Series 32


by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Matthew 4:1-11

In our last study we saw that our Lord’s baptism marked the commencement of His public ministry, and it is important to notice that after His baptism, at once the Spirit sent him into the desert to be tempted of the Devil – look up Mark 1:12. “After the approval of Heaven comes the assault of Hell; after the dove, the Devil.” This subject of our Lord’s temptation is difficult for us to understand, but we know that it took place for a purpose; and though we cannot expect to fathom the deep mystery of these 40 days which He spent in the wilderness, we can reverently and profitably study the inspired accounts of the event.


1. Our Lord entered the conflict under the constraint and leading of the Holy Spirit

It is important to notice this – look up Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12 and Luke 4:1-2. It was not at the instigation of the Devil that our Lord was led into the desert to be tempted, but on His own initiative. Satan was not challenging Christ; Christ was challenging Satan. Our Lord was dragging the Evil One out into the open in order to expose him and defeat him – look up Matthew 12:29. In doing so He, as the servant of Jehovah, was to be tested. Oswald Chambers has said:

‘Temptation is the testing by an alien power of the possessions held by a personality. Jesus held within His unique personality His own unspotted sanctity and the fact that He was to be the King of men and the Saviour of the world, and Satan was the alien power that came to test Him on these lines!’

In the desert our Lord began to fulfil the Genesis 3:15 prophecy which will one day receive complete fulfilment according to Revelation 20:10 and 14.


2. The time of our Lord’s temptation is significant

This, of course, was not the first or the last time that He was tempted. “To think of the tempting of Jesus as beginning and being exhausted in that special season in the desert is to misunderstand utterly the years at Nazareth, and the full meaning of the desert experience.” During the 30 silent years He had triumphed over all the temptations incidental to private life; now, He was to triumph over the temptations relative to His public ministry and redeeming work. Then again, notice that the three special temptations recorded in the Gospels only came at the end of forty days of testing. Concerning the time factor, notice that His time of special temptation came: (1) Immediately after His baptism. Our fiercest temptations come after our greatest times of blessing. (2) When He was alone. It is frequently the same with us! (3) When He was hungry, that is, physically weakened. Satan takes advantage of our weak moments, our tiredness, our sickness…


3. It was a conflict with a real and powerful Enemy

The Devil! Yes, a real, highly intelligent and powerful personality! To deny he exists is to deny the Bible. As created by God, the Devil was an angelic being of great power and intelligence – look up Ezekiel 28:12-19 and Isaiah 14:12-14; but through pride he fell, and he became God’s greatest enemy – look up and compare Luke 10:18; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. To deny the personality of Satan is to imply that all the wickedness, all the vileness, all the dreadful corruption that have characterised the human race have come from men’s own hearts, from within. In the final analysis, this makes God the author of sin! To say that Jesus did not meet a personal Devil in the desert is also to imply that He was tempted by His own evil thoughts, by the wickedness of His own heart. This would be blasphemy – look up John 14:30.


4. The Enemy chose three lines of attack

Read Luke 4:1-13, and carefully note these. There are only three ways in which anyone can be tempted, and these are indicated in 1 John 2:16. Eve was tempted in these three ways (and capitulated in each case – look up Genesis 3:1-7), and so was our Lord. The first temptation was an appeal to “the lust of the flesh” – look up Luke 4:2-3; the second was an appeal to “the lust of the eyes” – look up Luke 4:5-7; and the third was an appeal to pride – “the pride of life” – look up Luke 4:9-11. The first temptation was fleshly, the second was aesthetic, and the third was an intellectual temptation. The threefold attack of Satan was on the place of the physical, mental and spiritual. In each case the temptation was to mistrust God.


5. The weapon with which our Lord silenced and overcame the Enemy was the Word of God

Notice in Luke 4:4,8 and 12 – “It is written…” His immediate use of scripture shows us how familiar He was with the scriptures, and also that He fully accepted the authority of the Old Testament scriptures. Do you know the secret of victory in temptation? – read Ephesians 6:10-17, and particularly notice verses 16 and 17. There is no other way of victory over our great adversary.


6. The purpose of the temptation was not to see if our Lord would or could sin, but to prove that He was the Sinless One

This is important. By resisting temptation at every point He openly demonstrated the fact that He, “the last Adam” – look up 1 Corinthians 15:45 – was not only innocent (like “the first Adam” before the Fall), but He was sinless, holy. In the desert He repulsed the Devil and emerged victorious, and “when the devil had finished all this temptation…Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” – look up Luke 4:13-14.


7. The value of our Lord’s temptation for ourselves

Through Him, our victorious Lord who has conquered Satan, we may be “more than conquerors” – look up Romans 8:37. Now meditate upon and rejoice in the following: 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 2:17-18 and Hebrews 4:14-16.