[This article appeared in The Review and Herald, August 18, 1874 and The Review and Herald, September 1, 1874.]
Satan was defeated in his object to overcome Christ upon the point of appetite; and here in the wilderness Christ achieved a victory in behalf of the race upon the point of appetite, making it possible for man in all future time in His name to overcome the strength of appetite on his own behalf. Satan was not willing to cease his efforts until he had tried every means to obtain victory over the world’s Redeemer. He knew that with himself all was at stake, whether he or Christ should be victor in the contest. And, in order to awe Christ with his superior strength, he carried Him to Jerusalem and set Him on a pinnacle of the Temple, and continued to beset Him with temptations.
He again demanded of Christ, if He was indeed the Son of God, to give him evidence by casting Himself from the dizzy height upon which he had placed Him. He urged Christ to show His confidence in the preserving care of His Father by casting Himself down from the Temple. In Satan’s first temptation upon the point of appetite, he had tried to insinuate doubts in regard to God’s love and care for Christ as His Son, by presenting His surroundings and His hunger as evidence that He was not in favor with God, He was unsuccessful in this. He next tried to take advantage of the faith and perfect trust Christ had shown in His heavenly Father to urge Him to presumption. “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6). Jesus promptly answered, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7).
The Sin of Presumption
The sin of presumption lies close beside the virtue of perfect faith and confidence in God. Satan flattered himself that he could take advantage of the humanity of Christ to urge Him over the line of trust to presumption. Upon this point many souls are wrecked. Satan tried to deceive Christ through flattery. He admitted that Christ was right in the wilderness in His faith and confidence that God was His Father, under the most trying circumstances. He then urged Christ to give him one more proof of His entire dependence upon God, one more evidence of His faith that He was the Son of God, by casting Himself from the Temple. He told Christ that if He was indeed the Son of God He had nothing to fear; for angels were at hand to uphold Him. Satan gave evidence that he understood the Scriptures by the use he made of them.
The Redeemer of the world wavered not from His integrity and showed that He had perfect faith in His Father’s promised care. He would not put the faithfulness and love of His Father to a needless trial, although He was in the hands of the enemy, and placed in a position of extreme difficulty and peril. He would not, at Satan’s suggestion, tempt God by presumptuously experimenting on His providence. Satan had brought in scripture which seemed appropriate for the occasion, hoping to accomplish his designs by making the application to our Saviour at this special time.
Christ knew that God could indeed bear Him up if He had required Him to throw Himself from the Temple. But to do this unbidden, and to experiment upon His Father’s protecting care and love, because dared by Satan to do so, would not show His strength of faith. Satan was well aware that if Christ could be prevailed upon, unbidden by His Father, to fling Himself from the Temple to prove His claim to His heavenly Father’s protecting care, He would in the very act show the weakness of His human nature.
Christ came off victor in the second temptation. He manifested perfect confidence and trust in His Father during His severe conflict with the powerful foe. Our Redeemer, in the victory here gained, has left man a perfect pattern, showing him that his only safety is in firm trust and unwavering confidence in God in all trials and perils. He refused to presume upon the mercy of His Father by placing Himself in peril that would make it necessary for His heavenly Father to display His power to save Him from danger. This would be forcing providence on His own account; and He would not then leave for His people a perfect example of faith and firm trust in God.
Satan’s object in tempting Christ was to lead Him to daring presumption, and to show human weakness that would not make Him a perfect pattern for His people. Satan thought that should Christ fail to bear the test of his temptations, there could be no redemption for the race, and his power over them would be complete.
Christ Our Hope and Example
The humiliation and agonizing sufferings of Christ in the wilderness of temptation were for the race. In Adam all was lost through transgression. Through Christ was man’s only hope of restoration to the favor of God. Man had separated himself at such a distance from God by transgression of His law, that he could not humiliate himself before God proportionate to his grievous sin. The Son of God could fully understand the aggravating sins of the transgressor, and in His sinless character He alone could make an acceptable atonement for man in suffering the agonizing sense of His Father’s displeasure. The sorrow and anguish of the Son of God for the sins of the world were proportionate to His divine excellence and purity, as well as to the magnitude of the offense.
Christ was our example in all things. As we see His humiliation in the long trial and fast in the wilderness to overcome the temptations of appetite in our behalf, we are to take this lesson home to ourselves when we are tempted. If the power of appetite is so strong upon the human family, and its indulgence so fearful that the Son of God subjected Himself to such a test, how important that we feel the necessity of having appetite under the control of reason. Our Saviour fasted nearly six weeks, that He might gain for man the victory upon the point of appetite. How can professed Christians with an enlightened conscience, and Christ before them as their pattern, yield to the indulgence of those appetites which have an enervating influence upon the mind and heart? It is a painful fact that habits of self-gratification at the expense of health, and the weakening of moral power, are holding in the bonds of slavery at the present time a large share of the Christian world.
Many who profess godliness do not inquire into the reason of Christ’s long period of fasting and suffering in the wilderness. His anguish was not so much from enduring the pangs of hunger as from His sense of the fearful result of the indulgence of appetite and passion upon the race. He knew that appetite would be man’s idol, and would lead him to forget God, and would stand directly in the way of his salvation.