FURTHER THOUGHTS ON THE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST
In the preceding article, Brother Roberts describes how the Master became intimately familiar with the Revealed Word of Yahweh by giving daily attendance to it. Another passage that appears to be relevant is Isaiah chapter 50:
“The Lord Yahweh hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord Yahweh hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back” (Isa. 50:4-5).
This demonstrates how that Messiah underwent a learning process. Morning by morning his ear was awakened to listen to the Word, which enabled him to have “the tongue of the learned”. As Brother Roberts shows, this does not in any way detract from the fact that he was the “word made flesh” (cp. Jno. 1:14), but rather explains how this position was achieved.
Another (but related) aspect of Messiah’s temptation is the issue of whether or not he experienced the inward thought to transgress arising out of his own nature. The idea is sometimes taught that because he possessed a spiritual, not a carnal mind, it was not possible for him to experience sinful thoughts arising from his own nature. However, the Scriptures are clear in stating that his experience of temptation was identical to ours – “in all points”:
“we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15)
In our case, the temptations to sin come from out own flesh and blood nature (Rom. 7:5), and as “he also himself likewise took part of the same” nature (Heb. 2:14), he would have also shared that experience. Indeed, by removing this aspect of the Master’s trials, we are diminishing the enemy that he had to overcome, to become less potent than ours. If Messiah had no internal inclinations to transgress, he can provide no example to us of how we can seek to overcome ours.
It is said that the “all points” in which Messiah was tempted identifies with the threefold reference of John only, which it is claimed are from external influences:
“All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1Jno. 2:16-17).
However, this will just not do, since the Apostle Paul defines the “lust of the flesh” as being internal: “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal 5:17). If Messiahs’ brethren experienced this internal “lust of the flesh” so did he, for he had an identical flesh-nature to us (Heb. 2:14).
But whereas “the children” are “yet without strength” (Rom 5:6) to overcome their natural minds, the Lord Jesus was “made strong” (Ps 80:17) by his Divine begettal for this purpose. The diabolos was there within him – he had the potential for it to develop into sinful actions, or “the works of the devil” (1Jno 3:8). He had the potential for it to develop into its most advanced stages of degeneracy, as witnessed in the basest of men around us, whose only desire is to satisfy their grovelling instincts before they perish. This advanced state of degeneracy is developed through constantly succumbing to sin in the flesh. But this never happened with our Lord – he possessed the diabolos within, but he never allowed it to possess him. He had by inheritance from his mother, the “lust of the flesh”, but his mind was never developed by carnal instincts. He was “made strong” by His Father to overcome it.
Whereas in the Garden of Eden, we witness the failure of man to resist the serpent, in the Garden of Gethsemane we witness the greatest struggle between the Flesh and the Spirit ever, as our Lord subjected his own natural will to that of His Father. Let those who deny that the Lord ever experienced the natural thinking of the flesh, hear the anguish of one who prayed “with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death” (Heb 5:7) “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). Here, we see the Flesh and the Spirit, and the enmity between the two – the natural will of Christ that the cup of suffering be taken away, and the Will of His Father that he should drink therefrom. And here we see the thinking of the flesh, the carnal mind restrained and overcome by the loving obedience of our Lord to his Father. The Spirit prevailed, for in our Lord Jesus, the mind of the flesh was allowed to develop no further: it was led into captivity during his life, nailed to the Cross during his Crucifixion, and finally “condemned”, “destroyed” and “bruised” in his death.
Let us therefore not detract from the great victory of Christ, by diminishing the virulence of the enemy within him, but rather behold the reality of what he achieved. We have within us a great enemy, the serpent within, also known as “sin in the flesh”, which is the root of all iniquity. And the Lord Jesus, as “the Captain of our Salvation” (Heb. 2:10) also possessed this same enemy in order that he might destroy it utterly, and “bruise” it in death. Although he were a Son, yet he subjected himself to a lifetime of suffering, that he might learn obedience, and be a faithful servant to his Father. Let us therefore take heed to his example: “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God thought not equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross …” (Phil. 2:5-8).