But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4, KJV)
Yesterday, we looked at the temptation of Eve and the fall of the first man, Adam. Today we will look at the temptation – and victory over temptation – by the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.
We will ask and answer two questions:
- What methods did Christ use to overcome the temptations of Satan?
- Was It possible for Christ to fail and fall into sin?
What methods did Christ use to overcome the temptations of Satan?
In this passage, we have one of the strongest affirmations of the sufficiency of Scripture in the whole Bible, it just doesn’t jump out at us right away. But when you look closer, what is Jesus’s response to each of the temptations of Satan?
“It is written…”
Adam failed to obey the word of God. Christ obeyed the word of God and used it against Satan in his temptation. Satan knows Scripture well. Christ, in each instance, quotes from an express command of God: that we should live by the Word, that we should not tempt God, and that we should worship Him alone.
This is instructive for us. Scripture is our first and best defense against any temptation. When joined with prayer, it is a bulwark against the snares of the enemy. Are you reading His word? Are you praying to Christ the one who is like us in every way, yet without sin (Heb 4:15)? Are you throwing yourself before the throne of grace (Heb 4:16) and asking for His mercy? There is no temptation that we face that Christ cannot comprehend. Repent of your sin, ask His forgiveness, and mortify the seeds of the flesh. Christ is the perfect substitute for your sin and the victor over sin and temptation.
Find Him in the Word. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches, Scripture teaches is what is to be believed about God, and what our duty is toward Him (Q3). Don’t just study God as a doctrine – even the demons know God is one (James 2:19) but they disobey His express commands. What is your duty toward God? Repentance of sin and living for righteousness.
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4, KJV)
Find Him in the Word. It is where He has taught us to seek Him.
Was it possible for Christ to fail and fall into sin?
“Christ was separated from us, in this respect, by the perfection of his nature; though we must not imagine him to have existed in that intermediate condition, which belonged to Adam, to whom it was only granted, that it was possible for him not to sin. We know, that Christ was fortified by the Spirit with such power, that the darts of Satan could not pierce him.”
-John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 4
As Calvin notes, we err if we think Christ was merely an Adam “reboot” in this regard. Adam was made without sin but able to fall. Christ was unable to fall. Why? Because ChrisT only ever willed to do the will of the Father:
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. (John 6:38, KJV)
Persons cannot act contrary to their wills. If Jesus had only a human nature, then yes he could have sinned. But Jesus also had a divine nature, God the Son, who took on flesh. For him to act according to his human nature, he also has to act according to his divine nature. Since it is impossible for the divine nature to sin, it was impossible for Christ to sin.
However, that doesn’t change the reality of the temptation. It is hard for us to grasp, since temptation is so tempting to us. However, as Calvin also mentions,
It is justly reckoned a weakness of human nature, that our senses are affected by external objects. But this weakness would not be sinful, were it not for the presence of corruption; in consequence of which Satan never attacks us, without doing some injury, or, at least, without inflicting a slight wound.
– John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 4
Christ was tempted as we are, yet without sin. This should bring us to him in greater confidence, knowing we have a strong Savior and the Spirit to help us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).