The Dynamics of Temptation – Without & Within – SDARM Article

by Paul Chapman

Beecher wrote, “Temptations are enemies outside the castle, seeking entrance.  If there be no false retainer within who holds treacherous parley, there can scarcely be even an offer.  No one would make overtures to a bolted door or a dead wall.  It is some face at the window that invites proffer.  The violence of temptation addressed to us is only another way of expressing the violence of the desire within us.  It costs nothing to reject what we do not wish; and the struggle required to overcome temptation measures the strength in us of the temptable element.  Men ought not to say, “How powerfully the Devil tempts!” but, “How strongly I am tempted!”

Henry Ward Beecher’s observation perhaps sums up the reality of temptation’s enticing power–it is not so much the enemy without, but “the false retainer within,” “some face at the window that invites proffer.”  Some sinful desire is cherished in the castle of the heart and Satan’s temptations assert their power.  For many a fallen soul the reality of such an enemy awakens when it is all too late.  But God wants to deal with such enemies–the enemies within as well as those without.  This is the crux of the Christian’s experience.  Through the grace of Christ we may reach that place where Satan’s temptations “lose their power” and the castle of the soul stands firm amidst the onslaught.

But how may such an experience be ours?  How may we deal with “the false retainer within”?  In the word of God we find the answer.  Our first step is recognizing the nature of temptation–just what it is and how it works.  Then we need to identify its source–from without or from within.  And what do we mean when we say “tempted from within,”–are we talking about the mind (heart) or the physical flesh (nature)?  And how do we relate our understanding to Jesus’ experience as a man?  Was He just like us in every respect or was there something different about Him?

What is Temptation?  

In identifying the nature of temptation three helpful statements will throw some light on our discovery.  The first is found in Youth’s Instructor, July 20, 1899.

“Unless there is a possibility  of yielding, temptation is no temptation. Temptation is resisted when man is powerfully influenced to do a wrong action; and, knowing that he can do it, resists, by faith, with a firm hold upon divine power.”

The first thing we may learn from this statement is that for temptation to be temptation there must be the possibility of yielding or giving in. This involves our will power–the power of choice.  If we can not yield then we can not be tempted.

The second thing we learn is that temptation is a powerful influence to do a wrong action.  If we are not influenced to do wrong then there is no temptation.

The third thing we learn is that a person must realise that he can do the wrong action.  He must be conscious of his capability to do wrong. If they do not realise they are being influenced to do wrong then they are in ignorance.

The fourth thing we learn is that for temptation to remain just that–temptation–it must be successfully resisted.  If not then it is no longer temptation but sin.

Finally, to resist temptation requires the exercise of faith and the use of divine power.

We may summarise these points as

  1.             The ability to choose wrong
  2.             An influence to do wrong
  3.             A realisation that you are able to do the wrong
  4.             A resistance of the influence to do wrong
  5.             The exercise of faith with access to divine power

If one or more of these elements is missing, then temptation ceases to be temptation.

The second statement that will be helpful to us is found in Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, page 116.  For now, I want to quote the first part of the sentence.  “Temptation is enticement to sin…”  What do we understand by “enticement”?  According to Webster’s dictionary enticement is the noun form of the verb “entice”.  To “entice” is to “draw on by exciting hope or desire.”  “Enticement” also means “allurement” or “attraction”.

Our third statement we will find helpful is found in James 1:14.  “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and  enticed.”  The expression “drawn away” comes from a word we find only once in the New Testament.  It is a word which means to “lure forth” and describes the process in hunting by which game is “lured forth” from its hiding place.  The analogy is that man is “lured forth” from the hiding place of self-restraint to indulge in sin.

Temptation then involves a powerful influence that is attractive, alluring and calculated to draw one away into sin by exciting hope or desire.

The False Retainer Within

In understanding how to deal with such influences, we need to reason from cause to effect.  Where the temptation springs from? Does it begin in the mind, the physical flesh or from some other point?  Some have suggested that temptation springs from the physical flesh. They argue that our physical flesh is intrinsically evil and thus it incites us to sin.  Such also reason that the “sinful flesh” that Christ assumed also incited, or tempted, Him to sin.  Hence the expression “tempted from within”.  This expression is used by some to describe such feelings one experiences from within their body in their encounters with temptation.

But is this the correct appreciation of the source of temptation.  To answer this question let us consider the thought from  Mount of Blessing page 116.:

“Temptation is enticement to sin, and this does not proceed from God, but from Satan and from the evil of our own hearts. “God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempteth no man.” James 1:13, R.V.”  {MB 116.2}

According to this statement, which is a commentary on the Lord’s prayer, temptation springs from two places. 1. Satan (without) and  2. The evil of our own hearts (within).  No mention is made of “flesh” here.  “Within”, then, can only describe the temptations that proceed from the evil of our own hearts or minds.  Furthermore, Jesus told us to pray that we are not led into temptation, but rather, delivered from the evil.  Why?  What is Satan seeking to do?

“Satan seeks to bring us into temptation, that the evil of our characters may be revealed before men and angels, that he may claim us as his own.” MB 116.

Satan seeks to bring us into the midst of powerful influences that entice us to sin.  For what purpose?  That the evil of our characters may be revealed before the universe.  These evils within are evidently elements of our character and not of our physical organism. For what then should we pray?

“But while we are not to be dismayed by trial, bitter though it be, we should pray that God will not permit us to be brought where we shall be drawn away by the desires of our own evil hearts.” MB 117.

This last statement helps us understand clearly what is meant by the words of James 1:14.  The lusts of which we are drawn away are the “desires of our own evil hearts.”  Clearly then, the enticements “from within” are those that spring from an unsanctified heart not the physical flesh.

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come fromwithin, and defile the man.” Mark 7:21-23.

Jesus, who came in “the likeness of sinful flesh”—our fallen nature—declared that evil things come from within the heart.  Again there is no mention of the “flesh” here.

But doesn’t the “flesh” also suggest evil thoughts and feelings?  Don’t evil thoughts spring from my physical frame?  Evidently not.  According to the following statement, the suggestion originates with Satan:

“I was once asked, “Do you believe in the existence of a personal devil?” “I do,” I replied. “I do not,” rejoined the questioner. “I think that our evil thoughts and impulses are the only devil there is.” “But,” I asked, “who suggests these thoughts? Where do they originate if not with Satan?”  {ST, January 13, 1904 par. 6}

But wasn’t Christ tempted from within His flesh upon physical appetites?  Let’s see.  Inspiration tells us that after the 40 days of fast, “with strong craving  Christ’s human nature called for food.”  (5BC 1080.)  Note, it did not call for cheese, chocolate cake, or ice cream, or even plain bread.  Just food–a perfectly natural, sinless, response–but with strong craving, strengthened by 4000 years of indulgence.  So much so that of Himself, Christ could not control it.  Then what happened?  “Now was Satan’s opportunity to make his assault.” (5BC 1080.)  He came to Christ and said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” (Mat 4:3.)  In this case the temptation was from without (Satan), but compounded by the strong, but natural, sinless craving within.  Had Christ, however, craved within his heart for a prohibited beverage, that would have been a craving of the mind and thus sin, regardless of his physiological reactions.

Sometimes, however, we can think we are hungry, which in turn creates a physiological reaction and this is interpreted as a call of the body for food.  But note the following:

“Few have moral stamina to resist temptation, especially of the appetite, and to practice self‑denial. To some it is a temptation too strong to be resisted to see others eat the third meal; and they imagine they are hungry, when the feeling is not a call of the stomach for food, but a desire of the mind that has not been fortified with firm principle and disciplined to self‑denial. The walls of self‑control and self‑restriction should not in a single instance be weakened and broken down. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, says: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”  {4T 574.1}

Here the call for food was actually the desire of the mind.  In this case we have sinned already whether we eat or not.  The point here is this. If we are confusing the temptations from “the evil of our own hearts” with the weaknesses of the physical flesh we are making a huge mistake. The flesh calls for food.  That is not sinful.  But when the flesh calls, the mind is then tempted from without (by Satan) or from the evil within our heart (wrong habits or desires not yet surrendered up) to respond by thinking the body is calling for red meat.  The temptation in this case is for red meat, which was suggested by Satan or which sprang from the evil of our own heart.  My body simply called for food.

Yes, the physical flesh is a difficulty that we encounter in dealing with temptation, because it is a channel the devil plays upon in bringing  temptation to us. But lets not confuse the natural call of the physical flesh in those cases with an evil imagining of the heart as in the above case. If we do, then instead of asking God to “take away” “the evil of our own hearts” through the process of conversion, we may think that the “evils within” are perfectly natural calls of the body, and thus be content to gratify them, or live with them.  In reality they are desires “of the mind that has not been fortified with firm principle.”   Instead of recognizing the desire for what it is–sin, we, instead, call it “temptation”.  Or worst of all, we consider it a “natural” call of the body!  The desire of the mind in turn creates a physiological reaction that we confuse for the call for food, when it is the craving of the body brought on by the craving of the mind.

Obviously Jesus did not have evils within his heart, so the only source of temptation he could have faced was that from “without” i.e. from Satan, but playing upon the “strong craving for food”  This really helps us understand the nature of sin and temptation, and how to deal with it.

“A genuine conversion changeshereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong.” Maranatha, page 237. (See also 6BC 1101.)

“Genuine conversion is needed, not once in years, but daily. This conversion brings man into a new relation with God. Old things, his natural passions and hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong, pass away, and he is renewed and sanctified. But this work must be continual; for as long as Satan exists, he will make an effort to carry on his work. He who strives to serve God will encounter a strong undercurrent of wrong. His heart needs to be barricaded by constant watchfulness and prayer, …. Divine grace must be received daily, or no man will stay converted. . . .” Our High Calling, 215.

“He takes awaythe destructive tendencies of the sinful nature and brings the human agency into His service.” 18MR 208.2.

True conversion “takes away” our “hereditary tendencies to evil” and then, by a constant, full surrender of our whole being to Christ, we are on “vantage ground” to meet the enemy and overcome temptation as Jesus overcame.

What About Those Cursed Annoyances

But doesn’t Sr White say that even the best of Christians are sometimes annoyed by their “sinful flesh”?  Lets see:

“There are thoughts and feelings suggested and aroused by Satan that annoy even the best of men; but if they are not cherished, if they are repulsed as hateful, the soul is not contaminated with guilt, and no other is defiled by their influence.” RH, Mar 27, 1888. {2MCP 432.2} (Also in That I May Know Him, pg 140.)

Note, that those things that annoy us are thoughts “suggested” and feelings “aroused by Satan,” not aroused by my physical flesh. Satan uses the flesh as a medium, but the flesh does not have a will of its own.  However, the following shows  where 99% of life’s annoyances come from–an uncontrolled temper (ie from the “evils of our own hearts” MB117):

“The largest share of the annoyances of life, its daily corroding cares, its heartaches, its irritation, is the result of a temper uncontrolled. . . . The government of self is the best government in the world. By putting on the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, ninety-nine out of a hundred of the troubles which so terribly embitter life might be saved. . . . The natural man must die, and the new man, Christ Jesus, take possession of the soul, so that the follower of Jesus may say in verity and truth: “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). {AG 39.3}

“Self is difficult to conquer. Human depravity in every form is not easily brought into subjection to the Spirit of Christ. But all should be impressed with the fact that unless this victory is gained through Christ, there is no hope for them. The victory can be gained; for nothing is impossible with God. By His assisting grace, all evil temper, all human depravity, may be overcome. . . . You may be overcomers if you will, in the name of Christ, take hold of the work decidedly. {AG 39.4}

The smaller share of annoyances I would suggest are those “aroused by Satan” using the body as a channel.  Prophets and Kings 488-489 explains it well.

“The body is a most important medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the upbuilding of character. Hence it is that the adversary of souls directs his temptations to the enfeebling and degrading of the physical powers. His success here often means the surrender of the whole being to evil. The tendencies of the physical nature, unless under the dominion of a higher power, will surely work ruin and death. The body is to be brought into subjection to the higher powers of the being. The passions are to be controlled by the will, which is itself to be under the control of God. The kingly power of reason, sanctified by divine grace, is to bear sway in the life. Intellectual power, physical stamina, and the length of life depend upon immutable laws. Through obedience to these laws, man may stand conqueror of himself, conqueror of his own inclinations, conqueror of principalities and powers, of “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” and of “spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12.” {PK 488.4}

Christ began life with the tendencies of the physical nature under the dominion of a higher power, and with a firm hold upon divine power kept them under dominion.  He needed divine grace at every step of the way, else He, too, would have fallen.

But what about my Hormones?

Some have suggested that the sinful flesh that urges me to sin is my deranged hormones? But if this is the case, how then are they deranged?

Hormones are chemical substances responsible for the longer term control of bodily states.  These are produced by the glands of the endocrine system.

We know that Jesus  had  the “whole human organism”, that He was a “real man”. He would have therefore had a thalamus, a hypothalamus, a central nervous system that was divided into the somatic nervous system (which is responsible for the voluntary actions) and the autonomic nervous system (involuntary actions); an autonomic nervous system that functioned both sympathetically (the “fight or flight” syndrome) and parasympathetically (restorative processes); an endocrine system that works in harmony with the nervous system and that secretes hormones in response to the nervous system. Just how they all function in relation to each other is a fascinating subject.

I am assuming that His endocrine system was just as responsible for all the bodily functions that yours or mine is. But to call that endocrine system the deranged, “sinful flesh” that draws me to sin (which is how some have explained it) I find great difficulty in seeing.  If this is the case, then I will never be free from “the passions of sin in my members” (Rom 7:5 margin) and will, consequently be destroyed because of that.

To say that Christ had “deranged hormones”, would be to say that he had a malfunctioning endocrine system (either overactive or under active or inactive endocrine glands). If so He would have been a very sick man indeed. Loss of appetite, diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus (resulting in dangerously high levels of glucose in the blood leading to mental confusion, coma, and eventually death); gigantism as a youth and acromegaly as an adult (over 7 ½ ft tall with over sized glands and large hands & feet); Simmonds’ disease (from the underproduction of growth hormone resulting in someone who is just skin and bones); hyperthyroidism (leads to someone being nervous, jumpy and hyperactive; loss of eyebrows and a startled appearance being also a symptom); parathyroid hormone disorders can lead to too much calcium in the blood and thus brain and heart cell activity becomes depressed, the person less responsive, and the heart stops. These are to name just a few of the disorders.

If by deranged, we are saying  the hormones themselves were deranged, then we a talking about chemical compounds here. Change the chemical structure of the hormone and it no longer is that hormone. Again Christ would have been a very sick person.

The only way I could derange a healthy endocrine system would be to abuse it physically through my own sinful dietary or thought processes and we know Christ did not do this.

Flight or Flee?

What about the “flight or flee” syndrome such as when a bull runs at you?

Some may suggest that the adrenal rush I sometimes feel, such as when I see a bull chasing me,  is the “sinful flesh” that is tempting me to sin. But lets consider it.

The adrenalin rush is felt in what is sometimes referred to as the “fight or flee” syndrome.  The sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system responds by stimulating  the adrenal glands–the “adrenal medulla” or, in stressful situations, such as surgery, haemorrhage, infections, severe burns, and intense emotions, the “adrenal cortex”.

In times of stress, the “adrenal cortex” releases the hormone ‘cortisol’ which leads to a breakdown of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). These are converted by the liver into glucose. This results in an immediate supply of glucose to the blood for the quick energy needed to cope with stressful situations.

The “adrenal medulla”, on the other hand, produces and secretes ‘epinephrine’ (adrenalin) and ‘norepinephrine’ (noradrenaline). These hormones are released directly into the blood “in response to sympathetic nervous system stimulation, which typically occurs in situations in which a person is prepared to fight or flee. Epinephrine operates to supercharge the body very quickly.” “In times of stress and excitement the adrenal medulla will quickly infuse (literally squirt) large amounts of epinephrine into the blood.” (sourced from the book Elements of Anatomy and Physiology.)

This helps me to see two things.

1. The adrenaline rush will not occur until my sympathetic nervous system sends the signal. I must first sense the bull coming at me. If I do not sense the bull coming, no response will occur. So the senses are called into play here. All that adrenal rush is a perfectly natural, sinless, involuntary bodily response to the situation, and that bypasses the will (and thus could never be temptation, for, remember, temptation requires that I am able to exercise my will.)

What goes on in my mind, however,  will determine the sinfulness or sinlessness of my response. I could choose to swear

and run (sin), or dart up a prayer and run (not sin). But there is no sin in running, unless of course God called me to stand there and meet the bull.  In order for me to respond, however, the mind had to register the bull coming in the first place. Only then would the sympathetic nervous system come into play (and the consequent adrenal rush be felt). So in this case the initial stimulus was from without.  But the adrenal rush is not the temptation that is urging me to sin.

It compounds the problem but the urge, or temptation to swear, or do something wrong,, is from Satan or, in the case of an un-surrendered person, from the evil of the heart. In the latter case, the evil of my heart is sin itself–the carnal mind.  In order to be free from 99% of these “annoyances”-or urges to sin-I need to ask God to take away that evil heart.  Then I have only to deal with the enemy without.  The charging bull experience may reveal to me evils I did not know existed, or old evils that I have allowed Satan to manifest again–i.e. the rising up of the old man.

This also helps me understand what is happening in my body when I am about to face an unpleasant situation or event.  When my mind starts thinking about the situation, and, in turn, I feel the sympathetic response coming on, it is a call for me to go into prayer mode.  When you commit the whole thing to the Lord in prayer, and claim His promises, by His grace the mind becomes at ease and the parasympathetic nervous system then sends impulses that serve to restore the body’s state.  The knots in the stomach go away and you feel much calmer.  From personal experience, of both victory and defeat, it takes a lot of prayer to keep the body under so that every thought, word and action is stress free, kind, patient and considerate.

(In this last example my mind may have sinned already by being  permitted to waver, but that is where I have to let the Lord show me my sin as I search my heart daily.  “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things, Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then we have confidence toward God.”  1John 3:20-21.)

I am reminded also of the statement,

“The human will of Christ would not have led him to the wilderness of temptation, to fast, and to be tempted of the devil. It would not have led him to endure humiliation, scorn, reproach, suffering, and death. His human nature shrank from all these things as decidedly as ours shrinks from them.” ST Oct 29, 1894.

Our nature may shrink from the situation it is called to face (expressed in the sympathetic, involuntary, sinless bodily reaction), but by the grace of God, we may face the situation, and come off victorious, with a firm hold upon divine power.  This was the experience of Christ.

2. The second thing this helps me to understand is that if I am under long term stress, instead of using carbohydrates for fuel, my body will use my amino acids–the building blocks of protein.  Thus the body will deprive itself of the protein it needs for building up the muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, glands, nails, hair, and most of the body fluids. I will be a physical wreck.

In extreme cases, I may need to boost the parasympathetic (restorative) processes by removing myself from the stressful environment and getting myself out into a calming environment, such as the country or the seaside.  I may need also to consider my diet and take in adequate nutrients to rebuild the body and bring everything back into balance.  Christ’s call to “come ye apart and rest awhile” is good advise in situations like this.

Christ’s Nature–Natural Tendencies but not Sinful Tendencies

Any tendencies Christ had were “natural”, sinless tendencies which are not “sin” in themselves and kept under control would never be sinful. Another term for these is ‘natural instincts’ without these a baby, for example, would starve having no desire for food. But “unnatural” tendencies are sinful and are to be “taken away”. I do not confuse “evil tendencies” with “temptation”. The first is sin the other is not.

Some have suggested Galatians 5:24 clears up this whole matter. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”  But if we look a little further up in verse 19-21 we will see that those affections and lusts of the flesh include “heresies” and “envyings”.  How can my physical flesh commit heresy?  It can’t.  But the “carnal mind” can.  You see, in the Bible, “flesh” may be applied to not only the physical organism, but the whole of depraved human nature.  If we are Christ’s, however, we have crucified the flesh–these lusts are dead. They were the result of perverting the natural instinct.

How do we crucify the flesh? Sister White answers this herself in AH 127-128.

“The lower passions have their seat in the body and work through it. The words “flesh” or “fleshly” or “carnal lusts” embrace the lower, corrupt nature; the flesh of itself cannot act contrary to the will of God. We are commanded to crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts. How shall we do it? Shall we inflict pain on the body? No; but put to death the temptation to sin. The corrupt thought is to be expelled. Every thought is to be brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. All animal propensities are to be subjected to the higher powers of the soul. The love of God must reign supreme; Christ must occupy an undivided throne. Our bodies are to be regarded as His purchased possession. The members of the body are to become the instruments of righteousness.” {AH 127.2}

Remember though, from previous statements where that “corrupt thought” comes “from Satan” (MB 117); and how it comes to us–from without–but directed to the enslaving of the entire being to the lower nature.

Natural Instincts vs Perverted Instincts  

Some have said the flesh has passions and suggest that these are sinful.  There are “natural instincts” which are not perverted, and there are “unnatural instincts”–natural instincts that have been perverted. I believe a careful study of the Bible and especially Sister White’s material on this subject will show that  Christ had natural instincts, under the control of His higher powers, but not the “unnatural instincts”.

For example, there is a natural instinct reflected in the words “let them have dominion over the foul of the air, etc…” And perverted, it results in a tendency for dominion over every other thing in the universe–including God. But Jesus never had such a tendency in His human nature. He had only the natural instinct which Satan tried to pervert, and was made much more difficult to resist by the limited and weakened faculties of the fallen human nature which Christ had assumed.

The difficulty for Christ was compounded by His deity. While in His humanity He was aware of His deity, that He was  the second person of the Godhead. “He had received honour in the heavenly courts and was familiar with absolute power.” And Satan was trying to get Christ to manifest that deity in delivering himself. It was therefore a “difficult task” for Jesus to carry out the plan for the salvation of man. How difficult? Note what Sis White writes, “It was as difficult for Him to keep the level of humanity as for men to rise above the low level of their depraved natures and be partakers of the divine nature.” (7BC 930)

As for us, we have to rise above the low level of our depraved natures–the evil of our hearts, the carnal mind, “the old man”.  While it is to be “taken away”, it may always come back again by the exercise of our will in response to Satan’s attack on the weak points of our hearts, which he is acquainted with.  In effect Satan is trying to get us to make one bold move in the manifestation of the “evil of our characters” with respect to past habits, or evil habits that we may have but do not yet know are wrong.

In respect to Christ, the parallel experience of having to give up previous habits, was reflected in his having to deny the power to use His deity in a self-dependent way.  This was unnatural and just as difficult for Him.  He had to maintain the level of humanity–a fallen, degraded, and weakened human nature that had, however, a sanctified human will.  And because He “kept his [human] will surrendered and sanctified, He never bent in the slightest degree toward the doing of evil or toward manifesting rebellion against God.”  (ST Oct 29, 1894.)  As well as the temptations we face from Satan in our sanctified state, Jesus had to resist the inclination when in danger or peril, to use His deity to deliver Himself.  (7BC930) Had He not resisted, He would have made “one bold move in manifesting His divine power,” (7BC929) and thus failed in His mission of giving us an example of a selfless life.

The Most Overpowering Temptation for Christ

“On Jordan’s banks the voice from heaven, attended by the manifestation from the excellent glory, proclaimed Christ to be the Son of the Eternal. Satan was to personally encounter the Head of the kingdom which he came to overthrow. If he failed he knew that he was lost. Therefore the power of his temptations was in accordance with the greatness of the object which he would lose or gain. For four thousand years, ever since the declaration was made to Adam that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, he had been planning his manner of attack.” Conflict and Courage, p. 78.

Some consider temptations associated with physical appetites to be the most powerful.  But in the case of Jesus it was not so.  In commenting upon the time when Jesus was tempted by Satan offering Him the things of the world, Sis White writes,

“This was the most subtle and overpowering temptation that Satan could bring against Christ in His human nature to unsettle His faith in His heavenly Father and to separate Him from God.” 18MR pg 86.

Note it was the “most subtle and overpowering temptation.” More so than all the others.

Who Are Christ’s Brethren?

In considering temptation and how it relates to our own experience, we should bear in mind that though Jesus did not possess the “destructive tendencies of the sinful nature”, he did in reality experience the struggles and battles his brethren face:

“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto [his] brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things [pertaining] to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”  Heb 2:17-18.

“For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Heb 2:10-11.

His brethren are those who are sanctified.  Temptation to an unsanctified person and temptation directed at a sanctified person are two very different things.  One has no power to resist, being yet in there sins.  The other, has a firm hold upon divine power. And through their faith in that power, resist as Christ resisted and overcome.   The secret then to our struggles with temptation is to live the sanctified life.


“I present before you the great Exemplar. “Great is the mystery of godliness” (I Tim. 3:16). To explain the doctrine of regeneration is impossible. Finite minds cannot soar high enough to understand its depths, and yet it is felt, although inexpressible and unexplainable in all its particulars. Jesus identified His interest with suffering humanity, and yet He is man’s judge. He was a child once, and had a child’s experience, a child’s trials, a child’s temptations. As really did He meet and resist the temptations of Satan as any of the children of humanity. In this sense alone could He be a perfect example for man. He subjected Himself to humanity to become acquainted with all the temptations wherewith man is beset. He took upon Him the infirmities and bore the sorrows of the sons of Adam.

“He was “made like unto His brethren” (Heb. 2:17). He felt both joy and grief as they feel. His body was susceptible to weariness, as yours. His mind, like yours, could be harassed and perplexed. If you have hardships, so had He. If you have conflicts, so had He. If you need encouragement, so did He. Satan could tempt Him. His enemies could annoy Him. The ruling powers could torture His body; the soldiers could crucify Him; and they can do no more to us. Jesus was exposed to hardships, to conflict and temptation, as a man. He became the Captain of our Salvation through suffering. He could bear His burden better than we, for He bore it without complaint, without impatience, without unbelief, without repining; but this is no evidence He felt it less than any of the suffering sons of Adam.

“Jesus was sinless and had no dread of the consequences of sin. With this exception His condition was as yours. You have not a difficulty that did not press with equal weight upon Him, not a sorrow that His heart has not experienced. His feelings could be hurt with neglect, with indifference of professed friends, as easily as yours. Is your path thorny? Christ’s was so in a tenfold sense. Are you distressed? So was He. How well fitted was Christ to be an example!”  Letter 17, 1878 (20 MR 71-73)

“Not even by a thought could Christ be brought to yield to the power of temptation. . . . Christ declared of Himself, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”

“Jesus did not allow the enemy to pull Him into the mire of unbelief, or crowd Him into the mire of despondency and despair.

“Christ’s humanity was united with divinity, and in this strength He would bear all the temptations that Satan could bring against Him, and yet keep His soul untainted by sin. And this power to overcome He would give to every son and daughter of Adam who would accept by faith the righteous attributes of His character.”  The Faith I live By, 48-49.


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