What’s the Relevance to Us?
The questions I’ve raised above are not ivory tower speculations. I believe these questions are important to answer if we are to understand fully the implications Christ’s temptation as well as his victory over temptation for you and me. Consider the following three points of practical application:
(1) Unless the Jesus Christ had faced real temptations and successfully endured those temptations as a real man not yet glorified, He could not be our Savior from sin.
That’s pretty relevant, wouldn’t you say? Is that not the logic of Hebrews 5:8-9?
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Heb 5:8-9).
In order to become “the source of eternal salvation,” Jesus had to be “made perfect.” And in order to be “made perfect,” Jesus had to “learn obedience through what he suffered.” In other words, He had to become like Adam. But where the First Adam failed, the Second Adam had to succeed. That is precisely what He did: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19).
Unless the Lord Jesus Christ had endured real temptations and unless he had endured them as a real not-yet-glorified man, He would not be qualified to save us from sin. This is one reason why we must be careful not to so emphasize Christ’s deity that we lose sight of his humanity!
(2) Because the Lord Jesus faced real temptations and successfully resisted those temptations as a real man not yet glorified, He can be our example and pattern for resisting the temptations we face.
Sometimes it is difficult for us to view Christ as an example. We think of Him in His majestic divinity. We think of Him as the eternal Son of God. We view Him as a kind of superman—impervious to the kind of temptations we face. And consequently, when we come to passages like this one, we have a hard time identifying with Christ.
But the Scripture does not place Christ in a totally different category than us. Instead, the writer to the Hebrews encourages believers to identify with Jesus in their struggle against sin:
Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Heb 12:1-3).
Do you want victory over your anger? Look to Jesus as your example. Do you want victory over pride? Look to Jesus. Do you want victory over unbelief? Again, I say, look to Jesus.
True, Jesus was not plagued with the remnants of a sinful nature as we are. Nevertheless, we should not view our Savior as some kind of super-human being whose experience was totally foreign to ours. Jesus faced the same devil we face. Jesus experienced the same kind of temptations we experience. And Jesus successfully resisted those temptations in the moral strength of His humanity as He relied upon God’s grace. That’s just what we must do!
(3) Because the Lord Jesus faced real temptations and successfully resisted those temptations as a real man not yet glorified, He can fully sympathize with us in our struggle against sin.
“For because [Jesus] himself has suffered when tempted,” says the author of Hebrews, “he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb 2:18). And again he writes, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). The clear implication is that He can sympathize with our weaknesses because He has been tempted in all things in like manner as we are.
Do you want someone who understands? Do you want someone who can identify? Do you want someone who has been through what you have been going through? Jesus, your sympathizing Savior! As J. C. Ryle remarks,
The sympathy of Jesus is a truth which ought to be peculiarly dear to all believers. They will find in it a mine of strong consolation. They should never forget, that they have a mighty Friend in heaven, who feels for them in all their temptations, and can enter into all their spiritual anxieties. Are they ever tempted by Satan to distrust God ‘s care and goodness ? So was Jesus. Are they ever tempted to presume upon God ‘s mercy, and run into danger without warrant? So also was Jesus. Are they ever tempted to commit some one great private sin for the sake of some great seeming advantage ? So also was Jesus. He is just the Savior that a tempted people require. Let them flee to Him for help, and spread before Him all their troubles. They will find His ear ever ready to hear, and His heart ever ready to feel.18
“Jesus! What a Friend for sinners!” He’s not some cold icicle—indifferent, unfeeling, untouched. Jesus sympathizes with our struggles against sin. Shall we not, therefore, take it to the Lord in prayer?
18 Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew (Reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 26-27.
Dr. Robert Gonzales (BA, MA, PhD, Bob Jones Univ.) has served as a pastor of four Reformed Baptist congregations and has been the Academic Dean and a professor of Reformed Baptist Seminary (Sacramento, CA) since 2005. He is the author of Where Sin Abounds: the Spread of Sin and the Curse in Genesis with Special Focus on the Patriarchal Narratives (Wipf & Stock, 2010) and has contributed to the Reformed Baptist Theological Review, The Founders Journal, and Westminster Theological Journal. He blogs at It is Written.