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Second Quarter 2015 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF LUKE
Week 2: April 4–10
COMMENTARY ON BAPTISM AND THE TEMPTATIONS
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This lesson, on the surface, seems to be primarily about Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, what each represented, and the way His baptism might have equipped him to face them. In the Teachers Comments, however, the “big picture” becomes more visible.
This Sabbath School lesson is designed to show that Jesus’ encounter with Satan in the wilderness after His baptism was a key chapter in the development of the Great Controversy. It even attempts to compare Satan’s temptations to his thwarted desires in heaven that triggered the Great Controversy.
I’ll cut to the chase first, and develop a biblical response to Jesus’ temptations second: there is no Great Controversy.
The Great Controversy is a contrivance of Ellen White’s (undoubtedly enhanced by help from James and other early Adventists as well), but she claimed a significant, extended vision to be her source for this paradigm. It is entirely unbiblical. There is NO biblical record that suggests the drama in prehistory that includes Lucifer becoming jealous of Jesus because God exalted Him to the position of His Son, granting Him exalted authority over the angels. Nowhere does Scripture suggest that God chose between them at any time, nor does it suggest that Lucifer ever had a terminal case of jealousy against Jesus specifically. Furthermore, there is NO great controversy between them. There is no ongoing argument or accusation outstanding that is yet unfinished.
Jesus is Lucifer’s Creator. At no time did Lucifer not know that Jesus was Almighty God, utterly unlike him and in absolute authority over him. There was no blurred identity that kept Lucifer from knowing Jesus was God’s Son. There was never any sort of apparent equality between Lucifer and prehistoric Jesus. There was never any choice on God’s part between them.
Jesus is eternal God, the Creator of all that has been made. Lucifer is a created being who had no claim on Jesus of any sort.
What about Jesus’ baptism?
Jesus’ baptism was the public introduction of Jesus’ ministry. It was necessary for at least three reasons.
First, it was “to fulfill all righteousness” (Mat. 3:15). It showed that He was fully consecrated to God and submitted to Him and to His will. It demonstrated that God fully approved of Him and that He had the full blessing and benediction of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. “All God’s righteous requirements for the Messiah were fully met in Jesus” (NASB Study Notes on Matthew 3:15). Second, Jesus’ baptism publicly announced Jesus messianic ministry had arrived, and third, Jesus fully identified Himself with man’s (and especially at that time Israel’s) sin and failure, becoming our Substitute and also demonstrating Himself to be the Perfect Israel the nation had failed to be. (Thanks to the NASB study notes for insights about these three purposes for Jesus’ baptism.)
The Holy Spirit did work in and through Jesus just as the Father worked in and through Jesus, but Jesus did not need the Holy Spirit to give Him the power of God for His ministry. Jesus was always fully God in every aspect.
What were the temptations about?
It is important to notice that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted (Mat. 4:1). These temptations had nothing at all to do with Satan’s demanding access or opportunity to try to undo Jesus’ will power. These were tests ordained by God Himself.
Jesus met Satan knowing why He went. He went into the wilderness as the Perfect Israel and succeeded in honoring God with obedience and submission in ways the nation of Israel failed to honor God in the wilderness.
When Satan approached the miraculously alive Jesus after 40 days and nights of fasting, Satan tempted him by suggesting he create bread out of stones. Jesus refused to use supernatural power for His own sake, however, and he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to Satan:
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deut. 8:3).
Moses was recounting Israel’s grumbling as he addressed the wilderness generation that was finally going to enter the Promised Land after the nation’s 40 years of wandering. He was warning them that God tested their fathers “that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deut. 8:2). Now, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry which fulfilled Moses’ prophecy that a prophet like him would come one day, God tests Jesus in a similar way. Jesus, however, the worthy One who is our Substitute and theirs, remained faithful and obedient, trusting God and His word. He proved Himself to be the true Israelite who lived by every word that preceded out of the mouth of God, and He also proved Himself to be the true Adam who was worthy to rescue humanity from the sin into which the first Adam plunged us.
His being tempted as Israel was and as we are was also necessary for Him to be proven worthy to be our faithful High Priest (Heb. 2:17). He also became the model for BELIEVERS (not for unbelievers) as they face temptation. As believers who are born again of the Spirit, we face temptation by remaining submitted to God and His word. We don’t battle wits with Satan, and we don’t exert our wills to keep the law. We trust Jesus.
The need to read the Great Controversy into Jesus’ temptations comes back to two related things: the need to keep Ellen White as an authority, and the need for Adventism to insist that the Law continues for believers and that the Sabbath will be the primary issue of obedience and loyalty. But these claims are both unbiblical.
First, Adventism does not understand what it means to be a believer. It means believing in the death of the Lord Jesus for our natural, inherited sin and depravity and repenting, trusting Jesus to be our Savior and Lord. When we believe, we are sealed at that moment with the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13-14) and pass from death to life (Jn. 5:24). It does NOT mean intellectually accepting a set of doctrines and being baptized into a church. Baptism is not necessary in order for us to avoid sin, and it’s not part of being saved. Baptism is what we do publicly to proclaim our new position in God’s family, but we are saved when we believe, not when we are baptized.
Second, the law is fulfilled in Jesus. When we are born again, the law is written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and the Ten Commandments and all the rest of the Mosaic law is obsolete for us (2 Corinthians 3). The new covenant means we rest in Christ; no longer is time considered “sacred”; Jesus is sacred, and we rest in His finished work (Heb. 3 and 4).
Third, Jesus is God’s final word (Heb. 1:1-2). No modern prophet or messenger can gives us new light that we need for salvation and godly living. The Bible is completely sufficient; its Author, the Holy Spirit, writes it on our hearts, and we honor Jesus directly, not the shadows of the Jewish law. Jesus has come, and He is all we need!
In summary, living inside the great controversy paradigm twists our understanding of Scripture. Jesus in the wilderness was not a model for how to righteous. Rather, He was fulfilling perfectly all that God required of Israel and of us before He went steadfastly into betrayal and death in fulfillment of the curse of the law. He did and endured all that we have done and deserve except without sin. He became the Perfect Israel who was the Perfect Sacrifice for all human sin.