of faith. He began the life of faith and finished it to the glory of God. Now as the Captain of our Salvation He is leading many sons to glory by the same path that He Himself trod. That path, according to Hebrews 2, is marked by suffering, worship and dependence. In company with Him our foes are impotent, and without His company we are impotent. When the Church militant becomes the Church at rest, it will be “this same Jesus” who will come to receive her unto Himself. Then, with His glorified saints He will meet the devil in deadly conflict to clear the way for His own glorious Kingdom. We ask, will it be possible for Him to sin in that Day? He will be “this same Jesus,” If not, why not? Surely all lovers of the Saviour will cry out, “perish the thought!”
May the Lord preserve us all from irreverently lifting the lid of the true Ark of the Covenant of play with a mystery too profound for the finite minds of men to understand. “Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh.” We behold, with holy reverence and worship, the God Man. We view Him with joy and satisfaction, the one Divine Personality of the Eternal Son expressed by both His natures to the glory of God, the defeat of the devil, and the blessing of mankind and all consistent with the holiness and justice of God.
In closing, it is superfluous to say that the weapons with which the devil defeats the saints are they that we ourselves put into his hand. These are the weapons of a soiled conscience, discouragement, unbelief, etc. With these he wounds us in the conflict, but none of these were effective against Christ. With the sword, “It is written,” Christ slew the devil. That power is available to each one of the saints, it is recorded, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.”
“Like man He walked, like God He talked,
His words were oracles, His works were miracles.
Of man the finest specimen, of God the true expression;
Full-orbed humanity, clothed with Deity,
No taint of iniquity, No trace of infirmity,
Ecce Homo — Behold the Man,
Ecce Deus—Behold thy God.”