Temptations to Sin are Sure to Come

(Matthew 18:7-9)

As we live in this world we must understand that there are many temptations to sin in the world. Jesus was well aware of this for he knew that temptations to sin are sure to come and in this section even said it was necessary that temptations come.

Everyone in this world suffers temptation. It is how they respond to temptation that is important. If we are to suffer temptation then it is important that we understand a little about what it is and how it occurs.

Temptation occurs in this way. “…but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15) Temptation is external to a person, but it is the internal issues of human passion and desire that allow temptation to bring forth sin. If we are tempted we are at a decision point to resist the temptation or to succumb to it, which leads to sin.

Jesus was aware of how this felt for he too was tempted while on the earth. It is written of him, “For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) So when we are tempted we have an advocate to help us and we can look to Jesus for support in the time of temptation. He understands our plight for he has been tempted in every way that we men and women are tempted, plus a few others. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to prove he was the Son of God, he was tempted through his hunger, and he was tempted with power and many other things as well.

In overcoming temptation we can go to Jesus. We can also appeal for salvation from temptation at the time of the temptation by walking in the Spirit. We see that in Jesus we have a great high priest who can help us in our time of need. The bible says, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
We also receive help in temptation as Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) The way of escape at the time of temptation is to walk in the Spirit. It is to go to the Lord in prayer to seek strength to overcome the temptation. Paul in this verse echoes Jesus words for he says that we need to be able to endure temptation. That is, we must still go through the temptation and endure it, but that through God we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear.

Jesus describes how important it is to overcome temptations to sin. He indicates the kind of drastic steps that might be considered if temptation were out of control in a person’s life. A thief who could not resist the temptation to steal might consider cutting off their hands to prevent them from stealing. A person tempted through anger to kick out at another and harm them might consider cutting off a foot to stop them. Now while these may seem drastic, and they are, they illustrate how important it is not to succumb to temptation. Jesus is not telling us to cut off our hands or feet or to pluck out our eyes, but we must take drastic steps and measures to overcome temptation. If we fall snare to temptation and fall back into sin, then the temptation will rob us of our eternal salvation and life with Christ. That is why it is essential that we be prepared to punish every disobedience of our own and to take the most severe steps to fight against temptation. Our eternal salvation may be at stake.

People will tempt us. Satan will use other people to put temptations in our way. Jesus bemoans these people saying, “…woe to the man by whom the temptation comes.” (Verse 7) It is bad enough that we need to go through temptations, but it will be worse for the person bringing the temptation. And we need to be on our guard to ensure we do not put a temptation in the way of others. Peter was used of Satan to try to tempt the Lord Jesus as we see in Matthew 16:21-23. What should we do if we land in such a place? Repent and turn to the Lord for his forgiveness, support and help.

Temptations are necessary and must come to test us and strengthen us. But we need to learn how to resist temptations through the power of walking in the spirit and with the help of the Lord Jesus, knowing that he has already been through these things, but without sin.

Jesus Foretells his Death and Resurrection

(Matthew 16:21-23)

Jesus regularly pre-warned the disciples of things to come. Jesus never leaves us completely in the dark, either then or now. Here we see Jesus foretells his death and resurrection to his disciples so they would understand what was coming and what would happen. He wanted to assure them that this was what was supposed to happen so they would not be surprised and shocked.

The very purpose of Jesus coming to the earth was to establish the New Covenant so that man could be set free from sin and death. However, to achieve a release from sin required a sacrifice to be made, as was ordained in the law. But there was no sacrifice adequate on this earth, and so Jesus came to become the perfect sacrifice. It was for our benefit that Jesus suffered so that we would not have to suffer also. It was the greatest gift ever given to man.

Naturally, Satan would oppose anything God would do for man. Here we see that Satan was at work opposing God and Jesus again. We have insight into Satan’s treachery in this passage for we see that he influenced even Peter, who in the previous section was blessed by Jesus for his faith. Satan influenced Peter to try to convince Jesus that such suffering and death as Jesus was describing to the disciples would or should never happen. Through Peter, Satan attempted to sway Jesus to escape such an end.

Jesus was aware of Satan’s malice and treachery. He recognised the hand of that devil immediately and thus warned him off saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Verse 23) Satan was attempting to hinder Jesus and using Peter to say the words. We note that Jesus did not accuse Peter of this treachery but went to the source of these words of hindrance, to Satan himself. Other translations of this verse, and the original Greek manuscript say, “…you are setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.” (ESV)

Satan was attempting to get Jesus to think like a man rather than to follow the path of God and think on the Spirit. He was appealing to the flesh of Jesus to lead him away from the things of the Spirit. When the flesh leads a man he is in opposition to God and cannot do what is pleasing to God. We see Paul cover this in Romans 8:5-8 saying;

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot;
8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Satan attempts to cause Jesus to set his mind on the flesh. He attempts to force him to think of the preservation of the flesh, self-preservation, by using Peter to say the words that this should never happen to Jesus. He was attempting to cause Jesus to walk in the flesh and set his mind on the flesh.

But the work of God is the work of the spirit, and to walk in the Spirit requires a person to set their minds on the things of the Spirit. This even included Jesus, who though he was the Son of God, was manifested in the flesh like any ordinary man. Jesus was tempted in all the same ways that any man is tempted, but without succumbing to temptation. This attempt by Satan was another of the temptations of Christ. Jesus walked in the Spirit and sent Satan packing. Walking in the flesh would have meant Jesus should seek to escape this upcoming death and suffering. But then how would the New Covenant appear and the word of God be fulfilled? Walking in the Spirit meant that Jesus would do as he was required by the Father to bring about the New Covenant for our sake, even though it meant death and suffering.

This scripture shows how great was Jesus’ love for us. Even though he was tempted and lured to swerve from the course that would lead to death, he did not waver. The Spirit prevailed and we are the more blessed for Jesus actions. In his actions we too have an example of walking in the Spirit. There may be times when the Lord’s course will cause us suffering too, so we need to be prepared to likewise walk in the Spirit.