The Victory Over Temptation
The Temptation of Christ
“Jesus said to Him…it is written…”
Theologians have long debated whether or not Jesus could sin. As we look in the Bible, we see two essential truths about Christ. Jesus is fully God, and, as God, he cannot sin for God is holy in nature and untainted by sin and the lure of sin. Jesus is fully human, and part of humanity was the ability to choose to sin. While theologians have long debated this puzzle (I believe that Jesus was incapable of sinning because he was God), we can easily miss the point of the passage. There are two critical truths presented in the event of Christ’s temptation. First, because he was fully human, the temptation was real, and because he fully resisted the temptation, he felt the total weight of the temptation. We never experience the total weight of temptation because we give him. But Christ stood firm. Therefore, he felt the weight of temptation to an extent we can never experience. Having felt the total weight of temptation, he can fully understand our struggle with temptation. He is wholly sympathetic with us and empathizes with our battle (Hebrews 4).
But even more important is the nature of the temptation and Jesus' response, for in these three temptations, we see the same tactic that Satan uses to deceive us and cause to waiver in our faith. In the first temptation, Satan attacks the promises of God's provision. God has promised to take care of his people, but Satan always seeks to create doubt. Will God provide for us? Will God take care of us so we do not need to worry? The second temptation is to doubt God’s care. Will God protect us from harm? Will God be faithful to his promises, or will he fail? The third temptation is to doubt God’s purpose and plan. Satan instills doubt that God’s plan of establishing Christ as King is flawed, for it involves the cross. Satan gives him an alternative that seems to bypass all the pain and suffering. Is God’s way the best? Is God’s word accurate? These are the same questions that he uses against us. He uses our anxiety about our circumstances to tempt us to doubt God. He uses our inability to know the future to doubt God’s plan. He instills fear in our struggles that God will not care for us. From the beginning, Satan has sought to tempt us to doubt God’s word and his plan for our lives by offering us what seems to be a better way. But temptation leads to sin, and sin always leads to death. No matter how appealing sin is, all sin leads to destruction. We see this today as our culture is rejecting the integrity of God’s word and seeking to undermine its message.
Yet, in Christ’s response, we see the means of overcoming temptation. In each case, Christ returns to the message of God’s word. For Jesus, the Bible is not just stories about God; it is essential to answering Satan’s assault. By quoting scripture, Jesus affirms the truthfulness of the law of God and the fundamental nature of the Bible as the key to life. In response to the first temptation, Jesus affirms the sufficiency of God’s word. It is the only thing we cannot live without, for it gives life in the truest sense. Second Jesus affirms the nature of God’s word, which flows from God. To doubt, distort, or reject God’s word is ultimately to question and deny God. Last, Jesus affirms our purpose, that our ultimate goal is to worship and glorify God. Any attempt to discover the meaning of life apart from that will ultimately fail. When we struggle with life, the answer does not lie in the deceptive promises of our world but in the absolute truth of God’s Word. Living by His Word gives us the basis for resisting temptation and having victory over sin.