He Himself has Suffered when Tempted

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Last Sunday we considered the sympathy of Jesus our High Priest. The author of Hebrews states, “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18). Specifically, the temptation for which He helps us is the temptation to move away from a faithful commitment to Jesus as Lord, which is what the readers of this epistle were experiencing.

But in what way was Jesus tempted? Christ was tempted to avoid the suffering appointed for Him as our High Priest and sacrifice. Does this “temptation” of Christ imply anything unholy or sinful about Jesus? Hebrews would deny this for the author states later in chapter 4 that He was tempted like us, yet “without sin.” This temptation did not arise from a sinful heart  for Jesus does not share this aspect of our nature (Rom. 8:3). To drive this point home I briefly quoted Geerhardus Vos and made mention that I would post the entire paragraph.

You will find it below. It comes from a chapter on the Priesthood of Christ in Hebrews in his work entitled “Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation.”

“We are now able… to answer the questions… concerning the temptations, the sufferings, the sympathy and the perfecting of the Savior. Wherever the Epistle speaks of temptations of Christ, it always means to refer concretely and specifically to the temptations that arose from His call to suffer. Of temptations in general it never speaks in connection with Jesus. In thus doing it limits the sphere of the Savior’s temptations to that class of experiences wherein a real appeal to His feelings and desires was possible, and yet the mere presence and force of such an appeal could not endanger His sinlessness. For the inclination to escape from suffering, which made the temptation a real one, is in itself a natural, innocent inclination. It could assert itself in the Savior’s heart and require a positive choice of the will to overbear it and keep it down, without depending for its power on the presence of evil.”

While I found Vos helpful in understanding the temptation spoken of in Hebrews 2:18, I look forward to seeing if his point holds up when carefully examining what is meant in chapter 4:15 –

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Until then, let’s remember He loves us and is willing to lay hold of us with His grace at any moment.

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