Matthew 4 records the temptation of Jesus and his victory over the devil. This article shows that in his victory Christ fulfilled what Adam failed to do, and in this way he gave us true hope for victory over the devil.

Source: The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, 2009. 3 pages.

Christ Victorious Over the Devil Matthew 4:1-11

A perpetual state of war exists between Christ, the champion of God, and the devil, the prince of this world (cf. Gen. 3:15). Matthew 4:1-11 tells of one of Christ’s great victories over the devil and the power of sin. At the end of a long period of fasting, the devil confronts Jesus with three temptations.

Command These Stones🔗

In the first of these temptations, the devil uses the same tactic he used on Eve in the Garden of Eden. “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (4:3). Satan is referring to the words spoken by the Father at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). In effect, Satan says, “Yea, hath God said...? Do you really think God means that you are the Son of God? If so, why the hunger pains now? Prove that you are the Son of God by turning these stones into bread.”

The devil is clever; he knows that hunger is a sharp sword. And he knows how to use truth to his own advantage. After all, God can do all things; He is almighty. If Jesus is the Son of God, He must be almighty, too. All He has to do is speak one word, and a table will be prepared for Him in the desert.

Jesus does not yield to the devil. He refuses to use His divine power to relieve His physical hunger, choosing instead to do the will of His Father, and endure suffer­ing. “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (4:4), He tells the devil. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 and says in effect: “Bread is not sufficient. I am dependent on my Father and His word, not on bread. I live out of His hand. I do not want bread if My Father does not want to give it to Me.” Jesus refuses to separate the gift of bread from the Giver of bread, as Adam did. Adam pushed aside the Giver of fruit when he reached out for the gift of fruit.

Jesus speaks with authority; His response is firm. Unlike Eve, He doesn’t debate with Satan. He doesn’t call for an army of angels to drive the devil away. He doesn’t use His divine power, for He is living in the world as the suffering Servant of God. The only weapon He uses is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

Jesus places Himself on our level. If the Bible is suf­ficient for Him, ought it not be so for us? “It is written” ought to be our only and all-sufficient answer to Satan’s temptations.

What about you? Do you live by earthly bread, or is it your “necessary food” (Job 23:12) to do the will of the Father, and live by the truth and power of His Word?

Cast Yourself Down🔗

Next, the devil takes Jesus to the top of the temple in the Holy City — the most sacred place in all the earth. “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down,” the devil says. He quotes Psalm 91:11-12, saying that the angels will protect Jesus (4:6) if He jumps. In a moment Christ would then be recognized all around the religious world as the Son of God.

The temptation for Christ is to reveal Himself to Israel in a dazzling display of power and supernatural privilege rather than through the way of suffering and rejection as the man of sorrows. The devil is offering Jesus a shortcut rather than the long route of suffering and death.

This was no small temptation, for Jesus wanted to reveal Himself as the Messiah. Yet He knew that following the devil’s suggestion would bypass His Father’s will, which said that the Son must first suffer and then be glorified. Christ’s exaltation would come, but only after His work in the state of humiliation was finished. Therefore, He said to the devil, “It is written again, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God’” (4:7). This time Jesus is quot­ing Deuteronomy 6:16, referring to Israel’s temptations at Massah, where the unbelieving children of Israel demand some sensational proof that the Lord was among them (Exod. 17:7).

Today, many are still looking for marvelous signs and wonders of divine power, but Jesus still refuses to put on a show. He does not use carnal means to win followers. He is not into sensationalism. Rather, He carries on His convicting, saving, discipling work by His Word and Spirit in sinners’ hearts, bringing them into conformity to Himself — which is the greatest “wonder” of all.

Fall Down and Worship Me🔗

Finally, the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain. He shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (4:9).

“All the kingdoms” — what a tremendous claim! The devil has the audacity to offer Christ all the kingdoms of the earth on his own terms, as if he were rightful lord over them all. Luther writes: “He who in the first temptation showed himself as a black devil, and in the second, as a light, white devil using even God’s Word, now displays himself as a divine, majestic devil, who claims to be God himself!”

The devil may be the prince of this world, even the god of the world, for the present time, but God is King forever. As Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein.”

This is the devil’s last gambit. In desperation, he thinks: “If only I could get Jesus, even once, to perform one small gesture of worship toward me rather than toward His Father, I would gain the victory and indeed become the king of this world.”

Still today, we face the temptation to sell our souls to the devil in exchange for the vain pleasures and treasures of this world. We must resist him as Jesus did, quoting from Deuteronomy: “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (v. 10). Jesus again refused to obtain the crown without enduring the cross.

Our Victory in Christ🔗

What a contrast between Matthew 4 and Genesis 3! Christ is victorious when tempted by the devil in a barren wilderness, whereas Adam failed when tempted by the devil in a beautiful garden. Christ is victorious on an empty stomach, having not eaten for forty days (Matt. 4:2), whereas Adam failed on a full stomach, being able to eat freely of every tree in the garden but one. And, as the New England Primer put it, “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”

But, thanks be to God, Jesus has overcome the devil, so we can overcome him, too. In Christ, by faith, we are called to live by God’s Word, and to resist the devil, using the same mighty weapon, the Word of God. The tempta­tions area mangy, and the power of sin is great, but victory is promised to those who hold fast to “the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).

Study Questions🔗

  1. List five ways in which Satan still tempts us the way he tempted Eve in Paradise and Jesus after He was baptized.
  2. What is the most important lesson we can learn from Jesus about how to resist temptation? How can we grow on a daily basis in implementing that lesson?
  3. When is the last time you have separated God’s gifts from God Himself in your own mind? What motivated that separation? Why is this such a serious offense in God’s eyes? What can we do to overcome it?
  4. How can we develop the habit of looking more at the primary cause (God) of all things in our lives rather than at secondary causes (people and things)?
  5. How does Satan tempt you with this world’s dazzling displays of power and attraction? How can we rebuff those temptations?
  6. Ultimately, Christ’s kingdom will defeat Satan’s rule. Why? Prove from Scripture.
  7. Is hell under Satan’s control? If not, who controls hell? Explain.
  8. List four ways not mentioned in this article in which Matthew 4 contrasts with Genesis 3.
  9. How do the temptations Christ sustained in the wilderness affirm His sinlessness? Why was it so important for Jesus to be absolutely sinless?
  10. What encouragement should believers glean from Christ’s temptations in the wilderness?

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.