Ps. 32:1-7; Genesis 3:1-21; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Obedience, For by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous (v. 19).
St. Paul teaches God’s “great reversal” in Christ; restoring man’s heart from its natural condition of enthusiasm, to divine knowledge grounded in God’s Word alone.
Last Sunday St. Peter warned, “no prophesy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophesy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20b, 21). Peter is refering to both his and our natures for “enthusiasm” toward God’s word.
You rightly gather that being a religious “enthusiast” is not a good thing. To put a fine point on the matter, the core of M. Luther’s charge against Rome was in being purveyor of papal enthusiasm over Scripture in the church.
Religious enthusiasm has nothing to do with inspirited energy driven by God’s word and sacraments. A religious enthusiast is one or a denomination that engages God’s word through the lens of man’s fallen reason, emotion, and extra biblical light.
But Christ is the incarnate word in his creation, so that Scripture is directed to him in christological self-interpretation for comprehending God’s revelation; thus, the church’s confession, “Sola Scriptura”.
In the beginning God’s word was delivered to the woman by Adam. But Satan insinuated a different word for her; of god-likeness by “knowledge of good and evil”. God “knows” evil’s intent, the destruction of his “good” creation, but evil is not of his character. On the other hand, for mankind to know evil necessitates participation in it, and so its consequences; in short, rebellion against the only good and true God.
The woman’s enthusiasm for Satan’s interpretation of God’s word caused Adam and the woman to fall. Observe the progression; when Satan questioned the woman about Adam’s teaching of a dietary regulation, she gave a correct account; but then included a spiritual hedge around the word, adding they were not to “touch the tree”, lest they die. By this zealous piety the woman expressed doubt of the sufficiency of God’s word alone.
Having insinuated doubt, Satan became less subtle; urging the woman to entirely reject God’s truthfulness, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4b). Now she would put her trust not in God’s word alone but through the lusting of her “lying eyes” seeing the forbidden fruit as good for food and wisdom.
Satan offered the woman what was not his to bestow, the right of mankind to establish their own standards of right and wrong; good and evil according to their own lights. The woman need only partake in the delight of her eyes to confirm an enthusiastic rule over God’s word.
The woman explained to her husband Satan’s interpretation of God’s command; and it made sense. In concurrence Adam surrendered his proper authority through God’s word and at the same time failed the prime metric of sonship; filial trust and obedience in Father-son relations.
Knowledge of evil separates man from God’s goodness, precluding us from being “image and likeness of God”. Knowing evil is no more complicated than, God is Creator and his creatures are not; separating us from God as sole source of Life and negation of true knowledge of the only good God (Mk. 10:18).
The Ten Commandments reflect God’s character (3rd use); thus, murder is forbidden men. Consider Jesus’ explanation that departing from his word results in a change of patrimony. There is one who is a murderer by nature, who in malice aforethought desires, not life, but death of the creation;
Jesus said to departing Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning… When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44).
Ash Wednesday the church applied ashes to your forehead providing a verbal, visual, and tactile reminder of death’s separation, of Scripture’s truth, “remember, for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19c).
But there is a knowledge of good, that is not of our sin nature; the knowledge of grace that trumps our participation in knowing evil. Jesus prays for grace, “And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3).
True knowledge of God is paramount if we are to avoid eternal destruction. Of our fallen nature there is nothing good, only murderous hearts and lying tongues. Knowledge of God must graciously come from outside us; a knowledge of him who comes out of heaven, the man Jesus Christ; who is the Word, Speech, Thought, and Conversation of God revealed last Sunday at his Transfiguration.
If in the Garden, Adam and Eve were first religious enthusiasts; then St. Peter was premiere “Christian enthusiast”. On the mountain, Peter gratuitously injected his personal piety into heaven’s conversation, offering tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah that heaven’s glory in his midst might be extended.
Six days earlier Peter’s enthusiasm was exhibited when confessing Jesus, “the Christ and Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). Jesus acknowledged this revelation was of the Father; but then informed that his Sonship necessitated another glory, submitting to crucifixion. At this Peter remonstrated against Jesus’ word.
Again, ignorance that puts man’s personal reason, emotion, and insight at odds with God’s word defines religious enthusiasm. On the mountain the Father halted Peter’s pious insertion into heaven’s conversation, reiterating “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17b; 17:5b).
Jesus’ obedient sonship at the cross is precisely the knowledge of God’s “glory” by which all men grasp their salvation. The Father emphatically commanded the apostolic three, “listen to him” (17:5c).
Later, after the Resurrection, Peter would reflect on the dangers of religious enthusiasm, “[W]e have something more sure [than a Mountain vision], the prophetic word…knowing this first of all, that no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:19, 20).
Today, with Peter, James, and John we have descended from Transfiguration on way to the beginning of another glory, Jesus’ crucifixion. At the cross Jesus became the place of God’s tabernacle with men. In his crucified flesh, repentant men locate sin’s death for our life united with the living God and new knowledge of goodness by grace; ironically through Satan’s murderous evil.
In today’s Gospel, the HS led Jesus into the wilderness to recapitulate the temptations of Adam and Eve and Israel’s failed fast in the wilderness. Weakened, yet steadfast in God’s word alone, Jesus proved true Son in our place. Jesus was tempted to sate his hunger, turning stone to bread. Jesus responded with Scripture alone, “It is written…”(Mt. 4:4a).
Jesus believed God’s word, knowinghimself both “Beloved” and “Son of God”, abided in faith to the point of the Father’s abandon of him for bearing the sin of the world. Like Isaac’s binding in faith, Jesus trusted “God… of the living” (Lk. 20:38) for Life in the Resurrection.
Finally, Satan in exchange for Jesus’ worship, offered him worldly “glory”, not his to give any more than the woman could obtain knowledge of good and evil apart from death.
In Christ the church possesses the word of God in truth. We proclaim the glory of Christ crucified by our Baptisms. By gifted faith we reject personal enlightenment urging glory apart from the cross.
Christ crucified, is alone revelatory of Life’s source and knowledge of the only good God in whom we tabernacle for worship in Spirit and Truth. In Christ’s sacramental flesh, the HS instructs of every true understanding of God’s word for saving faith. Amen.