Righteousness, Revelation, and Election


I. The Temptations of Jesus – for the necessity of perfect human righteousness4:1-13

A. The Holy Spirit led him into this trial of satanic assault – The Holy Spirit was moving Jesus toward this initial trial of his public ministry ever since the incarnation; He was active the whole time of Jesus’ ministry from conception through resurrection and now has been sent to glorify Christ through convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. Mark says that the Spirit drove him into the wilderness; Matthew says that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. Note these examples of the Spirit’s involvement in the Life of Jesus.

  1. Luke 1:35 states that Jesus, in the reality of his true humanity, was conceived of the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, . . . The holy thing begotten [his humanity that came into being at that moment of conceiving, creative power] shall be called the Son of God [because that same conceived entity was one in person with the eternally begotten Son of God who was joined to this creation of the Spirit by the “power of the Most High” overshadowing Mary..
  2. A mark of Jesus’ Messiahship is that he baptizes with the Holy Spirit 3:16; in Acts 1 he told the disciples, “You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
  3. The Holy Spirit descended on him 3:22, marking him in a twofold manner- as one of the persons of the Trinity and as peculiarly begotten temporally of the Holy Spirit even while begotten eternally by the Father.
  4. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit 4:1; in his human nature he showed that perfect conformity to the guidance and empowerment by the Holy Spirit constituted his righteousness – “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living and true God?” (Hebrews 9:14).
  5. When he returned from his temptations, he returned in the power of the Holy Spirit (4:14).
  6. He was anointed by the Spirit in accordance with prophecy (4:18).

B. Satan knows who he is [cf 34, 41] – It is at the point of his humanity that Satan must attack Jesus; He must appeal to the weakness and subordination of his humanity to foil his redemptive work.

C. The temptations – These correspond to the appeal made to Eve (Genesis 3:6) and to the nature of the world as described by John (1 John 2:15-17).

  1. Satan’s schemes
  • He appealed to Jesus’ hunger to drive him to usurp the Father’s prerogative. Jesus was here to trust the Father for every need he had. If he could not endure the pain of hunger while pursuing the face of his Father, how might he shrink from the specter of crucifixion?
  • He appealed to his task of redemption of a fallen world; Satan indicated that he would relinquish his power over this world. The only power that he has is that of deceit and accusation. The world is under his dominion only because it is under the wrath of God and groaning under God’s having subjected it to vanity. It certainly is subservient to Satan, but only because of the punitive corruption of will and heart placed upon it by God himself, not because Satan has any individuated power to hold the world. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, not placate him by recognizing any legitimacy to his apparent dominance (Mark 1:24; Hebrews 2: 14, 15). John wrote, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3: 8).
  • He appealed to his sense of dependence on divine providence. Citing Psalm 91: 11-12, the devil sought to make a temptation out of a promise of God to sustain the person who made the Lord his fortress and confessed, “My God, in him I will trust.” About the Lord Jesus it could be said with infinite certainty, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1, 2). The “Most High” was indeed his eternal “dwelling place” (Psalm 91: 9). Would he who epitomized in his very existence the sustaining reality of divine love, now launch out to test if it is true? So aptly, Jesus dismissed the absurdity and consummate evil of the diabolical suggestion by saying “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
  1. Jesus’s clear perception of his purpose led him to see the evil point in each of the temptations.
  • His human life depends on the will and word of God, not bread cf. John 13:13-19; He is not to be overwhelmed with providing a physical need at the very point when he is constructing the righteousness by which his people will be justified. When one perceives the transcendent satisfaction of spiritual reality, the mere eating of bread seems insipid. cf Matthew 6:25-33; John 4:31-34
  • The task could be accomplished only if he worshipped and served his Father and continued in His will (Hebrews 10:4-10). Jesus did not come with the intent merely of establishing authority of ownership; that was his already. He came to create the reality of the redemption of sinners, to have a world in which his mercy operates without a surrender of justice, and a manifestation of perfect obedience prompted by unalloyed love was foundational to this purpose.
  • Deliverance comes in the course of following truth (cf. 28-30). Satan quoted from Psalm 91 verses 11, 12, but conveniently ignored the context. The Psalm does not have in view a foolhardy subjection of oneself to danger without cause, but the promise of protection from enemies that seek one’s harm and that seek to thwart one’s pursuit of the cause of God.


II. Jesus’s Claim to Messianic Status in his first message delivered in his home town. – Luke 4:16-30

A. Already there were several witnesses to the person of Jesus: Gabriel (1:16, 17, 31-33); an Angel (2:11); Simeon (2:30-32); John the Baptist (3:15-17); Now Jesus claims the Messianic prerogative in verse 21, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

B. As pointed out above, the narrative has emphasized the special activity of the Spirit in Jesus ministry (1:35, 41, 67, 2:25,26; 3:16, 22; 4:1, 14). Luke is showing that the special distinctive characteristic of the Messiah, the fullness of the Spirit, including the Spirit’s witness to Him, was on Jesus. This emphasis comes prior to Jesus pointing to this special reality as he announced that his ministry fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1, 2.

C. He committed his ministry to the full truthfulness of the revelation that had come through the prophets and assumed the task of the true authoritative interpretation. Verses16b-20a is an extended chiasmus.

(A) He stood up to read,

(B) The scroll was given to him

(C)  He unrolled the scroll

 [He reads the text from Isaiah 61]

(c) He rolled the scroll back up

(b) He returned it to the attendant.

(a) He sat down.

  1. He invoked Inspired literature [ note: “The book of the prophet Isaiah” from Isaiah 61].
  2. He claimed that his teaching and ministry fulfilled the prophecy (21). This he had been demonstrating. His teaching already was seen as unusually insightful and powerful. His claim of fulfillment would really have no significance unless the prophecy was given by God as a distinctive way in which the presence of the Messiah could be known.

III. Jesus’s Knowledge of Their Rejection

A. They are impressed with his teaching – 22 – Verse 15 already has indicated that the teaching of Jesus was quite phenomenal, “being glorified by all.”

B. Though their external an immediate response is one of marvel at the gracious words he spoke, they seemed incredulous that one of their own home town could possibly have such profundity. He knew that their well-speaking was superficial and so he immediately begins to give them hard doctrine to reveal that they are covered with the spirit of entitlement, self-righteousness, and hostility to truth. He chastises them for their skeptical, probationary attitude – 23, 24

C. He shows them that sovereign mercy may just as easily be given to the Gentiles as to the Jews;

  1. He reminded them of the story of Elijah and the Widow in 1 Kings 17:8-24. This was obviously not a Jewish widow, but probably a Canaanite. God’s mercy even then extended beyond the scope of Israel.
  2. So it was with Elisha and Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-19 – Naaman was a hated Syrian, a man of power and danger to Israel, yet the disease of ostracism and uncleanness, leprosy, was removed from him by special instruction from Yahweh’s prophet.
  3. We find other references to Elijah/Elisha in Luke 7:11-17; 9:52-55, 61, 62.


IV. So soon after being amazed and celebratory of Jesus’ confident clarity and power in teaching the Scripture, we find that the offense of the truth has led to an aggressive anger from the people making it necessary for Jesus to escape (28-30). His true humanity, the physical reality of the opposition, the necessity of his using fitting means for arriving at his appointed day of giving himself up, his approval of avoiding danger when necessary (Matthew 2: 13-15, 22, 23; Acts 9: 23-25; 29, 30).

A. Was it because of his emphasis on the Gentiles? Jesus had used examples of distinctive mercies of God that were given to non-Jews during times when severe judgment loomed over the heads of the Jews.

B. Was it because of the history of the Jewish rejection of true prophets (cf Mt 23:29-39)? Though Jesus was conscious of this, he had only referred to it obliquely when he mentioned that a prophet’s hometown did not honor the prophet.

C. Was it because of the particularity of God’s sovereignty and that His grace went beyond the parameters of Judaism? (Compare Paul’s argument in Romans 9:6-8, 21-24, 30-33). Jesus did not seek to go gently by glossing over the reality of God’s electing purpose and prerogative. This was the doctrine that would reveal the people’s true spiritual state. It would show if they were submissive to divine justice or if they were unreconciled to their absolute dependence on grace. People that impugn the fairness of God when he maintains the control of his own grace and gives it to whomever he wills have not entered into the real nature of sin.

D. Was the escape a lack of resolve on the part of the people, the disarming confidence and complete lack of fear on the part of Jesus, or a supernatural escape (cf. John 7:1, 45, 46; 10:39; John 11:53, 54; 18:6)? Jesus’ time was not yet come. He yet had to fulfill all righteousness.


V. Jesus, leaving Nazareth and going to Capernaum, begins the palpable demonstration that he fulfills the prophecies (cf. 7:21-23; See also Matthew 4:12-25).

A. He gives authoritative teaching.

B. He manifests authority over the oppressive force of demons, having already overcome the series of temptations from Satan himself in the wilderness.

C. He shows his power of creation and his intent to remove the curse of sin by his authority over all kinds of physical ailments.

D. Even as impressive as all these wonderful manifestations were, His preaching was deemed by himself as superior to all of these 42-44: “I must preach the kingdom of God, for I was sent for this purpose.” Jesus preached the kingdom, a message that included his rejection, death and resurrection, and he was in himself the essence of the kingdom as the way, the truth, the life, the way to the Father, the resurrection, and the life.


VI. Observations and Application

A. Luke shows that Jesus was certain of his Messiahship from the start (cf 2:48, 49).

B. Jesus is aware that his rejection by the Jews will lead to His death. He knows that it will happen, when it is supposed to happen, the circumstances necessarily surrounding it, its purpose, and its eternally significant outcome.

C. Jesus has defined his messiahship in terms of gospel grace: forgiveness, redemption, opening blind spiritual eyes; perhaps these are the “words of Grace” of verse 22.

D. Jesus does not mistake their initial reaction for true belief (cf John 2:23-25).

E. Teachers should not be afraid to show that God’s redemptive plan goes far beyond our purely national interest. God’s covenant of redemptive grace is not aimed at saving America per se, or Canada, per se, or England, per se or any other individual political unit but at redeeming his people out of every tongue and tribe, and people. For his own glory and by his wise decree, God is saving his own people.

F. Teachers should see the truth of election in Jesus’ emphasis.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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