Almighty God says, “Regarding the holiness of God’s substance, last time we fellowshiped a bit about it and that served as inspiration for people’s knowledge of God’s holiness, but it is not enough. It cannot sufficiently help people fully know God’s holiness, nor can it sufficiently help them understand that God’s holiness is unique. Furthermore, it cannot sufficiently allow people to understand the aspect of the true meaning of holiness as it is completely embodied in God. Therefore, it is necessary that we continue our fellowship in this subject. Last time our fellowship discussed three topics, so we should now discuss the fourth, and we will begin reading the scriptures.
The Temptation of Satan
Mat 4:1–4 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
These are the words with which the devil first tried to tempt the Lord Jesus. What is the content of what the devil said? (“If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”) The devil said these words, which were quite simple, but is there a problem with the essential content of these words? (Yes.) What is the problem? It said, “If you be the Son of God,” but in its heart, did it know that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God? Did it know that He was Christ? (Yes.) Then why did it say “If you be”? (It was trying to tempt God.) Of course, it was trying to tempt God, but what was its purpose in doing so? It said, “If you be the Son of God.” In its heart it knew the Lord Jesus Christwas the Son of God, this was very clear in its heart, but despite this, did it submit to Him or did it worship Him? (No.) What did it want to do? It wanted to do this and say these words to make the Lord Jesus angry and then entice Him to take the bait, and to fool the Lord Jesus into doing things according to its way of thinking and rising to its hook. Isn’t this what was meant? In Satan’s heart it clearly knew this was the Lord Jesus Christ, but it still said this anyway. Isn’t this Satan’s nature? What is Satan’s nature? (To be sly, evil, and have no reverence for God.) It has no reverence for God. What is the negative thing it was doing here? Didn’t it want to attack God? It wanted to use this method to attack God, it said: “If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread”; isn’t this Satan’s evil intention? (Yes.) What was it really trying to do? Its purpose is very clear: It was trying to use this method to refute the position and identity of the Lord Jesus Christ. It said, “If You are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread. If You don’t, then You aren’t the Son of God and You just don’t do this work.” Is this what was meant here? It wanted to use this method to attack God, it wanted to dismantle and destroy God’s work; this is the malevolence of Satan. Its malevolence is a natural expression of its nature. Even though it knew the Lord Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the very incarnation of God Himself, it could not help itself but do this kind of thing, tailing God from behind and continuing to attack Him and take great pains to disturb and destroy God’s work.
Now, let us analyze this phrase that Satan used: “command that these stones be made bread.” To turn stones into bread — does this mean anything? If there is food, why not eat it? Why is it necessary to turn stones into food? Is there meaning here? (No.) Although He was fasting at the time, surely the Lord Jesus had food to eat? Did He have food? (He did.) So, here, we see the absurdity and preposterousness of Satan’s use of this phrase. Satan does a number of things; you see its insidious and malicious nature and you see it destroy God’s work, and it’s so hateful and exasperating. But, on the other hand, do you find a childish, absurd nature behind its words and actions? (Yes.) This is a revelation about Satan’s nature; it has this kind of nature and it will do this kind of thing. To people today, the phrase is preposterous and laughable. But such words can indeed be uttered by Satan. Can we say that it is ignorant? Absurd? Satan’s evil is everywhere and is constantly being revealed. And how does the Lord Jesus answer it? (“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”) Do these words have any power? (They do.) Why do we say that they have power? (They are the truth.) Right. These words are the truth. Now, does man live by bread alone? The Lord Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights. Did He starve to death? (No.) He didn’t starve to death, so Satan approached Him, prompting Him to turn the stones into food by saying things of this sort: “If You turn the stones into food, won’t You then have things to eat? Won’t You then not have to fast, not have to go hungry?” But the Lord Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” which means that, although man lives in a physical body, what gives him life, what allows his physical body to live and breathe, is not food, but all the words uttered by the mouth of God. On the one hand, man regards these words as truth. The words give him faith, make him feel that he can depend on God, that God is truth. On the other hand, is there a practical aspect to these words? (There is.) Why? Because the Lord Jesus has fasted for 40 days and nights and He is still standing there, still alive. Is this not an illustration? He has not eaten anything, any food for 40 days and nights. He is still alive. This is the powerful evidence behind His phrase. The phrase is simple, but, as far as the Lord Jesus is concerned, was this phrase from His heart taught to Him by someone else, or did He think of it only because of what Satan had said to Him? Think about it. To put it in another way, God is truth, and God is life, but was God’s truth and life a late add-on? Was it born of experience? (No.) No, it is innate in God, meaning that truth and life is God’s substance. Whatever befalls Him, what He reveals is truth. This truth, this phrase — whether its content is long or short — it can let man live, give him life; it can enable man to find, within itself, truth, clarity about the path of human life, and enable him to have faith in God. In other words, the source of God’s use of this phrase is positive. So can we say this positive thing is holy? (Yes.) Satan’s phrase comes from Satan’s nature. Satan reveals its evil nature, its malicious nature, everywhere, constantly. Now, these revelations, does Satan make them naturally? (Yes.) Does anyone incite it? Does anyone help it? Does anyone coerce it? (No.) It issues them all of its own accord. This is Satan’s evil nature. Whatever God does and however He does it, Satan follows on His heels. The substance and the true features of these things that Satan says and does are Satan’s substance — evil substance, malicious substance. Now, reading on, what else does Satan say? Let’s carry on reading below.
Mat 4:5–7 Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple, And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
Let’s first talk about this phrase of Satan. It said, “If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down,” and then it quoted from the Scriptures, “He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.” How do you feel when you hear Satan’s words? Aren’t they very childish? They are childish, preposterous, and disgusting. Why would I say this? Satan is always up to something foolish, it believes itself to be very smart; and it often quotes the scriptures — even the very word of God — it tries to turn these words against God to attack Him and to tempt Him. Its purpose in doing this is to destroy the plan of God’s work. Nonetheless, do you notice anything in what Satan said? (There are evil intentions in it.) Satan has always been a tempter; it doesn’t speak straightforwardly, it speaks in a roundabout way using temptation, beguilement, and seduction. Satan tempts both God and man alike: It thinks that God and man are both so ignorant, foolish, and unable to clearly distinguish things as they are. Satan thinks that God and man alike won’t see through to its substance and that God and man alike won’t see through its deceit and sinister intent. Isn’t this where Satan gets its foolishness? Furthermore, Satan overtly quotes the scriptures; it thinks that doing so lends it credibility, and that you won’t be able to pick out any flaws in this or avoid being fooled by this. Isn’t this where Satan is being absurd and childish? (Yes.) This is just like when some people spread the gospel and bear witness to God, won’t non-believers say something similar to what Satan said? Have you heard people say something similar? (Yes.) How do you feel when you hear things like that? Do you feel disgusted? (Yes.) When you feel disgusted, do you also feel repulsed and revolted? (Yes.) When you have these feelings are you able to recognize that Satan and the corrupt disposition Satan works into man are wicked? In your hearts do you ever have a realization like, “God never speaks like that. Satan’s words bring attacks and temptation, its words are absurd, laughable, childish, and disgusting. However, in the speech of God and the actions of God, He would never use methods like this to speak or perform His work, and He has never done so”? Of course, in this situation people only have a modicum of feeling to go on and they do not have a realization of God’s holiness, right? With your current stature, you are merely feeling this: “Everything God says is the truth, it is beneficial to us, and we must accept it”; regardless of whether you are able to accept this or not, without exception you say that God’s word is truth and that God is truth, but you don’t know that truth is holiness in itself and that God is holy.
So, what was the Lord Jesus’ response to Satan’s words? (Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.) Is there truth in this phrase that the Lord Jesus said? (Yes.) There is truth in it. On the surface it seems like a commandment for people to follow, it is a very simple phrase, but it is one that both man and Satan have often violated. So, the Lord Jesus said to it, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God,” because this is what Satan often did and it made every effort to do so, you could even say that Satan shamelessly did so. It is Satan’s essential nature to not be in fear of God and not have reverence for God in its heart. So even when Satan was beside God and could see Him, Satan couldn’t help itself but tempt God. Therefore, the Lord Jesus said to Satan, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” This is a phrase that God has often said to Satan. Isn’t it appropriate to use this phrase even today? (Yes.) Why? (Because we also often tempt God.) People often tempt God, but why do people often do so? Is it because people are full of corrupt satanic disposition? (Yes.) So is what Satan said above something people often say? (Yes.) In what situations? One could say that people have been saying things like this irrespective of time and place. This proves that the disposition of people is exactly the same as the corrupt disposition of Satan. The Lord Jesus said a simple phrase, one that represents truth and one that people need. However, in this situation was the Lord Jesus arguing with Satan? Was there anything confrontational in what He said to Satan? (No.) How did the Lord Jesus view Satan’s temptation in His heart? Did He feel disgusted and repulsed? (Yes.) The Lord Jesus felt repulsed and disgusted but He did not argue with Satan, much less did He speak about any grand principles, isn’t that right? (Yes.) Why is that? (The Lord Jesus did not wish to acknowledge Satan.) Why didn’t He wish to acknowledge Satan? (Because Satan is always like this, it can never change.) Could we say that Satan is unreasonable? (Yes, we could.) Can Satan recognize that God is truth? Satan will never recognize that God is truth and never admit that God is truth; this is its nature. Furthermore, there is something else about Satan’s nature that is repulsive, what is it? In its attempts to tempt the Lord Jesus, Satan thought that even if it tempted God and it would not succeed, it would still try it anyway. Even though it would be punished, it would do it anyway. Even though it would get nothing good out of doing so, it would do it anyway, and persist and stand against God to the very end. What sort of nature is this? Isn’t that evil? (Yes.) He who gets infuriated when God is mentioned, have they seen God? He who gets angry when God is mentioned, do they know God? He does not know who God is, does not believe in Him, and God has not spoken to him. God has never disturbed him, so why would he be angry? Could we say that this person is evil? Would this be someone with an evil nature? Whatever trends are happening in the world, whether it is fun, food, famous people, beautiful people, none of these would bother them, but one mention of the word “God” and they get upset; wouldn’t this be an example of an evil nature? This serves as satisfactory proof of man’s evil nature. Now, speaking for yourselves, are there times when truth is mentioned, or when God’s tests for mankind are brought up or when God’s words of judgment against man are mentioned, and you feel annoyed, repulsed, and you don’t want to hear about it? Your heart may think: How is this truth? Didn’t people all say that God is truth? This isn’t truth, this is clearly just God’s words of admonishment toward man! Some people might even feel disgusted in their hearts: This is brought up every day, His tests for us are always mentioned as is His judgment; when’s all this going to end? When will we receive the good destination? It isn’t known where this unreasonable anger comes from. What sort of nature is this? (Evil nature.) It is prompted by the evil nature of Satan. As for God in regard to the evil nature of Satan and the corrupt disposition of man, He never argues or bickers with people, and He never makes a fuss when people act out of ignorance. You will not see God hold similar views on things that people have, and moreover you will not see Him use men’s viewpoints, their knowledge, their science or their philosophy or man’s imagination to handle things. Instead, everything God does and everything He reveals is connected to truth. That is, every word He has said and every action He has taken concerns the truth. This truth and these words are not some baseless fantasy, but rather they are expressed by God due to God’s substance and His life. Because these words and the substance of everything God has done are truth, we can say that God’s substance is holy. In other words, everything God says and does brings vitality and light to people; it allows people to see positive things and the reality of those positive things, and allows them to walk the right path. These things are determined because of God’s substance and they are determined due to the substance of His holiness. You have seen it, right? We will continue with a reading of the scriptures.
Mat 4:8–11 Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me. Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
Satan, the devil, having failed at its previous two tricks, tried yet another: It showed all the kingdoms in the world and the glory of them to the Lord Jesus and asked Him to worship the devil. What do you see about the true features of the devil from this situation? Isn’t Satan the devil absolutely shameless? (Yes.) How shameless can it be? Everything was created by God, yet Satan turns it around and shows it to God saying, “Look at the wealth and glory of all of these kingdoms. If You worship me I’ll give them all to You.” Isn’t this a role reversal? Isn’t Satan shameless? God made everything, but was it for His enjoyment? God gave everything to mankind, but Satan wanted to seize it all and afterward it said, “Worship me! Worship me and I’ll give this all to You.” This is the ugly face of Satan; it is absolutely shameless, right? Satan doesn’t even know the meaning of the word “shame,” and this is just another example of its evil. It doesn’t even know what shame is. Satan clearly knows that God created everything and that He manages it and has dominion over it. Everything belongs to God, not to man, much less to Satan, yet Satan the devil brazenly said that it would give everything to God. Isn’t Satan once again doing something absurd and shameless? God hates Satan even more now, right? Yet no matter what Satan tried to do, did the Lord Jesus fall for it? (No.) What did the Lord Jesus say? (“You shall worship the Lord your God.”) Does this phrase have a practical meaning? (Yes.) What sort of practical meaning? We see Satan’s evil and shamelessness in its speech. So if man worshiped Satan, what would the conclusion be? Would they receive the wealth and glory of all of the kingdoms? (No.) What would they receive? Would mankind become just as shameless and laughable as Satan? (Yes.) They would be no different from Satan then. Therefore, the Lord Jesus said this phrase which is important for each and every person: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve,” which states that except for the Lord, except for God Himself, if you serve another, if you worship Satan the devil, then you wallow in the same filth as Satan. You would then share Satan’s shamelessness and its evil, and just like Satan you would tempt God and attack God. Then what would your end be? You would be loathed by God, struck down by God, and destroyed by God, isn’t that right? After Satan had tempted the Lord Jesus several times without success, did it try again? Satan did not try again and then it left. What does this prove? It proves that Satan’s evil nature, its malice, and its absurdity and preposterousness is not worth a mention before God. The Lord Jesus defeated Satan in only three sentences, after which it scurried away with its tail between its legs, too ashamed to show its face again, and it never tempted the Lord Jesus again. Since the Lord Jesus had defeated this temptation of Satan, He could now easily continue the work that He had to do and assume the tasks that lay before Him. Does everything that the Lord Jesus said and did in this situation carry some practical meaning for everyone if it is applied now? (Yes.) What sort of practical meaning? Is defeating Satan an easy thing to do? (No.) What would it be then? Must people have a clear understanding of Satan’s evil nature? Must people have an accurate understanding of Satan’s temptations? (Yes.) If you ever experience Satan’s temptations in your own life, and if you are able to see through to Satan’s evil nature, will you be able to defeat it? If you know about Satan’s absurdity and preposterousness, would you still stand by Satan and attack God? (No, we wouldn’t.) If you understand how Satan’s malice and shamelessness are being revealed through you — if you clearly recognize and know these things — would you still attack and tempt God in this way? (No, we wouldn’t.) What will you do? (We will rebel against Satan and abandon it.) Is that an easy thing to do? (No.) This is not easy, to do this, people must frequently pray, they must often place themselves before God, and they must always examine themselves. They must submit to God’s discipline and His judgment and chastisement and only in this way shall people gradually remove themselves from Satan’s deception and control.
We can sum up the things that make up the substance of Satan from these things that it has said. Firstly, Satan’s substance can generally be said to be evil, which stands in contrast to the holiness of God. Why do I say Satan’s substance is evil? One must look at the consequences of what Satan does to people in order to see this. Satan corrupts and controls man, and man acts under the corrupt disposition of Satan, and inhabits a world that is corrupted by Satan and lives among corrupt people. The masses are unwittingly possessed and assimilated by Satan; man therefore has the corrupt disposition of Satan, which is Satan’s nature. From everything Satan has said and done, have you seen its arrogance? Have you seen its deceit and malice? How is Satan’s arrogance primarily displayed? Does Satan always want to occupy God’s position? Satan always wants to tear down God’s work and God’s position and take it for itself so that people will follow, support, and worship Satan; this is the arrogant nature of Satan. When Satan corrupts people, does it directly tell them what they should do? When Satan tempts God, does it come out and say, “I am tempting You, I am going to attack You”? It absolutely does not. What method does Satan use? It seduces, tempts, attacks, and sets its traps, and even by quoting the scriptures. Satan speaks and acts in various ways to achieve its sinister intents and motives. After Satan has done this, what can be seen from what’s manifested in man? Aren’t people arrogant? Man has suffered from Satan’s corruption for thousands of years and so man has become arrogant, deceitful, malicious, and unreasonable. All these things are brought about due to Satan’s nature. Since Satan’s nature is evil, it has given man this evil nature and brought man this evil corrupt disposition. Therefore man lives under the corrupt satanic disposition and, like Satan, man goes against God, attacks God, and tempts Him to the extent that man does not worship God and does not revere Him in their hearts.” (“God Himself, the Unique V” in The World Appears in the Flesh).