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The unknown Son of God on earth, Jesus, is led (chap. 4) into the
wilderness by the Holy Ghost, with whom He had been sealed, to undergo the
temptation of the enemy, beneath which Adam fell. But Jesus endured this
temptation in the circumstances in which we stand, not those in which Adam
stood; that is to say, He felt it in all the difficulties of the life of
faith, tempted in all points like as we are, sin excepted. Take notice here
that it is no question of bondage to sin, but of conflict. When it is a
question of bondage, it is a question of deliverance, not of conflict. It
was in Canaan that Israel fought. They were delivered out of Egypt; they
did not fight there.
In Luke the temptations are arranged according to their moral order: first,
that which bodily need required; second, the world; third, spiritual
subtlety. In each the Lord maintains the position of obedience and of
dependence, giving God andHis communications to man-His word-their true
place. Simple principle, which shelters us in every attack, but which, by
its very simplicity, is perfection! Nevertheless let us remember that this
is the case; for raising ourselves to marvellous heights is not the thing
required of us, but the following that which applies to our human condition
as the normal rule for its guidance. It is obedience, dependence-doing
nothing except as God wills it, and reliance on Him. This walk supposes the
word. But the word is the expression of the will, the goodness, and the
authority of God, applicable to all the circumstances of man as he is.-It
shews that God interests Himself in all that regards him: why then should
man act of himself without looking to God and to His word? Alas! speaking
of men in general, they are self-willed. To submit and be dependent is
precisely that which they will not. They have too much enmity to God to
trust in Him. It was this, therefore, which distinguished the Lord. The
power to work a miracle God could bestow on whom He would. But an obedient
man, who had no will to do anything with respect to which the will of God
was not expressed, a man who lived by the word, a man who lived in complete
dependence upon God and had a perfect trust, which required no other proof
of God's faithfulness than His word, no other means of certainty that He
would intervene than His promise of so doing, and who waited for that
intervention in the path of His will-here was something more than power.
This was the perfection of man, in the place where man stood (not simply
innocence, for innocence has no need of trusting God in the midst of
difficulties, and sorrows, and questions raised by sin, and the knowledge
of good and evil), and a perfection which sheltered one who possessed it
from every attack Satan could make upon him; for what could he do to one
who never went beyond the will of God, and to whom that will was the only
motive for action? Moreover, the power of the Spirit of God was there
Accordingly we find that simple obedience directed by the word is the only
weapon employed by Jesus. This obedience requires dependence on God, and
trust in God, in order to accomplish it.
He lives by the word: this is dependence. He will not tempt (that is, put
God to the test) to see if He is faithful: this is trust.
He acts when God wills, and because He wills, and does that which God
wills. All the rest He leaves with God. This is obedience; and, remark, not
obedience as submission to God's will where there was an adverse one, but
where God's will was the one motive for action. We are sanctified to the
obedience of Christ.
Satan is overcome and powerless before this last Adam, who acts according
to the power of the Spirit, in the place where man is found, by the means
which God has given to man, and in the circumstances in which Satan
exercises his power. Sin there was none, or it would have been to yield,
not to conquer. It was shut out by obedience. But Satan is overcome in the
circumstances of temptation in which man is found. Bodily need, which would
have become lust if self-will had entered into it, instead of dependence on
the will of God; the world and all its glory, which, so far as it is the
object of man's covetousness, is in fact the kingdom of Satan (and it was
on that ground that Satan tried to bring Jesus, and shewed himself to be
Satan in so doing); and, lastly, self-exaltation in a religious way through
the things which God has given us-these were the points of the enemy's
attack. But there was no self-seeking in Jesus.
We have found, then, in these things which we have been looking at, a man
filled with the Holy Ghost, and born of the Holy Ghost on earth, perfectly
well-pleasing to God and the object of His affection, His beloved Son, in
the position of dependence; and a man, the conqueror of Satan amid those
temptations by which he usually gains advantage over man-conqueror in the
power of the Holy Ghost, and by making use of the word, as dependent,
obedient, and trusting in God in the ordinary circumstances ofman. In the
first position, Jesus stood with the remnant; in the second, alone-as in
Gethsemane and on the cross. Nevertheless, it was for us; and, accepted as
Jesus, we have in a certain sense the enemy to overcome. But it is a
conquered enemy whom we resist in the strength of the Holy Ghost, who is
given unto us in virtue of redemption. If we resist him, he flees; for he
has met his conqueror. The flesh does not resist him. He finds Christ in
us. Resistance in the flesh does not lead to victory.
Jesus conquered the strong man and then spoiled his goods; but it was in
temptation, obedience, having no will but that of God, dependence, the use
of the word, abiding in subjection to God, that Jesus gained the victory
over him. In all this the first Adam failed. After Christ's victory, we
also as servants of Christ gain actual victories, or rather the fruits of
the victory already gained in the presence of God.
The Lord has now taken His place, so to speak, for the work of the last
Adam-the man in whom is the Spirit without measure, the Son of God in this
world by His birth. He has taken it as the seed of the woman (nevertheless,
conceived of the Holy Ghost); He has taken it as the Son of God perfectly
well-pleasing to God in His Person as man here below; and He has taken it
as the conqueror of Satan. Owned to be the Son of God, and sealed with the
Holy Ghost by the Father, heaven being open to Him as man, His genealogy
is, however, traced up to Adam; and, the descendant of Adam, without sin,
full of the Holy Ghost, He conquers Satan (as the obedient man, having no
motive but the will of God), and sets Himself to accomplish the work which
God His Father committed to Him in this world, and that as man, by the
power of the Holy Ghost.
He returns, in the power of the Spirit, into Galilee,
[see note #12]
and His fame spreads through all the region round about.
He presents Himself in this character: "The Spirit of Jehovah is upon me,
because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent
me to heal the broken-hearted, ... to preach the acceptable year of
Jehovah." Here He stops. That which follows in the prophet, respecting the
deliverance of Israel by the judgment which avenges them of their enemies,
is omitted by the Lord.
Now Jesus does not announce promises, but their fulfilment in grace by His
own presence. The Spirit is upon this man, full of grace; and the God of
grace in Him manifests His goodness. The time of deliverance is come; the
vessel of His favour to Israel is there in their midst.
The examination of the prophecy renders this testimony so much the more
remarkable, that the Spirit, having declared the sin of the people and
their judgment, in the chapters that precede these words, speaks (when
introducing the Christ, the Anointed) only of grace and blessing to Israel:
if there is vengeance, it should be executed upon their enemies for the
deliverance of Israel.
But here it is grace in His Person, this man, the Son of God, full of the
Holy Ghost, in order to proclaim the mercy of a God who is faithful to His
promises, and to comfort and lift up the bruised and the poor in spirit.
Blessing was there, presenting itself before them. They could not
misunderstand it, but they do not recognise the Son of God. "Is not this
Joseph's son?" We have here the whole history of Christ-the perfect
manifestation of grace in the midst of Israel, His land, and His people;
and they knew Him not. No prophet is accepted in his own country.
But this rejection opened the way to a grace which went beyond the limits
that a rebellious people would set to it. The woman of Sarepta, and Naaman,
were testimonies of this grace.
Wrath fills the heart of those who reject grace. Unbelieving, and incapable
of discerning the blessing that had visited them, they will not have it go
elsewhere. The pride which rendered them unable to appreciate grace would
not hear of its communication to others.
They seek to destroy Jesus, but He goes on His way. Here is the whole
history of Jesus among the people traced beforehand.
He went His way; and the Spirit preserves to us the acts and the cures
which characterise His ministry in the aspect of the efficacy of grace, and
of its extension to others besides Israel.
Power was in Him whose grace was rejected. Acknowledged by devils, if not
by Israel, He expels them by a word. He heals the sick. All the power of
the enemy, all the sad outward effects of sin, disappear before Him. He
heals, He withdraws; and when entreated to remain (the effect of His works
that procured Him that honour from the people which He did not seek), He
goes away to labour elsewhere in the testimony committed to Him. He seeks
to accomplish His work, and not to be honoured.
He preaches everywhere among the people. He casts out the enemy, He removes
sufferings, and proclaims the goodness of God to the poor.