TEMPTATIONS PECULIAR TO THE NEW CREATION
"We have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with
the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted
like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore
come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we
may obtain mercy, and find grace to help
in time of need."--Hebrews 4:15,16.
IN HIS discourse, as given in this Epistle, the Apostle Paul has led his readers up to the point of appreciation that although the Lord Jesus was not a priest according to the Jewish arrangement, not being a member of the tribe of Levi, nevertheless He was a Priest according to special Divine appointment. He entered upon His priestly office at the time of His begetting and anointing of the Holy Spirit, which He received at His baptism by John. His work as High Priest still continues, and will not be complete until the close of His Reign of a thousand years. He is now a Priest on the highest plane, the Divine plane. Although at His resurrection He became so great, so highly exalted above mankind, nevertheless this great High Priest, the highest of all the House of Sons, is One who can be touched with the feeling of our human infirmities. He realizes our imperfection, our trials, our difficulties; for in the days of His flesh He had similar trials, similar difficulties.
The question arises, How could Jesus have had the same kind of difficulties that a mother would have? How could He be tried in all points as a mother? He never was a mother. How could He be tempted as a father? He never was a father. How could He be tempted as a drunkard, or in many ways as fallen humanity are tempted, when He was perfect?
We answer, The Apostle was not referring to the temptations of fallen humanity. He says, "He was tempted in all points like as we are." He was speaking of New Creatures. We know of no temptation that came to our Lord except those which came to Him as a New Creature. He was tempted as we are tempted as New Creatures in Christ. He was not subject to every temptation which assails us from the fallen tastes, appetites and tendencies, which come to us as members of the degenerate race of Adam. These are not temptations to the New Creature. Those who have enlisted under the banner of Jehovah should love righteousness and hate iniquity. This was our Lord's mind.
Whoever in his mind loves the wrong and approves the wrong gives evidence of not having the mind of Christ, and would not properly be one of the "we" class referred to here, since his temptations would not be like those which spirit-begotten New Creatures have, like those which Jesus had. Those who have formerly lived in sin should sufficiently know of its undesirability. Those who have practised sin should have had satisfactory evidence of its unholy nature, of its pernicious and destructive effects. So we who have fled from sin and come into God's family do not wish to return to its bondage, like a dog to his vomit or a sow to her wallowing in the mire. Those are not our temptations at all. Our temptations are much more subtle.
TEMPTATIONS TO SELFISHNESS
Looking back at our Lord's life after His baptism in Jordan, we see how He was tempted. One of His temptations was in respect to the use of His God-given power. He was very hungry, and was in a place where no food could be secured. The Adversary suggested that He use His miraculous power to produce food for Himself by commanding the stones to become bread. This He could have done; for we remember that on more than one occasion He miraculously created food to feed the multitudes, and at another time He turned water into the choicest wine. But on this occasion He refused to use this power to satisfy His own appetite. The spirit of devotion to the Father led Him into the wilderness for prayer, meditation and study of God's Word, preparatory to beginning his sacrificial service.
We have not the power to turn stones into bread or water into wine. But we have certain privileges and opportunities; for instance, the opportunity of speaking in the name of the Lord and of telling of His goodness and of His wonderful Plan for human salvation. All these things are privileges to us who are following in the footsteps of Jesus. In these the temptation is to do these things for our own special advantage. For example, we might undertake to proclaim the Truth with the thought of obtaining great honor or a large salary. This temptation frequently comes to those who are God's ministers--to use this power of God and the Truth of God for personal aggrandizement. To whatever extent any would do these things to that extent he would be falling into temptation.
Another way in which Jesus was tempted was in the suggestion to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and thus call the attention of all the people to Himself. This act would prove Him to be possessed of superhuman power and would seem to imply that He was under the special protection of God. He could thus make a marvelous demonstration of Himself and He would be considered some great one. The Adversary, true to his usual methods, misapplied a Scripture, endeavoring to convince the Master that God had promised to protect Him in just such an instance, to uphold Him lest He should dash His foot against a stone. But Jesus resented this misinterpretation of Scripture, and answered, "It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." He refused to tempt God, to try Him through a misapplication of His promise. The written Word was His refuge and strength in each temptation.
So some of Christ's disciples are tempted to do things in a spirit of foolhardiness, hoping that God will shield them from the evil results of a course which would be contrary to the laws of nature or save them from consequences [R5966 : page 295] which would be the natural result of certain actions. This would be presumption on the part of a child of God. Such a course is saying by implication, "God will protect me, He will not allow me to come to harm." To presume to do what God has never authorized in His Word, and then expect a miracle to prevent evil from resulting, is entirely wrong and unjustifiable. If we should presume to go out in cold or stormy weather improperly clad, when it is not necessary to do so, and thus risk contracting illness thereby, we would be doing a wrong and unwarranted thing. Our bodies belong to the Lord and we have no right to do anything unnecessarily which would be a risk of injury or death. Only duty or necessity would excuse such a course.
TEMPTATIONS TO COMPROMISE
Another temptation which was presented to our Lord was that He look out over the Kingdoms of the world, and then be assured that all these should be given over to His control, without His having to submit to suffering, without taking the painful course marked out by God, if He would just fall down and worship Satan, acknowledge his authority instead of that of Jehovah. Satan's words implied that he would not require such suffering and sacrifice as God required; that if Jesus would only cooperate with him, all would work smoothly and prosperously. Our dear Lord replied, "Get thee hence, Satan! [R5966 : page 296] for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." So on every point the wily Adversary was foiled. Jesus had as a panoply the Word of God, and was safe from every attack.
So temptations may come to us. We might have suggestions that if we would only not be too straight-laced, but would cooperate to some extent with the world and its spirit, we might get along better and have a greater influence over people. This was the Adversary's argument with the Master: "Cooperate with me, and we will bring the whole world where you can give them great blessings." But Jesus would not swerve from the Father's way. Temptations and suggestions of this kind often come to the Lord's people. We fear that many of His professed followers have compromised with the world and the Adversary. The church systems have fallen into this very trap of the Devil. This has surely been a grave and costly mistake. Temptations and suggestions of this kind come often to the Lord's people.
TEMPTATIONS TO RETURN EVIL FOR EVIL
We also have temptations to return evil for evil and railing for railing. Our Lord was so tempted just before His crucifixion. When He was delivered to the chief priests and taken before the Jewish Sanhedrin, He did not show them up, as He might have done. Jesus might have delivered a very scathing criticism of the high priest at that time; He might truthfully have made caustic remarks about the high priest's character. With the power of eloquence which He possessed, He might have made a great stir. Perhaps He felt an impulse in this direction, but He held His peace, and allowed Himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter. And so we have temptations of a similar kind--temptations to render evil for evil, to keep square with people, to give them what they deserve.
OUR THRONE OF MERCY
When we realize that we are not always successful in resisting these temptations, we are to remember that we have a Throne of Grace, to which we may come and find mercy and grace to help in time of need. We may come to our great High Priest. The high priest of old held a very high and honorable position. Our High Priest is far more highly exalted. In considering this, we might at first be inclined to think of Him as very austere, not easily approached. But the Apostle says that we are to remember that this is the One who is our Savior, the One who died for us; and that although He is so greatly exalted and seated upon the Throne of Glory, yet His Throne is also a Throne of Mercy.
Coming to the Savior's Throne is not the same as coming directly to the Father's Throne. Jehovah's Throne is a Throne of Justice, but Jesus' Throne is a Throne of Mercy. Here we may obtain mercy if we fail to come up to the highest standard. We are to remember that our merciful High Priest knows just what kind of trials we have. If we have tried to do our best, and have been overtaken in a fault, He knows how to make allowance for us and to be very sympathetic. We are to remember that this Mercy Seat is for this very purpose--to show mercy to us.
Thus as we realize that in our temptations and trials the Lord is for us as He sees our earnest struggles and endeavors, it makes us the stronger in resistance another time. "He knows, and loves, and cares." Therefore we should never grow discouraged, but come to Him again and again, remembering that He is never weary of our coming and that He will not turn us away empty.