God's Word As A Weapon
1. Today's passage of scripture tells us that Jesus experienced temptation by the devil for forty days while in the wilderness. There is one clear characteristic in the battle between Jesus and the devil in this story. It is the quotation of words from the Bible. The Lord quoted three times from the words of Deuteronomy. There was no arguing with the devil. There were no logical counter statements [made to Satan]. He settled it all with scriptural quotations. With my personality style I'm not too fond of such simplicity. I would have wanted to say just a little bit more. It would have seemed better to me if there would have been a more slicked up and smooth argumentation. Going with "It is written" is way too plain for me. But, this plain and simple story has certainly been written in the Bible. Valuing it, the church has carefully been telling this story and today it is being told to us as well. What might this mean for us?
When He Returned Filled With The Holy Spirit
2. First, let's observe the setting of the story. In verse one it goes like this, "So, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and came back from the Jordan River," (4:1). The events at the Jordan are recorded in chapter three. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. At that time, "The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in a visible form like a dove," (3:22), says the text. Thus, the Lord was filled with the Holy Spirit and came back from the Jordan River. The temptation in the wilderness was right after that. Furthermore, after the temptation, the text says that "Jesus was filled with the power of the 'Spirit' and returned to Galilee," (4:14). We see that The Gospel According To Luke is depicting Jesus on purpose as an Holy Spirit filled man.
3. This detail is extremely important. [It is so important] because it is recorded in the sequel to the Gospel that the Holy Spirit would eventually descend in a visible form. That would be the event written in chapter two of The Acts Of The Apostles. "When the day of Pentecost had come and the group was assembled as one, suddenly, a sound from heaven like a severe wind was blowing in was heard, and it resounded through out the house where they were sitting. Then, tongues like fire appeared split into two and rested upon each person. Whereupon, the group was filled with the Holy Spirit, and just as the 'Spirit' made them speak, they began to speak in the languages of other nations," (Acts 2:1-5). Thus, the church was born on earth. The Bible tells us repeatedly that they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
4. We too are placed in the history of the church which had begun that way. We too are born by the Spirit of God. We too want to be Christians filled with the Holy Spirit, the church filled with the Holy Spirit and not the world's spirit. We want to be servants of the Lord filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and not the world's power.
5. But, today's passage of scripture prompts us to take notice of something. After Christ came back filled with the Holy Spirit, he immediately met with temptation. According to Luke, who had written Acts as a companion book to his Gospel, the temptations that Christ encountered, are not unrelated to the later church. Wherever the Spirit filled church may be, there will also be satanic temptations. Put in other words, when we really begin to experience in life and not on the conceptual level the power of the Holy Spirit and God's rule in our lives, there will be temptations that we will inevitably have to come face to face with.
The Three Temptations
6. The first temptation was as follows. "So then, the devil said to Jesus. 'If you're the Son of God, why don't you command this rock to turn into bread?,'" (4:3). As we consider the later activity of Jesus and the short church history [in Acts] the temptation hidden within these words has been visible even to those extents.
7. Jesus often healed the sick. It is also recorded that he gave bread to five thousand hungry people. It is believed that at the backdrop to the fact that many people had followed Jesus is the fact that he had met the needs of so many. Similarly, even in Acts, it is recorded that "many signs and wondrous deeds" were done by the apostles, (Acts 5:12). It is believed that with the amazing advancement of the early part of the preaching mission "signs" of God's rule had great significance. It is the same today even in the preaching missions in Asia, Africa, and South America. The power of God is being revealed and the needs of the people are being met.
8. But, therein also lies temptation. When bread is given through the power of God, hearts turn only towards the bread. God becomes just "a bread giver," and the power of God just becomes "power to give bread." But though, there is a temptation [when that happens] to live by either the bread given by the power of God or to live by the bread alone. Therefore, the Lord quoted scripture and said: "The scriptures say, 'A person does not live by bread alone.'" God certainly gave manna to the people in the wilderness. God satisfied their need. But, the scripture says, he did that "so you would know that a person does not live by bread alone, but a person lives according to every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord," (Deuteronomy 8:3). More important than the bread God gave them was God Himself, [the gift of God] giving Himself.
9. So, the second temptation was as follows. "Then, the devil said. I will give you all the authority over these nations and prosperity. Since it is entrusted to me and I can give it to him who wants it. So, if you worship me, all will be yours," (4:6-7). We see that this temptation too was such a real one when we consider the activities of both Jesus and the later church.
10. The many people gathered around Jesus were poor and excluded from society or were suffering because of the wealthy or those with authority. Also the many people who made up the early church were poor just the same or were the powerless in society. However, among such people the great power of God had certainly been revealed. In no time, the ones who followed Jesus soon turned into a huge crowd. Likewise, even the early church took on a surprising growth. Under those circumstances, it would not have been surprising had Jesus and his followers, or the apostles and the church wanted power and prosperity for themselves. When the power of God is shown there is also in it the temptation for power and prosperity.
11. This temptation has repeatedly shown itself in the history of the later church. As Christianity became a state religion or as when the church has grown exponentially during faith renewal movements (revivals), this is typically familiar. This temptation is even familiar to our small church. When our hearts are set on only getting bigger, having power, becoming rich, instead of the power and prosperity we end up no longer being servants of our highest treasure God himself. Therefore, the Lord answered the devil with "The scripture says, 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only the Lord.'" When we shake on this, without realizing it we will worship something else. Ultimately it leads to bending the knee to the devil.
12. Next then, the third temptation went like this. "Then, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and set him atop the peak of the temple roof and said, 'If you are the son of God, why don't you jump off this?," (4:9).
13. [The third temptation] didn't ask for human needs to be satisfied. It didn't ask for power and prosperity. That's not what it was asking for, it asked why don't you ask about the reality of whether God is alive and at work and whether God will protect you. No small number of people want to experience the presence of God in the real world of reality. Is such a request wrong? Isn't that asking for God himself? Haven't you ever heard testimonies of those who have experienced God's miraculous protection? Is it wrong for us to ask for an experience like that? Yet, we are told that a satanic temptation lies in asking for that. Jesus said, "[God] says, 'You shall not test the Lord your God.'"
14. "Seeking for an experience with God" is not necessarily the same as "seeking God." The person who truly seeks God respects God. He or she is thinking mainly of God. He or she is seeking the will of God. He or she is seeking to obey the will of God. The person who is only seeking an experience with God is not seeking the will of God and even though God doesn't even require it, he or she would do something like jump off of a temple roof. Although that would be a life risking daring act, it would only be testing God.
God's Word As A Weapon
15. Well, as I said at the beginning, the characteristic of this story is on the point that Jesus averted all these temptations with quotations from scripture. We see that the Lord had placed the ultimate authority for diverting temptation from the devil in the words from scripture. The church has very carefully passed on this story just as it is unchanged. We see that the church too has placed its ultimate authority in the words from scripture. The church has not made the miracles and the signs that have taken place within it as the authoritative basis for faith. [The church] doesn't put any authoritative basis for faith on them, on anything we have experienced, when divorced from the scriptures. They did not consider even a compelling experience such as an encounter with the risen Christ apart from the scriptures. It was understood as "a circumstance written about in the law of Moses, the writings of the prophets and the psalms," (Luke 24:44). They thought that way even in regard to The Descending Of The Holy Spirit during Pentecost. When it happened, Peter stated that "This very thing had been spoken of through the prophet Joel," (Acts 2:16).
16. In reading Acts and the epistles from the apostles, especially not apart from the Old Testament, we understand how that the scriptures have such imperative significance for the church. It must have been a huge life or death problem for the Gentile church in particular. Why's that? Because as long as they did not have every day familiarity with the goings-on of the Jewish synagogue, the scriptures were basically not familiar to them at all. Many times, in seeing the marvelous miracles of the apostles or going through some experience of their own, they had joined the church. There was a great deal of room for the thinking called Gnosticism or the ideas of the age to creep in. Temptation from the devil has lied in the all too familiar places close to home.
17. We can also make that claim in regard to first generation Christians in this country, who were basically not raised on the Bible and didn't know it inside out. We could probably say that about the churches in this country which have a lot of Christians like that. We need to get to know the Bible, especially the Old Testament in our very consciousness deep down. There is nothing worse than some self-designated "spiritual" Christian who refuses to internalize scripture. When you quote scripture only for self vindication and winning, you are acting like the devil. Stripped apart and selfish uses of the Bible is the devil's way of devouring scripture. We need to listen to the messages from the whole Bible. [During] this new year that just started, we want to let ourselves be taught the weapon of the word of God, so truly effective against the devil.