"Jesus hurls great chunks of God's Word at Satan in the wilderness--insurmountable words of resistance: 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" --Sinclair Ferguson, "The Word Is Truth," Ligonier Leadership Conference
During His temptation in the wilderness nothing less than the messianic kingship of God's anointed was at stake. We see this especially with respect to the temptation involving "all the kingdoms of the world" (Matt. 4:8). Who was the real prince? Jesus or Satan? Ultimately at stake, then, was victory over Satan's kingdom by the kingdom of God. This victory, however, was not to take place by raw power alone, for the Messiah's obedience to His Father (and thus His Father's Word) was to be its primary feature. Jesus was not to gain all authority over heaven and earth in a capricious or violent manner (the only kind of authority Satan knew how to wield). Rather, He would have to obtain the authority Satan offered Him in the wilderness only in the way ordained by God.
This, Jesus did not by saying, as Dr. Ferguson quipped, "I am the Son of God, get out of my face." Rather, He submits His whole life to God's Word, because He understands that every part of it comes from the mouth of God (and thus contains both the power and presence of the Almighty), in order that He may live for God's glory.
Living for the glory of God, at least according to Jesus, is hardly associated with what we often think of when we think of "glory." But consider what Saint Paul means when he writes of the obedience of the Messiah as it pertains to glory in Philippians 2:5-11 and Romans 5:12-21 (and he expects us, in a certain sense, to follow suit). In Philippians, Jesus is the one who humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on a cross (2:8), and in Romans Jesus is the one whose obedience makes the many righteous (5:19). In contrast to the first Adam, this last Adam perfectly obeyed God's will, and in so doing, undid the disobedience of the first one, thereby defeating sin and death and bearing the curses of the covenant on His people's behalf. And this victory was already underway by the time Jesus had rejected Satan's temptations in the wilderness, the event that shows how seriously the Christ handled the Scriptures as the truth, the Bread of Life, come to us from the living God. "Standing in this tradition," Dr. Ferguson says, "we stand not simply in the apostolic tradition but in the Trinitarian tradition," where the Creator creates through the Word, and where that Word comes in the flesh, and where that Word is efficaciously applied by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of all those whom God has graciously called.
Chris Donato is senior associate editor of Tabletalk magazine.