The Terrible Temptations
April 5th, 1964 @ 7:30 PM
THE TERRIBLE TEMPTATIONS
Dr W. A. Criswell
4-5-64 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Terrible Temptations. In your Bible turn with me to the fourth chapter of the First Gospel, and we shall read the first eleven verses together out loud, all of us reading out loud together. And if on the radio you will open your Bible and read it out loud with us, it will bless your heart as it blesses ours. The Bible was written to be read out loud, out loud; Matthew chapter 4, the first eleven verses, all of us reading together:
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered.
And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him upon a pinnacle of the temple,
And saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
And saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.
Then the devil leaveth Him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto Him.
The Terrible Temptations; using this story as a background for our own experience, we notice first the characters here who are involved. One is the Son of God, and the other is the devil. There’s only one diabolos; there are many daemons, many demons. There’s only one devil, his name is Satan [Matthew 4:10-11].
Then we learn from this story that there is a kingdom of darkness. There is a kingdom of evil. As there is a kingdom of Christ and a kingdom of light and a kingdom of heaven, there is a kingdom of sin. There is a kingdom of iniquity. There is a kingdom of darkness, and blackness, and hell, and damnation. And as there is a Lord Christ that presides over the kingdom of heaven, there is an evil and fallen angel who is presiding over the kingdom of sin and of hell. His name is Satan, and these two appear together here in this story [Matthew 4:1-11].
They know one another. This is not the first time they have seen one another, and this is not the first time they have met one another. They talk with one another in perfect familiarity. For example, in the King James Version of the Bible, it says, “And Satan said, If Thou be the Son of God, if Thou be the Son of God, if Thou be the Son of God” [Matthew 4:3, 6], as though there was a question mark after it, “if.” In our language it sounds that way. In the Greek it is an indicative not, a subjunctive, and it should have been translated, “Since Thou art the Son of God, since Thou art the Son of God, since Thou art the Son of God” [Matthew 4:3,6]. Satan knew that He was the Son of God and had known Him ever since Satan was created [Ezekiel 28:13]. Another indication of their familiarity: the Lord addresses him by his name, Satan, Satan. “Then Jesus said unto him, Get thee hence, Satan” [Matthew 4:10].
They had known one another in the courts of glory when Lucifer fell and brought down with him one third of the angelic hosts [Revelation 12:4]. And there was a hatred, there was an indescribable bitterness against the Prince of glory on the part of Lucifer that curses this world to this present day and shall curse this world until he is cast into the lake of fire [Revelation 20:10].
They meet together and once again there is in Lucifer, there is in Satan, there is in the devil that same boiling bitterness that cast him down in the beginning; jealousy of the Lord God, envy of the Prince of heaven, and a commitment in his heart to destroy Him that has never abated and never waned. So he stands there watching the Son of God now made flesh [John 1:1, 14], and he does so with that same disdain and contempt that Goliath manifested when he looked upon that stripling of a boy named David [1 Samuel 17:42-44]. And the same bitter hatred that motivated Goliath to destroy Israel and destroy David, the same bitterness lives in the heart of diabolos, of Satan, to destroy Christ and the kingdom of light and glory. So he begins. He begins and he does it in a vicious and a terrible and an awesome way.
When did he do it? When did he do it? That is one of the most pertinent questions to us in our lives. Herod inquired diligently what time the star appeared [Matthew 2:7]. Is it any wonder, therefore, when we inquire diligently when the devil appears? When does he do it? When did he do it here? Look at the text; taute, then, then; then when? Then when Jesus began His great messianic ministry; then refers to the time when John the Baptist introduced Him, when Jesus was baptized, when the Spirit of God came upon Him in the form of a dove, and when the holy voice of the Father was heard from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:16-17]. “Then, then Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tried by the devil” [Matthew 4:1]. That’s when we are tempted and tried, then! When the Spirit of God comes upon us, then are we cast into the hands of the devil. What an amazing time. What an amazing timing! When is it that Satan assails? When we have dedicated our lives to God, when the Spirit of heaven has come upon us, and when we have been baptized for our inaugural ministry of service for God, then Satan assails us, just as he did here, then, and not until then—then after His baptism was Jesus led up to be tried by the devil [Matthew 4:1].
I repeat, isn’t that the most amazing thing in life? Isn’t that the most amazing thing? Standing on the bank of the river with His inaugural baptism and the approbation of God from heaven, and then cast into the hands of the devil [Matthew 3:11-4:1]. Apparently no man is ready to take his place for a vital service in life until he has graduated from the school of Satan. We’ve got to be pressed enough in the pit, dragged through the lake of fire, trampled, and tormented, and stomped upon, and vexed, and assailed, and assaulted before we’re ready really to be the servants of God.
You, we, whenever you give your life to the Lord, whenever you accept Jesus as Savior, whenever you’ve been baptized into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13], whenever you have dedicated your life to the Lord, that’s the time that Satan will assault, and assail, and he’ll fill you with all kinds of doubts, and troubles, and fears, within, and without. “Then was Jesus led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tried by the devil” [Matthew 4:1]. Does that mean when we’re assaulted and our lives are filled with all kinds of fears, and forebodings, and doubts, and trials, and temptations, and troubles, does that mean God has withdrawn His elected purpose for us?
No, Jesus was the Son of God when He stood on the banks of the Jordan River and the Holy Ghost came upon Him [Matthew 3:16], and He was no less the Son of God when He was in the wilderness tried by the devil! [Matthew 4:1] We don’t lose the favor of God when we go through the fiery furnace and when we’re in the hands of the evil one. It’s when we’ve tried to do our best for God that these things come upon us like a flood. “Then was Jesus led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tried by the devil” [Matthew 4:1].
Now another thing in this text, these terrible temptations [Matthew 4:3-10]; after His baptism [Matthew 3:13-17], Jesus led up by the Spirit to be peirazō,”—translated here tempted of the devil, tempted, tried, peirazō, mostly tried [Matthew 4:1]. That word is used with reference to what God does to us, and it is used also with reference to what Satan does to us. God tries us, peirazō. God tempts us like it says in the King James Version of the Bible, “God tempted Abraham… and said, ‘Abraham, Go offer your boy Isaac unto Me a sacrifice on an altar’” [Genesis 22:1-2].
And the Scriptures say God tempted Israel, but there is a vast difference between the trial, the tempting of God, and the tempting of Satan. The tempting of God is to show us ourselves, that we might see ourselves as we really are. The tempting of God is to reveal ourselves to ourselves. The tempting of God is to teach us, and to train us, and to show us, and to reveal things to us—our weakness that we might depend upon His strength, our lack of wisdom that we might look to heaven for guidance. That’s the purpose of the trial, the peirazō, the temptation of God.
For example, James speaks of that when he says, “My brethren, when you fall into divers temptations, rejoice knowing that your faith worketh patience” [James 1:2-3]. And he says, “Blessed is the man that endureth that trial” [James 1:12]. These are the trials of God and the Lord reveals them to us that we might know ourselves; that we might advance in knowledge and strength. A plant raised in a hot house, in a greenhouse, is weak. It would have to be placed under the sun, and the storm, and the rain, and the winds, and the elements to grow strong like an oak. So it is God does with His greatest saints. They go through the fire. That’s God’s trial. But this trial of the devil is a different thing. His trial is always seductive to evil. He doesn’t mean for us to grow strong in grace. The temptations of Satan are that we might be destroyed.
It was so in the story of Eden when he deceived Eve and she persuaded her husband—that Satan did, encompassing the destruction of the man God made [Genesis 3:1-6]. This is the trial of Satan when he wasted Job [Job 2:7-8], and then through Job’s wife said to him, “Curse God, and die” [Job 2:9]. Commit suicide—that’s the seductive evil of Satan. When Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat” [Luke 22:31], causing Simon to deny the Lord, that he ever knew Him [Luke 22:54-61], that’s the trial of Satan, always to evil, and to destruction, and to waste, and to death. And there’s no one of us that shall escape these terrible temptations.
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tried, to be tempted by the devil” [Matthew 4:1]. No man who ever lives, no Christian who ever names the name of Christ will ever, ever, ever escape the trials and the temptations of the evil one. You cannot. You cannot. To be alive, life itself is a trial and a temptation. To be is to be nearly gone. Just to be here is to be in the hands of the devil. And it is a foolish man who thinks, “Ah, but I, I, I will stealthily and clandestinely, I will furtively slip by the old serpent’s den, and he won’t know I’m here. I’m going to play a trick on the old devil, and when I’m a thousand miles away, I’ll laugh at him, and I’ll say, ‘Ha, ha, you haven’t my ears. You were sound asleep. I slipped by with velvet slippers.’”
Don’t you ever persuade yourself. You don’t get out of his hands, not until you die. He’s more aware of us than we are aware of ourselves. Is your eye on heaven? Do you look across the vast panorama to the holy land that is yet to come? Remember, my brother, between you, between you and the Promised Land there is a burning and a howling wilderness. There is a blistering and a wasting desert. And no man has the choice to say, “Over yonder a thousand miles off, there’s a wilderness, and at first chance I want to have a violent adventure. I’ll go over to the wilderness where the devil is.” It isn’t that way. Between you and the kingdom of heaven, between you and the glory that is yet to come, there is a wilderness all of the way, as there was before the children of Israel when they left the land of Egypt and bondage and made their journey to the Promised Land. They journeyed every step of the way through a howling, blistering wilderness. And it is so with us in this life before our Lord. Between us and heaven, there is Satan, and trial, and temptation, and tribulation, and all kinds of assault and assailings. And no man escapes that awful confrontation with the devil. All of us meet him, wrestle with him, fight him every day of our lives, and some of us almost in despair go under.
And that leads me to my last discussion. From what I can find in the Word of God, it’s a heavenly compliment. It’s a godly compliment when Satan assails you. As long as you are dead, as long as you make no commitment, as long as there’s no spirit in you to will and to do, Satan just lets you rot in your own corruption. Why bother this soul, this life, in filth, and dirt, and sin, and corruption? Why bother? But when you stand up and when you lift up your face and your eyes to Jesus, and when you begin to walk the pilgrim way, and when you begin to name the Lord, you become immediately a mark for the assailment and the assaults of the kingdom of the evil one. It’s a compliment to you when Satan buffets at you and batters you.
The Lord God, standing at the threshold of His messianic ministry, Satan was standing there too, and when the Lord said, “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17], taute, then Satan met Him. He was driven up by the Spirit into the wilderness [Matthew 4:1].
It’s in the plan of God that we be tried. These trials and tribulations, and these awful buffetings and battlings that come to us are in the elective and permissive will and purpose of God [Matthew 4:1]. We don’t escape them. It is the intention of God for us to be tried by the devil. And I say it’s a compliment from heaven, the trial that awaits us and now assails us.
I suppose, I suppose that Satan may have ended, he may have ended the humility of Abel as he looked upon the life of that godly boy, but when the Lord God sealed his sacrifice, and accepted his prayer [Genesis 4:2, 4], and made him great in the eyes of heaven [Genesis 4:4], then Satan fired up Cain against him and slew him [Genesis 4:8]. And Abel died in his own blood that cried unto God from the ground [Genesis 4:10]. It was when Satan saw that heaven loved Joseph, and Jacob his father doted upon that lad [Genesis 37:3-4], that Satan encompassed the fiery furnace into which he was cast, put in the pit to die, raised out of the pit, sold as a slave to the Ishmaelites, finally in the service of a captain of the king’s army in Pharaoh’s Egypt [Genesis 37:12-36].
It was when God said to Job, God said to Satan about Job, “Look at him, the best man in all the world. Look at him. Look at him. He honors God every day of his life. Look at him” [Job 1:8, 2:3]. It was when God said he’s the finest man in the earth that Satan said, “Yeah, yeah. You let me go down there. I’ll show You what Your fine specimen of a Christian is. He’ll curse You to Your face when I get through with him [Job 1:11]. You just give me permission to try him. You give me permission to tear up his house, and to cast him into an ash heap [Job 2:8], and he’ll curse You to Your face.” That will never have happened had God not said, “Look at him, he is the best man in all the earth” [Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6]. It’s a compliment, I say, when Satan assails.
So when we face our trials, and face our discouragements, and face all of the fiery ways through which Satan leads us, that doesn’t mean that God has forsaken us. That doesn’t mean that heaven has forgotten us. That doesn’t mean that the Lord Jehovah has withdrawn His remembrance and His favor from us. That just means that God loves you, and God has set His favor upon you and His remembrance of you, and the trials to which you go are the buffetings of Satan who know these things; Jesus, led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, to be tried of the devil [Matthew 4:1]—the terrible temptations.
Now I close. I close. The Lord has a word for us, us. The Lord has a word for us. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye” [Romans 14:1]—I turn the page—“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” [Romans 15:1]. I turn the page. “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort those who stagger, support the weak, be patient toward all men” [1 Thessalonians 5:14].
God help me to remember that. I may not know what’s going on in that man’s life. If I did, if I did, I might be a little more sympathetic, and understanding, and patient. I don’t know all the trials hidden away in this man’s life. If I did, I might not be so critical, and caustic, and unforgiving. There are no children of God without their fierce assailants and their trials desperate and deep. If it isn’t today, it’s tomorrow. If it isn’t then, it’s the next day. That is a part of this earthly pilgrimage. It is a part of our training, of our learning. This is God’s antechamber to heaven, the howling wilderness and Satan who assails [Matthew 4:1-10].
So my part—God help me to remember—my part always is to be one of encouragement, help, prayerfulness, patience, forgiveness. O Lord, that as a fellow Christian, I could remember them. And that in the fellowship of the church, there would be that spirit of love, and comradeship, and forgiveness, and helpfulness, bearing one another’s burdens, comforting the weak, standing by those, in love and prayer, who stagger before the blows of the evil one.
And the harder the way, and the more difficult the hour, and the tired-er we are, God help us to be the more encouraging. “Come on, let’s go.” And that’s what God did to the blessed Lord Jesus, and the angels came and encouraged Him, and the angels came and ministered to Him [Matthew 4:11], and the angels came and said, “Glory to God, blessed, blessed Lord.” May we be that way in the kingdom and the patience of Jesus [Revelation1:9].
Now our time is gone. We sing our hymn of appeal. Somebody you, somebody you, give your heart to Jesus tonight [Ephesians 2:8], come and stand by me. A family you to put your life in the fellowship of the church, come and stand by me. A couple you or just one somebody you, while we sing our hymn of appeal, trusting Jesus or coming with us into the worship, and adoration, and service of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus, as the Spirit shall say the word and open the way, make it tonight. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The characters
A. The Son of God (Matthew 3:17)
B. The devil (Matthew 4:1)
There is only one devil, his name is Satan
and Satan know one another (Matthew 4:10)
bitter from his fall from heaven and seeks to destroy the Lord (Revelation 12:4, 20:10)
II. The time (Matthew
A. “Then” refers to His
entrance upon His messianic work
2. The witness of
John the Baptist
3. The Spirit of
God coming upon Him in the form of a dove
4. The voice from
heaven (Matthew 3:16-17)
B. We are tempted
and tried when the Spirit of God comes upon us
1. When we have
dedicated our lives to God
2. When we have
been baptized for our inaugural ministry of service
III. The nature of the struggle
A. Peirazo – to
Refers to what God does and what Satan does to us (Genesis
Vast difference between trial, tempting of God and the tempting of Satan (James 1:1-2, 12, Job 2:9, Luke 22:31)
C. We must all go
D. Indicates our
worth – a godly compliment when Satan assails you
We are to help and encourage other believers who face trials, temptations (Romans 14:1, 15:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Matthew