2. Scripture should be our primary weapon against the devil (A)
1. Jesus quoted some Bible verses to the devil (O)
2. The devil "left him" (Matthew 4:11, Luke 4:13) (O)
The devil left him. The question is whether it was because of the Scripture quoting. This is a possible case of the Correlation / Causation error.
Two nearby events can but don't always mean that one caused the other.
If we were to spend more time in the Observation stage of our reading, and if we held back the urge to jump to the "obvious" conclusions, then we should also notice the following:
3. The devil did not immediately disappear after hearing the first scripture (O)
4. The devil did not eventually leave after the first instance of Jesus quoting the Scripture, either (O)
5. The devil still hadn't been driven off after the second scripture (O)
6. The devil himself knew and quoted the Scripture (O)
7. The devil quoted the Scripture, seemingly without harming himself (O)
8. Jesus (in Matthew's account) eventually added some other words to a third scripture (O)
9. Those words were "Away from me, Satan," by the way (O)
10. After the third Scripture quote, and (in Matthew) the command to leave, the devil left (O)
11. In Luke's gospel, the devil left—not "driven off by the scriptures," but when he "had finished all this tempting" (O)
12. In both accounts, the verb used is translated as "left" or "departed," rather than "fled" or "retreated."
So, when we try to interpret and apply this story, we have several questions to ponder. If scriptures have the power to drive away the devil, why did it take three tries? Wasn't the Scripture powerful enough? Wasn't Jesus powerful enough? Wasn't scripture in the mouth of Jesus powerful enough? And what does this mean for us?
Now, is the Bible important? And relevant when facing temptation? I believe so, from experience, and from Jesus' example. But is the Bible the devil's Kryptonite? I don't think the two versions of our gospel story support such a conclusion, and I'm wary of creating a doctrine out of a single episode in the Bible. Especially a doctrine that trivializes the Scriptures by reducing them to magical incantations and charms to ward off Satan or his minions. "The devil is a better theologian than any of us," A.W. Tozer cautions, "and is a devil still." He already knows the Bible—and in the original languages, I'll wager.
Could Jesus have defeated the devil without the Scripture? I would hope so. Are we powerless without Bible verses? Is that the source of all power we have? I would hope not. How about you?