Reflections on the New Testament: Matthew
“Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to [John] and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” Matt. 3:5-7, NKJV.
Note the contrast here: that John baptized the people, who eagerly went out to him and confessed, but rebuked the religious leaders the instant he saw them approaching! The reason for this is simple, and, indeed, is addressed all throughout the gospels. The Pharisees and Sadducees adhered to the Law, and eagerly embraced its requirement of human effort as a means of self-glorification. They mistakenly believed that this outward display of religiosity was sufficient to gain righteousness—in short, that no divine intervention was necessary. To this, King Solomon soundly replies in Proverbs 26:12, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” The fool who humbles himself and confesses his sins shall be baptized—not by water only, but by the Holy Spirit. These have fled the wrath to come and, by the grace of God, have indeed escaped. But the self-righteous scoff at the wrath to come, believing they have already delivered themselves from it. There is nothing so dangerous as a false assurance of salvation. Do you indeed trust in human morality? You are still in your sins. “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” For flee you must.
“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire,” Matt. 3:8-12.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: He shall give His angels charge over you, and, In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him,” Matt. 4:1-11, NKJV.There are a number of remarkable things contained in this passage. To begin with, note that the conversation between Jesus and the devil consists almost entirely of quoted Scriptures. Jesus, fittingly, begins this trend; Satan then cunningly uses two verses, but, naturally, uses them incorrectly and is refuted by Jesus with yet another verse. As Christians, we will certainly be led “into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil”—will we be able to argue as Jesus argued? It is essential that we know the entirety of Scripture and be able to reconcile each truth as part of a whole, that we may be able to refute those who take one truth and twist it away from the rest. Moreover, notice what is said in verse 11: “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” Herein is revealed the correct interpretation of the statement, “He shall give His angels charge over you”! The Scriptures which the devil quoted are by no means false, but were placed in a blasphemous context. It was this context which the Lord refuted by saying “You shall not tempt the LORD your God.” When the devil departed and Jesus was no longer tempted or challenged, the angels came and ministered unto Him. “Every word of God proves true,” and all reconcile to one another to form a living and powerful whole. The devil separates these truths to form lies, and, in so doing, separates the church.