Matthew 4:5 Then the Devil took Him up into the holy city and set Him upon a pinnacle of the Temple.
There is some debate as to how exactly Satan took Christ with him to the temple. Whether they walked or supernaturally transported in the spirit, are debatable. Some theologians even believe they never physically went anywhere, but instead that Satan tempted Christ through a vision. The vision theory is perhaps the weakest suggestion. This vision would have to make Christ believe it was absolutely real for it to be tempting for Christ; which does not seem probable. John Gill is dogmatic in His stance on this issue. Gill excludes the visionary concept for a more supernatural concept. “Satan, by divine permission, and with the consent of Christ, which shows his great humiliation and condescension, had power over his body, to move it from place to place; in some such like manner as the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip,” (Gill). The passage John Gill is referring to is Acts 8:39, where the Spirit told Phillip to join himself to the chariot, where he heard the Eunuch reading the book of Isaiah, which gave Phillip the opportunity to reveal Jesus Christ through the scriptures. It then reads in verse 39 that, after Phillip baptized the Eunuch; “the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more.”
There are a couple of things I would like to bring some insight to from this passage before returning to Matthew. We see here in verse 39 the action of the Eunuchs baptism where it reads, “And when they had come up out of the water” it is consistent with all of scripture regarding baptism, that it is performed by a full submersion of the body. I am aware that Catholics and some Christians practice sprinkling and other methods not found in scripture, but it is my personal conviction that baptism should be done when the young adult is able to make an informed conscious decision, as he or she has come to believe in Christ. Also, that we ought to imitate the sacraments such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper only the way Christ and His disciples practiced them.
Secondly; the issue of Phillip being caught away or supernaturally transported away tempted me to find a more rational explanation to this verse. As a student of philosophy I am inclined to approach such issues of the supernatural as a rationalist or empiricist regarding matters of epistemology and the supernatural. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, truth, certainty, and how we come to attain it. An empiricist attempts to achieve certainty with his sensual perceptions, while the rationalist attempts to achieve certainty with his reason, logic, and rationality; which, in relation to apologetics being the defense of God’s word; I am convinced by reason and experience that the more rational, or rationalist’s arguments for the existence of God against the atheist are the stronger arguments. That being said I questioned whether it really was that God miraculously caused Phillip to disappear, or does it merely mean that the Spirit told Phillip to leave immediately and from that point the Eunuch never saw him again.
I began to look for verses where there may be similar circumstances and there is; Ezekiel 3:12-14 where Ezekiel claims God lifted him up and took him places and showed him things. There are a few other passages that are similar but not equal, because Ezekiel 8, Ezekiel 11, and 2Corinthians 12 involved God taking them for the purpose of showing them things in vision instead of being mobile. I considered Enoch, but his situation was vastly different because God took him to heaven without him dying. The author of Hebrews in 11:12 writes, “By faith Enoch was translated so as not to see death, and he was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
Bible commentators such as; John Gill, Matthew Henry, and John Calvin believe the more miraculous interpretation of Phillip being carried away by the spirit. A mutual reason they share was so that the Eunuch would not have a chance to give Phillip money or reward for Phillips deed; also, so that his disappearance would confirm the interpretation and visit from Philip as an act of God. To this point of Phillip being drawn away before he could be offered any payment; John Calvin writes, “let the servants of Christ learn hereby to serve him freely, or rather let them so serve men for nothing that they hope for a reward from heaven. The Lord (allows), indeed, to the ministers of the gospel to receive a reward at their hands whom they teach, (1 Corinthians 9:9,) but he forbids them therewithal to be hirelings which labor for lucre’s sake, (John 10:12.) For this must be the mark whereat they must shoot, to gain the men themselves to God,” (Calvin). Calvin is explicating that a minister of the gospel should be focused on pleasing God as his reward and without an expectation of imbursement. Although it is granted that a Pastor is paid for his works by those whom he teaches; income should never be the minister’s ambition to preach the gospel. Calvin illustrates that, he who does approach ministry as a hireling or for the sake of greed, according to John 10:12 would be like a hired man to watch the sheep, but when the wolf comes the hired man runs away because he does not own the sheep, and allows the sheep to be scattered. We who are in Christ already have our reward and that reward is from the pierced infallible hands of Jesus Christ, not by the empty fallible hands of man.
Just as I was about to give up my rationalist interpretation, I found theologians with the same adherence as mine; Thomas Constable, Albert Barnes, and Charles John Ellicot takes the more rational approach. Albert Barnes a 19th century American Theologian, Princeton Theological Seminary graduate, bible commentator, and Presbyterian Pastor wrote, “This phrase (caught Phillip away) has been usually understood of a forcible or miraculous removal of Philip to some other place. Some have even supposed that he was borne through the air by an angel . . . To such foolish interpretations have many expositors been led. The meaning is, clearly, that the Spirit, who had directed Philip to go near the eunuch, now removed him in a similar manner. That this is the meaning is clear,” (Ellicot).
Whenever God caught someone away in vision or movement it was for the purpose of giving revelation; that is not the case for Phillip, and I think it would be inconsistent to apply Elijah’s, Ezekiel’s, or Paul’s supernatural experience, and apply it to Phillip; since there is no extra revelation experience given to Phillip. Instead, I believe it is consistent in agreement with Ellicot, that just as in verse 29 the Spirit compelled Phillip to join the Eunuch, the Spirit compelled Phillip to leave the Eunuch immediately, while still agreeing with Gill, Henry, and Calvin, that it may have been for the reason of Phillip not taking any reward of currency for revealing Christ to the Eunuch. Furthermore; the word caught away in the Greek, harpazō har-pad’-zo; to seize (in various applications) catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force); nowhere does it denote any miraculous meaning, and the text of Acts 8:39 in my perception does not allow the definition to be used with a miraculous connotation.
In relation to Christ being taken to the pinnacle of the temple; there is no way to dogmatically claim how it was, that Satan and Christ arrived at the temple. We can neither confirm nor deny from scripture that they miraculously transported, or walked from the wilderness to the temple. The book of Matthew and Luke does not clarify the issue, as they tell us that Satan brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. What is obvious is that, it is Satan who is given control; he is the initiator. Jesus Christ humbly submits to an extent, and allows Satan do try his best. Let no excuses be made for the loss of Satan; for he was allowed to try our Lord Jesus at his best, while our savior was at His weakest, and yet still Jesus Christ our champion did not fail us.
Remember that Jesus was in His human natural body with human attributes, yet without the inheritance of original sin; however, just like humans when we are at our weakest and want to give up, we need a motivating factor in our minds. Some advice given to Special Forces candidates is to get their minds motivated. Not just ready their bodies but especially their minds. To know why exactly they are there and want to become an unconventional warrior. All of those are motivating factors for the minds necessary to endure the rigorous training of becoming SF. What must have been in the mind of Christ motivating Him not to fall to these temptations from Satan? First and foremost; based on His replies to Satan, the word of God was in His mind. A full knowledge thereof; and in that word of God Christ knew that He was our representative in that trial against Satan. Not only was the Fathers will in His mind to obey, but in His mind were the sins of the world. In His mind was all the sheep that the Father was ready to bring to Him as the Good Shepherd that He proved to be. In His mind was the mission He was tasked to fulfill from the Father who sent Him. In His mind was His objective to fulfill all righteousness for the pleasure of God, and for the sake of those who cannot fulfill righteousness. We as sinners all fall short of the glory of God, but in the mind of Jesus Christ was the motivation of becoming the face of God’s glory.
2Corinthians 4:6 For it is God who said, “Out of darkness Light shall shine;” who shone in our hearts to give the brightness of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.