There have been many decisive battles throughout human history that have changed the course of human history in defining and unalterable ways.
Even if we were to confine our thoughts to the United States alone, we might think of the battle of Yorktown, the decisive battle in the American Revolutionary War. Had the Colonies not surrounded the British at Yorktown in 1781, putting the nail in the coffin of the world’s premier military power, no one knows what would have been the fate of this experiment in democracy, independence, and freedom that is the United States. For all we know, we could still be living under British imperialism.
Or we might also consider the Battle of Gettysburg—the turning point of the Civil War. If George Meade was unable to fend off the attacks of Robert E. Lee, it’s likely that the Confederate Army would have marched on Washington DC. President Lincoln would have been forced to flee, we would be called the Confederate States of America, and the nation would have remained severely severed. Of course, this is not to mention the decades that slavery would have continued.
One also thinks of Stalingrad, considered by many to be the turning point in World War II. If the Nazis secured this victory, they would have had unrestricted access to the oil-rich region of the Caucuses Mountains, and plenty of time to develop a nuclear weapon. Fascism by threat of genocide could have spread further in the world than any of us care to imagine.
Certainly the outcomes of these battles have had massive importance, both in the story of our nation, and of the world. But as we turn to God’s Word this morning—to Luke chapter 4—we come to the most epic battle in all of history. More was at stake in this battle than was at stake at Stalingrad. This battle was more decisive than the Battle of Gettysburg. The outcome of this battle would change the course of human history ten thousand times more than the Battle of Yorktown.
This morning we come to the battle of Satan against Jesus in the wilderness. The arch-enemy of all that is holy—that ancient serpent who is the accuser of the brethren—versus the Anointed Son of God. This is the ultimate battle of good versus evil.
But in order to understand the full significance of this monumental scene in the story of redemption we must understand that it is only a small part of that whole story. We need to set this account of the most epic of battles in the context of redemptive history.
And that story starts with God Himself, who, desiring to communicate the fullness of His glory, created the heavens and the earth and all they contain. He spoke the universe into existence, like we spoke about two weeks ago. And on the sixth day of creation came God’s magnum opus. He created man in His own image, to the end that they might know, enjoy, and worship Him, and make Him known throughout the earth. And there in the Garden, humanity lived in perfect, unbroken fellowship with their Creator.
And God’s faithful, loving provision was unmistakable. Adam and Eve lacked nothing in Eden. God had given them every tree in the garden to freely eat from. Yet the one stipulation God gave them was that they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Satan saw this as his opportunity. His strategy was to convince Eve that God’s Word wasn’t true—that He was just spoiling their fun because He didn’t want anyone to be like Him. And so she ate from the tree. And gave fruit to Adam as well, and he ate. And though their lives on Earth continued for centuries after that, at that moment, just as God had promised, they died, spiritually.
That one act of disobedience catapulted all of humanity into damnation. As Romans 5:12 says, sin entered the world through the one man. And because Adam was our representative, all of humanity sinned in him. And into God’s blessed, very-good creation, spread the cancer of sin and death.
Fellowship with God was broken. Sin separated humanity from a holy God, and destroyed our ability to fulfill the purpose for which we were created—namely to worship God. And there’s nothing we can do about it. Nothing we can do can adequately pay for the offense caused to a holy God. None of us can escape the death that we inherited through our father Adam.
But God devised a magnificent plan—a plan that made the angels, who had just witnessed the world created with a word, stare slack-jawed in amazement. In Genesis 3:15, He promises that the seed of the woman will destroy the work of the devil. God the Father will send His only Son—God Himself—to be born as a helpless baby, to live on earth as fully man and fully God.
Being man, He would be subject to all the weaknesses and temptations of a son of Adam. In the language of Hebrews 2:17, He would be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Yet being God, He would be unstained by the depravity of Adam, and, according to Hebrews 7:26, would be a high priest who was holy, innocent, undefiled, and separate from sinners. As the Son of God, this Seed of the woman would be, as 1 Corinthians 15:45 says, the last Adam. Romans 5 says that Adam was a type of the Messiah who was to come.
Just as Adam represented all humanity, and by his sin spread death and condemnation to all those who were in him, so this Promised Savior would represent humanity, and by His obedience would minister life and justification to all those who are in Him. He would come, and work righteousness in obedience to God, pay for sins, and be the progenitor of a new redeemed humanity that would finally be restored to worship God in spirit and truth.
And so for years, and decades, and centuries, and even millennia, God’s people anticipated this divine Savior. We’re told that the prophets who spoke of Him made careful searches and inquiries, trying to discern who this Messiah would be and when He would come.
Text Introduction & Context
And after centuries of waiting for this Savior—after all this anticipation—the Gospel of Luke begins with His story. Luke makes his purpose for writing very clear from the very beginning. In the opening four verses he explains to his reader, a well-known Roman dignitary nicknamed Theophilus, that he wanted him to know the exact truth about the Christ that he believed in. Luke wanted Theophilus to know that when he held the pages of his gospel, that he held in his hands a faithful account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, and that He was the long-awaited Savior of the world that God had promised all the way back in Genesis 3:15.
And so what you have, in the entirety of the first three chapters of Luke’s Gospel, is testimony upon testimony—affirmation upon affirmation—that this Jesus is the promised Savior. Look at it with me.
- In chapter 1 we have the account of not one, but two miraculous births—both of the Messiah Jesus and his forerunner, John. And both of these births are announced by angels. Angelic testimony that this is the time of the long-awaited Messiah!
- Not only is Jesus proclaimed as the fulfillment of messianic prophecy, He is also presented as the fulfillment of both the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.
- In his prophecy in chapter 1 verse 72, Zacharias says that the Father had sent Jesus “to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father.”
- And the angel tells Mary in chapter 1 verse 32 that God will give Jesus “the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
- And then in chapter 2 we have the testimonies of those faithful saints, Simeon and Anna.
- The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he wouldn’t die until he saw Messiah. Well, as soon as he saw the baby Jesus, he took him into his arms and said, “Now I can depart in peace.”
- And when Anna, that devout prophetess who never left the temple of the Lord—when she saw Jesus she gave thanks to God and began telling everyone that the redemption of Jerusalem was to be found in Him.
- In chapter 3 we have the testimony of John the Baptist, the forerunner, who was a voice calling in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord.
- In chapter 3 verse 21 we have the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who at His baptism descended upon Him like a dove, testifying to His divinity.
- And in the very next verse we have the testimony of the Father Himself, who declared, audibly, from heaven: You are My beloved Son; in You I am well-pleased.
- And if that wasn’t enough, in the next section Luke inserts Jesus’ genealogy. Like Matthew’s genealogy, Luke’s testifies that Jesus is the Son of David, and thus substantiates His royalty; and it also testifies that He is the Son of Abraham, and thus substantiates His orthodoxy. But unlike Matthew’s genealogy, Luke’s genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, which substantiates Jesus’ genuine humanity.
And as we come to chapter 4, one last passage stands between all that testimony and the commencement of His teaching in Galilee. After all that testimony, one last qualification—one last credential—is necessary before He begins His public ministry. Sure, He might have the right angelic entourage, and He might have the miraculous birth, and He might fulfill the right prophecies, and He might have the right lineage. But if He can’t succeed where Adam failed—if He can’t withstand the full onslaught of the temptation of Satan in His own life—if He can’t defeat sin and death and accomplish righteousness as a faithful Son of God—then He’s no better than Adam and the human race has no hope. If righteousness is to be accomplished and sin is to be atoned for, Jesus must be able to do battle with the devil and emerge victorious. In this text, and in this battle, the salvation of the entire human race is at stake.
And so in this text we have the capstone of Jesus’ preparation for His public ministry—one last testimony to His credentials to accomplish His Father’s mission. And this battle comes in the form of three temptations, and so that’s how we’ll outline the text this morning. We’re going to look at the three temptations that Jesus successfully withstood, so that we can rightly worship Him as our merciful and faithful high priest, and rest all our hope securely in the sufficiency of His righteousness alone.
And I’ll give them to you up front and then repeat them as we go along.
- First, there is the temptation to doubt the Father’s loving provision.
- Second, there is the temptation to doubt the Father’s gracious plan.
- And third, there is the temptation to test the Father’s perfect protection.
I. The Temptation to Doubt the Father’s Loving Provision (vv. 3–4)
The first temptation that Satan attacks Jesus with is the temptation to doubt the Father’s loving provision. Let’s look at verse 1: “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”
Notice that Luke mentions the Holy Spirit twice in this opening sentence. Jesus was both “full of the Holy Spirit”—meaning He was entirely submitted to the Spirit and under His influence—and He was being led by the Spirit in the wilderness. Not only does this link this account closely with His baptism, where the Spirit descended on Him as a dove, but it also drives the point home that this battle that is about to take place is God’s doing. Satan isn’t throwing some sort of monkey wrench into God’s plan here. Satan is not interrupting Jesus’ mission by tempting Him. He’s actually giving occasion for Jesus to accomplish His mission according to the divine providence of God. In fact, Mark is even more emphatic when he describes this event. He wrote that the Spirit impelled Jesus to go into the wilderness.
Satan is indeed the tempter; the end of that first sentence is crystal clear: he was “being tempted by the devil.” But Luke makes it just as clear that this temptation—this battle—was the outworking of God’s sovereign plan to accomplish righteousness in Jesus Christ.
Luke also mentions that the setting for this battle is 40 days the wilderness. Now, this is significant for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Jesus’ testing for 40 days in the wilderness calls to mind the Israelites’ testing for 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Similar events in the life of Israel and the life of Jesus show a sort of camaraderie or analogy between the nation of Israel and Jesus Christ. Israel’s years in the wilderness were marked by failure after failure—faithlessness after faithlessness. How would Messiah—the One whom God calls, “My Servant, Israel” in Isaiah 49:3—how would He fare in His time of wilderness testing?
Not only this. The setting is significant for another reason. Jesus was being tempted in the Judean wilderness, described by commentators as the most barren, desolate region in Israel. One commentator put it this way: “If there could be fixed in one’s mind the image of the almost-painful sterility of the Sahara or of Death Valley, and then multiply that by a factor of four or more, one might come close to capturing the geographical reality to which [Jesus was] exposed.”
So, while on the one hand this scene emphasizes a connection between the nation of Israel and the embodiment of the faithful Israelite par excellence in the Messiah, it also emphasizes the connection between Adam, the first representative of humanity, and Jesus, the second Adam. And that connection is shown by providing a stark contrast between the environment Jesus was in during His trial and the environment that Adam was in during his trial.
This wilderness was the anti-Eden. Adam experienced his temptation in Paradise, with every physical need met, and in fellowship with his wife who was by his side. Jesus experienced His temptation in the most desolate place in Israel, having not eaten for forty days, and being entirely alone. Adam failed in the best of circumstances, and Luke wants us to know that this Jesus triumphed in the most hostile of circumstances.
Well, after fasting for forty days Jesus became hungry. And Satan sought to capitalize on that. He said, verse 3, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
And immediately here we see that Satan has not changed his game plan in over 4,000 years. The word Son in the Greek is moved forward in the sentence for emphasis. This is what Satan chooses to focus on, because the thrust of this attack—both here and again in verse 9—is to challenge the Father’s declaration in 3:22, where He declares from heaven unequivocally that Jesus is His beloved Son. Satan’s strategy is to challenge God’s Word. This is, “Indeed, has God said…?” all over again.
Now, of course Satan knew that Jesus was the Son of God. Everywhere we see demons approaching Christ in the Gospels they say, “I know who You are! You’re the Holy One of God!” Satan knew exactly who Jesus was—the same way he knew exactly what God had told Adam and Eve about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This wasn’t about gaining new information. This was about casting doubt on God’s declaration—not to try to convince Jesus that He wasn’t the Son of God (Jesus knew who He was)—but to cause Him to doubt the Father’s loving provision for Him.
And his argument is dastardly. In effect, he’s saying, “OK Jesus. Let’s just say that You are the Son of God. Does the Son of God live like this?! Indeed, has God said, ‘You are My beloved Son,’ and yet forbidden you to make bread for Yourself when You’re hungry?! This isn’t how a loving Father treats His Son!”
This is exactly what he did with Eve. “You mean to tell me that your loving God won’t let you eat from a particular tree?! No, you surely will not die! God just knows that if you eat of this tree, your eyes will be opened and you’ll be like Him. And He doesn’t want that kind of competition.” And Eve, standing in a perfect world, having no lack of anything, began to doubt God’s loving provision.
Satan hadn’t changed his strategy in over 4,000 years. And 2,000 years later, today, he still hasn’t changed. Can you hear how amazingly relevant this kind of temptation is for 21st-century American Christians? “You’re a child of the King! So why aren’t you living like a prince? The children of the King don’t drive 15 year-old clunkers; they drive brand new cars! The children of the King don’t buy their clothes at Wal-Mart so they can give sacrificially to missions; they go to Rodéo Drive! The children of the King don’t become missionaries in India and Burma and China, and live like paupers and put their children in harm’s way! You’re supposed to be healthy and wealthy, so that everyone will see what a blessing it is to be a Christian! Turn this stone into bread!”
It’s not a sin to eat bread when you’re hungry. It’s not even a sin to create bread, because Jesus would do that when He fed the 5,000. Neither is Satan tempting Him to show off His divinity—they’re alone in the wilderness. This is a temptation for Jesus to doubt the Father’s loving provision for Him and to exercise His divine authority outside of His submission to the Father.
How should we respond to this kind of temptation? How do we battle the temptation to doubt our Father’s loving provision for us? Well let’s look at how Jesus battled it, verse 4: “And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written.’” He responds with Scripture. He wields the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph 6:17)—the living and active Word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). “‘It is written, “Man shall not live on bread alone.”’”
He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, which speaks of Israel’s trials in the wilderness, especially of their going without food. Luke only includes half the verse here, but Matthew records that Jesus quoted the other half: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
Do you see what Jesus does? Don’t miss this. He battles the temptation of satisfaction and immediate gratification with God’s promise of a superior satisfaction! “Physical food doesn’t sustain a person’s life, Satan. The Word of God is what truly satisfies the hunger of the soul. And My food,” Jesus would say in John 4:34, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me.”
All of us face circumstances that we would say are less than ideal. Because we live in a fallen world, and because our desires are not yet fully sanctified and entirely renewed, the unpleasant circumstances that we deal with in our daily lives carry with them the temptation to doubt that God cares for us. Whether that be the experience of a failed relationship, severe financial hardship, the loss of family members and friends, we can be tempted to doubt the Father’s loving provision for us. But we need to recognize that when God takes from us certain earthly joys, He does so in order that we may learn to set our affections more on Him, which results in an even greater satisfaction.
The Apostle Paul is the perfect illustration of that. In Philippians 3, he lists his credentials that characterized his life in Judaism—his Jewish resume, if you will: circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, a zealous persecutor of the church, and blameless according to the Law. And then, Jesus struck him blind on the Damascus road and turned his whole world upside down. Paul went from being an educated, respected, young Jewish leader to making tents to support himself while he got beaten and stoned everywhere he went preaching that a crucified Jewish carpenter was the Lord of the universe. And he says in Philippians 3:8, “I’ve suffered the loss of all things…” Why? “…so that I may gain Christ.”
It would be ludicrous to imagine, friends, that our Father does not care for us if He withholds from us certain earthly pleasures, for the express purpose to drive us to a greater satisfaction in Him.
II. The Temptation to Doubt the Father’s Gracious Plan (vv. 5–8)
Jesus understood that, and so He would not doubt the Father’s loving provision. So Satan moved to his next temptation. He tempted Jesus to doubt the Father’s gracious plan. Look at verse 5: “And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.’”
I like the way Darrell Bock puts it: “Like a prospective seller, the devil points out the goods. In a place where Jesus has nothing, he is about to be offered everything. … ‘Look, Jesus, at what can be yours!’” You can just hear the deception: “Haven’t you lived under the restrictions of humanity long enough already? Aren’t you anxious to leave this wretched state of humiliation? You deserve better! And I can give it to you!”
And, no surprise here, the father of lies bends the truth yet again. It’s true that Satan is the ruler of this world, as the Gospel of John says (12:31; 14:30; 16:11). It’s true, 1 John 5:19, that the whole world lies in his power. But he is still not the rightful sovereign of these kingdoms. They are only God’s to give. Romans 13:1 says plainly, “There is no authority except from God.”
And of course, God had already promised to give these things to Jesus. Turn to Psalm 2. The Son speaks of the Father’s promise to Him in Psalm 2 verse 7. He says, “He [meaning the Father] said to Me: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’” Sounds familiar doesn’t it? This is exactly what the Father declared at Jesus’ baptism! Verse 8: “‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.’”
See, Jesus knew that what Satan was promising Him was rightfully His, which I think makes this temptation all the more insidious. Satan was offering Him a way to claim what was rightfully His without going through all the suffering. He could have absolute dominion over all the glorious kingdoms of the inhabited earth right now. No need for self-denial. No need for dealing patiently with sinners who would mock Him anyway. No need for suffering shame. And certainly no need for the Cross!
Satan was tempting Jesus to doubt the Father’s gracious plan—to seize power and authority on His own, and to renounce the commission the Father had given Him. Satan promised Jesus the crown without the cross. But the redemption Jesus would accomplish would not come through outward triumph before it would come through humility and suffering.
And here again we see the relevance to our own battles with sin. Satan truly has not changed. At every turn the American church today is being enticed with abandoning God’s plan of triumph through suffering, and seizing the comforts that rightly come only after the trials.
Satan was willing to do anything to keep Jesus from suffering. Because it was through His suffering that He would destroy the works of the devil and rescue sinners from the power of sin and death. And I think one of the ways that Satan has deceived the visible Church in America and rendered its witness as powerless is to keep professing Christians from suffering.
You say, “What in the world are you talking about? Why would he do that?!” Because the world isn’t impressed with Christians who praise Jesus when everything is just peachy! But, by the grace of God, they just might be shaken out of their hard-hearted slumber long enough to think about why in the world Christians can rejoice in the deepest kinds of suffering and discomfort! How they can count everything as loss for the sake of knowing Christ! Who, along with Job, proclaim, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him!” Who say, “The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” Who deny themselves, take up their cross, and march to Golgotha to lay down their lives for their enemies!
2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Everyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted!” The cross precedes the crown. Don’t be fooled by professing Christians who either preach from their pulpits, or insinuate by their lifestyle, that the Christian life is supposed to be rosy. Don’t become domesticated by the world, as if this was your home. Don’t sell out your testimony for Christ just so you can walk the easy path. That path only leads to destruction.
Instead, follow the path that Jesus takes, when He says, verse 8, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” You see? This is a matter of worship, and worship belongs to God alone. And when we seek satisfaction in comfort, ease, and immediate gratification, we make those things idols, and bow down to worship them.
Here, Jesus renounces any and all pleasures that would come to Him outside of the gracious plan of the Father, and seeks only those pleasures which come from Him. And in due time, Jesus would, as Isaiah 53 says, see the good pleasure of the Lord and be satisfied (53:10–11).
III. The Temptation to Test the Father’s Perfect Protection (vv. 9–12)
Satan, having failed to get Jesus to doubt the Father’s loving provision in verses 3 and 4, and having failed to get Him to doubt the Father’s gracious plan in verses 5 through 8, now turns to tempt Jesus to test the Father’s perfect protection. Look with me at verses 9–11: “And He led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, “He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,” and, “On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.”’”
Just as he did in verse 3, Satan attacks God’s declaration that Jesus is His Son. But here he does it in an even more insidious, deceitful, sinister way. Both times Jesus has responded to Satan’s temptations with Scripture, so Satan decides to quote a little Scripture himself.
“Ok, so You’re the Son of God are you? Well Psalm 91 verses 11 and 12 say that God will protect those who trust in Him. Now, You must trust God if You’re His Son, right? So prove it. Jump off this temple. If You are who You say You are, the angels will bear You up and You won’t strike Your foot against those rocks down there.”
What a wicked being the devil is! (I hope, as we’re considering how Satan operates, that there arises in your affections such an antipathy for his unrighteousness that it would fuel your battle against sin.) He is evil. He presents this temptation as if it was the opportunity for Jesus to fulfill the Word of God! But if there’s one thing we can learn here it’s that Scripture can be wrested from its context and twisted and distorted. And Satan’s specialty is taking truth and presenting it as half-truth in order to deceive. That’s what “devil” means—slanderer, liar.
Listen: Bold, gutsy faith in God is a great thing. Abraham was ready to kill Isaac because he believed that God would raise him from the dead. But there is a fine line between trusting and testing—between bold faith and presumption.
And Satan tried to exploit that. The essence of this temptation was for Jesus to prove the truth of God’s promise by putting it to the test—to back God into a corner such that He would be forced to act. But putting God to the test is not faith. It is the definition of the lack of faith. The faithful man does not dictate to God how He must keep His promises. I love what Pastor John says about this. He says, “This type of temptation is perhaps the most subtle and dangerous of the three, because it seemingly encourages people to exercise faith in God. In reality, it arrogantly, brazenly demands things from God, turning Him into a utilitarian genie who grants people’s every whim.”
You see this most clearly in things like the snake-handlers of Appalachia. These are professing Christians who, based on the long ending of Mark 16, make the test of salvation whether or not you can survive handling poisonous snakes. If you survive, you have God’s blessing. If you die, well you must not have the Holy Spirit. That kind of thing has its origin with Satan. In fact, just in the past two weeks, one of these “pastors” died from a snake bite.
You also hear things like this from the name-it/claim-it, prosperity movement. These “preachers” tell people in the most horrific circumstances of life that they just need to believe really hard and God will solve all their problems. And if their circumstances don’t improve it’s because their faith is weak.
A few months ago I read about three women in London who died from HIV because their charismatic pastor told them to step out in faith and stop taking their antiretrovirals. This was supposed to be a sign of their faith in a “prayer of faith” that supposedly healed them. You see, there’s a difference between trusting God to provide and testing God to provide. We are never to order our lives in such a way that we back God into a corner to fulfill His promises to us.
And Jesus didn’t do that either. He responded one last time, verse 12: “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” He doesn’t waver. He doesn’t sheath His sword. He goes straight back to Scripture. He battles Scripture wrongly interpreted with Scripture rightly interpreted. Do you realize that aside from the words, “It is written,” and “It is said,” every single word Jesus speaks in this entire interaction is a quotation from Scripture! What a commentary on how to engage in spiritual warfare!
And so Jesus refuses to put God to the test, and he defeats this temptation as well. He defeated the temptation to doubt the Father’s loving provision, the temptation to doubt the Father’s gracious plan, and the temptation to test the Father’s perfect protection.
And so, verse 13, “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” The battle was over. Satan had exhausted his repertoire. The quiver of his flaming arrows was now empty. He tried the lust of the flesh: hunger. Yet Jesus refused to turn the stone to bread. He tried the lust of the eyes, yet Jesus was more enticed by the glory of God than the glory of the world’s kingdoms. He tried the boastful pride of life, but Jesus refused to put God to the test.
“The enemy tried all his weapons, and was at all points defeated” (Plummer). The last Adam had succeeded where the first had failed. If you notice the way Scripture speaks of Eve’s deception, you see that Jesus has successfully endured temptation precisely in the way our first parents failed. Genesis 3:6 says, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the lust of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [the lust of the eyes], and that the tree was desirable to make one wise [the pride of life], she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” And, as Romans 5:19 says, just as “through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” Jesus has proven that He is qualified to undertake the ministry He will now begin in Galilee.
The decisive victory would come at the cross—where sin would be paid for—and at the resurrection—where death itself would be put to death by the Author of life. But this crucial victory over Satan ensured that Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, the Son of Adam, and the Son of God, would indeed defeat sin and render powerless the devil, who had the power of death. Sin would be forgiven. Righteousness would be accomplished. And the new humanity formed in Jesus Christ would once again live in fellowship with their Creator, and worship Him in spirit and truth.
And so as we come to a close, how can we apply what we’ve seen from this passage? Well first, know your enemy. Satan hasn’t changed. From the Garden to the wilderness to the present day, he continues to rule this world’s system through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. He continues to attack the clarity and decisiveness of God’s revealed Word by saying, “Indeed, has God said…?” Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 2:11 that the way to not be taken advantage of by Satan is to not remain ignorant of his schemes. Know your enemy.
Second, know your weapon. Learn to wield the sword of the Spirit. Fight temptation with the Word of God. Know your own heart. Discern what kinds of temptations and sins you’re most vulnerable to. And then go to Scripture and purposely set to memory key passages that promise greater satisfaction than those sins. If it’s a fear of difficult circumstances, go to James 1:12: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Consider that the blessing promised and the crown of life promised to those who are faithfully obedient is more satisfying than an easy, wasted life. If it’s purity or sexual immorality, go to Matthew 5:8: “The pure in heart shall see God!” Consider that beholding the beauty of the Lord will bring a greater, more lasting pleasure than the fleeting pleasures of sin. If it’s depression or anxiety, go to Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Know your weapon. Fight temptation with Scripture.
And most importantly, stand in awe of Jesus. Worship Jesus as the unique Son of Man and Son of God, the Second and Last Adam who accomplished righteousness to create a new redeemed humanity. Know that all your righteousness is His righteousness; rest in it alone, none of your own.
John Bunyan, the English Puritan and author of Pilgrim’s Progress, was unsure of the state of his soul until he understood that it was Christ’s righteousness on his behalf that secured him before God. He wrote, “One day as I was passing into the field…this sentence fell upon my soul: ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven.’ And I thought I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand. There, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, ‘He [lacks] my righteousness,” for [my righteousness] was [standing in front of] him [in Jesus Christ.] I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself. … Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away. … I went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.”
Bunyan understood the truth written in the second verse of one of my favorite hymns, Before the Throne of God Above: “When Satan tempts me to despair / and tells me of the guilt within, / look upward and see Him there, / who made an end to all my sin.” The third verse goes on to say, “Behold Him, there, the Risen Lamb, / my perfect, spotless righteousness, / The great unchangeable I AM, / the King of Glory and of Grace.” Jesus is our perfect, spotless, righteousness. Our acceptance before God is not based upon our imperfect obedience. It’s based entirely upon the perfect obedience of our Substitute, which is ours by faith in Him.
And if there are any of you who are strangers to this Savior, if any of you remain outside of this new humanity formed in Jesus Christ, fighting and all the time miserably failing to provide a righteousness of your own—if any of you are weary of battling and battling yet always succumbing to the temptation of the devil and of your own desire—come to Him, and He’ll give you rest.
Nothing stands in the way between you and Him this very day, except your own claim of self-righteousness! Lay down the heavy burden of your sin. Repudiate all that your life was to you and all that your sin promised to you. Forsake all hope of earning righteousness on your own. And stake your hope for forgiveness and acceptance with God entirely on the righteousness of another—of Jesus, the last Adam. Through His death, your sin will be paid for. And through His obedience, you will be counted righteous.