Monthly Archives: January 2018

WHEN THE TEMPTER CAME

When Jesus had just been baptized by John in the Jordan river, continuing to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), then the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended in a bodily shape like a dove and lighted upon Him. Magnifying this already awesome event, the voice of God spoke from heaven saying “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:13-17). It was immediately after this that the Lord was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1). There Jesus fasted for forty days and was hungry and weak (Matt. 4:2). During these forty days in the wilderness, the tempter came to Him. The following are at least some of the lessons we can learn from this account.

First, the tempter comes to us at our weakest moments. It was not a coincidence that the tempter came to Jesus when He had been fasting for forty days and was surely in a weakened condition. Generally speaking, experience has taught us that forty days nears the limits of man’s ability to safely fast. After this, serious health issues arise and death is a real possibility. Jesus was physically and mentally exhausted. When this particular temptation was over, He apparently needed the assistance of the angels, for they are found ministering unto Him (Matt. 4:11; Mark 1:13). But even in this depleted and weakened condition, Jesus was still able to overcome these temptations.

Second, the tempter comes to us when we least expect it. These temptations came right after Jesus had received approval from God in heaven. It was a glorious moment for the Lord, quite unlike His time on the cross when He cried out “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:45,46). Here, God proclaimed His approval for His beloved Son, as He did at the the mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1ff). It was similar to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when all men proclaimed Him as Messiah. Yet very soon afterword, they were calling for His crucifixion (Matt. 21:8-11; 27:20-25). It was soon after this emotional, glorious and joyous event that satan attacked. Be sober for your adversary as a roaring lion seeketh whom he may devour ( I Pet. 5:8).

The tempter hits us at our weakest points. Due to His fasting, Jesus was particularly hungry during His wilderness stay (Matt. 4:2). It is no wonder then that the tempter tempted Him to make bread out of stones. Perhaps, in the Lord’s mind, as hungry as He was, when He saw a stone it resembled bread to Him and the tempter used this association to get Jesus to think about actually giving in to this urge. On another occasion, Jesus was anxious about going to Jerusalem and suffering many things at the hand of the priests and being crucified (Matt. 16:21). When Peter urged Him not to go, it was a great temptation to Him and He rebuked Peter for it (Matt. 16:23). He did not need the further hindrances to His work.

The tempter is the tempter, not God. James said, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (James 1:13,14). Two things to note. First, the devil actively tempts us. Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, not God. God does not tempt any man. It is God Who makes a way of escape (I Cor. 10:13). Second, man, himself, is also responsible, for it is his own lusts that lure him into situations of temptation.

The tempter does not quit tempting. Luke tells us that the tempter departed from Jesus after these temptations but only “for a season” (Luke 4:13). Jesus said the apostles had continued with Him in His “temptations,” plural, not singular (Luke 22:18). The devil does not let up on us. He goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8). Paul says we need the shield of faith to quench, not just one single dart, but “all” the fiery darts (plural) of the wicked (Eph. 6:16). We must resist him steadfast in the faith because he will not let up on his attack (I Pet. 5:9).

The tempter can be resisted. In every case, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations. Some have said He could do this because He was divine. But if that is the reason, then He can no longer be our example, for we are not divine (at least not in the same sense He was). Jesus took on Himself the seed of Abraham, being made like unto His brethren in all things that He might destroy the devil and his work (Heb. 2:14-18). He was tempted in all points “like as we are,” touched with every feeling of our infirmities, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

When the tempter comes, what will we do? God commands us not to sin (I John 2:1). Our human weaknesses, however, often give us trouble. We have the example of our Saviour who overcame temptation. Temptations will surely come but as Jesus suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18). We have but to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).

 

Eric L. Padgett

Wise Men

Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ is the only gospel account that records the visit of the wise men (Matt. 2:1-12). The expression “wise men” is translated from the term “magi” (Gk. magoi). The word magi might evoke in our modern mind images of David Copperfield or David Blaine, but this is not what the term suggests. Herodotus says that the magi were originally a tribe of the Medes (1:101:1). He also identifies them as priests, similar to the Levites in that they presided over the offering of sacrifices (1:132:2). These mysterious magi were renowned for their interpretation of dreams and their observations of, and their insight into, the meaning of astrological and astronomical events. They performed peculiar, public religious rites and were held in high regard by the children of the east as having special insights through these methods of divination.

What is more, being so highly esteemed, they were counted valuable as advisors to the kings, and thus they wielded great political power. When Nebuchadnezzar could not remember his dream, he turned to his magicians first to tell him the dream and then interpret it for him (Dan. 2:1,2). They objected that no king asks magicians such things, knowing that such is impossible with man. Whereas they were unsuccessful, Daniel, through revelation from God, made known the dream unto the king, giving all the glory to God (2:27-30). In return, Daniel was given gifts and made a “great man,” “ruler over the whole province of Babylon,” and “chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48).

The wise men who came from the east to seek Jesus were the spiritual heirs of those we meet in the book of Daniel. The Holy Spirit did not see fit to tell us how many of these men came to seek Jesus, though many have surmised that the number of kinds of gifts gives us insight into their number. Non-authoritative, secular traditions place the number anywhere between two and twelve. Equally unknown and unimportant are the names of the wise men, though secular history agains supplies alternatives: Gaspar, Melchoir and Balthasar, though other cultures offer other names.

Some have objected to the King James translation of “wise men.” However, Daniel was made “chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:47). Daniel referred to the magi as wise men (Dan. 2:10-12, 13, 14, 18, 24, 27, 48; 4:6, 18; 5:7, 8, 15). Jeremiah refers to a rab-mag, or chief of the magi (Jer. 39:13). In being made chief of the wise men, or magi, Daniel would have been considered a rab-mag. Since this position was usually a hereditary position, perhaps this explains, in part, why there were forces seeking Daniel’s death, being a foreigner.

Several things can be gathered from the statement of the wise men about this event (Matt. 2:2). First, these wise men knew about the birth of Jesus. But how could they have known? Daniel’s prophecy pinpointed the time when the Messiah was to appear (Dan. 2:44; 7:9-27; 9:20-27). The Jews still living abroad, as well as the wise men, would have had access to these scriptures, or at least the teachings of the scriptures. Further, since God speaks to the wise men in having them turn in another direction without telling Herod (Matt. 2:12), it is possible that He had already spoken to them earlier, as well, directing them further.

Second, the wise men also allude to the star. We already know the wise men were students of the stars and thought that they could divine the world through them. But perhaps, having had access to the writings of Daniel and other Old Testament authors, they had read Balaam’s prophecy of a star coming out of Jacob (Num. 24:17), Balaam himself being a child of the east (Num. 22:5). The star which the wise men saw was no ordinary star and does not find any fulfillment in any alignment of the planets. This star first moved and then stood still over then house where Jesus was (Matt. 2:9).

Third, they understood that this child was born “king of the Jews” and was worthy of worship. The wise men traveled a great distance, perhaps a thousand miles to see Jesus. This no doubt entailed a great expense and great risk. What would Herod, notorious for killing any who stood in his way to challenge him, do to them? Would Herod consider this trespassing of his land a prelude to war? The fact that their lives were hazarded is confirmed by the fact that the Lord sent them out another way instead of returning to Herod (Matt. 2:12). Yet, despite all this, the wise men risked all to fall down before the young child and worship Him (Matt. 2:11). Contrast the actions of the wise men with that of Herod who only feigned interest in Him so that He might get him out of the way (Matt. 2:16-18).

These wise men sought Jesus at great expense of money and time and at great risk of life and limb. Some “Christians” today would never confess the Lord if they thought it might cost them money, friends or take time away from their precious entertainment. The wise men truly intended to worship Him as Lord and did so worship Him. Many “Christians” today act as if they are Lord. The wise men traveled perhaps a thousand miles so that they could find Him. Some today won’t travel across town to worship the Lord. The wise men undoubtedly had searched the scriptures and listened to God. Some “Christians” today have never opened their Bible or know what the Bible teaches and, perhaps, don’t even care.

Those wise men sought Jesus. Wise men today still seek Him (Acts 17:27).

Eric L. Padgett

In The Beginning Was The Word

One of the most profound statements in all the Bible begins John’s Gospel account: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Holy Spirit through John designed this statement, no doubt, to both draw our minds back to creation in Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”) and to enhance our limited understanding of it. This scripture ties together many thoughts and passages throughout the Old Testament and the New to give us deeper insight into the nature of our God.

John reveals that Jesus is the Word, the Logos. In general, words express ideas, they convey meaning. I am trying to convey certain ideas through the use of words as I write this entry. As the Word, Jesus reveals to us the truths that God wants us to know. Jesus said, “As My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things” (John 8:28). Again, “I speak that which I have seen with My Father” (John 8:38). Once more, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49). As the Word, Jesus faithfully represents to us what the Father would have us to know and understand.

The use of the term “word” or “logos” also ties together creation and revelation. God created the world by speaking it into existence. Eight times in Genesis chapter one the expression “and God said” is found as it relates to the act of creation. This fact is revealed over and over again in scripture. “He commanded, and they were created” (Psalm 148:5). “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth…He spoke, and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6,9). God brought this world into existence through the use of the Word.

In the New Testament, Jesus is identified as the Creator. John writes, “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Paul declares of Jesus “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:16-17). The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that God “made the worlds” by His Son and that He now continues to uphold all things by the Word of His power (Heb. 1:2,3).

We further know from John’s opening declaration that the relationship which the Word sustained to God was intimate and sublime. Just as Genesis 1:1 tells us that God was already present in the beginning before creation, we learn this also of the Word. The Word simply “was.” Not only was the Word in the beginning, but He was both with God and He was God. He was God. Not just a god. Not a part of God. He was fully God and yet He was also distinct from God the Father so that He could be said to be “with” Him. This is why in the creation we hear God say “let Us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26).

But the most profound idea found in these opening verses of John’s account is found in verse 14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” The eternal Word became flesh. God became man. Why do this? “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. . .Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:10,14).

Paul stated that Jesus “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

This is how John began his account of the life of Christ. Matthew wrote to show the Jews that Jesus fulfilled the prophesies of the Old Testament as the Messiah. Mark wrote to show that Jesus was the Son of God. Luke wrote to demonstrate the humanity of Jesus. But John wrote to show us that Jesus was God and man. In his epistle, John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (I John 1:1). John touched and handled the Word of Life.

Eric L. Padgett