May 15, 2014 Broadcast


A Message by R.C. Sproul

Immediately after His baptism, Jesus is driven into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. We are reminded here not only of Israel’s testing in the wilderness, but of the original test—the temptation of Adam. In this lecture, Dr. R.C. Sproul compares and contrasts the temptations of the first Adam and the second Adam, explaining how the results of each rested on whether trust was placed in the Word of God.

From the series: What Did Jesus Do?: Understanding the Work of Christ

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  1. devotional

    The Temptation of Jesus

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    Christ Victorious

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    The Temptation of Jesus

The Temptation of Jesus

Due to the important work of men such as Athanasius of Alexandria and Anselm of Canterbury in probing the depths of the Scripture's teaching on the incarnation, Christians have long confessed that Jesus had to become incarnate and live as a man in order to do the work necessary to save us. Yesterday, we saw how the baptism of Christ points to the necessity of the Son of God offering atonement as a human being for the sins of human beings (Matt. 3:13–17). Today we will consider how Satan's temptation of Jesus also shows us that our Savior's work as a man redeems us from the curse of sin and death.

Paul tells us explicitly that there is a connection between the first man, Adam, and the second or last man, Jesus. Romans 5:12–21 compares the disobedience of Adam to the obedience of Christ, indicating that it is the obedience of Christ that constitutes for us a righteous status in the eyes of the Lord. The Apostle clearly teaches that in order for us to be saved, Jesus had to succeed where Adam failed. Where Adam as a man broke God's covenant, Jesus as a man had to keep God's covenant if we were to be redeemed.

The gospel accounts of the temptation of Jesus present the same truth more implicitly. At Jesus' baptism, the Holy Spirit commissioned Him for ministry (Matt. 3:16–17). What was Christ's first act? Matthew 4:1 gives us the answer: "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Of all the things that our Lord could have done after His baptism, He undertook a grueling temptation by Satan in the wilderness. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with the biblical storyline cannot help but think of Adam's temptation in the garden when they read of our Lord's encounter with the devil.

Jesus underwent a test that was similar to Adam's, but it was actually far more difficult. Adam met Satan in paradise, where life was easy. Jesus met Satan in the desert wilderness where the environment was hardly friendly. Adam enjoyed the company of his wife, Eve. Jesus was alone. Adam was well fed from the trees of Eden. Jesus was fasting. In short, Adam failed even though he had everything going for him, but Jesus succeeded even though, humanly speaking, the odds were stacked against Him (Gen. 3; Matt. 4:1–11).

Like Adam, Jesus was tempted to disbelieve God's Word, to pit one part of it against another and to think that the Father was not telling Him the whole story. Being fully confident of the Lord's truth, however, Jesus never gave in to Satan's lies.

Christ Victorious

Joel Beeke

A perpetual state of war exists between Christ, the champion of God, and the Devil, the prince of this world (Gen. 3:15). Matthew 4:1–11 tells of one of Christ’s great victories over the Devil and the power of sin. At the end of a long period of fasting, the Devil confronts Jesus with three temptations. 

In the first of these temptations, the Devil uses the same tactic he used on Eve in the garden of Eden. “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (4:3 kjv and hereafter). Satan is referring to the words spoken by the Father at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). In effect, Satan says, “Yea, hath God said…? Do you really think God means that you are the Son of God? If so, why the hunger pains now? Prove that you are the Son of God by turning these stones into bread.”

The Devil is clever; he knows that hunger is a sharp sword. And he knows how to use truth to his own advantage. After all, God can do all things; He is almighty. If Jesus is the Son of God, He must be almighty too. All He has to do is speak one word, and a table will be prepared for Him in the desert. 

Jesus does not yield to the Devil. He refuses to use His divine power to relieve His physical hunger, choosing instead to do the will of His Father and endure suffering. “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (4:4), He tells the Devil. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 and says in effect: “Bread is not sufficient. I am dependent on my Father and His word, not on bread. I live out of His hand. I do not want bread if my Father does not want to give it to me.” Jesus refuses to separate the gift of bread from the Giver of bread, as Adam did. Adam pushed aside the Giver of fruit when he reached out for the gift of fruit. 

Next, the Devil takes Jesus to the top of the temple in the Holy City — the most sacred place in all the earth. “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down,” the Devil says. He quotes Psalm 91:11–12, saying that the angels will protect Jesus if He jumps (Matt. 4:6). In a moment Christ would then be recognized all around the religious world as the Son of God. 

The temptation for Christ is to reveal Himself to Israel in a dazzling display of power and supernatural privilege rather than through the way of suffering and rejection as the Man of Sorrows. The Devil is offering Jesus a shortcut rather than the long route of suffering and death. 

This was no small temptation, for Jesus wanted to reveal Himself as the Messiah. Yet He knew that following the Devil’s suggestion would bypass His Father’s will, which said that the Son must first suffer and then be glorified. Christ’s exaltation would come, but only after His work in the state of humiliation was finished. Therefore, He said to the Devil: “It is written again, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God’” (v. 7). This time Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, referring to Israel’s temptations at Massah, where the unbelieving children of Israel demand some sensational proof that the Lord was among them (Ex. 17:7).

Finally, the Devil takes Jesus to a high mountain. He shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9). 

“All the kingdoms” — what a tremendous claim! The Devil has the audacity to offer Christ all the kingdoms of the earth on his own terms, as if he were the rightful lord over them all. Luther writes: “He who in the first temptation showed himself as a black Devil, and in the second, as a light, white Devil using even God’s Word, now displays himself as a divine, majestic Devil, who claims to be God himself!”

 Still today, we face the temptation to sell our souls to the Devil in exchange for the vain pleasures and treasures of this world. We must resist him as Jesus did, quoting from Deuteronomy: “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). Jesus again refused to obtain the crown without enduring the cross. 

What a contrast between Matthew 4 and Genesis 3! Christ is victorious when tempted by the Devil in a barren wilderness, whereas Adam failed when tempted by the Devil in a beautiful garden. Christ is victorious on an empty stomach, having not eaten for forty days (Matt. 4:2), whereas Adam failed on a full stomach, being able to eat freely of every tree in the garden but one. And, as the New England Primer (a seventeenth-century puritan textbook for children) put it, “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” 

But, thanks be to God, Jesus has overcome the Devil, so we can overcome him, too. In Christ, by faith, we are called to live by God’s Word, and to resist the Devil, using the same mighty weapon — the Word of God. 

The Temptation of Jesus

Keith Mathison

It’s an odd story. John the Baptist has just baptized Jesus. God has just spoken from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” We would expect that the next item on the agenda would be the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Instead, we read that the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. That’s strange. Why is Jesus subjected to testing in the wilderness by the Devil immediately following His baptism and immediately prior to the beginning of His ministry and the calling of His disciples? Is it merely to provide a moral example of endurance for believers? Or is there something more going on?

If we keep in mind the prophetic books of the Old Testament, we recall that the coming age was often depicted in terms of a “new exodus” (see, for example, Hos. 2:14–15; Isa. 10:24–26; 11:15–16; Jer. 16:14–15). The writing prophets wrote in the centuries before, during, and after the exile. The pre-exilic prophets warned Israel and Judah that continued rebellion against God would result in judgment, culminating in exile from the land. They also looked beyond the exile to a time of restoration. The exilic prophets maintained this forward- looking perspective, and they looked back to the original exodus from Egypt to find the imagery needed to depict the coming restoration. When we turn to the gospel of Matthew, we find that he subtly draws on this prophetic theme in his depiction of the early life of Jesus. In the early chapters of Matthew, we find that experiences in the life of Jesus echo experiences in the life of Moses and in the early history of Israel.

Matthew’s opening chapter presents Jesus as the culmination of the Old Testament prophetic hopes. He is the Son of Abraham, the promised seed through whom blessing would come to all nations. He is the son of David, the one to whom was promised an eternal kingdom. His genealogy is divided into three sections of fourteen generations. The first section ends at the time of David, at which point the kingdom was established. The second section ends at the time of the exile, at which point the kingdom was taken away. The third section ends with Jesus, indicating that at this time the kingdom of God will be restored.

After Jesus’ birth, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream warning him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus because Herod is seeking to kill the child. These events remind the reader of Pharaoh’s attempts to kill the infant Moses. Joseph flees to Egypt where the family remains until the death of Herod. This is said to fulfill Hosea 11:1, which reads: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Since Hosea 11:1 refers to Israel’s original exodus from Egypt, how is Jesus’ flight to Egypt a “fulfillment” of the prophecy? In its context, Hosea 11:1 is part of a prophecy that looks back at the original exodus in order to point forward to a new exodus. Hosea promises that despite the coming exile, God will restore his people (Hos. 11:11). In Matthew’s use of Hosea’s prophecy, a couple of points are made. First, Jesus’ flight from Israel is parallel to Moses’ flight from Egypt. Israel has, in a sense, become like Egypt. In the second place, Matthew points to Hosea 11 to indicate that with Jesus the time of the promised new exodus has begun. The day of salvation has dawned. 

But why is the Devil so prominent in this testing? The Devil is the ancient archenemy of God. It was he who tempted Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1–7). Behind the scenes of redemptive history lies the conflict between God and Satan. After Adam and Eve sinned, God proclaimed judgment on the Devil who tempted them. God said to the Serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 

Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness continues the conflict. The first Adam had faced the temptations of Satan in a bountiful garden and failed. The second Adam faces the temptations of Satan in a desolate wilderness and succeeds. He succeeds where Adam failed because He trusts the word of God. Satan twisted God’s word in his tempting of Adam and Eve and caused them to doubt. He twists God’s word in his tempting of Jesus, but Jesus does not falter.

The significance of this is that Jesus, like Adam, acted as a representative head. The failure of Adam brought sin and death on the human race (Rom. 5). In order to be our Savior, it was necessary for Jesus to live a life of complete obedience to God. His sinlessness was absolutely necessary for our salvation. In the wilderness, Jesus was tempted like Adam, but did not sin (Heb. 4:15). 

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