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

F.E. Marsh :: 435. The Temptation of Jesus

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MATTHEW 4:1-11

THE four “Thens” may be said to be like the four points of a compass.

  1. The “then” of the Spirit’s leading.Then was Jesus led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matt. 4:1). It was after the blessing that Christ received from His Father that He received this buffeting from the devil.
    But, mark, the Saviour was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted of the devil. God can make the devil to be a means of grace to us. As Trapp says: “The better to fit Him thereby for His ministry. Luther observed of himself, that when God was about to set him upon any special service, He either laid some fit of sickness upon him beforehand, or turned Satan loose upon him, who so buffeted him by his temptations, that neither heat, nor blood, nor sense, nor voice remained; the very venom of the temptations drank up his spirit, and his body seemed dead. Hence it was that in his sermons God gave him such grace that when he preached they that heard him thought his own temptation enabled them to be severally touched and noted.”
  2. The “then” of Satan’s power.Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the Temple” (Matt. 4:5). This is no mere figure of speech, but an actual reality, and goes to show in some measure the power that Satan has. One has only to call to mind the names and titles that are applied to him in Scripture, to understand the great power he has. Christ found the adversary no mean enemy with which to contend, neither shall we. Men often speak of Satan in contemptuous tones, but we should be careful lest we underrate his power, and thus give him an advantage over us. If he had the power to place Christ in a high place, and to tell Him to cast Himself down, and thus to presume upon His Father’s care, shall we say that he has less power with us? But mark, he has no power to cast us down; he can only suggest, as in the case of Christ. Matthew Henry says: “High places are slippery places; advancement in the world makes a man a fair mark for Satan to shoot his fiery darts at. God casts down, that He may raise up; the devil raiseth up that he may cast down: therefore, those that would take heed of falling, must take heed of climbing.” Satan only elevates that he may destroy. On the rocky shore of Cornwall may be seen the black cormorant seizing its prey, a shellfish, flying up with it into the air, and then letting it fall upon some rock, that the shell may be broken in pieces. Satan’s temptations are all on this principle.
  3. The “then” of the Saviour’s answer.Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written,” &c. (Matt. 4:10). Christ meets the temptation of the adversary each time by the sword of the Spirit. Trapp remarks: “This two-edged sword our Saviour had found to be metal of proof, and therefore holds him to it. Only the Scriptures scare the devil, as only faithful prayer can charm him (Isaiah 26:16). Prayer is called a charm. Athanasius writeth that evil spirits may be put to flight by that Psalm (Psa. 68), ’Let the Lord arise, and His enemies be confounded.’ But this is true of the whole Word of God, which is armour of proof against the devil.” We read that Oliver Cromwell had in his army one regiment-a fine, strong regiment-called “The Ironsides.” They were very religious men, and it was quite the custom for almost every soldier to carry his Bible to battle with him. They used to carry their Bible under their dress, and more than once, in a battle, the soldier would have been shot through the heart but for his Bible. The bullet went through the Bible, or it would have gone through the soldier’s heart. The Bible saved the heart. Even so with the Truth of God. It is the armour to protect from the fiery darts of the evil one; it is the sickle to cut down the tares that the enemy sows among the wheat of God’s truth; it is the trumpet to cause the walls of evil to fall before it, as the walls of Jericho fell before the blast of Israel’s rams’ horns; it is the ark to cause the dagon of iniquity to bow before it, and to topple to the ground; it is the rapier to pierce through the enemy’s armour; it is the stone to cause the Goliath of hell to fall to the ground; and it is the sword to cut through the devil’s devices.
  4. The “then” of the serpent’s departure.Then the devil leaveth Him,” &c. Foiled at every point by the Lord, Satan retreats like a whipped cur. Trapp says: “1 Christ command him away, there is no abiding for him. Here he was foiled and quelled, and, as it were, cast down and killed, by Christ our Champion. He came into the field like another Goliath, cracking and calling craven, but ere he went thence was made to hop headless, as he first was a terror, afterwards a scorn, as it was anciently said of those chariots armed with scythes and hooks. Charles VIII., in his expedition against Naples, came into the field like thunder and lightning, but went out like a snuff, more than a man at first, less than a woman at last. Henceforth, therefore, though we are ever to expect temptations till such time as we have gotten that great gulf between the devil and us, yet fear none of those things that ye shall suffer.”

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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