F A L L • 2 0 1 6
VOLUME 17, ISSUE 3
William Hohmann is a former member of Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God. He and his wife have been married 39 years and have two adult sons.
The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8).
What are the works of the devil which Jesus came to destroy? The account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness helps us understand Satan’s works:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “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 on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand 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 will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took Him to a very 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 fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord Your God, and serve Him only’” (Mt. 4:1–10).
Satan attempted to lead Jesus into sin by a form of subterfuge. He deceitfully attempted to engage the Lord in a discussion of God’s word, cleverly misusing it in an attempt to disorient and to deceive Jesus in order to cause Him to sin.
Begin with Eve
If Satan’s goal was to cause Jesus to be confused and even perhaps to discuss God’s word instead of trusting and obeying it, what was his goal when he tempted Eve to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree?
Eve’s act of rebellion against God and His word was the consequence of Satan’s temptation, but that rebellious act flowed out of Eve’s deception and rationalization. Before actually eating that fruit, she had to disbelieve God and believe the serpent. She knew God had said not to eat from that tree, but instead of obeying God’s word without question, she discussed His word with the snake.
She allowed the snake’s question to lure her into a conversation, and as the serpent’s clever nuances led her deeper into her defense and farther from the safety of obedience, she abandoned faith in God in favor of faith in the serpent. The decision to eat the fruit seemed simple enough. The temptation, after all, just involved fruit—fruit similar to other fruit found in the garden of Eden. The serpent’s arguments seemed logical and compelling, and yet the results of Eve’s decision were catastrophic.
The serpent succeeded in usurping her faith in God. Not only that, he got her to put her faith in him, the enemy of God. Adam soon followed.
Jesus and the devil
The devil in his confrontation with Jesus started out much the same as the serpent’s encounter with Eve. He suggested something simple—something apparently innocuous: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Mt. 4:3). He seemed merely to offer Jesus a way to sustain Himself after his 40-day fast, but this logical suggestion came from the deceiver, not from the Father.
Jesus did not take Satan’s bait. The Son of God, who referred to Himself as the Son of Man, stood up to the devil and, in spite of being weakened by fasting, answered His adversary by quoting God’s word found in Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4).
Jesus did what Eve had failed to do: He refused to discuss God’s word with His tempter. Instead, He lived His life according to God’s word recorded in Scripture, and He was not confused by clever applications of God’s word used out of context and with devious intent. Even if the devil quotes God’s word, Jesus showed us that we are never to be deceived by his arguments. We are to refuse to engage with him and submit to the full council of God’s word instead.
Creating and eating bread was not sinful; in fact, Jesus fed the 5,000 and the 4,000 by creating bread and giving it to the people to eat. Rather, the temptation was to listen to the tempter and to rationalize what He knew about God’s will instead of staying firmly planted on God’s revealed word and obeying it.
The devil then escalated his attempt to derail and overthrow Jesus, tempting Him to defend His identity and offering the world and everything in it. Significantly, the devil used out-of-context Scripture and promises of power as his weapons of deception. All Jesus had to do was to switch his faith and allegiance from God to Satan—but Satan failed to destroy Jesus. Jesus prevailed by knowing and obeying God’s word. It was His only defense, and it exposed and destroyed the subtle deception that preyed on Jesus’ humanity.
The law: a promise of Jesus
The entire human race had been derailed and overthrown through a simple and subtle suggestion that had incalculable repercussions. The serpent promised superior knowledge, wisdom, and power, and it was all available by eating delicious fruit—the wrong fruit. The promised benefit, however, was a curse instead of a blessing. Adam and Eve died spiritually the day they listened to the serpent, and mankind has been choosing the wrong fruit ever since.
Finally Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil in which faith in God is lost. In those of us who believe that He took the curse Adam and Eve unleashed on us, He restores faith, and we are released from death to life (Jn. 5:24).
Before Jesus came, however, God gave His people the gift of seeing their sin and the promise of a Savior who would reconcile them to Himself. This gift which clarified humanity’s sin and the hope of salvation was the law, but that law was never intended to be for all people for all time. God gave it to Israel on Sinai until faith would be revealed through Jesus. Paul explains it like this:
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:23–29).
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He the head over all rule and authority (Col. 2:8–10).
Questions and answers
Now I have some questions and answers for Sabbatarians.
Q: Who told you to keep the law? Who told you to keep the Sabbath?
A: God didn’t. He told the Hebrews to do those things through a covenant law.
Q: Who beguiled you into doing things God did not tell you to do in His written Word? Who then told you to continue in the law even though faith is now here and available to you?
A: God didn’t. From Moses to Jesus, God’s people were kept under the law until faith would be revealed. That faith has been revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Q: Is a Christian complete in Christ, or does a Christian need the law also?
A: If we need the law also, then we cannot be complete in Christ. Christians, however, are sons and heirs of God, complete in Him, and no longer under the law’s guardianship.
Consequences of embracing the law
Interesting things happen to us when we abandon or reject faith in God and in His word alone. We gravitate to deception. Like Adam and Eve’s forbidden fruit, deception looks attractive and appeals to human pride and reason. It promises a knowledge of good and evil and makes us feel special, as if we have spiritual insight ordinary Christians don’t have. Deception, however, brings death.
On the other hand, the truth of God’s word reveals Christ and the faith found in Him. In fact, Jesus showed us the truth and power of God’s word as He obeyed and fulfilled it. Jesus did not engage in a discussion with the devil about what God said or what He meant. He simply submitted to God’s word and obeyed it, and Satan’s clever deceptions were exposed.
So, once more, who told you to keep the law? Who told you to keep the Sabbath, the sign of that covenant law Paul calls “the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone” (2 Cor. 3:7)?
It wasn’t God who told you. You can search the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find any place where God commanded Christians living in the new covenant of Jesus’ blood, to keep the law, the Ten Commandments, or the Sabbath.
Such a command isn’t there. Someone else told you to do those things. Someone else told you to abandon and reject living and walking solely and strictly by faith in Christ, compromising and negating faith by embracing old covenant law.
Sabbatarians, who wants you to reject walking by faith? Who wants you to think that walking by faith requires embracing the law?
Moreover, what is your response when confronted by those who wish to point you to Christ and total faith in Him only?
More often than we might want to admit, seventh-day Sabbatarians accuse those who preach the new covenant inaugurated by the shed blood of Jesus of being in league with and influenced by the devil. Yet Scripture is clear: it is the devil who wants to cause us to reject faith in God and in His Christ. His deceptions are subtle; any little compromise on the integrity of God’s word will do. Any illegitimate proof-texting or faulty application can set us on a track that leads far from salvation by faith in Christ alone.
There is no “thus saith the Lord” for clinging to the seventh-day Sabbath when one embraces Jesus who fulfilled the law. To be sure, there are many true believers in Christ who have endorsed a first-day “Christian Sabbath”, but this practice cannot be supported with the New Testament teaching of the new covenant. In fact, Scripture must be twisted in order to support sabbatarianism for the church, but if one claims to honor the law and breaks even one command ever so slightly, the law’s curse of death applies to him, for “all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law” (Rom. 2:12).
I appeal to Sabbatarians: believe God’s word. Clinging to the law, relying on the law, walking in law—these things only condemn. Paul says returning to law means we have been “severed from Christ” (Gal. 5:4). God’s word is true; it cannot fail, and His promises are sure. Jesus has fulfilled the law, and only in Him alone can we have life.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (Jn. 1:20).†
Copyright 2016 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Camp Verde, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised November 23, 2016. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org