Matthew 4:4 – But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
Matthew 4:7 -Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.
Matthew 4:10 – Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’
I am sure you have heard hundreds of sermons preached about how our Lord Jesus used the “written” Word to ward off temptations from the devil. We have been encouraged to do the same when we are faced with tough temptations. We are chided, exhorted, and taught that we need to know the Word if we are to speak the written Word to the devil, just as our Lord Jesus did.
I still remember a preacher’s message, “How can you say, “It is written when you don’t know what is written!”. I thought it was a great message then. Many times when I was faced with temptation, I tried to use whatever little I knew was “written”. But often, in the face of temptation, my mind went blank with regards to scriptures. The written Word was not the strongest thought in my mind at that moment. The struggle between knowing it to be wrong and yet being tempted by the pleasure of sin seemed to be an overcoming force.
I quickly learned that this strategy of speaking out the “written” Word didn’t really work for me. And I don’t think we should be treating God’s Word as an external tool of choice for our “use” when needed. God’s Word is to be held with reverence and must be allowed to make an internal transformation within us through the understanding of His Word. We must have an innate desire to consume the Word of God on a daily basis consistently so that it becomes who we are, thereby allowing the word of God to transform us into a new creation in Christ. This is what “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” means.
If simply speaking out the written word of God in the face of temptation was true, then the apostle Paul wouldn’t have had to write Romans 7, in which he explicitly explains how he struggled with temptation. Please stop now for a minute and read Romans 7:8-25.
Scripture Reference Romans 7:8-25
8 But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. 9 At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, 10 and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. 11 Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. 12 But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.
13 But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.
Struggling with Sin
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind, I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
This is the great apostle Paul expressing his struggle with sin. Are you suggesting, Paul did not know what was written? I think not!!
Have you observed that almost instantly after our sinful act, accusations follow from the enemy, which we seldom can counteract? Because we are all guilty of course. We find ourselves weak at that particular moment. Sure, after a little while (maybe a few days for some), we do get back up on our feet. The temptation eventually leaves and we are able to think clearly again. By now we realize, Jesus our Lord has cleansed us from all sin and we accept His forgiveness and begin our fresh walk with the Lord again, until our next temptation. Then the whole cycle continues. Isn’t that the truth?
So then, what about our scripture reference for this study; Matthew 4? We see our Lord Jesus resisting the devil and his temptations using the written Word of God. Are we not to follow His example?
No, we are not! Did I just shock you? Beloved, let me “Re-introduce” our Lord Jesus and the true gospel to you.
Jesus was both fully God and fully man. All mankind has fallen short of the glory of God. There was only one man on earth who was totally and completely sinless and absolutely righteous. That was Jesus, the Son of the Most High God. No one else. He came to earth to pay the ultimate price for the sins of mankind and rescue us all from eternal damnation. To do this, He had to be born of the law (which no man could keep). Hence, he was born of Mary, in a natural way, just like a man. To be a sinless sacrifice for mankind, He HAD TO keep the written law of God and live His life fulfilling the law. Remember, Jesus said, “ I am the fulfillment of the law.” He also said in
Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
So, even in the face of temptation, Jesus fulfilled the law, by speaking out “It is written, It is written, It is written….because He knew what was written in the law AND He was the only one who could keep it. No man was/is ever able to abide by the law. Jesus was the only one and remains the only one capable of fulfilling the law.
For example, the law of the land states the speed limit on city roads is 45mph. We know the law. We are tempted to speed, but we are able to refrain and abide by the law. We are capable of refraining from breaking the law. But with the law of God, we are NOT capable of refraining from breaking the law because we are sinners by nature. Only Jesus had the capacity to remain sinless. That’s precisely why He had to come.
Jesus didn’t come to “demonstrate” to us, how to keep the law, but to deliver us from it. He came to set us free from the power of sin. As the bible says, we were already dead in our trespasses. Jesus came to breathe NEW life into us. He didn’t come to make bad people good through an external behavioral change, but to make dead people alive through transformation.
That is the gospel message friends. That’s why it is called Good News. Why? Because we are not condemned anymore for having broken the law. We are forgiven. We are redeemed from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3). Our righteousness, therefore, comes by faith alone. Faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Likewise, our victory over temptation comes by faith alone. Faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross.
When we are faced with temptation now, we ought not to try and remember what is written, but we ought to remind ourselves, that we are the righteousness of God now, through Christ’s finished work on the cross. We ought to remind ourselves, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). We ought to remind ourselves that we are saved not by our good works and willpower to stay free from temptation, but by trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross. We ought to remind ourselves that sin shall not have dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14). The more we remind ourselves of this, the stronger we get in faith and the weaker sin and temptation gets. This is progressive growth and suddenly one day, you see how petty and inconsequential that very temptation is.
In the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus our Lord knew He was righteous and sinless. That’s why He boldly said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” He was the only one without sin, in that story. But He didn’t cast the stone but forgave the woman caught in adultery. That’s because He also knew He was taking that woman’s sin upon Himself shortly. Because Jesus knew He was righteous and sinless, He had the confidence and boldness to cast evil spirits out, cast sicknesses out, and command healing. They had no hold on Him. This is why He said in John 14, whoever believes in Him, will do the works He did and even greater things than what He did.
John 14:12 – Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.
How is that possible you ask? If we truly believe the gospel message, then we ought to live by faith that we are now sinless just as our Lord was and is. We ought to live by faith, KNOWING that because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, demons and sicknesses have no hold over us. We are sinless and just as righteous as Jesus is because of His finished work on the cross. When we really believe that, then we will have the boldness and authority to command demons out and heal the sick. But this belief also needs to manifest in our lifestyle. Our lives should be a living testimony to the transforming power of Christ. Therefore, the Holy Spirit was given to us. The Holy Spirit was given so that we may have the “power” to live godly lives. We do not have the power in ourselves to resist sinful temptations and overcome them. We need the power of God to do so and therefore we have been given that “power” through the Holy Spirit. That is the gospel message friends. When we believe this gospel message and make an effort to resist temptations (because faith without works is dead), then the power of God is always sufficient to give us victory, every single time.
Temptations are not overcome by knowing and quoting what is written, but by faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus. Amen!!