SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (EGW)


Chapter 4

1, 2 (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9; Luke 4:2). Moses’ Fasting Not Like Christ's—In the wilderness of temptation Christ was without food forty days. Moses had, on especial occasions, been thus long without food. But he felt not the pangs of hunger. He was not tempted and harassed by a vile and powerful foe, as was the Son of God. He was elevated above the human. He was especially sustained by the glory of God which enshrouded him (The Signs of the Times, June 11, 1874). 5BC 1079.5

1-4 (Luke 4:1-4). The Power of Debased Appetite—All was lost when Adam yielded to the power of appetite. The Redeemer, in whom was united both the human and the divine, stood in Adam's place, and endured a terrible fast of nearly six weeks. The length of this fast is the strongest evidence of the extent of the sinfulness and power of debased appetite upon the human family (The Review and Herald, August 4, 1874). 5BC 1079.6

A Lesson to Take to Ourselves—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. 5BC 1079.7

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 (The Review and Herald, September 1, 1874). 5BC 1080.1

Satan Attacks at Weakest Moment—While in the wilderness, Christ fasted, but He was insensible to hunger. Engaged in constant prayer to His Father for a preparation to resist the adversary, Christ did not feel the pangs of hunger. He spent the time in earnest prayer, shut in with God. It was as if He were in the presence of His Father. He sought for strength to meet the foe, for the assurance that He would receive grace to carry out all that He had undertaken in behalf of humanity. The thought of the warfare before Him made Him oblivious to all else, and His soul was fed with the bread of life, just as today those tempted souls will be fed who go to God for aid. He ate of the truth which He was to give to the people as having power to deliver them from Satan's temptations. He saw the breaking of Satan's power over fallen and tempted ones. He saw Himself healing the sick, comforting the hopeless, cheering the desponding, and preaching the gospel to the poor,—doing the work that God had outlined for Him; and He did not realize any sense of hunger until the forty days of His fast were ended. 5BC 1080.2

The vision passed away, and then, with strong craving Christ's human nature called for food. Now was Satan's opportunity to make his assault. He resolved to appear as one of the angels of light that had appeared to Christ in His vision (Letter 159, 1903). 5BC 1080.3

The Trial Not Diminished—Christ knew that His Father would supply Him food when it would gratify Him to do so. He would not in this severe ordeal, when hunger pressed Him beyond measure, prematurely diminish one particle of the trial allotted to Him by exercising His divine power. 5BC 1080.4

Fallen man, when brought into straightened places, could not have the power to work miracles on his own behalf, to save himself from pain or anguish, or to give himself victory over his enemies. It was the purpose of God to test and prove the race, and give them an opportunity to develop character by bringing them frequently into trying positions to test their faith and confidence in His love and power. The life of Christ was a perfect pattern. He was ever, by His example and precept, teaching man that God was his dependence, and that in God should be his faith and firm trust (The Review and Herald, August 18, 1874). 5BC 1080.5

1-11 (Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1-13; see EGW on John 2:1, 2). The Whole Energies of Apostasy Rallied—In the councils of Satan it was determined that He [Christ] must be overcome. No human being had come into the world and escaped the power of the deceiver. The whole forces of the confederacy of evil were set upon His track to engage in warfare against Him, and if possible to prevail over Him. The fiercest and most inveterate enmity was put between the seed of the woman and the serpent. The serpent himself made Christ the mark of every weapon of hell.... 5BC 1080.6

The life of Christ was a perpetual warfare against satanic agencies. Satan rallied the whole energies of apostasy against the Son of God. The conflict increased in fierceness and malignity, as again and again the prey was taken out of his hands. Satan assailed Christ through every conceivable form of temptation (The Review and Herald, October 29, 1895). 5BC 1080.7

No Failure on Even One Point—Christ passed from this scene of glory [His baptism] to one of the greatest temptation. He went into the wilderness, and there Satan met Him, and tempted Him on the very points where man will be tempted. Our Substitute and Surety passed over the ground where Adam stumbled and fell. And the question was, Will He stumble and fall as Adam did over God's commandments? He met Satan's attacks again and again with, “It is written,” and Satan left the field of conflict a conquered foe. Christ has redeemed Adam's disgraceful fall, and has perfected a character of perfect obedience, and left an example for the human family, that they may imitate the Pattern. Had He failed on one point in reference to the law of God, He would not have been a perfect offering; for it was on one point only that Adam failed (The Review and Herald, June 10, 1890). 5BC 1080.8

Satan's Lies to Christ—Satan told Christ that He was only to set His feet in the blood-stained path, but not to travel it. Like Abraham He was tested to show His perfect obedience. He also stated that he was the angel that stayed the hand of Abraham as the knife was raised to slay Isaac, and he had now come to save His life; that it was not necessary for Him to endure the painful hunger and death from starvation; he would help Him bear a part of the work in the plan of salvation (The Review and Herald, August 4, 1874). 5BC 1081.1

(Ch. 3:16, 17; Mark 1:10, 11; Luke 3:21, 22.) Precious Tokens Showing Approval—Christ did not appear to notice the reviling taunts of Satan. He was not provoked to give him proofs of His power. He meekly bore his insults without retaliation. The words spoken from heaven at His baptism were very precious, evidencing to Him that His Father approved the steps He was taking in the plan of salvation as man's substitute and surety. The opening heavens, and descent of the heavenly dove, were assurances that His Father would unite His power in heaven with that of His Son upon the earth, to rescue man from the control of Satan, and that God accepted the effort of Christ to link earth to heaven, and finite man to the Infinite. 5BC 1081.2

These tokens, received from His Father, were inexpressibly precious to the Son of God through all His severe sufferings, and terrible conflict with the rebel chief (The Review and Herald, August 18, 1874). 5BC 1081.3

(Genesis 3:1-6.) Satan Powerless to Hypnotize Christ—Satan tempted the first Adam in Eden, and Adam reasoned with the enemy, thus giving him the advantage. Satan exercised his power of hypnotism over Adam and Eve, and this power he strove to exercise over Christ. But after the word of Scripture was quoted, Satan knew that he had no chance of triumphing (Letter 159, 1903). 5BC 1081.4

(Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15.) The Two Adams Contrasted—When Adam was assailed by the tempter in Eden he was without the taint of sin. He stood in the strength of his perfection before God. All the organs and faculties of his being were equally developed, and harmoniously balanced. 5BC 1081.5

Christ, in the wilderness of temptation, stood in Adam's place to bear the test he failed to endure. Here Christ overcame in the sinner's behalf, four thousand years after Adam turned his back upon the light of his home. Separated from the presence of God, the human family had been departing every successive generation, farther from the original purity, wisdom, and knowledge which Adam possessed in Eden. Christ bore the sins and infirmities of the race as they existed when He came to the earth to help man. In behalf of the race, with the weaknesses of fallen man upon Him, He was to stand the temptations of Satan upon all points wherewith man would be assailed.... 5BC 1081.6

In what contrast is the second Adam as He entered the gloomy wilderness to cope with Satan single-handed. Since the fall the race had been decreasing in size and physical strength, and sinking lower in the scale of moral worth, up to the period of Christ's advent to the earth. And in order to elevate fallen man, Christ must reach him where he was. He took human nature, and bore the infirmities and degeneracy of the race. He, who knew no sin, became sin for us. He humiliated Himself to the lowest depths of human woe, that He might be qualified to reach man, and bring him up from the degradation in which sin had plunged him (The Review and Herald, July 28, 1874). 5BC 1081.7

The Severest Discipline—To keep His glory veiled as the child of a fallen race, this was the most severe discipline to which the Prince of life could subject Himself. Thus He measured His strength with Satan. He who had been expelled from heaven fought desperately for the mastery over the One of whom in the courts above he had been jealous. What a battle was this! No language is adequate to describe it. But in the near future it will be understood by those who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Letter 19, 1901). 5BC 1081.8

(Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15; 2 Peter 1:4.) The Power That Man May Command—The Son of God was assaulted at every step by the powers of darkness. After His baptism He was driven of the Spirit into the wilderness, and suffered temptation for forty days. Letters have been coming in to me, affirming that Christ could not have had the same nature as man, for if He had, He would have fallen under similar temptations. If He did not have man's nature, He could not be our example. If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not have been tempted as man has been. If it were not possible for Him to yield to temptation, He could not be our helper. It was a solemn reality that Christ came to fight the battles as man, in man's behalf. His temptation and victory tell us that humanity must copy the Pattern; man must become a partaker of the divine nature. 5BC 1082.1

In Christ, divinity and humanity were combined. Divinity was not degraded to humanity; divinity held its place, but humanity, by being united to divinity, withstood the fiercest test of temptation in the wilderness. The prince of this world came to Christ after His long fast, when He was an hungered, and suggested to Him to command the stones to become bread. But the plan of God, devised for the salvation of man, provided that Christ should know hunger, and poverty, and every phase of man's experience. He withstood the temptation, through the power that man may command. He laid hold on the throne of God, and there is not a man or woman who may not have access to the same help through faith in God. Man may become a partaker of the divine nature; not a soul lives who may not summon the aid of Heaven in temptation and trial. Christ came to reveal the source of His power, that man might never rely on his unaided human capabilities. 5BC 1082.2

Those who would overcome must put to the tax every power of their being. They must agonize on their knees before God for divine power. Christ came to be our example, and to make known to us that we may be partakers of the divine nature. How?—By having escaped the corruptions that are in the world through lust. Satan did not gain the victory over Christ. He did not put his foot upon the soul of the Redeemer. He did not touch the head though he bruised the heel. Christ, by His own example, made it evident that man may stand in integrity. Men may have a power to resist evil—a power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master; a power that will place them where they may overcome as Christ overcame. Divinity and humanity may be combined in them (The Review and Herald, February 18, 1890). 5BC 1082.3

(Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21.) The Terrible Consequences of Transgression—Unless there is a possibility of yielding, temptation is no temptation. Temptation is resisted when man is powerfully influenced to do a wrong action and, knowing that he can do it, resists, by faith, with a firm hold upon divine power. This was the ordeal through which Christ passed. He could not have been tempted in all points as man is tempted, had there been no possibility of His failing. He was a free agent, placed on probation, as was Adam, and as is every man. In His closing hours, while hanging upon the cross, He experienced to the fullest extent what man must experience when striving against sin. He realized how bad a man may become by yielding to sin. He realized the terrible consequences of the transgression of God's law; for the iniquity of the whole world was upon Him (The Youth's Instructor, July 20, 1899). 5BC 1082.4

Christ a Free Moral Agent—The temptations to which Christ was subjected were a terrible reality. As a free agent, He was placed on probation, with liberty to yield to Satan's temptations and work at cross-purposes with God. If this were not so, if it had not been possible for Him to fall, He could not have been tempted in all points as the human family is tempted (The Youth's Instructor, October 26, 1899). 5BC 1082.5

Christ on Probation—For a period of time Christ was on probation. He took humanity on Himself, to stand the test and trial which the first Adam failed to endure. Had He failed in His test and trial, He would have been disobedient to the voice of God, and the world would have been lost (The Signs of the Times, May 10, 1899). 5BC 1082.6

3, 4. An Argument With Satan—Bear in mind that it is none but God that can hold an argument with Satan (Letter 206, 1906). 5BC 1083.1

4 (see EGW on Genesis 3:24). Deviation More Grievous Than Death—[Matthew 4:4 quoted.] He told Satan that in order to prolong life, obedience to God's requirements was more essential than temporal food. To pursue a course of deviation from the purposes of God, in the smallest degree, would be more grievous than hunger or death (Redemption Or The First Advent Of Christ With His Life And Ministry, 48). 5BC 1083.2

5, 6. Who Can Stand a Dare?—Jesus would not place Himself in peril to please the devil. But how many today can stand a dare (Manuscript 17, 1893)? 5BC 1083.3

8-10 (Luke 4:5-8). A View of Real Conditions—He [Satan] asked the Saviour to bow to his authority, promising that if He would do so, the kingdoms of the world would be His. He pointed Christ to his success in the world, enumerating the principalities and powers that were subject to him. He declared that what the law of Jehovah could not do, he had done. 5BC 1083.4

But Jesus said, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” This was to Christ just what the Bible declares it to be—a temptation. Before His sight the tempter held the kingdoms of the world. As Satan saw them, they possessed great external grandeur. But Christ saw them in a different aspect, just as they were—earthly dominions under the power of a tyrant. He saw humanity full of woe, suffering under the oppressive power of Satan. He saw the earth defiled by hatred, revenge, malice, lust, and murder. He saw fiends in the possession of the bodies and souls of men (Manuscript 33, 1911). 5BC 1083.5

10 (Luke 4:8). Command Compelled Satan—Jesus said to this wily foe, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Satan had asked Christ to give him evidence that He was the Son of God, and he had in this instance the proof he had asked. At the divine command of Christ he was compelled to obey. He was repulsed and silenced. He had no power to enable him to withstand the peremptory dismissal. He was compelled without another word to instantly desist and to leave the world's Redeemer (The Review and Herald, September 1, 1874). 5BC 1083.6

11 (Luke 4:13). A Council of Strategy—Although Satan had failed in his most powerful temptations, yet he had not given up all hope that he might, at some future time, be successful in his efforts. He looked forward to the period of Christ's ministry, when he should have opportunities to try his artifices against Him. Baffled and defeated, he had no sooner retired from the scene of conflict than he began to lay plans for blinding the understanding of the Jews, God's chosen people, that they might not discern in Christ the world's Redeemer. He determined to fill their hearts with envy, jealousy, and hatred against the Son of God, so that they would not receive Him, but would make His life upon earth as bitter as possible. 5BC 1083.7

Satan held a council with his angels, as to the course they should pursue to prevent the people from having faith in Christ as the Messiah whom the Jews had so long been anxiously expecting. He was disappointed and enraged that he had prevailed nothing against Jesus by his manifold temptations. But he now thought if he could inspire in the hearts of Christ's own people, unbelief as to His being the Promised One, he might discourage the Saviour in His mission and secure the Jews as his agents to carry out his own diabolical purposes. So he went to work in his subtle manner, endeavoring to accomplish by strategy what he had failed to do by direct, personal effort (The Spirit of Prophecy 2:97, 98). 5BC 1083.8