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Selected Messages Book 1 - Contents
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    Chapter 39—First Temptation of Christ

    The Temptation of Christ

    [This article appeared in The Review and Herald, August 4 and 18, 1874.]

    Christ has entered the world as Satan's destroyer, and the Redeemer of the captives bound by his power. He would leave an example in His own victorious life for man to follow and overcome the temptations of Satan. As soon as Christ entered the wilderness of temptation, His visage changed. The glory and splendor reflected from the throne of God which illuminated His countenance when the heavens opened before Him, and the Father's voice acknowledged Him as His Son in whom He was well pleased, was now gone. The weight of the sins of the world was pressing His soul, and His countenance expressed unutterable sorrow, a depth of anguish that fallen man had never realized. He felt the overwhelming tide of woe that deluged the world. He realized the strength of indulged appetite and of unholy passion that controlled the world, which had brought upon man inexpressible suffering. The indulgence of appetite had been increasing, and strengthening with every successive generation since Adam's transgression, until the race was so feeble in moral power that they could not overcome in their own strength. Christ, in behalf of the race, was to overcome appetite by standing the most powerful test upon this point. He was to tread the path of temptation alone, and there must be none to help Him, none to comfort or uphold Him. He was to wrestle with the powers of darkness.1SM 271.1

    As man could not, in his human strength, resist the power of Satan's temptations, Jesus volunteered to undertake the work, and bear the burden for man, and overcome the power of appetite in his behalf. He must show in man's behalf, self-denial and perseverance, and firmness of principle that is paramount to the gnawing pangs of hunger. He must show a power of control over appetite stronger than hunger and even death.1SM 272.1

    Significance of the Test

    When Christ bore the test of temptation upon the point of appetite, He did not stand in beautiful Eden, as did Adam, with the light and love of God seen in everything His eye rested upon. But He was in a barren, desolate wilderness, surrounded with wild beasts. Everything around Him was repulsive, and [that] from which human nature would be inclined to shrink. With these surroundings He fasted forty days and forty nights, “and in those days he did eat nothing” (Luke 4:2). He was emaciated through long fasting, and felt the keenest sense of hunger. His visage was indeed marred more than the sons of men.1SM 272.2

    Christ thus entered upon His life of conflict to overcome the mighty foe, in bearing the very test Adam failed to endure, that, through successful conflict, He might break the power of Satan, and redeem the race from the disgrace of the Fall.1SM 272.3

    All was lost when Adam yielded to the power of appetite. The Redeemer, in whom was united both the human and the divine, stood in Adam's place, and endured a terrible fast of nearly six weeks. The length of this fast is the strongest evidence of the extent of the sinfulness and power of debased appetite upon the human family.1SM 272.4

    The humanity of Christ reached to the very depths of human wretchedness, and identified itself with the weaknesses and necessities of fallen man, while His divine nature grasped the Eternal. His work in bearing the guilt of man's transgression was not to give him license to continue to violate the law of God, which made man a debtor to the law, which debt Christ was Himself paying by His own suffering. The trials and sufferings of Christ were to impress man with a sense of his great sin in breaking the law of God, and to bring him to repentance and obedience to that law, and through obedience to acceptance with God. His righteousness He would impute to man, and thus raise him in moral value with God, so that his efforts to keep the divine law would be acceptable. Christ's work was to reconcile man to God through His human nature, and God to man through His divine nature.1SM 272.5

    As soon as the long fast of Christ commenced in the wilderness, Satan was at hand with his temptations. He came to Christ, enshrouded in light, claiming to be one of the angels from the throne of God, sent upon an errand of mercy to sympathize with Him, and to relieve Him of His suffering condition. He tried to make Christ believe that God did not require Him to pass through self-denial and the sufferings He anticipated; that he had been sent from heaven to bear to Him the message that God only designed to prove His willingness to endure.1SM 273.1

    Satan told Christ that He was only to set His feet in the bloodstained path, but not to travel it. Like Abraham He was tested to show His perfect obedience. He also stated that he was the angel that stayed the hand of Abraham as the knife was raised to slay Isaac, and he had now come to save His life; that it was not necessary for Him to endure the painful hunger and death from starvation; he would help Him bear a part of the work in the plan of salvation.1SM 273.2

    The Son of God turned from all these artful temptations, and was steadfast in His purpose to carry out in every particular, in the spirit and in the very letter, the plan which had been devised for the redemption of the fallen race. But Satan had manifold temptations prepared to ensnare Christ, and obtain advantage of Him. If he failed in one temptation, he would try another. He thought he would succeed, because Christ had humbled Himself as a man. He flattered himself that his assumed character, as one of the heavenly angels, could not be discerned. He feigned to doubt the divinity of Christ, because of His emaciated appearance and unpleasant surroundings.1SM 273.3

    Christ knew that in taking the nature of man He would not be in appearance equal to the angels of heaven. Satan urged that if He was indeed the Son of God He should give him evidence of His exalted character. He approached Christ with temptations upon appetite. He had overcome Adam upon this point and he had controlled his descendants, and through indulgence of appetite led them to provoke God by iniquity, until their crimes were so great that the Lord destroyed them from off the earth by the waters of the Flood.1SM 274.1

    Under Satan's direct temptations the children of Israel suffered appetite to control reason, and they were, through indulgence, led to commit grievous sins which awakened the wrath of God against them, and they fell in the wilderness. He thought that he should be successful in overcoming Christ with the same temptation. He told Christ that one of the exalted angels had been exiled to the world, and that His appearance indicated that, instead of His being the King of heaven, He was the angel fallen, and this explained His emaciated and distressed appearance.1SM 274.2

    Christ Did No Miracle for Himself

    He then called the attention of Christ to his own attractive appearance, clothed with light and strong in power. He claimed to be a messenger direct from the throne of Heaven, and asserted that he had a right to demand of Christ evidences of His being the Son of God. Satan would fain disbelieve, if he could, the words that came from heaven to the Son of God at His baptism. He determined to overcome Christ, and, if possible, make his own kingdom and life secure. His first temptation to Christ was upon appetite. He had, upon this point, almost entire control of the world, and his temptations were adapted to the circumstances and surroundings of Christ, which made his temptations upon appetite almost overpowering.1SM 274.3

    Christ could have worked a miracle on His own account; but this would not have been in accordance with the plan of salvation. The many miracles in the life of Christ show His power to work miracles for the benefit of suffering humanity. By a miracle of mercy He fed five thousand at once with five loaves and two small fishes. Therefore He had power to work a miracle, and satisfy His own hunger. Satan flattered himself that he could lead Christ to doubt the words spoken from heaven at His baptism. And if he could tempt Him to question His sonship, and doubt the truth of the word spoken by His Father, he would gain a great victory.1SM 275.1

    He found Christ in the desolate wilderness without companions, without food, and in actual suffering. His surroundings were most melancholy and repulsive. Satan suggested to Christ that God would not leave His Son in this condition of want and real suffering. He hoped to shake the confidence of Christ in His Father, who had permitted Him to be brought into this condition of extreme suffering in the desert, where the feet of man had never trod. Satan hoped to insinuate doubts as to His Father's love that would find a lodgment in the mind of Christ, and that under the force of despondency and extreme hunger He would exert His miraculous power in His own behalf, and take Himself out of the hand of His heavenly Father. This was indeed a temptation to Christ. But He cherished it not for a moment. He did not for a single moment doubt His heavenly Father's love, although He seemed to be bowed down with inexpressible anguish. Satan's temptations, though skillfully devised, did not move the integrity of God's dear Son. His abiding confidence in His Father could not be shaken.1SM 275.2

    Christ Did Not Parley With Temptation

    Jesus did not condescend to explain to His enemy how He was the Son of God, and in what manner, as such, He was to act. In an insulting, taunting manner Satan referred to the present weakness and the unfavorable appearance of Christ in contrast with his own strength and glory. He taunted Christ that He was a poor representative of the angels, much more of their exalted Commander, the acknowledged King in the royal courts. His present appearance indicated that He was forsaken of God and man. He said if Christ was indeed the Son of God, the monarch of heaven, He had power equal with God, and He could give him evidence by working a miracle and changing the stone just at His feet into bread, and relieve His hunger. Satan promised that, if Christ would do this, he would at once yield his claims of superiority, and that the contest between himself and Christ should there be forever ended.1SM 275.3

    Christ did not appear to notice the reviling taunts of Satan. He was not provoked to give him proofs of His power. He meekly bore his insults without retaliation. The words spoken from heaven at His baptism were very precious, evidencing to Him that His Father approved the steps He was taking in the plan of salvation as man's substitute and surety. The opening heavens, and descent of the heavenly dove, were assurances that His Father would unite His power in heaven with that of His Son upon the earth, to rescue man from the control of Satan, and that God accepted the effort of Christ to link earth to heaven, and finite man to the infinite.1SM 276.1

    These tokens, received from His Father, were inexpressibly precious to the Son of God through all His severe sufferings and terrible conflict with the rebel chief. And while enduring the test of God in the wilderness, and through His entire ministry, He had nothing to do in convincing Satan of His own power, and of His being the Saviour of the world. Satan had sufficient evidence of His exalted station. His unwillingness to ascribe to Jesus the honor due to Him, and manifest submission as a subordinate, ripened into rebellion against God, and shut him out of heaven.1SM 276.2

    It was not any part of the mission of Christ to exercise His divine power for His own benefit, to relieve Himself from suffering. This He had volunteered to take upon Himself. He had condescended to take man's nature, and He was to suffer the inconveniences, and ills, and afflictions of the human family. He was not to perform miracles on His own account. He came to save others. The object of His mission was to bring blessings, and hope, and life, to the afflicted and oppressed. He was to bear the burdens and griefs of suffering humanity.1SM 276.3

    Although Christ was suffering the keenest pangs of hunger, He withstood the temptations. He repulsed Satan with scripture, the same He had given Moses in the wilderness to repeat to rebellious Israel when their diet was restricted, and they were clamoring for flesh meats, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). In this declaration, and also by His example, Christ would show man that hunger for temporal food was not the greatest calamity that could befall him. Satan flattered our first parents that eating of the fruit of the tree of life [The tree here referred to is obviously the tree of knowledge and not the tree of life. The phrase “of life” is patently a printer's error. It is not found in the first appearance of this article, in The Signs of the Times, July 9, 1874, nor in the reprint in pamphlet form, titled Redemption; or the Temptation of Christ in The Wilderness, 42.—Compilers.] of which God had forbidden them would bring to them great good, and would ensure them against death, the very opposite of the truth which God had declared to them. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). If Adam had been obedient, he would never have known want, sorrow, or death.1SM 277.1

    If the people who lived before the Flood had been obedient to the word of God, they would have been preserved, and would not have perished by the waters of the Flood. If the Israelites had been obedient to the words of God, He would have bestowed upon them special blessings. But they fell in consequence of the indulgence of appetite and passion. They would not be obedient to the words of God. Indulgence of perverted appetite led them into numerous and grievous sins. If they had made the requirements of God their first consideration, and their physical wants secondary, in submission to God's choice of proper food for them, not one of them would have fallen in the wilderness. They would have been established in the goodly land of Canaan a holy, healthy people, with not a feeble one in all their tribes.1SM 277.2

    The Saviour of the world became sin for the race. In becoming man's substitute, Christ did not manifest His power as the Son of God. He ranked Himself among the sons of men. He was to bear the trial of temptation as a man, in man's behalf, under the most trying circumstances, and leave an example of faith and perfect trust in His heavenly Father. Christ knew that His Father would supply Him food when it would gratify Him to do so. He would not in this severe ordeal, when hunger pressed Him beyond measure, prematurely diminish one particle of the trial allotted to Him be exercising His divine power.1SM 278.1

    Fallen man, when brought into straightened places, could not have the power to work miracles on his own behalf, to save himself from pain or anguish, or to give himself victory over his enemies. It was the purpose of God to test and prove the race, and give them an opportunity to develop character by bringing them frequently into trying positions to test their faith and confidence in His love and power. The life of Christ was a perfect pattern. He was ever, by His example and precept, teaching man that God was his dependence, and that in God should be his faith and firm trust.1SM 278.2

    Christ knew that Satan was a liar from the beginning, and it required strong self-control to listen to the propositions of this insulting deceiver, and not instantly rebuke his bold assumptions. Satan expected to provoke the Son of God to engage in controversy with him; and he hoped that thus, in His extreme weakness and agony of spirit, he could obtain advantage over Him. He designed to pervert the words of Christ and claim advantage, and call to his aid his fallen angels to use their utmost power to prevail against and overcome Him.1SM 278.3

    The Saviour of the world had no controversy with Satan, who was expelled from heaven because he was no longer worthy of a place there. He who could influence the angels of God against their Supreme Ruler, and against His Son, their loved commander, and enlist their sympathy for himself, was capable of any deception. Four thousand years he had been warring against the government of God, and had lost none of his skill or power to tempt and deceive.1SM 279.1

    Victory Through Christ

    Because man fallen could not overcome Satan with his human strength, Christ came from the royal courts of heaven to help him with His human and divine strength combined. Christ knew that Adam in Eden, with his superior advantages, might have withstood the temptations of Satan, and conquered him. He also knew that it was not possible for man, out of Eden, separated from the light and love of God since the Fall, to resist the temptations of Satan in his own strength. In order to bring hope to man, and save him from complete ruin, He humbled Himself to take man's nature, that, with His divine power combined with the human, He might reach man where he is. He obtains for the fallen sons and daughters of Adam that strength which it is impossible for them to gain for themselves, that in His name they may overcome the temptations of Satan.1SM 279.2

    The exalted Son of God in assuming humanity draws Himself nearer to man by standing as the sinner's substitute. He identifies Himself with the sufferings and afflictions of men. He was tempted in all points as man is tempted, that He might know how to succor those who should be tempted. Christ overcame on the sinner's behalf.1SM 279.3

    Jacob, in the night vision, saw earth connected with heaven by a ladder reaching to the throne of God. He saw the angels of God, clothed with garments of heavenly brightness, passing down from heaven and up to heaven upon this shining ladder. The bottom of this ladder rested upon the earth, while the top of it reached to the highest heavens, and rested upon the throne of Jehovah. The brightness from the throne of God beamed down upon this ladder, and reflected a light of inexpressible glory upon the earth.1SM 279.4

    This ladder represented Christ, who had opened the communication between earth and heaven. In Christ's humiliation He descended to the very depth of human woe in sympathy and pity for fallen man, which was represented to Jacob by one end of the ladder resting upon the earth, while the top of the ladder, reaching unto heaven, represents the divine power of Christ, who grasps the Infinite, and thus links earth to heaven and finite man to the infinite God. Through Christ the communication is opened between God and man. Angels may pass from heaven to earth with messages of love to fallen man, and to minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation. It is through Christ alone that the heavenly messengers minister to men.1SM 280.1

    Adam and Eve in Eden were placed under most favorable circumstances. It was their privilege to hold communion with God and angels. They were without the condemnation of sin. The light of God and angels was with them, and around about them. The Author of their existence was their teacher. But they fell beneath the power and temptations of the artful foe. Four thousand years had Satan been at work against the government of God, and he had obtained strength and experience from determined practice. Fallen men had not the advantages of Adam in Eden. They had been separating from God for four thousand years. The wisdom to understand, and power to resist, the temptations of Satan had become less and less, until Satan seemed to reign triumphant in the earth. Appetite and passion, the love of the world and presumptuous sins, were the great branches of evil out of which every species of crime, violence, and corruption grew.1SM 280.2

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