Mondays with Manton: Christ's Temptation (2)
Apr 4, 2016
This week we want to continue through Thomas Manton's (1620–1677) "Christ's Temptation and Transfiguration Practically Explained and Improved in Several Sermons” (Works 1, 258–336).
Sermon 2 treats Matthew 4:2–4. As with sermon 1, Manton follows the classic Puritan plain style of preaching, opening with the basic scope of the text, structuring his sermon along the lines of the text itself, deriving doctrines, and offering uses of those doctrines for his hearers' souls' sake.
Under the heading, "The Occasion," Manton delves into the depths of catholic Christology in dealing with Christ's forty days and nights of fasting. This aspect of his work reveals his true humanity, since Christ "submitted to all our sinless infirmities." Note well: Manton speaks of Christ's partaking of our sinless infirmities as something he did in the past in his state of humiliation and not a present reality in his state of exaltation (see Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A 39 & 48 as compared with Q&A 52). The temptation also reveals his divinity, since it "enabled him to continue . . . without eating or drinking anything" (Works 1, 267). Here Manton shows us how preachers can preach the intricacies of Chalcedonian Christology all the while doing so in a way that is understandable and experiential to our people. Not only this, Manton shows us that it is necessary to know our theology and to preach that theology when it arises from the text.
Under the heading, "The Temptation Itself," Manton exposits the devious ways of Satan so well. But while he is doing so, his purpose is to highlight the true sufferings of our Savior as well as our need to be on guard for his wiles. For example, Manton gives a general proverbial statement concerning the Devil's work in tempting Christ when he was hungry: "Satan fits his temptations to men's present case and condition" (Works 1, 268). One of the wonderful things Manton points out is that this temptation of Satan was intended "to weaken his [Christ's] confidence in the care and love of God's fatherly providence" (Works 1, 270). We don't think enough of the fact that as our truly human elder brother, Jesus needed to trust in the Lord. In doing so, he lays a foundation for our doing so as well because we are united to him!
Under the heading, "Christ's Answer," Manton may sound moralistic to our overly-sensitive biblical-theological/redemptive-historical ears, when he speaks of Christ's answering Satan with Scripture: "This answer is not given for the tempter's sake, but ours, that we may know how to answer in like cases, and repel such kind of temptations" (Works 1, 272). In our modern context, I would ask those so on guard for "moralism," is it not the point of the Reformed biblical-theological movement that because of our union with Christ we live out of Christ? If Christ answered the Devil with Scripture, we who are in union with him need to do as he did: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).
In conclusion, Manton offers five "observations" from the text that relect on the theological and practical reality of Christ's temptation for us. If you've never read Manton, you need to because this is where he is so, so good. He exposits the text and he applies the text.
- "God may leave his children and servants to great straits" (Works 1, 273).
- "The devil maketh an advantage of our necessities" in order to tempt us "to unlawful means to satisfy our hunger . . . to question our adoption . . . to draw us to a diffidence and distrust of God's providence" (Works 1, 273–274). "
- In tempting, Satan pretendeth to help the tempted party to a better condition" (Works 1, 274–275).
- "Satan's first temptations are more plausible," meaning, he tempts us with little things that don't sound so bad at first (Works 1, 275).
- "There is no way to defeat Satan's temptations but by a sound belief of God's all-sufficiency, and the nothingness of the creature" (Works 1, 275).