Jesus Christ’s Temptation -- By: John E. McKinley

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 16:2 (Summer 2012)
Article: Jesus Christ’s Temptation
Author: John E. McKinley

Jesus Christ’s Temptation

John E. McKinley

John E. McKinley is Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University.

Dr. McKinley has served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, where he worked in urban ministry in Los Angeles. He has also served as youth minister in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, and currently leads an AWANA class in his local church. In addition, he is the author of Tempted for Us: Theological Models and the Practical Relevance of Christ’s Impeccability and Temptation (Paternoster, 2009).

“And he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:13).

Like many topics in theology, the temptation of Jesus Christ requires that we think about several doctrines simultaneously In this case, our thinking about Jesus’ temptation involves us in the doctrines of God (can God be tempted or commit sin?), humanity (what is temptation to sin for humans? how much was Jesus like us in his human life?), sanctification (how is Jesus a model for withstanding temptation to sin and obeying God as a man?), and, of course, the complicated reality of the Incarnation. This inter-doctrinal situation makes matters messy when we seek for easy answers. Unfortunately, the theological tradition is little help to resolve the issues on this question, having supplied us with many different explanations and not provided us with the broad consensus we might wish for.1

Jesus was tempted, Scripture says, “in all ways as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). This declaration marks the closeness of Jesus’ experiences to ours. The reminder is given to encourage us that he truly understands our situation from the inside. Having endured temptations firsthand, as a true man, Jesus knows temptations that we suffer. That he is God the Son did not protect him from feeling the strain of the pull to commit sin, or from any of the suffering he endured. Instead, these sufferings were his training to learn obedience through suffering (Heb 5:8-9) and to become perfected to function as a sympathetic priest who reconciles us to God (Heb 2:17-18).

Jesus was tempted for our sakes. This means both that he withstood the pressure by his triumph over sin for us (where we have all failed), and that he was credibly tempted so that we would believe he is truly a fellow sufferer with us in temptation. We are told that he is compassionate and ready to lend us the help we need when we are caught in tempta...

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