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Jesus Christ Wins the War That Adam Lost: Christus Victor-Man’s Only Hope

Rev. Fr. E. L. Adcock – Grace Community Church - August 17, 2008

Most everyone loves to see stories about epic conflicts between good and evil. You know, the kind that starts off where a main character in the story is suddenly attacked and badly beaten by the villainous evil doer; but when things seem to be at their worst, a silent stranger takes up the cause of the one who has lost everything. Then, after a long drawn out conflict between the hero and the bad guy, the villain is finally vanquished and our hero stands victorious, regaining all that was lost for the injured person. We see this as the overarching story of scripture when Christ is victorious over Satan and death.

Through Adam’s fall, in his conflict with the serpent, paradise was lost and mankind was placed under a curse of death and slavery to sin; But, Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, took up the battle on our behalf and victoriously conquered sin, the Serpent, and even death itself. Now since Christ won the war that Adam lost, paradise is sure to be restored for His people.

The main point I want us to take home today is that the temptation of Christ declares nothing less than Jesus, as the Second Adam, is victorious over Satan and the curse of Adam’s sin; therefore we must place our hope and trust in Jesus Christ, Who is the only one who can plead with God on our behalf.

Matthew proves Jesus’ legitimate identity as the Son of God, Israel’s Messiah and King in the first few chapters of his Gospel. He does this in chapter one by carefully documenting Jesus’ legal family line to King David.

Secondly, Matthew shows us in chapter two that Jesus is also identified with the nation of Israel. He does this with a quote from Hosea chapter 11 in which God declares, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.”

Chapter Three: John the Baptist identifies Jesus as H.S. Baptizer; and as Lamb of God (John 1:29).

In chapter three, the prophet John the Baptist recognized the identity of Jesus as the One who will baptize His people, not with water as John did, but with the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Baptizer also recognized Jesus as the promised “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). However, John the Baptist is not the only one who testifies to the identity of the Anointed One.

Trinitarian affirmation: H.S. Dove; Father, “This is My Beloved Son…”

 

In Matthew Chapter Three, God the Holy Spirit affirms the identity of Christ by descending on Him like a dove after Jesus was baptized. God the Father also testifies that Jesus is His Son. In the last verse of Matthew chapter three God authoritatively declares, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." It is right after this event that our text picks up; where Jesus is compelled by the Holy Spirit to seclude Himself in the wilderness and prepare for the ministry that is ahead of Him. It is here, in the wilderness, that we find someone else acknowledging the identity of Jesus.

Please look with me at our text, Matthew Chapter 4:1-11.

 

1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This passage causes us to ask some very important questions: First, if Jesus could be tempted, was it possible for him to succumb to that temptation? Second, why did Jesus have to be tempted? And the last question I want to address is… In Light of Christ’s Temptation, How Are We To Live Today?

So, could Jesus have succumbed to temptation? We have seen a huge amount of publicity over movies and books like The Last Temptation of Christ and the Da Vinci Code. In these stories the authors imagine that Jesus could have given in to whatever fantasies the writers’ own lusts had in mind. But the deeper issue is the unique person of Christ. Yes, Jesus is proclaimed in the Scriptures as a real flesh and blood human being with physical limitations just like you and me; however, the Scriptures also teach us that He is the exact imprint of the Glory of God; and that He was in the beginning with God and was God who became flesh. The Scriptures declare that Jesus was like us in every way, except without sin. Does this invalidate his temptation and make Him not like us? No way!

Just because Jesus did not give in to temptation does not disqualify His humanity or lessen his trial. In fact, because He did not succumb, He is the only man to ever feel the full brunt of Satan’s attack.

(1st round boxer or 12 round boxer) While I was in the Navy, I did a little boxing. During training we would try to vigorously workout an hour for each 3 minute round that we boxed in the ring. Does a boxer who gets knocked out in the first three seconds of the first round feel the full force and all of the skill of the other fighter’s ability? Or is it the fighter who has had to slug it out round after round until the last bell, who has felt his enemy’s full onslaught?

The Bible says in Hebrews 12:4, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” But Christ has…and it was on your behalf… "Jesus experienced temptation more strongly than anyone else has precisely because he never gave in and sinned. The temptation always remained before him.”[1] Hebrews 4:15 states,  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Two Sources of Temptation: Outside Influences / Self Desires (Internal)

One way to look at a difference between Jesus’ temptation and ours is that temptation to sin comes from two sources. One source is common to all, and that is the outside influence from Satan. Satan is always there to show us the treasures of his kingdom to entice us to rebel against God. We see in our text and we see this in our lives as well.

The other source of temptation is from our own selves. James 1:13-14 states, “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But (Listen to this) each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”

 

Jesus’ desires and passions were totally sold out to the Father; singularly and undivided allegiance to the will of the Father. Our allegiance is for our own comfort and what ever gives us the most pleasure; our allegiance is all too often to ourselves first. This is why we fail during our testing. It has been rightly said, “Most people who flee from temptation usually leave a forwarding address.” – Anon

So we see it was impossible for Jesus to give in to temptation. Ok, so the next question:

 

Why was it necessary for Jesus to be tempted? The answer to that lies in our text as we see the three replies Jesus gives to Satan’s assaults. Look at the first temptation in verses 3 and 4. “And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”  

 

First Temptation: The Challenge of Independence Apart From God

Notice that Satan begins his challenge by saying, “If you are the Son of God…” Satan knows very good and well who he is addressing; and he also knows that God did not lie when He declared to Jesus, “You are my Son in whom I am well pleased.” This is a direct assault on Christ’s character and Satan is goading Jesus to prove himself. Satan is testing the very One by whom all things were made, including himself… and...he knows it!

It is no coincidence that Jesus uses the Deuteronomy 8:3 passage as His opposition to Satan. Remember that Matthew wants his readers to know that Jesus is representing the nation of Israel as their conquering King, so Jesus appropriately uses the context of Moses and the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness. Listen to Moses’ address to Israel from Deuteronomy 8.

 "And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. "And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Moses goes on to say,  "Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.

Even though Jesus is famished from his forty-day fast, Jesus does not depend on his own ability for His life’s provision; but in addressing Israel’s rebellious nature, Moses called Israel to trust in God for their daily needs. Moses reminded them that God was all they really needed.

Second Temptation: Challenging God’s Goodness 

With the second temptation in verses 5 through 7, Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and tries to goad Jesus into a public display of His power. Satan twists the promises of God’s care in Psalm 91into a test of God’s faithfulness to His people. So Jesus again replies with the phrase, “it is written…” which the context of the grammar in the Greek means, “It stands written and is still in force ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Again, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 where Moses reminds the children of Israel that they challenged the character and faithfulness of God when they were thirsty in the wilderness. Israel complained to Moses and they were about to stone him before God intervened. They put God on trial by demanding, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

So we have seen that Jesus was first tempted to be independent from God’s provision. The second temptation was for Jesus to challenge God’s goodness. The third temptation of Christ is very peculiar and we must not underestimate it.

Third Temptation: Challenging Christ’s Allegiance to God

Look at verses 8 and 9, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Notice that Satan is offering all the kingdoms of this world. Is he offering something that he can’t give? Saint Luke’s account of this adds a little more clarity; where Satan says to Jesus, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.”

Who handed the kingdoms of the earth to Satan? Or should I ask: Who had the dominion of the earth before Satan? This time the typical answer, to theological questions in Sunday school, is not Jesus! Dominion was given to the image of God… Adam and Eve in the garden. Genesis 1:28 tells us, God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." That included the serpent, by the way.

But by yielding to the Serpent’s temptation, Adam abdicated his rule when he rose up in rebellion against God. Adam shifted his allegiance from God to his own autonomy. Therefore, Adam’s sin introduced the curse of death into our world. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:12-14, Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned--for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

 

So here then is the full force of Jesus’ third temptation. Satan is offering Jesus a complete surrender of his rights to the kingdom. Jesus can take the kingdom of man back… without suffering death on the cross. All Jesus would have to do is bow. So why didn’t He? Jesus, as the second Adam, knows that Satan is tempting him to turn his allegiance from God just like the first Adam did in the garden all those many years ago. Jesus deals Satan a decisive blow by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:13, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Jesus will take back the kingdom of this world and death, but it will not be by bypassing God’s merciful plan to reconcile humanity to Him. Jesus shows his faithfulness to God where Adam and the children of Israel were not.

We have to realize that we are not faithful either. There are things in this world that we worship instead of God. Our consumer culture places enticements and distractions before us every day. How many times are we confronted with choices and temptations that challenge our allegiance to God?

There used to be a popular saying that was placed on wristbands saying, “What would Jesus do?” The Bible tells us what Jesus did. His command to us even today is that we should worship and serve God above all other allegiances; however, when we are faced with a temptation of our own desire for some temporary pleasure, all too often we reject God’s promise of eternal joy and rich fellowship with Him. Jesus is the cure for our worship disorder. Jesus knows our weaknesses because He faced them full force; and He chose to pay the penalty for our sin. That is why as a man He can sympathize with our struggles and be an advocate to God on our behalf.

Listen to the writer of Hebrews when he states, Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself (Jesus) likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2: 14-15, 17-18 ESV)

 

This is our answer to the question of why Jesus was tempted, even when it was impossible for Him to sin. Jesus Christ became one of us; and He was tempted and suffered in everyway like us, in order to sacrificially take up our sin debt to God as our faithful and merciful High Priest. Jesus became sin even though He never sinned, so that we might become the righteousness of God”… through our union with Jesus.

So…In light of Christ’s Temptation, how are we to live today?

 

We must place our hope and trust in Jesus Christ, Who is the only one who can plead with God on our behalf. 

I urge you to trust Jesus Christ even through your struggles with temptations, because Christ was faithful to God; and as our representative, Jesus was victorious over sin on our behalf. When we lost the battle with the villain of our souls, Jesus Christ took up the war on our behalf to restore us to the One and only Holy God.

Today you need to trust… that the Victorious Christ who declared on the cross, “It is finished”… paid in full your sin debt to God. I urge you to be reconciled with God by repenting of your sins and place your trust in Jesus Christ today. He loves you and is graciously ready to forgive you and make your soul clean before God. …Let’s Pray….

 

Dear Heavenly Father…When we rebelled against You and fell into sin, we became subject to death and to Satan, the enemy of our souls. But You, in Your great love and mercy, sent your Son to become one of us…taking up our debt to You and made payment in full for our sins by His death on the cross. Through His victory over sin and death, He now pleads for us on our behalf. Please have mercy on us and forgive us. We thank you Father that we can be made clean again and have an eternal life full of joy… with You through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns together with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen


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[1]Blomberg, C. (2001, c1992). Vol. 22: Matthew (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (87). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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