Question of the Week: How could Jesus have been tempted in Matthew 4:1 when James 1:13 says that God is not tempted?
These kind of questions and others are extremely crucial for us in understanding exactly what we mean when we claim Jesus is God. When we see God behave as only God should, we expect that of Him. When Jesus behaves as only God should, we come to conclusions about Him. The tricky part is when we see Jesus as God behaving in ways only man should. Examples of this are hunger, fatigue, and in this case temptation. God doesn’t hunger, sleep, or experience temptation by definition of what He is. Man does experience these things. The question is how were these both taking place at the same time when God became a Man? Cult groups will claim it has to be one or the other. Novices in this field will dismiss the matter and leave it for the professionals to sort out. We don’t want to be in either of those categories. In order to fully reconcile this paradox of Jesus being God and Man, we must first clarify how Jesus could be either of those things. Let alone both at the same time. Once we understand the concept of what scholars call the “Hypostatic Union” we will be able to reconcile all of scripture with the nature of our Lord.
Fact #1: Jesus is fully God.
Fact #2: Jesus became fully man at a moment of human history.
Fact #3: Jesus continues to function as a man.
Fact #4: Jesus remains God.
Conclusion: Jesus is a unique being in Creation. The God-Man.
Now let’s prove these facts with scripture.
Jesus is God:
+There are things that only God can truthfully claim about Himself and Jesus claimed those things about Himself:
1. God created the Heavens and the Earth:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1 (NKJV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
John 1:1-3 (NKJV)
2. God is the Giver of Life:
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7 (NKJV)
For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.
John 5:21 (NKJV)
3. God has existed Eternally:
Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
Psalm 90:2 (NKJV)
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
Micah 5:2 (NKJV)
Jesus became fully man in a moment of human history:
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.
John 1:14 (NKJV)
Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
Luke 24:36-39 (NKJV)
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, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:1-3 (NKJV)
Jesus continues to function as a man:
This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
John 21:14-15 (NKJV)
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
Revelation 22:16 (NKJV)
Jesus remains God:
“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
Isaiah 44:6 (NKJV)
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death
Revelation 1:17-18 (NKJV)
Conclusion: Jesus is a unique being in Creation. The God-Man.
To recap; God is identified as the one who created the heavens and the earth, and the Word that became flesh in John 1 is also given credit for creation. God is the one who gave life to man in the Garden of Eden, and Jesus claims that is an ability that He shares with the Father. David identifies God as the one who has existed eternally, and the prophet Micah claims the one to be born in Bethlehem actually existed before that point from beyond eternity. This is a small handful of passages used as evidence to conclude that Jesus is God. He says and does the sort of things only God can do. At the same time, Jesus was a being who was able to eat, be seen, touched, and even clarified as having flesh and bones. This is something that was true of Jesus even after His resurrection. He even goes so far as to refer to Himself both as the root and offspring of David. King David’s offspring is also the root or source of His family line. Two unique things are happening at the same time when referring to Jesus. He didn’t cease to be God when He became a man, or He wouldn’t have been able to rightfully refer to Himself in the ways only God can. Likewise, Jesus remains a man following His resurrection given the eyewitness testimonies of His disciples still interacting with Him as a being with flesh and bones. He continues to refer to Himself as the exclusive title of “The First and the Last” even after becoming a man when He appeared to John on Patmos. The First and the Last clarifies that He was dead, but now is alive forevermore. The one speaking to Isaiah is the same one speaking to John and they both speak of themselves the same way, despite Isaiah seeing Jesus before He became a man. These are the facts that we reconcile in order to come to conclusions about Jesus. No one can rightly claim to be the sort of things God is unless they are God. Jesus, or God the Son, referred to Himself as such and functioned in the ways that only God could before and after His resurrection.
This then brings us back to the question. God isn’t tempted, but Man is. Jesus as God isn’t tempted by nature, but adopted human nature in a moment of history. This unique nature as the God-Man could be tempted but remained perfect by nature at the same time. It didn’t lighten the severity of the temptation. Jesus in the wilderness, garden, and throughout His life was exposed to the full human experience. While He was certainly tempted in things that wouldn’t apply to us as men, as a man He experienced temptation. As God, He endured temptation to a degree higher than anything we could imagine.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4:1 (NKJV)
And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
Luke 22:44-46 (NKJV)
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:14-15 (NKJV)
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.” -C.S. Lewis
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