By Andrew Davis, Senior Pastor
In any treatment of Christ’s view of the Bible, we should also consider his actions in obedience to what it says. We dealt with one aspect of this in an earlier post: “Christ Would Rather Die than Disobey Scripture.” Here, we’ll consider how Christ’s sinless life was lived moment by moment in obedience to the Word of God, and how that was absolutely essential.
As I have stated in previous posts, my basic persuasive argument in this series goes like this:
Premise 1: What Jesus believes should be what Christians believe;
Premise 2: Christ’s view of Scripture is that it is the perfect Word of God;
Conclusion: Therefore, all Christians should have the same view of Scripture as Christ’s
Central to Christianity is our firm belief that Jesus was without sin his entire life. In fact, it was absolutely essential to Christ’s ministry that he live a perfect, sinless life—so that he could stand in our place as our perfect, spotless Lamb without blemish. Were Christ tainted with sin even in the least, he would be disqualified from being our Savior. Yet this is what the wicked tempter, Satan, tried to accomplish. If Satan could somehow successfully tempt Christ and get him to sin, Jesus couldn’t be our substitute and Savior.
Jesus’ sinless life is exemplified in his resistance to the temptations from the devil while Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days. These days—and Jesus’ obedience to the Father in the face of the devil’s temptations—were essential to Christ’s mission on earth. What is important for our present consideration is not only that Christ remained sinless in the face of Satan’s attacks, but that he defeated each of the devil’s temptations by quoting Scripture.
We see this point established at the very onset of the wilderness temptations: “And the tempter came and said to [Jesus], ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt 4:3–4).
In his response to Satan’s temptation, Christ proves the immeasurable power of the written Word of God in resisting temptation and in causing the devil to flee. In doing so, Christ is not only our King, he’s also our example. No doubt Christ could’ve pulled rank on the devil. He could’ve countered, “I am the King of kings, the eternal Son of God. You cannot compel me to do anything I don’t want to do.” That would have been true, right, and appropriate for him to personally respond to the devil that way. But it wouldn’t have been nearly so beneficial for us. We are besieged daily by temptations and tests from the devil’s evil regime, and, if we are to stand and fight successfully, we must know how to wield the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” spoken of in Ephesians 6:17.
In Matthew 4, Christ answers all three representative temptations with the same introduction: literally, “It stands written.” There is a sense of absolute finality to Christ’s quotation of Scripture in every case.
Even more, in the first temptation, Christ shows his view of Scripture at a deeper level: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). The scriptural quote is from Deuteronomy 8:3, the passage about manna. There, according to Moses, before any Scripture had been written, God tested the Israelites to see if they would follow his every command. They were trained to listen to God’s words, to cling to them as if they were life itself. They were taught that it was not the manna per se that was keeping them alive in the desert, but God’s word by which the manna had come. They were being trained to look to God’s mouth for their every command, and their life.
Now that we have the Scripture, Jesus points the way to a life of constant holiness, of resisting temptation. We are to live moment by moment by the Word of God. And, we are to cherish every word from God, every command, promise, warning, history lesson, poem, prophecy, and epistle. Jesus’ perfect high view of Scripture can be found in this one quotation of Deuteronomy 8:3. And so we also should know that we live, exist, stay alive, and live holy and pleasing lives to the Lord, only by eating “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
In recent years, attacks on the Old Testament have continued by Liberal scholars, and that includes their critical analysis of texts from the book that Jesus quoted from in the wilderness temptation: Deuteronomy. One of the more famous attacks on the Pentateuch by scholars still taught in universities and seminaries is the Graf-Wellhausen documentary hypothesis, a theory which calls into question the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy in particular). This so-called JEDP theory of collaborative authorship and questionable authority of the Pentateuch supplanted for decades at least thirty-five centuries of Judeo-Christian tradition. But you know what, if Satan had wanted to question the authority of Deuteronomy, the desert encounter with Jesus would have been a prime time to do it. Instead, Satan moved on with a second temptation, quoting Scripture that time himself. In other words, there would have been no point in trying to refute Christ’s view of the inspiration and authority of the Bible. It’s well established in Scripture. Christ believed it, and so should we.
So after the second, and then the third temptation the devil hurled toward Christ, our Savior refuted each temptation by the Word of God. And he continued to daily live by “every word … from the mouth of God.” As he declares in John 8:29, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” And by using a powerful technique (i.e., “It is written”), Christ leaves us a pattern of holiness to follow. Christ’s pattern of fighting temptation thus reveals his perfect view of, and attitude toward, Scripture.
Editor’s note: The previous posts in this series on Christ’s view of the Bible can be found by clicking the following links: (1) What is Christ’s View of the Bible?: An Introduction; (2) Christ Would Rather Die than Disobey Scripture; (3) Christ Taught that He Fulfilled Scripture; and (4) Christ Taught the Unbreakable Authority & Permanence of Scripture.
Image credit: Hills in the Judean Wilderness.