Sunday, September 23, 2007

Was Jesus Really Tempted in Every Way?

I have often wondered how it is that a man who only lived to be approximately 33 years old could have been "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4:15 NASB) There are many, many ways that man can sin against God, and there is no doubt that we who are wicked have been creative in our pursuit of evil. I'm not sure that I have been tempted in every possible way, and I'm older than Jesus was when he was crucified.

Now, I suppose that one might say that Jesus was tempted to do every evil activity imaginable or that man has faced. I have met people who interpreted Heb. 4:15 in that way. I don’t agree with this interpretation, because I don’t see that Jesus was ever tempted to look at internet pornography given the fact that the internet didn’t exist during his lifetime on earth. Most any sin that you can think of, on the other hand, can be categorized under a broader heading. For example, the temptation to look at internet porn, the temptation to have sex before marriage, the temptation to commit adultery and so forth might be categorized under the broader heading "lust." Therefore, a person need only experience one of these particular temptations in order to say that he has experienced the categorical temptation, lust, which has undoubtedly snagged a person or two during the course of history. A man who succumbed to lust and committed adultery could rightfully relate to a man who succumbed to lust and had pre-marital sex. I believe that this is a healthier way of looking at Christ's temptations than the first, but I also think that there might be a better way to understand the author of Hebrews when he says that Jesus was tempted in every way.

I was attending a weekly Bible study group recently where the question was asked: What attributes characterize a Christian? As a contributor to the conversation, I stated that a Christian abides by the law of love that Jesus laid down in Matthew 22:37-39: a) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” 2) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (NASB) I continued to say that every sin can be chalked up to a violation of one or both of these commandments. Actually, one might argue that any sin can be attributed to a violation of the first, and that for the sake of simplicity, we need not attempt to distinguish those sins that are in violation of the second; but since Matthew (and ultimately God) elected to state them separately, I will follow their lead. As I said before, I commented that sin in general is first and foremost a violation of one or both of these commandments, which by Jesus’ own admission undergirds the Law and the Prophets.

The conversation eventually drifted away from this topic, and at some point, my wife, Tracey, began talking about a scenario where one person might say, “Well, you don’t understand the temptation that I face because you’re not tempted by that which tempts me.” At that point, I commented that if what I had previously said was indeed true, that every sin is a violation of at least one of the two greatest commandments, then no brother or sister in Christ could ever say that another did not understand his or her temptation. As true Christians, we all understand the temptation to put ourselves above God and others, which is the very heart of sin. Isn’t this what we generally teach about Adam and Eve in the garden? It was at this point that my mind turned to Hebrews 4:15.

The following thought occurred to me: If the temptation to violate the two greatest commandments is at the core of every sinful act, and if Jesus was ever tempted to put himself above the Father and others, then he was truly “tempted in all things as we are,” even if it he only faced one temptation in his entire life. If I am not mistaken, the Bible only speaks of three temptations that Christ faced. Some may consider his struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane as a temptation as well, but even so, I think it is possible that these are the only ones that he ever faced. If this is truly the case, then he would still be able to claim that he was tempted in every way because he would forever be able to say, “Like you Gary, I have been tempted not to love the Lord my God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind; and I have been tempted not to love my neighbor as myself.” The difference between him and us, however, is that he never forsook the love of the Father and the love of others in favor of a love for himself. He obeyed the Father unto death on a cross, and he did it in our stead, in order to bear our punishment, so that we might be saved, because he loved God and man.


Tammy Burress said...

How could Jesus be tempted when he was God and God is sinless? The bible says that the devil tempted Him, it doesnt say that Jesus was tempted to do anything. I looked up the orginal Greek word that is used for temptation and it is acutally test. The devil tested Jesus but Jesus could not be tempted to do anything because He is God. So Jesus was tested, but Jesus could not be tempted.

Gary Harris said...


I think there are a number of flaws in your argument, but I think the biggest one is this. Your statement, "How could Jesus be tempted when he was God and God is sinless," tells me that you think the following statement is true, "Only sinners (or non-sinless people) can be tempted." If that is so, how could Adam and Eve have been tempted?


Luc said...

Hi Gary, I really like your Blog. With your permission I would like to be able to copy it for further use, giving you credit of course. Now personally by the age of 33 I think I was basically tempted in all, giving into many of those temptation but not all of course or I would be writing this from a prison cell. I believe as Heb 4:15 states, that Jesus was tempted in all. Of course He would not have bin tempted to watch porn as I am but he would have been tempted into some type of lust of/for the flesh that was of His time and place. You see the way I see it Jesus was all God, without sin, but when the Father sent Jesus down in human form He became fully human in everyway, being able to experience every thing we experience. You see by being tempted in all but not giving into any He could easily say: “Gary, I know exactly what you are going through”. Lets take chocolate for instance. Most people in north America is tempted when it comes to eating a good peace of chocolate. If someone is tempted and gives into eating a peace of chocolate when they should not, we could easily sympathise with them, because we who are tempted in the same know exactly how they feel at the time that they gave into that temptation. If you think of rape for example, especially of a young child, it has to be one of the must disgusting things that could happen. The public in general has never been tempted to rape a young child so how can they sympathise with that rapist. You see to be able to help a rapist you almost have to bring yourself down to his/her level and temptation is sure to bring you there. Now I know people will jump all over this saying that there is no way that Jesus was ever tempted to rape a child, but remember temptation itself is not sin, it is giving into temptation that becomes sin. Jesus came to save us all, even the rapist. No matter how disgusting this rapist or any other sinner might seem to use, Jesus came down from Heaven to the level of this rapist so He could have sympathy for him and be able to forgive his sins if he, the rapist or any other sinner, chooses to accept Christ as his/there saviour.