"He Was Tempted in All Points Like as We
Are, Yet Without Sin"
It will be noticed that this statement is not that our Lord was tempted in all points like as the world is tempted, but like as we, his followers, are tempted. He was not tempted along the lines of depraved appetites for sinful things, received by heredity, from an earthly parentage; but being holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners, he was tempted along the same lines as his followers of this Gospel age--who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit; and who are judged not according to the infirmities of their flesh, but according to the spirit of their minds--according to their new wills, new hearts. Rom. 8:4; 2 Cor. 5:16; John 8:15
This is seen very clearly in connection with our Lord's temptations in the wilderness, which immediately followed his consecration and baptism at Jordan. Matt. 4:1-11
(1) The first was Satan's suggestion that he use the divine power which he had just received at Jordan, in ministering to his own wants, converting the stones into bread. This was not a temptation in any degree traceable to heredity or imperfection. Our Lord had been forty days without food, studying the divine plan, seeking to determine, under the enlightening influence of the holy Spirit, just received, what would be his proper course in life, to fulfil the great mission upon which he had come into the world, viz., the world's redemption. The suggestion that he use the spiritual power conferred upon him, and which he realized was in his possession, to minister to the necessities of his flesh, would, at first thought, seem reasonable; but our Lord at once discerned that such a use of his spiritual gift would be wrong, would be a misuse of it, a use for which it was not intended, and hence he rejected the suggestion, saying, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." The Lord's "brethren" sometimes have similar temptations of the Adversary, suggestions to use spiritual gifts for the furtherance of temporal interests. Suggestions of this kind are insidious, and are the channels through which God's consecrated people not infrequently are led astray by the Adversary to greater and greater misuse of divine blessings.
(2) The Adversary suggested to our Lord fakir methods of introducing his mission to the people--that he leap from a pinnacle of the temple into the valley below in the sight of the multitude; so that their seeing him survive uninjured would be a proof to them of his superhuman power, which would lead them at once to accept him as the Messiah, and to cooperate with him in the work before him. But our Lord saw at once that such methods were wholly out of harmony with the divine arrangement, and even the misapplication of a scripture by the Adversary (apparently in favor of the wrong) did not swerve him from the principles of righteousness. He immediately replied to the effect that such a procedure on his part would be a tempting of divine providence, wholly unwarranted, and hence not to be considered for a moment. Where duty called or danger the Master did not hesitate, but realized the Father's ability to keep every interest; but true confidence in God does not involve a reckless exposure to danger, without divine command, and merely for a show, and in a spirit of braggadocio.
The Lord's brethren have temptations along this line also, and need to remember this lesson and example set before them by the Captain of our Salvation. We are not to rush unbidden into dangers, and esteem ourselves thus valiant soldiers of the cross. "Daredevil deeds" may not seem out of place to the children of the devil, but they are wholly improper in the children of God. The latter have a warfare which requires still greater courage. They are called upon to perform services which the world does not applaud, nor even appreciate, but often persecutes. They are called upon to endure ignominy, and the scoffs of the world; yea, and to have the uncircumcised of heart "say all manner of evil" against them falsely for Christ's sake. In this respect the followers of the Captain of our Salvation pass along the same road, and walk in the footsteps of their Captain. And it requires greater courage to ignore the shame and ignominy of the world, in the disesteemed service of God, than to perform some great and wonderful feat, that would cause the natural man to wonder and admire.
One of the chief battles of those who walk this narrow way is against self-will; to bring their wills into fullest subjection to the Heavenly Father's will, and to keep them there; to rule their own hearts, crushing out the rising ambitions which are natural even to a perfect manhood; quenching these kindling fires, and presenting their bodies and all earthly interests living sacrifices in the service of the Lord and his cause. These were the trials in which our Captain gained his victory and its laurels, and these also are the trials of his "brethren." "Greater is he that ruleth his own spirit [bringing it into full subordination to the will of God] than he that taketh a city:" greater also is such than he who, with a false conception of faith, would leap from the pinnacle of a temple, or do some other foolhardy thing. True faith in God consists not in blind credulity and extravagant assumptions respecting his providential care: it consists, on the contrary, of a quiet confidence in all the exceeding great and precious promises which God has made, a confidence which enables the faithful to resist the various efforts of the world, the flesh and the devil, to distract his attention, and which follows carefully the lines of faith and obedience marked out for us in the divine Word.
(3) The third temptation of our Lord was to offer earthly dominion and speedy success in the establishment of his kingdom, without suffering and death, without the cross, upon condition of a compromise with the Adversary. The Adversary claimed, and his claim was not disputed, that he held control of the world, and that by his cooperation the Kingdom of Righteousness, which our Lord had come to institute, could be quickly established. Satan's intimation was that he had become weary of leading the world into sin, blindness, superstition, ignorance, and that he therefore had a sympathy with our Lord's mission, which was to help the poor, fallen race. What he wanted to retain, however, was a leading or controlling influence in the world; and hence the price of his turning the world over to a righteous course, the price of his cooperation with the Lord Jesus in a restitutionary blessing of the world, was, that the latter should recognize him, Satan, as the ruler of the world, in its reconstructed condition--that thus our Lord should do homage to him.
We are to remember that Satan's rebellion against the divine rule was instigated by ambition to be himself a monarch-- "as the Most High." (Isa. 14:14) We recall that this was the primary motive of his successful attack upon our first parents in Eden--that he might alienate or separate them from God, and thus enslave them to himself. We can readily suppose that he would prefer to be monarch of happier subjects than the "groaning creation:" he would prefer subjects possessed of everlasting life. It would appear that even yet he does not recognize the fact that everlasting life and true happiness are impossible except in harmony with Divine law. Satan was therefore willing to become a reformer in all particulars except one--his ambition must be gratified--he must be no less the ruler amongst men; and was he not already "the Prince of this world"--and so acknowledged in Holy Writ? (John 14:30; 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4) Not that he had any divine commission to be "the prince of this world," but that by getting possession of mankind, through ignorance, and through misrepresentation of the false as the true, of darkness as the light, of wrong as the right, he had so confused, bewildered, blinded the world that he easily held the position of master or "god of this world, who now worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience" --the vast majority.
The peculiar temptation of Satan's suggestion therefore was, that it seemed to offer a new solution of the question of the recovery of man out of his condition of sin. And more than this, it seemed to imply at least a partial repentance on the part of Satan, and the possibility of his recovery to a course of righteousness, provided he could be guaranteed the continued success of his ambition to be a ruler over subjects more happy and more prosperous than it was possible for them to be while kept under his delusions and enslaved by sin, which was the only way in which he could retain man's loyalty: because in proportion as mankind rejects sin and appreciates holiness, in that proportion it becomes desirous to serve and to worship God.
Our Lord Jesus did not long hesitate. He had absolute confidence that the Father's wisdom had adopted the best and only adequate plan. Therefore he not only did not confer with flesh and blood, but neither would he bargain with the Adversary for cooperation in the work of the world's uplift.
Here also we see one of the special besetments of the Adversary against the Lord's "brethren." He succeeded in tempting the nominal Church, early in her career, to abandon the way of the cross, the narrow way of separateness from the world, and to enter into a league with the civil power, and thus gradually to become influential in the world's politics. By cooperation with "the princes of this world," fostered and aided by the Adversary secretly, she sought to establish the reign of Christ on earth, through a representative, a pope, for whom it was claimed that he was Christ's vicegerent. We have seen what baneful influences resulted: how this counterfeit Kingdom of Christ became really a kingdom of the devil, for his work it did. We have seen the result in the "dark ages," and that the Lord denominates the system "Antichrist."
And although the Reformation started in boldly, we find that the Adversary again presented the same temptation before the Reformers, and we see that they resisted it only in part, that they were willing to compromise the truth for the sake of the protection and aid of "the kingdoms of this world," and in the hope that the kingdoms of this world would in some manner become the Kingdom of our Lord. But we see that the combination of the Church and the world influence, as represented in Protestantism, while less baneful in its results than Papacy's combination, is nevertheless very injurious, and a great hindrance to all who come under its influence. We see that the constant conflict of the "brethren" is to overcome this temptation of the Adversary, and to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free--not of the world, but separate from it.
Moreover, we find that although the same temptation comes to all the "brethren," it comes in slightly modified form from time to time, and that the great Adversary very cunningly, in every instance, attempts to do with us as with the Lord, viz., to present himself as a leader along the lines of reform which he advocates--appearing to be in hearty sympathy with the work of blessing the world. His latest temptation along this line comes in the form of the suggested "social uplift," which he is successfully bringing before the minds of many of the "brethren." He suggests now, that however necessary it once was to walk the "narrow way," the way of the cross, it is no longer necessary so to do; but that now we have reached the place where the whole matter may be easily and quickly accomplished, and the world in general lifted up to a high plane of social, intellectual, moral and religious standing. But the plans which he suggests always involve combination with him: in the present instance it is the suggestion that all who would be co-workers in the social uplift shall join in social and political movements, which shall bring about the desired end. And he has become so bold and so confident of the support of the majority that he no longer pretends to favor reform along the line of individual conversion from sin and salvation from condemnation, and reconciliation with the Father, through a personal faith in and consecration to the Lord Jesus Christ: his proposition is a social uplift, which shall ignore individual responsibilities and sins, and merely regard social conditions and make society outwardly "clean." He would have us disregard the Lord's teaching, to the effect that only those who come unto the Father through him are "sons of God," and his "brethren:" instead, he would have us believe that all men are brethren, and that God is the Father of all humanity, that none are "children of wrath," and that it is criminally unchristian and uncharitable to believe our Lord's words that some are of their "father, the devil." He would thus, without always so saying in specific terms, have us ignore and deny man's fall into sin, and ignore and deny the ransom from sin, and all the work of atonement; under the specious, deceptive watchword, "the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man," and the Golden Rule.
This temptation of the Adversary before the "brethren" today is deceiving many, and probably will yet deceive all except "the very elect." (Matt. 24:24) These very elect "brethren," are those who follow closely in the Master's footsteps, and who, instead of hearkening to the Adversary's suggestions, hearken to the Word of the Lord. These very elect "brethren," instead of leaning to their own understandings, and to Satan's sophistries, have faith in the superior wisdom of Jehovah and his divine plan of the ages. Hence these are all "taught of God," and know thereby that the work of the present age is the selection of the "brethren" of Christ, and their testing, and finally their glorification with the Lord in the Kingdom, as the seed of Abraham, to bless the world; and that in the next age will come God's "due time" for the world's uplift, mental, moral and physical. Hence the very elect cannot be deceived by any of the specious arguments or sophistries of their wily foe. Moreover, the "brethren" are not ignorant of his devices, for they were forewarned along this line, and they are looking unto Jesus, who not only is the Author of their faith, through the sacrifice of himself, but also is to be the finisher of it, when he shall grant them a part in the first resurrection, and make them partakers of his excellent glory and divine nature.
Such are the points of temptation to the "brethren," and such were the points of temptation to their Captain. He was "tempted in all points like as we are" tempted; and he knows how to succor those who are tempted, and who are willing to receive the succor which he gives, in the way in which he gives it--through the teachings of his Word and its exceeding great and precious promises. The weaknesses which come to us through heredity were no part of our Lord's temptation. He did not have a drunkard's appetite; he did not have a murderer's passion, nor a thief's avarice; he was holy, harmless, separate from sinners. Nor do his "brethren" have these besetments, as their temptations. Those who have become his "brethren" through faith, and consecration, and begetting of the holy Spirit of adoption, have lost the disposition which seeks to do injury to others, and have received instead the new mind, the mind of Christ, the spirit of Christ, the spirit of a sound mind, the holy Spirit-- the spirit of love; which seeks first of all the Father's will, and secondly, seeks to do good unto all men, as it has opportunity, especially to the household of faith. Gal. 6:10
And though there remains in the flesh of these "new creatures,"
possessed of the new mind or new will, a weakness of heredity, a tendency toward
passion or strife, so that they may need continually to keep on guard against
these, and may occasionally be overtaken in a fault, contrary to their wills,
nevertheless these unintentional weaknesses are not counted unto them as sins,
nor as the acts of the "new creature," but merely as defects which
belong to the old nature, which, so long as the new nature opposes them, are
reckoned as covered by the merit of the ransom--the great sin-offering made
by the Captain of our Salvation. It is the "new creature" alone that
is being tried, tested, fitted, polished and prepared for joint-heirship with
Christ in his Kingdom, and not the body of flesh, which, of such, is reckoned