26 March 2013

Question: Was Jesus Capable of Sinning?

Did Jesus have the ability to sin? The problem hidden in that question is that if Jesus did have the ability to sin, does that mean he had original sin and participated in a fallen nature? If that were the case, he wouldn't even be qualified to save himself, let alone us. If he did not have the ability to sin, was his temptation (so central to God's giving him the crown of glory for his obedience) just a charade—was he really not subjected to real temptation?

The New Testament tells us that Jesus was like us at every point save one: He was without sin. It tells us that Jesus became incarnate and took upon himself human nature. It also tells us that he is the second Adam. Generally, classical Christology teaches that when Jesus was incarnate and became the new Adam, he came born with the same nature that Adam had before the Fall. Adam didn't have original sin when he was created. So Jesus did not have original sin. So we would ask the same question: Was Adam capable of sinning? Yes, he was. Christ, the second Adam, was also capable of sinning in the sense that he had all of the faculties and all of the equipment necessary to sin if that's what he chose to do.

Could Jesus have sinned if he had wanted to? Absolutely. Of course, he didn't want to. So if you ask it a different way, could Jesus sin if he didn't want to? No, he couldn't sin if he didn't want to any more than God could sin because God doesn't want to sin. Wanting to sin is a prerequisite for sinning.

But then we have to push it one step further: Could Jesus have wanted to sin? Theologians are divided on this point. I would say yes, I think he could have. I think that's part of being made after the likeness of Adam. When we're in heaven and are totally glorified, then we will no longer have the power and ability to sin. That's what we look forward to; that's what Jesus earned for himself and for us through his perfect obedience. Christ's perfect obedience was not a charade. He actually was victorious over every conceivable temptation that was thrown his way.

~ Excerpted from Now, That’s a Good Question! Copyright © 1996 by R. C. Sproul.


PioneerPreppy said...

Interesting question. One I am not qualified to answer certainly.

Rev. Paul said...

Preppy, understood. If He couldn't sin, then his life here was rather pointless, and only His death would matter.

But His life matters because "He was tempted in all points as we are", yet lived without sin - showing us that it's a choice we can make, with the Holy Spirit's help. Are we always successful? No, but we keep trying. :)

ProudHillbilly said...

Jesus of Nazareth in his humanity was as vulnerable to temptation as we are. But he always said "Yes" to the Father's will. Through that "Yes", the perfect "Yes" of the Cross, we know that we are also capable of saying "Yes."

Rev. Paul said...

Exactly, PH. Thanks.

Matt said...

In line with your answer to PP (and PH's comment) was the short concise answer to all this.

The ol' devil isn't going to waste time tempting us in ways in which we aren't vulnerable.

For example he isn't going to tempt Bill Gates to go rob a bank. He doesn't need that bit of fiat money. He'll find some other way in which he can tempt that man.

He will come after us in the ways we are vulnerable.

Jesus had been fasting for 40 days when Satan (the guy with the suspiciously familiar looking face wearing a hood... a bit of humor here, folks) tempted him to turn those rocks in front of him to bread. Why tempt him in this manner if he couldn't sin?

In the hours before his crucifixion, when he prayed to God (the Father),"not my will but yours" here is a classic example of his humanity (his physical concerns of torture and dying) tempting him to do his own will and not the Father's will.

Thus, the answer has to be YES. These two examples alone, prove he could have taken a selfishly sinful path of action.

Rev. Paul said...

Perfect illustration, Matt. Thanks!

Old NFO said...

Interesting question, and I'm sure he DID smile, but did not yield to temptation!

Rev. Paul said...

Exactly, sir. He chose not to yield, to show us that we can, too.

drjim said...

"Qualified to answer"?

Uhhh....I don't think I'm even qualified to ASK such deep questions!

Interesting stuff, Rev. I'll leave the deep thinking about such things to the theologians such as you!

Rev. Paul said...

drjim, I've never thought of myself as a theologian; I just love digging into God's Word while praying for revelation into His nature. But I appreciate what you said.

OldAFSarge said...

Wow. Just wow.

Thanks Rev. Very fitting for this week!

Rev. Paul said...

Thanks, Sarge. I'm glad you liked it.