In part one we saw how Christ was playing offense, not defense; that Golgotha was the final objective and not some tragic ending; and since it was the final battle the devil was defending it for all he was worth in order to tempt Christ. In part two we learned why God had to become man to redeem man, why He had to undergo the same temptation as the devil to beat the devil, and why anyone who sets themselves against God is fighting a losing battle. In this post I’d like to start looking at just what Christ won for Himself. Before we do that let’s take a look at some of the dynamics in play.
Temptation is very real for those with power and authority
Because I don’t want this to become meaningless, I want to stop here for a minute and reflect on the very real temptation for those with authority and power. We all have some level of both. At it’s most basic, is the authority and power over our lives. We’re not born with it and, normally, don’t gain it right away. In most cases, we have to to win/attain it. We have to prove ourselves worthy. We accomplish this by learning, trying, training, studying, etc. and then passing some kind of test.
All other things being equal, once won, we retain it until we are found to be unworthy. We are found to be unworthy when we abuse/misuse/neglect that power and authority vested in us in order to feather our own nests. There seems to be some sense that those who have everything are no longer subject to temptation. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Look at Saul, David, Ahab, the Pharisees, and Solomon (who seemed practically insatiable), to name a few.
In general, what occurs after depends on the circumstances, but in the main some sort of punishment ensues. Depending on the severity of the trespass it can be anything: from asking forgiveness, a fine, recompense, relinquishing the authority/power, prison, to death, or some combination. For our purposes, we’ll only be concerned with the relinquishing of authority/power as that seems to be the big problem in most of these cases. Instead of accepting God’s decision, repenting, asking forgiveness, and getting on board with God’s plan they tend to dig themselves in deeper by trying to hold onto their power and authority.
We know from the temptation in the wilderness that the devil had been given power and authority at some point (Ps 18:14) and he lost that power and authority when he rebelled against God, even though he still retained after it had been lost.
Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” Job 1:9-11
Instead of repenting, the devil, being jealous of his position, wasn’t willing to accept God’s decision because he thought God was acting unjustly: man was as unworthy as the devil was. As we can see from Job, the devil felt that the only thing keeping Job loyal to God was the benefits Job gained from that relationship, (I think this is incredibly ironic since it was at the peak of his power that the devil sinned and not when he was laid low.), and fear. Then the devil accuses Job of blasphemy–even though Job was innocent of that charge–and tells God he can prove it by removing the profit motive.
But Job does one better than the devil: Job has power and authority, yet does not sin. I’m going to give the devil his due here; fear does seem to be the reason Job does what he does. Job may even be trying to stave off the wrath of God by trying to appease God through offering sacrifice, instruction, and admonishing people not to sin. Similar to someone trying to shore up a falling building.
Anyway God gives the devil the go ahead–with certain limitations–, the devil tries to get Job to blaspheme God to His face, but Job doesn’t. The devil loses. The point is, after everything is said and done Job changes in two ways: Job no longer fears he needs to appease God and Job can now see Him where before he could only hear Him.
Christ’s suffering in light of Job
What you’ll notice in the story of Job is how similar this is to the story of Christ in that we start out with someone who is given power and authority; which He uses to admonish and teach people, but doesn’t sin by using it to profit Himself; is falsely accused of blasphemy; and, in the Garden of Gethsemane, does show fear of the coming wrath of God. Christ, like the prophets and priests (including Job) before Him, tries to stave it off through His teachings, admonitions, and sacrifice. There are differences, too.
Unlike Christ, Job was powerless to save himself, so he didn’t have that temptation of calling on that power while undergoing his suffering. Job’s test was to not blaspheme God to His face. Christ, being God, was not going to blaspheme Himself.1 Unlike Job, Christ knew why He would undergo suffering and death, even though, like Job, He still dreaded it. Job always feared it, but his worldview was that if you acted righteously, then God protected you. So Job, like the devil, felt He was being treated unjustly by God because he was innocent. He had done everything right. What Job didn’t realize is if the wrath of God falls on the guilty, then it hasn’t been staved off: it’s been realized. When it falls on the saints, out of His great love for the saints, it’s only a small fraction of what it would have been had it fallen on the guilty. Compare what Christ underwent and what happened to those who didn’t come to believe in Him during the sack of Rome. I hear it was pretty horrendous.
While a fraction of the wrath is received, there seems to be no bounds put on the grace and mercy merited which covers an incomprehensible number of sins. This is one of the major victories, (and the one I’m most grateful for), Christ won with His sacrifice: to be a covering for those who have believed, do believe, and will believe in Him. Thanks be to God!
The sacrificial lamb and the scapegoat
As I tried to explain in Jumping in with Both Feet God has this way of pulling many loose threads together, so they culminate into one point. So it should be expected, not surprising, that Christ can be both the scapegoat and the Lamb of God at one and the same time. The lamb because He was the sacrifice God had promised Abraham. The scapegoat because the devil and the Pharisees blamed Lord Jesus for their own failings. Remember, Jesus was, among other things, a prophet and they don’t usually show up unless someone has sinned.
If you truly want to see the face of God, it is in Christ. A point where the OT wrath of God and the NT mercy and grace of God come together. The wrath of God has not gone away. Sin hurts people. God will never ever condone it. There are people who go through their entire lives wounded by others sin and they in turn hurt still others. There is a very certain wrath waiting for those who do not convert to Christ. For the sinner, and we have all sinned, repent and get on board with God, so the Christ won grace can give you a new lease on life. Otherwise, you’ll have to face the wrath of God. For those wounded by sin God has provided a way out of this mess and can give you the healing you desperately need to restore your lives. And so it isn’t all a senseless waste, raise up your suffering to something higher and better and unite them with those of Christ and offer it to God for the conversion of sinners or, better yet, for fallen away Christians so as to shore up the Church. For many of them are as you once were: hurting others by either repeating the sin in trying to come to terms with it, or acting out in hurt, anger, or fear.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing! Rev 5:12
To be continued . . .
1 I believe He was accused of blasphemy by the Pharisees to tie the two stories together in order to show that they, like the devil, believed He would blaspheme God (remember, they didn’t believe He was God) under the right circumstances. When the false witness shows up and mentions destruction it appears to be a real AHA! moment for them.
Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa in Acts confirms that persecution was used by the Pharisees in order to get a person to blaspheme God. In Acts 26:5 Paul states he belonged to the sect of the Pharisees. And in 26:10-11 Paul asserts he was authorized by the chief priests to do the following: imprison Christians, cast his lot against them when they were being condemned to death, and punish them in the synagogues as a means to force them to blaspheme God.
Unmodified post photo generously donated by Ben White @Unsplash