Triumph Through Temptation


Triumph Through Temptation


Triumph Through Temptation

Matthew 4:1-11

Main Idea: As the sinless Son of God, Jesus' victory over temptation by relying on God the Father provides the basis and pattern for our own victory over sin and Satan.

  1. Six Realities
    1. There is a spiritual world.
    2. We are involved in a spiritual war.
    3. Our enemy in this spiritual war is formidable.
    4. The stakes in this spiritual war are eternal.
    5. The scope of this spiritual war is universal.
    6. Our involvement in this spiritual war is personal.
  2. Two Pictures
    1. Jesus is the new Man, stepping into the universal human story.
    2. Jesus is the true Son, suffering through the particular Israelite story.
  3. Two Questions
    1. Does God tempt us?
      1. We are tempted by Satan (who is subordinate) for evil.
      2. We are tested by God (who is sovereign) for good.
    2. Could Jesus have sinned?
      1. Jesus is fully man.
      2. Jesus was fully tempted.
      3. Jesus is fully God.
      4. God cannot be tempted.
  4. Three Temptations
    1. The first temptation: self-gratification
      1. We are tempted to fulfill our wants apart from God's will.
      2. Jesus trusted the all-satisfying, all-sufficient goodness of the Father.
    2. The second temptation: self-protection
      1. We are tempted to question God's presence and manipulate God's promises.
      2. Jesus rested in the shelter of the Father's unshakeable security.61
    3. The third temptation: self-exaltation
      1. We are tempted to assert ourselves in the world while we rob God of His worship.
      2. Jesus refused to exchange the end-time exaltation by the Father for a right-now exaltation of a snake.
  5. Three Conclusions
    1. Christ will be crowned as King.
    2. Satan will be cast down in defeat.
    3. The church will rise up in victory.

Triumph through Temptation

Matthew 4:1-11

The temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 is a familiar passage for many Christians. We may even be able to recite the three temptations Satan set before our Lord, along with Christ's responses. Yet, if we're not careful, there's a danger that we'll miss the meaning of this well-known story, a meaning that is crucial in our own battle against sin. We need to see the close tie between the temptations Jesus faced and the spiritual battles that all of us face.

Six Realities

As we consider the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11, we'll begin by acknowledging six realities. These are really basic reminders that will help us wrap our minds around what is happening in this passage.

There is a spiritual world

First, there is a spiritual world. When we see the Devil tempting Jesus, we don't know exactly how this actually played out, whether in some kind of physical form or just a spiritual form. We don't have all the answers, but what we do know is that the Devil is real, and he is active. And we know that there is an invisible, spiritual world that is just as real as the visible, natural world. Scripture teaches that there are vast numbers of angels, both good and bad, and that these spirits exist all around us. There are glorious beings that would take our breath away at this moment if we saw them, and there are evil beings that would horrify us if they were to appear before our eyes. We need to feel the weight of these supernatural realties.62

We are involved in a spiritual war

Second, followers of Christ need to be reminded that we are involved in a spiritual war. A battle is continually raging, and this battle is between conflicting kingdoms. The kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan—a kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness—are warring against one another. All of history is a story of spiritual warfare. This war begins with the first man and the first woman in Genesis 3, where the enemy, Satan, tempts man to sin and leads him into spiritual darkness and ultimate death. From that moment, the world and all its inhabitants are darkened with sin, under the rule of the prince of this world (Eph 2:1-3). Yet, just a few chapters later, God takes a people for Himself from the midst of the darkness to display His light, but even then His own people cannot overcome the darkness on their own. Abraham, a friend of God, lied about his wife (Gen 12:10-20; 20:1-18). Jacob, loved by God, deceitfully schemed to get God's blessing (Gen 25:29-34; 27:1-29). Moses, the prophet of God, was filled with pride (Num 20:10-13). David, a king after God's own heart, had an affair and committed murder (2 Sam 11). Over and over again in history, men and women have fallen prey to the evil one and experienced the punishment of sin, which is death (Rom 3:23; 6:23).

For every one of us, these conflicting kingdoms of Christ and Satan create a continual struggle. In actuality, this continual struggle is not just between Christians and demons, but between all people and demons, which brings us face-to-face with two realities. First, the Devil is not omnipresent like God is. So when you are being tempted, remember that Satan is only a creature, and although he is behind every temptation to do evil, our battle is not only against him, but against what Paul calls "the rulers... the authorities... the world powers of this darkness... the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens" (Eph 6:12). These powers Paul refers to are demons.

The second reality we need to come to terms with is the fact that temptation for the Christian is not simply about us and our own little kingdoms; it's about an all-out attack of the Devil and all his demons on the kingdom of Christ and every single person who associates with Christ. In attacking Christians, demons are attacking Christ. So trusting in Christ for salvation doesn't end the believer's battle against temptation. If anything, it takes the battle up a notch. The kingdom of darkness that sought to destroy the Messiah is absolutely committed to devouring the Messiah's followers. Therefore, when we talk about temptation,63 we're not simply talking about some psychological battle; we're talking about an intense spiritual war against cosmic powers of darkness who are dead set on destroying the kingdom of Christ and the children of God.

In addition to remembering these first two foundational realities—that there is a spiritual world, and we are involved in it—there are four more realities that we must keep in mind.

Our enemy in this spiritual war is formidable

He is a lion looking to devour (1 Pet 5:8).

The stakes in this spiritual war are eternal

Heaven and hell hang in the balance with this war.

The scope of this spiritual war is universal

It is being waged in every nation, among every people, in every language, and in every individual life on the planet.

Our involvement in this spiritual war is personal

Each one of us is involved in this battle in specific ways. There is a grand, over-arching realm in which this spiritual war is being waged, but there is also a specific, pointed way in which this battle is being fought right now where you are. You are being tempted right now, even if you don't realize it. Russell Moore stresses this point in his book, Tempted and Tried, an extremely helpful book on the topic of temptation (Moore, Tempted and Tried, 26).9 Moore explains why we might be on the verge of wrecking our lives, especially if we don't know it. He uses the illustration of cows being led to the slaughter to make the point.

For a long time, cattle workers would forcefully push and prod cows into the slaughterhouse. For good reason, the cows would resist, and the whole operation would be extremely difficult to carry out. That's until one particular scientist came along and pointed out that the most efficient way to slaughter cows is to make them feel "contented and comfortable" as they enter into the slaughterhouse. In other words, keep the64 scenery the same as it is in the most peaceful moments of the cow's life. Moore continues,

In this system the cows aren't prodded off the truck but are led, in silence, onto a ramp. They go through a "squeeze chute," a gentle pressure device that mimics a mother's nuzzling touch. The cattle continue down the ramp onto a smoothly curving path. There are no sudden turns. The cows experience the sensation of going home, the same kind of way they've traveled so many times before.

As they mosey along the path, they don't even notice when their hooves are no longer touching the ground. A conveyor belt slowly lifts them gently upward, and then, in the twinkling of an eye, a blunt instrument levels a surgical strike right between their eyes. They're transitioned from livestock to meat and they're never aware enough to be alarmed by any of it.

Like the cattle in Moore's illustration, we too can be lulled into thinking that everything is all right, even as danger is approaching. Oh how we need to be aware of the forces that are afoot right now, working to lure us into places that we do not want to go! To repeat Russell Moore's warning, we are on the verge of wrecking our lives, especially if we don't know it.

I feel this temptation continually in my own life. At every point, I am prone to sin. My mind is susceptible to wandering, and I am tempted to think unmentionable thoughts when I see an attractive woman who is not my wife. My heart is bent toward pride, and I am tempted to compete with other pastors over who is more spiritual and more successful. I am tempted to cut moral corners in order to gain personal advantage over others. I am prone to pretense and hypocrisy, tempted to lie to make myself look better, and to call people to do what I am not willing to do myself. I am prone to value appearance over authenticity, my wants over other people's needs, and I am prone to desire the glory that is due God alone. I am keenly, if not frighteningly, aware that one wrong look, one inappropriate meeting, one rash decision, one fleeting moment could wreak spiritual havoc on my life, my family, and my church. I have the potential of bringing untold disgrace on my God.

My involvement in spiritual warfare is personal, and the same holds true for every follower of Christ. The battles may look different as they play out in other people's lives, but don't be fooled: the war is real,65 and the evil one is persistently plotting to subtly entice you with sin and ultimately to bring destruction upon your soul. So don't be caught unaware.

We are a part of a human race wherein every man and every woman has succumbed to sin, and thus every man and every woman has experienced death, except one. And that's the good news of Matthew 4:1-11. A new Man has come, a Man over whom Satan could gain no control. His name is Jesus, and Matthew gives us two pictures of Him.

Two Pictures

Jesus is the new Man

First, Matthew shows us that Jesus is the new Man, stepping into the universal human story. There are deliberate parallels here between Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4 and Adam and Eve in the garden in Genesis 3. It's no coincidence that both Adam and Jesus are initially tempted to eat food apart from the Father's will. For Adam, it was fruit from a tree. For Jesus, it was stones becoming bread. And in both situations, the temptation begins by questioning God. For Adam, the serpent questions God's word, asking, "Did God really say...?" (Gen 3:1). For Jesus, the serpent calls into question Christ's sonship, saying in effect, "If you are really the Son of God, why are you hungry like this?" (cf. Matt 4:3). Jesus steps into the same story that Adam stepped into, but Jesus is able to stand where Adam fell. Jesus is a new Man, unlike Adam and unlike all of us in the universal human story who have succumbed to sin.

Jesus is the true Son

He is not only the new Man, but Jesus is the true Son, suffering through the particular Israelite story. There are some parallels between Matthew 4 and Genesis 3, but there are even more parallels between Jesus' temptation and the testing of God's people before they entered into the promised land in the Old Testament. When God commanded Pharaoh to let His people go, God told Moses, "Then you will say to Pharaoh: This is what Yahweh says: Israel is My firstborn son. I told you: Let My son go so that he may worship Me" (Exod 4:22-23). Notice that God refers to Israel as His son. Son language was also used in Matthew 2:15, where Matthew quoted from Hosea 11:1, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son." Both Israel and Jesus were tested in the wilderness; God's son, Israel, was tested for 40 years, while God's Son, Jesus, was tested for 4066 days. It's fitting, then, that Jesus uses Scripture every time He wards off temptation, and the passages He uses are from Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; and 6:13—all passages related to Israel's wandering through the wilderness those 40 years. One last parallel is worth pointing out: right before they were tested, God delivered the people of Israel through the waters of the Red Sea, so that Paul is able to call this Israel's baptism (1 Cor 10:2). Then in the New Testament, right before Jesus' testing, we see His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist (Matt 3:16).

These parallels concerning Jesus' sonship are the key to understanding His temptations. Notice how the first two temptations begin with Satan saying, "If You are the Son of God" (Matt 4:3, 6), a clear reference back to Matthew 3:17, where God said of Jesus, "This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!" At the core, temptation to sin is an assault on sonship. Just as the Devil was trying to attack the relationship between the Father and the Son in the wilderness temptations, so the temptations you and I face today are really attacks on what it means to relate to God as Father. The Israelites' sin in the wilderness began when they started saying in effect, "Are we really the sons of God? We don't have bread or water! Is He really our Father?" That's exactly how Satan attacked Jesus in Matthew 4, and it's where he'll attack you today, Christian. He did it in the garden of Eden, tempting Adam and Eve to see God not as their Father, but as their rival. Every sin that we commit is tantamount to a rejection of God as our Father, as the One who knows what is best for us and is committed to providing it for us. How crucial it is, then, for us to see that Jesus is the true Man and the true Son.

Two Questions

When we consider Jesus' temptation in Scripture, there are two questions that often arise.

Does God tempt us?

Matthew 4:1 says that Jesus was led "by the Spirit" to be tempted by the Devil in the wilderness. But in what sense did the Spirit lead Jesus to be tempted? Did the Spirit of God tempt Jesus? The clear answer from Scripture is, "No." God never tempts us in the sense of enticing us to evil. James 1:13 says, "No one undergoing a trial should say, 'I am being tempted by God.'" Instead, Satan is seen in Scripture as "the tempter" (Matt 4:3). Therefore, we can say that we are tempted by Satan (who is67 subordinate) for evil. Only the Devil and demons tempt us to evil, but even their tempting, though directly attributable to them, is ultimately under the sovereign control of God. Nothing happens in the universe apart from the sovereignty of God.

There is a flip side to Satan's temptations in Matthew 4: We are tested by God (who is sovereign) for good. If we put the two points together we can say that temptation by the Devil (who is subordinate) toward evil is ultimately a part of a testing by God (who is sovereign) for good. The book of Job teaches us that Satan is on a leash; he can do nothing that God does not allow him to do. Now to be sure, when Satan tempts, he intends it for evil, but God uses these temptations to refine His children and to teach them His faithfulness (Jas 1:2; 1 Pet 1:6-7). The apostle Paul experienced this when God gave him a "thorn in the flesh... a messenger of Satan" to torment him (2 Cor 12:7). The purpose of the trial was so that Paul would know the strength and sufficiency of Christ (2 Cor 12:9-10). Consider also Joseph in the Old Testament, who was sold into slavery and tempted in a number of ways. God used these trials to bring about good—for Joseph and for his brothers who sold him into slavery (Gen 50:20).

We can say definitively that God was not tempting Jesus, nor was He tempting Adam, Joseph, Israel, or Paul, toward evil. For that matter, He will never tempt you toward evil. Instead, in His sovereignty, God uses even Satan's temptations to evil in order to bring about good in your life (Rom 8:28).

Could Jesus have sinned?

The answer to the second question this passage raises is no... and yes. Pointing out four truths from Scripture may help explain the complex answer to this question. First, Jesus is fully man. He was and is fully human, as human as you and me. Second, Jesus was fully tempted. The Bible says He was tempted as we are (Heb 4:15), that is, He was tempted with things that are common to man (1 Cor 10:13). Now you may read these temptations in Matthew and think, "I'm not tempted in these ways." If you're honest, these temptations may even seem quite trivial; however, these temptations Jesus faced are at the core of every temptation that you and I face. There are no new temptations—just new ways of succumbing to old temptations.

The third truth we must keep in mind as we think about whether or not Jesus could have sinned is that Jesus is fully God. This is a truth we've68 already seen in Matthew, and one that will continue to unfold in the chapters ahead. Let it suffice to say, the One who is called Immanuel, "God is with us" (Matt 1:23), is more than just a man. Fourth, keep in mind that God cannot be tempted. James 1:13 says explicitly, "God is not tempted by evil." So here are the four truths that we must affirm: Jesus is fully man, Jesus was fully tempted, Jesus is fully God, and God cannot be tempted. The difficulty comes when you try to figure out precisely how these truths work together, which leads us back to the mystery of the Incarnation.

In an earlier chapter we saw that Jesus' human nature and divine nature are different, yet unified, leading to some wonderful mysteries.10 As a picture of His humanity, Jesus was asleep on a boat in the middle of a storm (8:23). Then, as a demonstration of His deity, He stood up and calmed the wind and the waves (v. 26). He was (and is) fully human and fully God. So, in His humanity, Jesus was tempted as we are. Yet, in His deity He was not tempted, for God cannot be tempted (Jas 1:13). These are mind-boggling realities, for which an illustration from Russell Moore may help.11

Think of the person in this world that you love the most. Picture their face, and then ask yourself, "Could I murder that person?" Immediately you're thinking, "Absolutely not!" And in that response, what you're thinking is, "I don't have the moral capability of murdering that person." But if you understood my question, "Could you murder that person?" in terms of physically performing an action, though it's unfathomable to you, it would be physically possible. Even so, Jesus, in His deity, as the light of the world in whom there is no darkness, could not have sinned. He is morally incapable of such an action. Yet at the same time, Jesus could have sinned in the sense that He was physically capable of eating bread or throwing Himself off a temple or bowing the knee to Satan. In this way, Jesus was fully tempted as we are (Heb 4:15).

Three Temptations

Matthew 4:1-11

Having looked at some difficult questions related to Jesus' temptations, we now turn to the temptations themselves. When we look under the69 surface of each of these temptations to see their core, we will see that we are tempted in exactly the same ways. And most importantly, we will see how Jesus conquered each temptation on our behalf.


In verse 3 we see the first temptation: self-gratification. After 40 days of fasting, the Bible says Jesus was hungry. This seems like an understatement from Matthew. The Devil tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread as proof that He is the Son of God. He is sowing doubt by asking, "If You are the Son of God, the beloved of God, then why are You out here in the wilderness starving? You desire food. Is Your Father not providing and caring for You? Satisfy Your desires now." It's not difficult to see the self-gratification that every one of us craves in the depths of our own hearts.

We are tempted to fulfill our wants apart from God's will. All of us have desires that God has built into us, desires that are good—needs in our bodies and cravings in our souls. But God has also created us to look to Him as a good Father who satisfies those desires. That was the point of the garden of Eden, wasn't it? Satan suggested to Adam and Eve that God was withholding good from them, so they decided to fulfill their desire apart from God's will. That's when sin entered the world (Rom 5:12). It's the same story behind God's testing of Israel in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3, the passage that Jesus quotes from during His temptation, we read the following:

Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

This was a testing of the heart to see if the Israelites would trust the goodness of God to fulfill their desires according to His word and the counsel of His will. This same kind of testing accompanies every temptation in our lives. We have desires that are good and God-given, desires for food, water, sleep, sex, relationships, companionship, etc. This is the place where Satan works—at the level of our wants. You desire food, and he tempts you toward undisciplined overeating. You desire sleep, and70 he tempts you toward apathy and laziness. You desire sex, and he tempts you toward such sins as lust, pornography, adultery, and homosexuality. And at the core is a desire for self-gratification that says, "God is not providing for me in the way I want, so I will seek my own gratification apart from Him." Satan tempts you to fulfill God-given wants apart from God's will.

The Enemy is so deadly in the way he attacks our desires. He has convinced many followers of Christ that their desires for sin define who they are. But that is not true. Christian, you are a child of God. And just because you are His child does not mean that you will never want something that doesn't accord with God's will. You will fight with some temptations for 40 days, or in some cases 40 years; you may even have to battle your entire life. So how do you win, day after day, year after year? You do what Jesus did.

When He was hungry, Jesus trusted the all-satisfying, all-sufficient goodness of the Father. Don't tell God when and how your desires should be fulfilled; trust God to fulfill your desires in His way according to His Word. Trust that God your Father is good, and realize that any attempt to satisfy your wants apart from His will ultimately leads not to delight, but to destruction. As soon as Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit, they realized what they had done, and everything—around them, within them, and between them—changed for the worse. What they thought would lead to delight led to destruction.

We see foolish and deadly decisions similar to those made by Adam and Eve throughout Scripture. In Genesis 25:29-34 we read that Esau was so hungry that he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. After filling his belly he realized the foolishness of his decision (see Heb 12:16-17). Or consider Judas, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. He got the money he wanted, and that money eventually led to his death (Matt 27:3-10). What Esau and Judas thought would lead to delight led to their destruction. Mark it down: The bread of demons always destroys. The will and Word of the Lord, on the other hand, always satisfy. So trust the goodness of the Father. Jesus did, and by the end of Matthew 4 Jesus' desire for food was supernaturally fulfilled.


After looking at the temptation of self-gratification, we move next to the second temptation: self-protection. This temptation is probably the most difficult to understand because we struggle to see what is so enticing71 about the possibility of Jesus jumping off a tower. But this was no normal tower; this was the top of the temple, the place that was intended to be a visible demonstration of God's presence and protection among His people. Satan quotes from Psalm 91, a song about God's protection, and he tempts Jesus to prove that God will be faithful to Him as His Son: "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down" (v. 6). Once again, Jesus' reply helps us understand the core of the temptation here. He quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16, where Israel received the following command: "Do not test the Lord your God as you tested Him at Massah."

The reference to Massah in Deuteronomy 6:16 takes us back to Exodus 17, where the people of God put God to the test by demanding that He provide them more water. They asked, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Exod 17:7). Their questioning proved a lack of trust in God. They didn't trust His presence with them or His protection of them. The same thing can often be said of us. Just as Israel was tempted in the Old Testament, and Jesus was tempted in the New Testament, we are tempted to question God's presence and manipulate God's promises. Jesus was tempted to put God to the test by manipulating Psalm 91 into forcing the Father to prove His [Jesus'] sonship by miraculously delivering Him. This would be tantamount to asking God for proof of His presence and protection. But that kind of callous experimentation with God is a clear example of a lack of trust, and it shows up in all kinds of ways in our lives.

We are tempted to twist God's Word around our personal preferences. We are tempted to question His plans for us when they don't go the way we would like. We are tempted to doubt His love for us when something goes wrong. We are tempted to ask for signs that He is still with us even though He has shown His faithfulness to us over and over and over again. We are tempted to complain to Him about the circumstances of our lives, boldly thinking (if not saying) just like the Israelites did, "God, are You with me or not?" So how did Jesus react to such temptation?

Jesus rested in the shelter of the Father's unshakeable security. Jesus knew He had no reason to test the Father. It's no wonder, therefore, that Jesus' message to us repeatedly in the book of Matthew is, "Don't worry" (6:25, 31). In the Sermon on the Mount, which starts in the next chapter, Jesus points to the Father's care for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air as evidence that His children need not worry (6:26-30). If God cares for plants and animals, He will surely provide for His children.72

I love spending time with my kids, and I would do anything to protect them and care for them. Yet, according to what Jesus says in Luke 11:13, I am an evil father. That is, even with my good intentions and the kindness I show to my kids, I am a sinner who fails repeatedly to do what is right. Consider that God is a good Father, and everything He does in our lives is good. How much more, then, can we trust Him? Like Jesus, we can rest in the shelter of the Father's unshakeable security.


Having looked at the temptations of self-gratification (4:3-4) and self-protection (4:5-6), consider now the third temptation: self-exaltation. In verses 8-9 Jesus is taken to a very high mountain, either a physical mountain or at the very least a very high vision, and He is shown all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor (France, The Gospel of Matthew, 134).12 You may be wondering why this would be such a great temptation if Jesus already knew these kingdoms would be His. But remember, Jesus also knows that the road ahead leading to such authority is filled with sorrow, suffering, and ultimately a violent death. He was tempted to try and seize God's reward right then, apart from the path of pain. "You're a Son," the Devil said, "so why be a Servant? You're a King, so why be crucified? Take them now; they're yours."

That's precisely what Satan whispers in our ears today. He points to all the things of this world—the successes, the accomplishments, the pleasures, and the possessions—and he says, "Get them now." He promised Adam and Eve that they would be like God if they ate the fruit, and they believed him. They ascribed worth to Satan instead of worth to God.

We are tempted to do the same thing that Adam and Eve did. We are tempted to assert ourselves in the world while we rob God of His worship. Instead of a simple, humble, difficult obedience to God in this world, in our pride we seek to attain what we want in the way we want to do it. This pride is at the root of all our rebellion. We all struggle with pride, wherein we bow the knee to the prince of this world and seek to dethrone the one true God who alone is worthy of all worship. Once again, we need to see how Jesus resisted this temptation.73

I'll quote directly from Russell Moore again, as I can't improve on his words: Jesus refused to exchange the end-time exaltation by the Father for a right-now exaltation of a snake (Moore, Tempted and Tried, 131). Jesus, the beloved Son, knew that the supreme duty of everyone and everything is to worship God, and He knew that everyone who humbles himself before God will be exalted (Matt 23:12). Jesus chose to live a life of suffering obedience to the Father instead of sinful submission to Satan, and in the end, all authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him (Matt 28:18).

Three Conclusions

Christ will be crowned as King

The temptations Matthew records for us in this chapter are directly relevant to the battles we face every day. Self-gratification, self-protection, and self-exaltation are always trying to allure us. And we'll continue to face these battles until the day when finally and eternally Christ will be crowned as King. Two thousand years ago He conquered sin as our Savior. Each of these wilderness temptations is ultimately connected to the cross. This bout in the wilderness was just a picture of the temptation Christ would endure on the way to Calvary. The crowds taunted Him, "If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross!" (Matt 27:40). Jesus knew that He had authority to call down 12 legions of angels to save Him from the cross (Matt 26:53), yet He refused to bow the knee to Satan's temptations. In worship, He cried out, "Father, glorify Your name" (John 12:28), and then in obedience, He walked the hard Calvary Road on your behalf and mine. He died for sinners and rose again, conquering sin as our Savior. And His work on our behalf is ongoing.

Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven where today He fights alongside us and for us through His Spirit. To use Paul's words, "We are counted as sheep to be slaughtered," yet "we are more than victorious through Him who loved us" (Rom 8:36-37). Paul puts it beautifully in Romans 8:31-34:

If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God's elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns?74 Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.

God has given us His Spirit, the same Spirit who led Jesus not only into the wilderness, but also through the wilderness unscathed. This same Spirit is alive in you! You cannot triumph over temptation, but Christ can. And Christ is in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

We must consider the danger we are in as a part of this cosmic and very personal spiritual war. But we also need to see how empowered we are to resist the Devil, and when we do resist him, he will flee from us (Jas 4:7). There is a way of escape, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, and it is Christ. Therefore, live in Him until one day He will reign over all as our Sovereign.

Satan will be cast down in defeat

On that last day, Jesus will once and for all assert His authority over all creation, and when He does, Satan will be cast down in defeat. Be assured that the accuser will be arraigned, the serpent will be sentenced, and the Devil will be destroyed. Revelation 20:10 says, "The Devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Christ will be crowned as King. Satan will be cast down in defeat. So what about the church?

The church will rise up in victory

God's Word makes clear that on the last day the church will rise up in victory. That's right, victory is assured. For all sons and daughters of God, it may be wartime now, but peacetime is coming. As children of God in Christ, let's trust the all-satisfying, all-sufficient goodness of our Father! Let His supreme love be the satisfaction of your soul. Trust Him—His Word, His will—for He knows what is best for you. He is not your rival; He is your Father. In light of this, as children of God in Christ, let's rest in the shelter of our Father's unshakeable security! We have no reason to fear, worry, doubt, or question God. We shouldn't complain or in any way be concerned about the Father's presence, power, and protection for us. Christ has secured all of these things for His people, so that we can now rest in Him.

All of this leads to the final encouragement: As children of God in Christ, let's refuse to exchange our end-time exaltation by the Father for75 a right-now exaltation of a snake (Moore, Tempted and Tried, 131)! You may ask, "What do you mean by our end-time exaltation?" Remember that there is coming a day when we will receive the ultimate reward of our salvation as we reign with Christ in His kingdom.

Reflect and Discuss

  1. What images come to mind when you hear about demons and spiritual warfare? Are these thoughts biblical? If not, explain why.
  2. List some things that distract us from seeing the spiritual battles all around us. What are some specific ways we can battle our ignorance and apathy toward spiritual warfare?
  3. Which sins are especially prevalent in our culture today?
  4. Explain how Jesus' triumph through temptation is both our example and the basis for our own victory in temptation. What is the danger if we only see Jesus as our example?
  5. How would you answer the following question: "If Jesus was fully God, then how can His victory over temptation help a weak and sinful person like me?"
  6. Of Satan's three temptations in this passage, which one do you struggle with the most? What promise from Scripture might help you battle that temptation?
  7. Explain the following statement: Jesus triumphed where Adam and Israel failed.
  8. What attributes of God strengthen you during temptation?
  9. How do Satan's temptations seek to undermine the purpose of the cross?
  10. How does the promise of eternal life and the believer's future reign with Christ affect your everyday battle with sin?

Moore's book was immensely helpful to me in my study of this text, and his observations, illustration, and application inform much of this section. I highly recommend this book for further study.


See the chapter on Matthew 1:18-23 for more on how to relate Jesus' humanity and His deity.


This illustration is adapted from Russell Moore, Tempted and Tried, 43-44.


France points to passages such as Deut 34:1-4 and Gen 13:14-17 as other places in Scripture where a mountain serves as a place to view "promised territory" (p. 134). France does not think the passage demands a literal mountain.