Martin Luther once said, “There are three things that make a Christian—prayer, meditation, and temptation.”43 Luther might very well have great difficulty in getting anyone to agree with him. If, indeed, temptation is a sort of ‘necessary evil,’ one would be hard-pressed to find a non-Christian who would call it an evil, or a Christian who would think it necessary.
A careful look at the Scriptures will prove Luther right. Temptation plays a vital role in the growth and maturing of the Christian.44 And what is more, temptation played a significant role in the preparation of our Lord Jesus Christ for His public presentation as Israel’s Messiah.
The temptation of Christ is the sequel to the account of His baptism.45 His baptism was so crucial that it is recorded by all four Gospel writers. In the will of God, we shall study the significance of our Lord’s baptism and temptation with a view to their contribution to our Lord’s preparation for His public ministry which followed on the heels of these events. We will also dwell on the lessons to be learned by all Christians in the matter of dealing with temptation in such a way as to avoid sin and achieve God’s purposes for our lives.
Many pages have been written concerning the meaning of our Lord’s baptism, especially the statement of our Lord by Matthew, “… Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness …” (Matt. 3:15). Too often the problem has been intensified by the fact that interpretation has been attempted before sufficient observation has taken place. Let us fix our minds on the Gospel account so as to get facts clearly in mind.
(1) The baptism of Jesus was more private than public. Luke seems to state that Jesus came to be baptized after the multitudes had already received baptism at His hand: “Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, …” (Luke 3:21).
While the accounts of Matthew and Luke never mention a public audience or any response to the supernatural phenomenon of the Lord’s baptism, they do give the impression that the two who were most affected and involved were Jesus and John (note the change from the second person in Luke to the third person in Matthew46). Finally, although the disciples of our Lord were those who were with our Lord from the time of John’s baptism (cf. Acts 1:21,22), they did not mention this spectacular event. But note that almost the same divine testimony occurs at the transfiguration of our Lord (cf. Luke 9:35) and Peter clearly refers to this event as a divine testimony to the kingly majesty belonging to Jesus the Messiah (2 Peter 1:17-18). Now why was no mention made of the experience of our Lord at His baptism, unless of course, no one witnessed it except John and Jesus? The additional words, “Hear ye Him” seem to add weight to this line of argument.
(2) The baptism of Jesus by John was unlike every other baptism he had performed. The baptism which John proclaimed was one signifying repentance. Our sinless Lord had no sin for which to repent. John recognized this and sought to dissuade our Lord from submitting to baptism. If any needed a baptism of repentance, it was John at the hands of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 3:14). The baptizing of Jesus by John in some way fulfilled all righteousness (Matt. 3:15).
(3) John tells us that the reason he baptized was to identify the true Messiah of which he spoke. John’s questioners interrogated him as to who he was. If he was not Messiah, then why was be baptizing (John 1:25)? John’s first response to this question was that the baptism of Messiah was far superior to his. Then in verse 31 we find the purpose of John’s baptism so far as Messiah is concerned: “And I did not recognize Him, but in order that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water” (John 1:31).
By means of the divine testimony, John was able to know Israel’s Messiah for certain. From that day on, John presented Jesus as the Messiah (cf. John 1:29-30,34).
The interpretation of the significance of our Lord’s baptism becomes even more evident when we consider the words of divine testimony: “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
It is my understanding that by these words and the bestowing of the Holy Spirit, the Father identified Jesus both as Israel’s Messiah King and as the Servant of the Lord. In 2 Samuel 7:14 God assured David of an everlasting Kingdom with these words: “I will be a Father to him and he will be a son to Me; …” (2 Sam. 7:14).
The point here is not that the one referred to (David’s son, Solomon) will be Messiah, for in the next statement it is assumed that son will sin, but that Yahweh’s installation of a King is spoken of in terms of a Father and Son relationship (cf. also Psalm 89:26,27). God appointed the kings over His people. The one installed was called God’s Son. In the Second Psalm God’s anointed, the Messiah, speaks: “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son, Today have I begotten Thee” (Psalm 2:7).
Paul, in Acts 13:33 quotes this very passage, but to prove the necessity and historicity of the resurrection of Christ. I understand these passages in the Gospels and Acts to harmonize in this way. Long before David was publicly presented as Israel’s King, he was privately designated to Samuel by God (1 Sam. 16) and anointed by him. It was also at this time of secret identification to Samuel that David was empowered by the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). It was not until years later, after David had fled from Saul many times, that God removed Saul and inaugurated David as King.
In similar fashion at the baptism of Jesus, God signified (privately, I believe) to John that Jesus was the promised Messiah. At that time, He received the anointing of the Holy Spirit for the task ahead. It was at the transfiguration of our Lord that His disciples received divine confirmation that He was God’s Messiah. In Acts, Paul used the resurrection of Christ as an evidence that God had accepted His sacrificial work on the cross and had exalted Him to His heavenly throne where He waits the time of His final and public coronation when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him as Lord (Phil. 2:9-11) because God has put all things under His feet (cf. Acts 2:32-36).
Not only does the testimony of the Father at the baptism of Jesus identify Jesus as King, Who will inherit the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32), but it also identifies Jesus as the Servant of the Lord. Old Testament saints could not put together the two themes of Old Testament prophecy—one concerning a mighty king, the other of a humble servant Who would suffer for the sins of His people (cf. Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The testimony of the Father identified Jesus as the fulfillment of both streams of prophecy. Listen to the words of Isaiah: “Behold, My Servant whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; …” (Isa. 42:1).
Is the similarity of this statement with that of the testimony of the Father not too obvious to overlook? This one brief statement of the Father identified Jesus as both the Messiah-King and the suffering servant Who would die for the sins of His people. Christ is the deliverer Who came to die.
Many interpretations of the baptism of our Lord have been suggested, some of which we should immediately reject,47 while others have some merit. But in the final analysis we can conclude two things for certain.
Even if only these two suggestions are true, surely we could agree that this event fulfilled all righteousness.48 Here all the righteous program of God was coming to culmination. Things, we might say, were coming to a head.
The two events, the baptism and temptation of our Lord, cannot be separated. They are linked together both chronologically and logically. Chronologically, the temptation of our Lord immediately follows His baptism. Matthew connects the two events by the word, ‘then,’ Mark and Luke ‘and.’ Logically, the two events are inseparable. At the baptism our Lord’s calling and testing is told. In the wilderness, our Lord’s fitness for such a mission is tested. In the temptation, Satan never assails the identification of Christ as Israel’s Messiah.49 He simply attempts to divert Him from His task. In the wilderness experience we have recorded a trinity of tests which reveal the character and cunning of Satan and the perfections of Messiah which qualify Him to die for the sins of His people.
(1) The proposition. Satan’s first line of attack concerns the hunger which our Lord experienced due to His 40-day fast:
“And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:3-4).
(2) The premise. Satan’s suggestion was based on several erroneous premises or presuppositions. Let’s read between the lines to get them in mind. First, a God Who is good would not deprive one of His creatures. Doing without food cannot be the will of God. Such was the insinuation in the temptation of the first Adam in the garden. “Surely a good God would not withhold such a good thing as this fruit,” Satan suggested. Second, Satan supposes that men serve God and submit to His will because God bribes them to do so with material blessings. Remember Satan’s statement to God concerning Job: “Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’” (Job 1:9). Satan simply could not conceive of the Lord Jesus submitting to the will of the Father when it meant personal discomfort.
(3) The potential outcome. Had our Lord followed Satan’s solicitous advice several situations would have been inevitable. First of all, if personal pleasure comes before God’s will our Lord would never have gone to the cross of Calvary. If submission and obedience did not involve personal sacrifice, the atonement would never have been accomplished. Then, too, if physical needs have priority over spiritual necessities, then our Lord would never have preached the gospel. All His life would have been spent feeding the hungry and healing the sick. The only result of our Lord’s coming would have been some kind of ‘great society’ with no salvation wrought for men. Also, our Lord could never have spoken on the subject of discipleship and self-denial (as He so often did cf. Matthew 10:31-39; Luke 9:23, 57-62) unless He Himself had experienced it.
(4) The principles. Our Lord’s response indicates several vital principles of Christian service, as relevant for us today as they were 2,000 years ago. First of all the physical hunger which our Lord experienced was the will of God for His life. The account of the temptation begins: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1, cf. also Luke 4:1).
Our Lord was Spirit-led to fast and hunger in the wilderness. Second, obedience to the will of God takes precedence to one’s physical appetites. That is the implication of the statement, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’ (Matt. 4:4). Physical appetites are good because they are God-given. Bread is important to physical life, but there is no real life apart from obedience to the revealed will of God. Third, physical deprivation in the will of God is not bad, but good, for it tests our faith and strengthens it.50 This is the force of the context of our Lord’s quotation in Deuteronomy chapter 8. Note the words which immediately precede those quoted by our Lord to Satan:
“And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did no t know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:2,3).
Israel hungered in the wilderness by the will of God. Submission cannot be tested in abundance so much as in adversity. We do not test the obedience of our children by telling them to go to the ice cream store, but by telling them to go to the doctor for a shot. Israel’s faith was strengthened as they learned to trust God for their every need.
Likewise, our Lord’s hunger was a test of His submission to the Father’s will. Just as God provided sustenance for the Israelites in the wilderness, so He would do for His Son, in His own time. The Son would not act independently of the Father to provide food for Himself. After the test was completed, God did supernaturally provide for this need (Matt. 4:11).
Finally, the measure of a man is not to be found in the assertion of his rights, but in his submission to God. One of the things which has always hindered Christianity is the false notion that devotion to God is a womanly trait, and that real ‘he men’ don’t go for the sissy stuff of submission to God. That is one of Satan’s lies. The measure of a man is his submission to God. Satan suggested that our Lord look out for Himself and act independently of the Father. To do that would have depreciated His manhood.
(5) Practical application. The error of communism and its underlying principles of materialism come immediately to mind. Communism says that man does live by bread alone. It is materialism and economics that makes the world go ‘round. Material needs are important, our Lord would say, but they are not primary. Then there are those (even Christians no less!) whom I have heard say, “God does not give us any desire which he does not satisfy.” Physical appetites are God-given, but life’s highest calling is not always to fulfill them.51 A man may have the desire for the companionship and intimacies of marriage, but he may choose to set these aside for higher spiritual priorities.
(1) The Proposition. Having failed in the first recorded effort, Satan moved to an alternate approach:
Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he stood Him on the pinnacle52 of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge concerning You; and in their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shalt not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matt. 4:5-7).
This was a very subtle challenge for Jerusalem was the sacred city, and the temple was the center of Israel’s religious life. Furthermore, the Old Testament prophecies anticipated Messiah’s public presentation at the temple (Mal. 3:1). Besides this, there was a rabbinic tradition that Messiah would reveal Himself from the roof of the temple.53 As a rule, the Jews expected Messiah to be introduced in some kind of blaze of glory, and a spectacular leap and miraculous deliverance would precisely fill the bill.
(2) The Premise. Satan’s presupposition in this challenge was that God’s faithfulness is best demonstrated by the spectacular. In addition, there is the implicit assumption that one’s trustworthiness should be put to the test. If God was the Father of our Lord Jesus, let Him prove it, and in such an unusual way that no one could miss it.
(3) The Potential Outcome. The most distressing possibility had our Lord failed this test is that the Jews would have immediately hailed Him as Messiah. What would have been tragic about such an occurrence is that the Kingdom would have been established on the wrong basis, not right, but might. The moral and spiritual foundations of the Kingdom would have been completely over-shadowed by the spectacular and material elements.
(4) The Principles. There are two principles brought to light by the response of our Lord to Satan’s scheme. First, there was the principle of hermeneutics, or biblical interpretation. Satan said, “it is written.” Our Lord responded, “On the other hand (literally, ‘also’), it is written …” (Matt. 4:7). Satan had used one passage, but he had ripped it out of context. Worse yet, he interpreted and applied it inconsistently with other Scriptures.54 Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture.
Second, our Lord would remind Satan and every Christian that testing is not trusting. The 91st Psalm which Satan quoted from speaks of the quiet confidence which the child of God possesses. But divine protection does not encourage presumption. Our Lord’s reply again from the book of Deuteronomy is that, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:16).
The context of this quotation is the incident at Massah, where the Israelites demanded that God provide water. Submission and demanding are at opposite ends of the spectrum. God was challenged to vindicate Himself by acting in a specified way. This was putting God to the test. We might say it was attempting to force God’s hand. Real faith and trust delights in God’s manifestation of Himself in the mundane. It is not faith, but failure when we demand God prove Himself in the spectacular. Over and over in the life of our Lord the Jews demanded a sign (e.g. John 6:30), but our Lord continually refused such requests.
(5) Practical Application. It is sad to see Christians putting God to the test today by insisting on the spectacular. “I expect a miracle,” the song lyrics demand, “and nothing else will do.” Those who are terminally ill are instructed to ‘take a stand of faith’ that God has healed them. Doctors, nurses and family are to be informed that a miracle is happening. In this we are wrongly assuming not only that suffering is improper for the saint, but it demands that God jump through our hoops, that God act just as we have purposed. The Bible knows of none of this.
There are those who are regarded as faith healers who call upon God to heal, without leaving Him the option of continued illness or death, and who insist that Jesus receive all the glory. But in His earthly life Jesus refused to heal men for His own glory. His miracles were both selective, limited, and always purposeful.
Finally, there is the use of the spectacular to win a hearing and acceptance for the Gospel. Our Lord refused to grandstand in order to be accepted. He chose to be accepted because of His message, not His bizarre methods. There is far too much grandstanding of the Gospel in our times. Everything from pony rides to parachutists are employed to get men’s attention. Our Lord rejected all such actions. He came to establish a church, not a circus.
(1) The Proposition. Having failed in his first two efforts, Satan makes one last ‘no holds barred’ attempt to divert our Lord from His mission. Our Lord has so frustrated Satan that all masks and facades have been torn away. It is here we see Satan at his worst. The proposal was simple and straight-forward:
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the Kingdoms of the world, and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things will I give You, if you fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Matt. 4:8-10).
(2) The Premise. Satan had come to realize that our Lord could not be deceived. As I see it, Satan puts aside the deception and lays all his cards on the table. In offering our Lord the kingdom of the world, Satan proposes to exchange that which was his most valued possession for that which he most diligently aspired, the worship of God Himself. There are no subtleties here, no deceptions, just a hard-nosed business proposal: Give up your kingdom for mine, the future for the present, with only the bow of the knee. Satan had desired to be ‘like the most high’ (Isaiah 14:12-14), to exercise the prerogatives and privileges of God. To receive homage from Messiah would be worth any price.
(3) The Potential Outcome. To once bow the knee to Satan is to forever be in his service. Our Lord’s kingdom would have been one of fallen men in rebellion against Himself. To serve Satan would have been God in rebellion against Himself, something inconceivable.
(4) The Principle. Before we deal with the principles of Scripture which our Lord did employ, let me suggest another passage which makes Satan’s proposal preposterous and ludicrous. It is a passage which our Lord may well have been meditating upon during the 40 days in the wilderness. I have suggested that Psalm 2 was directly alluded to by the testimony of the Father at Jesus’ baptism. A look at the entire Psalm gives ample reason for our Lord’s rejection.
If you will look at this Psalm in your Bibles, you will see that the present state of the world is described. In verses 1-3, the nations are in an uproar, in open rebellion against God and His Messiah. Such is the kingdom which Satan offers in exchange for Messiah’s Kingdom. In verses 4-6 God laughs at man’s rebellion and promises to bring the world into subjection through His ‘anointed.’ In verses 7-9 Messiah speaks and promises to declare God’s decree to men, because of His divine appointment. But note especially verse 8:
“Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession” (Psalm 2:8).
Think of it; God invites His Messiah to ask of Him, and He will give the nations as an inheritance. Satan offered his broken-down kingdom; God offers the nations. How hollow Satan’s offer must have sounded in contrast to that in Psalm 2, a Psalm which must have been prominent in our Lord’s thinking!
One final comment about Psalm 2. Look at verses 11 and 12:
“Worship the Lord with reverence, And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2:11,12).
Verses 11-12 give the response appropriate to those in opposition to God and His Messiah. Worship Him! Do homage to Him! Fear His anger! Serve Him! Think of it. Satan had the arrogance (I think it was sincere) to request worship from Messiah, rather than to fall before Him.
Incredible, you say. But let me ask you, my friend. Have you acknowledged your rebellion against God, your sin, your pride? Are you trying to enlist God in your service rather than surrender to Him? If so, you are, in the words of our Lord, a child of the devil’ (John 8:44). To fail to surrender to Him and to serve Him is to repeat the sin of Satan. May God keep you from it.
Now the principles which our Lord applies to this situation. The first principle is that God alone is to be worshipped. Here is where Christianity departs from other ‘religions.’ Many world religions gladly add Jesus to their host of deities, but God demands exclusive obedience and worship.55 In His humanity, our Lord could not submit to or worship any other than the Father.
The second principle is that worship necessitates service. Satan requested what appeared to be only a momentary act of worship, a mere bending of the knee. But such is never the case with true worship:
“You shall worship the Lord Your God, and serve Him only” (Matt. 4:10).
True worship involves service. Satan hoped our Lord would underestimate the implications of bowing the knee in worship.
(5) Practical Application. There is a great deal of lip service in religion concerning worship. The man who tells us that he worships God in the woods and on the lake on Sunday has some real inconsistencies with our Lord’s concept of worship. He may truly see God’s hand in His creation and praise Him for this, but where is his service? Like love and marriage, worship and service must come together. To put it in the words of the song writer, “You can’t have one without the other.”
Sometimes I fear that the church of Jesus Christ has borrowed the techniques of Satan in evangelism. Satan presented his offer as though it were but a trivial request to worship him, while the implications were both profound and permanent. I often have the feeling that Christians are attempting to bring men and women into the kingdom without spelling out the implications. We put the long-term commitments in proverbial ‘fine print.’ That is not God’s way, but Satan’s.
Having spent considerable time among the ‘trees,’ let me take a moment to look back over the temptation of our Lord as a whole. Several striking features are apparent.
(1) The temptation is not evil in and of itself. Our Lord was ‘spirit led’ to be tempted. What Satan meant as a temptation, God used as a test.56 While Satan seeks to cause the saint to fail, God strives to bring about greater faith. Temptation is a part of God’s program in the lives of the saint for his growth, and His glory.57
(2) The temptation of Christ proved Him qualified for His work on the cross. Only a sinless, spotless ‘Lamb of God’ could take upon Himself the sin of the world. Our Lord’s sinlessness stood out when tempted by the master deceiver.
(3) The temptation of our Lord prepared Him to be a merciful High Priest.
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Our Lord’s temptation ‘in every point as we are’ enables Him to be a sympathetic High Priest (cf. also Hebrews 2:17-18). While His temptation proved Him sinless, it made Him sensitive to our weaknesses.
(4) The temptation of Christ was a test of submission. Underlying the entire temptation was a solicitation to set aside submission to the Father and act independently of God. This was the cause of Satan’s fall. It is interesting to ponder the fact that Satan had no idea of the actual program God had devised to bring about his destruction through the work of Messiah (cf. Gen. 3:15). If Satan would have ever realized that the cross was his defeat, he would never have instigated the crucifixion through the instrumentality of Judas (cf. John 13:2). Satan’s strategy was to entice the Son to act independently of the Father. By undermining the submission of the Son to the Father he could attain his own purposes, just as he had done in the garden.58
(5) Because our Lord could not sin, He bore the burden of the temptation to the full. When Adam was created, he was made able not to sin. When Christ, the last Adam, was begotten, He was not able to sin. Some have concluded that the impeccability of Christ would diminish the victory of our Lord over Satan, but, in fact, it intensified the victory:
“In this way the sinlessness of Jesus augments His capacity for sympathy: for in every case He felt the full force of temptation” (in loc.). And Westcott remarks at Hebrews ii. 18: “Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of sin, but on the experience of the strength of the temptation to sin, which only the sinless can know in its full intensity. He who falls yields before the last strain.”
If we bear these considerations in mind, we shall realise that the Saviour experienced the violence of the attacks of temptation as no other human being ever did, because all others are sinful and therefore not able to remain standing until the temptations have exhausted all their terrible violence in assailing them.”59
Virtually every verse of this portion of the Gospels is saturated with personal application. As we come to the conclusion of our study, let me spotlight several key facets of Christian living which our text has spoken to.
1. It should be expected by the Christian.
2. It often comes after moments of triumph or commitment.
3. Satan’s temptations are God’s tests. Remember that Satan tempts only in the will of God, and that temptations are never beyond our capacity (in Christ) to stand (1 Cor. 10:13).
4. Temptation often come in the area of application of truth, and not just the area of interpretation. Satan never challenged Christ’s interpretation of His baptismal experience (the fact that He was both Messiah-King and Suffering Servant), only the application of His position.
5. Temptation often solicits us to sin by doing something that appears ‘religious,’ even biblical.
6. Temptation often arises concerning the will of God. The will of God is not to be determined by our feelings, our desires, or even our logic, but according to the principles of the Word of God.
7. Temptation is best resisted with the Word of God, interpreted in its context, and in light of other Scripture.
1. Submission does not imply inferiority (for our Lord was fully God, equal in essence with the Father), but functional subordination.
2. Satan is ever seeking to overturn God’s chain-of-command by inciting men and women to throw off their bonds and follow him.
3. Submission means not acting independently of the will of the one in authority, nor of forcing him to act in a way we see fit.
May God enable us to apply the principles of this passage to our lives, to His glory.
44 As a suggestion for further study, let me outline Thomas Watson’s comments as to how the evil of temptation is overruled for good to the godly: (1) Temptation sends the soul to prayer. (2) Temptation to sin, is a means to keep from the perpetration of sin. (3) Temptation ... abates the swelling of pride. (4) Temptation ... is a touch-stone to try what is in the heart. (5) Temptation ... makes those who are tempted fit to comfort others in the same distress. (6) Temptations ... stir up paternal compassion in God to them who are tempted. (7) Temptations ... make the saints long for heaven. (8) Temptations ... engage the strength of Christ. Thomas, A Divine Cordial, pp. 24-27.
45 The baptism of Christ is included in all four Gospels, while the temptation of our Lord is omitted by John. Since John seeks to establish the deity of Christ (and God cannot be tempted, James 1:13), it is unnecessary to his argument. Luke seeks to stress the humanity of our Lord, and thus it is not difficult to comprehend his reasons for placing the geneology of our Lord (which traces His lineage back to Adam) between his account of our Lord’s baptism and temptation.
46 In this change from second person to third person, the substance is the same, but in Matthew (in accord with John’s account in John 1), the stress is on the thrust of this testimony toward identifying Messiah for John, while Luke emphasizes God’s assurance and confirmation for the benefit of our Lord.
47 “From earliest ages it has been a question why Jesus went to be baptized. The heretical Gospels put into the mouth of the Virgin-Mother an invitation to go to that baptism, to which Jesus is supposed to have replied by pointing to His own sinlessness, except it might be on the score of ignorance, in regard to a limitation of knowledge. Objections lie to most of the explanations offered by modern writers. They include a bold denial of the fact of Jesus’ Baptism; the profane suggestion of collusion between John and Jesus; or such suppositions, as that of His personal sinfulness, of His coming as the Representative of a guilty race, or as the bearer of the sins of others, or of acting in solidarity with His people—or else to separate Himself from the sins of Israel; of His surrendering Himself thereby unto death for man; of His purpose to do honour to the baptism of John; or thus to elicit a token of His Messiahship; or to bind Himself to the observance of the Law; or in this manner to commence His Messianic Work; or to consecrate Himself solemnly to it; or, lastly, to receive the spiritual qualification for it.” Alford Edersheim The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), I, p. 279.
48 “By his statement to John about fulfilling all righteousness, Jesus seems to mean that for the purpose of accomplishing his mediatorial work it is necessary for him to be baptized. This must be understood as a deliberate identification of himself with the nation, and so is in line with his birth, circumcision, presentation, and assumption of the yoke of the law. Since John’s baptism was bound up with the forgiveness of sins (Mk. 1:4), and no personal sin is involved in Jesus’ case, the conclusion is fairly obvious that the baptism was the first public step taken in the direction of bearing the sins of the people. It may be significant for the understanding of Matthew 3:15 to recall that the servant who was destined to bear the iniquities of the people is called righteous” (Isa. 53:11). Everett F. Harrison, A Short Life of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), p. 74.
49 In the original text, the expression ‘If you are the Son of God’ is a first class condition and casts no doubt on the fact of Christ’s sonship. It could accurately be rendered, ‘Since You are the Son of God.’
50 For an excellent discussion of the role of suffering and trials in the Christian life, cf. J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1973), chapter 21, ‘Those Inward Trials,’ pp. 221ff.
51 Cf. Philippians 1:29.
52 “From here James, the Lord’s brother, was thrown down thirty-eight years later and killed. This wing was the watch-post, where the white-robed priests customarily called the people to the early worship and the priests to the morning sacrifice, as the massive Temple gates swung open ere sunrise.” J.W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), p. 77.
53 “It should be noted that the rabbis identified the person addressed by God in Psalm xci with the Messiah. The Midrash, known as Pesiqta Rabbati (162a), records a traditional belief that Messiah would manifest himself standing on the roof of the temple. The part of the temple indicated in the temptation narrative may have been the part overlooking the “Royal Colonnade”—which Josephus (Antiquities, xv. 11,5) describes as looking down a precipitous descent into the Kidron valley, the height being so great as to make the spectator dizzy.” Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), p. 162.
54 G. Campbell Morgan rightly comments, “No one statement wrested from its context is a sufficient warrant for actions that plainly controvert other commands. … How excellent a thing it would be if the whole Church of Christ had learned that no law of life may be based upon an isolated text. … Every false teacher who has divided the Church, has had, ‘it is written’ on which to hang his doctrine.” G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ (Old Tappan, New Jersey, Fleming H. Revell Co., 1936), pp. 181-82.
55 “Very nobly the early Church followed its master there. It is an extraordinarily significant fact that of all the new religions that came pouring out of the East in the early centuries the religion of Jesus was the only one to arouse real persecution. When the religions of Osiris, Cybele, and other gods and goddesses came, Rome welcomed them all with open arms. But when the lonely God from Palestine came and the Nazarene’s name was first heard on the imperial streets, Rome girded herself to fight him to the death. Why? It was because Osiris and the rest were content to live together and share the honors, but the young God with the nail prints in his hand would not live together or share the honors with any. From the day of Jesus’ decision in the desert the demand of his religion was all or nothing.” James S. Stewart, The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ (Nashville: Abingdon, 1978), pp. 49-50.
56 The actual Greek word rendered ‘to tempt’ or ‘to test’ is actually the same. Only the context dictates whether the sense is a ‘test of character’ or ‘a solicitation to sin (temptation).’ What God intends as a test, Satan may exploit as a temptation. But God never tempts us to sin (James 1:13).
58 God’s order of authority (chain of command) was man, woman, creature; the order of the fall was creature (serpent rebelling against creator), woman (acting independently of her husband), man. Satan always attempts to overturn God’s order. G. Campbell Morgan draws our attention to this same process of reversal in the sequence of temptation as compared with the Lord’s replies from Deuteronomy:
“These answers of Jesus reveal the order of the attacks. First bread, then trust, and then worship. If the references in Deuteronomy are now observed, it will be discovered that they are quoted in opposite order to the way in which they occur in the book. In answer to the temptation concerning bread Christ uttered words to be found in Deuteronomy 8:3. In replying to the temptation directed against trust, His quotation was from Deuteronomy 6:16. While in replying to that in the realm of worship, the quotation is from Deuteronomy 6:13. In the law of God, the order is worship, trust, and bread. That order the devil inverted, and his temptations proceeded as to bread, trust, worship.” G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ, p. 201.