Saturday, February 2, 2008

Matthew 4:5-7 The Temptation of Jesus Part IV

Cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormon Church quote scripture frequently to support their points. By simply taking a verse completely out of its context they appear to make it mean something other than it actually does. In essence, they highjack the authority of scripture and twist the substance of it to support their unbiblical beliefs. When Satan confronted Jesus, he did the same thing. As we will see in this section of the Bible, the way Jesus responded to this challenge can serve as an example for us when we are going through a trial or discussing the Bible with someone who is antagonistic to scripture.

Matthew 4:5 records that Satan “took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple”. We notice, first of all, the scene has changed. Satan has led Jesus out of the solitude of the wilderness to the heart of the city of Jerusalem. Very likely, the city was bustling with people going about their daily affairs. However, Satan had a specific reason for the change of venue. Christ had shown that He would be obedient to God and wait on Him to supply His needs in the previous test. Our Lord demonstrated that He would not use divine power to even provide food for Himself even though He was terribly hungry. In my neck of the woods, you might even say He was “hon-gry”. Satan also observed that Jesus was not only obedient to God but used the word of God to thwart his first trial.

Satan, therefore, moved to plan B. He first takes our Lord to a public place and tempts Him to put His trust in God the Father to the test. Actually, the strategy is pretty sound. If Jesus is going to trust the Father to provide and refuse to use supernatural power apart from the will of the Father, Satan places Jesus in a situation where that is exactly what he would expect Jesus to do. He says to our Lord in verse 6 “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it is written ‘He will give His angels charge concerning You’ and ‘You shall not strike Your foot against a stone’.” The quote is from Psalm 91:11 and 12. Taken at face value, it seems to mean exactly what Satan says it means. Just like a good little guy wearing the white dress shirt, black tie, and riding a bicycle, he seems to have made a valid point. However, let’s investigate this a bit further, shall we?

Psalm 91 is the NASB has the subtitle “Security for the one who trusts in the Lord”. I don’t want to take the whole post discussing the entire Psalm, but there are two things that we really ought to notice. First of all, the devil intentionally leaves out part of the Scripture. In verse 11 of the psalm, the author actually says “He will give His angels charge concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Secondly, in context, the verse takes on the meaning that the person whom this verse talks about is someone who is living for God. Verse 9 of this Psalm says “For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High your dwelling place”. Now someone who would recklessly endanger their own life and put themselves in a position where God would have to act supernaturally to save them is not someone who I would walking in the way that God would have them walk. They would be terribly presumptuous and, in fact, would be demonstrating that they don’t trust God. In essence, they would be demanding proof from God of His love and care for their well being. Therefore, Satan took a scripture that talks about God’s protection and providential care of His saints and twisted it to mean exactly the opposite of what it really meant.
Jesus again quoted scripture to refute Satan. In this case, Satan was tempting the Lord to put His Father’s care to the test. Jesus refused to fall for this snare and told the devil in verse 7 “It is written again, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’”. The Greek word “palin” is translated in English as “again”. However, according to Vincent’s Word Studies, the actual meaning in this instance would be “on the other hand”. Our Lord contrasts Satan’s misuse of scripture with proper application of another scripture. By quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16, He basically tells Satan that to presumptuously require a sign from the Lord is sin. In fact, Deuteronomy 6:16 refers back to an incident in Exodus 17 where the children of Israel were thirsty and demanding a miraculous sign from the Lord to provide for them. Therefore, for Jesus to make a spectacle of Himself by plunging off of the top of the temple would have, in fact, been sin.

Again, we observe our Lord using the word of God to gain victory over His adversary. We also observe that He used scripture to interpret scripture. We should remember that this is a key principle to proper biblical interpretation. Finally, we see how Satan (and others) misquote and misapply scripture for their own ends. As students of the bible, it is paramount for us to be able to respond to challenges such as this not with our own intellect but with the truth of God’s word as it is rightly divided.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out how "truth" taken out of context is no longer "truth".

vincit omnia veritas said...

Thank you for your reflections on God's Word, especially the gospel of Matthew. You have a gift for exposition, and I am thankful for your insightful posts on your blog.

God bless,

Joe Blackmon said...


I had the same thought as I studied this passage. It's pretty amazing how someone can twist scripture when they pull it out of context.


You are far too kind. I praise God that He has used His word to speak to you. If I had a small part in that, I am humbled.

in Christ