Matthew 4:1-4

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

THE TEMPTATION OF CHRIST

INTRODUCTION:

 

We are in the process of studying the introduction to the Gospel of Matthew. It extends from Matthew 1:1-4:11 and introduces the ministry of Jesus as the King of the Jews.

 

In Matthew 1 we have seen the genealogy of Christ which shows that He is the legal heir to the throne of David. We have also seen the virgin birth of Christ, which indicates that Jesus is God, that He did not have an old sin nature, that He would save His people from their sins, and that He did not come under the curse of Jeconiah.

 

In Matthew 2 we have seen the visit of the wise men who came to worship the king of the Jews, Joseph’s flight into Egypt with Mary and Jesus to protect the King of the Jews from Herod’s attempt to murder Him. Following Herod’s death, we have seen Joseph’s return to Israel where he dwelt with Mary and Jesus in Nazareth of Galilee.

 

In Matthew 3 we have seen the ministry of John the Baptist as he introduced Jesus as the Messiah. We have also seen the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

 

In this message we will be considering the temptation of Christ; and as we begin, I would like to make a few general comments regarding the subject of temptation.

 

Temptation is normal and is to be expected.

 

Temptation is not sin. Sin occurs whenever we give in to temptation. Thus, you can be tempted without committing sin.

 

Temptations are often subtle, but sometimes they are direct.

 

If we would avoid the sin, we should do our best to avoid the temptation. We should not knowingly put ourselves in situations where we can be expected to be tempted because we know that we might fall to the temptation. In the same way, we take precautions to avoid exposure to contagious diseases because we realize that we may get sick ourselves.

 

Victory is achieved through a proper application of the Scripture and reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

 

Satan’s temptations often come immediately after some tremendous spiritual event in our lives.

 

As human beings with sin natures, our old natures desire to sin. We need to stop fooling ourselves. In our old sin natures, we find sin pleasurable. When we are tempted, we often fall because we want to sin. We do not need temptation from without in order to sin. Our old sin natures are enough to create a problem for us. This will be made abundantly clear during the millennium when Satan will be chained in the bottomless pit and when Christ will have a perfect reign on earth. People will still sin in their rebellion against Christ at the conclusion of the millennium.

 

Next, I would like us to consider several things regarding the temptation of Christ.

 

The temptation of Christ was real, whatever position people take on what is called the peccability or impeccability of Christ. I am fairly certain you are not familiar with these terms, but I use them in order to stretch your minds a little.

 

I remind you of –

Hebrews 4:15 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.

 

There is no question in my mind that Christ was impeccable because He had a divine nature. You have probably heard someone referred to as a hen-pecked husband, haven’t you? Well, just in case you wondered, peccable does not mean that the husband is able to be hen-pecked by his wife, and impeccable does not mean that the husband is not able to be hen-pecked. Rather, peccable means that Christ was able not to sin; whereas, impeccable means that Christ was not able to sin. Was Christ able to sin but didn’t, or was He not able to sin because He was God? Those who believe that Christ was able to sin but didn’t believe that the purpose of the temptation was to see if Christ would sin. However, as I see it, Christ was not able to sin because it was contrary to His divine nature. Furthermore, the purpose of the temptation was not to see if He would sin but to show that He would not sin, even under the most adverse circumstances. As I have already said, there is no question in my mind that Christ was impeccable, i.e. He was not able to sin.

 

The temptation was brought upon Jesus by the direct will of God. It was not a test on God’s part to see if Jesus would fall; rather, it was a demonstration on God’s part to show that Jesus would not fall.

 

The temptation of Christ is best understood when contrasted with the temptation of Adam. Adam had a choice. He did not have to sin, but he made the wrong choice. He chose to disobey God. He chose to sin. As a result, Adam obtained a sin nature; and he died spiritually at the instant of his sin. Furthermore, physical death set in, and he eventually died physically. In addition, Adam’s sin nature passed on to all of his descendants. We, as Adam’s descendants, are all born with a sin nature. Therefore, we commit sin. Christ also had a choice. He chose to obey God the Father, become a man, and die on the cross in payment for our sins. His blood was shed on the cross in order that God might forgive our sins and make us righteous in His sight. God then raised Him from the dead in order to demonstrate that He had accepted Christ’s atonement on the cross in payment for our sins.

 

It amounts to this: Adam sinned and his sin nature was passed on to all of his descendants. We are among Adam’s descendants. Therefore, we have old sin natures. The fact that we all die shows that we are all sinners. Christ died on the cross to provide righteousness and eternal life for all those who would believe the gospel message.

 

The temptation of Adam and Eve is seen in Genesis chapters 1-3.

 

Genesis 1:26-27 – (26) And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

 

Genesis 2:15-17 – (15) And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (16) And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: (17) But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

 

Genesis 3:1-7 – (1) Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (2) And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: (3) But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (4) And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: (5) For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (6) And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (7) And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

 

Satan’s object in the 3-fold temptation of Christ was to induce Christ to act from Himself, i.e. to act on His own, and thus to act independently from His Father.

 

In the temptation Satan pointed out ways of Jesus’ carrying out His ministry which would have avoided the cross.

 

Satan was defeated by the intelligent use of the Word of God.

We note –

    I.     THE EVENTS LEADING TO THE TEMPTATION - 4:1-2

 

Matthew 4:1-21 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

 

Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. Thus, Jesus was in God’s perfect will when He was tempted. Everything which took place in the temptation was within the perfect will of God.

 

Then is thereupon.

 

Thereupon was Jesus led up of the Spirit is thereupon, Jesus was led up (or brought up) by the Spirit. It suggests that He had been at the Jordan River where He was actually below sea level and was led to a higher elevation by God the Holy Spirit.

 

Into the wilderness suggests into the desert or into an uninhabited region.

 

To be tempted indicates the purpose of the Holy Spirit leading Jesus to this place. To be tempted is to be tested. It was God’s will that Jesus be tempted or tested by Satan at this time.

 

Of the devil is by the devil, i.e. by Satan. It was God’s will for Jesus to experience this temptation at the hands of Satan. The purpose of the temptation was not to see if Jesus would sin but to demonstrate that He would not sin and that He was, therefore, qualified to bear the sins of all humanity. It would seem that Satan imagined that he would actually succeed in getting Jesus to sin. However, as always, Jesus was victorious over Satan even though Satan gave his best effort to get Jesus to sin.

 

Matthew 4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

 

Jesus fasted throughout forty days and forty nights. The Greek text does not suggest that He fasted periodically during this forty-day period; instead, it clearly indicates that He never had one thing to eat throughout this entire forty-day period.

 

Luke’s gospel indicates that Jesus was also tempted throughout this forty-day period leading up to this first recorded temptation.

 

Luke 4:1-2 – (1) And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, (2) Being forty days [i.e. throughout forty days] tempted of the devil [i.e. tempted by the devil]. And in those days he [i.e. Jesus] did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.

 

After the forty-day fast, Jesus was hungry.

Secondly, we note –

  II.     THE FIRST TEMPTATION: TURN THESE STONES INTO BREAD - 4:3-4

 

Matthew 4:3-43 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

 

And when the tempter came to him, he said means when the one who was tempting (i.e. when the devil or Satan) came to Jesus, he said.

 

If thou be the Son of God does not question whether Jesus is the Son of God. It is a condition whose structure in the Greek text indicates that, for sake of discussion, it is assumed by Satan to be true. Inasmuch as it is actually true, if is understood in the sense of since, because, inasmuch as, or in view of the fact that, i.e. Since You are the Son of God, Because You are the Son of God, Inasmuch as You are the Son of God, or In view of the fact that You are the Son of God.

 

Thou be is You are.

 

The Son of God means that Satan knows that Jesus is not only God’s Son, but that He also knows that He is God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. Of course, this means that Jesus is also the promised Messiah.

 

The Son of God does not mean that Jesus is the offspring of God the Father. This, however, is what the Mormons teach. They teach that God the Father had a physical relationship with Mary and that Jesus is the baby who came from this physical union. Thus, they do not believe that Jesus is eternal, nor do they believe in the virgin birth. In their thinking Jesus had a beginning just like you and I had. Furthermore, they believe that Jesus was just a man when He was born but that He eventually progressed and became a God. We believe that there never was a time when He was not God. Similarly, they believe that God the Father was also born as a man but that He progressed and became a god like others before Him had done. Thus, in Mormon thinking, neither God the Father nor Jesus are eternal because they both had a beginning. The Mormons also teach that a good Mormon can likewise progress and become a god. The Jesus of the Mormons is not the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is God from eternity past Who became a man and died on the cross to pay for the sins of all humanity. The One known as God the Father in the Bible is not the same god as god the father in Mormonism. Mormonism believes and teaches that God and Jesus are two different gods. The Bible teaches that they are two persons or two manifestations of the same God, but that there is only one God Who has manifested Himself in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mormonism believes that there are many gods. God the Father and Jesus are only two of them. Mormonism believes that King James Bible is the word of God wherever it has been correctly translated. This sounds good. We likewise believe that the King James Bible is the Word of God wherever it has been correctly translated. But, Mormonism believes that the Bible has not been correctly translated. By contrast, we believe that the Bible has been correctly translated. Mormonism is not Christian. It is a false cult. Don’t get involved in it.

 

We see –

                  1.   The temptation itself

 

Matthew 4:3 b – . . . Command that these stones be made bread.

 

We also see –

                  2.   The implication of the temptation

 

Do something for Yourself. You’re hungry. You’ve been hungry long enough. You have the power to satisfy Your own appetite. You can do this because You are the Son of God. There is no reason You can’t satisfy Yourself. Go ahead and do it.

 

The implication is You, Jesus, are a physical being with physical appetites which need to be satisfied. This thinking would lead to the conclusion that man lives by bread alone.

 

The temptation was an attempt to pervert Jesus Christ from perfect obedience to the will of God. He was in the desert in the will of God, and therefore all that He endured while in the desert was part of God’s will for Him. It was God’s will for Jesus to be hungry at this time. For Jesus to satisfy His own desires would have been to abandon the will of God and substitute His own will, deeming that the satisfaction of His appetite was more important than His obedience to the will of God.

 

Next, we see –

                  3.   Christ’s answer

 

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

 

Life depends on the will of God; God can support life in ways other than bread.

 

Note that Satan takes advantage of our circumstances. His temptations seem plausible.

 

Jesus knew that His Father’s will for Him was to be hungry at this time. God the Father could and would supply His need when He chose to do so. Performing a miracle to satisfy His own need was not God’s will for Jesus. He was waiting on God the Father to meet His need for food. It was more important for Jesus to obey His Father than to eat. Obedience to the will of God is more important than food.

 

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God is a quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3 , where it is spoken to Israel and says,

 

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he [i.e. the LORD thy God] humbled thee [i.e. humbled you, Israel], and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

 

Back to Matthew 4:4

In the phrase man shall not live by bread alone, man is the generic term for humanity and includes females as well as males.

 

Shall not live expresses a fact which may be rightfully expected under normal conditions. It suggests that one’s life does not depend on bread alone. By bread alone means only on bread. Bread may be necessary to sustain life, but it is not the only thing necessary to sustain life.

 

But by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God indicates something in addition to bread is also necessary to sustain life. It means by every word spoken by God.

CONCLUSION:

 

Temptation is normal and to be expected. How are you going to handle it?

 

Resist the devil by appealing to Scripture, as Jesus did. In order to do this, you are going to have to be thoroughly acquainted with the Scripture.

 

Rest assured that Jesus, as His people’s representative, has vicariously rendered the obedience which Adam, as mankind’s representative, failed to render.

 

Derive comfort from the fact that we have a High Priest who, having Himself been tempted, is able to help us in our temptation.

 

Hebrews 4:14-16 – (14) Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (15) 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. (16) Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

 

Note that by not giving heed to the devil, Jesus will receive the very blessings which Satan held out to Him. However, it is in a far more glorious sense and with the Father’s favor resting upon Him that He receives the strength to endure physically, that He receives the ministry of the angels, and that He receives authority over the kingdoms of the world.

Scriptures