Could Jesus Have Sinned, Even Theoretically?

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
". . .the human nature of Christ did have the ability to sin during His humiliation. The Lord Jesus experienced true and painful temptation, and had to resist that temptation as a man by the grace of the Spirit. As we have seen, He has a complete human nature, body and soul, including a human mind and freely choosing will. He entered this world in a state of humiliation, vulnerable and changeable. His human nature, considered abstractly, had the capacity to sin (peccability) until confirmed in unchangeable righteousness when He was glorified." (bold emphasis is mine)

The quote is from: Reformed Systematic Theology: Volume 2: Man and Christ by Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), p. 815.

I maintain that, since Jesus did not inherit His mother's sin nature (which goes unmentioned in this section), He did not, in fact, have the ability to sin during His humiliation.

I'll have to noodle this some more, but I think I'm right about this.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Depends on what he means by "ability." Was the will qua will able to function in such a way that if directed, it would have sinned? There is nothing in the nature of a will that suggests it wouldn't. On the other hand, the union with the divine nature guaranteed that it didn't.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
On the other hand, the union with the divine nature guaranteed that it didn't.
This.
His human nature and will have the capability to sin like Adam pre-fall, hence he is the second Adam, but the Divine nature and will do not have that capability. Sin or a fallen human nature isn't essential to it, otherwise Jesus didn't actually take on human flesh, though he could still be tempted.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
We distinguish. Jesus, in the language of the scholastics, had the physical ability to sin. However, he lacked the moral ability to sin. In other words, he had every faculty of body and soul necessary to sin, but he did not have the will to sin, nor could he, because of the divine grace given "above his companions". I don't see anything wrong with the quote from Beeke and Smalley.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
I used to think that true humanity entailed the true possibility of sin for Christ. But recently Stephen Wellum convinced me otherwise in his book God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ. It's in chapter 14 -- highly recommended. Here are a couple of quotes to whet your appetite:

"...as the Son, it is impossible for him to sin and to yield to temptation, because God cannot sin. Behind this assertion is the fact that sin is an act of the person, not of the nature, and that in the case of Christ, he is the eternal Son." (p.460)

"Many who reject the impeccability of Christ often make the following argument: If Christ is impeccable, it makes no sense to think that he was truly tempted, since he would not be resisting sin freely. In other words, Christ's temptations are only genuine or freely chosen, if he could always do otherwise, but since impeccability insists that Christ could not have sinned, he 'could not have done otherwise' in regard to those temptations. What is crucial to note, however, is that this argument works only if one assumes a libertarian view of freedom, but such an assumption requires a defense. For a number of reasons, libertarian freedom is not the best option, given that it is inconsistent with Scripture and theologically problematic...." (p.462)
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
This area used to drive me crazy. Take for instance when the devil tempted Jesus to eat when He was hungry in the wilderness. Did Jesus "want" to eat? I say He did BUT because He was hungry, and not because the devil tempted Him. Having a natural desire to eat when hungry is never sin, and Jesus being human had that natural desire.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
This area used to drive me crazy. Take for instance when the devil tempted Jesus to eat when He was hungry in the wilderness. Did Jesus "want" to eat? I say He did BUT because He was hungry, and not because the devil tempted Him. Having a natural desire to eat when hungry is never sin, and Jesus being human had that natural desire.
Sure. He desired to eat as such, but did not desire to sin as such. And the second must take priority. Rutherford makes this distinction in Christ Dying.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
I think it was impossible for our Lord to sin.

1. Because He is the sinless God, it was impossible for Him to sin.

2. Because His humanity did not include the sin nature, it was impossible for Him to sin.

Another way to put it: yes, He was genuinely tempted, but temptation, per se, is not sin. And, because He was not tainted with the sin nature, it was impossible for Him to yield to temptation.

At the level of His earthly humiliation, His not having the sin nature makes all the difference.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
The key is in the phrase "considered abstractly." If, for the purpose of analysis, you separate Christ's human nature from the hypostatic union, is that nature intrinsically peccable? The answer is yes; but except in support of true humanity, that observation is trivial. There was no moment that the nature existed apart from the hypostatic union. There was never a person who could sin in that nature.
 

Ben Mordecai

Puritan Board Freshman

This podcast explores the topic in detail
 
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