Monday, February 23, 2009

...recovering the reverence of God in ministry

The sinless God-Man was tempted in all points as we are yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Not only did He not sin, but He was not able to sin. There was never a time nor the possibility afforded through any circumstance or situation where He could have ever sinned. He could not have and did not sin in thought, word, deed, desire, whim, impluse, dream, motive, etc. Every fiber of His being was always in strict conformity to His holiness; and never strayed from the perfection of His holiness.

The Lord Jesus Christ was fully man, but fully God; tempted as we are, and
not able to sin...

A.W. Pink unfolds this profound doctrine in his excellent article. May it encourage you afresh in your worship and service to the Spotless Lamb of God!

Sola Deo Gloria,
Heb. 7:26

by Arthur W. Pink

We are living in a world of sin, and the fearful havoc it has wrought is evident on every side. How refreshing, then, to fix our gaze upon One who is immaculately holy, and who passed through this scene unspoiled by its evil. Such was the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate. For thirty-three years He was in immediate contact with sin, yet He was never, to the slightest degree, contaminated. He touched the leper, yet was not defiled, even ceremonially. Just as the rays of the sun shine upon a stagnant pool without being sullied thereby, so Christ was unaffected by the iniquity which surrounded Him. He 'did no sin' (1 Pet. 2:22), 'in Him is no sin' (1 John 3:5 and contrast 1:8), He 'knew no sin' (2 Cor. 5:21), He was 'without sin' (Heb. 4:15). He was 'holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners' (Heb. 7:26).

But not only was Christ sinless, He was impeccable, that is, incapable of sinning.
No attempt to set forth the doctrine of His wondrous and peerless person would be complete, without considering this blessed perfection. Sad indeed is it to behold the widespread ignorance thereon today, and sadder still to hear and read this precious truth denied. The last Adam differed from the first Adam in His impeccability. Christ was not only able to overcome temptation, but He was unable to be overcome by it. Necessarily so, for He was 'the Almighty' (Rev. 1:8). True, Christ was man, but He was the God-man, and as such, absolute Master and Lord of all things. Being Master of all things—as His dominion over the winds and waves, diseases and death, clearly demonstrated—it was impossible that anything should master Him.

The immutability of Christ proves His impeccability,
or incapability of sinning: 'Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever' (Heb. 13:8). Because He was not susceptible to any change, it was impossible for the incarnate Son of God to sin. Herein we behold again His uniqueness. Sinless angels fell, sinless Adam fell: they were but creatures, and creaturehood and mutability are, really, correlative terms. But was not the manhood of Christ created? Yes, but it was never placed on probation, it never had a separate existence. From the very first moment of its conception in the virgin's womb, the humanity of Christ was taken into union with His Deity; and therefore could not sin.

The omnipotence of Christ proves His impeccability.
That the Lord Jesus, even during the days of His humiliation, was possessed of omnipotence, is clear from many passages of Scripture. 'What things so ever He (the Father) doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise... For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will' (John 5:19, 21). When we say that Christ possessed omnipotence during His earthly sojourn, we do not mean that He was so endowed by the Holy Spirit, but that He was essentially, inherently, personally, omnipotent. Now to speak of an omnipotent person yielding to sin, is a contradiction in terms. All temptation to sin must proceed from a created being, and hence it is a finite power; but impossible is it for a finite power to overcome omnipotency.

The constitution of Christ's person proves His impeccability.
In Him were united (in a manner altogether incomprehensible to created intelligence) the Divine and the human natures. Now 'God cannot be tempted with evil' (James 1:13); 'it is impossible for God to lie' (Heb. 6:18). And Christ was 'God manifest in flesh' (1 Tim. 3:16); 'Immanuel'—God with us (Matt. 1:23). Personality centered not in His humanity. Christ was a Divine person, who had been 'made in the likeness of men' (Phil. 2:7). Utterly impossible was it, then, for the God-man to sin. To affirm the contrary, is to be guilty of the most awful blasphemy. It is irreverent speculation to discuss what the human nature of Christ might have done if it had been alone. It never was alone; it never had a separate existence; from the first moment of its being it was united to a Divine person.

It is objected to the truth of Christ's impeccability that it is inconsistent with His temptability. A person who cannot sin, it is argued, cannot be tempted to sin.
As well might one reason that because an army cannot be defeated, it cannot be attacked. 'Temptability depends upon the constitutional susceptibility, while impeccability depends upon the will. So far as His natural susceptibility, both physical and mental, was concerned, Jesus Christ was open to all forms of human temptation, excepting those that spring out of lust, or corruption of nature. But His peccability, or the possibility of being overcome by these temptations, would depend upon the amount of voluntary resistance which He was able to bring to bear against them. Those temptations were very strong, but if the self-determination of His holy will was stronger than they, then they could not induce Him to sin, and He would be impeccable. And yet plainly He would be temptable' (W.G. Shedd, 1889).

Probably there were many reasons why God ordained that His incarnate Son should be tempted by men, by the Devil, by circumstances.
One of these was to demonstrate His impeccability. Throw a lighted match into a barrel of gunpowder, and there will be an explosion; throw it into a barrel of water, and the match will be quenched. This, in a very crude way, may be taken to illustrate the difference between Satan's tempting us and his tempting of the God-man. In us, there is that which is susceptible to his 'fiery darts'; but the Holy One could say, 'The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me' (John 14:30). The Lord Jesus was exposed to a far more severe testing and trying than the first Adam was, in order to make manifest His mighty power of resistance.

'We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, without sin' (Heb. 4:15). 'This text teaches that the temptations of Christ were 'without sin' in their source and nature, and not merely, as the passage is sometimes explained, that they were 'without sin' in their result. The meaning is not, that our Lord was tempted in every respect exactly as fallen man is-by inward lust, as well as by other temptations—only He did not outwardly yield to any temptation; but that He was tempted in every way that man is, excepting by that class of temptations that are sinful, because originating in evil and forbidden desire.

'The fact that Christ was almighty and victorious in His resistance does not unfit Him to be an example for imitation to a weak and sorely-tempted believer. Because our Lord overcame His temptations, it does not follow that His conflict and success was an easy one for Him. His victory cost Him tears and blood. 'His visage was so marred more than any man' (Isa. 52:14). There was the 'travail of His soul' (Isa. 52:14). In the struggle He cried, 'O My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me' (Matt. 26:39). Because an army is victorious, it by no means follows that the victory was a cheap one' (W.G.T. Shedd).

One other objection may, perhaps, be noted,
though we hesitate to defile these pages by even transcribing the filthy exhalations of the carnal mind. If the humanity of Christ was, because of its union to His Divine person, incapable of sinning, then in view of its being Divinely sustained how could it hunger and thirst, suffer and die? and seeing it did, then why was it incapable of yielding to temptation? It is sufficient answer to this impious question to point out that, while the Mediator was commissioned to die (John 10:18), He was not commissioned to sin. The human nature of Christ was permitted to function freely and normally: hence it wearied and wept; but to sin is not a normal act of human nature.

To be the Redeemer of His people, Christ must be 'mighty to save, traveling in the greatness of His strength' (Isa. 63:1).
He must have power to overcome all temptation when it assails His person, in order that He may be able to 'succor them that are tempted' (Heb. 2:18). Here then is one of the solid planks in that platform on which the faith of the Christian rests: because the Lord Jesus is Almighty, having absolute power over sin, the feeble and sorely-tried saint may turn to Him in implicit confidence, seeking His efficacious aid. Only He who triumphed over sin, both in life and in death, can save me from my sins.

Taken from Studies in the Scriptures, Sept. 1932.


the ROCK says said...

I'm sorry... this seems like theological gobble-do gook to me. To say that while Jesus was tempted he was actually unable to sin removes the whole 'power' of the temptation. It is like saying a man with no legs was tempted to get up and walk out on a bad sermon. A man is not tempted to do things which he cannot do. He may desire or wish to do them but he is not tempted to do them. I, for instance, am not tempted to go out and buy a brancd new Ferrari. Why? Because I am not financially able to do so. I am tempted to buy a new pair of shoes because it is actually within my means. A Ferrari is not.

And surely, that is what is valuable in overcoming temptation. There is no merit in not doing something because you were unable. My wife does not praise me for not buying the Ferrari. Imagine if I said to her, 'Baby, I was tempted to buy a new Ferrari today but I didn't.' The most likely reaction is laughter. Is that how we should view the temptations of Christ?

That's how I see it anyway.... or did I miss something?

SJ Camp said...

the rock says
Thank you for your comment... good questions.

I will try my best to answer you:
His impeccability proves His holy character; for only One who is impeccable could resist temptation to the uttermost.

We must remember that the Lord Jesus Christ as the God-Man did not cease to be God in incarnation though He was also fully man (John 1:14-18; Heb. 4:15; 13:8).

The possibility of sinning did not exist with Him for a few reasons:
1. He did not have a sin nature - though was fully man;

2. He was not conceived in sin as you and I were - though born of a Virgin, "the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit";

3. He was not tainted with Adam's original sin or guilt thereof - though He was called the Last Adam (Roms. 5:12-18).

Because He was "not able to sin" proves His Deity in incarnation without diminishing His humanity (Son of God and Son of Man). If He were able to sin-but didn't... would mean He was someone less than God for "the possibility of sin with Him then existed."

The doctrine of the impeccability of Christ goes to piercing the heart of the "Arian heresy" of the 4th century and all other factions today that cast doubt about the Deity of Christ in incarnation as the God-Man.

Grace and peace,

the ROCK says said...

Thanks for your quick rsponse...

It just seems to me that if we remove the possibilty of Jesus being able to sin, we then risk taking away from the power of His life and what He did on earth. As I said earlier, no one sees the merit in a man who does good things simply because he is unable to do anything else. A man who gives all his money to the poor is not seen as 'good' when it was done because there was gun to his head.
And on a personal level, it takes away from the knowledge that God became man and knows what it is like to live my life. It removes the comfort that Jesus knows what it is like to struggle and overcome temptation because He went thru it as well. Because what we are saying is that He doesn't know and didn't go thru it. And if that is so... what was the whole scene in the garden of gethsemane? Was it not Jesus struggling with the temptation and the possibilty of 'take this cup from me.' What you are saying is that it was not taken, not because Jesus prayed 'but thy will be done' but because it was impossible for Him to pray otherwise.

Finally, do we need to somehow 'prove' the deity of Christ? He never seemed to feel a need to prove it. And from memory, the only thing the apostles ever pointed to as some kind of proof was the resurrection. And, as it is today, it took faith to believe that.


Breuss Wane said...

Pink wrote: "would depend upon the amount of voluntary resistance which He was able to bring to bear against them"

this qualification of "temptability" is certainly debatable.

Perry McCall said...

We have never experienced the full weight of temptation as Christ did. I too struggle with the language of this doctrine. Erickson often talks about the difference between something being certain versus being neccessary. I think these catagories might be helpful in this discussion. However, you can't get past the reality that Jesus was fully God.

Rock, I take my comfort not in the possibility (or not) of Jesus being able to sin but in the bible's revelation that he exp. the full extent of temptation by not falling into it. The fact remains that even it is was poss. for him to sin our exp. would not be analagous to his. We might not give in at any given time to a specific temptation. But we have no exp. of being untouched by temp. however, I do feel your pain. This is a tough doctrine to understand.

Cathy J said...

Does this mean that if we are born again (Christ in us the hope of glory) we cannot sin or I should say will not sin? He that is born of God sinneth not.

cyd said...

Dear CathyJ:

Yes, we as believers do still sin.
We are made righteous through Christ alone, 2Cor.5:21, and Romans 8:30 says that we are predestined, called, justified & glorified.

But, we still live in earthly bodies, therefore we still sin. Paul talks about this in Romans 7.

However, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. He is the Propitiatory Sacrifice. It is His propitiation that He pleads on our behalf when we sin, and He ever lives to make intercession for those who come to God through Him.
So, we have the joy of knowing that in Hebrews 10:19-22, God promises believers this:

"Therefore, brothers, (that's us), since we have confidence by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."
The pure water is the sanctifying virtue of the Holy Spirit, cleansing us from the filthiness of the flesh and spirit. This is our ongoing sanctification, that we are being conformed to the image of His Son Romans 8:29.

And nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

What a wonderful Saviour!!


Cathy J said...

What do we do with the scripture in 1 John 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And 1 John 3 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let know man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God DOTH NOT COMMIT SIN: for his seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
How can we be in God and in the flesh at the same time. Double minded isn't it?

cyd said...

Dear CathyJ:

Great question!! Not double minded at all.

Luther called this simul iustus et peccator, at once just (or justified) and sinner.

Perhaps this will help:

"Through faith we run to Christ and hold fast to Him, who satisfied the law on our behalf (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:10-13). In this way we are accounted righteous in the sight of God through faith alone, without doing the works of the law. We are simul iustus et peccator.

Luther recognized that even in a state of regeneration the believer still lives in the world and still in fact does commit acts of sin. There is no attempt to redefine sin to make it anything less than what it is. Rather there is a stark recognition of the dialectic of the Christian's acceptance before God and the fact that he still sins. Luther's phrase to describe this condition was that the state of the Christian between regeneration and ultimate glorification is is simul iustus et peccator, at once just (or justified) and sinner.
This is not a condition that will ever be transcended in this life. Rather, the believer must always rely on the finished work of Christ for his/her acceptance before God."

Westminster says this:
"Those whom, God effectually calls he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God" – WCF Ch 11

"iniquities are forgiven," "sins are covered," "the Lord does not reckon sin against us." Romans 4:5-8

Kinda long answer, but a great doctrine to wrap your head and heart around!


cyd said...

"Whosoever is born of God DOTH NOT COMMIT SIN: for his seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."

One more thought here -- the Greek verb for 'commit' here refers to the habitual practice of sin. As believers, we have a new nature, and the habitual practice of sin is contrary to "Christ in us, the hope of glory", as you stated so beautifully, Cathy.

Christ has sanctified us through His death, and so habitual sin has no place in our lives. Hence, confession and forgiveness and cleansing from ALL unrighteousness, 1John 1:9.

If there is one who claims to be a believer, yet lives in habitual sin, John says that they do not know Him. 1John 3:6
We live to, for, in, through and because of Christ. He is our Only Hope. Rest in His Righteousness.


Sojourner said...


Just a quick thought. You posted three reasons why Jesus was unable to sin. They are:

1. He did not have a sin nature - though was fully man;

2. He was not conceived in sin as you and I were - though born of a Virgin, "the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit";

3. He was not tainted with Adam's original sin or guilt thereof - though He was called the Last Adam (Roms. 5:12-18).

How, then, do we have Adam sinning before the fall? He wasn't virgin-born, but he certainly wasn't conceived in sin. He wasn't tainted before the taint, and he did not have a sin nature. Should we have considered him unable to sin before the fall?

Sojourner said...

That should be, "How do we have Adam sinning "at" the fall.

Anonymous said...


Because Adam was not deity.

Brent O'Conner said...

At no point in eternity was Jesus becoming God. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God... and the Word became flesh. God did not manifest Himself in the flesh to expose Himself to a test to see if He would remain God.
When tempting Jesus in the desert satan no more understood he was dealing with Supreme Soverignty in the flesh than the first time he rebelled against Supreme Soverignty, his Creator, in heaven. The whole problem is that satan cannot accept his small place in the cosmos as a created being. Satan tempted Jesus in ignorance, not knowing the mind of God and that his attempts to alter reality were futile. Now as then, satan does not know the mind of God and continues to rebel relying on some delusional fantsy that his rebellion can still succeed.
The satanic schema, driven by covetesness and self-idolitry, is to rebell and lay that rebellion at the foot of the Soverign Creator. It goes like this: "You made me this way. The source of my sin lies in You. You cannot hold me responsible for Your foul up. Even You "can" make a mistake." This rebellious psychology lies in us all and manifests itself in the fallen by our ascribing peccibility to Jesus. It make us feel better. In our capicity for sin we are more like Him. But this is not what scripture teaches. We are not like Jesus and thank Jesus, He is not like us. He is the example to which we must conform. He is the potter we are the clay, perfection in being not in becoming. We rely on His being perfect and our becoming so because he wills it.
While non-falsifiable principals in logic are to be scrutnized carefully this is one prinicipal which is non-falsifiable, to wit: God does not act to do good. God acts therefore it is good. By trinitarian analogy the "Word Incarnate" does not act to do good. Jesus acts therefore it is good. It can be no other way.

Brent O'Conner

Psalm said...

Once again I find myself agreeing with a controversial subject and getting on someones bad side.

I agree with, the Rock.

Steve, What you are saying is effectively, removing the sacrifice, No pain no gain. If Jesus was indeed incapable of sinning (not that He did), then there was no sacrifice because there was nothing to lose. Why is it not good enough what He did, but it must also be dissected in this manner? There was much to lose, More than you will ever understand or know. To say things like this debase His glory and remove the only division between Gods wrath and You. If He lost nothing of Himself in what He did, Then there is nothing to please God and, You my friend are in trouble.