Temptation From Without

 

Teena Myers

Before Jesus began his full-time ministry, an outward entity called the devil tempted him to believe God lied to him. Below is the event containing all the information given to us by Matthew and Luke. Mark makes a brief reference that Satan tempted Jesus and the angels ministered to him, but does not record their interaction. John does not record any information about the encounter.

Then was Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry. And when the tempter [devil] came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

But he answered and said, It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.[1]

After Jesus had fasted forty days, the devil challenged him to prove he is the Son of God by turning stone into bread. If the devil thought appealing to a carnal appetite would cause Jesus to stumble, he erred. Jesus refused because “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”[2] 

Before the devil tempted Jesus to turn stone to bread, God gave Jesus a threefold witness that he is the Son of God: the Spirit, the word, and the flesh. According to God’s law, “A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”[3] Two witnesses would have been enough to prove Jesus is God’s son. God established the matter by offering three. 

When John saw Jesus at his baptism service, he told his disciples, Jesus was “…the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”[4] He was aghast when the “Lamb of God” stepped into the Jordan River to be baptized. John knew Jesus possessed a greater baptism. He was reluctant to baptize Jesus in water, after declaring, “After me comes a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me.”[5] Jesus assured John that baptizing the “Lamb of God” in water was the right thing to do. As Jesus came out of the water, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. The Spirit that descended upon Jesus is called the “Spirit of sonship.”[6] He bears witness to our human spirits that we are God’s children.[7] 

Immediately after Jesus received the Holy Spirit, God confirmed the Spirit’s inner witness with the spoken word. God spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[8] Even though Christians receive the same “Spirit of sonship” when we repent of sin, Jesus is the only son God has publicly acknowledged. 

The spoken word of God and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit were more than enough to convince Jesus of his place in the universe, but God wasn’t finished. He also gave Jesus the testimony of a man of flesh. John testified that the one who sent him to baptize with water would identify his son by sending the Holy Spirit to remain with him. The day John baptized Jesus, he boldly declared in the presence of everyone present, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him” and “I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God.”[9] For at least two days thereafter, John declared to everyone who came to his baptism services that Jesus is the Son of God. What more did Jesus need to believe that he is God’s son? 

It is highly unlikely that any of us will come face to face with the devil, as Jesus did. But we will encounter the same evil attitude in people who want us to prove we are acceptable to God. Most of the time, people who demand proof are looking for an excuse to justify their own sins. We don’t need to waste our time proving anything to anyone. If we had the power to turn stones to bread as proof, they still won’t believe us. 

The devil is a problem, but not our biggest problem. If we understand God’s written word, the devil is little more than an annoyance. Peter told us to “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”[10] The comparison of the devil to a roaring lion tells us how little power he possesses. 

Lions travel in groups of females with one male ruler. When the females kill prey, they must eat fast. The male roars to drive them away so he can devour the dead prey. The devil cannot devour us unless we are already spiritually dead. If we are self-controlled and alert, all we need to do is resist and he will flee.[11]  


[1] Matthew 4:1-4, KJVER; Luke 4:1-4 KJVER the words recorded in Matthew and Luke are combined to make one story about the event. It is not a direct quote.

[2] Matthew 4:4 

[3] Deuteronomy 19:15 

[4] John 1:29 

[5] John 11:30

[6] Romans 8:14-15

[7] Romans 8:16

[8] Matthew 3:17

[9] John 1:32, 34

[10] 1 Peter 1:5-8

[11] James 4:7

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