THE IMPECCABILITY OF CHRIST

THE IMPECCABILITY OF CHRIST

 

By

Dr. John W. McCormick

July 19, 1922 – June 3, 1995

Used by permission to Fundamental Baptist Institute.

         

One of the oldest of the many doctrinal controversies is that which concerns the perfection - sometimes called “the integrity”- of our Lord’s human nature. While it can be said that all fundamental believers and some who are not so fundamental - agree that Jesus did not sin, they sharply differ as to whether or not He could have sinned.[1]

 

One rather significant fact is to be seen in the attitude of the average new convert with regard to this matter. When one is first saved he almost “automatically” accepts the view that Jesus could not have sinned. But one day the new believer runs full tilt into a “Bible- student”, and from that time onward he is beset with doubts and uncertainties as to the Impeccability of Christ.

 

Another fact should be soberly considered in discussing this rather moot question, namely, that every major cult which is active today takes the open position that Jesus was entirely capable of committing sin - although in all fairness it must be pointed out that most of them will say that He did not sin. For example, Ellen G. White, great high-priestess of the Seventh Day Adventist cult, in her book The Desire Of Ages, actually teaches that the entire earthly ministry of Christ was marked by a constant struggle on His part to avoid sinning’ Moreover, she teaches that His refusal to commit sin was due to the enabling grace of God, rather than to the Impeccability of His Person. To this most other cults, and even some groups who are considered fundamental in theology, would voice a hearty “Amen!”.

 

But in order to avoid sounding unduly harsh toward those who do believe that Jesus could have sinned, let it be said quickly that this writer feels quite strongly that such a view not only does gross dishonor to our matchless Lord, it also ignores certain Biblical facts which are too clear and too emphatic to be lightly shoved aside.[2]  As fairly and as carefully as possible, therefore, we propose here to set forth both views, and to examine God’s Word as our only source of authority with regard to settling on the correct position.

 

 

THE PECCABILITY VIEW

 

As already stated this view holds to the idea that it was entirely within the range of possibility that the Lord Jesus Christ could have succumbed to temptation, and thus could have stepped outside the will of His Father at any time between His birth and His death on the cross. This means that during the whole earthly ministry of our Lord the eternal purpose of God was “up for grabs,” and that the redemptive plan hung in the balance while Jesus faced the tempter in the wilderness. This view further represents the earthly sojourn of Christ as having been one long, constant struggle on His part to avoid yielding to the enticements of Satan. It pictures the matchless Son of God as being on a constant alert in order to escape being tricked by Satan into departing from the perfect will of His Father.

 

The question naturally arises as to just what Scriptural proof - if any - can be cited by the proponents of this view.  In order to give a strictly fair and impartial answer to this question, this writer attempted to do some research into their writings. But there seems to be very little material in print concerning this position. It is as though its advocates are mildly embarrassed for holding this ground - or at least would prefer not to stress their views in print

 

However, those who believe in the Peccability. of Christ have often given expression to the idea while speaking or writing about other things concerning the Person of Christ. On the basis of these statements therefore, we can establish the main foundations upon which they think to stand.

 

At the outset, it is not only interesting but highly significant that the postulates of this position depend largely upon so-called logical argument, rather than upon clear and acceptable exposition of Scripture.[3]  Moreover, their “Scriptural proof” is almost exclusively confined to one verse of Scripture, namely. Hebrews 4:15 (which will be expounded later in this paper).[4] In pointing to this verse, they always give particular emphasis to the sentence: “He was tempted in all points like as we are.” They then argue that to deny the possibility of sinning on the part of Jesus is “to deny the clear teaching of this verse.” From this initial statement—which is by no means irrefutable— they further argue that “if Jesus could not have sinned, then His temptation was a farce, and hence, it served no purpose.”

 

In answering these two arguments, we point out first that this verse does not “clearly teach” the possibility of sinning on the part of Jesus, as we shall see when we develop the verse more fully. Secondly, with regard to whether or not any purpose could have been served by temptation in which the tempted One could not yield, we will also see that a great three-fold purpose was served.

 

It has often been said that the best way to refute error is by setting forth the truth. Since we heartily endorse this idea, we now turn our thoughts to the second view which we believe to be the Scriptural position:

 

THE IMPECCABILITY VIEW

 

A.      The Proposition — as a working proposition we lay down the following claim: Jesus Christ, in His Incarnate state, was free both from hereditary depravity and from personal acts of transgression. Now this proposition must not be understood as merely stating that Jesus began His earthly life with a “clean-sheet nature,” which He “managed” to keep spotless by a constant struggle against enticements to sin, and by a never-ending vigilance lest He be “tricked” into violating His Father’s will. Rather, it should be understood as asserting that Jesus was possessed of a holy nature, which not only could not be tempted to transgress His Father’s will, but which violently opposed all such suggestions.

 

We insist upon the validity of this proposition in view of the fact that there is absolutely no indication in a single line of Scripture that the union of the Divine nature with human nature produced any change in the Divine nature. Nor is there even a remote hint in the Bible that there was one iota of conflict between the Divine nature and the human nature of Christ.

 

B.      The Proofs — are so numerous and so emphatic that it is strange indeed that any believer could honestly ignore them.

 

1.       The Proof Of His Conception -  Every Fundamentalist the world over will insist that Jesus Christ was miraculously conceived by the direct agency of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin. This position is based upon sound, Scriptural evidence which cannot be rejected, except by denying the authority and the validity of the entire Bible - which, of course, the Liberal theologians and “scholars” (?) do not hesitate to do.

 

The reader is urged to consider prayerfully the following passages:

 

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, SHE WAS FOUND WITH CHILD OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Capitals mine). Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: FOR THAT WHICH IS CONCEIVED IN HER IS OF THE HOLY GHOST.”

Matthew 1:18-20

 

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also THAT HOLY THING WHICH SHALL BE BORN OF THEE SHALL BE CALLED THE SON OF GOD.” Luke 1:35

 

It should be quite obvious that if one accepts the fact of the miraculous conception of Christ in the womb of the Virgin, and yet insists that the Son of God was capable of sinning, he thus advocates the incongruous idea that the Holy Spirit was responsible for producing something capable of corruption. To this writer, such an idea borders on outright blasphemy. The Holy Spirit stands in violent opposition to all that is corruptible and unholy. His very indwelling Presence in the believer is for the express purpose of producing in that believer the holiness of life which God demands of him. How then could He have been the source of anything capable of corruption?

 

Furthermore, such a view blindly and obstinately ignores the indisputable fact that our Lord did not merely live a holy life, HE WAS BORN HOLY! He was not merely holy in behaviour, He was holy as to His very nature. Who would be so bold as to deny this? The blazing star that appeared in the eastern skies the night He was born, the heralding voice of the angelic hosts, the awe struck Judaean shepherds, the wondering Virgin Mother, and the heaven born dreams of Joseph all testify to the eternal fact that He Who was born of Mary was the holy, spotless, sinless Messiah before Whom “every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess to the glory of God the Father”.

 

Having raised the point of the holiness of the very nature of Christ, it would be well to carry it a step further and relate it to the vital doctrine of the Atonement. Even those Fundamentalists who believe that Jesus could have sinned insist that His atoning work was sufficient to put away all sin. Even they will freely admit that whatever value was associated with the death of Christ upon the Cross, it had its source in the majesty and dignity of the One Who suffered there. To put it another way, the benefits of a vicarious work extend no further than the character and position of the one exercising the vicarious (substitutionary) function. Thus the sufferings of Christ upon the Cross had infinite value only because the One Who experienced them was an Infinite Person.[5]

 

But perhaps the reader is not clear as to the meaning of “infinite". The word simply means “not capable of being limited”. Please notice: it means more than being unlimited; it means that an infinite person cannot be limited. In this connection then it should not require a superior intelligence to understand that sin limits, which brings us to the inescapable conclusion that if Christ was capable of sinning, then He was also capable of being limited. Therefore, He was not infinite.

 

In summing up this part of our discussion, let it be firmly established that if Christ was not Infinite, then His atoning work on the Cross was of no value whatever. It might be conceivably possible for one finite (limited) person to suffer sufficiently so as to put away the sins of one other finite person; but it would be a manifest impossibility for one finite person to pay a sufficient price to win deliverance for a multitude of sinners. Thus the Peccability view even poses a threat to the Doctrine of The Atonement.

 


But we turn our attention now to another proof -

 

2.The Proof Of His Character –

 

          No other subject in all the field of Theology has aroused more controversy or fostered more discussion than that which is involved in seeking to arrive at an understanding of the real nature of Christ Incarnate. But this is not so strange when one considers the fact that even while our Lord was present in the flesh, men were sharply divided as to whether He was God manifest in the flesh, or merely a man of unusual holiness and superior insight into spiritual truth (see: John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19). Thus the earliest heresies introduced into the body of Christian doctrine and teaching were those which sought to deny or pervert some aspect of the dual nature of Christ. Some of those early heresies openly denied the reality of His human nature, some raised questions concerning the reality of His divine nature, and others attempted to deny the reality of the union of the two natures (the human and the divine) in the one Person Jesus Christ.

 

Any attempt to discuss these many heresies would become too involved for our purpose here with the exception of one particular idea which directly concerns our theme in this paper. One prominent, and very dangerous teaching, held to the queer position of denying that Christ possessed all the divine attributes. Generally speaking, this view taught that when the Logos became Incarnate, He laid aside some (or all) of His attributes of Deity, thus voluntarily limiting Himself to such a degree that while He was here on the earth He possessed no more supernatural power than any other human. This view attempted to explain the miracles which Jesus performed as being executed only by the power of the Holy Spirit which came upon Him at His baptism. It denied that those miracles were performed through the exercise of any of the divine attributes.

 

For the most part this heretical teaching was the result of either an erroneous interpretation or a deliberate perversion of the great “kenosis passage” as found in Philippians 2:5-8:

 

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery (Literally, “did not think it a thing to be grasped and held at all cost”) to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

 

The controversy has centered particularly around the phrase “made Himself of no reputation” (vs. 7). This whole phrase is translated from the Greek work “kenoo,” which means “to empty”. Thus Paul is saying that in becoming man, Christ “emptied” Himself. Now the question which has been so sharply debated here concerns the nature of the self-emptying of Christ. There are four schools of thought with regard to the self-limitation which our Lord assumed in becoming man:

 

a. The first school of thought states that He surrendered only His Incommunicable Attributes.[6] This refers to, such attributes as His Self-Existence, Immutability, Infinity, and Simplicity. But this position must be quickly rejected in view of the fact that every one of these attributes of Deity are ascribed to our Lord in His Incarnate state (See: John 5:25, 26; Hebrews 13:8; John 1:1-4; John 10:30).

 

b. The second school of thought holds that in becoming man, Jesus Christ surrendered only His Communicable or Relative attributes, such as Knowledge (Omniscience), Wisdom (Omni sapience), Goodness, Love, Mercy, Righteousness, Verac­ity, etc. Here again, this view must be rejected as quickly as the first view, since all of the so-called Communicable attributes of Deity are ascribed to Christ (See: Matt. 9:4; 12:25; Mark 2:8; Matt. 9:36; 14:14; Luke 4:23, etc.)

 

c. The third school of thought teaches that when Jesus Christ became incarnate in human flesh He surrendered all of His Divine attributes. This view must be rejected for the same reasons that we reject the other two positions. This queer idea could actually suggest that God could “un-god” Himself. How absurd! How ludicrous! In the Incarnate act, Jesus Christ became man, but He did not “change Himself into man”. The Incarnation of Christ in human flesh was accomplished without effecting any change in the Trinity. The Bible teaches the great fact of both the Unity and the Tri-Unity of God. Now, if God is unchangeable in His Unity, He must of necessity be unchangeable in His Tri-Unity. To argue otherwise is to make words devoid of meaning and thus to destroy all foundation for arriving at truth.

 

d. The fourth school of thought teaches that when the Logos took unto Himself human nature, He did not surrender a single one of His Divine attributes; rather, He surrendered the independent exercise of the Divine attributes. To put it another way, He simply chose to refrain from exercising the Divine attributes by Himself, but depended upon the Holy Spirit Who came upon Him at His baptism for the manifestation of those Divine attributes. Let it be said quickly that He did not depend upon the Holy Spirit for the possession of those Divine characteristics, He depended upon the Holy Spirit for the manifestation of them. This means that the knowledge and wisdom which our Lord demonstrated was not imparted to Him by the Holy Spirit, He simply depended upon the Holy Spirit for the exercise or manifestation of it. This would also be true of all the other Divine attributes which He undoubtedly possessed. It would also explain why He did not perform any miracles prior to His baptism, at which time He was anointed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This view is the only one of the four that is substantiated by the entire New Testament.

 

We therefore take a bold stand upon the facts set forth in the Bible, namely, that in the Incarnation of Christ, no change was effected in the trinity as such, and that He Who was born of the Virgin was no less God as to His nature than the other members of the Godhead. Therefore, to even suggest that He could have sinned is to fly into the face of every truth set forth in the Word of God with regard to the absolute Impeccability of the Divine nature.

 

But we turn our attention now to another phase of our discussion. To a certain degree, this has already been touched upon, but it is our purpose here to enlarge and further specify some of the facts concerning the Divine nature of Christ.

 

At the outset of this particular aspect of our consideration it is assumed that each reader accepts the fact that Jesus Christ in His Incarnate state possessed all the attributes of Deity. To deny this is to become involved in two dangerous activities, namely, the heretical practice of “explaining away” many verses which explicitly state that Christ was God manifest in the flesh, or a flat and open denial of the integrity of the Bible itself.

 

If, then, our Lord was very God of very God, the possibility of His being overcome by temptation is a contradiction of every Divine attribute which He possessed. And yet, many men who insist that they are Fundamentalists and therefore sound in the faith, do not hesitate to charge that our Lord not only possessed the ability to sin, but that He often struggled with the desire to transgress His Father’s will. For example, in the Southern Baptist Convention’s Sunday School Quarterly for “SUNDAY SCHOOL YOUNG PEOPLE”, January-March, 1965, Dr. Roger Crook had this to say about the Temptation of Jesus:

 

“Every suggestion Satan made was appealing to Jesus, and opened up to him real possibilities. Since He was fully human, he could have made the wrong choice.”

 

How can men who are possessed with any intelligence ignore the fact that while it is true that Jesus Christ was “fully human”, it is equally true that He was “God manifest in the flesh”? Therefore, if Jesus could have sinned then God can also sin. Such a degrading suggestion causes one to shiver.

 

Moreover, in accepting the fact that Jesus Christ in His Incarnate state was possessed of two natures - a divine and a human - at the same time we acknowledge that He was possessed of only one will. When these two natures were united in the one Person,- as they were in the incarnation, the divine nature (which is unchangeable) determined and controlled the human nature, not the human the divine. Jesus Christ was “the God-Man!” not “the Man-God..! Therefore, His Divine nature was, the basis of His Incarnate Person, not His human nature.

 

Those who believe He could have sinned are often heard giving expression to an “argument” which they think is valid, but which is beset with fallacies, namely, the argument in which it is stated, “Jesus could have sinned as to His human nature, but not as to His divine”. Now, this statement breaks down in two vital areas. First, it ignores the obvious fact of the Indivisibility of the two natures in Jesus. The Bible clearly teaches that Christ in His Incarnate state is a single, undivided personality in whom the Divine nature and the human nature are vitally and inseparably united. Christ Himself uniformly speaks of Himself - and is spoken of - as a single Person. He never uses the plural number in referring to Himself.[7]  Jesus Christ was not so much God and man, but He was God in, and through, and as man. Therefore, by attempting to view the divine nature of Christ side by side with the human nature, instead of discerning the divine nature within the human Person of Christ, we miss the significance of them both. There was never any separation of the divine nature from the human nature in Christ, or vice versa. All His words were spoken, and all His deeds were performed by One Person - the God-man. Moreover, the attributes and powers of both the Divine and the human nature are attributed to the One Person, Christ. (See: Rom. 1:3; I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 1:2, 3; I Peter 3:18). From these Scriptures (and many more) we can say that The Christ existed before Abraham, yet was born of the Virgin during the reign of Augustus Caesar. He wept, He was weary, He suffered, He died; yet He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). On the one hand our Divine Saviour redeemed us on the cross; on the other hand our human Christ is present with His people even unto the end of the age (Mat.

28:20; Eph. 1:23; 4:10).

 

Secondly, the argument that Christ could have sinned as to His human nature but not as to His divine nature, implies that there was a constant conflict between the two natures of Christ. Such a thing is unthinkable because it is not even hinted in Scripture.

 

Where is there a single line or phrase in the Bible that would infer or imply that the two natures in Christ were ever in conflict for a single moment? Moreover, where is there any Biblical hint which would even remotely suggest that the Divine nature of Christ stood idly by and allowed the human nature to struggle against temptation to sin? Shedd rightly points out that:

 

The divine nature cannot innocently and righteously leave the human nature to its own finiteness without any support from the divine. . . When the Logos goes into union with a human nature, so as to constitute a single person with it, he becomes responsible for all that this person does through the instrumentality of this nature. The glory or the shame, the merit or the blame, as the case may be, is attributable to this one person of the God-man. If, therefore, the Logos should make no resistance to the temptation with which Satan assailed the human nature in the wilderness, and should permit the humanity to yield to it and commit sin, he would be implicated in the apostasy and sin. The guilt would not be confined to the human nature. It would attach to the whole person. And since the Logos is the root and base of the person, it would attach to him in an eminent manner. Should Jesus Christ sin, incarnate God would sin; as incarnate God suffered, when Jesus Christ suffered.." [8]

 

At this point, it would be well to cite the statement from James 1:13, which says clearly and simply: “God cannot be tempted with evil”.  Thus to say that His human nature could have sinned but not His divine nature is foolish and senseless quibbling.  Jesus Christ was one person with two natures, but not two personalities’ Therefore, we make bold to say that if God be tempted with evil, then had Jesus sinned He would have proven that He was not God.

 

Before we leave the fact of the Character of our Lord, it would be well to turn our attention to a more specific discussion of His Incarnate nature. We shall cite and discuss four attributes of Deity which our Lord possessed along with their relationship to His Impeccability.

 

A. His Attribute Of Holiness - which is established by such passages as

 

Psalms 45:6-8: “Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God hath annointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”

 

Acts 3:14: “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just. .“

 

Mark 1:24: “... I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.”

 

Luke 4:34: “.. . I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.”

 

Hebrews 7:26, 27: “For such an high priest became us (was exactly suited to our need), who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once when he offered up himself.”

 

It should not require any laboring of the point to show that all of these passages, and many others besides, speak of the holiness of Christ as being a holiness of nature, not of attainment or behavior. Jesus Christ was not merely “unsinful”, He was SIN LESS. We might put it another way and say that He was not holy because He refused to sin; rather, He refused to sin because He was holy. Moreover, Divine holiness is more than being free from all moral or ethical defilement. It is not just a passive freedom from iniquity, it is an active attribute which not only refuses to participate in sinful acts, but must take retributive action against sin in all its forms. Holiness did not merely reside in the Son of God, He was (and is) the source of holiness. Because of this, we shall never fully know how His holy soul must have resented all solicitations to evil which were presented to Him. Thus to even suggest that He could have sinned is to rob Him of the majestic attribute of holiness.

 

B.  His Attribute Of Immutability - which is emphatically stated in Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” As we have stated earlier in this paper, an immutable Person is not merely one who does not change, but one who cannot change. With regard to change, it can only move in four directions. First, change can move from one good to another good. God (and Christ was God) cannot change in this direction since all good eternally resides in Him. Second, change can move from good to better. God cannot change in this direction since eternal perfection resides in Him. In God alone there is no room for improvement. Third, change can move from good to bad. God cannot change in this direction because of His attribute of eternal Holiness. Finally, change can move from bad to good. God cannot change in this direction because He is eternally and totally free from all moral or spiritual defilement.

 

In the light of this one attribute alone, how can it even be suggested that our Immutable Lord could have sinned?

 

C.  His Attribute Of Omnipotence - which is established by such passages as:

 

Matthew 8:16  When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:

 

Matthew 10:1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.

 

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

 

But, lest the reader fail to understand what we mean by the attribute of Omnipotence, we offer here a definition of the term. Omnipotence is an English word derived from two Latin words omnis meaning “all”, and potens meaning “power”.

 

Hence, the Omnipotence of God is His unhindered and unlimited power to do all that He chooses to do. God’s power is unconditioned and unlimited by any one or any thing outside Himself. God can bring to pass anything which He wills.

 

In thinking of this attribute, it should never be forgotten that the will of God can move in all directions, hence God can will to do all He pleases to do, and He can also will not to do anything which He does not please to do! His will was not only sufficiently strong to overcome temptation, but it was so additionally strong that it could not be overcome. To hold that Christ could have sinned, therefore, is to teach the preposterous idea that a finite power is capable of overcoming an infinite power.

 

          D.  His Attribute Of Omniscience which is most definitely established by the following passages:

 

Matthew 9:4: “And Jesus, KNOWING THEIR THOUGHTS said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?”

 

Matthew 12:25: “And Jesus KNEW THEIR THOUGHTS ..

 

Mark 2:6.8: “But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately WHEN JESUS PERCEIVED IN HIS SPIRIT THAT THEY SO REASONED WITHIN THEMSELVES, He said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?”

 

John 1:47, 48: “Jesus saw Nathaniel coming to Him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathaniel saith unto Him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, BEFORE THAT PHILIP CALLED THEE, WHEN THOU WAST UNDER THE FIG TREE, I SAW THEE!” (Capitals all mine)

 

Once again we offer the definition of this attribute. Omniscience is an English word which is compounded from two Latin words, omnis meaning “all”, and sciens meaning “knowledge”. Hence it refers to the infinite intelligence of God, whereby He knows Himself and all other things whether actual or possible, present or future, in one Eternal simple act. To put it another way, it is God’s Infinite Awareness.

 

In relating this Divine attribute to the possibility of our Lord committing sin, it should be fairly easy to establish the fact that the success of a temptation depends in part upon deceiving the person being tempted. And in the matter of deception Satan is the Master Craftsman, for this is his stock in trade. Yet though we recognize the cunningness of the adversary, who could dare imagine that there was even the slightest possibility of the skill of Satan being greater than the perception of our Lord? As a matter of argument, since Omniscience is a Divine attribute, and since Christ was God, then it can be said that our Lord possessed perfect knowledge of every minute detail of the temptation He was to face from all Eternity. How could such Eternal Awareness be caught off guard, or in any degree taken by surprise? Please remember: God cannot “learn” - HE KNOWS!

 

But perhaps a simple chart would help to both condense and clarify all that has been here said with reference to this matter of temptation versus temptability. Without pressing the analogy too far, it can be said that for the most part there are six steps in the commission of a sin. We present them below:

 

1.                

CHRIST

 
Presentation

2.                  Illumination __________________________                                                      

3.                  Debate

4.                  Desire

5.                  Surrender

6.                  Act

 

The first step is always the Presentation of the solicitation to sin. Of course this invitation to transgress is not always presented in exactly the same way. Herein the cunningness of Satan is manifested. But one thing is always standard in the Presentation, namely, it is never presented in its true character, but is always veiled in deceit so as to appear as being entirely different than it really is. The second step is that of Illumination on the part of the person being tempted. He realizes that he is being tempted to step across the lines, of a Divine precept. In so doing, he understands the true nature of the thing that is occurring, and recognizes the source of it - that it procedes from Satan. Then comes the third step of Debate. The person being tempted then begins to ponder as to whether or not to yield to the temptation. He will even begin to rationalize in such a way that he can “logically justify” himself in doing that which he knows to be wrong. Often times he is so successful in his rationalization that he even succeeds in persuading himself to believe that the proposed act is not a sin after all. At this point, the whole affair changes considerably, in that it now becomes an inward struggle, whereas, prior to this, it was an outward Presentation. Soon after the third step has been reached, the fourth step of Desire occurs. In full knowledge of the nature of what is happening, the tempted one now begins to weaken in the area of Debate, and aided by his fallen nature, which naturally gravitates toward that which is forbidden, and encouraged by the rationalistic arguments which he himself has formulated, he fervently longs for that which he knows in his heart to be wrong. Thus the sixth and final step is inevitable- he acts to perform the doing of something which is forbidden.

 

We call attention again to our chart. The reader will note a broken line immediately below the second step, because, without question, at no time during His earthly sojourn did our Lord enter into any of the steps beyond the second one. And to be strictly technical, it is even incorrect to view the first two steps as having occurred in the same order with reference to the temptation of our Lord. His attribute of Omniscience made Him perfectly and eternally aware of every detail of the temptation He was to receive. Thus in expressing the. nature of His temptation in chart form, it would appear as follows:

 

Illumination (from all eternity)

Presentation (in time)

____________________

____________________

____________________

____________________

 

How can it be suggested that when the temptation was presented to the Lord Jesus Christ He debated as to whether or not to yield? On the contrary, His holy nature was so insulted by the very implication of His temptation, that He violently rejected the solicitation with a zeal and an anger that can be found only in the Divine resentment which burns against all wickedness. Moreover, His eternal awareness saw every detail of the temptation with perfect cognizance. Therefore His very nature ruled out all possibility of His entering into one inch of forbidden ground.

 

But there is still another area of Proof to which we can turn to establish the fact of the Impeccability of Christ­

 

3. The Proof Of His Own Claims -

 

Jesus Christ made at least two claims in the Gospel of John concerning His own sinlessness, which demands our careful examination. The first one is recorded in:  John 8:46: “Which of you convinceth me of sin?”

 


The Greek word which is here translated as “convinceth” is a word meaning “to bring to one’s conscience”. It means much more than merely being accused of sin. Many had accused Him of sin, but none had ever brought sin to His conscience. It should also be noted here that the word “sin” is a noun in the original Greek, not a verb. Now what is the significance of this? Answer, Jesus Christ was not here stating the fact that none had ever been able to convince Him that He had committed sin, but that none had ever succeeded in convincing Him that there was even a slight degree of sinful tendency in His nature. To put it another way: He was not saying “Which of you convinceth me of sinning?” He was boldly challenging them to convince Him that He possessed even one iota of sin or corruption in His nature.     

 

In the exegesis and exposition of John 8:46 it seems strange indeed that so many have overlooked the context in which the statement appears. The bold challenge which our Lord threw out here was the result of a rather heated discussion with the Jews concerning their own human nature. In verse 33 of this same chapter they had boastfully reminded Jesus that they were “Abraham’s seed”. In verse 37 Jesus acknowledges the truth of their assertion by saying “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed”. But in verse 39 He skillfully points out that to be “Abraham’s seed” is not necessarily the same thing as being “Abraham’s children”.[9] He simply and indisputably proved that while they might boast of their natural descent from Abraham, they manifested nothing of Abraham’s faith. Thus He rejected their claim of Abraham as their Father (which they made in verse 39), by saying (vs. 41) “Ye do the deeds of your Father”. Then they understood Him to be saying that their “father” was not Abraham but Satan. This charge so infuriated them that they angrily hurled the insulting words “We be not born of fornication!” (vs. 41) by which they were accusing Him of being born out of wedlock. To these slurring words they added the assertion “We have one father, even God”.

 

To this our Lord quietly replied:

 

“... If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God (an assertion of His Virgin Birth); neither came I of myself, but He sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your Father ye will do. . .“ (John 8:42-44a)

 


It was in this context that the challenge of our Lord was uttered: and the whole context is primarily concerned with nature, and only secondarily concerned with acts. Therefore both the Greek construction of verse 46 and the context in which the words appear demand that our Lord’s challenge be understood as asserting the impeccability of His nature, not merely His unimpeachable behavior.

 

The second passage in which our Lord lays claim to His own Impeccability is found in John 14:30:

 

“Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”

 

There can be no question as to the identity of “the prince of this world”. This descriptive phrase is used elsewhere in the New Testament, and speaks always of Satan.[10]  But our interest here is focused upon the last phrase of the above verse, in which our Lord asserts that Satan “hath nothing in me”. In order to shorten our discussion (which has already grown far beyond its original scope), let it be said that the Greek scholars are unanimous in saying that these words should be understood as making the bold assertion “  the prince of this world cometh, and shall not find the slightest evil inclination upon which his temptations can lay hold”.

 

Now if that is not a claim of Impeccability of Person, it is impossible to say what it is. 0! That men would somehow recapture the holy fear and reverence for the sinless Son of God which was held by their forefathers. May the Spirit of holiness move them to boldly and fearlessly proclaim a whole Christ to a world of sneering and snickering unbelievers. And may that same Spirit guard them against “helping the ungodly” by suggesting that the Impeccable Christ could have disgraced Heaven by falling into sin.

 

We turn now to still another Biblical proof of the Impeccability of Christ:

 

4. The Proof Of His Condescension –  the fact that in taking upon Himself human flesh our Lord manifested an amazing condescension is acknowledged by all. But there is a danger involved in seeking to understand the extent of his condescension. That danger consists of the tendency to go too far in formulating a definition of the nature of His condescending act. The real truth is that, an exegesis (rather than eisigesis)[11] of those passages which speak of His humiliation will prove His impeccability beyond all question.

 

The first passage to be considered in this connection is II Corinthians 5:21:

 

"For he (God) hath made Him (Christ) to be sin for us, who (Christ) knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

 

It will be immediately apparent that this verse is simply stating the great redemptive fact that God appointed Christ to become a sin offering, not a sinner, in some mysterious way the Divine nature consented to suffer in the human nature; but it did not consent to sin. Shedd rightly points out that as our Lord hung on the cross, the divine nature deserted the human nature so that it (the human nature) could suffer for the atonement; but at no time during His entire earthly sojourn did the divine nature of our Lord desert His human nature so that it could sin. The very verse under consideration states clearly that He who became so completely identified with sinners was Himself totally without sin - both as to holiness of nature and holiness of behavior.

 

The misunderstanding of this fact led to a serious heresy which appeared early in the history of the church. This heresy was first suggested by the Englishman, Edward Irving. He taught that in the incarnating act, Jesus took unto himself fallen human nature, with all its infirmities, and that by a gradual process of practicing righteousness by being obedient to His Father, He perfected that fallen human nature, and by His ignominious death on the cross He finally uprooted it altogether. He then taught that the sinner may become holy by means of a (mystical) union with the perfected human nature of Christ. It would be difficult indeed to wander further astray than this.

 

It is granted that all believers become partakers of the new humanity of Christ by the vital union with Him which their salvation brings; but the denial of any objective nature with regard to the Atonement renders a subjective application of that saving work impossible. One writer called Irvin’s theory of the Atonement “Redemption by sample”. To insist upon deliverance from sin in order to secure deliverance from punishment is a direct reversal of the Scriptural order. Such a view as this inevitably leads to Sacrementarianism, that is a dependence upon external rites such as burning candles, burning incense, fondling crucifixes, and gorgeous vestments for the “clergy”.

 

Moreover, Irvin’s theory of the Atonement flatly contradicts the clear and unmistakable representations of Scripture with regard to Christ’s absolute freedom from all taint of hereditary depravity. It misrepresents His life as a growing consciousness of the underlying corruption of His human nature which culminated in Gethsemane and Calvary. Irving did not hesitate to attribute to Christ the utmost in human depravity, for he once said:

 

“I shall maintain until death that the flesh of Christ was as rebellious as ours, and as fallen as ours . . . Human nature was corrupt to the core, and black as Hell, and this is the human nature the Son of God took upon Himself and was clothed with.”

 

Such words almost make the blood run cold. Yet they point up the length to which some men are willing to go in the denial of the absolute impeccability of Christ. It also reveals the error into which unsanctified minds may fall when wrestling with the mysteries of Divine revelation. It should not be difficult at all for an enlightened mind to perceive that the statement regarding Christ as “being made sin for us” has reference to His atoning work on the cross, and not to any nature which He received in His Incarnation. It should be crystal clear that our “being made righteous” is grounded in His propitiatory sufferings and death, and has no connection with His so-called “struggle” against any degree of depravity within His own Incarnate nature - for there was no depravity, and there was no “struggle”. His death was His one redeeming act, not His birth or His overcoming life. Christ did not redeem us in the manger, nor in the baptismal waters of the muddy Jordan, nor on the Mount of Transfiguration, as beautiful and as significant as all these events were; but He redeemed us by His sufferings and death. No other conclusion is of any Scriptural warrant whatever. And it should be equally apparent that the value of His death was proportionate to the absolute holiness and perfection of His nature. If there was one iota of depravity, either actual or potential, in His nature, then His death was nothing more than the tragic execution of a good but misguided Jew.

 

But the second verse to be considered in the matter of our Lord’s great condescension is one which has been ardently pressed as proof of His peccability; yet when this verse is properly exegeted, it proves the very opposite, namely, that our Lord was Impeccable. This verse is Hebrews 4:15:

 

“For we have not a high-priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

 

It would hardly be possible to misuse a verse of Scripture any more than this one has been. We therefore approach it with a certain measure of trepidation, lest we too become guilty of the same misuse.

 

The first thing which demands attention in an exegesis of this verse is the English word “infirmities.”  It is from the Greek word asthenia (asyeneia), which in turn comes from the word sthenos (syenow) meaning “strength”. The word here is a negative, hence it means “weakness, want of strength, inability to produce results”. According to The Englishman’s Greek Concordance, this word appears 24 times in the Greek New Testament, and it is translated “infirmity” seven times, “infirmities” ten times, “sickness” one time, “diseases” one time, and “weakness” five times. The verb form of the word appears thirty five times, and is translated “sick” seventeen times, “impotent” two times, “weak” fifteen times, and “diseased” one time. It should be quite clear that whatever meaning we attach to the word “tempted” and to the word “sin” in this verse, we must keep in mind that they are to be interpreted in harmony with the word “infirmities”. Moreover, any interpretation of this verse and of the words which it contains must be approached from the standpoint of the over all teaching of the Bible with regard to the words here employed. The New Testament makes use of several words in discussing the struggle which the believer often engages in as he walks here below in the midst of a hostile world. And the believer is not left in doubt as to what attitude he (the believer) should take towards the various conditions into which he falls in his Christian race. For example, there are “weights” which sometimes fasten themselves to the Christian runner. These weights are not specifically named, but it is crystal clear that they refer to any thing which hinders the walk and growth of the believer, and hence they are to be laid aside (Hebrews 12:1).

 

Then the New Testament sometimes speaks of “burdens” which are often laid upon the believer. These burdens are always employed as testing devices, and therefore they are to be patiently borne (Matthew 11:30; 23:4; Luke 11:46). Once again, the New Testament speaks of certain “sins” to which the believer sometimes falls prey. Sin is any want of conformity to God’s revealed law or will, and therefore must be confessed and forsaken (I John 1:7-9). But when the Bible speaks of “infirmities” and their relationship to the Christian race, it clearly indicates that they are to be gloried in by the believer, and that they are to be “helped” as the believer cries out to his Heavenly Father because of them (2 Cor. 12: 1.10).[12] We insist (in the light of the obvious use and meaning of the word “infirmities”) that the “temptation" of Christ was the means by which He became totally identified with His redeemed ones in their struggles here below; but that it in no way implies that He became totally identified with believers in their depravity, or in their proneness to sin!

 

We turn now to another word in Heb. 4:15 - the word “tempted”. The idea that it was possible for Christ to have sinned rests most of its weight on a misinterpretation of this word, and upon the so called “logical” arguments which have been based upon that false interpretation. For the most part, this word has been commonly understood to mean that our Lord was induced to commit sin, not only by an outward presentation of the inducement, but also by an inward desire to yield. Such an interpretation is wholly unwarranted, both from the standpoint of the holy nature of the Son of God, and also from the standpoint of the very meaning of the Greek word which is here translated as “tempted”. Since we have already elaborated upon the holy nature of our Lord, we confine ourselves here to a careful consideration of the meaning of the Greek word. The word is peiradzo (peirazw), meaning “to test, try, prove, to attempt to induce to sin.’ The reader will note that the idea of inducing to sin is listed as being last in the list of meanings of this particular word. It is true that in some uses of the word, its underlying idea is that of attempting to persuade another to sin; but it also is used in the sense of testing or proving. Once again, according to the Englishman’s Greek Concordance, the word is variously translated in the N. T. as follows: “test” in Matthew 19:3; 22:18,35; John 8:6; Acts 5:9; 15:10; Heb. 3:9; 11:17; and Rev. 2:2,10; as “examine” in 2 Cor. 13:5; as “prove” in John 6:6; and as “assayed” in Acts 16:7. In all the other occurrences of this word it is translated by the word “tempted” or “temptation”, but even a casual examination of some of these passages will show that the idea in some of those appearances of the word is still that of proving or testing. For example, see John 8:6.

 

Still another word occurs in Heb. 4:15 which must be considered, namely, the word “without”. This word comes from the Greek choris (cwriv), and denotes “entire separation”. The occurrences of this word should be carefully noted in the following passages: John 20:7; Rom. 3:21; Eph. 2:12; Heb. 9:22,28. (We withhold a further discussion of this word until we have established certain facts with regard to the remaining words of this verse.)

 

It remains now to take note of the phrase “in all points like as we are”, which is usually stressed by those who believe that our Lord could have sinned. The emphasis which is commonly given to this phrase revolves around the “logical argument” that “the temptations of Christ were identical in nature and character to the temptations of His people in every single, minute detail”. And if one dares to call this overstatement into question, he is accused of “rejecting clear Scriptural testimony”. But it should be pointed out here that we are not rejecting clear Scriptural testimony; we are merely objecting to an interpretation of a phrase which has been made to say far more than the evidence will allow.

 

We call the reader’s attention again to the phrase “in all paints” in order to show that the two Greek words which are so translated must not be understood to mean “in every minute, detail”. The two words are kate panta (kata panta), and simply mean “in all respects”. This refers to the fact that the testings of Christ were directed to His total Being or Personality. It must not be interpreted as meaning that every single urge to step outside the will of God which has ever been felt by mortal beings was experienced by the sinless Son of God. Such a suggestion flies into the face of scores of passages which state clearly and emphatically that His nature was sinless, holy, undefiled, and in absolute harmony with His Father’s will. We cannot for one single moment give the slightest assent to the idea that there was ever any semblance of an urge to yield to sin in the holy nature of Christ.

 

But some may reply that while there was never any urge to yield, there was a possibility of yielding. To which we answer: the moral actions of a moral being are grounded in the volition, and, therefore, the sin occurs in the desire and intention of the person, and the overt act or commission of the sin is simply the outward manifestation of the fact that there has already been an inward yielding to the inducement to sin. It is in this inward yielding that the fact of sin lies. Our Lord warned of this fact when He stated: “Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). The same principle is stated again in I John 3: 15: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. . . “Thus to argue that while our Lord never once experienced any degree of desire or urge to sin, but that He still was capable of sinning is to ignore both the Scriptures to the contrary, as well as the part played by the volition in the actions of a moral being.

 

This brings us to one final word in Heb. 4:15 which must be observed, before we attempt to sum up what the verse really teaches. That word is the word “sin”. The whole controversy hinges upon the meaning of this one word. If the word “sin” in this verse is a verb, then it asserts only that our Lord was subjected to testing, and that He did not commit sin. In other word, we would be forced to understand the verse as saying: “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sinning”. Thus we would be in agreement that our Lord did not sin; but we would have no grounds of argument left for insisting that He could not sin.

 

But the truth is, the word “sin” in this verse is a genitive singular noun, and therefore, it does not speak of the sinlessness of our Lord’s behaviour under the testing to which He was subjected, but it speaks of the absolute impeccability of His nature! It firmly nails down the fact that our Lord was not merely free from any sinful act under the testing, He was totally free from all sinful tendency! With this assertion, W. E. Vine agrees explicitly: “In all the temptations which Christ endured, there was nothing within Him that answered to sin. There was no sinful infirmity in Him.”[13]

 

In the light of all these facts of Greek Grammar and Syntax, we would sum up the teaching of Heb. 4:15 as follows: Our Lord was subjected to testing in the totality of His Being, not that He might “overcome temptation and thus win a victory for all His redeemed”, but in order that the Impeccability of His Person should be forever manifested to men, to angels, and to demons! There is every reason to believe that Satan would have gladly avoided the encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ if he could have received Divine permission to do so; for he well knew that the inevitable result of that meeting was going to be a humiliating defeat for himself and for his kingdom of darkness. It was then (at the Temptation in the Wilderness) that our Lord entered into the strong-man’s house, and bound the strong man hand and foot. After that He went to the cross and “spoiled the strong man’s goods” for ever! (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27). Thus, the Temptation of Christ was not a matter of laying the redemptive purpose of God on the block; but it was an annunciation to men, to angels, and to demons that King Jesus had come to dethrone the usurper (Satan), to smash his kingdom into eternal oblivion, and to restore His crown rights to every one of His beloved ones who were yet to be drawn to Him in repentance and faith. To put it another way, it was nothing short of a declaration of total and all-out war! And there was never any question as to the outcome!

 

We turn now to a final proof of the absolute Impeccability of Christ, namely,

 

5.       The Proof Of His Conduct-which contains so many far reaching implications that we can only touch upon it briefly. In no other area is the Impeccability of our Lord so clearly seen than in that of His behaviour. Let the reader carefully and prayerfully consider the following:

 

a.  He went frequently to the Temple, but never offered a single sacrifice for Himself. Such a thing is not implied in the entire N. T. But we are frequently told that He went directly to His Father in prayer (Matt. 14:23; 26:36,39; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16; 6:12; John 17:lff). And it is clear that when Christ prayed, it was something far higher and more mysterious than the prayer of a believer. This was undoubtedly a matter of the eternal Son entering into direct communion with His eternal Father.

 

b.  He said “Ye must be born again”, but those very words implied that He had no such need! Yet, there is a mystical sense in which our Lord was “born again” into the kingdom of men (by His Virgin birth), so that men could be born again into the kingdom of God. He was born into a lower kingdom so that we could be born into a higher kingdom. He stepped down so we could go up!

 

c.  He never apologized for a single word or for a single act. At no point in His peerless ministry did our Lord blunder in the slightest degree. He never had “second thoughts!’ about any thing He ever did or said! Where is it even implied that He ever came back to a person to ask forgiveness for a hasty word or for a thoughtless act?

 

d.  He never suffered one minute of ill health. He Who “bore our sicknesses” and “took our afflictions” was never Himself sick for a single day. Not a single sneeze, not a cough, not a strangled gasp for breath is ever recorded of Him. But for the entire period of His earthly sojourn He manifested perfect health.

 

e.  He never encountered a single situation which taxed His wisdom or His strength. He calmly moved from one situation to another with unruffled poise. His every word was uttered with a conviction and with an authority which stopped men short in their tracks. “He spake with authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29; Mark 1:22). In another place we are told that “,.. with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him” (Mark 1:27; Luke 4:26). In yet another place we are told of the disciples: “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).

 

f.  He was never known to be in a hurry, yet He was never late. How strange that we poor creatures of the dust are always in a hurry, and we are seldom, if ever, on time!

 

g.  He prayed “Father forgive them” but He never prayed “Father forgive me”! Rather, in His words to the Jews, He said “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). And in His words to the Father as recorded in John 17:4: “ . . . I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do.”

 

In summing up this entire section of our study, it can be said without exaggeration that at no time in His entire earthly sojourn could one detail of His speech or behaviour have been altered - except for the worse! His freedom from sin was not due to God’s enabling grace; it was due to the Impeccability of His Person.

 

C.      The Purpose -

We turn now to a consideration of the purpose behind His being subjected to the testings of Satan. Since we have argued that He could not have yielded to temptation, it now remains to answer the inevitable question: Why then was He tempted? If there was no possibility of His defeat in the area of temptation, what possible reasons governed the testings to which He was subjected? We suggest the following three things as being worthy of consideration:

 

1.       His Temptation Was A Necessary Part Of His Incarnation -  He did not merely take upon Himself human flesh in an ordinary sense; He came to be a man among men. Every man who had lived before Him, and every man destined to live in this world till the end of time must face the Tempter; and He took His place among them. He stood as the Last Adam - the federal head of a new race. The First Adam had also acted in the capacity of federal headship. Now the Last Adam must stand in the same capacity.

 

At this point, it would be profitable to take note of the grand and glorious differences which are clearly discernable between the First Adam and the Last Adam, with regard to the matter of facing the Tempter.

 

a.  The First Adam was tempted in a beautiful garden, and fell in utter defeat. The Last Adam was tempted in a barren wilderness, and was victorious.

 

b.  The First Adam was given an “helpmeet” to strengthen and encourage him. The Last Adam stood alone.

 

c.  The First Adam was not tempted directly by Satan, for his inducement to sin came from the very one who was appointed to be his helpmeet. The Last Adam was tempted directly by Satan.

 

d.  The First Adam’s defeat brought guilt and condemnation to all his posterity. The Last Adam’s victory brought grace and cleansing to all His posterity.

 

Thank God, He who faced the Tempter in the wilderness was no mailed soldier with a toy shield defending Himself against paper arrows! He was the Last Adam, standing in the position of being the federal head of a new race, and winning for them the victory over the Tempter from the very beginning of their new existence!

 


2.       His Temptation Was A Necessary Part Of His Humiliation -  Who can imagine the terrible suffering inflicted upon His holy nature as a. result of being so completely identified with sinners as to be subjected to the insults of Satan? And yet, the suffering involved in His temptation was a part of His humiliation and satisfaction for sin. In Isaiah 53:7,10,11 we read:

 

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth . . . Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; He hath put him to grief... He shall see the travail of His soul, and shalt be satisfied.”

 

Will we ever know all that He suffered in His humiliation? Probably not, for this is doubtless  one of the Divine mysteries too sacred to be violated, and which will be locked away for ever within the secret counsels of the Divine wisdom. But we can rejoice daily in the fact of His humiliation, for it prepared the way for our escape from the eternal humiliation of being confined to the lower regions of the damned. Where can words be found to express all the glory and all the grandeur of our salvation? Were we gifted with the tongues of men and of angels, and if we could eloquently sing His praises in all the languages known to men, we would still stand in speechless amazement before the majesty of Redemption!

 

3.       His Temptation Was A Necessary Part Of His Identification -  Part of His redemptive work concerned us as sinners, and part of it concerned us as saints. His redemptive work necessitated His becoming identified with us in both realms. His identification with us as creatures has already been discussed under His Incarnation. We turn now to a brief examination of His identification with us as adapted children of God. Perhaps the greatest single passage of Scripture concerning this matter is to be found in Hebrews 2:10,14-18:

 

“For it became (prepw to be suitable, right”) Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons into glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings... Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same . - - Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high-priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself bath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.”

 

One of the most difficult phrases to expound in all the Bible is that one which appears in verse 10 above:” .. . to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” How shall we handle this statement? Was the Son of God not already perfect from all eternity? Indeed He was! Then how can it be said that he was “made perfect”? We stand in the presence of a mystery here, and with extreme caution suggest that in some way, unknown to us, and unexplainable by human terms, He Who was eternally perfect came to be so totally identified with His redeemed ones, that He thus entered into a state of growing "perfection”, by which He is bringing many sons into glory.

 

It might be of some help to take particular notice to the “Wherefore” of verse 17, for here we are told that His high priestly work called for two vital characteristics, and that those two vital characteristics resulted in a two-fold function which was equally vital to the successful completion of His high-priestly work. The reader will take note of the two vital characteristics expressed by the words “merciful” and “faithful”, and the two vital priestly functions growing out of them as expressed by the words “in things pertaining to God” and the words “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people”. It should be perfectly obvious that a high priest stands between an offended God and the offending creature. Now His priestly work, in order to be successful, must fulfill itself in two directions: Godward and manward. The priesthood of Christ magnificently satisfies in both realms. In His relationship to the offending creatures, He is ever merciful, for He has suffered with the offending creatures as an offending creature! He, as no other person who has ever lived, knows the full and terrible meaning of being under the wrath of a holy God. And He knows the meaning of suffering under temptations, whereby He is fully qualified to enter into the fellowship of suffering with all His redeemed ones.

 

On the other hand, since He is also God, He can be faithful in His Godward relationship. He faithfully presses the Divine claims upon every one of those who are the objects of His redeeming grace. Furthermore, He presses those claims not merely on behalf of God, but as God. Therefore, He stands eminently qualified to present the infirmities of man to God, and at the same time to press the claims of God upon man. In all of this, His temptation was a necessary part of His identification with His redeemed ones. And what higher purpose than this can be imagined?

 

We close this paper with a feeling of having inadequately expressed the reverence and awe in which we stand before the Throne of our Impeccable Lord. Perhaps some day, in our glorified state, He will give us tongues to express our awestruck joy. But until then, perhaps we may find a small measure of what we would like to express in the inspired words of the great Apostle, as recorded in Philippians 2:9-11:

 

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

AMEN !

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 1970.

 

All rights reserved.

 

Reprint July 2002

by permission.

Morning Star Baptist Church

Ronald D. Lesley Pastor

832 South Post Road

Shelby, NC  28152

 

Fundamental Baptist Institute

www.fbinstitute.com



[1] The view that Jesus could have sinned is often identified by the term “peccability’. and the view that He was not capable of committing sin is known as “impeccability”. Both terms are so used throughout this paper.

 

[2] One scholar (Bartmann) has pointed out that the ancient heretics, however divergent they were in Christology, did not attack or question the Impeccability of Christ.

[3]  We do not mean to imply that Scripture is illogical, but it is self-evident that Biblical teaching does not rest upon mere logic alone. There is nothing logical about the doctrine of the Trinity, but to deny the doctrine is rank heresy.

[4]  Again, we are not implying that a thing must be said more than once in Scripture in order to be true. But we again stand upon an accepted principle of interpretation when we insist that such an important matter as this will be mentioned in Scripture more than once.

 

 

[5]  Since man’s sin was an offence to an Infinite God, then before that sin could be put away, an Infinite sacrifice was required. This was provided by the boundless sufferings of our Infinite Lordl Praise His Name!

[6] Theologians attempt (not always successfully) to divide the Divine attributes into two main classes. The first group are those attributes which God possesses in His relationship to Himself. These attributes are called “The Incommunicable Attributes,” or “The Immanent Attributes”. The second group of Divine attributes are called “The Communicable Attributes,” or “The Relative Attributes”. These Divine attributes are those which God manifests in His relationship to His creatures. For purposes of convenience these classifications of the Divine attributes are helpful, but to be strictly technical, it is almost impossible to maintain a clear-cut division between the Divine attributes, since some of them seem to “grow Out of” the others.

 

[7] In John 3:11, the words of Jesus “we speak that we do know” includes the disciples. See John 1:14; 17:23; I John 4:2.

[8] William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Vol. II pp.33, 334.

[9] The distinction which our Lord made between natural descent from Abraham and spiritual descent from him is also preserved by the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:7: “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children    See also Rom. 2:28, 29.

[10] See John 12:31; 16:11; I Cor. 2:6; Eph. 2:2.

Alford, Henry, Vol. 1, p. 856.

 

[11] When an expositor or teacher draws from a passage the meaning which is actually there, it is called “exegesis”; but when he puts into the passage any meaning which the language of the passage does not allow, it is called “eisigesis”.

[12] It would be well for the reader to look up and read prayerfully the following passages with regard to “infirmities”: Gal. 4:13; Heb. 5:2; Matt. 8:17; Rom. 8:26; 15:1; 2 Cor. 11:30; 12:5,9,10.

 

[13] W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 116.