We concluded yesterday’s study by talking about the two things we must do in order to overcome temptations from the devil. The first is to submit to God.
Now secondly what does it mean to resist? How do we resist? The answer is, by means of God’s Word. The Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you,” meaning that purity of life can be ours to the degree that we feed upon the Bible and study it. The psalmist said, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word…Thy word have I hidden in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Paul said, writing specifically of our spiritual warfare against Satan, “And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The greatest example of spiritual warfare against Satan is the victory over him by the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew 4:1-11. It illustrates many of the points we’ve been making, and we mustn’t think that this was the only occasion in Christ’s life when the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted. He was “tempted in all points like as we are,” and that would involve prolonged and continuing temptation, as well as these brief encounters, recorded here. Nevertheless, they are perhaps His most significant temptations, and they’re certainly included in the Bible to teach us the means of victory over them.
Some time ago I was on this subject in connection with a series of studies on the Sermon on the Mount for The Bible Study Hour. The announcer asked me during a question-and-answer period, “We have all heard the expression that temptations come to us from the world, the flesh, and the devil, but it seems that all three of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness came to Him from the devil. Isn’t that right? And if it is, how can we say Jesus ‘was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15)?”
Now that was a very good question. I pointed out that there is a fine distinction here on the basis of which it was necessary for Jesus to be tempted in all points directly by the devil. Jesus did not have a sinful nature as we do, so He could not be tempted by a sinful nature, that is, by the flesh. Neither could He be tempted by the world directly, because the sins of the world are pride, arrogance, a desire for dominance, and so on. And Jesus had no point of contact in Himself for these. If Jesus was to be tempted at all, all the temptations must have come to Him from a direct encounter with the devil, just as Adam and Eve had to receive their temptations from the devil. Before their fall, you see, Adam and Eve did not have a sinful nature either. But now at the same time, we notice as we read the account of Christ’s temptations that although all three came to Him from the devil, nevertheless, each of these temptations did relate to one of these three areas.
The temptation to turn stones into bread was a fleshly temptation; the temptation to throw Himself from the top of the temple in Jerusalem was a temptation to gain the world’s esteem in the world’s way; and finally, the temptation to worship Satan was an outright spiritual temptation that would have placed the Lord in opposition to His heavenly Father. Thus, although all the temptations came originally from the devil, they were nevertheless temptations to the sins of the flesh, the world and the devil. And they show us that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are. Of course, because of their source, these temptations were far stronger and more subtle than our temptations.