The Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus answered, “It is written…” (Luke 4:4, 8 NIV)

Many have written about temptation in general and this temptation of the Lord Jesus by Satan specifically. The typical approach is either that it is an important part of the doctrines of sin and temptation, or that we can learn “practical lessons” about how to overcome temptation. Usually, Christians are drawn to the second approach, because too often Christianity is reduced to a “do it yourself” (DIY) method that concentrates on “practical” 3 to 12 step plans that usually neglect the Triune God. But that is a topic for another time. Yet, I purposefully mentioned this matter, because few are aware of how their reading, interpretation, and ideas of the nature of the Christian life are skewed by a demand for what is “practical”, so that they fail to see God’s glory in Christ. Their approach to the word becomes human-centered rather than Christ-focused.

In this article, I want to present what is far less considered; that is, the importance of this section to Biblical theology, which wants to know and to tell the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. When we know this, then the passage can enrich our systematic and practical theologies.

  • Jesus came as God’s new man, the last Adam. The first Adam yielded to the temptation by the devil against the word of God. Adam the first fell in the Garden of Eden, where he was richly provided for by the Lord. He had all the food he could eat in the lush vegetation of the Garden nearby him. However, the first Adam disobeyed God, and we all sinned in him, and the reign of death began (Romans 5:12-14). Jesus Christ, the last Adam, went into the wilderness to do the will of God. Adam was told not to eat the fruit of one tree; Jesus was led by the Spirit not to eat any food, while in the desert. He would have to conquer a temptation about food to show that he was the obedient Son who could provide salvation to his people (Hebrews 5:8-9). That obedience required living according to the word of God.
  • Jesus came as the new Israel, the Servant of the Lord. God had brought Israel out of Egypt to serve his holy will to bring blessing to the nations. However, Israel was quickly side-tracked. Though God provided them with food every week, in the wilderness they complained against the Lord and his rich provision. For this reason, Jesus went into the wilderness where he lived in submission to God’s directives, without food. In the wilderness, Israel fell into idolatry (Psalm 106:19-22, 28-29). In the desert, Jesus refused to worship anyone but God alone. Israel forgot God’s miracles for their benefit. Christ did not put God to the test as they did (Psalm 78:40-41). (You can study this out more, by carefully reading Psalms 78 and 106, as you meditate on this passage from Luke.)
  • Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom, which involves the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28). Therefore, when the evil one tried to mislead him with the kingdoms of the world, he had no interest. His mission was to proclaim God’s kingdom, to tell people how to enter God’s kingdom, to describe the people in God’s kingdom, and to show the superiority of God’s kingdom to anything on earth (Matthew 13:44-46). He could hear the temptation about the kingdoms of the world and their authority and splendor and see all that as an enticement away from God and what is best… to idolatry. The new age of the Spirit, the kingdom of God, and the new covenant are of far greater value than any trifles of worldly authority and splendor. Jesus made the choice for the glory of God’s heaven, and so was prepared to preach the kingdom of God to others. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17 NIV). To follow Jesus requires repentance from the pursuit of worldly splendor, in order to live for the glory of God.

So then, let’s us understand that this account of Jesus overcoming temptation is more than a manual on resisting temptation. It shows his glory as God’s obedient, trusting new man, servant, and preacher of the kingdom. And as we behold his glory, we reflect it and are transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.

Grace and peace, David

Something Special Will Happen!

dscn3808Luke 1:26-28

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you” (HCSB).

Luke wrote “an orderly account” (Luke 1:3) about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The next scene in the Third Gospel opens with a connecting phrase: “In the sixth month….” The time refers to Elizabeth’s pregnancy. The forerunner of the Messiah was on his way. Next, wrote about the first step in the coming of Messiah the Lord himself. It started with a private conversation between Gabriel, God’s messenger, and a young woman named Mary.

Luke tells us a couple of facts about Mary. First, Mary was a virgin. She was sexually inexperienced and hardly a candidate for an angel to tell her that she was going to have a baby. This has always been a stumbling-block to antisupernaturalists, but their world and life view is indefensible, unable to account for many facts of human experience. However, even to those who believe in God and supernatural power, the announcement of a virgin birth is unique. From what we know of the culture of Mary’s time, she was probably about twelve to fifteen years old. So then, a very young woman was about to hear the greatest announcement in history in a private encounter with the angel of the Lord.

Second, Mary lived in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. Nazareth is about seventy miles northeast of Jerusalem, and it is surrounded on all sides by hills, except on its southern side. The village was unremarkable; no notable events occurred there up to Mary’s time. Since the prophet Micah had announced that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), there was nothing in Mary’s situation to prepare her for Gabriel’s message. She was simply an ordinary teenage girl.

Third, Mary was legally engaged to Joseph, one of many descendants of King David. We later find out that he was a carpenter. The line of David, almost six hundred years after the Babylonian Captivity of Israel, had been reduced to obscurity and poverty. One of my ancestors was one of the founders of what is now the University of Pittsburgh, about two hundred years ago. They have never called me to invite me to a special event. I never expect them to. The point is that after six hundred years, though Joseph was in David’s royal line, he and Mary were not expecting the kingdom to come to their family. They were poor peasants. They would live and die in obscurity, and maybe someday God might do something with David’s house.

However, one day God stepped into Mary’s life! God’s messenger angel went to Mary with a great announcement. Listen to his opening words, “Rejoice, favored woman!” In Luke’s Gospel, the message begins with the typical ancient Greek greeting, “Rejoice!” Gabriel urges her to be glad. True happiness was on the horizon. The joyful God had a happy task for her. We should not pass by this word. Joy is one of the great words and ideas of the new covenant age. God’s people are to be joyful people (Philippians 4:4). Joy is our portion, because in Jesus the Messiah, we are right with God (Romans 5:1-11). In Mary’s Son, the kingdom of God was about to happen, and his kingdom is a kingdom of joy! For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17 HCSB, my emphasis).

In his opening words, Gabriel gave Mary a reason to rejoice. She is a “favored woman”. Mary had received favor with God. In what way? The Lord was “with her”. Since Mary clearly knew God’s word (see her words of praise, Luke 1:46-55), these words would resonate in her. When people were told that the Lord was with them, it was a statement that something special would happen to or through them. The Lord was with Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and Gideon. All of them were great patriarchs and leaders of God’s people. The last two men were great warriors. But now, God spoke these words of promise and assurance to a woman. The Lord would be with her in a more wonderful way. She would become the mother of Immanuel, “God with us”. Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23 HCSB).

Grace and peace, David

Paradise Regained: Now and Next

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1 Corinthians 15:20-28

When Jesus came, he announced that the kingdom of God, God’s saving reign, had arrived (Mark 1:15). As we saw in our last article on Paradise Regained, the power of this kingdom is connected with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead. His resurrection changes everything! What we should think on now is that God’s kingdom is presently active (15:25). “For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet” (cf. Psalm 110:1).

Christ is presently reigning. His reign began through the events of his resurrection and ascension. Listen to Peter’s confident words on Pentecost (Acts 2:29-36 ESV): “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (my emphasis).

Christ’s reign involves an increasing spread of his authority (Isaiah 9:6-7; 42:1-9; 49:5-7; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 1:8). People from across the globe will come under his gracious authority (Revelation 5:9-10). Jesus Christ will reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet. The enemies include the operation of sin or rebellion against God, and the ruin of creation operating through sin, but especially the force of death. Having secured eternal redemption, Jesus the Messiah rules to apply what he has purchased. Notice that Christ is actively putting his enemies under his feet. He does this through the Spirit, who takes the truth that is in Jesus and makes a new humanity under his rule (Ephesians 4:20-5:7).

We have seen the “now”, but we also need to pay careful attention to the “next”. God’s kingdom will surely triumph in this world (15:26-28). All the words of Jesus proclaim this confident expectation. If you’re not sure, I challenge you to read the Four Gospels carefully.

When Paradise was lost when man sinned, sin began to reign in death (cf. Romans 5:12-14, 21). Because of human sin, death has been a great enemy, destroying billions of human lives. Our world is one vast cemetery; a grim memorial park to this terrible foe. Through his crucifixion, our Lord dealt with the problem of sin, and in his resurrection, he dealt with the evil of death. When people come to know the Lord by grace through faith, they enter into the victory of Jesus over sin and death. As Paul says in verse 26, “The last enemy, death, is being destroyed.” Christ’s reign continues until God’s purpose in his Son is fulfilled (15:27-28). God’s plan is to show his great glory in the exaltation of Jesus, the Son of God (cf. Philippians 2:9-11). Obviously, God the Father who designed the plan and sent his Son is not subject to him. But the Son’s great desire is to bring everything subject to God, and his reign pursues that purpose. The final destiny is God glorified and his people enjoying God’s glory forever with him. This is the hope (confident expectation) that all believers share in. In the trials and struggles of life, we can look forward boldly and anticipate the time when Christ’s kingdom is fully extended over a new earth, where we will be forever with God.

Grace and peace, David

Paradise Regained: Starting at the Resurrection

IMG_06101 Corinthians 15:20-28

In the beginning the Holy God created a perfect world and a people made in his image, sinless and able to glorify God by enjoying him always. The Holy God used to communicate with his people and they with him in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Filled with joy, right with God, and in perfect fellowship with one another, it was truly Paradise. But the darkest day in human history happened early. Adam rebelled against God, and his transgression brought God’s curse and the resultant ruin that our race still bitterly experiences. Paradise had been lost. Now death, disease, discord, despair, and disaster became part of human life.

However, the loss of Paradise was not humanity’s only problem, as tragic and terrible as that was. Rejecting God’s rule, people became the followers of a new leader, willingly following the evil one in a sinful way of life (Ephesians 2:1-3). Rightly, the Holy God responded to mankind in holy wrath (Romans 1:18-32). But mankind responded, not in repentance, but by striving to build up a rebellion, a kingdom or reign of darkness, against God’s kingdom or reign (Psalm 2:1-3). Now as far as overthrowing God’s reign or rule, this kingdom of darkness is hopeless and totally insignificant in power.  In fact, when he views this rebellion, the Lord laughs (Psalm 2:4). He is God, the Creator, the Almighty, the Lord of the armies of heaven, and Sovereign over all. Let us worship God, as we consider his eternal reign (Psalm 47:2; 103:19; 145:11-13).

How did God respond to human rebellion? Before we can understand his response, we must understand who the Lord is and his eternal purpose. In everything God works to lift up the glory or shining significance of his name. He wants to display all that he is, and to have a people who will sense and share his glory. Like an overflowing fountain, he chooses to display his love, patience, goodness, kindness, mercy, peace, and joy. And he freely chooses to share what he is with a totally undeserving people, by his sovereign grace. He shows himself as all that we need that our comfort and joy might be only in him (Isaiah 40:1; cf. 51:12). We lost Paradise, but God’s story, the story of the Bible, is how God decided to regain Paradise for his chosen people, all to the glory of God’s name. God tells us he does this by setting up another kingdom in humanity—the kingdom of God through his Son. Let us listen to the story of his glory.

God’s kingdom involves the salvation (resurrection) of his people (15:20-24). The central idea of God’s reign is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In contrast to the basic truth of the gospel (15:3-8), some people connected with the Corinthian believers had been denying that there was a physical resurrection (15:12). Paul first responds that such denials are against the truth of Christ’s resurrection and our hope in Christ (15:13-19). Now he proceeds to demonstrate that Christ’s resurrection has made necessary everything included in God’s reign or kingdom, including the resurrection of all Christ’s people. So Paul sets forth the centrality of Christ’s resurrection. He calls Christ “the firstfruits of those who sleep” (those believers who have died, cf. 15:18). The idea is that Christ is the first one in the resurrection to eternal life, and his resurrection guarantees the resurrection of his people (cf. 16: 15; cf. 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14). In other words, the resurrected Christ is God’s pledge that many others will be resurrected also. In Christ’s resurrection, there is the regaining of Paradise, but it is a regaining with power (cf. Romans 1:4; cf. Ephesians 1:18-21).

Next, Paul steps back a bit and places the event of Christ’s resurrection into the purpose of God in history. Since the losing of Paradise happened through a man, so also through a man Paradise must be regained. The Greek text reads simply: “For since through a man, death, also through a man [the] resurrection from [the] dead” (15:21). In God’s infinite wisdom, he chose to display his glory through a man to counter the effects on mankind’s rebellion against God. The glory of God would shine forth brilliantly through his Son taking on human flesh (Philippians 2:6-8), and through his true humanity bring about his purpose. God acts to build a new humanity through Christ’s resurrection. Again, the Greek text simply says: “For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). Paul uses the “Two Adams” to set forth the truth of the relationship between, on the one hand, Adam and his fallen, sinful, and cursed humanity, and, on the other hand, Christ and his new, justified and glorified humanity. Anyone in Adam only has death; Paradise is lost. But everyone in Christ certainly shares in life; Paradise is regained. “Those who are ‘in Christ,’ those who have entered the new humanity through grace by means of his death and resurrection, will just as certainly ‘be made alive’; they will be raised from the dead into the shared life of the risen One” (Fee, p. 751, his emphasis).

Then Paul must answer a question: “If those who are in Christ share in his resurrection, then why do his people die? Why aren’t we living in the fullness of his resurrection now?” So he answers, “But each in his/its own order: [the] firstfruits, Christ; then at his Coming, those who belong to Christ; then the goal: when he hands over the kingdom/reign to God the Father, when he brings to an end/abolishes all rule and all authority and power.” God is working out a plan. In the first order is the resurrection of Christ. When he raised Christ from the dead, God the Father set in motion a process to bring about his goal. That goal is end of all opposition to his reign and the display of the full glory of his reign. In the second order is the resurrection of those who belong to Christ. This explains why Christians die. Though resurrection power is already at work in us, it is not yet God’s appointed time for the full expression of the second order. As we have been redeemed spiritually, so will our bodies will be redeemed, and we will enter glorious freedom (Romans 8:18-25). Paradise will be regained, but it is a better Paradise of glory.

Those who follow Christ must live with a “resurrection outlook”.  We must be thankful for the now of Christ’s resurrection and assured of what will happen when Jesus returns and we are resurrected. Is the confident expectation of resurrection glory part of your world and life view? Make it part of your daily thoughts.

Grace and peace, David

The Messiah and the Holy Spirit

The Bible tells us about God, the Maker, Preserver, and Ruler of everything else. It is God telling who he is, what he likPicture1es, and what he has done, is doing, and will surely do. The infinite God tells us that he is a Three Person Being: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is very hard for us to understand, yet it answers many questions in the story God tells in the Bible. In Isaiah 42:1 we hear God the Father speaking of the One that he calls his “Servant” and which the New Testament Scriptures tell us is his one and only Son. And we hear him talking of Another, whom he calls “my Spirit”, whom he will put on his Servant. So then, in this text we encounter the Three Persons of the Trinity.

But more than that, God the Father tells us through Isaiah the prophet what his Son and Servant, the Messiah, would do. Before he announces the main points of the plan, he exalts the Servant as the one he upholds, his chosen one and the one in whom he delights, and the One on whom he puts his Spirit. We looked at the first three points in a previous post on Isaiah, and now we probe into this fourth point. It is not something in God’s story that we ought to rush past or to forget, because it helps us understand the good news better, as well as the Christian way of life.

Christ, the Servant of God, would have the Spirit as his “inseparable companion”. Consider three stages of the Spirit’s work in the life of Jesus the Messiah.

The Spirit was there at his virgin birth and growth. The Holy Spirit came upon her and his power overshadowed her (Luke 1:35). Though the Spirit enabled many barren women in Old Testament times to conceive and bear children, in making true humanity for the Son of God he works through a virgin woman. This is the first work in the new creation. The first Adam was made from the dust of the ground, but the last Adam comes from the Spirit through a virgin, so that he can be holy, without personal sin, guilt, and condemnation. Consider what John said of Jesus (John 3:31). Since Jesus was truly human, he went through the normal process of human development. In all this the Holy Spirit rested upon him (Isaiah 11:2; Luke 2:40, 52).

The Spirit was with him at his baptism, temptation, and ministry. The Holy Spirit came down from heaven like a dove and remained on Jesus at his baptism. Three lines of OT teaching converge in this coming of the Spirit on him. As the Spirit hovered over the waters of the old creation (Genesis 1:2), so he comes down as Jesus was in the water. Second, as the dove returns with a symbol of new life to Noah (Genesis 8:11), so he points to Jesus as the source of new life. Third, a dove was a sin offering for the poor (Leviticus 5:7), so Jesus would be the sin offering for the poor. This descent by the Spirit also testified that Jesus was the Son of God (Luke 3:22; John 1:32-34). Immediately after his baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to do spiritual battle against the devil (Luke 4:1). When Jesus had defeated Satan, he went from place to place, preaching the good news and doing many miraculous signs by the power of the Spirit of the Lord (Matthew 12:28). All this was evidence that God’s kingdom (saving reign) had come and that the promised time, the year of the Lord’s favor had arrived (Luke 4:19-21). So then, the Lord’s Servant Jesus (Acts 3:13) served God with the joy of the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21).

The Spirit acted powerfully at his death, resurrection, and ascension. When our great high priest Jesus offered himself as the final sacrifice for sin, he did it through the eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). When he rose from the dead, he was declared to be Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4). The age of the new covenant and Christ’s powerful lordship began! And so he poured out the Holy Spirit on his believing people as evidence that he reigns on David’s throne at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:29-36).

In Jesus and his inseparable companion, the Spirit, the age of fulfillment arrived. As Paul says, “Now is the time of God’s favor; now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Now is the time for you to be reconciled to God.

Think also about the Messiah and his anointing by the Spirit (Isaiah 61:3; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). Jesus is our prophet. His teaching forms the basis of our lives. This is what we see first in the Four Gospels. He taught God’s message about his saving reign (kingdom), and his miraculous signs performed by the Spirit testified to him as the great prophet of God. Jesus is our high priest. His atoning work secured our salvation, and his intercession guarantees our forgiveness. The events of his crucifixion and resurrection are the key events of the Four Gospels. His finished work provides righteousness for everyone who believes in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is our king. He rules over us and defends us. In the Four Gospels we see evidence of his authority over all things, and in his ascension we
see that he is Lord and reigning on David’s throne. As Ascended Lord, he poured out the Holy Spirit on his people—those who repent and believe in him.

In the Anointed Jesus, we have every benefit we need. As we start this work week, I ask you, “Are you in the Lord Jesus Christ by faith?”