The serious contention has been made by some that our Lord Jesus Christ could sin when here upon earth. This is of such vital importance that I feel constrained to point out the fallacy of such a theory.
The most solemn implications follow upon this false idea. For, if the Lord Jesus could sin when He was upon earth during His sojourn here, then He can still sin now that He is in heaven, for our Lord passed through no change whatever as to His essential Personality and Being when He ascended to the throne of God, nor when He rose from the dead. Hebrews 13:8 assures us of this when it says that “Jesus Christ is the Same-yesterday, today and forever.”
This could never be said of us believers; for with us the past, the present and the future are each distinctly different. In the past I had just one nature-a sinful, evil nature, capable of every sin in the catalogue of crime; in the present I have two natures-my old sinful nature, and I am also a partaker of God’s divine sinless nature, according to II Peter 1:4. In the future there shall be a mighty inner as well as outer transformation as far as I am concerned, for I shall forever be relieved of my old sinful nature and be clothed with a glorified body-thus made completely like Him. We are told we shall be conformed to the image of His Son.
Since our blessed Lord did not, nor could have experienced such a spiritual change because He was and ever is perfect, then, to say He could sin while He was here on earth is to imply that He can sin now. It is this very fact that makes the contention of our Lord’s possibility to sin so intensely serious, and, if considered, in its logical implication, deadly to all truth.
Praise God, as has been well said, “our Lord never ceased to be Who He was because of what He became, although absolutely perfect in what He became. What He was He is and He will be eternally.”
Again we reiterate that if our Lord could sin when on earth He is still capable of sinning now. In that case we have no assurance that the work of redemption which He accomplished on the Cross is reliable. In that case our Lord might at any time in the future go back on it, and we would be eternally lost.
Then also we could never count on His promises being worthy of our trust, for if He can sin He could lie (for if He were capable of sinning at all, He could commit any sin whatever, including lying). Then we would never be sure that His Word could be trusted, and thus in one fell swoop all assurance and confidence would be swept away. Those are the inevitable possibilities, if our Lord could have sinned when He was on earth, for there is not a vestige of suggestion in the Bible that our Lord passed through any change as to His Personality when He left earth for the glory.
Praise God; we can truly say away with all this! The very fact that all our blessings are eternal proves our holy Lord could not have sinned. There could not be for the believer eternal salvation, eternal redemption, eternal inheritance or eternal glory had that possibility existed. Since, as II Cor. 1: 20 states “all the promises of God in Christ are yea and Amen,” then it proves that He cannot lie; proves He never could sin.
We know, of course, that those who suggest our Lord could have sinned never for one moment think or intimate that He did (unless they be apostate unbelievers, for no true Christian would harbor such a thought). Scripture says in so many words that He never sinned, as follows:
PAUL, who loves to set forth the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord says: “He knew no sin.”
PETER, the energetic worker, ever doing, says “He did no sin.”
JOHN, the devoted lover of his Lord, ever calling attention to the glory of His Person says “In Him is no sin.”
But it is almost as serious to say He could have sinned, for it robs us in one blow of all assurance of blessing.
This contention that our Lord could have sinned rests upon at least three basic errors:
1). The wrong method of ascribing this to His Deity and that to Him as man.
2). The argument that if He could not have sinned, He could not have been tempted: as He was by Satan.
3). Comparing Christ with Adam.
1. As to the first of these, it is all wrong to attribute things to Christ as Man, apart from His Godhead; to say that, of course, He could not sin as God, but He could do so as Man. It is utterly wrong (God pardon the expression) to take our Lord apart thus. One does not dissect a living person; only a dead body. Our Lord is alive-both when He was on earth and now. We can look upon a living person; not into him. This is beautifully illustrated in Genesis 15, where Abraham laid the bodies of three animals over against each other, after cutting them into two pieces. But when he came to the doves, there were two of them, and he left them whole.
Those animal sacrifices who walked the earth at one time, and who typify our Lord during His earthly pathway, we can study and look into with reverent hearts and minds. But the doves, who fly in the heavens, speak of Christ in His Deity. Those were not cut open; one could look on them; not into them.
In our blessed Lord, Deity and Manhood were ever blended into One Perfect Being; we may distinguish between them but we cannot and must not separate them. What is true of Him as Man is true of Him as God. He is not, as I am afraid many may understand, God dwelling in man, which is true of us believers, for God by His Spirit dwells in us.
No, He is God and Man united in One Inscrutable, Inseparable Being. All that is true of Him as God is also true of Christ as Man, as to His essential Person. This is a great, mystery, beyond our finite understanding; something to adore; not to explore. It never once says in Scripture that God dwells in Christ, but it does say that His Son Jesus Christ is God (I John 5:20). John says (John 1:14) that the Word became flesh, and adds “we beheld His glory, the glory as of an only begotten with the Father, full of grace and truth.” He looked upon the Man Christ Jesus, yet he beheld the glory of God.
So with Thomas in John 20. He looked upon a Man with nailprints in His hands and feet, and the gaping wound of a spear in His side. But, though he looked upon a man, he acknowledged Him not as Man, but exclaimed: “My Lord and my God.” Seeing the Man, we behold our God – hence sin was an utter impossibility to Him, for God cannot sin.
Let me prove further that our Lord could not sin:
Mary was told, in Luke 1: 35: “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Notice this was said of Christ as Man, for it refers to His human birth, yet He is called “holy.” This is never said of any one at birth (nor of Adam at his creation), but of Christ only. And holiness in Scripture always implies not merely absence of sin, but impossibility to sin. Holiness aq to a Person is essentially ascribed in Scripture to God alone. He, as Isa. 6:3 tells us is “Holy, holy, holy.” In Luke 1:35 Christ as Man-the babe born-is called “holy,” proving that as to His humanity He was holy as God is in His Deity. Men are only called holy when made so by divine grace; things are called holy only when consecrated to God; of our blessed Lord it is said at His human birth that He was that “holy thing”; and of no one else could this ever be said.
And not only at His birth is He called the “Holy one,” but also at His death; and in both cases as seen as Man. In Lev. 6:25,29 our blessed Lord, as the Sin offering. is twice called “most holy.” In connection with Christ as the One Who offered Himself for sin, God twice assures us that He Himself was most holy, lest anyone should connect this fact of sin with Him as a Person. The sin He put away was ours – not His. And please note that He is called most holy in connection with Himself as the Sin offering; thus reference is to His humanity for He bare our sins in His body on the tree -I Pet. 2: 24. Both at His birth and at His death (both in direct relation to Him as Man) we thus find the emphasis laid on His Deity. He was holy at His birth; He was holy at His death; in other words His Godhead is stressed when as Man He was born and when as Man He died. This makes the possibility to sin on His part an absolute impossibility, for God cannot sin.
In John 14:10 our Lord states: “I and My father are One.” He says “believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in Me?” So interfused are Father and the Son that what is true of the One is true of the other. Therefore, if Christ could sin when on earth, then God the Father could sin as well, for the two are One, as our Lord says here. This complete Oneness is seen beautifully in the book of Leviticus.
In a number of chapters there we read of unleavened bread or cakes mingled with oil. We all know that the unleavened bread speaks of our blessed Lord in His infinite perfection as Man, with no leaven, which is a type of sin in Scripture – in Him. It is only the unleavened things which were mingled with oil; and we know that the oil is a type in the Old Testament of the Holy Spirit. Aaron and his sons had the oil put on them; we today have the Holy Spirit put in us as well, but neither Aaron and his sons nor we believers today have the Spirit mingled with us.
Mingling oil with the bread made the two one whole, impossible to separate or to work independently of each other. So our blessed Lord did not have the Spirit indwelling; God the Spirit and He were One. Of no one is this ever intimated in Scripture but of Christ alone – as Man, please remember. Thus, since it is impossible for the Spirit to sin, it was impossible for Christ to sin.
Heb. 4:15 says, “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”; or, as is well known to be the better rendering “apart from sin.”
That latter phrase means that the sin question never entered into our Lord’s temptation at all (it always does when we are tempted because we can fail). The fact that the sin question did not enter in His case again positively proves that He could not sin. He could say: “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me” (John 14:30). What mere mortal could say such words? It proves that sin with Him was impossible.
Heb. 10:12 tells us that “this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God.” He offered Himself to God as our Substitute; and of course He bore our sins in His body – a Man. Now, if He could in that case sin and still can, as we have proven, then how do we know that His death avails for us? We know His death meets our need because the Bible says so – thereby proving that He could not have sinned.
As we saw from Lev. 6:25 the sin offering was “Most holy.” However, He did not accomplish the work of redemption as Man only for we read in II Cor. 5:19 that, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” Thus His sacrificial work involved both God and Man in one indissoluble Person.
We know that the Work of Christ ut)on the cross is perfect; Jesus Himself said so when He was about to die, saying “It is finished,” which literally means “it is perfect.” The very statement that Christ saves to the uttermost proves the impossibility of sin when He walked upon earth. Away then with that evil thought!
2. The second basic error is that if Christ could have sinned, then the temptation by Satan would have had no meaning in His case. I must confess I don’t get this view-point at all. The simple answer to this of course is that He was tempted to prove that He could not sin. Every dart shot at Him by Satan fell harmless to the ground; there was not any possibility of failure in Him. If we can’t understand the transcendent glory of Our Lord’s perfect Humanity and Deity in One Person, let us at least remember that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts; let us worship and wonder. Let’s not confuse what God has fused.
3. The third basic error is in the comparison made between Christ and Adam. The argument is that since Adam could and did sin before he had a sinful nature, therefore the same possibility existed in the case of our Lord. The serious fallacy here is. in comparing Christ with Adam. Our Lord is never compared with Adam in Scripture, but always contrasted to him. Our Lord always stands out in brightest contrast to mere man, Adam included. Just let’s look at a few of those striking contrasts:
God breathed into Adam the breath of life-human life evidently; but Christ has and is, and always did have eternal life (I John 5:20).
Adam was made a living soul; Christ is a life-giving spirit (I Cor. 15:45).
Adam was never said to be holy; Christ is “that holy thing called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Adam was given a commandment forbidding him to sin; the very thought of applying that to our Lord would be blasphemous. He kept the law, but was never told to do so: nor could be.
Adam was threatened with punishment and death; Christ’s death was entirely voluntary; He gave Himself for us in matchless love.
Adam became disobedient unto death; Christ became obedient unto death (Phil. 2:8).
Through Adam sin entered into the world (Rom. 5:12); but grace came through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:15).
Adam became the guilty head of a guilty human race; Christ is the Head of a spiritual redeemed family.
Through Adam judgment fell through Christ comes justification (Rom. 5:16).
Through Adam death reigns; through Christ we reign (Rom. 5:17).
Through Adam’s disobedience many were made sinners; through Christ’s obedience many are made righteous (Rom. 5:19).
There is not the faintest comparison between Adam and Christ. To compare Adam’s temptation with our Lord’s is totally wrong and unwarranted. To say that Christ could sin because Adam could is to lower the creator to the level of His creatures.
It is contended that it never says our Lord could have not sinned. True enough; praise God for that! It did not need. saying. Every act of His, every word, every step of His pathway cried aloud that here was the perfect Son of the Eternal God! It does not need saying; it only needs seeing, and calls for worshipping.
Let me ask in closing: If it says in I John 3:9 that whosoever is born of God cannot sin because his seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin because he is born of God, how then could Christ sin? If the believer can not sin as born of God, then how, by the wildest stretch of human imagination can He sin Who is God? The seed is Christ and He is within us, so as such we cannot sin. If we cannot sin because He is in us, then how could He sin, Who is that seed?
Dear reader, don’t trifle with the holy Person of God’s Son. Rest your soul on His perfect Being; His perfect work, and His perfect Word. You’ll be able to say or sing with holy reverence:
“Fairer than all the earth-born race
Perfect in comeliness Thou art.
Replenished are Thy lips with grace
And full of love Thy tender heart.
God ever blessed, we bow the knee,
And own all fulness dwells in Thee.”