Could Jesus have Sinned?
Could Jesus have sinned during His stay here on Earth? Christians have been debating this subject for almost two thousand years. The question of Jesus sinning seems to be one of those theological questions that can never be answered. This question appears to be one of those self-contradicting questions like, "Could God create a rock so large that He couldn’t lift it?" or "If God is all powerful, couldn’t He make a round square?"
Regardless of how you answer the question, you run into some profound implications. If Jesus couldn’t have sinned, you have to wonder if He was really tempted? How can a person truly be tempted if there is no possibility of yielding? The Bible clearly says that Jesus was tempted (Hebrew 2:18; 4:15, Matthew 4:1). Therefore, either Jesus was tempted or the Bible is wrong.
On the other hand, if Jesus could have sinned, then our fate (and even God’s fate) was realistically in jeopardy. If Jesus (who is part of the Godhead) had actually sinned, then everything would have been ruined for eternity. God’s holy and righteous nature would have been tainted. God’s system of justice would have had to be abolished. God would no longer be sinless, nor could He reasonably expect perfection from us. Either God would have had to condemn Himself to Hell for eternity or He would have had to release everyone from Hell. You have to wonder if God would have put all this at risk if there was a realistic 50/50 chance that He would fail?
So, what’s the answer? For what it’s worth, I’ll give you my opinion on this subject. I believe that when Jesus was tempted He had a real choice in His response. I believe that when He was tempted, He felt the same frustrations and pressures that we do. I believe He had a realistic choice to yield to His temptation. I believe that the temptations Jesus faced had the same potential of being overwhelming as they are to us. I believe that as a result, He could say to us, "I know what you are feeling; I went through the same thing."
On the other hand, I don’t believe there was a realistic possibility of Jesus ever yielding to the temptation. I realize that this sounds like a bunch of double talk, but please hear me out. Not only do I think I can solve this riddle, I believe you’ll find that what I have to say may actually help you deal with your temptations and struggles. I believe you can glean some powerful principles of victorious living from this discussion.
In the first section of this book I talked about how we can have victory in our Christian lives. I pointed out that following certain basic principles can help us have victory over our future temptations. I also pointed out that the reason we have difficulties overcoming temptations is because we are inconsistent in following God’s principles.
Herein lies the key to our victory: We should consistently utilize the tools that give us the strength to be victorious. Consistent victory is not solely a result of what you do at the time of the temptation. Rather, it is greatly influenced by what you do long before you are faced with the temptation. The chapter Guard your Thoughts covers this in more detail.
Being victorious over temptation is actually a two-part process. First, there are the choices you make at the actual time of the temptation. Second, there is the preparation done before you are tempted. It is our failures in the preparation stage that makes it more difficult for us to resist our temptations. Preparing ahead of time provides us the tools and strength to help us overcome the temptations. The following flow chart should help you visualize the process.
As you can see, proper preparation is the key to our success. To help you understand its importance, let’s look at the following scenario. There are two houses that are identical in construction. Both houses (like all houses) face the realistic possibility of catching fire and burning down. One house has a sophisticated fire alarm and sprinkler system and the other house does not. If both houses are exposed to the same source of fire, one will burn down and the other will not.
This illustration is like to our temptations to sin. Two people can be exposed to the same type of temptation and yet respond quite differently. The person who utilizes the Biblical tools will have more strength to resist the temptation. The person who has not taken advantage of these tools will have difficulty resisting the temptation.
Let’s go back to our original question of, "Could Jesus have sinned?" I believe that if Jesus did not utilize these tools (before He was tempted) He probably would have sinned. I don’t believe He would have had the strength to resist His temptation. The victory Jesus experienced was a direct result of His utilization of the resources available to Him.
So, instead of asking, "Could Jesus have sinned?" we should be asking, "Was there a realistic possibility of Jesus not utilizing these resources?" I don’t believe there was a possibility that Jesus would have disregarded these valuable tools. I believe Jesus (being part of the Godhead) understood the necessity of utilizing these important tools. I believe Jesus saw the value of being prepared.
Some people say that since Jesus did not have a sin nature, He couldn’t have sinned. While it is true that Jesus didn’t have a sin nature, neither did Adam and Eve. Yet, both of them failed. The difference is Jesus understood the process that keeps a person from sinning. Being part of the Godhead, Jesus didn’t have to wonder how to be victorious. He knew how to overcome temptation.
I think Jesus had His temptations recorded in the Bible in order to show us how to be victorious over sin. I think He wanted us to realize that we can’t always avoid temptation, but we can have control over it.
While I believe it is possible to have consistent victory in our Christian lives, I do not believe we can live lives of "sinless perfection." My chapter Can We Live Sinless Lives covers this in more detail.
What are these tools that will help us resist temptation? Following are a few of the tools:
Maintain an intimate relationship with God
Bathe yourself in the Word of God
Commit every area of your life to God
Get others to pray for you
Guard your thought life
Maintain an intimate relationship with God. Having an intimate relationship with God is different from "spending time in prayer." For many Christians, "prayer" is a quick trip to God to commit certain problems and issues to Him. Fellowship, on the other hand, is the friendship and relationship you develop with God.
You develop a personal relationship with God the same way you would develop a personal relationship with someone here on Earth. You talk to them continually and share with them your feelings, desires, dreams, etc. This fellowship with God will provide you tremendous spiritual strength.
Bathe yourself in the Word of God. This is an often-neglected resource. Even Jesus realized the importance of using the Word of God. He consistently used scripture when He was defending Himself against the temptations in the wilderness (Mark 9:14-29). I think it’s very important to follow Jesus’ example in resisting temptation. If you don’t consistently study the Word of God, there is no way you can use it as a tool.
Commit every area of your life to God. Some people have said that since God is aware of all of our needs, there isn’t any reason to pray for them. This isn’t true. Although God knows about our needs, He still wants us to ask Him for help. More important, when we commit something to God, we are actually giving Him full control (or ownership) over it. The section The Incredible Power of Prayer covers this in more detail. In Matthew 17:21, the disciples were having problems casting out certain demons. Jesus told them that some situations are so difficult to resolve that they can only be resolved by prayer and fasting.
Get others to pray for you. Getting others to pray for you is important. It’s not just missionaries who need to raise prayer support. The section mentioned above talks about the importance of raising prayer support for yourself.
Guard your thought life. Simply put, the more you dwell on a sinful thought, the greater are your chances of falling into its temptation. There is a very direct correlation between the two. For example, if you continually fantasize about having sexual encounters outside your marriage relationship, you will find it very difficult to resist an adulterous temptation when the occasion arises.
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