1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that
these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every
word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took Him up to the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written,
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and,
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
8 Again, the devil took Him on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the
kingdoms of the world and their glory.
9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the
Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Matthew 4:1-10
The bread of the Lord’s Supper symbolizes the truths that the believer died with Christ and is being raised up to walk in newness of life (1Peter 2:24, Romans 6:1-4, 1Corinthians 5:6-8, etc.). This is all by grace through faith and repentance. The cup of the Lord’s Supper has the meaning of the believer being delivered from death and curses into life and blessings. Remember the “cup of blessing” mentioned in 1Corinthians 10:16. Regarding the bread of the Lord’s Supper; what does the sin nature look like? How can we identify carnal or sinful tendencies? Actually, the opposites or parallels of the four faces of the living creatures indirectly give us great insight into our body of sin (Romans 6:6). Because man was made in God’s image, this makes some sense just on the surface of things.
In the above passage in Matthew, the devil tempted Jesus in three basic areas. While the specific temptations might not worry us, the three general types of temptation shown in these scriptures completely dominate, influence and apply to our lives in this world. These three areas of temptation are corruptions relating to three of the faces. These three temptations are meant by the devil to entice Jesus and us into sin. The fourth face is righteousness, symbolized by the ox, the obedient servant. Sin is the opposite of the face of the ox. Let’s see what this all means.
First of all, the devil was tempting Jesus to sin by three separate temptations. Sinning is the opposite of righteousness which is the face of the ox. If Jesus sinned in any of these three areas, He could not be the Savior of the world. He would no longer have the unblemished or unmarred face of righteousness (the ox). This in itself is a lesson for us, believers. The devil is tempting us to sin which would tend to ruin our blessings and ministries. In the Ark of the Covenant, the tablets with the ten commandments are symbolic of obedience upon which the other three faces depend (read the entire chapter 28 in Deuteronomy). I would remind the reader that these four faces are about the Christian life in Christ, they are not directly showing the way of Salvation which is found in the offerings performed at the entrance to the Tabernacle or Temple.
In verse two it says that Jesus was hungry. When a person has strong needs or desires, the temptation to sin to satisfy those needs, might get much stronger. Sometimes, when circumstances change, people can become desperate and are much more susceptible to give in to temptation. Believers, leaders, and Christian leaders need to be tested, like Jesus here, to prove how solid their walk is.
Remember, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist; He was baptized by John with the baptism of repentance to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). The Holy Spirit came upon Him at that time (Matthew 3:16-17); and then He was immediately lead by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-2). After Jesus was tested; He then, filled with God’s Spirit, launched into ministry.
When Jesus was tempted to turn the rocks to bread, He was being tempted in the area of provision or even greed which relates to the opposite of the human face of the living creatures. Jesus was being tempted to step outside of God’s will in order to get His needs met. We would be tempted to cut corners; steal something without being detected; make compromises to keep a salary; or any number of ways to make or save money in an ungodly way. The area of provision is a powerful incentive to step outside of God’s will.
Jesus said in verse 4, “…man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The devil was tempting Jesus to get His provision in a way contrary to how God does things; a way that was not according to His word. People don’t just snap their fingers and provision happens. God did not set the world up in this way. Usually people do honest labor and receive honest wages. This is according to the word of God. Righteousness (right living, honest labor) leads to life (provision, life, wages; Proverbs 11:19). These get rich quick schemes just don’t work. Trust me on this one. I know! If there was ever a person given to nifty short cuts, I would be such a person. Thank God, we also have forgiveness of sins through Christ’s death. We will talk about this later. Also, it is good to remember that we all have a sin nature or what the Bible calls “the flesh.”
The area of provision or greed is one major component of the flesh or sin nature. Most any kind of physical pleasure would fit into this category of provision. Drugs and alcohol addiction would fit into this category. Eating is usually a physical pleasure and not necessarily sinful. Gluttony would be sinful.
The second temptation was how the devil set Jesus on the pinnacle of the Temple; and then told Him to jump off; telling Him the angels would catch Him. A lot of us would like to see such a display of power. A display of power is what this is all about. This temptation is playing on the lust for power that resides in people. People like to have and demonstrate power. People might want power because of their fear of certain things. Many people like to be in control. The savage verbal wars, lies and back biting that go on in the political realm, can sometimes be all about the lust for power. Wars and rebellions are often times all about the lust for power. The rapist enjoys the power he has over his victim. A paranoid person might want to be in control because he is afraid of certain things that could happen. The work place, family, ministry, organizations, or a country can be plagued by power struggles.
The lust for power is also called the lust of the eyes in the Bible. When you see something and you want it, you might be tempted to pursue it in an ungodly way. When you see something, you might lust after it. When you own it, you have power over it. The warrior-king Caesar reportedly said, “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” In English this means, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” This was a classic example of the lust of the eyes. The evil of this is that he sees something that appeals to him. He doesn’t care who and how many people he hurts and destroys in order to get what he sees. He will step on anyone who gets in his way. He just wants to own and have what he is seeing.
The opposite of the lust of the eyes is when God showed Abraham what God wanted to give Abraham.
14 And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift up your eyes now
and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward;
15 “for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. Genesis 13:14-15
Here, God is giving Abram and his descendants something, and God wants Abram to see what this is. This kind of seeing is called vision, and it is a blessing to Abram, his descendants, and to the whole world. Here, there is no harm done.
Back to our example; the devil wanted Jesus to put on a show demonstrating His power. This is not what God’s power is meant for. Thus, a perversion of the face of the lion was being considered. The lust for power can also be closely related to the lust for glory. “I want power over you, so that you will respect and honor me.” The lust for power can also be related to the lust for provision which is often called greed. “I want power over you, so I can take from you what I want.” Also, riches can buy power at times.
Jesus said in verse 7, “You should not tempt the Lord your God.” Tempting and testing God is many times about using your own power to do evil and “daring” God to do something about it. For example, I’ll do something evil to get what I want, maybe without anyone knowing about it. I don’t think or believe that God can or will do a thing about it (Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, Acts 5:1-11)(also Korah’s rebellion, Numbers 16). The Bible does say, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life (Galatians 6:7-8).” The lust of the eyes or the lust for power is what this second temptation is all about. This lust is a corrupted version of the lion’s face. In the above examples referred to in this paragraph, tempting God and believing God can’t stop you, is combined with greed (corruption of the face of the man) and possibly a grab for glory (corruption of the face of the eagle).
Now we move to the third temptation of Christ. Satan took Jesus to a high mountain so He could see all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Satan promised to give these to Jesus if Jesus would worship Satan. People can worship and give glory to other gods, themselves, organizations, other people and a whole host of other things, beings and groups. Jesus replied to Satan that people should “…worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve. (verse 10)”
Jesus chose to love and worship God instead of Satan; or anything else; or anyone else. Giving worship, glory and honor to God meant that Jesus passed this test. The face of the eagle, shined clear and bright. Also, God the Father and Jesus, His Son, share in God’s glory (John 17:22). Also, he who honors and glorifies the Son, glorifies and honors the Son’s Father (John 5:23). Also, the true believers in Christ will eventually share in His glory (John 17:22, Jeremiah 13:11).
In this third temptation, Satan is offering Jesus great power and great ownership on the earth (a distortion of the face of the lion), if Jesus would worship Satan (a distortion of the face of the eagle). Thus we see how these different temptations can work together to bring about sin. Satan was willing to let Jesus have these kingdoms of the earth, if Jesus would worship and serve Satan. It is probably accurate to say that Satan stole these kingdoms from man because of man’s sin (1John 5:19, etc.).
Also, notice another principle here. Whom you worship and glorify will be whom you serve. In verse 10 of Matthew 4, Jesus not only declared that He would not worship Satan (maintaining the face of the eagle), but Jesus also added that He would not serve Satan (maintaining the face of the ox). There is a powerful relationship between the eagle’s face of God and the ox’s face of God. The opposite, sinful realities parallel this.
Adam and Eve wanted to be equal with but independent from God in Genesis 3:5:
5“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:6
Adam and Eve wanted to be like God and equal with God. Also, they wanted to know good and evil. Knowing good and evil was all about making their own decisions about right and wrong, independent of God’s commands and ways. In other words, they were tempted to glorify themselves like God is glorified; and they were tempted to serve themselves by making up their own ideas of right and wrong. Thus they were tempted to distort the face of the eagle and the face of the ox.
The reader might wonder about another area of temptation not directly mentioned in the three temptations of Christ. It is interesting to note that the area of sexual temptation is not mentioned in these three. I believe that sexual temptation involves an element of all three temptations that Christ endured. Let’s look at this.
Sex was meant to involve mutual love, admiration, and even honor. Some describe it as the woman wants love from the man while the man wants respect and honor from the woman. This all relates in some way to the eagle.
Secondly; power is present in a sexual relationship. In 1Corinthians 7:4 it says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Thus the wife and husband have authority over each other’s body. The husband wants to have his wife, and vise versa. They own each other. This relates to the lion.
Thirdly; the husband and the wife get mutual pleasure from their respective sexual organs. Sex, like food, can and should involve pleasure. This relates to the man’s face.
Fourthly; if sex is done outside of God’s ways and will, it becomes sin. Within marriage, sex is God given. This relates to the ox. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)”
Therefore, to repeat myself; the physical aspects of sex relate to the four faces of God. Kissing is literally “face to face.” Face joining to face would speak of loving one another. Mutual love and respect speaks of and parallels the eagle’s face. God wants honor and love, and so do people. It is said that men want honor and respect (love also, because God the Father and Jesus want our love) while women want love. The church is likened to a bride in Ephesians 5:22-33.
Embracing each other with the arms and hands speaks of being under each other’s power. Arms and hands speak of power. An embrace can mean that “I own you and you own me.” “I have you and you have me.” This all points to and parallels the lion. The eyes can be at play here: seeing, pursuing, embracing, and owning. It is said that men in particular are motivated by seeing while women are motivated by touch. I do not think that a friendly hug between two friends would have such meaning.
The interaction of the sexual organs is meant to be pleasurable. This points to and parallels the man’s face of the living creatures. The man has pleasure giving while the woman has pleasure receiving, hopefully.
And finally regarding the fourth face of God; if this all happens within marriage, it is good. If this happens outside of marriage, this is going too far. Sex outside of marriage can be adultery or fornication. Moral sex points to and parallels the face of the ox.
The parallels here between sex and the four faces of God, make a lot of sense. This is because sex leads to the creation of a new being with similar capacities. The new baby develops into another human being who repeats the process, and has similar capacities. The new being is “trapped” in the same four realities; paralleling the same four faces of the living creatures.
Also, it is extremely interesting that the circumcision of the Jews is a procedure performed on the male sex organ. This is not accidental. Let’s see what the New Testament says about this.
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, (Colossians 2:11-13)
27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;
29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and the circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:27-29)
Also, in Genesis 17:1-22 God gave Abraham and his descendants the covenant of the circumcision which itself was associated with the Promised Land and the promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants.
As we have shown above, the sexual act within marriage is supposed to parallel all four faces of God. Sinning in the sexual area, involves a disfiguration of all four faces of God. In sinful sex, the love and honor is usually only temporary and therefore insincere. The embrace of ownership is insincere because the intentions are understood by at least one participant, to be short term and not lasting. The pleasure, as with all pleasures in this world, is passing and short term. Finally, the fact that both people are sinning adds bad onto bad, and is a long term memory. This is why people come to Christ; so that they can be forgiven and start a new life, with the hope of eternal life and perfect righteousness in the next world.
King Solomon was the richest man on earth in his day. He had great power with his armies, soldiers and weapons. He had great fame and honor because of his kingship and wisdom. He also had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1Kings 11:3). It is not by coincidence that men, in particular, who have great wealth, power and fame; have a tendency to fall into sexual sin. The temptations from wealth (parallel the man’s face), power (parallel the lion’s face), and fame (parallel the eagle’s face) are the three temptations of Christ. As we showed above, sexual temptation parallels these three temptations. Giving in to these temptations and sinning is a disfiguration of the ox’s face.
King David also had a time in his life when he was flush with riches, power and fame. He beheld Bathsheba and fell into adultery. He then compounded his sin with conspiracy to commit murder, murder, deception, and then he stole another man’s wife.
Many, many other king-like people come to mind regarding falling into sexual temptation and sin. Chairman Mao, Joseph Stalin, some United States’ presidents and countless leaders living under two or three of the above three temptations; have had prodigious sexual appetites well beyond their relationship with one wife. How many politicians, religious leaders, teachers or anybody with some level of wealth, position or some level of notoriety; have fallen into sexual misconduct. Many successful business men have been known to “dump” their wives and run after a young secretary. How many people, if they get a good paying job and an upgrade in their living conditions, fall into sexual sin? How many famous, great athletes run amok into sexual sin? The United States of America is awash in sexual sin. It is quite an accomplishment for someone with two or three of these areas of temptation, to keep their sexual life in line with God’s word.
I have clearly noticed in my own life, when in my mind things are going well in two or three of these areas of temptation (a little money, a minor position, or a minimal amount of recognition); I am more susceptible to sexual temptations in my thought life. Thoughts if they are not dealt with, will eventually lead to actions.
This all brings us back to the subject of circumcision.
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Colossians 2:11-12
The cutting off of the fore skin of the male organ through circumcision is symbolic in the New Testament of being set free from our body of sin through Christ’s death on the cross (Romans 6:6, etc.). Not coincidentally, both the cutting of circumcision and deliverance from sin can be painful. As a Christian I have authority over my flesh nature. I am certainly not perfect, but I have made significant progress in cleansing my soul through applying the authority of Christ’s death in my life. If I repent, I can by faith BE dead to a sin because Jesus died for me (Romans 6:11, etc.). I have also been raised up by the help and encouragement of His Spirit to walk in a better, different life. I also have the hope of righteousness (right living) in the next life where God conforms me to the image of His Son with no flaws (Galatians 5:5, Hebrews 12:23, Philippians 3:21). I can also BE forgiven if I repent and trust Christ to forgive me through His death (Ephesians 1:7, etc.).
An important point that I want to make here is that deliverance from the ENTIRE sin nature is being symbolized by the circumcision of the foreskin of the male sex organ (Colossians 2:11). If one has substantial control of their sexual life, they will tend to have control of the entire flesh nature, i.e., the three temptations of Christ. Conversely, if a person has control of the three areas of Christ’s temptations, they will tend to also have control over their sex life. Billy Graham once told an audience of Christian workers: if they could gain control over their sex life, they could conquer the world. Thus, in Colossians 2:11-12, the foreskin of the male sex organ is a symbol of the ENTIRE body of sin. Notice above that the institution of baptism in Jesus’ name (Romans 6:1-11, and Colossians 2:11-12) is associated with the Hebrew practice of circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12).
Only men can be circumcised. Yet, it takes two to have sex. If men had self-control, I am sure most women would gladly cooperate and have self-control themselves. We all know how sexual sin destroys marriages and families in countless ways. The kids often can be greatly hurt by the ensuing breakups, betrayals and chaos. Sexual sin and infidelity can profoundly influence the kids in a negative way. Sexual sins can also destroy people’s callings and future ministries. We need to genuinely repent and ask for forgiveness to get back on track with God’s calling on our lives.
We have been discussing the three temptations of Christ. We have shown how the human sin nature is susceptible to one or more of these three temptations. We have shown how the images of the four faces of the living creatures are marred and corrupted when people sin and give in to these three types of temptations. We have shown how sexual sin is intimately related to the three temptations of Christ and then the ultimate sin. But, the full view of the human sin nature does not stop here. The full view of the human sin nature will build on what has been stated here. These three areas of temptation leading to sin are the building blocks and foundation of the sin nature.
When a person is hindered from having fame, power, fortune, or sex, because of someone else, resentment can arise. Bitterness, resentment, anger, and violence can result. An appetite for violence, anger and other negative tendencies can develop.
1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:1-3
Pleasure (riches), power, glory and sex! Lusting for these and being rejected and hindered, can lead to murder, covetousness, jealousy, bitterness, anger, war, violence, maliciousness, strife, deceit, and who knows what else. Un-forgiveness can result when a person is hindered or violated by another in one of these areas. Think of the rage of a spouse when infidelity is discovered in their partner. Think of the jealousy that can ensue when someone has what you want. Think of the bitterness one might have when they have been cheated out of some money. Think of the bitterness and desire for revenge, when one is disrespected and dishonored. Think about how strife and war can ensue when one’s power is being challenged.
Fear of losing pleasure, riches, power, glory or sex, can also lead to the above mentioned sins. Paranoia which involves fear, is rooted in extreme selfishness and pride. Paranoia can be a delusion about people or entities attacking your reputation, security, finances, health and other things. People can become extremely possessive of their spouse, power, glory and pleasures. The fear of loss in one of the three fundamental areas of temptation, can lead to all of the sins mentioned above.
Deception is a powerful tool sometimes used to get pleasure, money, power, glory and sex. How many girls have been sweet talked out of their innocence? How many people lie and defraud others to get money? Have you ever heard of deceptive advertising? How many people lie about their so called achievements in order to get glory and respect? How many politicians and leaders lie about their opponents to sway the electorate, and gain power? People and demons use deception to manipulate other people. When people are desperate or in great fear, they are prime targets to fall for deceptive tactics.
False teachers preach errors that accommodate and allow for the carnal nature of humanity (2 Timothy 4:3). These false teachers make money and gain a reputation telling people what they want to hear, instead of telling them what they genuinely need to hear.
Just plain stealing to gain riches is a sin, and it can become habitual. Also, people destroy and cause mayhem for revenge when they have suffered loss, or when they resent having less than others. They might resort to revenge if they suffer imaginary or real deprivation in the three areas that we have been talking about.
Thus the three temptations of Christ and the sins they lead to, can be seen as the building blocks of the sin nature of mankind. These three plus the sins they lead to, can be seen as the foundation of the sin nature. All of the various types of sin can be seen stemming from these three plus the one (Galatians 5: 19-21; Romans 1:26-32; etc.).