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Theology > Jesus > Baptism and Temptations > Into the Wilderness  


Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness
to be tempted by the devil.
Matt. 4:1

Three Gospels speak of the temptations (Matt. 4:1-11; Mk. 1:12-13; Lu. 4:1-13), with each making reference to the wilderness and the fact that Christ was in the wilderness for forty days, led there by the Spirit for the purpose of being tempted by the Evil One.

Satan came to Him desiring to undermine and extinguish the mission of Christ. Satan’s purpose, whether directed toward Christ Himself when He walked the earth or the followers of Christ in the present era, is always to kill and to destroy. Satan tempts in order to tear down, to damage and weaken, and to bring loss of comfort, assurance, and peace. For Christ and His followers the intent of Satan against them is like a ravenous beast on the prowl.

The Scriptures affirm that Christ was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Lu. 4:1), for He was anointed at His baptism in preparation for this confrontation, and also anointed for the rest of His ministry. Therefore, He was prepared and equipped for the struggle. The temptations were real:

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (Heb. 2:17-18; see: 4:14-16).

He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). In other words, the Temptations were real temptations. They are not fanciful stories created by the early Church in order to enhance the person of Christ. In the wilderness Christ faced the Accuser. To think otherwise is to think contrary to the plain statement of Scripture.

In the wilderness the confrontation was set: good vs. evil, the Son of God vs. Satan, the spirit of this world vs. the Spirit that anointed the Messiah, and the present age vs. the Kingdom age. Whatever terminology is used to depict the essence of the Temptations, the point is the same:  that which is not of God is always opposed to God.

The temptations are examples of the ongoing struggle of the Kingdom, a struggle which will culminate in a great eschatological conflict. In the wilderness the new age that was being inaugurated was immediately confronted  by evil, and there developed conflict, a conflict which stands symbolically for the enduring conflict during the present age, and for the believer’s continual conflict with the power of evil in his own life.

The believer and the Church are never removed from this struggle; at times it is violent and lethal, with the issues clearly demarcated; and at times the struggles are sedate and subtle, with the issues being clouded and obscured, but no less damaging, perhaps even more so. From this perspective there is no rest for the weary; the battle is long-term and unending prior to the Eschaton. It drains and depletes, and the believer, like the psalmist, contemplates whether it will ever end and even the incomprehensibility of its very existence. But evil is alive and well. And like the beast crouching before Cain, it is ever at the believer’s door.

Temptation is not for the purpose of seducing to sin but from God’s perspective it is for  testing; the temptation is not designed for sin but for revelation or exposure, to manifest the true state of the one experiencing the temptation. For the believer, temptations provide insight into the true state of the life and, therefore, provide a guide and motivation for growth.

Additionally, temptations are teachers that equip the believer for greater usefulness in the lives of other believers.

Return to: Baptism and Temptations; Next Article: Meaning of the Temptations 

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