[General Comments, continued]
14. Romans 5:12-19: Here, I present the brief comments of Chris Haslam, an Anglican priest from Montreal:
Paul has said that Christians, reconciled to God, will be saved, sharing in the risen life of Christ. Two notions are important here:Verse-by-Verse Comments, Matthew 4:1-11:
Paul contrasts Adam and Christ, both inaugurators of eras. Adam foreshadowed Christ as head of humanity (“type”, v. 14, precursor). Adam disobeyed God’s direct command (“the transgression”, v. 14, “the trespass”, v. 15). The “free gift”, i.e. Christ, is unlike Adam’s sin:
- the punishment for Adam’s sin was to die both physically and spiritually (“death came through sin”); and
- we both sin ourselves and share in his sin (“spread to all”).
(Vv. 13-14b are an aside: before God gave Moses the Law, humans were not held accountable for their sins; even so they died.)
- “many died” before Christ’s coming but even more so are “many” (indeed all) saved through Christ;
- Adam was condemned to separation from God but Christ brings union with God (vv. 16, 18);
- Adam’s sin allowed “death” (v. 17) to rule through the Devil (“that one”) but we let good rule our hearts (“dominion in life”); and
- Adam’s action led to the sin of many but Christ’s will lead many to godliness (v. 19), to “eternal life” (v. 21).
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
(1) It's interesting that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. In his explanation of the Sixth Petition of the Lord's Prayer, Martin Luther writes in his famous Small Catechism, "God, indeed, tempts no one..." Was Luther wrong?
Notice what Matthew writes here, though. He says that "that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Is it splitting hairs here to say that God the Spirit didn't tempt Jesus, but pushed Jesus where the devil could do the tempting?
Maybe. But I think that this is a more complicated subject than our desire for facile answers will allow.
The New Testament Greek terms peirazo and ekpeirazo can be translated as either tempt or test. Sometimes we read of God testing people. At other times we read of people being tempted.
I think it's safe to say that if God lures us to sin, then God is a monster and not the "lover of our souls" we see in Jesus Christ.
But I do think it's possible for God to use an event to test us while the devil, the world, or our sinful selves will use the same event to tempt us away from God. God allows certain tests to come our way, tests that may tempt us to walk away from God. God does this to strengthen our faith by increasing our dependence on Him.
God the Spirit apparently believed that, to fortify Jesus for what lay ahead, Jesus needed the test of being tempted by the devil. I don't believe that this is the sort of thing that God does with spiritual lightweights, like me, by the way. In fact, it's been my observation that the closer we get to God, the more our spiritual torments and often, it seems, the likelier our physical suffering. Discipleship isn't for sissies. But it is for those who want to live with God forever.
2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.
(1) Talk about understatement. I'd be hungry too, after forty days without food. By the way, some scholars teach that "forty days" may have been a Biblical way of saying, "a long time," like more contemporary phrases such as "a month of Sundays."(I know, it's not that contemporary.)
(2) This makes me think of the Gospel lesson for Ash Wednesday. Jesus assumed that believers would, at tmes when they wanted to clear away the obstructions that get in the way of their relationship with God, would fast. He says there, "Whenever you fast..."
One can fast in many ways. We might want to stop watching TV at night, or spend less time on the computer. The possibilities are endless. But the purpose of fasting isn't to gain bragging rights as a super-Christian. It is, rather, like tuning out the static and allowing ourselves to hear God loud and clear.
3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
(1) Notice that the tempter's temptation isn't inherently bad. Food when you're hungry is a good thing. God made food. God made our bellies. The craftiness of the tempter is that he strives to lure us to take good things and use them in wrong ways. Jesus refuses to be beholden to the tempter even for a few scraps of bread. He will, instead, be totally dependent on God the Father.
(2) One of the ways in which we commonly put God to the test is to challenge Him with prayers like, "If you're really there, then do this..."
God has already done everything He needs to do to warrant our trust.
4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
(1) There's no way we can face down the temptations presented by the devil, the world, or our sinful selves is to be steeped in the Word of God, the Bible, which reveals God's will for us all. Jesus called on that Word here.
5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
(1) The devil knows the Bible too. For the Christian, knowing the Bible isn't necessarily about memorizing Scripture passages, it's allowing the Word of God to inform our understanding of the God behind it. The Bible reveals God's character.
(2) This is the second time that the devil has said, "If you are the Son of God..." The devil is suggesting that this throwing Himself off of the top of the temple would be a memorable way for Jesus to prove Himself. And Jesus does want us to know that He is the Son of God. But, though capable of the miraculous, He never performed signs at the command of the skeptical or hostile. That's probably because for those who are hostile or indifferent to Jesus, no sign would ever be sufficient to win them over. And besides, if God takes orders from us, who really is God? Unless we see the miracles as signs pointing to Jesus as the Son of God, they're merely parlor tricks.
7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
(1) "Stupid is stupid," Jesus tells the devil. "God will protect His children for all eternity. But they can't expect to be protected when they take unnecessary risks."
(2) Notice that Jesus once more resorts to Scripture.
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
(1) The term "high mountain" is also used of the setting of Jesus' transfiguration in Matthew's Gospel. Brian Stoffregen suggests that this may be no coincidence. When you think of it, the high mountain on which Jesus' transfiguration must have also been a setting of deep temptation. It would have been tempting for Jesus to remain on the mountaintop in His glory. It certainly tempted Peter, who wanted to erect those monuments to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. But the voice from heaven and Jesus Himself directed Peter, James, and John, back down the mountain.
(2) Jesus clearly wants the kingdoms of the world. But He won't take them on the cheap. Without His death and resurrection, those kingdoms would always remain under evil's sway, far from God.
10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
(1) In the final analysis, every sin we commit is a violation of the First Commandment, "You shall have no other gods." To worship God is to put God first in our lives.
11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.