Lent 1 • Luke 4:1–13 • February 14, 2016
By Kou Seying
Confessing the truth means renouncing the false at the same time, “Do you renounce the devil, and all his works, and all his ways?” Often, the latter is ignored due to various theological lapses or cultural and individualistic reasons. In this text, we have a glimpse of the nature of truth and false. In any missional context, these two tensions will always be accentuated. As Christ reveals himself in the Holy Scriptures, we are reminded that as Christians, we are called to proclaim and perform the truth. It is the Lord alone that we worship (v. 8, see also the Old Testament lesson, Dt 26).
The ultimate goal of Satan is unbelief. The first commandment is where Satan ultimately wants to undo us. Once this theological foundation is established, the rest of Satan’s activities are more readily identifiable. The fallen human nature will allow Satan to attack from the external realm. And from the internal realm, our human heart is the cause of evil thoughts and sinful works (Mt 15), which plays right into Satan’s temptation schemes.
The responses to Satan’s attacks or temptations, historically speaking, have always fallen into one of the following categories. The first three are remedies that introduce their own problems.
Scripture and Tradition
This approach has always been problematic because human traditions will always distort the word of God no matter how pure or of good intention one might think the traditions. Certain traditions by themselves may not necessarily be flawed, as they can be God’s gifts to people for part of their basic human survival. The problems come as traditions are appropriated in the context of faith and life in the church. Satan will use traditions to distort the truth of God’s word.
Scripture and Logic
When logic is employed to bring attractiveness to the word of God and faith, Satan will use that logic to his advantage. All of a sudden, the responsibility shifts to humans to battle Satan countering the armor of God that enables us to stand firm (Eph 6). We see the conditional nature of Satan’s works and ways in this gospel text, “If you do this then I will do that . . .” (vv. 3, 7, 9). Thus, our whole faith and life becomes a grand bargaining chip with God as we deal with Satan’s attacks and temptations.
Scripture and Manipulation
Certain sectors of Christianity are quite manipulative in their attempt to convey the truth of Scriptures. When the surface labels of Christianity are stripped away, the line between worshipping the Lord and idolatry becomes quite blurred. For an example, miracles become an end unto themselves. Thus, a false view of miracles 66 persists that defines faith. Jesus would not yield to this demand of Satan (v. 3). Properly speaking, miracles are there to confirm faith when it is according to God’s will but not to define faith.
Scripture Alone—The Only Remedy to Satan’s Temptation
It is through Scripture alone that we can confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord (Rom 10). Satan will attack and tempt us in our moments of weakness and suffering. Yet, it is in these moments that we see God’s grace and mercy clearly through his word because this is the way of the cross. Through suffering and the cross we come to God—as Luther would emphasize over and over again—and overcome Satan, and all his works and all his ways.
The temptation of Jesus gives us a glimpse of how Satan works in the world. He will take what appears to be the truth and turn it into something that is false. Creating doubt is Satan’s first step in all his schemes, “Did God really say . . .” or, “If . . .” As humans, we naturally want to add something to Scriptures to counter any temptation. When this happens, Satan gets the upper hand. Therefore, we confess the truth and renounce the false through God’s word that brings life and salvation and helps us to overcome the temptations of Satan. It is the Lord alone that we worship.