Could Jesus have sinned? If Jesus couldn't sin, how could his temptations be real? And If he could sin, does that mean he had an imperfect, changeable nature? Read on to learn about the doctrine known as the Impeccability of Christ.
Matthew 4 records the temptations Satan put before our Lord, trying to get him to sin. Had he been successful it would have forever undermined the plan of redemption. Yet Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus was tempted in every respect like we are, yet he never sinned.
The question is this: Could Jesus have sinned? Being fully human, did he also have the ability to sin? This is very important since it plays into just how real his temptations were.
We all know the hard part of temptation to sin is resisting them as their power grows greater and greater. But if it were impossible for us to "give in" then wouldn't the power of the temptation really be nonexistent? Wouldn't that take away all the power in the temptation, and make it something other than what we who can sin experience? Were Jesus' temptations real if he couldn't sin?
But what about if he could sin? That would make the temptations real, but also create other questions. Perhaps Jesus' nature was like that of Adam and Eve when first created. They were "good" but carried the ability to sin in their nature. Maybe this was true of Jesus as well.
If so, then Jesus' nature was less than perfect. But that's a problem. The ability to do wrong cannot be equated with a perfect nature. Besides, he was God, and 1 John 1:5 declares that "God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all."
The perfection of the divine nature is also absolute, without any possibility of change. We call this the immutability of God. He cannot become better or worse for he is already perfect in his nature. If Jesus is divine, then he couldn't go from not sinning to sinning.
It seems we have problems on both sides of the question. If Jesus couldn't sin, the power of the temptations is called into question. But if he could, the perfection of the divine nature is corrupted. What do we do?
The answer is found in understanding the two nature of Jesus Christ. As the God-man he was - and is - both fully divine and fully human. In Theology we call this the hypostatic union, the joining of two natures in one person.
Here's the answer to the question of Jesus and sin: While the human nature of Jesus made the whole person fully temptable, his divine nature kept the whole person impeccable, that is, unable to sin. Being human, he felt the temptations to the fullest extent, just as we do. Being divine, he remained perfect in his nature. As a consequence, Jesus' state was non posse peccare, "not possible to sin" as we saw in a previous post.
Jesus faced every temptation to the fullest because he never gave in. In this way he is able to identify, and sympathize with us in the struggles we face. And so, the author of Hebrews exhorts us to "run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1,2).
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