In this issue of “Theology & Culture” (T&C), we are looking at the issue in Part 2 of whether Jesus, as the God-Man, sinned or not, or could have done so. We are going to look at some practical ramifications for us as Christ followers in this blog. I would strongly encourage you to read Part 1 of this discussion for it is there that the foundation behind what we will say are found. I do not want to spend too much time going back over the groundwork we laid.
You can find Part 1 either at our church website, here at our church as a printed copy, or you can read it on my website at scottreeve.org.
As a reminder from our first blog on this subject, let me share with us why I believe this is a crucial topic to consider. The Cultural Research Center located at Arizona Christian University and under the direction of George Barna, did an “American Worldview Inventory, 2023” research project. The views on certain issues, even among those who identified as born again Christians, have changed over the last few years.
For our discussion, here are the figures and these were concerning, to say the least. In 2020 58% of Christians (still a small number in my opinion) believed that Jesus committed no sins in His time on earth. In 2023 that figure was a stunningly low 44%. Less than half of Christians surveyed held to the belief that Jesus never sinned while He walked this dusty planet. That means 56% believe that He did indeed sin. This issue is of great importance.
Some believe that unless Jesus could have sinned, He would never have understood temptation as we do. But is that true? Can one face temptation and consciously choose to not sin and/or ignore the opportunity presented to do something that God forbids us to.
As a reminder, we know that Jesus did not sin. Passages such as Jn. 8:46; 1 Peter 2:22; and Jam. 1:13 tell us that God could not sin nor cause us to sin. Jesus was and is eternal God (John 1:1-2).
As we noted in our previous article, there is a difference between being tempted and sinning. We can face a temptation and either give in to it or say “no.” That is true of us as fallible human beings. James 1:13-15 is clear that it is a choice we make when we choose to do something that Scripture clearly calls sin. Anyone can be tempted, but we can make the decision to not give in to it.
Christ was tempted, but He never sinned. As Hebrews 4:15 tells us, Jesus was tempted as we are also tempted, but was without sin. It is true that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. It is also true that His Divine nature was always in control of His thought processes and decision making. As a person like us, He hungered, was thirsty and tired, faced physical pain (think of the cross), but never did He consider giving into a temptation.
I believe there is practical implications for us when it comes to this topic and we will get to those shortly. We will explain how Jesus, the sinless Son of God, helps us to deal with sin in our life.
As we just noted, we must keep in mind that Jesus was presented with opportunities to sin, such as are seen in Matthew 4, when our spiritual enemy tried to get Jesus to stumble. Christ responded using the Word of God and also because He was so connected to the Father (for He was God as we have noted), He was focused solely on doing the will of the Father.
If Christ had sinned, He would not be the perfect sacrifice for our sins as Peter notes when he refers in 1 Peter 1:19, to Jesus as the “...lamb without blemish or spot.”
Let me say this as strongly as possible. Jesus could not have sinned but that does not take away from the fact that He faced real temptations, just as you and I do on our daily journey through life. If you want to read more on this topic, there are many resources available, and with those come some views that differ from each other regarding this subject matter.
Now, to the real world implications and application of Jesus facing temptation, yet not giving in to it:
First, it helps us to understand that Jesus knows what we face. That is the point of Hebrews 4:15, where we read that Jesus can sympathize with our battles because He faced some of His own. We can be glad that we have a personal God Who is not out of touch with our lives, Who is there for us to lean on when sin comes at us. Jesus intercedes for us, He loves us, and He is there to help us.
As LeRoy Forlines explains it, Jesus was tempted from without, not from within. He could not be tempted to sin by thinking evil thoughts, or lying, because as God He could not sin. But He still faced the fiery darts of the enemy, attacks from outside of Himself. That is seen in Matthew 4.
Second, when I recognize the truth that Jesus, our Savior, Who died as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and three days later rose from the dead, has given new life to those who have put their faith and trust in Him, it makes all the difference in our daily battle against sin.
Let me explain. Romans 6 is clear. When we became followers of Christ, some important things took place. According to vs. 4, we have been given a new life. Paul discusses this in places such as Ephesians 4, Colossians 3, as well as Romans 7.
With this new life, another fact has occurred. The person we were before becoming a believer in Jesus, died on the cross with Christ. This event happened one time with the result of that reality continuing to our life today. That is the teaching of Romans 6:6-7.
In other words, sin’s power, control, and guilt over us was defeated. We were set free from sin’s hold on us. We no longer have to say “yes” to sin. We know that we do sin because our flesh, where sin dwells, is still with us. But our inner person has been made new we are told in 2 Cor. 5:17 and with that, God has given us the power and ability to not let the flesh get the upper hand on us. We can say “no” to temptation. These are important facts that we must believe and apply.
Third, a man alone could not save us. We needed God to step into human history to do what we were unable to - make us right with Him. And we needed a sinless Savior coming to earth to be the One to do so. Only through the death of Jesus are we able to be made right with God. Not only do we have the joy of experiencing salvation because of what Christ did, but we know that He is our Mediator before the Father (1 Tim. 2:5). We have a direct connection to God because of our Lord.
When we pray, He understands and listens. Nothing catches our Lord off-guard. We can be very thankful that we have a God Who loves us and wants to help us be the person we were meant to be “in Christ Jesus.” We can live a life of holiness (moral purity) because Christ showed us how and we also have a glimpse of what God is like because Jesus came to earth and showed us Who God was.