Gospel Thoughts: Matthew 4
|1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning||thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.|
The Devil Tempts Jesus
Jesus was tempted by the devil. He was tempted in every way that we are. Remember, that Jesus was not with his Apostles at the time of temptation. He was alone in the wilderness. Jesus showed us to depend on God when temptation comes. He was tired and hungry as he had been fasting for forty days and nights. It is important to recognise that Satan attacks God’s people when they are weak and vulnerable. Just like Christ, we will be tempted by the devil. Christ did not yield to the lure of the devil. Christ had victory over sin, and he will also give us the victory of temptation. In 1 Cor. 10:13 the Bible says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
This is how the enemy of the church works, he will tempt God’s people with sin and all manner of evil. The devil tempted Adam and Eve with false promises. He told Eve she would become like God. The seed of pride was planted in the heart of Eve. A desire to gain without God was at the heart of the temptation. Independence from God is one of the favourite vices of the devil. Ever since the fall of man, we have had a strong desire to live separately from God. We were never designed nor made to exist without God. Sinful mankind now has a desire to live an unnatural life, different from the plans of God, the will of God and the blessings of God. Sin to the unconverted man is natural and comfortable. The unnatural is natural to those outsides of God’s Kingdom.
Causing men and women to question God’s Word is the intention of the devil. He did this with Eve, “Has God really said”, “you don’t need God”, “you can have so much more without God”, “a relationship with God will only hinder your full potential”. These are examples of the many lies the devil whispers in the ear of men and women. Alas, many have fallen prey to the voice of foolishness. Satan tempts with falsehoods mixed with truth, fulfilment outside of God’s design and stirs it up with passions, lusts and a whole manner of worthless idols.
Matthew chapter 4 is a time of great testing for Jesus. Our Lord overcame everything that the evil one threw at him, thus Christ proved he is indeed the Son of God and worthy of our trust and worship. The tempter who is the devil tested Jesus to the limit. He said if you are who you claim then turn these stones to bread for food to feed yourself. The devil often tempts God’s people with physical things. He may tempt us in the same way as Christ by appealing to our physical body and satisfaction for natural things. Satan certainly will go after our weakness. In the case of Jesus in verse 3 he used the fact that Jesus had been without food for a long time. The stones turned to bread would have satisfied the hunger that Christ felt. Hence why this was a real temptation.
It is profitable to bear in mind that Jesus used Scripture in the face of temptation. In the Psalms, the Bible teaches us to hold Scripture in our hearts, so we are prepared in the turmoil of testing times. Remember, that being tempted is not sin, giving in to the temptation is sin. We fall into sin when we follow the desires of sin and do that which is contrary to God’s holy law. No-one can bear ignorance of the law of God, for when God created mankind, he placed His moral standards and expectations on our hearts. Our conscience testifies to the curse of sin. No-one told us that lying, cheating, stealing and murder is wrong. We know this to be true because we are created by God and with his moral standard.
The man of God lives by the Word of God. The Bible is a powerful defence against the soul-destroying attacks of the devil. Scripture protects us and proclaims the truth. We ought to memorise Scripture and meditate on it daily. Scripture is the sword of the Spirit. However, merely knowing Scripture is not enough, we must apply it correctly. The devil knows Scripture and can use Scripture to deceive the children of God. The devil used Scripture against Christ. This is one of many differences between the Christian who uses Scripture wisely, by obeying it and believing God’s promises and the devil who twisted Scripture and causes doubt. To the Christian, the Bible is heart-warming, soul searching and mind transforming. The ungodly misuse Scripture for their gain. The wicked will change the meaning of God’s truth to fit their purpose, and above all will mock the Bible as they hold Scripture in the utmost contempt.
Mankind needs food for the body to live and to be healthy. True life and living is by believing, trusting and living in agreement with God’s Word and will. We need Scripture to live a healthy spiritual life. Here Jesus is saying there is more to life than the physical body, the here and now. We are not mere flesh and bones; we have a soul that needs care. Christ has come to give our soul the care and salvation needed.
Jesus rebukes Satan, you shall not put God to the test. It is not iniquitous to ask God to show himself to us and to give us cause to trust him, but the devil, on the other hand, was provoking Christ to wrath. If Jesus followed the temptation of the devil, it would have been more than possible for God to spare his life. However, by not giving in to the temptation Christ proved a very important truth of God over all creation. God is sovereign, not Satan, not man and not so-called “mother nature”. Be aware of the devices of the devil, he can transform into an angel of light. The devil appears in many ways, a trusted friend could well be an agent of the enemy. Sadly, many of the workers of iniquity stand in the pulpit, they are the wolves in sheep’s clothing. For this reason, God’s people must understand the Bible and have a good grasp of biblical truths and correct doctrine. Do not make the mistake of thinking that doctrine does not matter. Doctrine does matter.
Satan showed Christ the glory and splendour of earthly kingdoms and vowed to give them all to Christ in return for worship to him. There can be no deal or compromise made with the devil. It is important to answer the question of Satan’s power over these kingdoms. Satan is the god of this world, that is the system of the world that the Bible calls worldliness. God is ruler and Lord over all creation. The devil offers this to every fallen sinner. Satan says, “if you bow down and worship me, I will give you everything you need and desire. All the material things, power, position, wealth and whatever your heart craves for.” Many people have accepted the offer and bent the knee in worship to sinful delights of the flesh and the world. When Satan offers you this, and be sure he will, we can say the same as Jesus and resist the temptation. Worship the one who alone is worthy of worship. Worship the Lord your God and him only serve, for what shall it profit you to gain all that this world can offer and then lose your soul in everlasting punishment and separation from eternal joy, happiness and peace. This world and all its wealth and privileges are nothing in the light of the glorious and gracious gospel of God.
Christ resisted every evil advance of the devil. He overcame temptation and remained faithful and sinless. The Scriptures teach that the Christian is a new creation in Christ and has the power to overcome sinful desires and temptations (See James 1.12 & 1 Cor 10.13). We can take much comfort and peace from Matthew 4. Jesus was tested, tempted and tried in every way that we are, and yet remained faithful even to the end. The Holy Spirit that dwells in all authentic believers testifies to the victory over a life controlled by sin. Daily the Spirit edifies us, changes us, convicts us, protects us and provokes us to repent of sin. The blessing of the Holy Spirit is a godly zeal to live for holiness, righteousness and truth.
|12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; 13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.||20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. 23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. 24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. 25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.|
Jesus fulfils another Old Testament prophecy
The opening message of Christ’s ministry in Matthew’s Gospel was one of repentance. The message of the Gospel has not changed. Men and women are still called to place their faith and trust in God. Men and women are still sinful at heart and still in need of a personal Lord and Saviour. Christ began his ministry with people in spiritual darkness. He chose his apostles and cured people of many diseases by divine miracles. Many started to follow him and become his disciples.
God is a God of means. He has chosen the means of preaching the gospel to the saving of souls. God does not need a man to work out and complete his plans, but God has chosen to use man in his plan. Preaching is the chief means of salvation and blessings.
The first doctrine we learn about in the earthly ministry of Christ is repentance. It is fair to say that repentance is the greatest doctrine of Christ’s ministry as it is the foundation of true Christianity. The men that Christ selected to be his apostles were not mighty men of great earthly wealth or power. They were not men of great intellect. They were among the poorest and lowest rank of society. Simon Peter, James, Andrew and John were all fishermen. They were all unlikely figures to be chosen as apostles to the Lord of heaven and earth. Christ had a much higher and nobler position for them instead of being fishers of fish, they became fishers of men’s souls.
This clearly shows that the message of Christ is for all classes and types of people, for the poor as well as the rich, the lowest and the highest, the learned and the simple, the Jew and the non-Jew. The only requirement that men and women must meet is a genuine acknowledgement of sin, a heart that desires to repent, and faith in the finished work of Christ. Look at these twelve very ordinary poor and lowly men that were Christ’s apostles. They had no earthly power, no vast wealth nor anything to offer to profit themselves, yet they turned the world upside down.