Could Christ Have Sinned?
The following answer has been submitted, by Mr. George T. Reader of Peterborough, Ontario, to the question asked in the November - December issue of “Focus”: “Do you believe the Lord Jesus as God could have sinned?”
ANSWER: I believe it was absolutely impossible for the Lord Jesus to sin. REASONS FOR THE ANSWER:
(a) The Mystery of His Person. Prior to the birth of our Lord, the angel said to Mary, as recorded in Luke 1:35: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, in ch. 10:5, referring to our Lord Jesus Christ says: “Wherefore, when He cometh into the world He saith, ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me:’”
Then the apostle Paul emphasizes the impossibility of comprehending the Godhead with a human body, when he says: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.” 1 Timothy 3:16.
My point in quoting these scriptures is to stress the fact that Christ’s body, though human, was a special creation of God the Father and therefore totally exempt from our fallen nature. Such being the case, it was impossible that there should be any response on His part to the solicitations of Satan.
(b) The Attributes of His Person. Some feel that to appeal to His divine attributes is to say that Christ would not sin and ignores the fact that, being God, He could not sin. However, it seems to me that these attributes serve to emphasize this fact. Christ was God manifest in the flesh, truly God and truly man in one unique person. These two natures may be considered separately, but can never be separated. His was an indissoluble union of the divine and sinless human natures. Therefore, since Christ is God, and God is unchangeable, and since God cannot sin, likewise it was impossible for Christ to sin. His omnipotence eliminates any possibility of His ever being overcome by the temptations of Satan. Finally His omniscience banishes for ever the thought that He might be deceived by the adversary, the devil.
(c) The Testimony of the Scriptures. These scriptures are all well known, and no doubt there are others which can be added:
James 1:14: “God cannot be tempted with evil.” Since the Lord Jesus never ceased to be God, He could not possibly be tempted with evil.
1 Peter 2:22: “Christ … Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.”
Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He knew no sin.”
John in 1 John 3:5: “In Him is no sin.”
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews: 7:26: “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” 6:18: “It was impossible for God to lie.” 4:15: “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.” Although there is no doubt that the statement, “without sin,” includes the thought that Christ did not sin, most conservative expositors agree that it also means that there was no element of sin in Him. John Peter Lange expresses it in a most definite way when he says, “The participation of Jesus in every form of human suffering all has taken place without one single emotion and without finding in Him as their condition, or point of contact, a single slumbering element of sin. Everything took place with Him, ‘separately from sin.’”
Finally, our Lord testified in John 14:30: “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.”
Questions Frequently Asked
(a) Can one be tempted if it is impossible for that person to respond? Was not the temptation of Christ in the wilderness real, when, after fasting 40 days, the devil said, “Command that these stones be made bread”? The solicitation on the part of Satan was real but there was no responding desire on the part of Christ. Also, is not the agony of our Saviour in Gethsemane an answer to this? As He anticipated all that it would mean for Him, Who knew no sin, to be made sin for us, so extreme was His agony that His sweat was as it were great drops of blood. Surely the test was real, but there was no possibility that He would refuse to fulfil the will of His Father.
(b) If Christ could not sin, how can He sympathize with human beings who can and do sin? Though He could not sin, it seems reasonable that His omniscience enables Him to fully comprehend and understand our weaknesses. “He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.”
(c) Could Christ be truly man if He was not capable of sinning? Although Christ was truly man, yet He never ceased to be God: God and man mysteriously and inseparably joined in one unique person. It is impossible to isolate His humanity and ignore His deity.
(d) If Christ could have sinned while here on earth, would it not still be possible for Him to sin now? This almost borders on blasphemy but if the one be true, we must accept the possibility of the other. Thank God it was impossible for Christ to sin while here on earth, and our salvation rests secure in Him Who was and is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens, seated on the right hand of the majesty on high.
The editor of this column will welcome further comments on this important question from other readers.
The following question has been submitted and will be considered in this page in future issues of “Focus”:
“Can a true believer in the Lord Jesus be indwelt or possessed by a demon?” This question has been presented to me repeatedly, particularly by younger believers, as I have moved amongst assemblies in recent months. I would value a thorough answer with Scripture references. I should mention that, in some evangelical circles today, this doctrine— of demon-possession—is taught and “demon-possessed” Christians are having their “demons exorcised”.
The next issue of “Focus” will contain an answer to this important and timely question. Be sure you do not miss it!
Questions, comments and answers should be submitted to:
Dr. J. T. Naismith, 1121 Hilltop St., Peterborough, Ont., K9J 5S6