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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: F.E. Marsh :: Readings 401-450 (The Death - Three)

F.E. Marsh :: 433. The Temptation of Jesus

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MATTHEW 4:1-11

AFTER a time of blessing there comes a time of trial. It was after Israel had come out of Egypt that they were met by Amalek (Exodus 17:8). It is the same in Christian experience. When one has decided for Christ, then begins the conflict with Satan. As long as we are his, he leaves us alone, but as soon as we side with Christ, then he opposes us all he can. Bunyan pictures this in Pilgrim’s Progress. As long as Christian is in the world he is unmolested, but as soon as he seeks to enter the wicket-gate then the arrows of the enemy are shot at him.

The temptation of Christ is threefold, and corresponds to the tempter’s tactics with Eve in the garden of Eden.

  1. The first temptation relates to Christ’s person. Satan would get Christ to use His deity, to meet the need of His humanity. Satan had heard the voice from heaven acknowledging Christ as the Son of God, and now he says, “Being *the Son of God, it is an easy matter for You to make the stones into bread to meet Your hunger.” But if Christ had done so at the suggestion of Satan, it would have been distrust of God. Christ meets the enemy with the tried and true blade of the sword of God’s Word, and thus discomforts and defeats him. Satan cannot stand before the “It is written,” for that is a weapon which cuts through the toughest part of his armour.
  2. The second temptation relates to Christ’s work. Christ came to lay the foundation of a kingdom that should stand the test and stress of any power that might be brought against it. The first Adam lost his position and power by sin. The last Adam had come to gain them back again by His devotion to the Father’s will, in an obedience to the death of the cross. And as a result of that obedience, the Father would make the kingdoms of this world to be Christ’s in crowning Him King of kings, and Lord of lords (Rev. 11:15; 19:16). Satan offers to Christ without the cross the kingdoms of the world,* but Christ scorns his offer, and meets him again with the keen sharp weapon of God’s truth.
  3. The third temptation relates to Christ’s trust in God. Satan takes our Lord and places Him upon a pinnacle of the Temple, and urges Him to cast Himself down, upon the plea that God will preserve Him from danger; but for Christ to do as He was bid, would be for Him to presume upon God’s mercy. As Godet says, “Satan seems to say, ‘1 Thou art a being to whom it appertains to call God Thy Father in an unique sense, do not fear to do a daring deed, and give God an opportunity to show the particular care He takes of Thee.’”
    ….“This is very subtle-what was the real bearing of this temptation? With God, power is always employed in the service of goodness, of love; this is the difference between God and Satan, between divine miracle and diabolical sorcery. Now the devil, in this instance, aims at nothing less than making Jesus pass from one of these spheres to the other, and this in the name of that most sacred and tender element in the relationship between two beings that love each other-confidence. If Jesus succumbs to the temptation by calling on the Almighty to deliver Him from a peril into which He has not been thrown in the service of goodness, He puts God in the position of either refusing His aid, and so separating Christ’s cause from His own-a divorce between the Father and the Son-or of setting free the exercise of His omnipotence, at least for a moment, from the control of holiness-a violation of His own nature. Either way, it would be all over with Jesus, and, even, if we dare so speak, with God.”
    It is of interest to note that Christ quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy each time He appeals to Scripture (Deut. 8:3; 6:13; 6:16). “This book, which recorded the experience of Israel during the forty years’ sojourn in the desert, had perhaps been the special subject of Jesus’ meditations during His own sojourn in the wilderness.”
    Gurnall well says, in speaking of the believer, like Christ, meeting the suggestions of the evil one with the Scriptures, “Provide thyself with Scripture answers to Satan’s false reasonings, with which he puts a fair colour on his foul notions, the better to gain thy consent. He is wily; thou hadst need to be wary. He not only propounds the sinful object, but sets a fair gloss upon it, and urges the soul with arguments to embrace his offer. And when sin comes thus forth Goliath-like, it is not Saul’s armour, but the smooth stones of the brook-not thy own resolution, but the divinity of Scripture argument that can preserve thee, or prostrate thy enemy. Now, thou wilt find in, the Word an answer put into thy mouth to repel all Satan’s sophistry. And this indeed, is to be an Apollos, mighty in the Scriptures, when we can stop the devil’s mouth, and choke his bullets, with a word seasonably interposed between us and the temptation.”

* The words “1 Thou art the Son of God,” express something very different from a doubt; this “If” has almost the force of “Since.” “1 Thou art really as it seems,” &c. Satan alludes to God’s salutation at the baptism.-Godet.

* This is no idle offer. Billy Bray used to say of this offer of Satan, “The old rascal, to offer Christ the kingdoms of the world, why he never possessed so much as a tater skin.” But B.B. was wrong, for Satan is called “The prince of this world” (John 12:31); “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). And these are not meaningless and empty titles, but designations of his power and place.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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