Romans 5:12-21 presents an interesting contrast between Adam (through whom sin and death came into the world) and Christ (who conquered sin and death for the world). In a treatise on the resurrection body, Paul elaborates on the metaphor in I Corinthians 15:42-49, calling Christ the “last Adam.”
Pondering those thoughts in a Romans class that I co-teach with one of my elders (he was teaching last night), it dawned on me that there are even parallels in the temptation each faced, comparing Genesis 3:6 and Luke 4:1-13:
- Hunger: A basic human need and craving. Eve “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye.” The devil tempted Jesus – starving from a 40-day fast – to turn stones into bread. His response was to quote the first part of Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man does not live by bread alone,” which concludes in the original scripture, “… but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Jesus was fasting; a commitment that He had made which was undoubtedly accompanied by meditation and prayer in that lonely, desert place. God’s word was sustaining Him; providing the strength He needed in preparation to begin His ministry for His Father. You don’t interrupt a commitment to fast to satisfy a momentary hunger pang. And if you’re the Son of God, you don’t use the extraordinary abilities given to you to benefit yourself. And that’s the attraction to this temptation: Isn’t it natural to be hungry? Doesn’t God expect us to eat? Of course He does – but the health risks now faced by millions of overweight people in this country alone testify that He does not want us to supersatiate every appetite He has given us. Serving self costs.
- Ambition: Eve had been led by the tempter to believe that the fruit was the key to gaining wisdom and equality with God. The devil quoted scripture, a Messianic prophecy (Psalm 91:11-12) to entice Jesus into stepping off from a high place (Matthew 4:5 says it was the highest point on the temple) so that angels would bear Him up and prove His divinity to all. Jesus returns to the law in Deuteronomy 6:6 for His response, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” There is a way to be like God, even to reign with Him at some point: that Way is His Son. There is no other.
- Collusion: Eve drew her husband Adam into the temptation, compounding the charges with conspiracy: “… She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” The devil’s temptation of Jesus involved taking Him to a very high mountain (or “place,” as Matthew calls it) and showing Him “in an instant” all the kingdoms of the world. This, too, was a temptation to power used for self, but at a price: partnership with Satan himself. Collusion. Conspiracy. Again, Jesus quotes the law (Deuteronomy 6:13): “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
That’s really the heart of it, isn’t it? At the center of every temptation is the lie that we can serve self and still serve God. That lie denies self-sacrifice. It ignores Christ’s example. It says, “You shall not surely die.” It whispers, “You’re as important as God, aren’t you? Doesn’t He want the best for you? Didn’t He give up His Son for you?”
He did, of course. And He does want the best for us. It’s just that He sees what’s truly the best for us, and we see what we want and think it’s the best for us.
So we fall, as we have always fallen – all the way back to the first man, Adam.
But it’s not a bad posture, as long as we use it in worship to the last Man standing.