“Tell of the Days That Are Past, How for Our Sins He Was Tempted”: The Temptations of Christ

 “TELL OF THE DAYS THAT ARE PAST, HOW FOR OUR SINS HE WAS TEMPTED”: THE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST

By Wayne S. Walker

     The whimsical story is told of a storekeeper who said to a boy who had been lingering too long near a tempting display of fruit, “What are you doing?  Trying to steal one of those apples?”  The boy replied, “No, sir, I’m trying not to.”  In a very simple way, this illustrates the power of temptation in our lives.  In one form or another, temptation keeps multitudes who are in sin from coming to Christ for salvation and draws many who are Christians away from Christ.  Thus, every one of us has to face and deal with temptation in our lives.

However, God has not left us on our own to figure out how to do it all by ourselves.  He sent someone to live as we do and overcome temptation so that we might have an example.  “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’” (Matthew 4:1-3).  In 1880, Fanny J. Crosby wrote, “Fasting alone in the desert, Tell of the days that are past; How for our sins He was tempted, Yet was triumphant at last.”  Please consider some important lessons that we can learn from the temptations of Christ.

What is temptation?  In general, the word “temptation” means a testing, trying, or proving.  In Genesis 22:1, the familiar King James Version reads, “God did tempt Abraham,” whereas the newer versions say, “God tested Abraham.”  When James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation,” the idea of temptation in this context must include what James has already mentioned in verses 2 and 3, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”   In a specific sense, the term is often used to mean an enticement or inducement to do evil.  “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13).  Thus, we see that the basis for temptation, the reason why we can be tempted, is the fact that we have certain lusts or desires, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-16).  In fulfilling these lusts or desires, we can choose either a means that is sinful or a way that is acceptable before God.  That choice is the temptation.

Who is being tempted here?  It is Jesus, the divine Son of God, the Word who was with God but became flesh and dwelt among us as the Lamb of God who came to take away our sins (John  1:1, 14, 29; cf. Philippians 2:5-8).  Thus, Jesus was in essence God or divine, but He came to this earth and was born as a man or human being.  Now, how could He be tempted?  “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13).  Since God cannot be tempted, Jesus was not tempted as God but as a man.  He met and overcame temptation not by use of divine power but by use of the same means that God expects of any other human being and so became an example to us of how to resist temptation.  “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).  The very reason why the temptations of Jesus are recorded is so that we can learn from His experience how to react when we are tempted.

Who is doing the tempting?  It is the devil or Satan.  The tempter of verse 3 is called the devil in verse 5, and Jesus identifies Him as Satan in verse 10.  “For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5).   God cannot be tempted nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  He allows us to be tempted as a test because He created us as free moral agents and we must have the choice to do good or evil.  However, the source of every temptation is the devil.  He, through the serpent, tempted Eve (Genesis 3:1-6).  He is the one who brought all the calamities to test Job (Job 1:6-12ff).  “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).  Yet, while the devil tempts us just as he did Jesus, like Jesus we do not have to yield to his temptations.  “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).   How?  “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).  If we follow the example of Jesus and use God’s word as our sword of the Spirit, then we CAN resist the devil and his temptations.

Why was Jesus tempted?  The actual accounts of Christ’s temptations do not say, but other Scriptures give us some reasons.  One reason was to let us know that He has experienced what we go through in our lives and is sympathetic to our needs.   “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  Another reason is that by undergoing the same kinds of temptations that we do but resisting them completely, He became our perfect example of how to resist temptation.  “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;’ who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).  A final reason is to give us hope that we, too, can overcome.  He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Thus, we have the promise, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

Notice the result of Jesus’ temptation.  “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:11).  The great Scottish reformer John Knox said, “In this answer of Christ we may perceive what weapons are to be used against our adversary the devil, and how we may confute his arguments, which craftily and of malice, he makes against God’s elect….Thus are we taught, I say, by Christ to repulse Satan and his assaults by the word of God.”  The temptations of Christ teach us that if we will “Be sober, be vigilant,” even though our “adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” we can “Resist him, steadfast in the faith.”

—in Search for Truth; Sept. 27, 2015; Vol. VII, No. 9

“Tell How the Angels in Chorus Sang as They Welcomed His Birth”: What Happened at the Birth of Christ?

 TELL HOW THE ANGELS IN CHORUS SANG AS THEY WELCOMED HIS BIRTH”: WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST?

By Wayne S. Walker

      “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:4-14).

Every one of us, in fact every single person who has ever lived on this earth, was born because that is just the way by which we come into this world.  We normally think of the birth of any baby as a wonderful, special event, but there was one birth in history which was more spectacular than any other.   In 1880 Fanny J. Crosby wrote a gospel song, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” which includes the following lines:

“Tell how the angels in chorus,

Sang as they welcomed His birth.

‘Glory to God in the highest!

Peace and good tidings to earth.’”

Although the conception of Jesus was something miraculous, His actual birth was quite normal and in fact rather humble, but it is still very wonderful and special.  The purpose of this article is to study what happened at the birth of Christ?

First, several Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled.  We looked at some of them in a previous article.  It was prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).  This is cited as being fulfilled in Matthew 1:18-25.  It was also predicted that the birthplace of the Messiah would be in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  That is what the Jews expected, and that is what happened (Matthew 2:1-7).  In fact, Jesus once said, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44).  The truth is that all Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.

Second, the divine Son of God was incarnate.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).  “The Word” suggests a spokesman, as God speaks to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).  The Word was “with God,” that is, He was with the Father but separate (Matthew 28:19).  Yet, at the same time the Word “was God,” a divine being equal with the Father (Colossians 2:8-9).  However, John also writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; cf. Hebrews 2:9-17).  This is confirmed by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-8 when he said of Christ Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery [lit. a thing to be grasped or held on to, WSW] to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man….”  Thus we believe, as Matthew said, that Jesus is Emmanuel or “God with us”—in other words, that “God was manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Third, God’s plan for sinful man’s redemption was revealed.  Note what Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:8-10.  “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”  This goes back to “before time began.”  After time began, God began carrying out His plan with promises regarding the seed of the woman, of Abraham, and of David (Genesis 3:15, 12:1-3, 22:17-18, 2 Samuel 7:12-13).   All of this reached its fulfillment as redemption was manifest in Christ (Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16, 4:4-5).

How often have we heard the words written by Josef Mohr around 1818:

Silent night, holy night;

Son of God, love’s pure light,

Radiant, beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

It is too bad that the world thinks about the birth of Christ only in December, because without the birth of Christ, there would have been no life, death, and resurrection of Christ, all of which were absolutely necessary for our salvation and hope of eternal life with God in heaven.

—in Search for Truth; Sept. 30, 2015; Vol. VII, No. 8

“Tell Me the Story Most Precious”: The Word Who Dwelt Among Us

TELL ME THE STORY MOST PRECIOUS”: THE WORD WHO DWELT AMONG US

By Wayne S. Walker

   Paul preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  We must believe in Jesus, or we shall die in our sins (John 8:24).  To believe in Him, we must hear about Him, because saving faith comes from hearing the word (Romans 10:17).  Therefore, Jesus still needs to be preached, as Philip did with the Samaritans and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:5, 35).  In 1880 Fanny J. Crosby wrote, “Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word.  Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.”  The story of Jesus includes many items, including His birth, temptations, life and ministry, sufferings, death, and resurrection.  But what does the Bible say about this individual who came from heaven to earth?

“That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.   John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.”’  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:9-18).  The purpose of this article is to examine the Word who dwelt among us.

Who was He?  He was, always has been, still is, and ever will be the divine Son of God, just as Peter confessed, when Jesus asked who the apostles thought that He was, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-17).  However, we did not live when Jesus was on earth, nor hear the teachings directly from His lips, nor see the miracles which He performed.  So, upon what basis can we reach this conclusion?  “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).  Furthermore, God Himself testified to the identity of Jesus by raising Him from the tomb.  Paul wrote, “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4).

What is He?  He is the Savior.  This was declared even before His birth.  An angel appeared to Joseph to explain how Mary was with child of the Holy Spirit, saying, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:18-21).   Then right after He was born, an angel said to the shepherds of Bethlehem, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11).  Jesus Himself understood that this is what He came to be.  He once announced, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” Luke 19:10).  And this is precisely what He was proclaimed to be.  Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

When and where did He come?  He came in first century Palestine.  According to Luke 2:1-2ff, His birth occurred when Caesar Augustus was on the throne and Quirinius (or Cyrenius) was in his first term as governor of Syria.  Then according to Luke 3:1-2, His earthly ministry began when Tiberius Caesar was on the throne and Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.   This was when Rome, the fourth world empire of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, ruled the world.  All of this was done to carry out God’s providential plan.  “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4).   Thus, it shows that the story of Jesus is not a myth, legend, fairy tale, or fable.  Those kinds of stories take place long ago and far away, during a golden age in a land before time.  However, Jesus came in a time and place that can be confirmed by eyewitness accounts both historically and geographically.  This is why Peter wrote, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

Why did He come?  The simple answer is to bring us to God.  “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).  But why is this necessary?  It is because of sin which separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2).  All responsible people have to deal with this problem (Romans 3:23).  And there are serious consequences, “For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).   Yet, Paul said that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).  So He sent His Son to this earth, not only to bring us to God in this life but ultimately bring us to God in heaven.  “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

That is ultimately why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  The God who created us wants us to come and live with Him forever in His heavenly abode.  However, we have transgressed His law and are not fit to dwell with Him.  Yet He still loves us enough that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  It is truly “Amazing Grace” to see what a great sacrifice our God would make to redeem us in sending His Son, the Word, to become flesh, dwell among us, and be our sacrifice for sin.

—from Search for Truth; September 13, 2015; Volume VII, Number 7

“Tell Me the Story of Jesus”: The Story of Jesus in Prophecy

TELL ME THE STORY OF JESUS”: THE STORY OF JESUS IN PROPHECY

By Wayne S. Walker

     In 1880, the famous hymn writer Fanny J. Crosby penned the words to the well-known gospel song “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” with music by John R. Sweney.  In that song, she mentioned several aspects of Jesus’s life on earth, such as His earthly incarnation, His virgin birth, His temptations, His years of labor and ministry, His sorrows and suffering that He bore, His death upon the cross, and His resurrection from the dead.  All these facts about Jesus and their meaning to us are revealed in the New Testament.  But consider what Jesus said in Luke 24:44-46:

“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’  And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.  Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.’”  Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures there are numerous predictions concerning the coming of the Messiah or Christ.  In this article, we want to go back to the Old Testament and look at the story of Jesus in prophecy.

The purpose of His coming is revealed in Genesis 3:15.  God told the serpent, who represented the devil, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  The Seed of the woman (Galatians 4:4) would crush the head of the serpent.  Jesus Himself declared that He must first bind the strong man, Satan, and then He could spoil his goods or cast out his demon (Matthew 12:22-29).  The writer of Hebrews 2:13-15 says of Christ that He died to “destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”  And John tells us, “…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).  Paul makes an interesting reference to this prophecy in Romans 16:20.  “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly….”

The lineage of His coming is also predicted.  The Messiah was to be of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 22:17-18); of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10); and a descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13).  All three of these individuals are mentioned as ancestors of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-3.  Regarding the seed of Abraham, Paul wrote, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).  It is argued in Hebrews 7:12-14 that there must be a change in the law because Christ is a high priest not from the tribe of Levi but of Judah.  And in Acts 2:29-30, Peter points out that Jesus was the fruit of David’s body.

The manner of His coming is predicted in Isaiah 7:14.  The prophet Isaiah said to King Ahaz of Judah, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”  It would be a virgin birth.  Sometimes people wonder how this would be a sign to Ahaz.  “…[I]t could be saying that a God who is powerful enough to have even a virgin conceive a son is powerful enough to save His people from their enemies.”  However, there is no doubt as to how the inspired New Testament writers understood it.  When Joseph found that his fiancée Mary was pregnant and knew that he was not the father, an angel appeared to tell him what was going on, and then Matthew explained, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:18-23).  Mary herself confirms this when an angel appears to tell her what was happening and she replied, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:26-35).  If anyone was in a position to know if she were a virgin, it was Mary herself.

His suffering and death are predicted in Isaiah 53:1-9.  In this chapter, the prophet Isaiah presents the Messiah as Suffering Servant.  Notice a couple of specific examples of fulfillment.  “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (v. 4).  This is quoted in Matthew 9:16-17 as being fulfilled in the healings which Christ did as a foreshadowing of His compassion leading to the provisions which He made for our forgiveness.  “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (v. 7).  While this verse is never actually quoted in the New Testament, it is clear from the context that Isaiah is talking about a trial (v. 8), and when Jesus stood before both the high priest and Pilate, it is said that He “kept silent” and “He answered him not one word” (Matthew 26:62-63, 27:12-14).  Furthermore, we know that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus because in Acts 8:26-35, when the Ethiopian eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53, “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.”

His resurrection is predicted in Psalm 16:9-11.  Notice especially v. 10, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”  The Bible affirms that Jesus “rose early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:9).  In Acts chapter two, on the day of Pentecost, the inspired apostle Peter, in preaching about the resurrection of Jesus, quoted from Psalm 16, pointed out that the writer David was still dead and buried in the tomb, and then claimed that David “spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption” in fulfillment of Psalm 16 (vv. 22-28, 31-32).  And this fact is very important to the faith of Christians.  Paul wrote, “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4).

The place of His coming is predicted in Micah 5:2.  “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”  The coming Ruler of Israel, whose goings are from everlasting, would be born in Bethlehem, formerly known as Ephrathah.  This town is first mentioned in Genesis 35:19 as the place of Rachel’s death and burial.  There were other Bethlehems in Israel, especially one in the tribe of Zebulon used as a boundary marker (Joshua 19:15).  However, when the Wise Men came to Jerusalem asking where the King of the Jews would be born, the chief priests and scribes knew exactly where to turn for the answer and said that it would be Bethlehem—not in Zebulon but in Judah (Matthew 2:1-6).  And even though Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth of Galilee, by God’s providence this specific Bethlehem was precisely where Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-7).

When Peter was preaching to the crowd gathered at Solomon’s Porch of the temple following the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful, he said, “For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.  And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’  Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days” (Acts 3:22-24).  Yes, all of the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah or Christ were fulfilled completely by Jesus of Nazareth.

—in Search for Truth; Aug. 30 and Sept. 5, 2015; Vol. VII, Nos. 5 & 6