How Can I Resist Temptation?

Explore the Bible Series

September 26, 2004

 

Background Passage: Luke 4:1-44

Lesson Passage: Luke 4:1-13

 

Introduction: Luke 4:1-13 draws attention to profound and mysterious things pertaining to the early stages of Christ’s earthly ministry.  Jesus had scarcely emerged from the waters of the Jordan before he was led into the wilderness for a torturous forty days of fasting and testing. The stark contrasts of this section of the gospel are startling.  In one paragraph of Luke’s narrative the reader encounters the glorious affirmation of the Son’s impeccable character, spoken by the Heavenly Father (“You are my beloved Son, and in you I am well-pleased. See Luke 3:22b); then, a few lines later, the chilling voice of Satan filled the Savior’s ears with cruel and torturous temptation (“If you are the Son of God…See Luke 4:3). Thoughtful Christians often puzzle over the lessons of this text, and, it seems, the questions revolve around two significant issues.

 

First, how could Jesus, as the incarnate Son of God, experience these temptations in the same way that other human beings do?  Did his deity shield him from the susceptibility to temptation?  The Epistle to the Hebrews affirms the depth, breadth, and reality of these temptations.

 

Therefore, he had to be made like his brethren in all things, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in all things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since he himself was tempted in that which he suffered, he is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

                                                                                    Hebrews 2:17-18 (NASV)

 

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

                                                                                                Hebrews 4:15-16 (NASV)

 

These passages certainly seem to affirm the reality of these temptations.  The experience in the wilderness was not a cosmic charade. Real moral and spiritual combat occurred in the desert. In efforts to safeguard the deity of Christ, believers must not disregard his full humanity.  The union of the divine and human in the person of Christ is a profound mystery, and Christians should avoid unhealthy speculation about the nature of the incarnation.  Nevertheless, believers must boldly affirm the clear teachings of Scripture concerning the person and work of Christ, and the assertion of the humanity of Jesus is an essential part of that biblical understanding.  The aforementioned texts affirm that Jesus experienced the full brunt of temptation in ways comparable to the trials encountered by his people.  Whatever the Bible affirms concerning the deity of Christ (the Bible is clear on this affirmation), the Scriptures also teach the full humanity of Christ and the reality of these temptations in the wilderness. 

 

Second, can twenty-first century Christians still retain the ancient belief in a personal Satan?  Surely, one might surmise, contemporary believers should jettison this outdated view for more acceptable explanations of the presence and personification of evil in the world.  Doesn’t belief in Satan undermine the church’s credibility with non-Christians in the scientific age in which we live? Skeptics often question the existence of God because of the presence of so much evil in the world, but these same cynics question the existence of Satan as well. How, they might argue, could modern, educated people retain a Medieval, superstitious belief in a spiritual, malicious, malignant being who opposes the cause of good and will be consigned to eternal torment at the end of the age? Christians must answer that question by pointing people to the Bible.

 

The Scriptures assume the existence of Satan. He appears in the Bible’s pages without introduction or explanation.  Though the Bible gives meager information about the origins of Satan, his existence and power appear frequently.  Clearly, he is a creature; by that, I mean that God made him.  He is not a “bad-god” counterpart to Jehovah, and he does not possess the characteristics (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, righteousness, veracity, faithfulness, goodness, etc.) of deity.  II Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 indicate that some of the angels, though created holy, did not retain their initial state and fell into condemnation and punishment because of their sin against God.  We do not know the exact time when this rebellion occurred, but some scholars speculate that it happened between the time of creation, when God pronounced all things good, and the fall of man in Genesis 3.

 

The Scriptures refer to Satan by several names: 

            The Devil (meaning “adversary”)

            Tempter (I Thessalonians 3:5)

            The Enemy (Matthew 13:39)

            The Adversary (I Peter 5:8)

            The Deceiver (Revelation 12:9)

            The Father of Lies (John 8:44)

            A Roaring Lion (I Peter 5:8)

            The Dragon (Revelation 13 and 14) 

 

This malicious creature appears in the Lucan narrative quite abruptly, and the story reveals his subtle and cruel approach to the Son of God.  Several scholars speculate that he appeared in some physical form to Jesus.  Geldenhuys wondered if he might have taken the form of an angel of light.  Satan clearly possessed an impressive knowledge of human nature and the desires of the body.  Furthermore, the text indicates that he possessed some mastery of the Scriptures and would use Bible quotations to his advantage.

 

 

 

I.                   The Occasion of the Temptation of the Lord (Luke 4:1-2)

A.     The activity of the Holy Spirit in leading Jesus into the wilderness                                                                                                               Luke’s comment about the fullness of the Holy Spirit draws the reader’s attention to the baptismal account in chapter three (See v.22). The Holy Spirit, no doubt, indwelt the Lord before John baptized Jesus in the Jordan; so, this descent of the Spirit upon Jesus marked a kind of coronation of the King, a public affirmation of his glory and righteousness. Luke recorded that the Holy Spirit not only filled Jesus but served as the agent that led him into the wilderness as well.  Apparently, the leadership of the Spirit extended to the duration of Jesus’ sojourn in the desert and the temptation of Jesus by the Devil.  Nothing happens by coincidence in this narrative.

B.     The nature of Jesus’ sojourn in the wilderness.

The text reveals three things about Jesus’ stay in the desert.

1.      It lasted forty days.

2.      The temptations occurred throughout the entire period in the wilderness.  Luke’s use of the present participle (“…while tempted…”) seems to indicate that the temptations did not begin at the end of the forty days; rather, the spiritual struggle raged throughout the entire period (Lenski argued this point convincingly and Hendriksen allows that it may be the proper view).

3.      His long fast produced a deep hunger in the Lord.

 

II.                Satan’s Temptations and the Lord’s Answer to Each Trial (Luke 4:3-12)

A.     The first temptation (4:3-4)

The immense cruelty of Satan’s intent surfaced at the outset of the temptation triad.  The Devil, of course, knew of the natural desire that Jesus had for food.  Sensing a strategic opportunity, Satan called upon Jesus to turn a stone to bread.  He tempted Jesus to act hastily and impatiently to satisfy his famished body.  The Lord answered Satan’s attack by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3.  The text subtly affirms the Lord’s remarkable command of the Scriptures, and he used that mastery to resist Satan’s temptation. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark record that the angels came and ministered to Jesus when these temptations ended.  No doubt, their ministration included refreshment for the famished Savior. The Father cared for his needs, and the bread of righteousness must have tasted sweet indeed.

B.     The second temptation (4:5-8)

Satan’s second temptation centered on the appeal to seize worldly power.  The prince of this world offered his kingdom to Jesus.  Jesus again answered his tempter by quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy (6:13)

                  C.  The third temptation (4:9-12)

                        Finally, Satan tempted Jesus to engage in a presumptuous act.  He took the   

                        Lord to the apex of the Temple and sought to persuade him to jump from

                        the height.  For the third time, Jesus met Satan’s with a quotation from the

                        Book of Deuteronomy (6:16).  Notice that Satan quoted Scripture as a

                        means to tempt Jesus (Psalm 91:11-12).

 

 

Conclusion: The last phrase of verse thirteen indicates that this clash in the wilderness merely foreshadowed other conflicts between the Lord and the Prince of Darkness; indeed, only a few verses pass before the reader finds Jesus again in conflict with demons (vv. 31-37).   Furthermore, the influence of Satan manifests itself in the verses that immediately follow the story of the temptation in the desert.  Jesus returned to his hometown, and the rulers of the synagogue opposed the teachings of the Savior and cast him out of the city.  Of course, the battle continued and finally culminated in the anguish of the cross and the victory of the empty tomb.

 

Questions for Thought and Discussion:

  1. What insight does this narrative give concerning the high priestly work of Christ?  What comforts arise for the believers from these considerations?
  2. Does the description of the temptations afford any insight into the strategies of Satan as he deals with believers?
  3. What strategies should Christians, according to the example of Jesus, employ as they brace for the inevitability of temptations in their own lives?