Studies in Hebrews Part 5: The Temptation of Christ

I want to quickly recap what we talked about last time. Last time we talked about “the lie”.

We learned that the lie the serpent told to the man and the woman in the garden was that they could be independent of God. That they could decide for themselves what was good and evil and could thereby establish that they were as perfect as God by doing the good they had decided for themselves rather than the evil they had decided for themselves.

In effect, the serpent told the couple that if they disobeyed and ate from the tree God had commanded them not to, then they would gain the power to make their own law. They could dispense with God’s law and they could replace it with their own law. They could use their own law to establish that they were as all knowing, all wise, unchanging and perfect as God is. God would be forced then to go play somewhere else in the universe while they stayed here and played in their half of the universe.

There was just one little problem for the couple. What the serpent had told them was a lie.

Romans 2 tells us that the works of God’s law are written in man’s conscience so that man knows he is guilty of disobeying God even though he strives to bury this knowledge. This includes Adam. Rather than discovering he had the power to declare himself independent from God, he instead discovered he was guilty of disobeying God.

According to the serpent’s promise, this was not supposed to happen. Adam was supposed to be able to dispense with God’s law and exchange it with his own law. He wasn’t supposed to find himself guilty of disobeying a law he had dispensed with.

Nevertheless, here he stands now, guilty. And this makes him ashamed. Not ashamed for having disobeyed God, mind you. Rather, ashamed that he is guilty in the first place. The tree hasn’t worked. He is still bound to God’s law. He was supposed to be able to throw God’s law off. He was supposed to be able to replace God’s law with his own law. But instead, here he stands still guilty of disobeying God’s law. There is something wrong with him that has caused the tree to not work for him, and he is ashamed of himself for this.

This fact that he is still bound to God’s law also frightens him though. Again, not so much because he has disobeyed, but because he is afraid God will exercise the dominion and power He still has over him before he can figure out a way to make the tree work and throw off God’s dominion and power.

Now, it’s right here that false religion comes into play, because what false religion does is it tells man there is a way he can get rid of the guilt so that he can get back to making his own law and declaring his independence.

Eastern religions claim reincarnation is the way man can get rid of this guilt. Just complete the required number of reincarnations and you will become one with the universe, which the eastern mystics claim is god. You will become as God, see.

Some false Christian religions claim it is perfect performance. Perfectly perform your own law, see, and God will have to lift the guilt. You can even add to your own law any number of His laws that you know you can obey.

Still other false Christian religions do it the Antinomian way. That is, they remove God’s law altogether, insisting Jesus took away God’s law, thereby leaving you guilt free. Now there is just your law, and you get to decide for yourself what is good and evil. Ah, wasn’t that kind of Jesus to do?

Whatever the method, false religion promises to remove the guilt so that man can get back on track to becoming a god like God.

Last time we looked at Genesis 3 and we examined the account of Adam’s disobedience. This time I want us to look at how God responded to that disobedience, because I think there are some very important things we can learn here. So if you would, turn with me to Genesis 3 again. This time though, we are going to start with verse 8.

Genesis 3:8-24
8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

As an Arminian, I used to think that the fact God asked questions He already knew the answer to meant that God was being gentle to Adam here. Adam, where are you? Well, God already knew where Adam was, and God is omnipresent, He was where Adam was, so God must have been giving Adam the opportunity to come out into His arms of love here. I used to also think that the existence of these questions meant God’s regular habit was to take evening strolls in the garden in order to visit and commune with His creation. Let me say these two things could not be further from the truth.

When God asks a question, it is rarely if ever for the purpose of patting a person on the head. Look at Job. How did God come to Job? Did He come gently, like a father tenderly patting his small boy on the head? There-there my boy, don’t you know I love you?

No. Listen to what the text says.

Job 38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action, like a man, I will question you , and you make it known to Me.”

Out of a whirlwind. That’s not gentle Jesus, meek and mild. That is God coming in righteous indignation and judgment.

What does this mean then in Genesis 3, in the cool of the day?

The word cool is a terrible translation. The word translated cool is the Hebrew word ruwach. It is translated elsewhere as Spirit, anger, blast, air, breath. The phrase actually means, “in the Spirit of the day”.

By Spirit of the day, I don’t mean that the way we in the West might use that phrase. I mean Spirit of the day in the way the Bible uses it.

In the Bible, the day of the Lord is a phrase often used in reference to God executing His judgment.

Isaiah 24:21-22 So it will happen in that day. That the Lord will punish the host of heaven on high. And the kings of the earth on earth. They will be gathered together like prisoners to the dungeon.

Zephaniah 1:14-16
The great day of the LORD is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
15 A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.

Romans 2:15-16
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Turn with me if you will to Psalm 18.

Psalm 18
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.

From his temple He heard my voice,
and my cry to Him reached His ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because He was angry.
8 Smoke went up from His nostrils,
and devouring fire from His mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from Him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under His feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
He came swiftly on the wings of the wind (ruwach).
11 He made darkness his covering, His canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before Him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered His voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And He sent out His arrows and scattered them;
He flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at Your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath (ruwach) of Your nostrils.

The idea is that God’s appearance in the garden is like the sudden blast of a trumpet. It is startling. Furthermore, His appearance is like the whirlwind, rushing into the garden with fierce, howling anger.

God enters the garden, startling Adam. There is no doubting from His appearance why He is here either. He has come to set up court, to execute justice and to bring judgment upon Adam for his disobedience.

We hear God calling the defendant to step forward. Dress for action, like a man. “Adam, where are you?”

The defendant, terrified, answers. I heard the sound of You in the Garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.”

Hear that? Afraid, because I was naked. Afraid, because I was not perfect like You. Not afraid, because I had disobeyed You, but rather afraid, because I was naked.

“Who told you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I commanded you not to?”

What is God doing? Why is He asking questions He already knows the answers to? He is proving man’s guilt is what He is doing. He is demonstrating that He is just and righteous to bring judgment upon Adam. Remember, Adam still believes the lie. He thinks he was just to disobey God, because the serpent had told him that God lied about the tree. God is demonstrating that Adam is most certainly not just to have disobeyed, and the serpent has done nothing more than lie.

If you will recall Cain’s response to God’s courtroom. God had put on Cain on trial, as well.

Where is Abel, your brother?

What does Cain do? He turns right around and tries to put God on trial.

What, am I my brother’s keeper?

Man still believes the lie.

I don’t have to answer to You. I make my own law.

As a consequence of man’s disobedience, God’s judgment falls upon all of creation, because it was Adam whom God had placed over creation to tend to it and to carry out God’s will upon it. Man responded by handing his God-given authority over to the serpent.

We shouldn’t think that any of this caught God off guard though, or that man’s disobedience was something God hadn’t planned. No, God had planned it to occur exactly the way it occurred, and He had planned it long before He created Adam.

You might ask, well why did He do that for? He did it in order to glorify Himself by sending His Son to die for and thereby save a people whom He had chosen for salvation from before the foundation of the earth. If Adam had not disobeyed, then there would have been no reason for God to send His Son. It is as we talked about several weeks ago with the Hebrew slaves. Had there been no law in Egypt, then the Hebrews would have had no reason to cry out to God for salvation from their slavery.

Now, with all that in mind, let’s turn to our text in Hebrews.

Since we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Passed through the heavens. That is, He came down to earth, passing through the heavens, to be born of a virgin. He then grew up, lived, died then rose again, before He ascended and went back up through the heavens. Passed through the heavens is a phrase that encapsulates all of Christ’s work.

Something else it encapsulates is that day of the Lord which we just talked about.

Do you remember what we saw back in Psalm 18 and in those other texts which talked about the day of the Lord? We saw in each case God arriving in judgment, bringing with His wrath thick darkness and earthquakes.

Thick darkness and an earthquake. Where else have we seen that?

We saw it in Mark 15:25. There, Mark tells us that Jesus was crucified around 9 am. He further says that for three hours Christ’s enemies mocked Him, and then at about noon darkness fell upon all the land and lasted for three hours.

Matthew tells us that at Christ’s death, this darkness was immediately accompanied by an earthquake that blew open nearby tombs. Inside the Temple, the heavy, thick curtain that had for centuries kept the holy of holies shrouded in darkness as per God’s command tore apart from top to bottom, thereby removing the separation that had stood between God’s presence and His elect because of man’s sin. After Christ rose from the dead, believers who had died during Jesus’ earthly ministry stepped out from the darkness of those burst tombs, alive.

When I was still lost and believing a false gospel, the preachers at the false gospel church I attended led me to believe that the reason darkness fell upon the land for three hours was because all the demons in the universe were gathering at the cross to taunt Jesus. Supposedly there were so many demons, see, that the sky grew dark.

Nonsense. Those weren’t demons gathering at the cross. That was God coming in judgment to the cross!

In the day you eat of it you shall die! Well, that day is now here, and the execution of God’s just and righteous judgment is now being carried upon the condemned.

Except the condemned is His own Son. His only Son, the Son whom He loves.

Upon that cross, Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son did take to Himself and upon Himself the full and complete sentence of God’s just and righteous judgment against His elect for their sins.

In the day you disobey Me, you shall die.

We have each disobeyed. We have each turned aside. Together we have become worthless. There is none of us who does good. We have every one of us believed we can choose what is good and evil. There is no fear of God before our eyes.

But God! Who is rich in mercy wherewith He loved His people, has laid upon Him, His Son, His only Son, the Son whom He loves, the iniquity of all His sheep. He, who spared not His own Son from the day of His wrath, but has instead delivered Him over to death, has done so for the redemption of His people so that the day of His wrath which is coming upon all those who disobey Him, shall not come upon them, for the Son has already endured it for them. That is the good news.

God’s people are not going to stand before the judgment seat of God at that last day. And the reason they won’t is because Jesus Christ has already stood before that seat on their behalf.

Continuing with our passage in Hebrews —

Hebrews 4:14-15
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 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.

As we take a closer look at this verse, keep in mind what the serpent had promised. You shall be as God. That is, by disobeying God and eating from the tree He has forbidden you to eat, you can decide for yourself what is good and evil. In other words, you can make your own law and use that law to establish yourself to be another God like God.

With that in mind, turn with me to Matthew 3.

Matthew 3:13-4:4
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”4 But he answered, “It is written,‘Man shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus is baptized. We see the heavens open and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. A voice then speaks from heaven. “This is My beloved Son with whom I well pleased.”

Immediately following this, the Spirit leads Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the serpent. The text says “the tempter”. Same difference. Satan had come to tempt this new man just as he also tempted the old man.

Listen closely to the temptation. If you are the son of God. If. There is accusation in the statement. It’s no longer a question, but it’s still ringing with accusation. Has God said?

It’s been forty days since Jesus has last eaten anything. He’s emaciated. Starving. He’s in the middle of the wilderness. The sun beating down on His neck. And this after He had heard the Father say to Him from the heavens, “This is My beloved Son with whom I well pleased.” The serpent now raises its head to draw wide his venomous lips.

Indiancobra“I heard that back there. Beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Yeah, it looks like it, all right. Some son of God you are. I mean, just look at you! You call yourself the son of God? Give me a break. No son of God wonders around in the wilderness dying of hunger. You’ve go to be out of your mind.

“Tell you what, if you’re really the son of God, then why not just turn these stones into bread? I mean, that’d be a simple thing for the son of God to do, right?

“Or maybe you’re not the son of God, after all. Maybe you’re just some crazy guy who’s gone out of his head with sunstroke. Why don’t you jump off this cliff here and find out. After all, the Bible does say He will not let you dash your foot against a stone, right? Go ahead, son of God, try it.

“What are you doing? Why not just give this nonsense up and act like the Son of God. I mean, You’re God, for goodness sake! What do you need the old man for? You don’t need Him. Look at all the world here, all these nations and all these cities. They can all be yours. You’re God. There doesn’t have to be any non-elect. You can save everyone! Just take them. Join me and declare your independence.”

We see two things going on here in Jesus’ temptation. One, we see Satan tempting Jesus to declare His independence from the Father and declare Himself another God alongside God. We also see Satan tempting Jesus to disobey God’s law. Both go hand in hand. That is, the only reason why He would have disobeyed God’s law is because He had declared Himself independent of God.

The same goes for man. The temptation is not only to disobey God, but to disobey Him, because we want to set up our own law. I know You said vengeance is Yours, Lord, but You don’t understand; I must have revenge. After all, I’m a god!

Jesus was tempted like we are. Satan was giving Him all the reasons why He should make His own law, be His own God, declare His independence.

No one would blame You, Jesus. If I had a dad who sent me to earth to die, and who had led me out here in the middle of nowhere to starve, well heck, I’d be turning those stone into bread too.

There’s another temptation in addition to this. The text refers to Christ as a high priest. Now, we’re going to hold off on examining the priesthood today, because the author goes into this extensively later on. We’ll wait for it then. But for right now, I want us to see something.

Once a year, the high priest would enter the holy of holies on a day known as Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. On this day he would take the blood from a special sacrifice into the darkness of the holy of holies where the ark of the covenant was kept, and there in the presence of the Lord he would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice upon the covenant’s lid which was called the mercy seat. He would do this to atone for all of Israel’s sins that year.

What could we say about a man, a Jew, living at that time, who had watched the high priest enter the holy of holies, had waited silently for the high priest to sprinkle the blood, and then had watched him come back out of the holy of holies before then turning to say to himself, gee-whiz, I don’t know if that’s going to be enough to atone for my sins. I mean, I touched something unclean a few days ago and I just don’t think it’s going to be enough to atone for that?

What could we say about this man? We would have to say this man doesn’t believe God has told the truth, wouldn’t we? God said, this sacrifice will atone for Israel’s sins. But here’s an Israelite saying he doesn’t think God is telling the truth.

Today, we have men calling themselves preachers and men of God, who tell us from the pulpit that even though the cross of Christ has atoned for all the sins of God’s elect, that cross is still not enough to save those elect if those elect don’t strive to have better performance and get better results because of that cross. What can we say about such men?

And what can we say about men who call every Tom, Dick and Harry a brother in Christ even when every Tom, Dick and Harry deny the efficacy of the cross?

But I don’t believe for one moment these men don’t have excuses. They’re full of excuses. They tell us they’re just being compassionate. They tell us they’re balanced. They insist they’re more merciful and kind and balanced than we are. They mock us and tell us we draw too many circles and exclude too many people.

You don’t understand, God. I’ve seen your way. Trust me, it’s not as compassionate as mine is.

The reality is these men have declared their independence from God and are now professing that their compassion, their mercy, their balance is a better truth than God’s truth.

Declare your independence, Jesus. The whole world can by yours. You can prove your compassion is greater than your Father’s. You’ll be more balanced than He is.

Jesus was tempted, but He did not sin. He was without sin. He obeyed His Father. He refused to declare His independence. He who is God and always was God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Rather, He humbled Himself instead, and being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death.

But having been tempted, He is now able to sympathize with His people when they are tempted. He knows what it is like to be tempted. And having suffered the Lord’s day of wrath for His people, He no longer comes to them in a whirlwind of judgment. He comes to them now to deal with them gently. To lead them gently out of temptation.

Before we knew the cross, the command was, do not provoke the Lord to anger. After coming to know and believe the gospel though, the command is now, do not grieve the Holy Spirit by which you were sealed.

You were sealed. It’s a done deal. Now, in the light of that, do not grieve Him. That is, do not now make Him sorry He has saved you. Instead, honor Him in all that you do and say. After all, His commandments are not burdensome. They are for your well being.

Before we finish up here, I want to skip down to verse 11, because there is something very important I want you to see that ties into what we’ve been talking about here today.

Starting with verse 11

Hebrews 5:11-6:2
11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Not laying again a foundation of repentance.

I have heard people say that this verse means churches should not be preaching the gospel every week, because the gospel is milk, and if that’s all you preach, then the church will never mature. Instead, I’m told churches should preach meat, which, if I understand them, usually means giving their congregations a series of pop psychology lectures, or teaching them how to do outreaches or some such thing. As I heard one preacher say when asked why his church didn’t preach more doctrine, “because Jesus said My food is to do the works of God, so that is what we do here.”
This is garbage.

Look at what the text says. Not laying again another foundation of repentance from dead works.

Why would I lay a foundation again? I’m talking about a foundation for your home or a building. Why would I lay a foundation again? There is only reason why I would lay another foundation. It’s because there is something wrong with the foundation I have now.

Why would I lay another foundation of repentance from dead works? Same reason. It’s because there is something wrong with the foundation I have now, or at least I perceive there is.

We have seen that these Hebrews have been drawing back in doubt. That’s what the whole epistle has been about. Christ’s testimony is a better testimony than that of angels, because He is a Son who has been give a throne without end. That’s what the author has been talking about this entire time.

Now all of a sudden out of nowhere the author is now just going to suddenly say, but you guys don’t need to be concerning yourself with preaching that gospel stuff every week anyway? What? No! That isn’t his meaning at all.

Look, what he’s saying is, these guys, every time he comes into town to visit them, they’ve got a new foundation of repentance from dead works. First it was faith. The next time he came into town it was baptism. The time after that it was the laying on of hands. The time after that it was something else. And so on and so on. Each time he comes into town he has to reprove them. He has to remind them that the cross of Christ is the only foundation of repentance from dead works. Now here he is, he’s somewhere on vacation or whatever and he receives word that they have now started laying eternal judgment now as the foundation of the repentance from dead works. Oh, for good grief!

You see this stuff happening in churches today. One year they’re teaching better law obedience as the foundation of repentance from dead works. The next year they’re teaching cessation from spiritual gifts as the foundation of repentance from dead works.

You ever hear someone tell you what their church DOES? At our church we do outreach, we visit nursing homes, we serve homeless shelters, we visit jails, we feed the homeless, we do street preaching, we do this and we do that. By the time they finish telling you everything their church does you’re ready to take a nap, because they’ve worn you out explaining all the stuff they do.

What do I say when someone asks me what my church does? I say we preach the gospel. Yup. That’s it. We preach the gospel.

There’s nothing wrong with doing jail ministry or visiting the sick and feeding the homeless. That’s all well and good. But if that is the reason why a church exists, then that church is most likely a false gospel church.

The church does not exist to serve the community. Yes, it feeds the hungry and cares for the homeless as a byproduct of why it does exist, but why it is exists should not be to feed the hungry and care for the homeless. The reason why a church exists is to exalt God, proclaim His gospel and equip His elect.

Exalting God means coming together with His people to worship Him and to fellowship with each other. When we come together to fellowship, when we carry out His commandment to love one another as He loves us, we are praising Him who saved us.

And when we proclaim His gospel we do it not only in here, but we do it out there, as well. And sometimes that does mean visiting those in jail, and that does mean feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, but this is only in order to preach the gospel to them. It’s hard to hear someone when your belly is rumbling from hunger.

I listened to the fifth part of Scott’s sermon series on the Person of Jesus   That was a great sermon. It’s been a great series too, but he said something in that fifth one that really helped to open my eyes to this.

In Psalm 2, Jesus reports on what the Father has told Him. He tells us that the Father has said to Him, “Ask of Me and I will make the nations your heritage.”

Now, nations, that isn’t talking about governments and countries. That is talking about the elect who hail from all nationalities, and tribes and tongues. The nations is the elect from all nations.

Ask of Me. This is what He told the disciples to ask when they pray. Ask in My name. Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do. I think some people think that asking in the name of Jesus means something similar to “roger, over and out.” It’s just something we attach to the end of a prayer. It’s like sealing it or something. Guaranteeing that it gets up to heaven.

No. In the name of Jesus means asking for what He wants, for what He desires. We talked before about the significance of names in the Bible. A name tells us something about a person’s character. Names tell us who they are. Jesus means God saves. He does save. He’s not might saves, He’s not will try to save, but rather He is God does save.

Ask of Me and I will make the elect your heritage. What we should be praying for is that God convert His elect. That God give us the courage, the wisdom, the boldness to go out there into the world in which we live and work, and proclaim His gospel to that world, and that God would then use that gospel to draw His elect to Him and to open their eyes and bring them to repentance and faith.

What is it that Christ desires? He told us what His desire is. “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose not one of those He has given Me, but that I shall raise them up at the last day.”

This is His will. This is His desire. The salvation of His elect! All of heaven rejoices over the repentance of one elect sinner rather than over 99 non elect, self righteous sinners who believe they don’t need to repent.

Now yes, He will not lose any of His elect, but He has nevertheless commanded us to ask Him for this, to ask Him that He would empower us to go out into the world and preach it. This should be our prayer then. Our prayer should NOT be God, please cause America to repent. America is not going to repent! America is not God’s elect! You might as well pray for the devil to repent as to pray for America to repent.

Our prayer should be that God brings those Americans who are His elect to repent, not that He bring America to repent. The descendents of Seth did not pray for the descendents of Cain to repent! Jude tells us what the first of God’s prophets, Enoch, told the descendents of Cain —

“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

Does that sound like, God, please cause America to repent? No, that sounds like woe to you, America!

Folks, patriotism is not a Godly foundation of repentance from dead works. Capitalism is not a Godly foundation of repentance from dead works. Democracy is not a Godly foundation of repentance from dead works. The Constitution of the United States is not a Godly foundation of repentance from dead works.

We live in the world, but we are not of the world. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way.



About David Bishop

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6 Responses to Studies in Hebrews Part 5: The Temptation of Christ

  1. markmcculley says:

    Colin Kruse—The apparent contradiction between 1:8-9 and 3:6-9, concerning whether Christians do or do not continue to sin is not resolved in the traditional fashion (occasional vs habitual sin), but appeals to Kruse’s analysis of the meaning of anomia, which is in his view not to be interpreted etymologically (i.e. lawlessness), but simply as the type of sinful rebellion that typified the secessionists (also the “sin that leads to death”).

  2. markmcculley says:

    Robert Letham—I will focus my comments on chapter 4, which addresses the question of what kind of humanity the Son of God assumed. The thesis is that for Christ to identify with us in our fallen condition, it was necessary for him to have a fallen human nature. By assuming humanity in its fallenness he redeemed it from where it actually is, otherwise he could not have saved us in our actual state as fallen human beings. This is akin to the teachings of Edward Irving and Karl Barth, as well as Torrance.

    This argument is a protest against all tendencies to docetism. An unfallen nature, it is held, would mean his humanity was not a real one for it would be detached from the world in which we find ourselves. Rather, Christ acted in redeeming love from within our own nature, sanctifying it and offering it up to the Father. Like Irving, Barth, and Torrance, the authors defend Christ’s sinlessness vigorously (p. 121–22). Indeed, they argue that his triumph is magnified by his living a sinless life from out of the depths of our own fallen nature.

    There are a range of problems with the claim. At best, it entails a Nestorian separation of the human nature from the person of Christ. The eternal Son—the person who takes humanity into union—is absolutely free from sin but the assumed humanity is fallen. If that were to be avoided, another hazard lurks; since Christ’s humanity never exists by itself any attribution of fallenness to that nature is a statement about Christ, the eternal Son.

    The authors do not consider biblical passages that tell against their views. Romans 5:12–21, crucial for understanding Paul’s gospel, is not mentioned. If Christ had a fallen human nature it is unavoidable that he would be included in the sin of Adam and its consequences. In short, he could not have saved us since he would have needed atonement himself, if only for his inclusion in the sin of Adam.

    The authors state that Christ assumed flesh “corrupted by original sin in Adam” (p. 116, italics original). He took a humanity “ruined and wrecked by sin” (p. 119), “corrupted human nature bent decisively toward sin” (p. 121). He healed the nature he took from us (p. 117). In this they acknowledge that a sinful nature and original sin are inextricably linked and that Christ himself needed healing. Such a Christ cannot save us for he needed saving himself.

    Christ’s healing of human nature happened from the moment of conception (p. 121–22). He was without sin. Thankfully this obviates the problem mentioned in the previous paragraph but simultaneously it destroys the argument for it means Christ’s humanity was not entirely like ours after all. Indeed, a citation of John Webster follows, in which he emphasises that Christ does not identify with us to the extent of being a sinner, has “a peculiar distance” from our own performance, does not follow our path, and has an “estrangement from us” due to his obedience (p. 122–23).

    The book’s argument can be turned on its head. For it to be sustained Christ should have a complete identity with fallen human nature and be a sinner. In this case he really would have been just like us. This Clark and Johnson, quite rightly, find unacceptable. A line has to be drawn somewhere.

    Throughout, the authors oppose the idea that Christ took into union a nature like Adam’s before the fall. However, this is not the only alternative. Reformed theology has taught that Christ lived in a state of humiliation, sinless and righteous but with a nature bearing the consequences of the fall in its mortality, its vulnerability and its suffering—but not fallen. Furthermore, the NT witness is that the incarnation is a new creation, the start of the new humanity, not a re-pristinization of the old. Christ is the second Adam, not the first. In the position the book opposes I fail to recognize the classic Reformed Christology.

    The authors’ premise is that anything other than a fallen nature would diminish Christ’s identification with us in our humanity. However, a fallen nature is intrinsic to a fallen human being but it is not definitive of, but incidental to, a human being.

    While the book’s emphasis on the atoning life of Christ correctly integrates the atonement with the incarnation (cf. Heidelberg Catechism, 37) we miss the repeated stress in the NT on atonement being achieved by the blood of Christ, his life laid down in death. Instead of “redemption by his blood” (Eph. 1:7) and reconciliation by the death of the Son (Rom. 5:9–10) these realities are established “within the being and life of our Mediator” (p. 128). In seeking to correct a problem the book is in danger of presenting, in a phrase of R. P. C. Hanson’s, redemption by a kind of sacred blood transfusion.

    There are sweeping references to “modern Christians” throughout the book—who have consistently got it wrong. The tone is strident. The historical positions are painted as heretical, versions of what Torrance called “the Latin heresy.” Yet the putative antidote is itself a modern idea. Attempting to correct a perceived imbalance the authors have set up one of their own.

  3. markmcculley says:

    Torrance argued for an “active obedience” in which Christ repented for us, believed for us, was born again for us, was converted for us, and worships for us. “We must think of him as taking our place even in our acts of repentance” (The Mediation of Christ, p 95)

    Donald Macleod responds—There is a great discontinuity between Christ and sinners. They were sinners and Christ was not. He could not trust in God’s forgiveness because he had no need of forgiveness. He could not be born again because he required no changed of heart. He could not be converted because His life demanded no change of direction.

    If we move from the idea of Jesus as a believer to the idea of Jesus as the one who is believed IN, does Jesus believe, vicariously, in Himself?….It is not his faith that covers the deficiencies of our faith (as it is given to us by God). It is Christ’s death that covers the deficiencies of our faith…Our faith is not in the Son of God who believed for us, but in the Son of God who gave Himself for us.

    p 214, Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified, IVP, 2014—-Christ never fell, had not guilt, and knew no sin. Human nature as individualized in Christ was not fallen. Christ did not suffer from the disease of sin. In what sense then did Christ heal human nature by becoming the patient and taking the disease? As Christ faced temptation and suffering, Christ did so with a mind unclouded by sin…

    Human nature after the cross remains as it was before the cross. If Christ healed our humanity by taking our humanity, then Christ was crucified by the very nature he had healed….

    According to Torrance, Christ condemned sin by saying no to the flesh and living a life of perfect faith, worship and obedience. But this would mean that the condemnation of sin did not take place on the cross, but in the daily life of Christ. But Romans 8:3 says that it not Jesus but God the Father who condemns sin in the flesh. While it was indeed in the flesh of his Son that God condemned sin but it was not only in his Son as incarnate, but in his Son as a sin-offering.. God condemned sin by passing judgement on his Son.

  4. markmcculley says:

    The law of God which accused Paul was the Mosaic law, which is not the same law as that which accuses every sinner now that the Mosaic covenant has been brought to its end. Romans 7—“For apart from the law sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life 10 and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.”

    “14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh,[f] sold into sin’s power. 15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good.” But this does not mean that God’s presence is no longer an accusation. His questions still cause us to fear.God. So the important question becomes—where do we find safety from God’s holiness? Only in Christ’s death and resurrection. Or also in our being enabled to obey some of the law of Christ?

  5. markmcculley says:

    Man must not live on bread alone

    Worship the Lord your God,
    and serve Him only

    He will give His angels orders concerning you,
    to protect you, 11 and
    they will support you with their hands,
    so that you will not strike
    your foot against a stone.”

    Do not test the Lord your God

    Pelikan ( “Dostoevsky: The Holy and the Good” chapter of Fools for Christ):—Wherever Christianity is viewed as a quiet submission to traditional patterns of conduct and an acceptance of social convention, there will be no appreciation of the atheism of Ivan Karamazov. His atheism begins to mean something when it becomes clear that the Christian gospel is a religious denunciation of religion–religion being understood as man’s attempt to relate himself constructively to the Holy. Traditional moralism and conventional piety have often put the objects of their search alongside God and have in that sense been guilty of idolatry. Atheism refuses to believe in the divinity of any traditional morality, and in this it is correct, more correct than some of the external Christianity that opposes it in the name of Christ. No distinction between right and wrong will avail me anything when I am faced by the awesome and fascinating presence of the Holy. Obedience to law and loyalty to social convention fall harmless to the ground before His glance…

    Pelikan–“Dostoevsky’s study of human nature made him see a demonic element in man for which moralism could not account. Like few men before him, Dostoevsky learned to know the subtle means which the demonic employs in asserting itself with the hope of achieving divinity. The temptation “You will be like God” can come in the opportunity to violate moral law, as it did to Raskolnikov. It can also come in the guise of piety and morality, and it is in this latter form that the demonic is most seductive. Then it employs the sanctions of conventional morality for the accomplishment of its demonic ends. The ultimate and most profound critique of the identification of the Holy and the Good comes in the realization that the demonic in man transcends the moral sense and the ethical consciousness. Therefore, relation to the Holy is far more than accepting of living up to a moral code. As a matter of fact,accepting and living up to a code can be and often is the device by which the demonic ego defends its autonomy against the claims which the Holy lays upon it… God is more than the validation of our morality.”

  6. Pingback: Eternity in Hell or Forever Dead Part 7: Tripartite Vs Bipartite People | Cornbread & Bourbon

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