Temptation

Temptation

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. During those days he ate nothing and he was hungry.

It seems strange that the first thing the Holy Spirit does is to lead Jesus into the wilderness where he will be tempted. In Greek and in old English the word ‘temptation’ as in ‘entice to evil’ was the same as the word ‘testing’ as in showing the character or properties of something. The Spirit intended for Jesus to be tested and seen to be sinless whereas the devil intended to tempt and entice Jesus for evil – the Spirit prevailed.

Each time Jesus was tempted he quoted Scripture – not because quoting Scripture is like saying magical words to ward of evil but rather because Jesus’ lived a God-saturated life and God’s word was in his heart – and what was in his heart flowed out of his mouth.

If we are to resist temptation then simply quoting verses in the moment is not what we need nor necessarily effective – rather we too, like Jesus, need to live God-saturated lives in which his word dwells in our hearts, shaping them, and overflows from mouth.

Could Jesus have sinned? Jesus has both a human nature and a divine nature and therefore both a human will and a divine will but as he is one person his two wills are in sync. Because it is impossible for Jesus’ divine will to sin and therefore the person of Jesus could not sin, neither could he sin in his human will.

Did that mean that Jesus’ temptations were not real? No. They were real because he had a real body with real appetites, real desires, real hunger pains etc. He had real eyes that saw desirable things and he had a desire to live not die. Whereas we often give in early in temptation, Jesus did not and so he felt the full force of temptations in a way beyond what we do. Nor did the devil give up – and when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The important question though is not the two above but rather the question: How did Jesus resist temptation? Did he rely upon his super-human divine nature? No, Jesus employed those things available to men and women e.g. Scripture, prayer, trust in God, the power of the Holy Spirit etc. Jesus resisted sin using the same means available to us.

One final comment. Theologians sometimes refer to Jesus’ active and passive obedience. Passive comes from a Latin word meaning suffering so the passive obedience of Christ refers to his obedience in suffering and going to the cross to take on the penalty for sin on our behalf. The active obedience of Christ refers to everything Jesus did to obey his father in a righteous life. Just as in Jesus’ passive obedience our sins were imputed to him (so that he could bear our judgment) so too Jesus’ active obedience is imputed to us (so that we are counted as righteous having fulfilled the requirements on the God’s law). So what Jesus did in resisting temptation and living n obedient life is credited to us. Our sin credited to him and done away with – and his righteousness credited to us and remains forever. Double imputation.

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