Matthew 4:1-11 records the temptation of Jesus Christ. After fasting for forty days in the wilderness, the Devil came to Jesus to tempt Him. Every time the Devil offered Jesus a shortcut to the Heavenly Father’s plan, Jesus quoted Scripture and refused the offer.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NASB). In this context the term “tempted” means “to be tried, tested, and put to the test.” Like us, Jesus was tempted to sin, but how genuine was that temptation?
Generations of Bible teachers, seminary students, and theologians have debated the question, “Could Jesus have sinned?” We know He didn’t sin, but was sin even a possibility? Those who argue for the “peccability” Christ usually point out His humanity, His temptability (which implies sin), and His free will. Those who advocate the “impeccability” of Christ emphasize His deity, His divine attributes, and the Heavenly Father’s unchangeable plan for salvation.
A key part of this debate is identifying the nature of Christ’s humanity. Is Jesus human is like Adam was human before the fall, after the fall, or glorified in eternity. If Christ’s nature is human like Adam was before the fall then it was possible for Him to sin. If Jesus is like humanity glorified in the heavenly state, then He could not sin.
There is no clear cut answer to this perplexing question based on evidence that we have in God’s Word. If forced to choose, I would lean towards Christ’s deity and say, “No, He could not have sinned, even if He wanted to.” While this answer may be unsatisfactory to those who lean the other way, it underscores the bottom line – that Christ didn’t sin so that He could be our Savior.
At some point, this question should drive us to confront sin in our own lives. We have already given in to temptation, so what’s next? The next verse in Hebrews 4 urges us “…draw near to with confidence to the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need” (Hebrews 4;16, NSAB). Jesus overcame sin and temptation so that He could help those who could not overcome on their own.
D. L. Moody was a shoe salesman turned international evangelist near the end of the 19thcentury. He had a huge impact on the Kingdom of God, holding crusades & other meetings across America & Europe. His influence is still felt today through the institutions that he left behind: Moody Bible Institute, Moody Publishers, & the Moody Church. While preparing for a crusade in England, a local pastor protested, “Why do we need this ‘Mr. Moody’? He’s uneducated & inexperienced. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?” Another wiser pastor rose and responded, “No, but the HS has a monopoly on Mr. Moody.”
The Holy Spirit can have a big effect on the life of a believer. The third person of the Trinity makes the presence of God personal. He also demonstrates the power of God in the life of the believer.
In his Farewell Discourse in John 16:5-15, Jesus revealed that the Holy Spirit has a dynamic ministry to unbelievers in the world as well as the believers. If you miss out on both sides of the Holy Spirit’s ministry you might find it hard to make sense of Jesus’ instruction in this passage where he says, “it is to your advantage that I go away” (v. 7)
In John 16:5-15, Jesus describes four things that the Holy Spirit does in the world and in the believer. The Holy Spirit is still alive and well today. As we understand his work among us we are better prepared to cooperate with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
1. The Holy Spirit Convicts the World of Sin (v. 9).
To understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we must understand sin. Sin is missing the mark – any thought or action that falls short of God’s perfect will. Like an arrow that misses the target, we have all fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
It is in our human nature to sin. It is not just some isolated event that happens once in awhile. Sin leads us to rebel against the righteous expectations of God and to reject his gracious offer of salvation.
The Holy Spirit works in the world like a prosecuting attorney in a courtroom. The prosecuting attorney does everything in his or her power to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty of the charges that have been presented against them.
2. The Holy Spirit Convicts the World of Righteousness (v. 10).
Righteous describes someone who has a right to stand before God and has a right to be in a relationship with Him. God is the one who gets to decide what is right. God is our standard of righteousness.
Let’s return to the same courtroom scene we imagined earlier. While pursuing a conviction, the prosecutor appeals to the moral standards that have established through the law. A criminal is guilty, not just of committing a crime, but failing to live up to the legal standards of the law.
3. The Holy Spirit Convicts the World of Judgment (v. 11).
Jesus knew that sin is inspired by Satan, “the ruler of this world.” In this verse, Jesus said that Satan “has been judged.” The term is in the perfect tense, meaning that it has already happened, and we are living out the continued effects. Those who side with the ruler of this world over the Savior of the world will be judged for all eternity when Christ comes back.
Let’s return one more time to the courtroom scene. After the prosecutor presents all of evidence and references all of the legal standards that are relevant to the case, he urges the jury to come back with a “guilty” verdict, so that the criminal can be sentenced for his crime.
4. The Holy Spirit Guides Believers in the Truth (v. 12-15).
Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit to his disciples as “the Spirit of Truth,” or The Teacher. The disciples couldn’t take it all in as they were walking with JC, but the Holy Spirit inspired some of them to complete God’s authoritative Word. The same Spirit that inspired the Bible guides people to the truth today.
There are all kinds of helpful nuggets, helps, and tips in the Bible about all kinds of things in life. But the Bible and the ministry of the Holy Spirit isn’t focused on you, it’s focused on Jesus Christ and the message of the gospel. Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of truth.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living & active & sharper than any two-edged sword, & piercing as far as the division of soul & spirit, of both joints & marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God as a surgeon’s scalpel in our lives. No one that I know enjoys surgery, but we submit to it when we know there is no other way to get healthy.
The Holy Spirit has a dynamic work to the church and the world. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He also guides the believers to the truth. The question is, will you cooperate with him?
Headlights and floodlights alert us of danger and highlight things of beauty. The headlights in your car illuminate the road at night and the floodlights around your home light up the architectural features of your home. When lighting is well done, you don’t see the lights themselves, but the hazards or the buildings the lights are trained on. The Holy Spirit lights up the dark places in our lives as well and he also lights up Jesus Christ so we can see our need for Savior.
The story of Karla Faye Tucker is heartbreaking. Karla Faye dropped out of school at an early age and followed her mom into a life of prostitution and drugs. When she was in her 20’s she started dating an older man named Daniel Garrett. While searching for items to steal and sell for drug money, Karla Faye and Daniel broke into a nearby apartment and killed two victims with a hammer and pickax. Karla Faye and Daniel were eventually arrested and sentenced to death. Daniel died from liver disease on death row, but Karla Faye became a Christian. She “stole” a free Bible from a visiting ministry group and gave her life to Jesus after reading it in her cell. She became a model prisoner and showed great remorse for her actions. When a date finally set for her execution, a crowd of supporters urged the state to commute her. Their efforts fell short, and Karla Faye was executed by lethal injection in 1998 with a few close friends and family members by her side.
The story of Karla Faye Tucker’s life and death serves as a heartbreaking backdrop for an equally tragic story found in John 8:1-11. In this passage, a group of scribes and Pharisee urge Jesus to pronounce a death sentence on a woman caught in adultery. In the end, the religious leaders learn something that the woman caught in adultery already knew – Jesus is the Righteous Judge.
As the Righteous Judge, Jesus declares judgment on the self-righteous (8:1-9).
Even though these religious leaders seemed interested in justice, they were really trying to trap Jesus. Stoning wasn’t very popular in Jesus’ day for obvious reasons, but it was called for in the Mosaic Law. If Jesus rejected the punishment outright, He would lose credibility as a teacher of the Law. If Jesus enforced the punishment, He would lose popularity with the people and might even get in trouble with the Roman authorities.
Instead of answering them, Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dirt with his finger. We don’t know what He wrote, but we know what He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). This was a direct reference to Deuteronomy 13:9 and 17:7. Jesus was not saying they had to be perfect or free from sin to condemn the woman, but they did have to be sinless in this particular case.
The scribes and Pharisee were secure in their own self- righteousness. They were so secure they were willing to sacrifice this woman’s whole life to cover up their own sin and condemn Jesus. They held this woman to a higher standard of righteousness than they held themselves too.
As Jesus bent back to down to write in the dirt again, the religious leaders filed out one by one until they were all gone. Those who came to embarrass Jesus were themselves embarrassed. They snuck out of the temple one by one until they were all gone.
As the Righteous Judge, Jesus demonstrates mercy on the unrighteous (8:10-12).
Straightening up, Jesus asked the woman where her accusers had gone. She replied that they were all gone. Jesus did not imply that the woman was innocent, simply that she was not condemned. She experienced God’s mercy because she knew something the religious leaders did not know – we are all guilty and unrighteous before God.
A genuine encounter with Christ always results in a transformed life. Her past had been forgiven and her future was now wide open. Jesus sent the woman out to live a transformed life.
As the Righteous Judge, Jesus looks past outer appearances and judges the heart.
The problem is that too often, we storm the courtroom of life and take the responsibility of judging ourselves and judging others on ourselves. But as humans, we are not in a position to judge. Like it says in James 2:4, we judge with a double standard and become “judges with evil motives.”
You can respond to this story in two ways. One way is to show compassion on another “sinner” so that you can distance yourself from self-righteousness. Sin is still sin, but we should not rush to condemn someone who God has forgiven. We often judge other people harsher than we judge ourselves and “blowing out some else’s candle so our burns brighter.” The degree to which you can show compassion on someone who has wronged you is the degree to which you have cast off your own self-righteousness.
Another way to respond to this story is to give up one of your besetting sins as you glory in God’s great mercy towards you. We all struggle with a number of sins (1 John 1:8). Sexual sins are no worse than any other sin, but they can be harder to overcome because they are self-destructive (1 Corinthians 6:18). You cannot change the past, but with God’s help, you can change the future.
God wants to help you escape from the prison of your own self-righteousness. You can fool your family & friends, but you can’t fool God, because He is the Righteous Judge.