“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘’He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:5-6).
Did Satan know Jesus was the Son of God? My answer is, “Yes, he knew.” This was simply a test. Jesus would either pass it or fail.
Second, Satan knew scripture. Have you ever noticed that an atheist may quote scripture just as well or better than some Christians? Even the father of lies has that ability. Truth may come from the strangest sources, but that doesn’t negate that truth. Even the quote by Satan was truth and you and I must accept it as such. However, Satan’s motive for using that truth is in question.
Do you remember what Paul said about those who wanted to hurt him through their preaching?
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” (Philip. 1:15-18).
Some are bent out of shape if someone prints an article by one who is considered a “false” teacher. Yet, the article may be truth. There is no error contained within it. The lesson is needed. Those same brethren will read and quote Satan’s message to Jesus in their class lessons and from the pulpit without a second thought. Are they aligning themselves with Satan’s lies because they broadcast the truth spoken by the devil? When a preacher quotes something from Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, does that mean they agree with the author on everything he has written?
Third, Satan had faith! Yes he did. First, he believed Jesus was the Son of God or he would not have tempted him. Second, he believed the passage he quoted. He believed the angels would protect Jesus if he threw himself off the temple. However, his motive for that request was wrong and Jesus knew it.
Satan’s sin sometimes becomes ours. How?
- A preacher is hurt by a member, so he uses the pulpit and scripture to strike back.
- He becomes jealous over another minister’s success, so he finds fault with that brother’s actions and justifies his own with book, chapter and verse.
- A brother has little or no assurance of his salvation, so he condemns those who have it to feel better about his insecurity.
- A brother feels superior over another because he can quote fifty passages in a sermon as compared to another who only refers to two or three verses in his.
When we preach or teach with the wrong motive, we may speak truth, but our hearts are in fellowship with Satan. We can all learn a lesson from Paul. In spite of the “trouble” that some stirred up against him by preaching “Christ out of selfish ambitions, not sincerely,” he rejoiced that they were preaching Christ. Ouch! That can be a hard lesson to swallow, even for this writer.