Mondays with Manton: Christ's Temptation (4)

Continuing through the neglected Puritan Thomas Manton's (1620–1677) "Christ's Temptation and Transfiguration Practically Explained and Improved in Several Sermons” (Works 1:258–336), we come to sermon 4, which deals with Matthew 4:7  (click here for sermon 1sermon 2, and sermon 3).

This text is Jesus' response to Satan's second temptation to jump off the temple. To this Jesus replied, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." Manton stated several opening observations. One was the fact that Jesus answered was for the sake of the devil's being convinced that Jesus wasn't ignorant of what was going on but especially "to instruct us what to do in the renewed assaults of the devil, to keep up our resistance still, not letting go our sure hold, which are the scriptures" (1:286). This is so important for us. Even though Satan abuses Scripture through the mouths of so many so-called voices of the Lord in our world, "nothing is more profitable to disolve doubts and objections raised from scripture, than to compare one scripture with another" (1:287). In other words, just because some falsely use Scripture does not mean it is not authentically the Word of God.

Manton then went on to state the doctrine of the text is that to tempt God is a great and heinous sin. He then dealt with how we can tempt each person of the Holy Trinity. I want to focus on what he said about Jesus Christ. After the ascension in his state of glory, we can tempt him as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10. Our forefathers tempted the pre-incarnate Christ under the figure of the angel of the Lord (1:289). Here Manton's Christology and covenantal reading of Scripture is on display. And just as the Israelites were united to him to come we are united to Jesus who has come; and just as they tempted him in the wilderness so too we do "when we disobey his laws, question his authority, doubt of his promises...grow weary of his religion, loathing spiritual manna, and begin to be glutted with the gospel, and are discouraged in the way to our heavenly Canaan, whither we are travelling" (1:289). There's some serious application in that list for you and I. Especially those of us in congregations so well fed with gospel preaching and ministry, we can tempt Christ by being spiritual gluttons. We hear the gospel week in and week out, we have study Bibles galore, we read solid books (and blogs!), we have Christian institutions of learning, we have Christian radio and podcasts, and the list goes on and on. At times we are like sponges, soaking up water until saturated. But what happens to a saturated sponge that sits too long? It begins to stink.

Be a believer who is satisfied with Christ's Word and is regularly squeezed out to be useful to others!