How the Strong Overcome the Evil One

This pastoral passage was first written for LRBC on November 13 2016.

The episode of Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) has much to teach Christians as they seek to follow his example. During his forty days, he is faced with trials that would one of two things. Either they would corrupt his relationship with the Father, or they would discipline his character as the obedient and faithful Son. The nature of this time in the wilderness is ambiguous. The Greek word peirazō that is used throughout this passage can be understood as either ‘testing’, or ‘tempting’. Obviously Satan is the ‘tempter’, but the Spirit who led him out there in order to be ‘tested’. Furthermore, Jesus’ time in the wilderness is deliberately reminiscent of Israel’s time in the wilderness – a time that the Lord meant to be tough for them, but tough in order to test them and train them (Deuteronomy 8:1-5).

Jesus’ loyalty to the Father and resistance to the devil is attributed to his pre-decided obedience to scripture. In our struggle for holiness, Jesus’ example is key. As John wrote: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1John 2:14b). The strength of these “young men” Christians is displayed in their resistance to the temptations of the devil, and grounded in the fact that, like Jesus, the word dwells in them. By faith they can see that although the world, the flesh and the devil may tempt them, it is God’s leading Spirit who has brought them into adversity to test and train them to obedience.

These passages teach us that we must learn to see the events of our lives as opportunities for testing and training in holiness, and that the Word of God (i.e. Scripture memorised and meditated upon) dwelling within us will be the means by which we have success in this.