In the Fulness of Time/Part 5

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2007
Dr. Figart discusses the passages related to the temptation of Jesus Christ. Since He is God, was He really “tempted as we are’? Can He really sympathize with our weaknesses?

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George W. Bush has been criticized for not revealing whether he ever used illegal drugs, though he did go so far as to affirm that he has not used such drugs for at least twenty-five years. Fortunately for me, the temptation to use such drugs did not exist in the days of my childhood, and, since I was saved at eleven years of age, whatever drugs may have been available in my youth were no temptation at all. But smoking cigarettes was rather common, and a few times, before I was saved, I gave in to that temptation. If I had been discovered smoking, I am sure one of my older brothers or sisters would have said “What does the Lord think of this? What would Jesus have done?” If I had been old enough and smart enough as even some believers today think themselves to be, I may have replied, “Jesus was born without a sin nature, so He could not even be tempted, much less, fall into sin!”

This brings up several questions which relate directly to our verse, “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4). But first, a reminder of the presentation of the qualifications of Jesus Christ as Messiah/King of Israel in the early chapters of Matthew: His royal genealogy and birth through Abraham and David give Him the legal right to the Throne of David (chapters 1-2); His baptism, attested to by the Heavenly Father and by the Holy Spirit prove His personal right to the throne; “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3); and His temptation and victory in chapter 4 gives Him His moral right to the throne. If Jesus had failed to gain the victory in this Satanic temptation, He would not have been morally fit to rule on the throne of David and any attempt to present His principles of the Kingdom would have been a sham, a worthless farce!

The statement of Galatians 4:4 is that “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman” which includes both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. As the Divine Son, He was “sent” and as the true human, He was “born” of a woman. The union of these two natures is called the Hypostatic Union. Hypostatic comes from two Greek words, hupo (under) and histasthai (to stand), that is, to stand under as a basis. Then it came to mean substantial, substance, and finally person. Thus, the hypostatic union refers to the personal union of the divine and human natures of Christ; He is one Person with two natures. Even though Christ sometimes operated in the sphere of deity and at other times in the sphere of humanity, He always acted as one Person. There was never any conversation between the Son of God and Son of Man; there could not be; they were one and the same Person.

The Old Testament prophesies that Messiah would be a Divine/human being: “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23; cf. Isaiah 7:14).

He is the “child” who is born as well as the “son” who is given; “the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Many other proof texts can be quoted from the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Christ claimed to be God (John 8:58; 10:30) as well as man (John 8:40). He accepted worship (John 9:38) and forgave sins (Matthew 9:1-6). The Jews recognized these claims (John 5:18; 10:31-33). Certainly Satan approached Him twice saying “If thou be the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3,6). Yet, a noted radio preacher in 1960 (and later his son, in 1978) wrote a booklet entitled The Temptation of Jesus, in which the following statements were made: “Jesus, when He met Satan in the wilderness, met him as the Son of MAN, and not as the Son of God.” Later this was added: “So remember, Jesus, the human Jesus, was involved, but not His Deity.” Further: “Jesus met the tempter in His perfect manhood, wholly apart from any assistance or participation of His Deity.” It is precisely at this point that they neglect the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union of the Divine and Human natures in the Person of Christ. The two natures of Christ are separated to the extent that the Divine Nature does not participate with His Human Nature. This cannot be; Jesus met Satan in His Person as the God/Man. The human Jesus without the participation of the Divine nature would not have been tempted to change stones into bread, but the Personal union of His two natures allowed for the humanity of Jesus to be tempted, but did not allow for failure.

While it is true that Jesus veiled the glory He had with the father before the Incarnation (John 17:5) and voluntarily limited the use of His Divine attributes (John 5:19); He could never give up even one attribute, or He would cease to be God, because Deity cannot change! (Malachi 3:6). Because of this, someone might say, “Well, if He could not sin, then the temptations of Satan were not real, and therefore, Jesus could not sympathize with us in the feeling of our infirmities.” This is not true, for the following reasons:

First, it is true that Christ was tempted because He had a true human nature. Hebrews 4:15b in the King James Version has several italicized words: “But was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” It should be translated “But was in all points tempted according to likeness, apart from sin.” That is, He was tempted because he was like us, having a human nature, apart from sin. He had no sin nature, His human nature being perfect, like Adam’s human nature before Adam sinned.

Second, He had to be tempted as to His Person, since the divine nature could not be tempted. Still, this does not imply the possibility of sinning. An impeccable person can be attacked (tempted) even though he cannot be defeated (yield to sin). It is possible to attempt the impossible. For example, a man in a rowboat could attack a battleship with a BB-gun, but could not sink it, or harm it in any way.

Third, impeccability (the impossibility of sinning) depends upon the power to resist temptation, and Christ had infinite power (Omnipotence) to resist. Thus impeccability depends upon the will.

Fourth, temptability depends upon susceptibility, and Christ was susceptible to all forms of temptation except that which springs from a fallen nature, just as Adam was susceptible before the Fall. Jesus as a true man, got hungry, thirsted, suffered pain, became weary and thus could sympathize with us in the feeling of our infirmities. Yet, it is not sinful to be hungry, thirsty, to suffer, or be oppressed by evil from the outside.

The three areas of temptation were real, because, in the fulness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman. Just how He became victorious and proved Himself morally fit to rule on the throne of David will be the subject of our next article.

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