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Why Did God Consider Satan’s Temptation of Christ a Test? Why Did Satan Consider it a Temptation? (Matt. 4:1)

The Context of Matthew 4:1


The account of Jesus' temptation by Satan is recorded in Matthew 4:1-11. It begins with, "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (Matthew 4:1, UASV). This event occurs immediately after Jesus' baptism and the affirmation from Jehovah: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17, UASV). The timing and setting of this encounter underscore its significance in Jesus' earthly ministry and His mission as the Messiah.


The Divine Perspective: Testing Jesus’ Obedience and Dependence


From God's perspective, the encounter in the wilderness was a test of Jesus' obedience and dependence on God. The word "test" in biblical terms often implies a proving or refining process. James 1:2-4 explains, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." This testing serves to strengthen faith and character.


Jesus' response to each of Satan's temptations demonstrated His unwavering obedience to God and reliance on Scripture. When tempted to turn stones into bread, Jesus replied, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4, UASV, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3). This response highlights Jesus' dependence on God's provision and His commitment to fulfilling His mission according to God's will.


The Role of Scripture in Jesus’ Responses


Each of Jesus' responses to Satan's temptations is rooted in Scripture. This demonstrates the importance of God's Word in combating temptation and remaining faithful to His commands. When Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple, misquoting Psalm 91:11-12, Jesus responded with Deuteronomy 6:16: "On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not put Jehovah your God to the test'" (Matthew 4:7, UASV). This underscores the proper understanding and application of Scripture in resisting temptation.

By quoting Scripture, Jesus not only refuted Satan's temptations but also affirmed His role as the obedient Son of God, fulfilling the requirements of the Law and the Prophets. This consistent reliance on Scripture highlights the importance of knowing and applying God's Word in our own spiritual battles.


The Wilderness as a Place of Testing


The wilderness setting is significant in biblical narratives as a place of testing and preparation. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years, where they were tested by God to see if they would obey His commandments (Deuteronomy 8:2). Similarly, Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the wilderness, paralleling the Israelites' experience. This period of fasting and testing prepared Jesus for His public ministry, solidifying His identity and mission.


The number forty is often associated with periods of trial and testing in the Bible. Moses spent forty days and nights on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18), and Elijah journeyed forty days and nights to Horeb, the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:8). These periods of testing led to significant encounters with God and the fulfillment of His purposes.


The Satanic Perspective: Attempting to Derail Jesus’ Mission


From Satan's perspective, the temptations were an attempt to derail Jesus' mission and cause Him to sin. Satan's goal has always been to oppose God's plans and purposes. In the Garden of Eden, he tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God, resulting in the fall of humanity (Genesis 3:1-6). Similarly, by tempting Jesus, Satan sought to thwart God's redemptive plan.

Each temptation was designed to exploit potential weaknesses in Jesus' human nature. By tempting Jesus to turn stones into bread, Satan appealed to His physical hunger after forty days of fasting. By urging Jesus to throw Himself off the temple, Satan tempted Him to test God's protection and possibly seek a miraculous display to prove His divinity. Finally, by offering Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship, Satan tempted Him with power and authority without the suffering of the cross.


Jesus’ Victory Over Temptation


Jesus' victory over Satan's temptations demonstrates His sinlessness and His qualification as the perfect Savior. Hebrews 4:15 states, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." Jesus' resistance to temptation affirms His role as the spotless Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).


This victory also sets a precedent for believers, showing that it is possible to resist temptation through reliance on God's Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."


The Theological Implications of Jesus’ Temptation


The temptation of Jesus has profound theological implications. It affirms His identity as the Son of God, who fully obeyed the Father and relied on the Holy Spirit. This obedience was necessary for Him to fulfill His redemptive mission and provide a perfect example for believers. Philippians 2:8 states, "Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."


Furthermore, Jesus' temptation underscores the reality of spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Jesus' victory over Satan in the wilderness demonstrates the power of God to overcome evil and provides a model for believers to follow in their own spiritual battles.


The Significance of Jesus’ Humanity


Jesus' experience in the wilderness also highlights His true humanity. He experienced hunger, physical weakness, and the full range of human emotions. By facing and overcoming temptation as a man, Jesus identifies with our struggles and provides a perfect example of faithful obedience to God. Hebrews 2:17-18 explains, "Therefore, he had to be made like his brethren in all things, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since he himself was tempted in that which he has suffered, he is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."


The Necessity of Testing for Jesus’ Ministry


The testing of Jesus in the wilderness was necessary for His ministry. It prepared Him for the challenges and opposition He would face, including the ultimate test of the cross. By proving His obedience and reliance on God, Jesus demonstrated His readiness to fulfill His mission as the Messiah.


This testing also served to publicly affirm Jesus' identity as the Son of God. The voice from heaven at His baptism declared, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17, UASV). The subsequent temptation in the wilderness confirmed this declaration, as Jesus upheld His divine sonship by resisting Satan's temptations.


The Role of the Holy Spirit


The role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' temptation is crucial. Matthew 4:1 states that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. This indicates that the Holy Spirit was actively involved in guiding Jesus through this period of testing. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to resist temptation and remain faithful to God's will.


The presence of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' life serves as an example for believers. Galatians 5:16 instructs, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." Just as the Holy Spirit guided and strengthened Jesus, believers are to rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength in their own lives.


The Victory of Christ Over Satan


Jesus' victory over Satan in the wilderness is a foretaste of His ultimate victory over sin, death, and the devil through His death and resurrection. Colossians 2:15 declares, "When he had disarmed the rulers and authorities, he made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through him." This victory assures believers of their own victory in Christ and encourages them to stand firm in their faith.


The temptation of Christ, therefore, is not merely an isolated event but a critical aspect of His redemptive work. It highlights the reality of spiritual warfare, the importance of reliance on God's Word, and the necessity of obedience to God's will. Jesus' victory provides a model for believers to follow and assures them of their own victory in Him.


About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).


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