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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus

Don Stewart :: What Was the Purpose of Jesus' Temptation?

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What Was the Purpose of Jesus’ Temptation?

What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus – Question 27

Three out of the four gospels record the temptation of God the Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, we are told that the Holy Spirit expressly led Jesus into the wilderness for the specific reason to be tempted:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1 NET)

The fact of His temptation or testing is clear. What is not so obvious is why He was tested. For what purpose or purposes was He tempted?

In answering this question we can come up with at least five reasons as to why God the Son, Jesus Christ, was tempted by the devil.

1. It Demonstrated His Genuine Humanity

To begin with, the temptations which Jesus received gave indisputable proof of His true humanity. The Bible says,

Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:18 NRSV)

The fact that He could be tested showed that Jesus was genuinely human. Only human beings can be tempted or tested. God cannot be. While Jesus was fully God He was also completely human. His temptations testify to this fact.

2. It Is an Example to Us

In addition, the temptations which He received are part of His example to us as believers in Him. Indeed, we are told to walk as He walked. John wrote,

...whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked. (1 John 2:6 NRSV)

We are to respond to temptations in the same manner as Jesus. We are to resist them by putting our trust in the God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

3. It Formed Part of His Personal Discipleship

The temptations of Jesus also formed part of His own personal discipline. In some sense Jesus learned obedience through the temptation. We read in Hebrews,

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could deliver him out of death. And God heard his prayers because of his reverence for God. So even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. (Hebrews 5:7-9 NLT)

He learned obedience in the sense that He personally suffered the limitations of being human. He experienced what it means to be human, to be limited, as well as to be tested or tempted.

4. He Can Sympathize with Us

The temptations of Jesus helped Him sympathize with the trials and tribulations we experience. The Book of Hebrews again says,

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NLT)

Since Jesus experienced the same temptation as human beings, He can therefore sympathize with humanity.

5. It Is Part of the Great Conflict

Finally, the temptations of Jesus formed part of the great conflict in which the “seed of woman,” God the Son, was to “bruise the head of the serpent” namely, the devil. In this first great struggle of this conflict which would take place during His entire public ministry, Jesus was completely victorious. He would remain victorious in each and every conflict which He would have with the devil.

This sums up some of the reasons as to why Jesus was led to be tempted by the devil.

Summary – Question 27
What Was the Purpose for Jesus’ Temptation?

Three out of four gospels say that Jesus Christ was led of the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. These various temptations had a purpose. We can make the following observations.

First, these temptations demonstrated His true humanity. Indeed, only human beings can be tempted. The fact that Jesus would submit to temptations, or testings, shows that He was an actual human being.

Jesus also underwent the temptations so as to be an example to us. We are to respond to temptations in the same manner in which He did. As Jesus trusted God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit to resist the temptations we should do the same thing when we are tempted. The same Holy Spirit which indwelt Jesus indwells those who believe in Him. Our responsibility is to submit to His control.

In addition, the temptations Jesus experienced were part of His own personal discipleship. He had to take part in the things we humans suffer so as to be the One who die as our substitute. In other words, He had to experience the things we experience as humans.

The temptations also helped Him to sympathize with us when we are tempted. He has endured the same limitations and sufferings we endure. He can identify with us in our struggles.

Finally, the temptations were part of the great conflict that the Bible speaks about. Once sin entered our world in the Garden of Eden there has been this battle between God and Satan, good and evil. Sin was defeated on the cross by Jesus Christ. The temptations He received at the beginning of His public ministry, as well as His victory over them, set the stage for His ultimate victory on the cross. Thus, the temptation was part of this continuing struggle.

In sum, we have discovered that the temptations of Jesus took place for a number of very important reasons. Indeed, they were part of the overall plan of God for our ultimate salvation from sin.

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