Was The Temptation of Christ Real? --Part 1

Was The Temptation of Christ Real?
Part 1

W. Fraser Naismith

There are many insinuations made relative to the temptation of our glorious Lord, and two are outstanding. They are

1. If Christ could not sin, then temptation meant nothing to Him.

2. If our Lord had any advantage over us in meeting temptation by reason of His Deity He would not have experienced temptation in such a way as to enable Him to succour us when we are tempted.

With reference to the first observation it seems unnecessary to affirm the impeccability of our Lord, for the Holy Scriptures are replete with such attestations — “He knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21).

“In Him is no sin” (1 Jno. 3:5).

“He did no sin” (1 Peter 1:22).

In view of the advent of Jesus Christ in manhood, the heavenly messenger stated, “That holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Holiness characterized Him in birth, and throughout His pathway of obedience in this scene, and this is emphasized in Christ’s own challenging statements, viz., “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” (John 8:44), and “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me” (Jno. 14:30). He was that holy sacrifice who “through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God” (Heb. 9:14). This sacrifice alone could meet the requirements of a holy God, and satisfy the demands of that righteous throne which sin had insulted; thus enabling God in righteousness and true holiness to justify the sinner who believes in Jesus. God’s character must abide inviolate, for He never compromises it to accommodate anyone: and the sacrifice which He has accepted must be flawless. The years of the public ministry of our Lord attest His holiness. In resurrection and exaltation He is our Great High Priest, with emphasis on “holiness,” for we read, “For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). Holiness and sin are the absolute antithesis of each other. The Holy Scriptures carefully safeguard the character of our Lord giving us overwhelming evidence of His holiness. Being satisfied that He is sinless, let us now proceed to examine the two observations at the introduction of this thesis.

The first statement is “If Christ could not sin, then temptation meant nothing to Him.” We, who are the children of a fallen parentage, do sin. Why do we sin? It is because we have inherited a sinful nature which is ever prone to do that which is contrary to the mind of God. We have already referred to Scriptures which declare His sinlessness. If He could sin, then He did sin: for sin is the product of an evil nature and practising sin is its characteristic, but we have the Holy Spirit’s record that “He did no sin.” We sin because we cannot help sinning. Here is One who is holy in birth, in life, in death, in resurrection and ascension to Glory. There were no evil desires fostered in His bosom for He claimed, “I do always those things that please Him (the Father).” The Holy Scriptures establish the impeccability of our Lord, and satisfied with what God has declared we proceed to examine the first statement.

Did Temptation Mean Nothing to Christ?

Did the temptation mean nothing to our Lord? It is a known fact that the holier a person is the more tremendous temptation appears. To those who live lives which, alas! are indifferent to the claims of Christ, and by no means commend the gospel, then temptation is something to which they readily succumb, for temptation really means nothing to them.

The Person of our Lord Jesus Christ is God and Man in perfect unison. In coming into manhood He brought Godhood and Manhood in one co-mingled essence, manifested without any Adamic or racial constituent whatsoever, so that when men saw Jesus, they saw the Father” (Jno. 14:9). Had He remained in “the form of God” then He could not have been tried and tested at all: the testing came when He became Man: when He accepted the body prepared for Him (Heb. 10:5). While He is Man in absolute perfection there is no constituent in that vast polygonal ensemble of divine glory absent. Soi disant human nature could never provide a suitable body for that Eternal. One, so God did what nature could not do. While bearing in mind that He is a Person with a dual nature — that which is divine, and that which is human — never seek to dissect by separating between His Godhood and His Manhood. Some have gone the length of insinuating, if not blatantly declaring, that Christ was not in the enjoyment of His divine foreknowledgeand power when here on earth, otherwise there would have been no reality about His temptation. Is such an assertion true? Take His power —He is capable of turning stones into bread, as Satan suggested He should do if He were the Son of God. Turning stones into bread would have been as easy for the Son of God as the raining of bread from Heaven to the host of Israel throughout their wilderness journeyings. The turning stones into bread was a divine capability: it was peculiar to Himself, and could never be accomplished by any fallen son of Adam. Had the requisite power not been inherent in the Lord Jesus Christ where would the temptation have come in? Satan is actively engaged today in an all-out endeavour to get men to deny the Deity of our Lord — His Omnipotence, His Omniscience and His Omnipresence.

Our Lord was tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart (Heb. 4:15) (J. N. D’s translation). Let us place all the emphasis possible upon the last two words of this statement, while appreciating the statement as a whole. There is no occasion on record in which the Lord was tempted by sin. He could never be tempted by sin, as we are. If a person is sinless then sin does not have any appeal. When we succumb to temptation it is because we have failed to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:11). Consequently we are informed that “sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).