A Voice in the
July 16, 2000
Q/A Topic: -Could Jesus have sinned?
The recent study "I AM-The Son: Word made flesh" stirred up some responses of the order that... If Jesus was God, God cannot sin; therefore Jesus could not sin, because Jesus was God. That Jesus was promised to Mary as "that Holy One...Son of God". (Lk1:35) That there was a difference between Adam and Jesus, that Adam was "earthy; and the second Man was the Lord from Heaven." (1Cor15:45) That Jesus was not "born -fallen-"... etc.
First of all, let us step back a moment and consider that any discussion we would have about God's essence is handicapped to begin with. We are yet in our corruption. We, in this state, even as Believers, "cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1Cor15:50) because we are yet "flesh and blood". While it is true that we "have the mind of Christ" (1Cor2:16b) God's thoughts are so much "higher" than our thoughts. (Is55:8-9) We cannot "instruct Him". (1Cor2:16a) As Job discovered when he challenged, "Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue with God." (Job13:3) So God responds, "Now gird up your loins like a man, for I will question you; and you teach Me." (Job38:3) And when God gets just a little ways into His discourse with Job, Job responds with, "Behold, I am vile! What shall I answer You? I will put my hand to my mouth." (Job40:4) We simply will not understand this in its fullness until that day when we "see Him as He is" (1Jn3:2) as it will then all be "revealed" as we no longer see "dimly" as we then "fully know". (1Cor13:12)
In considering a brief study such as the "I AM" series, I feel humanly totally inadequate to such a task; because the Most High is so awesome, and I am so finite. And yet, for some reason, the Lord has seen fit to assign it to have been done. While I don't fully understand it, because my finite humanity doesn't want to accept (can't fathom it!) the fact of the lengths to which God went when He sent His Son (Jn3:16) to this world; that God Who is SO HIGH, would stoop SO LOW to save a rebellious human race; it baffles human reasoning! For such a "holy" God, to relinquish that position and "[take upon Himself] the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men". (Phil2:7) And this picture is painted more graphically, that He came "in the likeness of -SINFUL- flesh.." (Rom8:3) He "PARTOOK" of "flesh and blood". (Heb2:14) To fully understand salvation, one -MUST- accept the fact that Jesus came "in the flesh". (1Jn4:2) In the N.T. there are numerous references to the "flesh" being opposite of the "Spirit". (Gal5:17,6:8, Phil3:3, 2Cor7:1, etc) That the 'flesh' is related to the 'sin' nature.
So, what about the argument that Jesus was not "born -fallen-"? Exactly. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (Lk1:35) He was not a descendant of Adam, but was born a "Seed" of the "woman". (Gen3:15) Joseph was not Jesus' "father". He was born of the "virgin". (Is7:14) Something otherwise humanly impossible, since God designed "fruitful"ness to be by "male and female". (Gen1:27-28)
The differences between the "first man, Adam" and the "Lord from Heaven" (1Cor15:45,47) is not really a correct part of the discussion. That passage is speaking about Adam relative to the "Fall". But initially Adam was created -perfect- and sinless. God would not have pronounced His finished creation "very good" (Gen1:31) if there had been a flaw (sin) in it. So, by the same token, Adam was not "created -fallen-" either. And it could have been said of Adam right after his creation, as it was of Christ, "in Him is no darkness at all." (1Jn1:5) Just as Jesus was born without a "sin nature", so too, Adam was created without a "sin nature". He was perfect, just as Jesus was without "blemish". (1Pt1:19)
But -then- (THEN), Adam "fell". And herein is the difference. Adam, although created perfect (sinless), sinned. Jesus, being conceived and born sinless, did not sin.
Let us remember that Adam was made "in [God's] image, after our [God's] likeness". (Gen1:26) And He breathed [Spirit] into Adam. (Gen2:7) Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (Lk1:35) Not really all that much different in origins. After all, it -had- to be this way. If Jesus was to triumph as God's sinless sacrifice for sin, taking the penalty for man, He had to be 'just like' (Phil2:7) man in order to make the pentalty/judgment "equal". Jesus would have to suffer 'exactly' what man would suffer.
By the same token, He would need to be tempted just as man had been when he failed, and come away not having succumbed. (Heb4:15) Now, if Jesus' -humanity- could not have sinned, it would not have been a "fair" test, and thus, the judgment would not be equal or proportionate. (Lk12:47-48) After all, when Jesus went out to the wilderness, He did so "to be tested". "To see whether He could be made to sin". Literally, "to see how He will -behave- Himself".
Sure, He could have retained some "higher" entity. But that argument is already given: He "did not take the nature of angels". (Heb2:16) He wasn't coming to redeem the fallen angels. "Therefore it behoved Him to be made like His brothers...for in that He himself has suffered, having been tempted (tested), He is able to help those who have been tempted." (2:17-18) Now this word "help" does not so much indicate that He comes swooping down, carrying the tempted one off to where things are idyllic; but more of what knights of old apparently would do for a fallen comrade, who prods/nudges the fallen one with the tip of his lance, with words of, "Come on, get up! Pull yourself together and continue on! You can do it!" Like cows or deer, in nature, do not carry their newborn, but nudge them with their snouts and lick them to get them stimulated to stand on their own feet. If they didn't stand on their feet, and a predator came along, they would be caught and would die. If Jesus' 'humanity' had not been on such equal footing with man, such 'succoring' would be a farse. If Jesus' 'humanity' had been as a "superman", and He came along saying, "I did it, you can, too"... that would be the utmost in cruelty. That would be like pulling the wings off a fly, and then prodding, "C'mon...fly! I can. Watch me...see?"
When Jesus took on the form of a "servant" (Phil2:7) what did that 'servanthood' entail? Here is the amazing part of this whole scenario. If we can grasp this one little point, I believe the other concerns will vanish. Recall that when He was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. (Mt3:16) The Father confirms to Him, "You are My Son, the Beloved". (Mk1:11, Ps2:7, Heb1:5) Here is Jesus, human, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Now notice what Paul says, "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets". (1Cor14:32) And he also exhorts, "Do not quench the Spirit". (1Th5:19) When God sent His Son to take on human form, He deliberately put part of Himself, as it were, under the 'authority' and control of a human male. Does a servant have any 'rights'? Can a servant dictate his own life? By definition, a servant is one who is subject to another, who has authority over him. God's Son took on the form of a "servant". You see, the 'vulnerability' that God placed His Son under was not limited to a helpless 'baby' who could be easily killed at the whim of an angry king; He placed His essence within a human persona, with the full potential that this person 'could' end up doing as Adam had done.
Now, for you who would argue that if Jesus possessed Deity, His Deity could not sin, you would be absolutely correct. (Jas1:13) But the 'man' (remember, He took on "flesh and blood") could, just as Adam, created in perfection, did. How do we know this?
We already understand that the Holy Spirit indwelt Jesus. Right? The Believer, the Christian, Christ's Church... part of the Believer's 'essence' is the fact that the Holy Spirit resides. (Rom8:9) If the Holy Spirit does not reside, the person is not a Christian... by definition.
Now...do Believers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, sin? "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1Jn1:8) Yes, it is God's Holy Spirit living in these "sanctuaries" (1Cor3:16,6:19), but notice that if we engage in sinful activities of the world, we can "-grieve- the Holy Spirit of God". (Eph4:30)
Even though Jesus was Deity, we know His humanity suffered. He prayed if it were possible, some other way, that He wouldn't have to go through the crucifixion. (Lk22:42-45) His agony was so great that He sweat drops of blood. We get a picture that this was "strong (vehement) crying and tears" (Heb5:7) His humanity utterly DID NOT WANT to die on the cross. And while on the cross, even though His Deity -knew- for what reason He was there, His humanity screams out, "My God, My God, why did You forsake Me?" (Mt27:46, Ps22:1) And from the whole Psalm 22 we get a picture of His humanity, as He is hanging on the cross, the emotions of seeing everybody gawking at Him, and His pains.
We have spoken of this before, but let's be reminded. Just as Jesus came to an age where He knew to choose between good and evil (Is7:14-15), He also seems to have had some specific point in time where His 'humanity' -knew- that He was the Son of God. And the wording seems to suggest that His humanity needed 'convincing'; because as He is ready to head to the cross, somewhat in summary, John says, "Jesus -knowing- that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had -come-from-God- and -went-to-God-..." (Jn13:3) What an interesting statement if there had never been any question in His 'human' mind. In other words, baby Jesus didn't pop out of the womb, already knowing He was God's Son. And also when satan tests Him, it is immediately after baptism where the Father proclaims, "You are My Son", confirming what He has come to know, that satan taunts, "-If- You are the Son of God". (Mt4:3,6) This is the way satan works: we can learn a new Truth, and immediately satan will come along to try to stir up doubts as to the validity of what we have learned and/or proclaimed to others; trying to make us doubt what God has just revealed to our hearts.
Yes, Jesus was -fully- "flesh and blood"...with everything a sinless man would possess in 'humanity'.
So now let's consider the steps that led to Eve and Adam's downfall, and how Jesus "behaved" differently, to make Him be tempted "without sin".
Let us first of all make an observation. Modern "christian" psychology preaches a different definition for "sin", that 'sin' is a behavior children learn because they aren't loved properly by their parents, and they don't get their 'needs' met. Their parents continually 'shame' them, and thus they never reach their full potential. (And all sorts of variations on that theme) They suggest that if it were possible to put some newborn babies in an idyllic environment where they had no communication with parents or society, and could begin on-their-own, and develope a wholly 'individual' life, that there would be no sin. They don't believe in "original sin". (Ps51:5) They believe that sin is 'learned/programmed' and that it is "environmentally-based". That humanity, today, at birth is born perfect. It's what happens 'after' birth that creates sin (whatever it is they think "sin" is).
Well, isn't that what God did originally? He created a perfect environment. Before Adam and Eve there was no human sin. They did not have parents to shame them. There was no "family history" of abuse. Other than the one 'tree' of whose fruit they were not to partake, they had total freedom. Full potential for unlimited creativity and personal development. It was in -such- an idyllic environment that Adam and Eve sinned.
On the other hand, Jesus was brought forth into a cruel world that was rampant with sin. Other than God's provision and warning to Joseph to flee to Egypt, He wouldn't have made it past the age of 2, as Herod would have killed Him. He grew up in the midst of political turmoil, in the 'slums'. And yet with all these things going 'against' Him, He did NOT sin.
Urban blight and poverty are not the "cause" of crime. Environment does not "cause" sin. Sin is in-born. It is in the heart. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is incurable.." (Jer17:9)
So, the tempter came to both Eve and Jesus. "Is it so that God has said...?" (Gen3:1) "If You are the Son of God..." (Mt4:3) Did God reeeeally say? Are you reeeeally...?
Satan never -forces- us to sin. But he plants seeds of doubt. These doubts get our minds working. Recall how a Believer is one who, among other things, is renewed in the "mind". (Rom12:2) The one "who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed." (Jas1:6) He is "carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph4:14)
Now, Eve allows the serpent to engage her in 'dialogue', and notice what happens. (We have addressed this in the past) She perverts God's Word. She adds to God's Word and in so-doing plants the first seed of what today is the SELF-pity party, that "God has hemmed me in and given me all these harsh rules and regulations". Like Israel, she added to God's Law. "We can't eeeeven -touch- it." And then, once we are started down this path of reasoning, the penalty is decreased. Surely God doesn't really mean "death"? After all, what -is- death? Up until that point they had not seen death. How can we be sure of something we haven't seen?
On the other hand, Jesus quotes God's Word, "It is written..." And He quotes verbatim.
Eve -listened- to satan and -intellectualized-, and then her own -lusts- took hold (3:6) and she sinned. "But each one is tempted by his lusts, being drawn away and seduced by them. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin..." (Jas1:15)
And then Eve entices Adam into the act.
"The words of King Lemuel...which his -mother- taught him...do not give your strength to women..." (Pr31:1,3) What happened between Eve and Adam? We don't have details. But when all was said and done, they knew what it was to be "naked". (Gen3:7) One of the things that is "too wonderful" is the "way of a man with a virgin". (Pr30:19) But Proverbs is also full of the way of the "strange woman" who "flatters" (Pr2:16,etc) and entices men. How many men have been enticed by women who turned them away from God. Solomon is a prime example. (1Kg11:1-4, Neh13:26) [And yes, I also know about this first-hand!] Society today also tells women that they must be seductresses.
Men, listen to this carefully. God did not call you to follow your wife (Eve was brought -to- Adam as his "suitable helper" -Gen2:20,22); or if you're not married yet, that enchantress who is able to pull at your heart strings and you follow willingly, and you cater to her every self-indulgent whim, telling her that you'd "do anything" for her. Yes, she may have attracted you with her beauty, or you may happen to have found a Godly woman. If she is truly Godly, she will be in submission to you. (1Cor11:3) But if she is not Godly, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! You may have some momentary 'fellowship' and think she is your "best friend", but if you are a truly Godly man, in the end you will weep tears of deepest regret, when her true colors become evident. Sorry ladies (you that are Godly women ..and some of you are.. will understand what is being said), but I'm going to quote from the "preacher" here... "and I found more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets; her hands are like bands. He who is good before God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be captured by her. Behold, I have found this, says the Preacher, counting one by one to find out the sum, that my soul still seeks, but I have not found; one man among a thousand I have found, but a woman among all those I have not found." (Ecc7:26-28) "Who can find a woman of virtue? For her value is far above rubies. The heart of her husband trusts safely in her...etc." (Pr31:10-31)
Men, when judgment comes, God will not ask you, "what did your wife entice you into?" He's not going to be calling out to your wife; He's going to come calling for -you-, "Adam...where are you?" "Have -YOU-.." been disobedient? (Gen3:9,11) Yes, your wife will get her judgment, but God will come at you with "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife..." and have disobeyed. (Gen3:17) All the pleasantness of the memories of her alluring company will not benefit you then.
Eve engaged in 'dialogue' with Satan. She listened. She lusted. She partook. Then, Adam lusted (after Eve ?? ...in her new-found sin-filled allure ??), and he partook.
On the other hand, Jesus didn't waste any time with satan with 'dialogue', but quoted God's Law to him. "It is written.." (Mt4:4)
So satan then takes another approach. Since Jesus wasn't going to misquote God like Eve had done, he then 'misapplies' Scripture 'out of context', and proclaims Scripture to Jesus. Do this, Jesus, "For it is written..." (Mt4:6) Does Jesus "argue" with satan? No, He quotes Scripture again; He doesn't need to "explain" the true application of what Satan had quoted... Satan already knew it.
The difference between Adam & Eve and Jesus was "whom" they were striving to please. Eve saw in the 'fruit' something to make -her- "wise". (Gen3:6)
On the other hand, Jesus' whole purpose was, "I delight to do Your will, O My God; and Your law is within My inmost soul." (Ps40:8) "..I always do those things which please Him." (Jn8:29) He "did no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth." (1Pt2:22, Is53:9) It was prophesied of Him, "The Lord Jehovah has opened My ear, and I was not rebellious, nor turned away backwards." (Is50:5)
As Believers we wrestle with the struggle between the flesh and spirit. While we want to obey God, we also 'enjoy' many of the sins of this life. And Paul cries out "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" The answer is "..through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom7:24-25) How is this?
Let us get back to the originating question. "Could Jesus have sinned?" The answer to this also answers how Romans 7:25 can be true. Remember, the section of the "I AM" series under consideration is "Word made flesh". The rest of the series will be systematic proofs of Jesus' Deity. But we must first understand that Jesus was truly, fully, completely "man", with everything that is associated with humanity.
He was born in perfection, just as Adam had been created. He was tempted just as Adam had been tempted. In fact, the conditions of His testing were worse than Adam's; He was at death's door from 40 days of exposure with nothing to eat, so the first test offers revivement. But He did not sin.
When Jesus lived on this earth 2000 years ago, there was NO QUESTION amongst the people regarding His "humanity". They saw Him, they touched Him. (1Jn1:1) The people all knew Him as, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" Don't we know His family and where He is from? (Mt13:55) They saw Him grow up "in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (Lk2:52) They needed proof of His Deity. In fact, when He claimed to be God, the religious rulers sought to stone Him for blaspheme. And it wasn't until the very end that the disciples were finally convinced that He had "come forth from God". (Jn16:30) Because it was "obvious" to them all that He was -completely- "human".
The world today believes that Jesus was a "historical figure". There is enough written evidence that a "man" named "Jesus" lived back then, 2000 years ago. His existence as a "man" is never in question.
The ones who -do- question Jesus' "humanity" are present-day "Christians". Ironic, isn't it! We have become so used to Rome's pagan depictions of -a- "Jesus" with a pagan sun-god 'halo' around His head, that His "humanity" has become muddled. The world says that Jesus was "only" a man. And so Christians, (perhaps in reaction to that?) will say (in their minds) that Jesus was -mostly- "God"...with a 'little bit' of humanity sprinkled in there. Was Jesus 80/20, 70/30, 90/10? They don't want to accept the fact that Jesus was -FULLY- "human". He was 100% "man". He was 100% God. Just as two become "one" (Gen2:24), and is a picture of Christ and the Church (Eph5:31-32, Jn17:23); it is all possible because God is "one". For Jesus, 100% humanity plus 100% Deity equals "One". (Jn17:22) "I [the 100% 'human' speaking to you] and the Father are one!" (Jn10:30)
Interesting, isn't it! If we look at the 'chronology' of how the canon of Scripture is put together, we see the book of Jude, which is a direct picture of the days of apostasy in which we live, sitting right there -just- before Revelation, and The Revelation being about the "end" events... that 1John sits there toward the latter sections of the N.T. somewhat closer to the "end" than the epistles. And in ch2 he speaks of "antichrists", which is more of a 'near-end' historical characteristic. And then we go another couple chapters and read how one defining characteristic of a True Believer is one who accepts Jesus' -full- "humanity"; with the concept that an understanding of it is part of the Believer's essence. The fact that it is even mentioned, indicating that a question regarding the matter will come up during 'that' time in history, needing such a statement.
We have already seen how both Adam and Jesus became into humanity in perfection. If Adam had not sinned, Jesus would not have needed to come to die as He did. In fact, the "Tree of Life" (Rev2:7,22:2) was already in the Garden of Eden. (Gen2:9) Had he not sinned, would Eternal Life have begun at Eden? But Adam did sin. And Jesus came into a sinful world, born a perfect man...and did not sin.
Why is it important for us to understand this? If as being in these "bodies of death" we cry out for deliverance, and are told that it comes "through Jesus Christ" (Rom7:24-25) we are talking about more than -just- "Salvation" from the penalty of sin. We are talking about how to -live- righteously before God. We already know from Romans ch5 that Adam's sin resulted in death for the entire human race, and that Jesus' death/resurrection gives us life. But until we have been glorified with the new "spiritual body" (1Cor15:44) we still have the pull of sin on our "flesh". (Gal5:17)
Revelation chs 2-3 speak to each church of "overcoming". He says "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame and have sat down with My Father in His throne." (Rev3:21) If Jesus could be born as a human into a sinful world, and remain perfect, having been born just as we are; this then puts 'teeth' to the saying that "no temptation has taken you except what is human". (1Cor10:13) Jesus didn't resist some sort of super-human temptation. He -did- it. We can, too. We cannot have the excuse that "I couldn't help BUT sin, because the temptation was soooo great"... because "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able. But with the temptation, He will also make the way out, so that you may be able to bear it."(vs13b) In other words, when we sin, we "want to" sin! If we want NOT TO sin, God will provide everything we need to resist.
God's help comes through Jesus Christ. In the world we have distress, but He says "..be encouraged, I have overcome the world" (Jn16:33) And how does Jesus aid us? When Jesus left, He promised the Holy Spirit. (Jn16:7)
How do we live for the Lord? "..in the Spirit" (Phil3:3) We cannot put "confidence in the flesh". Many pharisaical types of people try to live by their "lists" of "touch not, taste not, handle not" (Col2:21), but such efforts will fail every time.
We must first "sow to the Spirit". (Gal6:8) If you want corn, you plant "corn" seeds. If you want tomatoes, you plant tomatoes. And if you don't hoe out the weeds, what you want will get choked out. In other words, "What part of 'No Solicitors' didn't you understand? Get out!!" [Ed: This year in my garden I'm doing a new thing. I've been hoeing 'before' the weeds ever get a start. And you know, I have had a "clean" garden this year, and where hoeing used to take a couple hours, when the weeds had grown up...now, I can get through the whole garden in scarcely 10-15 minutes...and without the weeds there, hoeing is easy. With a little pondering, I think you'll understand the correlary without me spoon-feeding this one?]
And then, we must "Walk in the Spirit". (Gal5:16) As we have considered before, a -life- of "prayer". Being in continual fellowship with God. If we Walk in the Spirit, "you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh". (vs16b)
We have God's Holy Spirit residing. (Rom8:9) Jesus did it. We know we can, too. The one who claims to belong to Christ "ought himself also to walk even as He walked." (1Jn2:6) If Jesus had not been fully "human" such an exhortation would be preposterous.
Yes, Jesus -COULD-HAVE- sinned. But He didn't. He always walked "in the Spirit". He always did those things that pleased the Father. We can, too, through Jesus Christ -our- Lord. He did it first. He is our Shepherd (Jn10:14), and leads us, having gone there first, if we but follow.
"Now the God of Peace, He leading up out of the dead, the great Shepherd of the sheep, in the blood of the everlasting covenant, our Lord Jesus, perfect you in every good work, in order to do His will, doing in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb13:20-21)