Temptation After Baptism #3
Baptism Message No. 6
Luke 4:9-12 (parallel Matthew 4:5-7)
Eric H.H. Chang
Montreal, April 15, 1979
Why is the account of the temptation of Jesus so important? What does it have to do with us as Christians, as disciples of the Lord Jesus? In the last two messages, we saw that the temptation account contains many practical lessons which we must learn if we are to survive spiritually and to be overcomers in the spiritual battle.
The first thing we observed in our study is that immediately after the baptism of the Lord Jesus, right after he had been anointed with the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel, he was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness where he faced spiritual attacks from Satan in the form of temptation. In the same way, there will be temptation after baptism for every disciple of Jesus Christ. Have you been baptized recently? Or are you contemplating baptism? You are to watch and pray because temptation that will come upon you. God allows us to be tested, but never more than we can bear, so that we may learn obedience through suffering and grow strong through spiritual conflict.
But do you know what to watch for? What are Satan’s tactics? We have been studying two principles which Satan used when he tempted the Lord Jesus.
In the first temptation, Satan tempts you—a child of God—to put your legitimate physical needs and desires above your spiritual needs.
In the second temptation, Satan tempts you to choose the easier way, to make it easy on yourself.
Third temptation: Serve God with partisan zeal
We proceed to the third principle of temptation. In this temptation, we can imagine Satan saying to the Lord Jesus, “Do you want to serve God? Fine, serve Him. Serve Him to your utmost capacity! Let us now go to Jerusalem where you will stand on the pinnacle of the temple and jump down into the courts below. You are going to come down from heaven, and descend upon the worshipping multitudes. Come down to earth as the Savior of the world. Then your second coming will take place in your first coming! The Son of God descends from heaven right down into the worshipping multitudes. How is that for a plan?”
When Satan starts getting sympathetic and gives advice for carrying out your job, you had better think carefully. What is more, Satan knows the Bible well. He can quote Scripture! And he is going to quote from Psalm 91, a wonderful psalm which is among the finest of the psalms. In that psalm, God is spoken twice as the Highest. You see, Satan is taking Jesus’ answer and turning it back on him, like a good swordsman, like a good fighter, like a good judo expert who knows how to use your strength against you. “You say serve God only? And that He is the highest? Okay, let me quote from Psalm 91.” This is the psalm that begins the powerful words, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High,” with the Hebrew word meaning the highest, the supreme.
Satan continues: “You just said that God, the Supreme One, is the only one we serve. We are all kings, but He is King of kings. Here then is the plan to accomplish your purpose. Didn’t God say that if you jump down, He will give His angels charge over you? You won’t get hurt, so what is your objection.” Notice that Satan quotes Psalm 91 accurately.
The principle of temptation is this: You serve God, but in your own way. That is exactly what Jesus was being tempted to do. Beware of a zeal that seeks to serve God, but not according to God’s way. You may think that nobody would make such an elementary mistake, but in fact, on the contrary, serving God your own way is a mistake that the majority of Christians make. I have heard Christians say, “Can’t I do it this way?” That answer worries me. And what do you mean by, “Can’t I do it this way?”
“I can worship God at home. Why do I have to go to church? Isn’t God everywhere? If He is everywhere, I can worship God at home.” That sounds reasonable. God is everywhere, including your home, so you can worship God at home. Who needs the church? You do it your way: you worship God but in your own way.
Do you not hear this very often: “I can serve God, but I will serve Him in this way”? What matters is not whether you can or cannot serve God in this way. The real question is: Is it God’s way? The issue is not whether you can do it. Of course you can do it. Can Jesus jump off the pinnacle of the temple? Of course he can, for nothing can stop him from doing that. The question is: Is it God’s way of doing it?
Third temptation: Serve God with devotion to only one part of His truth
Satan quotes Scripture, and he quotes it accurately. He quoted from one of the most precious passages in the Bible. But the question is, How do you use that Bible passage? It is not easy, especially for a young Christian, to discern whether you are playing into Satan’s hands. Satan wants you to do your own thing. Serve God but in your own way!
People fall for this trap for the same reason which Jesus points out to the Pharisees: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mt.22:29). Why did you go wrong? Because you didn’t know the Scriptures!
Counter Satan’s trap: know the whole Scripture well
How do you counter this particular strike from the devil when he quotes a Bible verse to you? Have you noticed what every false sect does? Whether it is the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, or Christian Science, they all quote the Bible to you. Their Bible may even be nicer than yours and is certainly nicer than mine. Mine doesn’t have gold edges, but they come to me with a gold-edged Bible which costs twice as much. And oh, they really quote their Bible.
It is important to know the Scriptures. That is why we, in this church, are concerned to train up everyone in the Scriptures. “You err,” Jesus says, “because you do not know the Scriptures, or understand what the Scriptures say.” It worries me when people don’t take Bible study seriously, or don’t even bother to worry about it, because if you don’t feed on the Word of God, you are vulnerable to attack. We live by every word, not just some of the words, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God (Mt.4:4) If you don’t do that, you won’t survive as a Christian. So it is crucial to know the whole Scripture.
One way to deal with this thrust from the devil is this: When someone quotes a Bible verse or passage to you, always think of another verse or passage that may supplement it. In other words, what he quotes is Scripture but is it the whole truth regarding his particular point, or just part of the truth?
Satan’s weapon: partial truth
In many a church, you will hear the same theme being preached again and again. If you think this is a rare error, on the contrary it is the most common of errors. For example, a church that only preaches on being saved has only told you one part of the truth. That is very dangerous. Satan has misguided the church to a great extent along this line.
In Scotland where I studied, there were many Gospel Halls, and they always preached on how to be saved. Sunday after Sunday, it was on the subject of how to be saved. I looked through the congregation and realized that 98% of them are “saved” in the sense of being Christians. I asked myself, “Who are they preaching to?” I didn’t see non-Christians in their midst. Maybe the preacher didn’t know any other message, so he keeps on preaching the same subject all the time. It is certainly wonderful to speak about the blood or the cross of Jesus, but that is not the whole Scripture.
When exposition focuses on Paul and not on Jesus, the result is misinterpretation
Even as a young Christian, I noticed that in the Protestant churches I visited, I heard only preaching on what Paul wrote. It was always Paul this and Paul that: “Today we are going to read Ephesians, next week Colossians.” I asked myself, “When is anyone ever going to explain what Jesus says?” But nobody seems to care about what Jesus said. That made me suspicious. After all, Paul wrote only one third of the New Testament. What about the other two thirds? Nobody seems to care. What did James say? Or Jude? Or the apostle Peter? Who cares? It doesn’t matter. So every Sunday all I heard was Paul this and Paul that.
When you visit a Christian bookstore, just glance along the shelves, and you will see something interesting: the number of books on Paul’s letters is overwhelming. It is Paul, Paul, Paul. But you will have a hard time finding a commentary on Jude. On the letters of Peter? On Jesus’ teaching? Next to nothing! If you are looking for a book on the kingdom of God, you won’t even find one. Absolutely nothing!
I have been looking for books on the kingdom of God because I am doing a new study on this topic, yet I can hardly find anything. In the evangelical world, the only one who has written a proper book on the kingdom of God is G. E. Ladd, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary until his retirement. Apart from him, no evangelical has written anything of exegetical importance on the kingdom of God. The title “kingdom” is often used without an understanding of its meaning. But G.E. Ladd’s book is the only serious study on the kingdom of God among evangelicals, and it was published in the 1950’s. There are a number of books on the kingdom of God, but strangely enough they are all studies by liberal scholars, and only a few are up to date. The most recent one has just been published, but the one before it goes back to the 1970’s. I have searched for everything on the subject by liberals or evangelicals, but there is little to find. But if you want books on Paul, they run into the thousands! Yet you can hardly find anything on what Jesus taught, especially on the kingdom which was his central theme.
This caused me to think that something is not in order. When the central theme of Jesus’ teaching is ignored to extent that you can hardly find a book on it despite its central position in Scripture, that worries me.
The only teaching that is biblically complete is the teaching of the Lord Jesus. This is why I have been stressing it. The teaching of Jesus contains the whole counsel of God. Nothing is missed out. Everything is there in its proper emphasis and proportion. I have studied Jesus’ teaching for many years, and I have discovered a perfect completeness to his teaching, with nothing left out.
The apostle Paul is in fact a commentator on the teachings of the Lord Jesus. Everything Paul writes is a commentary on Jesus’ teaching, and he often assumes that you know what Jesus taught. In other words, when we study Paul, we are only studying the commentary and not the text. But if you don’t understand the text, how can you understand the commentary? The result is lopsidedness and misinterpretation. Paul never wrote anything original. The more I study Paul in relation to Jesus’ teaching, the more I see that I can find all of Paul’s teaching in Jesus’ teaching. But not the reverse: there are things in Jesus’ teaching that you do not necessarily find in Paul.
Satan deceives the church: Harp on justification by faith alone
Don’t get me wrong. I love Paul and his writings. His profound spiritual insight is unmatched. But I suspect this is not the main reason that many Christians study Paul today. The reason is that they want to forever harp on only one aspect of Scriptural truth, an important aspect, a very precious aspect, but nonetheless only one aspect, namely, justification by faith. Again, don’t get me wrong. Justification by faith is as precious to me as to anyone else. But it is important to realize that we must preach the whole counsel of God in which justification by faith is only one part, and not a very big part at that. No wonder the church becomes lopsided. That is Satan’s strategy against the church. It did not work against the Lord Jesus but it worked against the church.
Beware of offence at a verse of Scripture
Beware of anyone who gets offended when you point out another Scripture that seems contrary to the one he pointed out. I will give you an illustration of this. In my student days, there was a meeting in London, and a dear brother was going on about justification by faith alone. Note that the word “alone” is not in Scripture. Be careful of inserting a word that is not in Scripture. “Justification by faith alone” is found nowhere in Scripture. Absolutely nowhere! But this little word “alone” was inserted there, and that disturbed me.
I immediately quoted to him the words of the apostle James: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). And do you know what? He was very annoyed.
I hope that you will love the whole Word of God and never pick and choose what you like. I beg of you to take the Word of God in its entirety. And don’t you dare, for your salvation’s sake, pick and choose what you like as many Christians do! Paul never said “justification by faith alone”. And neither does the rest of the Bible.
But what does Joachim Jeremias do? This German professor, with whom I had communicated at various times because I had questions about some of the things he had said, wrote a book called The Central Message of The New Testament, now out of print. In it he argues that although Paul never used the word “alone,” its insertion is nonetheless justified. Now, if you start reasoning like this, you are in trouble! Never play around with the Word of God like this. Yes, we are justified by faith, but not “by faith alone”! Anyone who is familiar with the Bible would know that we are not justified by faith alone. Paul would have agreed with James 100% when James wrote that we are not justified by faith alone, but by works that comes from faith.
I am citing this incident to show you that if someone quotes the Bible to complement what you quoted to him, and you get annoyed, then you need to be worried. If I quote a verse of Scripture and someone quotes another verse of Scripture to balance the truth, I would be most grateful to him for showing me something I may have overlooked. But if you start getting annoyed, then you are in trouble.
That is where the trouble began with Martin Luther. In criticizing the letter of James, he started, in this sense, the whole liberal tradition in Germany. Are you aware of this? Once you start criticizing the Bible, why shouldn’t anybody else do the same? That is what the Germans have been doing ever since the days of Luther. I don’t mean to be harsh with Luther because I love him very much too. No one who has studied Luther’s life as much I have done would fail to have a deep affection for him. But he was not perfect. None of us is perfect. He made a serious mistake, and that started the whole liberal tradition in Germany. To this day, Germany has been a stronghold of liberalism, more so than any other country.
God’s whole truth liberates
I warn you on this: Be sure that you have the whole Scripture, the whole Word of God. If you emphasize one thing alone, you will be in trouble. And I have sought by God’s grace to teach everything that Jesus taught in every aspect of his ministry, whether it is justification or sanctification or glorification. There are great riches in God’s Word, and God forbid that we should narrow it down to one thing as though it is the only precious truth. There are great riches in God’s Word! The fulness of the riches in God’s truth is liberating.
After I had been a Christian for many years, I began to ask whether the Bible says anything apart from justification because that was all I had ever heard. But as I studied the riches of God’s Word, I began to see how vast are these riches. And what great visions are to be found there! I asked myself, “Why have they left us so impoverished by emphasizing one thing only?” So beware of emphasizing only one aspect because this will mislead you into becoming bitter, partisan, and narrow-minded. One of these days you are going to be like the people the Lord Jesus speaks of in John 16:2, “The hour is coming when the one who kills you will think that he is serving God.”
Emphasis on partial truth causes narrow-minded zeal and persecution
How can anyone possibly be as misguided as the people that Jesus warns us of in John 16:2? How can anyone think he is serving God by killing you? Have they never read the Bible? That is the whole problem. Sooner or later you will encounter people who emphasize only one doctrine, and they become impatient, intolerant, and narrow-minded when they hear another.
When you point out the riches in James to those who emphasize “justification by faith alone,” they will get impatient with you, and accuse you of this and that. In fact, the more they oppose you in one way or another, the more they will think they are doing God’s service. I have seen and experienced the unloveliness of Christian conduct in this sort of people. They don’t care what the whole Scripture says, they just want to hold on to their doctrines. Anyone who departs so much as a fraction from their doctrine will be accused of being heretics.
This sort of thing happens a great deal among the Brethren, I am sorry to say. The Brethren are forever accusing one another of heresy, and there is no end of it. Why? Because the Brethren often lack trained people to teach them the Bible. As a result, they emphasize only one aspect of Bible teaching. Now, I love the Brethren very much, and I say this not out of bitterness or hostility. They are only passing on what they themselves had learned. They cannot teach others what they have not learned. The result is that they become narrow-minded and squabble over the minutest details you wouldn’t think are worth arguing over. They squabble and call each other heretics. Never let this happen to you.
We now see the potency of Satan’s technique in getting us to see just one part of the truth. He can, for example, get you to serve God in your own way. Because you don’t have the whole truth but only part of it, and you insist on that tiny part. This was the tragedy at the Banff conference where some church leaders said to me, “You are not teaching our doctrine.” I made no apology for not teaching their doctrine. Is it a crime not to teach their doctrine? I preach the Word of God, not their doctrine. I am not here to preach Reformed doctrine, which is Calvinism. I am here to preach the Word of God in its entirety and its riches.
Let God’s Word make you uncomfortable
Brothers and sisters, when you study the Word of God, don’t just say, “Ah, this is the truth. I have just discovered it!” Ask what is the other side of your discovery. Study especially those Scriptures that disturb you and make you uncomfortable. I make that my principle. I don’t want to study only those Scriptures that comfort me, I want to study in particular those which make me uncomfortable, which disturb me, which I don’t seem to understand, in order to see something I may have missed. I want to be sure that I have not missed anything of God’s Word because we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Always make it a principle never to use the Bible merely for gaining comfort. Let it make you uncomfortable. Avoid the easy road, and you won’t go wrong.
Many Christians have fallen into this error. What do you constantly hear in a Pentecostal church? Tongues, tongues, and tongues. You begin to wonder if the Bible has anything other than tongues. They somehow find tongues everywhere in the Bible. There is certainly tongues in the Bible. It is a wonderful truth, but tongues is a very small part of the Bible. Yet you would never know that by visiting a Pentecostal church. When you visit a church, you will find an emphasis that is peculiar to that church, and which obliterates every other teaching.
Return to Jesus’ teaching: God’s kingdom and kingship
Jesus stuck to one thing: God’s kingdom and God’s rule. I want to emphasize what he emphasized. I don’t want to emphasize what he did not emphasize. He did not emphasize tongues, so I am not going to emphasize tongues. I accept tongues but I don’t emphasize it. Jesus also taught justification. It was not central to his preaching but it is an important element. Justification in Jesus’ teaching is simply the path to the kingdom of God. To Jesus, the kingdom is the central issue. Yet you can hardly find a book on the kingdom today. Strange! How Satan has gained his way!
I intend to put that right if God enables me to. It is precisely for this reason that I keep on speaking about God’s kingship, God’s lordship over everyone. But when you preach justification, man becomes central. This is exactly what Satan wants you to do: to think that God is there to save you, to do this and that for you, to cleanse you, to sanctify you, to glorify you. He is there to do everything for you. Man becomes the center when justification becomes the central doctrine. But when you stress the kingship of God, God becomes the center. Yet we have moved away from the true center, turning the gospel upside down, and heading for disaster. We must return to what Jesus emphasized: God’s kingdom, God’s kingship.
Jesus’ replies from Deuteronomy all stress God as King
Finally, have you noticed that Jesus’ replies to Satan all come from one book: Deuteronomy? Interestingly, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy even when Satan quotes from the Psalms. That intrigued me. Why did he answer Satan with Deuteronomy? When I studied this book, I began to understand why.
The central characteristic of the book of Deuteronomy is its stress on the kingship of God, a theme which perfectly matches the emphasis of Jesus’ whole teaching: the kingdom of God, the kingship of God. Deuteronomy, an Old Testament book, likewise stresses particularly the kingship of God. Satan tried to tempt Jesus to do his own thing and go his own way, but Jesus’ constant reply was “God is King.”
Let me illustrate this by means of statistics. The Hebrew word mitzvah, “commandment,” occurs 43 times in Deuteronomy. By comparison, in the other four books of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), the word mitzvah (“commandment”) occurs once in Genesis, 4 times in Exodus, 10 times in Leviticus, and 5 times in Numbers—but 43 times in Deuteronomy. If you include other words related to mitzvah which deal with commandment and statute, you will find the same pattern, that those words predominate in Deuteronomy. No other book in the Old Testament that has this word “commandment” anywhere as frequently as in Deuteronomy.
The book of Deuteronomy stresses God’s law, God’s nomos. The word “Deuteronomy” (deuteros nomos) itself means a copy of God’s law, understood as an earthly copy of God’s heavenly law. It is a second declaration (deuteros means “second”), a repetition on earth of God’s law in heaven. It is the book of law par excellence. It is precisely this book which emphasizes God as King, the One who gives His law to His people. His people are subject to His law, and it is remarkable that the Lord Jesus constantly quotes from this book.
There is nothing accidental about Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy. When he was being tempted by Satan, he knew which was the right place to quote from as a weapon against the enemy.
Do you delight in God’s law, His life-giving Word?
The Lord Jesus delights in God’s law, as does the Psalmist. The Psalmist says, “O Yahweh, I delight in your law” (Psalm 119:174). Anyone who loves God will love His law. Beware of the Christian who does not like the law of God, for he just wants to get saved. He wants God to do things for him, but he doesn’t want to do anything for God and to be under God’s law. If that is your thinking, you need to beware, for you are on the wrong track. But a true Christian will love God’s law. You see this in so many verses in the Old Testament.
In Psalm 119:47, the Psalmist delights in God’s law with his whole heart: “I delight myself in Your commandments, which I love.” In Psalm 119:127, he says, “I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, more than fine gold.”
Can you echo with that? If you truly love God’s Word and God’s law, and if you live by everything that proceeds out of His mouth, then Satan will never be able to get you down. You cannot be brought down.
In summary, in our three messages on temptation after baptism, we have covered three principles of temptation that Satan used against the Lord Jesus.
Firstly, we have seen that Satan tempts us by appealing to our legitimate physical needs and desires, so that we may put them above our spiritual needs.
Secondly, Satan will tempt you, by various means, to take the easier road, and to make it easy on yourself.
Thirdly, if we stand firm in total commitment to God, Satan the good swordsman will try to get us to devote ourselves to one part of God’s truth, and to serve Him zealously in our own way. This partisan zeal is most terrifying. Serving God with devotion to only one part of His truth has resulted in some of the most dreadful things in the history of the church.
Read about the Inquisition one day. It will make you weep to see how Christians tortured Christians to death in God’s name. In God’s name! They will kill you and think that they are doing God’s service (John 16:2). This partisan zeal stems from a misguided idea from Satan: “By all means serve God, but do it in your own narrow way.” If you go along that road, one day you will be killing people in God’s name. That is what Satan wants. I dread to think of the future of the church, when some of us may be killed not by non-Christians but by Christians.
Remember the Inquisition in which Christians put Christians to death in God’s name. In Calvin’s Geneva, even the Protestants burned people to death! Such misguidedness makes me sick in the heart, for they killed people thinking that they were doing God’s service! The Crusaders killed Muslims in God’s name too. God help us! How Satan has misguided the church!
Study and know the whole Word of God
So I plead with you, understand the whole Word of God, study the whole Word of God, especially those parts which make you uncomfortable and don’t agree with your theology. Don’t hide behind your theology! As I said, I love to look at those verses which I seem to disagree with. I have had to change my thinking again and again when I study the Word of God. I would prize one particular doctrine only to find that the Word of God blows it to pieces. And I would say, “Okay, God, if that is how it is, then out goes my doctrine. You tell me what You want me to believe.” I don’t want to believe anything except what the Word of God says. I want to know the whole truth, not some part of it. Make this your aim and you will not go wrong. Then you will find that God is truly faithful.
Conviction not comfort
One closing point: Have you noticed the following words that Satan quotes to the Lord Jesus?
“He will give His angels charge of you, to guard you. And on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Luke 4:10-11)
What comforting words! But beware of comforting messages, brothers and sisters. When a message makes you uncomfortable, or convicts you, or disturbs you, thank God for it. Woe to those who go to church just to seek comfort! Then religion truly becomes an opiate. We do not need any more opiate, we already have enough of it. We don’t need more drugs or LSD, and we don’t want to make the Bible an opiate. People who attend church just to seek comfort are going to be very vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.
But we give thanks for those who go to church and are willing to come out disturbed after the Word of God has cut into their hearts, leaving them under the conviction of sin and judgment.
I don’t comfort people much, do I? My record on comforting people is not very good. I comfort people on the personal level, but not in preaching. I don’t make it my business to comfort people because what the church needs today is not comfort but conviction. But Satan is always there to make up for this lack of comforting, saying, “He will give His angels charge over you.” When Satan starts getting all sympathetic, start worrying.
Satan says once saved always saved
Do you understand what Satan is really saying? Do you see the logic behind his quotation from Psalm 91:11-12? He is quoting out of context to extract the “once saved, always saved” doctrine out of the Old Testament! He is saying, “No matter what you do, no matter what kind of Christian you are, you will be all right. If God doesn’t tell you to jump off the pinnacle of the temple but you jump off anyway, God is committed to seeing that no harm will come to you.” Do you see the reasoning? Have you ever noticed where the “once saved, always saved” doctrine comes from? It is not in the Bible! Do you see how dangerous this teaching is? It tells you that no matter what you do, God will bear you up with His hands and with the care of His angels. No matter what you do, God is committed to safeguarding you to the end. It amazes me that people today have so little discernment that they cannot see through the wiles of the devil! This doctrine does not come from God.
God’s promises are for those who make Him the Most High
On the contrary, the words in Psalm 91 are addressed to those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High. The promise of God’s care is given to those who live in utter obedience to God, and who recognize Him as the Most High. But not if He is not the Most High in your life, or if Jesus is not Lord in your life, or if you do not dwell in the presence of the Most High. The moment you jump off pinnacles to test certain religious doctrines, you simply will not be borne up by any angel, but will be dashed to the ground. Make no mistake about it! It is only if you walk in the presence of the Most High and fellowship with Him as the Most High in your life, that you can be sure that if you should ever trip over a stone or stumble over a cliff, He will bear you up, for you are walking in His way, not yours! He will bear you up because you live in total devotion to Him, not because you are doing your own thing.
In other words, you can be fully secure about your salvation when you walk in total obedience to God. I have great assurance of salvation. I live in no fear or dread. It is because, by God’s grace, I have always wanted God to be the Most High in my life. I will dwell in His presence. But that assurance is not for those who do not acknowledge Him as King.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church