Bible Study 2023
Matthew 4:1-11 is great because it's Jesus’ way of letting you in on His very own secret. This is a special insight into the mystery of the confrontation between Satan and Jesus. There was nobody there to record this, this is only ours because Jesus revealed it. And it's Jesus letting us in on the struggle with sin. It is a great passage and one which unfolds the path of victory, for our own temptations.
The biggest problem that Christians have is the problem of temptation. And Jesus here gives us a good pattern to see. We will see the strategy of Satan, that strategy is manifest here, and we'll see it in light of what we know about human psychology and about human behavior and how it perfectly dovetails with where we find our troubles. We also see the path of overcoming it.
Temptation is something common to all of us. And the greatest way to be able to overcome that is a steadfast gaze into the face of Jesus, who has been there and shown us the path of victory. This passage is designed for us to take our eyes off the temptation and focus on the Master who, “in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin,” and we are able to enter into His victory.
Temptation comes to all of us, but victory is not so common. Hebrews 4:15 says, “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 2:18 says, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” He has been there; so He can help us.
And 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” The way of escape is really to gaze on the One who draws us through the temptation to victory.
Verses 1 to 11 describes the preparation, the temptation, and the triumph. First of all, we have to set the scene. Verse 1-2 says, "Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry.” This follows immediately on the heels of His baptism. Matthew 3:13 - 17 describes the baptism of Christ.
We told you that at the baptism the King was commissioned. We learned about His baptism and His anointing by the Holy Spirit and the word of God: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." But Matthew follows it by presenting the temptation. It is one thing to proclaim the King as king, it is something else to prove it. He enters into a temptation to verify His right to royalty.
If He is the King, if He is to redeem and reign over His people, He must demonstrate His ability to be King. And the testing demonstrates it. He could live up to God's word. He has been attested by God as being in perfect harmony with the heavenly plan. And now He must show His victory over hell. He has now to face the disorder and the ugliness of Satan's dominion, to show His power over evil.
For 30 years He waited in obscurity; for 30 years He allowed God to function on His divine timetable in perfect submission as a willing Son. And then the great moment of baptism, the great moment of a divine coronation occurred. And following fast on the heels of the greatest victory comes the greatest trial. Verse 1 says, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."
Mark 1:12 ads, “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness." ‘Immediately’ is related to the event of the baptism. One of the great truths of life is that after every great victory there comes a reaction. That is why the Word of God says, "Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." We work to gain the victory and in the moment of the victory we are most susceptible to defeat.
Let me say a word about the devil. There are some people who don't believe in a personal devil, but Jesus confronts one right here. Nobody would know about this conflict if Jesus didn't tell us. Now if you want to deny a personal devil, you have to get over the fact that Jesus didn't deny a personal devil. The Bible knows of a personal devil. He constantly is in conflict with Jesus Christ.
Having been cast out of heaven, the devil is full of envy, full of fury, and his hatred is directed against God. And his hatred is against Jesus Christ, and he just uses people as pawns to accomplish his ends, of defeating Christ and God. People don't matter to Satan; they are means to his end; he wants to wrestle them out of the hand of God. He wants to steal them from divine salvation.
Notice the word “tempted” in verse 1, “Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Now it could be a testing for good; and it could be a tempting for bad. The Greek word can be positive or negative. From God's viewpoint, it is a test. From the devil's viewpoint, it is a temptation. From God's viewpoint, it is a way to prove that the Son is worthy. From the devil's viewpoint, it is the opposite.
God allows things in our lives that give us opportunity to exercise spiritual muscle. And they have a positive thing in mind. Now God will allow a test to prove righteousness. But God will never entice someone into sin. Look at your own life. When you have tests in your life, what does it prove? Does it prove you're righteous or unrighteous? Do you pass or does it come out to be a temptation from Satan?
Jesus was led by the Spirit, and He was tempted by the devil. From God's viewpoint it was a test to prove His righteousness. When it was all said and done, He passed the test. God was vindicated; and Satan was defeated. Genesis 50:20 says, "But as for you, [Joseph said] you thought evil against me; but God meant it for good." These struggles, from God's viewpoint, are to strengthen you.
Hebrews 4:15 says, "He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." He was weary in John 4 - He was thirsty. There was real humanness, He was one hundred percent man. Verse 2, "That after he fasted forty days, and forty nights, he was hungry." Not only could Jesus be tempted, but He was tempted to the absolute limit of the capability of Satan to tempt.
Because Jesus never gave in. And so, every temptation ran to its limit. Satan tempts us, and at one point we give in. If he tempts us in a scale of intensity from one to a hundred, we may give in at thirty, seventy or ninety. But Jesus never gave in, and He took every temptation to its full limit. Not only could He be tempted, but He was tempted in full temptation at every point, yet never giving in.
Satan always wants to catch us in our weak moments. But temptations which have been seen in advance, and have been anticipated, temptations which have been prepared for and prayed against, have little power to hurt the soul. Jesus put it this way to His disciples in Mark 14:38, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation." When you guard against it, you're on your way to victory.
Temptation usually comes where we are the strongest, where we think we're really strong we get pushed over the edge. Jesus entered a real confrontation with a real devil, and Satan hit Him right where He was. Satan came when Jesus was the weakest, the most vulnerable, and then tempted Him at the point of His strengths to try to push Him into sin. How did Jesus respond?
There were three aspects to the temptation. The first temptation begins in verse 3 – 4, "Now when the tempter came to him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The first word Satan said was “if”.
This way Satan tempted Eve, so he tempted Christ and so he tempts us. He always begins by trying to create doubt about the reality of the divine standard. He says, “if you are,” implying that there needs to be the proving of it. If he can create doubt about the reality of the standard, he can lessen the concern of the one being tempted. So he tempts us with his breathing doubt into our souls.
Doubts about who we are in Christ, doubts about God's power, doubts about God's love, doubts about our conversion. Doubts about our abilities, doubts about our strengths. Now look at the temptation itself, “make stones into bread.” The temptation was not in feeding His hunger, but in the suggestion that His hunger was incompatible with His being the Son of God. He wanted to make Jesus distrust the Father's care.
Jesus reflects His attitude in the reply in verse 4, "But he answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’" He relied on Scripture, and He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. That text pictures Moses. Moses is reminding Israel of God's tender care for His people during the wilderness journeys.
Jesus knows that God wills that He accomplish the plan, so God will provide sustenance. The governing motive of my life is to do only the will of God and believe Him for all the benefits. Matthew 6:33, "Seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." It is God who gives you life; it is God who keeps you alive, not your food.
Well, Satan is pretty subtle, so he moves to a second temptation. Verse 5-6, Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
Now who's quoting Scripture? The devil, and he quotes the verse. "It is written, ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’" Satan is quoting Psalm 91:11-12. This is the sin of testing God. And Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, "Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, you shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’"
There's no sense putting yourself deliberately into a threatening situation; no sense in living recklessly, and then expecting God to get you out of it. You know why there's no sense in testing God? Because there's nothing to prove; it's already proven. So the tempter was defeated the second time. Jesus said trust the Father, do only His will, and take every means of grace to respond to His will.
And now the devil stakes everything on one, final desperate attempt to achieve his goal. Verse 8-9, "Again the devil takes Him into an exceedingly high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” He couldn't stand being the fourth string to the Trinity.
Did Satan have that power? He is the father of lies. He said that Christ can have it all and it would have meant bypassing the cross, the death that had been pictured in His baptism. He wouldn't have to be the sin offering to get the kingdoms of the world. But He would have to sell His soul to Satan. The temptation was to change the world by becoming like the world.
The loyal servant of God makes no deals with Satan. Verse 10 says, “Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” Satan really was saying, the end justifies the means, wasn't he? All we have to do is just go the world’s way, and seek to do their sins, and get their material things and we'll get it all!
But Satan is a liar, and don't forget that in the kingdom that Jesus has prepared for His people, the whole world will be yours. In the eternal state of the new heavens and the new earth, all of the possessions of the universe will be yours. But don't seek to gain it sinfully. If you want happiness, let God give you happiness. If you want comfort, let God make you comfortable. Receive it on God's terms.
Satan will tempt us, first, to distrust the providential care of God. And then he will tempt us to appeal to God's care and grace. Don't tempt God; that's a sin. Thirdly, Satan will tempt you to fulfill your ambition for yourself, his way. However 1 John 2:16 says, "For all that is in the world, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father.” Satan exhausted all his avenues.
Now Satan is not defeated, he just leaves. He comes back later, again and again, and is finally defeated at the cross. The temptation failed and Jesus passed the test. He is a worthy king. Verse 11, “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” What did these angels bring? Food, for one thing. For another thing, worship. You know they spent a lot of time with Him.
They were there at His birth; all during His earthly life they protected Him. They were there at His resurrection. They'll be there at His second coming, and here they are taking care of Him. Now watch for temptation at the high points of your spiritual life. Christ teaches us after the forgiveness of sins to look immediately for the temptation and to pray against them. Know the Word because the Word is the sword. Let us pray.