Josh -the husband- and I are having a wee debate with our sixth grade Sunday School class that I wanted to share. It’s been going on a few weeks now so it’s about time I get my argument out. I’ve been listening and bantering back and forth with the kids, but it’s high time I get my thoughts out here–on the blog.
So the question on the table is, “Could Jesus have sinned.” We know that Jesus did not sin because several verses tell us so (1 Peter 2:22, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth”), but could he have? Was it within the realm of possibility for Him to have sinned because He was indeed human. The question arises because Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by satan. Matthew 4:1-11 details the story. Verse 1 says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” If Jesus didn’t have the ability to sin then why was he tempted? It’s a legit question right? We also have verses in Hebrews that tell us that He was tempted just as we are. Hebrews 2:17-18, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” and Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” It is because of these verses that two thoughts prevail. One is that Jesus could not have sinned, the other is that he could have sinned but did not.
My thought is that Jesus could not have sinned and I will try to present my argument in the following paragraphs.At the root we need to define the question, “who is God?” I believe His attributes provide an answer to the initial question, “could Jesus have sinned?” In a previous blog post I made the argument that Jesus and God are one in the same (see blog post here: https://girloutofthebox.com/2013/12/20/i-and-my-father-are-one/), so I believe we can safely use many of the same attributes of God and apply them to Jesus. There are, however, a few differences we must not ignore. In Philippians 2:6-8 the Bible tells us, “…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” The verse is clear that Jesus gave up His equality with God when He became a man. His human form made it possible to be hungry (Matthew 4:2), weak (John 4:6), and ultimately die (Matthew 27:45-46). These are not attributes of God the Father, but Jesus in the flesh. It seems Jesus was limited by the flesh, but not in His oneness of mind with God the Father and Holy Spirit.In John 1:14 the Bible says, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In John 14:7, “If you had known me, you would have known my father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him,” and finally in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” One of our students brought the point that possibly Jesus “could” have sinned while on earth but not in Heaven. This seems to be negated by Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus was and always will be the same! It does not matter where Jesus is (Heaven or earth), His nature never changed and never will change. This is key to my argument that He could not have sinned. If He could have sinned in the wilderness could He still sin now? If so then that is very precarious. Why would I want to serve a fallen man? If He could sin at any time then how could we call Him Holy? These questions can not be answered logically, so I stand with the position that it is against His nature to sin, also to have the desire to sin. This makes Him worthy of being called Holy.
In Philippians 2:6 the Bible explains Jesus took on the form of man. The word “Form” in Greek is “morfa” or “morphe” and literally means external appearance. This goes to say that his attributes never changed, His nature never changed, just his physical or external appearance. Following this line of thought, that his nature did not change, we can examine the nature of Jesus versus fallen man. In 1 John 2:16 the Bible says that the “desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life-is not from the Father but is from the world.” When we look at what the desires of the flesh are we can find in Galatians 5:17 they are not of the Spirit but against the Spirit–which is against God and Jesus. We find that the works of the flesh are, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” The Greek word for “flesh” in this instance seems to mean the nature of a human man. This nature is against God. The difference between Jesus, and the actual seed of Adam (man), is that the desire of Jesus’ heart was to please His Father, God. The father of man (prior to rebirth) is the devil (John 8:44). This difference is huge!Jesus’ desires then would not be the desires of the human flesh. I understand in 1 John the Bible says the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, but Jesus was not the seed of Adam. Jesus’ Father was God, and the fullness of God dwelt within Him; along with the nature and desires of God. The Bible, in Psalm says, ““Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” This was not the case for Jesus. Mary was a virgin impregnated by the Spirit with a being who always was (wrap your head around that!).So we are talking about two different things when using the word “flesh.” One is literally the soft tissue that wraps over muscle and bone, the other is figurative and speaking of the nature of a man. When I think of Jesus becoming flesh it’s almost like God living within the tabernacle. I picture God wrapping himself in the body of a man, but not taking on the nature of a man. “Sarx” is the Greek word used here for flesh and the first definition is,”flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of both man and beasts.” Obviously the actual human flesh is the “tent” we live in on earth, but we get a new body after death.
Human desires don’t come from the actual “flesh” but spring from the heart -which is to say the inner man- (Matthew 15:19) and lead to sin which is the transgression of God’s law. The fact that Jesus did not sin (1 Peter 2:22) means that he had no desire to sin, ever. This leaves us with a puzzling question because in Hebrews 4:15 the Bible states, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” The ESV study Bible says in this case “it means temptation to sin,” but I fully disagree with this statement. The Greek word used is “Peirazo” which can also mean, “to give proof of his perfections.”How can I say this you ask? well the definition was chosen by the ESV study Bible theologians, but that does not make them correct and honestly negates the nature of God. It doesn’t follow a logical progression of thought. To be tempted by something one must desire that thing.The very definition of tempt from the Webster’s dictionary is, “entice or attempt to entice (someone) to do or acquire something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or not beneficial.” Jesus would not find any sin enticing or attractive. Sin being the transgression of God’s law. Why would He desire to transgress His own law? He made the law! And to say that he was enticed by sin goes against James 1:13, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” I believe the key is here in this verse. God cannot be tempted by EVIL. Jesus could have been tested to prove his perfection, but he was not tempted by any evil which would be transgression or sin. So what is Hebrews referring to? Going back to Greek the definition of “tempt” can be 1. to try whether a thing can be done and 2. to test for the purpose of ascertaining quality 3. to tempt to solicit to sin. One might ask, “well why would the devil tempt Jesus if he knew it could not be done?” My answer is simple, to prove his perfection. But also so he can relate as Hebrews teaches. The word tempt can mean “to attempt.” I could attempt to get you to smoke crack but that does not mean you would be tempted -or desire- to do it. So satan attempted but Jesus had no desire and remained without sin. I think it goes back to James where it says he can’t be tempted by evil.
Where does the relatability of Jesus come in then as it says in Hebrews? In Matthew 4 Jesus’ disciple, Matthew, says Jesus struggled because He was weak from fasting. This would be because He gave up some of His attributes when He put on flesh. He was able to hunger, thirst, become tired, etc. which would allow him to sympathize with our weaknesses and struggles. He also experienced external temptations or tests. Just because He had no desire to take the temptation does not mean He was not truly given the opportunity. He was given the opportunity and used it to teach us how to remove the desire – by using Scripture. Going back to James 1:13 and moving on to vs. 14 and 15 it says, “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James points out that temptation is like the bait. The bait is there and may lead to sin, or it may not lead to sin. When it does lead to sin it is because of the persons internal desire. When that desire is acted upon (whether in ones mind or by the body) it is sin, and this sin leads to death. In Matthew 4 Satan put out the bait, but that is where everything stopped. There was no desire from Jesus to take the bait, and therefore sin was never conceived. A simple example would be a fisherman casting out some bait. This is an attempt to catch fish. A good fisherman knows which bait to cast out for certain fish. Not all fish will take the same bait, and different fish desire different kinds of bait, but it’s all bait/enticement. Jesus would not take any bait that was evil, or against God’s will/plan, because he had no desire for the bait. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that the bait was thrown out.
I conclude then that Jesus could not have sinned because 1. He had no desire and 2. it was against His very nature. Before you say, “Jesus can do anything,” please refer to Hebrews 6:18 .