We have been looking together at the arguments made by those who deny the impeccability of our Lord Jesus Christ. Last month we sought to answer their assertion that, if He could not sin, then the temptations were not genuine. This month, we will consider their contention that, if He could not sin, then His temptations are of no practical value to us today.
At one level, their statement is not even worthy of consideration, for the Scriptures state that the things He endured on earth, including His temptations, are of value to us. That ought to settle the matter for anyone who claims to believe the Bible. However, we will take time to answer their view, as it is good for us to know some ways in which His temptations are beneficial to us. We will look at three areas in which His temptations are of profit to us as believers in the world today.
First, they provide the explanation of how temptation occurs, and its nature. Reading about them, we are left in no doubt that Satan is the tempter. He was so, right at the beginning (Gen 3), and he is still so. In the accounts of the Lord’s temptations (Matt 4 and Luke 4) we are forcibly shown that the devil is in an unrelenting campaign against God and against His people, and that, thus, we are bound to be the objects of his attacks throughout our time here on earth.
Not only is the identity of our attacker and his unyielding hostility brought before us, but we are given an insight into his subtlety, and the methods he uses. He will, for example, seek to put doubts in our minds as to the Person of the Lord (“If Thou be the Son of God”); try to get us to disobey God’s Word (“Bow down and worship me”); make false promises (“All this power will I give thee”); and quote Scripture out of context, to suit his own purposes (“It is written”).
The records of our Lord’s temptations also enlighten us with regard to the areas in which we are vulnerable to attack. We are struck by the timelessness of this. As has often been pointed out, the three temptations of our Lord correspond to the three features Eve observed in the fruit (“good for food … pleasant to the eyes … to be desired to make one wise” Gen 3:6) and the three things that John says are “of the world” (“the lust of the flesh … the lust of the eyes … the pride of life” 1John 2:16). The temptation to turn stones to bread corresponds with “good for food” and “the lust of the flesh;” the tempting vista of the kingdoms of the world relates to “pleasant to the eyes” and “the lust of the eyes;” the temptation to jump off the pinnacle of the temple parallels “to be desired to make one wise” and “the pride of life.”
Thus, while there was no possibility of the Lord Jesus succumbing to these things, they do nevertheless provide instruction regarding the devil’s attacks on us.
Second, they present the example on how to respond to temptation. The Lord is exemplary in His quotation of, and obedience to, the Word of God in time of temptation. At every turn, Satan’s attempts to make Him disobey are rebuffed with three powerful words: “It is written.” He unequivocally states the full authority of the Scriptures. God has spoken, and that leaves no room for disobedience, or partial obedience, or compromise. We would be saved from many problems if we were to treat Satan, and what he throws at us, with the summary dismissal that the Lord gives him here, based solely on the Word of God and its complete authority.
Not only does the Lord quote Scripture, but those that He quotes are appropriate to the particular issue at stake. Of course, this does not surprise us, for the Lord Jesus is God. He did not have to learn the Scriptures, as He is the author of them; and He, Who is infinitely wise, never struggled to find an applicable passage. However, the lesson for us is clear. His example shows us the inestimable value of the Scriptures in resisting the devil. For us, that means that we need to read, study, learn, and apply them.
As well as these general points, the Lord’s responses to the specific temptations are also a pattern for us as to what our priorities should be: the Word of God (we are not to put our physical needs above our need to feed on the Scriptures); the worship of God (we are to worship and serve Him, not Satan, or anyone else); and the will of God (not to put Him to the test by deliberately doing things that are outside of His will).
Last, but certainly not least, they prove the experience the Lord Jesus has to help us in our trials. This is a tremendous thing. The temptations are not only valuable to us in light of their instructive teaching and the example they provide, but they ensure that the Lord Jesus Christ is perfectly qualified for His present, high priestly work. There is One at God’s right hand Who knows what we go through, knows it in the richest sense, for He has experienced it. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). “For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb 2:18).
This has been only a cursory discussion, but we trust sufficient has been said to show the falsity of the allegation that impeccability would render His temptations of no value to us.