Temptation’s Threefold Nature

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).

Satan was so successful with his first temptation when he persuaded Adam and Eve to rebel against God’s word in the Garden of Eden, that he has been using the same technique ever since. By this threefold temptation, he appeals to body, soul, and spirit. He first appeals to whatever fleshly appetites a person may have (“good for food”), then to his emotional responses (“pleasant to the eyes”), and finally to his spiritual pride (“make one wise”).

John later would call these desires “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (I John 2:16). James identifies them as “earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15).

Satan even brought the same three temptations to bear on Christ Himself in the wilderness: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:3). That is, “satisfy your physical hunger.” “Cast thyself down” from the pinnacle of the temple, thus enjoying the exhilarating feeling of being borne up by angels (Matthew 4:5,6). “All these things will I give thee,” without your going to the cross (Matthew 4:9), Satan taunted.

Christ, however, stood the test, in each case citing an appropriate verse of Scripture to gain the victory. Now, when we are tempted, we can draw on His strength, and follow His example. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him” (James 1:12). God “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13). HMM

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