Matthew 4:3. And when the tempter came to him In a visible shape and appearance, to tempt him outwardly, as he had done inwardly before. For it appears from the account which Mark and Luke have given us of this matter, that our Lord had been tempted by the devil invisibly during the whole of the above-mentioned forty days but now, it seems, he came to him in a visible form, probably in the human, as one that desired to inquire further into the evidences of his mission. Accordingly he said, If thou be the Son of God In such an extraordinary sense as thou hast been declared to be, and if thou art indeed the promised Messiah, expected under that character, command that these stones be made bread To relieve thy hunger, for in such circumstances it will undoubtedly be done. Thus Satan took advantage of our Lord’s distress to tempt him to doubt his being the Son of God in the sense in which he had just been declared to be so; and it seems the object of this first temptation was, to excite in his mind a distrust of the care and kindness of his heavenly Father, and to induce him to use unwarranted means to relieve his hunger. But it is objected here, If Christ were God, why should he be tempted? Was it to show that God was able to overcome the temptations of the devil? Could there be any doubt of this? We answer, he was man, very man, as well as God, “of a reasonable soul, and human flesh subsisting,” and it was only as man that he was tempted. If it be replied, that seeing his human nature was personally united to the divine, it must still be superfluous to show that even his human nature, thus influenced, should be able to baffle the assaults of Satan: Irenæus, an eminent father of the second century, answering this very objection, then made by the Ebionites, (the elder brethren of the Photinians and Socinians,) observes that, as he was man, that he might be tempted, so he was the Word, that he might be glorified; the Word, (or Godhead,) being quiescent in his temptation, crucifixion, and death. These words being preserved and cited, says Dr. Whitby, by Theodoret, show that the latter fathers approved of this solution of this difficulty. Among the reasons assigned of our Lord’s temptation, one is, the consolation of his members conflicting with the adversary of their souls. For, in that he suffered, being tempted, he can sympathize with, and succour those that are tempted; affording them the same Spirit that was in him, that they may resist the devil with the same weapons, and overcome him with the same assistance, by which he, in his human nature, combated and conquered. Now this ground of comfort would be wholly taken from us, if Christ overcame Satan merely by virtue of that nature, by which he was απειραστος κακων , James 1:13, incapable of being overcome by temptation. But if, with Irenæus, we affirm that the divinity was then quiescent in him, and that he overcame Satan by virtue of the Spirit given to him, we, who have the same unction from the Holy One, may also hope to do it by his aid.
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