A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (8)

0 Dispensationalism

 CHAPTER II (CONTINUE)

THE INAUGURAL PERIOD (CONTINUE)

2. The Temptation of Jesus

(References: Matt. 4:1-11; Mk. 1:12,13; Lk. 4:1-13)

A. The Temptation Spirit Directed. All three Evangelists emphasize this fact. Matthew states He was led of the Spirit; Mark that the Spirit driveth Him forth; and Luke, He, full of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit. This may at first seem very strange that the Holy Spirit, who is one of the Persons of the Godhead, should fill and lead the Son, another Person of the Godhead. However, we must not lose sight of the humanity of Christ in considering this problem. Christ as a man, grew in wisdom and knowledge; as a man He hungered and thirsted. And it was as a Man He was filled with the Spirit and was led by the Spirit.

B. Circumstances Surrounding the Temptation. He was led into the wilderness of Judea. His baptism had taken place at the Jordan River somewhere between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. John 1:28 states that these things were done at Bethabara, east of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The location of Bethabara is uncertain. Some place it near the Dead Sea and others a few miles south of the Sea of Galilee. The region around the Dead Sea is a wilderness indeed, as anyone can testify who has visited the region. Mark adds the detail that He was with the wild beasts and the angels ministered unto Him. The first Adam was tempted in a beautiful garden filled with food: Jesus in a barren wilderness without food.

C. The Length of the Temptation. We know He was in the wilderness for forty days and that He ate nothing during that time. It is not clear whether Satan came with his temptations during the forty days, or at the end of the period. It would appear that the temptation came at the end of the forty days when Jesus hungered. Humanly speaking, a fast of more than forty days would probably prove fatal. When Mark tells us that angels came and ministered to Him, this was probably after Satan’s temptation, since Mark does not give any details of the temptations.

D. The Order of the Temptations. Matthew gives the following order of the temptations: 1. Command the stones to become bread. 2. Jump from the pinnacle of the Temple. 3. Worship Satan and receive all the kingdoms of the earth. Luke, on the other hand, gives this order: 1. Command the stones to become bread. 2. Worship Satan and receive all the kingdoms of the earth. 3. Jump from the pinnacle of the Temple. This difference in order might not even be noticed by the average reader, but for some it presents a real problem. Some would say that either Matthew or Luke was mistaken and therefore there is an error in the Bible. Others believe there was a divine design in changing the order. Williams, for example, states:

The order of the temptations here (in Matthew} is historical; in Luke it is dispensational. There is therefore an inner harmony, for Matthew presents Him as the Messiah coming to His temple, and then as the Son of man reigning over the earth. But the Spirit in Luke places His relation to the earth in the foreground, and His connection with Israel in the background.

We may not be able to explain to the satisfaction of all the difference in the order, but we believe if all of the surrounding facts were known there would be no contradiction or mistake. If Matthew or Luke could be in error here, every writer of the Bible could be in error any place and we could have no assurance that anything in the Bible is true.

E. The Nature of the Temptation. The question arises, was the purpose of the temptation to see if Jesus would sin, or to prove that He could not sin? To say yes to the first proposition is to say that Jesus was capable of sinning. Those who hold this view claim that the temptation would have been a farce if Jesus was incapable of sinning. We have spoken before of the many mysteries surrounding the nature of the God-man, or more correctly of the two natures of the one Person. Jesus Christ is not two persons. He was a person before His incarnation and He was one and the same person after His incarnation. To say that it was possible for Jesus to sin is to say it was possible for the Son of God to sin. But it is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18). Therefore we conclude that the purpose of the temptation was to prove that Jesus Christ was sinless and therefore able to become the Savior of sinners.

When a manufacturer puts his product to a public test, he does not do so to see if it will break down, but to prove that it will not. As noted earlier, the first man was tested in innocency. His test was in a beautiful garden where God had provided for his every need. There was just one restriction. Surely no more ideal a situation could be conceived to make it easy for man to pass the test. But Jesus was placed in a desert wilderness where there was no food, surrounded by wild beasts. After forty days His body was weakened, His body craved food. He had the power to create food to satisfy His appetite. Under other circumstances there would have been nothing wrong in turning the stones into bread, even as on two occasions He multiplied the loaves and fishes. But in this circumstance He would have violated God’s will in yielding to Satan’s temptation to satisfy His own appetite. If Jesus could pass the test under such adverse conditions, surely He proved His absolute holiness.

If Jesus could not sin, can we really call this a temptation? The word peirazo, according to Thayer’s Lexicon means: “to try whether a thing can be done, to try, make trial of, ‘test, to test one maliciously, to try or test one’s faith.” If students are given a test and one student knows perfectly all of the answers, it is still a test. Jesus was tested in all points like as we are, yet apart from sin (Heb. 4:15).

The practical result of His temptation, aside from proving Him fit for the office of Savior, was to fit Him to become a faithful and merciful High priest who could be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Since He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18).

The Scripture is the best shield from temptation. On all three occasions Christ responded, “It is written.” Someone has said of the Bible: “This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book.”

Note that the first temptation was quite subtle: you are hungry. You may even die. You have the power, why don’t you turn the stones into bread and save yourself?. But Christ had come to minister to others, not to minister to Himself. He never used His divine power for selfish purposes. He could have called for twelve legions of angels when He hung on the cross, but He didn’t. To cast Himself off the pinnacle of the temple and then call upon the angels to catch Him was not quite so subtle. It would have involved a public display and would have brought the angels in subjection to Satan’s will.

The third temptation abandoned all disguise and called for Jesus to fall down and worship Satan. Satan claimed to own all the kingdoms of the world, and Christ did not dispute this fact. Would it not be much easier to become King over all these nations simply by giving allegiance to Satan, rather than follow the Father’s will which involved the suffering of the Cross? How many a man has succumbed to Satan’s temptation for worldly power and fame and has ended up in his trap. Thank God, the Lord Jesus proved Himself true to the Father’s will and went all the way to the Cross and will someday return to take His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Many Christians either do not know or do not believe that Jesus Christ will actually come back to earth to reign as King over the nations of the earth, but Satan knew it. There would have been no basis for a temptation had it not been in the purpose of God for Christ to so reign.

3. John’s Testimony of Jesus

(References: Matt. 3:11,12; Mk. 1:7,8; Lk. 3: 16,17; John 1:15-34)

A. John’s Witness to Christ’s Pre-existence. “John bare witness of him, and cried saying, This was he of whom I spake, he that cometh after me is preferred before me, for he was before me” (John 1: 15). John was born six months before Jesus was, but Jesus was before John. John must have known of the Incarnation and that Jesus did not come into being at His birth but existed as a person before His birth.

B. John’s Witness to Christ’s Pre-eminence. “He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear” (Matt. 3:11). John was the greatest of the prophets, but Jesus was far more worthy. John lowers himself as far as possible by saying that, lower than the most menial servant in comparison, he was not even worthy to carry Jesus’ shoes or to fasten them on His feet.

C. The Apostle John’s Witness. The Apostle John often interrupts the words of Jesus by his own comments, and it is sometimes difficult to know whether it is John’s words or the words in this case of John the Baptist. We believe John the Apostle is speaking in John 1:16-18. John wrote these words some 25 years after Paul’s death. He tells us that we have received of His fulness, and grace for grace, or grace upon grace (cf. the manifold grace of God, 1 Pet. 4:10). The law was given by Moses and Christ lived under the law, but He brought the law to an end in His death, so now we read, “But grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” These words must have been said after Jesus’ death.

D. John the Baptist’s Witness About Himself. The Jews sent priests and Levites to John to ask: “‘Who art thou?” He answered: “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him further, “Art thou Elias? Art thou that prophet?” and he answered, “No, I am not.” Again they asked, “Who art thou, that we may give answer to those who sent us?” He then answered: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” (cf. Isa. 40:3).

It may seem strange that John would deny being Elijah, since Christ said that he would have been Elijah had Israel received Him. God had promised in Mal. 4:5, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” John did come in the spirit of Elijah as we have seen. The Jews apparently were looking for Elijah to come back down from heaven, even as he had been taken up into heaven in a whirlwind many years before from almost the same area of the wilderness (2 Kings 2:1-11).

We read that John was in the desert until the day of his showing unto Israel (Lk.1:80). He was thus isolated from society and was a stranger to the religious leaders. When these leaders began to hear reports about John and how his ministry was similar to that of Elijah, they sent messengers to find out who he was. His sudden appearance made it seem that he had come down from heaven. Could this be the very same Elijah who had been taken to heaven without dying? If this was their question, we can understand why John answered, “No, I am not.”

E. John’s Recognition of Jesus as the Lamb of God. The next day after the Jews had questioned him John saw Jesus coming unto him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not, but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water” (John 1:29-31). Twice in this context John says that he did not know Jesus before this incident took place. This could surely not mean that he had never met Jesus, for he was a close relative and no doubt he had learned as a child the strange events which surrounded both his birth and that of Jesus.

Since John had lived all his adult life in the desert it is possible that he did not recognize Jesus when he first saw Him. Or as some think, he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah until after His baptism when he saw the Spirit of God descending upon Him. It is evident that John must have had communion with God and that God had spoken directly to him, for in vs. 33 he says: “he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” Thus John could have been acquainted with Jesus but he did not know Him as the Messiah until God revealed it to him.

The name Jesus means Savior, and the fact that He would save His people from their sins had been made known even before His birth. Just how Jesus would save His people from their sins had not been dearly revealed, but John here introduces Him as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Although not clearly stated, the Lamb suggests sacrifice., It is not until we come into the Pauline epistles that we find the full exposition of the meaning of the sacrificial death. We no doubt have an intimation of it here, however.

In this passage John also gives us another reason for his practice of water baptism. It was not only a baptism of repentence for the remission of sins, but it was for the purpose of introducing Jesus to Israel as their Messiah. In practicing water baptism Christians should ask whether or not they are carrying out this two-fold purpose: receiving remission of sins and introducing Jesus to Israel as Messiah.

John concludes his witness to Jesus in this section: “And I saw, bare record that this is the Son of God.” Thus, John witnesses to fact that Jesus Pre-existed, that He is Preeminent, that He is the Lamb of God, that He is the Son of God. And whether it was the Apostle or the Baptist who said it, Grace and truth, in contrast to the came by this Jesus Christ.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)