Rockport Sermon

Monday, August 18, 2008

Could Jesus Sin?

Bill E asks,
The subject was brought up in Sunday School class that Jesus could have sinned . . . Was that really possible, and is there any scriptural evidence to support this.
Dear Bill,

When it comes to a question like this, it's helpful to begin by making sure we define exactly what is being asked before we attempt an answer. If the question being asked is, "Was there any way Jesus could have actually sinned and failed the test put to him when he was tempted by the devil?" I think the answer would have to be a solid "No." As God, Jesus' righteousness is incorruptible -- "He cannot be tempted by evil" James 1:13 says, meaning that as far as his divine nature is concerned He is incapable of sinning. We see the same thing in Hebrews 7:26 where it says that "it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens". Jesus is incorruptibly righteous! There was just no way he would ever choose to sin. It runs contrary to everything in Him that makes Him Who He is!

But does that mean that the temptations of Jesus were a mere show? Are we saying that Jesus could not have sinned even if he wanted to? Here is where I think we run into trouble. We're thinking of Jesus' "inability to sin" as if it were a defect or flaw that prevented him from doing something he might otherwise have done. But the righteousness of Jesus does not spring from an incapacity. It's not that he was incapable of making the choices that would lead to sin. Not at all!

Let me show you what I mean by asking the question in a little different way: Did Jesus have the capacity to sin if he wanted to? Could he have chosen to give in to Satan, had that been his desire? Now the answer would have to be an unqualified 'Yes.' As a human being, Jesus certainly had the capacity to choose to do whatever he wanted to do. And had he wanted to sin, he most certainly could have done so. The thing is, because he was/is perfectly righteous, he simply did not want to! He could not want to!

You see it is not an issue of incapacity, or inability. We're not saying Jesus could not sin in the same way that you cannot fly around the room -- because you lack the equipment to do so. We're saying Jesus could not sin because in his perfect righteousness, he simply would never choose to do so. It was and is a moral 'inability' to sin, not a physical incapacity. Or perhaps we should say a 'moral perfection' on his part, that enabled him never to choose sin because he always chooses that which is righteous. Thus He can be tempted in every way we are, and yet remain without sin (Heb 4:14).

Maybe this illustration will help. If you hand me a loaded gun, I certainly have the ability to point that gun and pull the trigger. Nothing prevents me from doing so. I can do so any time I choose. And yet, take that same gun and point it at my child's head and tell me to pull the trigger, and I will tell you that I cannot do so. You can threaten me, beat me, beg me, shame me, tempt me with all the money in the world, and I will not do it! The very act is morally inconceivable to me -- I cannot and will not do it for any reason.

Now, if you can understand my "moral inability" to pull the trigger of a gun that would kill my child, then you can begin to understand Jesus' "moral inability" to do anything that would violate His Father's will. As imperfect as I am, I am morally unable to do this particular evil. But Jesus in his perfection is unable to do any kind of evil! I think that's what we see taking place in the temptations of Christ. He certainly has the capacity to do what Satan is tempting him to do. He could sin if he wanted to. But his moral character is such, that it is unthinkable for Him. He will not do it for any price!

By the way, the same thing can be said of our moral inability to choose God as long as we are in our sin. Man in his sin is "incapable" of turning from sin and embracing Christ by faith, not because something prevents him from doing so, but because it is morally reprehensible to a self-centered person to forsake self and embrace Christ wholeheartedly. That's why we must have the miracle of regeneration to give us a new heart before we will turn and embrace Christ by faith! (Ezekiel 36:25-27; John 3:3f) But that's another subject, I suppose.

But oh what joy to know such a perfectly righteous Christ Who in His righteousness stood up for us and chose to bear our sin upon Himself and take it to the cross on our behalf. And to know that one day we too will share in this very same righteousness, when in heaven we reign with Him and are fully restored to His image. We too, in heavenly glory, will be made new in Him in such a way that sin becomes impossible for us in that place, for all the same reasons it is now impossible for Him -- having seen Him face to face, and become like Him, we will find it inconceivable to ever betray him again!

Oh how I long for that day!


Jason Vaughn said...

Scott your wisdom and way with words amazes me. I pray that God would teach me to speak and shepherd in such a way as I follow Him.

Kyle Otto said...

Thanks for sharing brother!

I'm going to pray more about this, but I definitely agree that Jesus is unable to sin. I heard a sermon by John MacArthur on the Holiness of God, and he hit on that subject.

Grace & Peace

Gordon said...

Thanks for this post. I've been looking for a solid answer to this question. Well done.