The Sinlessness of the Lord Jesus Christ
George: I was interested in your comment tonight on Hebrews 5:15, that it should be translated, “He was in all points tempted like as we are, sin apart”. In other words that there was one exception to His temptations, He was not tempted by a sinful nature.
John: Clearly, whether the translation is correct or not, our blessed Lord could not be drawn away and enticed by His own lust, which James tells us is the experience of every other man (Jas. 1:14).
George: I agree with that of course, but does this not mean that His sufferings from temptation were not so great as ours?
John: No, His sufferings from the temptations which came from without, were much greater than ours can ever be, for He was not able to compromise in the slightest. Suffering from temptation occurs when we resist it. We are liable to give way to temptation, perhaps in a small degree, and this takes the edge off the suffering. Neither do we feel the revulsion to sin which He felt in His holy soul.
George: You have now touched upon a subject that has been troubling me for some time. You say He was not able to compromise in the slightest. Are you sure this is correct? There are many leaders in Evangelical circles that are teaching that the Lord was able to sin, but never actually did so. But others maintain that this is fundamental error and that He could not sin.
John: I maintain that those who say that the Lord was peccable but not peccant—that is that He was able to sin but did not do so—are in fundamental error. He was impeccable; that is it was impossible for Him to sin.
George: What scripture have you for saying this? There are three important scriptures that speak of His sinlessness: “He did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22 ); “He knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21 ); and “In Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). I know no scripture which says that He could not sin. Do you?
John: Those actual words are not in Scripture.
George: I have heard brethren say that if He had been able to sin, it would show that He had a sinful nature, which the last scripture denies. However, this argument seems to me to be unsound. Adam had a sinless, unfallen nature when he was created, but he was not impeccable as subsequent events proved. The statement that the Lord could not sin seems to me to deny His true humanity. He took an unfallen, human nature, not a superhuman one. Surely He did not take a stronger variety of manhood that was, unlike Adam, incapable of sinning.
John: You are right that He partook of flesh and blood and that He was in all things made like unto His brethren (Heb. 2:14 & 17). But you overlook the all-important fact that the One who took human nature never ceased to be God. You cannot divide His Person. In everything which He did as Man, it was He, Himself, who did it. The Incarnation is an inscrutable mystery but scripture gives abundant witness to the truths that we need to know about it. If the Lord had sinned as Man, it would have been God the Son who had sinned. That is obviously impossible.
George: I had not thought of that, but I still have a difficulty. It is impossible for God to be fatigued (Ps. 121:4), yet as Man the Lord was weary with His journey. Thus He could go through an experience as Man that He could not have as God. What is the difference in principle here?
John: That God should condescend to be tired and hungry in the humanity that He took, shows His infinite grace and love, but it does not offend against His righteousness and the purity of His Divine Nature. But if He had sinned as Man, God would no longer be righteous. That is an impossibility.
George: Do you then admit that He took a nature that was peccable in itself?
John: No, it cannot be said to be peccable, not because it differs from Adam's unfallen nature, but because it is joined for ever to Deity in His blessed Person. This is fundamental. Those who say that He could have sinned, may not deny His sinlessness, but they are in fundamental error as to the truth of His Person.