Temptation That Is Sin

By Teena Myers

Before Jesus began his full-time ministry, the devil tempted Jesus. When he failed to convince Jesus to doubt God’s word, nor stir up Jesus’ desires to deceive him into sinning against God, there was only one thing left to do. Provoke Jesus to tempt God. It is not a sin to be tempted, but it is a sin to tempt God. 

 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 the devil takes him up into Jerusalem, the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple, and says to him, “If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down from here: for it is written, he shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.”[1]

Jesus used scripture twice to overcome the devil’s temptations. The devil knew some scriptures too. He set Jesus on the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem and challenged him to tempt God by jumping. The devil assured Jesus no harm would befall him because it is written: “For he shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”[2] Jesus resisted the devil, and the devil departed. 

After conquering temptation, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit to become famous. The generation God delivered from Egypt is famous too, but not for their reverent submission. The atonement covered the sins Israel committed in ignorance. All other sins could be forgiven through sincere repentance. There is one sin that provoked God to let them perish in a desert. They tempted God instead of worshipping him. 

After Israel refused to enter the promised land and cried all night that God didn’t love them, God declared, “ … all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the desert, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it…”[3]  

God’s punishment was not as harsh as it appears. Israel lost the opportunity to possess the land a covenant of law promised them. They never lost the opportunity to possess the land a covenant of grace promised them.[4] To the present day, Israel has never possessed all the land God promised to Abraham. Therefore, the opportunity to receive the things grace provided still exists. 

God never intended to limit his grace to one family spawned by Abraham’s flesh. The teachings of Christianity begin in the Garden of Eden when God promised the serpent a seed from a woman would crush his head. Abraham’s descendants “ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink” we do.[5] In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul identified the rock they drank from in the desert as Christ. 

Paul warned the New Testament church not to make the same mistakes Israel made in the desert. If we tempt God, it does not matter how faithful God is, how bearable the temptation, or how plain the way of escape. There is a high probability we will perish in a desert, but that doesn’t mean we will go to hell. Moses died in the desert. Many years later, he appeared “in glorious splendor”[6] to discuss with Jesus and Elijah the prophecies that would be fulfilled in Jerusalem. 

Tempting God made what should have been an eleven-day journey through the desert forty years of misery. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If we tempt God like Israel did, our Christian experience will be no less miserable.[7] 

[1] Matthew 4:5-7 & Luke 4:9-12, KJVER. This is not a direct quote but a combination of both Matthew and Luke’s account of Jesus and the devil’s interaction. 

[2] Psalm 91:11-12

[3] Numbers 14:22-23, KJV 

[4] The eastern boundary of the law’s covenant extended to the Jordan River. The eastern boundary of Abraham’s covenant of grace extended past the Jordan River to the Euphrates River. 

[5] 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 

[6] Luke 9:30-31

[7] Exodus 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 7-11, 24-26; 12:31 

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