Question Box: Was Christ's temptation from within?

Question or Topic Scripture
Was Christ's temptation from within? Luke 4:2-13

Concerning the account of the temptation of Christ in Luke 4:2-13, please explain how this could possibly be the working of Christ's own mind? Note that in verse 13, after the temptation we are told - "he departed from him for a season".


Before we actually attempt to answer your question, it is important to establish a few of the basic principles that are involved in this situation. First of all, we know that Christ was not "an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin". It is essential that we accept the fact that Jesus bore our same nature, and that the following words from James applied to him as well as to us. "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:14-15).

Jesus was tempted "like as we are" and it is therefore reasonable to conclude that the account in Luke is our record of at least some of that temptation. Since Adam's sin resulted in all mankind having an innate tendency to sin, there is no need to be tempted by an outside agent, either for Christ or ourselves, in order for sin to be manifested. The inherent proclivity to sin is ever- present in the nature of all of Adam's progeny. For this reason, there may be no other logical choice than to accept that it was the process of temptation working in the mind of Christ on that occasion.

But that alone would not be a convincing argument, and we must therefore look at other evidence to support our conclusions. One of the things that I consider to be an important key to our understanding is found in a consideration of the circumstances that led up to the temptation. Just before his being driven into the wilderness, Jesus had reached a very climatic point in his life. He had voluntarily submitted to a baptism at the hands of his cousin John, and his obedience to this necessary requirement led to a very special recognition from the Father. "And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22). As we consider this first official recognition of this man as the son of God, we can be sure that it had a very significant impact on him.

We know how quickly and how often he called on the Word of God, (written on his heart) for guidance and strength. We can be sure that this occasion was no exception. What scripture did he meditate on as began his struggle with this new responsibility, complete with the power of the Holy Spirit at his disposal without measure?

My suggestion would be that one of the portions of scripture that must have surely come to mind was – "I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Psalm 2:7). These words would have been nearly identical to the words that he had just heard. As he thought about Psalm 2, he would certainly have read on in his mind. "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (v. 8-9). Is it any wonder that part of the process of his temptation in the wilderness was along these lines? "And the devil (diabolos, false accuser), taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. (or as expressed in Psalm 2 - "the uttermost parts of the earth").

"And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it" (Luke 4:6). Who had been given this power? Jesus was the only one who had been given the power to have all of these things. He had the Holy Spirit without measure, and he was aware that along with his acceptance as the son of God, scripture had prophesied that such blessings would be his. All he had to do was ask.

The adversary or false accuser was in the mind of Christ. His heart was (and ours is) "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it"? The temptations that took place on that occasion are typical of those that plague us all. The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. These lusts were manifested in ways that were unique to his own circumstances. As we examine those circumstances, we can begin to understand how these particular struggles could only have happened in his own mind.

Part of the question that we have been asked is related to verse 13 of Luke 4: "And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season". If this were going on in his own mind, how could the temptation have departed from him?

We are told to "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). I feel certain that most of us have experienced the application of this verse. We have struggled, perhaps desperately, with a particular temptation. We prayed about it and we kept holding on, but we couldn't seem to get it out of our mind. But then, somewhere along the way, we actually overcame. The moment of temptation passed us by and we had been successful in resisting it. From that victory came new strength, and suddenly it was gone for a while. It was out of our mind and we were temporarily at peace, until the next time.

I believe that Jesus, who was tempted in all points like we are, went through this same type of struggle and then victory. In the account in Matthew 4, (after he had overcome and was back in control) we are told that "behold, angels came and ministered unto him" (Matthew 4:11). God did not suffer him to be tempted beyond what he was able to bear, and when he demonstrated his ability to resist, provision was made to comfort him with the company of angels. How often have we been in a similar situation, and were able to resist long enough for a way of escape to be provided? Perhaps it was a sudden telephone call from a brother, or maybe a visit from a friend. Just at the right time to help and comfort us, just for long enough to cement our temporary victory over the flesh.

We conclude then by saying that it definitely seems very believable that these temptations were all in the mind of Christ. Such is quite consistent with the principles that operate in our mortal bodies as we look forward to our own final victory over our common adversary, sin in the flesh.

Christ has led the way for all of us, demonstrating that it is possible for a mortal man to overcome the inherited tendencies of this nature that we all share. We are thereby encouraged to follow his example. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him" (James 1:12).


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