Tuesday, September 23, 2008

...by R.C. Sproul

When we speak of Christ’s sinlessness we generally refer to His humanity. It is unnecessary to plead the sinlessness of Christ’s deity, as deity by our definition cannot and does not sin. The doctrine of Christ’s sinlessness has been free of any fundamental controversy. Even the most crass heretics in history have not denied this of Christ.

The sinlessness of Christ does not merely serve as an example to us. It is fundamental and necessary for our salvation. Had Christ not been the “lamb without blemish” He not only could not have secured anyone’s salvation, but would have needed a savior Himself. The multiple sins Christ bore on the cross required a perfect sacrifice. That sacrifice had to be made by one who was sinless.

Christ’s sinlessness had negative and positive aspects to it. Negatively, Christ was completely free of any transgression. He broke none of God’s holy law. He scrupulously obeyed whatsoever God commanded. Despite His sinlessness, Christ even obeyed Jewish law, submitting to circumcision, baptism, and perhaps even the system of animal sacrifice.

Positively, Christ was eager to obey the law; He was committed to doing the will of His Father. It was said of Him that zeal for His Father’s house consumed Him (John 2:17) and that His meat was to do the will of His Father (John 4:34).

One difficulty concerning the sinlessness of Christ is related to Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” If Christ was tempted as we are, how could He have been sinless? The problem becomes even greater when we read James 1:14-15: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

James describes a kind of temptation that arises from sinful desires within us. These desires are already sinful in nature. If Jesus was tempted as we are tempted it would seem to suggest that He had sinful desires. Yet this is precisely the point of the qualifier “yet without sin” in the book of Hebrews. Jesus had desires. But he had no sinful desires. When He was tempted by Satan the assault came from the outside. It was an external temptation. Satan tried to entice Jesus to eat during His period of fasting. Jesus surely had physical hunger; He had a desire for food. Yet there was no sin in being hungry. All things being equal, Jesus wanted to eat. But all things were not equal. Jesus was committed to obeying the will of the Father. He had no desire to sin.

It was by His sinlessness that Jesus qualified Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. However, our salvation requires two aspects of redemption. It was not only necessary for Jesus to be our substitute and receive the punishment due for our sins; He also had to fulfill the law of God perfectly to secure the merit necessary for us to receive the blessings of God’s covenant. Jesus not only died as the perfect for the imperfect, the sinless for the sinful, but He lived the life of perfect obedience required for our salvation.

1. The sinlessness of Christ is necessary for our salvation.
2. Jesus made atonement as the Lamb without blemish.
3. Christ was not tempted by sinful desires.
4. By His perfect obedience Jesus supplied the righteousness (merit) we require to be saved.

Biblical passages for reflection:
  • Matthew 3:15
  • Romans 5:18-21
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • Hebrews 7:26
  • 1 Peter 3:18

The above study is taken from 


Detoured By Travel said...

Steve - Thanks again for another timely post. It helps me to remember that because Jesus was fully God and fully man that He felt the same internal struggles and "temptational tugs" that I deal with every day. Yet He dealt with them and overcame them. So can I...not in and of myself, but only through surrendering and allowing His life to be lived in me.

What an awesome thought...that an almighty God would even bother to completely transform a life crushed with sin and covered in unrighteousness and change it into His own likeness and righteousness. What a blessing to belong to Him.

Blessings on you as continue to minister His Word in truth.

SJ Camp said...

Thank you my brother. If we are going to get the gospel right, we must fully understand the nature and character of our Lord Jesus Christ correctly.

Sproul has done a masterful job in this brief article on impeccability of Christ. I am glad it can be an encouragement to you today.


donsands said...

This was a fine teaching. Thanks for posting such an essential truth.

RC does believe Jesus in His humanity had the possibility to sin, but in His deity it would have been impossible to sin.

Personally, I don't believe it was ever possible for Jesus to sin, even in His humanity, though I believe His temptation was more intense, and beyond our understanding what being tempted is all about.

But I do have to consider the source. I always listen to Dr. Sproul with open ears and an open mind.

Rick Frueh said...

I like his suggestion that all temptation came to Him, not from Him. These temptations were to His human body because God cannot be tempted. Jesus had a human body, but I have never felt comfortable with Christ having a human nature.

If He had desires such as pre-sin AAdam, then He would have had sinful temptations. And if He had two natures, one Logos and one human, do both those natures (persons) exist today in heaven?

I still entertain the concept that the Incarnation was God inside a human body (a body Thou hast prepared...) and not a human body indwelt by two natures.

His body, although human, was different than mine as well. I have not walked on water or disappeared through crowds. He was tempted, as Sproul said, from the outside and never felt any inside sinful desires which a human nature would have felt.

The teaching by Sproul was very good.

donsands said...


What about the Lord as a child, and especially as a young adult? the temptations must have been intense. Yet Jesus never sinned in thought, word, or deed.
What a Savior He was.

In heaven he is a Man. He is the mediator between us and God, the Man, Jesus Christ.

Rick Frueh said...

"In heaven he is a Man"

I do not agree, Don. In heaven He is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word of God. The man as mediator refers to the Incarnation. I do not believe He is a man anymore.

Debbie said...

R.C. Sproul brings such clarity and understanding to the most fundamental truths of Scripture. This excerpt was no exception. I’m always happy to read something from his pen! Thank you for all the times you share his writings with us here at COT. His books are always at the top of my wish list.

donsands said...

"For one God, and one Mediator between God and men, Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all" 1 Tim. 2:5-6a

Why did Paul say Man Christ Jesus?

Rick Frueh said...

He was referring to the Incarnation of course. Pre-creation Christ (Logos) could not be the Mediator, it had to be the God/man Christ. The next verse says "Who gave Himself a ransom for all..." so this refers to the salvation Mediator - the Incarnate Christ.

No one comes to the Father but through the Incarnate Christ and His sacrifice. People may believe in God/Jesus as the one true God, but if they do not believe in the cross of Christ they cannot be saved.

Jesus does not come back to earth as a glorified man, but as the Son of God in glory with all His heavenly angels.

donsands said...

What about Him as the High Priest, and coming back as the Son of man. Of course He is the Son of God, and Son of man.

Also he rose from the dead, and came to His disciples and was flesh and bones. He ascended into heaven, and this same Jesus will return.

He is Jesus for sure, the same one Peter loved, and saw, and the same Jesus John laid upon. I'm sure they are looking forward to the Day when they come back to earth with this same Jesus.

The incredible thing for me, and what humbles me, is that the Almighty Lord God of the universe became a man, and is even now Man: The Man Christ Jesus.

We disagree here Rick.

SJ Camp said...

Jesus in incarnation became the God/Man. He was fully man (John 1:14; Phil. 2:7-9; Heb. 2:14) and fully God (John 1:18; Phil. 2:5-6; Heb. 4:15, 7:26).

When He was resurrected from the dead, He was raised with a glorified body (John 20 - and specifically v. 24-29). He still has that body with Him today and will return as King of kings and Lord of lords as God the Son, but in His glorified body. He has that body for all eternity.

His nail scarred hands, feet and His pierced side will be the constant reminder of His once for all sacrifice for our sins. We will sing forever, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the earth."


Rick Frueh said...

I appreciate the exchange, Don. As always, you are a Christian gentleman.

Rick Frueh said...

Steve - Yes, AMEN AND AMEN. On that day all past history will seem absolutely unimportant and we may not even remember it in lght of His glory. I agree, Christ took His body to heaven, my only point, about which I am not dogmatic, is that He never had a human nature, only a prepared human body.

But it is a great and wonderful mystery. And almost without fail the heresy comes when some suggests that Jesus was either not God or a different god (Mormons). I reject them all and confess that Christ was ans is the second person of the Trinity, and was begotten of the Father, not made, and is eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

In the end, the body thing is a mystery, but to think our Lord would choose to keep the wounds given to Him because of us boggles the mind and reveals a love that will never be duplicated. Halleluiah!!!

SJ Camp said...

I agree, Christ took His body to heaven, my only point, about which I am not dogmatic, is that He never had a human nature, only a prepared human body.

I appreciate this discussion and the thoughts you have expressed here.

The Hypostatic Union is a mystery but an essential of the faith and foundational truth as to the nature and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Simply it states that Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God. He had two natures - the human and divine. He did not have a divine humanness nor did He have a humanized divinity. He was both man (the human nature) and God (the divine nature) in one Person.

As the Council of Chalcedon rightly affirmed in the year 451: "Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us." (emphasis mine)

IOW, they said that we believe that Jesus is verus homus, verus Deus ~ truly man, truly God. Then they went on to set boundaries for how we're to think about the way in which these two natures relate to each other. Importantly, they said that these two natures are in perfect unity, without mixture, division, confusion, or separation.

To reiterate, when we think about the Incarnation, we don't want to get the two natures mixed up and think that Jesus had a deified human nature or a humanized divine nature. We can distinguish them, but we can't tear them apart because they exist in perfect unity. There is the mystery.

This biblically can be found in John 1:1-18. The Word was with God and was God; the Word became flesh; and is the only begotten from the Father. Son of God and Son of Man.

To deny either of His natures in one Person would be to embrace (even unwittingly) variations of some of the early heresies which spread through the first few centuries of the early church.

One of those heresies is called Ebionism. This heresy is the view that Jesus was in nature just a man, denying his divinity altogether. The Ebionites were an offshoot of the specifically Jewish form of Christianity, which was a potent force in the apostolic age.

Another would be the heresy known as Adoptionism. This heresy is the view that Jesus was in nature a man who became the Son of God by Adoption; that is, that Jesus was virtuous man that God adopted and constituted him as His Son. The earliest extant writing that expresses this view is the Shepherd of Hermas, which is thought to be written by the brother of the bishop of Rome about A.D. 150. It taught that Jesus was an ordinary man, born of Mary and Joseph; at his baptism the Spirit or Christ descended upon Jesus and at his crucifixion the Christ departed, leaving the man Jesus to suffer alone.

Or the heresy known as Docetism. This heresy is the view that Jesus was in nature divine, eliminating his humanity. The name Docetism (Greek, dokein = "to seem") indicated the distinctive thesis of it that Christ's man hood, hence his sufferings, were unreal, phantasmal, appearing only to be human. It claimed that Christ only appeared or seemed to be a man. This view clearly shows the Graeco-Oriental assumption the divine impassability and the inherent evil nature of matter.

Or the most widely known heresy called Arianism. This heresy is the view that Jesus was not fully divine although still related to God as a son to a father. He was created, but not eternal; and made divine but not of the same substance as the Father.

Or the heresy called Apollinarianism. This heresy was the view of Jesus that when the Logos (a perfect divine nature) assumed a human body in Jesus, it took the place of his human mind or soul. This was the view advanced by Apollinaris (c.310-c.390 A.D.), Bishop of Laodicea, in opposition to the doctrine of Arianism. Both views were held to be unorthodox and Apollinarianism was condemned by the Second Ecumenical Council, the First Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381.

Or the heresy of what is known as Nestorianism. It says that Jesus existed as two persons with two distinct natures and denying they existed in unity.

Or to embrace what came to be known as Monophysitism which originated as a reaction to Nestorianism. The Monophysites (led by a man named Eutyches) were horrified by Nestorius’s implication that Christ was two people with two different natures (human and divine). They went to the other extreme, claiming that Christ was one person with only one nature (a fusion of human and divine elements). They are thus known as Monophysites because of their claim that Christ had only one nature (Greek: mono = one; physis = nature).

Sorry to be long on this, but it is very important and crucial that we get our Christology correct. The biblical and orthodox view is that Jesus was one person with two natures. He was fully human, but yet fully divine in one person (Phil. 2:5-11).

Please know that I am not suggesting that you are guilty of or affirming any of these things listed above. I was just reacting to your statement quoted above and am glad that you said you are not dogmatic as to that conclusion.

I appreciate you Rick and thank the Lord for you.

Let me know your thoughts.
Heb. 1:1-3

Rick Frueh said...

Thank you, Steve, for such great research. I am going to copy your comment for my personal research if that is alright with you.

Wow, a musician with Biblical scholarship as well!

Thans again - Rick

Carla said...


your lengthy reply on the hypstatic union should be a post all its own. Very helpful I would think for those that may be a little unsure on this topic.

I can recall having conversations on this topic a long time ago on various chats/forums and the one thing that always stood out to me is that it seemed like folks were more prone to adopt errant ideas on this because it's so foreign to our understanding. We truly do desire to grasp this, and in that zeal to understand we often accept a teaching that may not be Biblically sound.

One of the other disagreements I can recall coming up quite often, was that if you say Jesus had a human nature, you're essentially saing He had a sin nature. Obviously folks are quick to deny that, so they also deny He had any kind of a human nature.

In any event, excellent reply.