In the previous article we noted that Jesus was both Son of Man and Son of God. The fact that he was born  of a woman did not detract from his unity and fellowship with the Father or the love and esteem that the  Father had for him. For the Son of Man was also the Son of God, or as Yahweh so beautifully expressed  it, “the man that is my fellow”. This balance helps all of us to use careful and scriptural expressions about  Christ in his atoning work.

This article looks at some of the key matters that arise from the Saviour of mankind being of our own nature.

TEMPTATION is a universal, human experience.  It is an experience that distinguishes God  from man. The apostle James says that “God  cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he  any man” (1:13). In the Divine nature there is no  positive response to evil, no desire for anything that  is contrary to the will of God; the heart and mind  are pure at their ultimate source.

The human experience is so different. “But  every man is tempted, when he is drawn away  of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath  conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is  finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14–15).  However quickly sin may sometimes occur, there  is nevertheless a process of lust, enticement,  conception and sin. It is quite possible that this  memorable statement in James has its basis in  Psalm 7:14, “Behold, the wicked man conceives  evil, and is pregnant with mischief, and brings  forth lies” (RSV). There is within the heart and mind  a process before sin is registered as sin. It is clear  then that temptation of itself is not sin. Sin is when  the disciple concedes to temptation and lets lust  have its way. It is utterly impossible for a believer,  for any human person to be unaware of temptation,  to not feel the tug of enticement, to never know  the force of desire or never experience the power  of the pride of life. But the temptation is not sin  but the beginning of a process. The truth of this  is underlined when the Lord spoke of committing  adultery in the heart: it was not because a man  looked upon a woman and found her comely or  appealing but because lust conceived and the mind  indulged in unholy and sinful liberty. He was  “looking upon a woman to lust after her”, and that  is adultery in the heart.

It is interesting in passing to see that the passage  in James is most helpful in respect to reasoning on  the Trinity. The simple question, “was Jesus ever  tempted?” can only have one answer and every  Bible student would say, “Yes”. But as soon as that  is conceded then the doctrine of the Trinity is broken  for, says James, “God cannot be tempted.”

The Temptation of Christ

The expression of Hebrews 4:15, that Jesus “was in  all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”  has special poignance to the Gospel records of the  Temptation of Christ. It is frequently mentioned  that the three main branches of human lust, “the  lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride  of life” (1 John 2:16), are all represented in the  Lord’s struggle in the wilderness. Jesus had the  whole experience of temptation that is common to  man. It was an experience.

Whether the temptation arose externally from  another being or internally from his own mind is  a matter long debated and which Brother Robert  Roberts put in to the “uncertain details” category (The  Christadelphian 1989). But wherever it began, the  truly important fact is that in the end the temptation  had to be internal or it was no temptation at all. As  Brother Thomas wrote of Christ, “… ‘being found  in fashion as a man’, the infirmities of human nature  were thus laid upon him. He could sympathise with  them experimentally; being by the feelings excited  within him when enticed, well acquainted with all  its weak points” (Elpis Israel p76). In the process  of temptation how much can we imagine the Lord  could enter into our experience? “Tempted in all  points like as we”! How far did the implications of  each temptation enter his conscious thought before  he drove away the thought? Could the Lord with his  vast Biblical knowledge give any consideration to the  Scriptural quotation (Psalm 91:11–12) presented to  him in such a wrested manner? What did forty days of fasting do to the power of temptation especially  when the first suggestion was the miraculous  conversion of stones into bread? Hunger drives  men insane. How much did the Son of God partake  of the mental anxiety that temptation brings to  other men and women? Perhaps the fact that he was  Son of God brought a grievous extra sting to the  temptation—like salt on open wounds! Because his  very being the Son of God meant that the spectacular  opportunities presented by the Tempter were in fact  feasible to him!

No doubt we vary in how far we can imagine, or  allow, the Lord to explore the benefits of what was  offered. It is unwise to be too dogmatic in this area  as we simply do not know what drain the various  temptations had upon the mind of the Lord. There  are two very obvious things that we do know and  they need to be emphasized, namely that it was  his ready mind in the Scriptures that provided him  victory over the three phases of his temptation  and that the temptation was a real and powerful  experience – the whole forty days of it (Mark 1:13).  The ordeal was such that the Father dispatched  angels to minister to him upon its conclusion, thus  strengthening and encouraging His Son after such a  withering trial. As Hebrews well puts it, “he suffered  being tempted” (2:18).

Beware lest our comments sometimes imply that  because God was his Father he therefore escaped  the natural will of the flesh and that with the mere  retort of Scripture he dismissed the temptation out  of hand with no cost to himself. This is not the  Gospel picture: “he suffered being tempted”.

Gethsemane—“Not My Will”

At the last supper the Lord said to his disciples,  “Ye are they which have continued with me in  my temptations.” It is quite obvious then that the  temptation in the wilderness was not the only  temptation the Lord underwent. Luke says that  the devil “departed from him for a season” (4:13).  There were times of greater temptation than others  but in fact temptation for the Lord was a constant  matter in his life, as it is for us.

Gethsemane means “olive-press” and certainly  this event says much about the suffering of the Lord.  Here the pressure was at its height just before his  arrest and crucifixion. There was no light dismissal  of temptation but a gruelling struggle against an  inveterate foe. It was so intense that though the  Lord had specifically asked for Peter, James and  John to stay with him, yet in the end he was alone,  bathed in sweat and tears, crying unto his God Who  singularly was awake with him. The intensity is  accentuated by the three-fold prayers that Jesus  made in these hours of enormous pressure. The foe  returned, it would not let up! There were two wills  locked in mortal combat. “Father, if thou be willing,  remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will,  but thine, be done.” This is a very precious insight  into the mind of the Lord Jesus in the peak of his  struggle. It is a calmer Jesus that departs this garden  than when he entered. Gethsemane was the pitch  of the battle. “Save me, O God; for the waters are  come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where  there is no standing: I am come into deep waters,  where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my  crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I  wait for my God” (Psalm 69:1–3). “Hear me, O  LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me  according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.  And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in  trouble: hear me speedily. Draw nigh unto my soul,  and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies”  (Psalm 69:16–18).

If ever there was holy ground in the matter of  the temptations of the Lord, here it is in Gethsemane  and the Spirit throws open these windows by which  we can see the precise mind of our Lord in the time  of his greatest trial.

Two Wills

There were two wills in the Garden of Eden, there  were two wills in the wilderness of temptation  and there are two wills here in the Garden of  Gethsemane. In the Lord Jesus there was a native  will that did not wish to take the path that his  Father had before determined. “O my Father, if it  be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless  not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt 26:39). Jesus  was not proposing a change of date or circumstance  but rather that “this cup” would pass from him. We  cannot doubt what the “cup” expressed; only hours  before he had ‘taken the cup’ and said, “Drink ye  all of it; for this is my blood of the new covenant  which is shed for many for the remission of sins”  (v27–28). The same sense is given in Matthew  20:22–23, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I  shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism  that I am baptized with?” The cup was the cruel  death of self-surrender that lay ahead of him and the prayer of Gethsemane was that Jesus might  escape this by his Father arranging some other way  for the salvation of man. We can see the increasing  acceptance and resolution in the mind of the Lord  in his second Gethsemane prayer, “O my Father, if  this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink  it, thy will be done” (Matt 26:42).

Before Gethsemane John records words of  Christ that have the exact same sense. “Now is my  soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me  from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this  hour. Father, glorify thy name” (12:27–28). “This  hour” is equivalent to Matthew’s “this cup”.

The Gospel of John has in fact several passages  which make clear that our Lord had his own will, a  native instinct that was not that of his Father.

“The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he  seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth,  these also doeth the Son likewise” (5:19).

“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear,  I judge: and my judgement is just; because I seek  not mine own will, but the will of the Father which  hath sent me” (5:30).

“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me,  and to finish his work” (4:34).

“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father  which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I  should say, and what I should speak” (12:49–50).

“I Come to Do Thy Will, O God.”

All these passages have their echo a thousand years  before in David’s beautiful Psalm 40.

“Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire;  mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin  offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I  come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,  I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is  within my heart” (v6–8).

These words are quoted in Hebrews 10:5–10 and  applied to Christ. So they represent central thought  in the Apostle’s comprehension of the mission of  Christ. The four principal sacrifices of the Mosaic  code are rejected as insufficient and not what God  really wanted. What then was the desire of God?  With dramatic introduction – “Then said I, Lo, I  come: in the volume of the book it is written of  me”!—the fundamental intention of Messiah is  given, “I delight to do thy will, O my God.”

This delight to do God’s will is therefore the  true sacrifice which supplants the many shadow  offerings of the Law. “He taketh away the first  that he may establish the second” (Heb 10:9). It is  the true sacrifice and that it was a sacrifice clearly  means that it was not a path the Christ would  naturally wish to take. It was sacrifice. It was  God’s will and not his native own. “For even Christ  pleased not himself” (Rom 15:3). He was not born  with a bias to righteousness, but “learned obedience  by the things that he suffered” (Heb 5:8).

A Warning

There is a growing importance in this understanding.  If we speak of Christ in a way that sounds as though  his being the Son of God allowed him to escape the  bias of the human race, then we propose a position  that is very kindred to the “Clean Flesh” teaching.  This theory proposed that there was no inherited  proneness to sin in Adam’s descendants and most  certainly not in Jesus Christ. Another theory says,  well, there is an inherited bias to sin in man but not  in Jesus because special factors in his inheritance  prevented a will of the flesh in Jesus. The two  ideas are neighbours to each other and either way  they arrive at the same conclusion, that the Lord  was without any natural will of his own. Such a  position strips the Lord Jesus Christ of his greatest  achievement, his victory over sin, and nullifies all  that we have considered in the Gospel records of his  Temptation and his desperate struggle in Gethsemane  and upon the tree. The conqueror is stripped of his  conquest! We would never wish to do this!

“My Meat is to Do the Will of Him That Sent Me”

Jesus’ obedience to the will of God was perfectly  performed for all his thirty-three years, not just  at the point of his death. This obedience, as we  have seen, was the true sacrifice, which means  that all his life was a sacrifice. “My meat”, he said  early in his ministry, “is to do the will of Him that  sent me.” His death would be a final statement,  a conclusion, a climax of that obedience but his  whole life was a living sacrifice, as ours must be  too. And throughout that life of thirty-three years  he was the beloved, educated, nurtured Son of the  Father even though he was man, flesh and blood and  keenly aware of the temptations of his nature. The  Father never expresses reticence because he was  man or refusal of access or denial of response (“I  know that Thou hearest me always”, John 11:42).  Not once in Scripture does the Father express such things. Was he not, in a sense, always “in the bosom  of the Father”? (John 1:18; 3:6; 6:62; 17:5; 24, 26)  No reconciliation needed there.

“Yet Without Sin”

It is time to summarise our thoughts and observations.  The Lord was not “clean flesh” but tempted in all  points as his brethren. This means that even his  inheritance from his Father did not preclude the  temptation of sin or the possibility of sin. Yet he  was “without sin” despite this genuine humanity.  So it is not the temptation that is counted for sin,  nor obviously the nature that he bore.

He was, remarkably and thankfully, made like  unto his brethren. He therefore is a merciful and  faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to  make reconciliation for the sins of the people. Our  Master has been here, he knows, he understands;  for “in that he himself has suffered being tempted,  he is able to succour them that are tempted.”
We are thankful for this.