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August 17, 2008 Q & A

Was it possible for Jesus to sin?

Question:

I have been reading the book The Great Exchange by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. It is written as a modern update of George Smeaton books published in 1868 and 1870. On page 220 the book states that "Christ was not represented under Adam, so he was not born with a sin nature that compelled him to sin. Christ could have sinned, but unlike Adam, he did not." I have always understood that Christ was God and therefore incapable of sin. In him there was no darkness and although he was tempted as we are he was almighty God, enduring the suffering of the temptation, yet bringing glory to God in his scriptural denial of the devil. I would appreciate a fuller understanding of the Reformed perspective in this matter. Thank you.

Answer:

This question "Was it possible that Jesus could sin?" cannot be answered by any direct statement in the Scriptures. It can only be answered through a process of reasoning from the Scriptures. As our Confession of Faith says "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men" (1:6). But in this instance it is not the case that all Reformed Theologians have come to the same conclusion.

The reason for this, in my opinion, is the fact that our Lord is both divine and human—fully God and fully man. I've never heard any Reformed theologian suggest that it is possible for God to sin—and, remember, Jesus is God (John 1:1). At the same time, however, the Bible says that he took to himself a true human nature. He was made like us in all points except for sin (Heb. 4:15). This means that he was not born, as we are, with a sinful nature (original sin).

So his human nature was like that of Adam before he chose to sin. Adam had the ability to choose. So did Jesus. So the ultimate question is really this: Is it possible that Jesus could have chosen to sin, as Adam did? It is my conviction that the answer to this question can only be "No, he couldn't." Let me state my reasons.

1. It was the plan of God from all eternity that Jesus would never sin.

2. Jesus knew what an awful calamity Adam's sin had inflicted on the world.

3. The human nature of Christ was distinct but never separated from his own divine nature.

4. He knew that it was the will of his heavenly Father that he resist temptation.

5. The result was that he only wanted to do what the Father planned for him, and this means that it was impossible for him to ever want to choose what was evil.

Yet even in reaching this conclusion there is one thing that must never be forgotten, or in any way minimized. He was tempted in all points as we are. And it was just as hard (maybe even harder) for him to resist Satanic temptation, as it is for us who are sinful by nature. There was absolutely nothing easy or automatic in the steadfast faithfulness of our Savior. The fact that something is predestined by God (and therefore absolutely certain) does not in any way whatsoever remove or minimize the full integrity and significance of human actions.

Thank you for asking this momentous question. And may the Lord enable you "by good and necessary consequence" deduce your own conviction from Scripture.

 

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