Other aspects of the temptation of Christ
Anyone familiar with the gospel of Jesus Christ should know about the temptation of Christ in the wilderness (Mt 4:1-11, Mk 1:12-13, Lk 4:1-13). After His baptism by John, Jesus was led by the Holy Ghost into the wilderness where He fasted for forty days and was tempted by Satan. The devil presented three temptations to Christ. We can learn some valuable lessons in defeating temptation from the way Jesus responded. Perhaps the most common points made about this follow. Jesus defeated the devil by quoting scripture each time. He quoted from the law of Moses. This teaches us that the Bible is our weapon against the devil and his devices. Another point is that the devil quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to Jesus. This shows us that the devil and his servants will attempt to twist the meaning of scripture to deceive us. Notice he did not quote the next verse which says we will tread down the lion, snake, and dragon. These are three symbols for the devil (1Pet 5:8, Rev 12:9). Taking scriptures out of context is perhaps the most common error today. It is our responsibility to know God and His word well enough to avoid these errors (Jn 5:39, Jn 10:1-14, Gal 1:6-9, 2Tim 3:13-17). The three temptations are often paralleled to three aspects of sin. In the garden of Eden, Eve saw three things about the forbidden fruit. It was “was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise (Gen 3:6)”. The serpent also twisted the word of God to Eve (Gen 3:1-5). This compares to the temptations Satan used on Jesus in the wilderness. Turning the stones into bread aligns with the fruit being good for food. Seeing the kingdoms of the world compares to the fruit being pleasant to the eyes. Jumping from the temple is like trying to demonstrate our greatness instead of God’s in desiring to confirm our own wisdom. These three aspects are also mentioned in 1John 2:15-17. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are the basic values of this sinful world.
All this is true and important to understand and apply. However, there are other aspects as well we should learn from. In all three temptations Satan questioned the identity of Jesus by saying, “If thou be the Son of God”, and not “Since thou be the Son of God”. He was challenging Him to use His miraculous power to prove Himself. From this we can learn that the enemy seeks to create an identity crisis in us which we feel compelled to address with unbiblical means to prove that we are valuable in some other identity than the one God gave us. This is abundantly evident today. At the end of this age, this will culminate in the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-18). This mark and number are more than just a means of economic control. It is about a conscious decision to renounce our identity as the creation of God who is worthy of our worship and faith, and instead pledge to the antichrist.
We can discover other aspects in each temptation as well. The temptations were attempts to get Jesus to use His power and position for greed and selfishness; to aggrandize His humanity instead of the divinity of God. In a discussion about certain alleged miracles once, I pointed out that the miracles Jesus did were always to guide people’s faith toward God and to meet their actual needs (Jn 4:48, Jn 6). They were never superfluous “tricks” (Mt 16:1-4, Lk 23:8). They served a substantive purpose. They were not just to “wow” people or to get them to admire Him. Unfortunately, some religious leaders have not learned these lessons and are leading people down a false path by violating these principles. Their greed for money and power have caused them to fall into the very temptations Satan threw at Jesus. Instead of truly leading people into faith in God and His word, they twist the scriptures and use their platform for their own gain. They perform tricks for people to get them to give them money. There are real miracles from God according to His word (Mk 16:17-20, Heb 2:4), and there are miracles from Satan and his servants (Deut 13:1-5, Mt 7:21-23, Mt 24:24, 2Thes 2:9, Rev 13:14). These false prophets have turned Christianity into an entertainment industry. Some even openly call themselves God, not just His representatives (Gen 3:5, Mt 24:5). We should not be surprised by this. This has been going on since the beginning, and Jesus and the apostles warned repeatedly this would happen (Mt 7:13-29, Mt 24:4-5 & 11 & 23-26, Jn 10:1-14, Gal 6:1-9, 2Cor 11:13-15, 2Tim 4:2-4, 2Pet 2, Jude, etc.). These people do not disprove the Bible. They are confirming it, just in a negative way. Our job is to know God and His word well enough to discern them, avoid their ways, and follow the truth.