Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Do Not Tempt the Lord Jesus –

But Worship Him Instead! Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue from where we left off by examining what Matthew and Luke have to say concerning the Lord Jesus being tempted.


Tempting the Lord Jesus

Here are a series of examples where people tried to tempt Christ in contexts that actually reveal his divine identity:

“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: for I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?… But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” Luke 10:21-25, 29 Authorized King James Version (AV)

A religious scholar tempts Christ to see if he truly knew and understood God’s Law, specifically it’s teaching concerning how to obtain salvation. What makes this ironic is that this challenge took place immediately after Jesus had just finished telling his followers that he is the unique Son whom Father has entrusted all things to, and who actually knows the Father in the same way that the Father knows him! 

To say that this is an astonishing (in fact, shocking) assertion would be a wild understatement, since the context shows that the Son is claiming to have been entrusted with all of God’s wisdom along with heaven and earth, e.g., Christ has the entire creation under his control and possesses all of God’s wisdom, which he then dispenses to whomsoever he desires. 

Moreover, the only way the Son can know the Father in the same way that the Father knows him, and be the only One qualified to make the Father known unto others, is if Christ is an incomprehensible, omniscient Being. After all, claiming that the Father alone is qualified to know the Son is a claim to being incomprehensible. To then say that the Son knows the Father in the same way and to the same extent that Father knows him is a further claim to being omniscient, since only an omniscient mind is capable of knowing the Father.

In other words, the inspired Scriptures expressly teach that the Father is the only true God, and is therefore Jehovah God Almighty since Jehovah alone is identified as the true God:

“Inasmuch as there is none like You, O Lord (You are great, and Your name is great in might), Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, And in all their kingdoms, There is none like You… But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.’” Jeremiah 10:6-7, 10-11

As such, God the Father knows people completely and exhaustively, since he is perfectly aware of everyone‘s thoughts and actions even before they have even arisen in their minds to do them!

“It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10

“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8

No wonder the Psalmist could say that such knowledge is simply beyond comprehension:

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb… Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.” Psalm 139:1-12, 16

He realized that God’s knowledge is infinite and therefore beyond the ability of any creature to fully grasp:

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.” Psalm 145:3

“He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.” Psalm 147:4-5

Thus, since the Son knows the Father in the same way that he is known he must be omniscient, possessing infinite knowledge and understanding.

Now to our next example:

“And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.” Luke 11:16-22 AV

In this particular temptation, we not only see that Jesus knowing the thoughts of his opponents, knowledge which God alone possesses,

“then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men),” 1 Kings 8:39 – cf. 1 Chronicles 28:9

“Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.” Psalm 44:21

Christ also casts out demons in order to prove that he possesses the finger of God and is the King who ushers in God’s rule upon the earth! He even claims to be the stronger One who is able to bind up Satan and dispossess him of all he has taken and stolen.  

This brings us to our next case of Christ being tempted:

“But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” Matthew 22:34-46 AV – cf. 16:1; 19:3; 22:18

After being tempted to answer which is the greatest commandment, Christ responds by referencing the Shema (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-5), which stresses the need to love the one Lord God of Israel unconditionally, and further cited a passage which exhorts loving one’s neighbor as oneself. What makes this rather interesting is that Jesus then goes on to challenge the Pharisees concerning the identity of the Messiah in order to prove that he is more than a son of David, he is also Israel’s Lord!

Christ cites the words of the prophet David in Psalm 110:1 where the latter of the Messiah as his Lord who sits enthroned alongside God himself. Now to sit at the right hand of Jehovah basically means that the Messiah sits right next to God upon his very own heavenly throne since this is where God is said to be currently ruling:

“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:19 – cf. 2:4; 11:4

The NT confirms that this is precisely where Jesus is right now, namely, seated upon God’s own throne in heaven where he is ruling as the sovereign Lord of all creation:

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’” Matthew 28:18

“But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” Acts 7:55-56

“The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—… And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:36, 42 – cf. 2:22-36

“and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

“For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Ephesians 5:5

“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power… If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” Colossians 2:9-10, 3:1

“There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22

“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21 – cf. 1:5; 11:15; 12:1-2, 5, 10; 17:14; 19:16; 22:1, 3

And now to our final example:

“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.” Acts 5:1-11

In the above example, two professing Christians ended up lying to the Holy Spirit by holding back a part of the money they made from the sale of one of their possessions. In so doing, these so-called believers lied to God and tempted the Spirit of the Lord, since they actually thought they could get away with it and that God wouldn’t do anything about it.

There are two important points to notice from this text. First, note that the Holy Spirit is now identified as the Spirit of the Lord which, in the immediate and over all contexts of Acts, is a reference to the risen and exalted Christ. This shows that the first Christians believed and taught that the Holy Spirit belongs to Jesus just as much as he belongs to God, and therefore could be identified as Christ’s Spirit. See the following verses for further examples of this: Acts 16:6-7; Romans 8:9-11, 14-17; Galatians 4:4-7; Philippians 1:19; 1 Peter 1:10-12.

The second thing to notice is Peter’s assertion that lying to the Holy Spirit is the same as lying to God, obviously because of the close intimate connection between the two, as well as because the Holy Bible witnesses to the essential Deity and Personhood of the Spirit. Hence, lying to the Holy Spirit is the same as lying to God because the Spirit is both God in essence and inseparably united to God (the Father). In the same way, we are to infer that tempting the Spirit of the Lord is the same as tempting the Lord himself, due also to the perfect union and intimacy that Christ and the Spirit share with each other (as well as with the Father).

This means that Sapphira wasn’t simply tempting the Holy Spirit when she lied to the Apostle Peter, but she was also tempting the Lord Jesus Christ himself, even though she clearly knew that it was a sin for her to tempt the Lord her God. 

This brings me to the conclusion to the second part of our case. It is time to move on to part 3