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Basic Bible: Overcoming Temptation with the Word

Matthew 4:1-14a

“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit . . .” (v. 1). Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, received the Spirit from God the Father when He emerged from the water of baptism. That which follows in the text before us is a picture of the Spirit’s dominion over the flesh.

Jesus was driven into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The wilderness, a solitary place, would serve as the arena for the battle between the Satan and the Spirit for control of “my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (3:17).

Jesus fasted for forty day and forty nights. The battle would not pit the Spirit plus the strength of the flesh against Satan. The battle would be the Spirit alone against Satan.

Satan struck the first blow. He challenged Jesus to use the power of God the Father to change stones into to bread. Satan tempted Jesus to use the power of God the Father for a selfish purpose — to satisfy His own physical needs. Jesus hungered (v. 2).

When Satan tempted Adam in the garden, he said (paraphrasing): “Eat the fruit and become as God” (Gen. 3:5). In the wilderness, Satan said (paraphrasing): “Use the power of God to satisfy the desire of the flesh.” Jesus possessed the power to provide for His flesh but the Father did not send the Son into the world for that purpose. Jesus came into the world to seek and to save others (Lk. 19:10).

Jesus answered Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. Man shall live by doing that which God says to do. God the Son did not turn from His assigned task which was to seek and to save. The Spirit did not direct Him to satisfy the needs of the flesh. Jesus did not yield to temptation. He answered Satan with the word of God. God the Son would live by that which proceeded from the mouth of God the Father, not by that which enters into the mouth.

Satan continued his assault upon the flesh by challenging Jesus to apply the word of God in an inappropriate manner. Satan set Jesus upon the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem and quoted from Psalm 91:11-12. “He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (v. 6). Satan is not ignorant of the scriptures. He purposely omitted “to keep thee in all thy ways.”

Thy ways, the way of the Son, was to do the Father’s will, the will of Him who so loved the world “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). Satan most certainly did not want God to make “his soul an offering for sin” and “by his knowledge” justify many because “he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:10-11). Satan wants no man to live by the words that proceed out of the mouth of God.

Jesus responded to Satan’s misuse of scripture with the proper use. “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deut. 6:16). Deuteronomy 6:16 makes specific reference to Israel’s tempting God in Exodus 17:7. At Massah, Israel’s lack of faith prompted the Lord to make water gush from rock. Israel caused God to respond to unbelief. Satan’s second challenge would be cause for the Lord to respond to Jesus’ unbelief. The word declares, “The just shall live by faith.” Jesus was just in all His ways.

The Spirit which was upon Jesus is the same Spirit (the Comforter) whom Jesus has sent to teach us and to bring all things into remembrance. Believers are to abide in Christ such that the Spirit might be manifest in us. Through the Comforter, we know the just shall live by faith.

In verses 8 and 9, Satan tempted Christ the third time. He showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and promised to give all to Jesus if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Some Bible commentators assert that the kingdoms of the world were not Satan’s to give. This is contrary to that which Jesus said in John 12:31. Satan would not be cast out until after Christ would be crucified and lifted up from the earth. Then, and only then, would all men be drawn to Jesus.

Again, Satan knows the scriptures. He knows Psalm 2:8. Satan knows that God the Father will give heaven and all the earth to God the Son. Satan’s offer of the glory and kingdoms of the world was contingent upon Jesus’ worshiping him. Jesus could have received dominion over the earth without being subjected to the indignity of the cross. Satan offered Jesus a short cut to that which the Father promised. Jesus chose the Father’s path.

Jesus, again, cited the word of God. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Jesus chose the way of the God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.

Jesus overcame all temptation by fully trusting in God the Father. Let all men trust and live.

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