Systematic Theology II - Lesson 4
The Impeccability of Christ
The "impeccability" of Christ deals with the question of whether or not Christ could have sinned. The answer to this question has implications for both His life and ministry. (At the 51 minute mark, the reference to "John the Baptist," Dr. Ware meant to say, "John the Apostle.")
The Impeccability of Christ
The Person of Jesus Christ (Part 4) (55 minutes)
F. Impeccability of Christ
1. The meaning of impeccability
a. Christ did not sin
b. Christ could not sin
2. The reality of Christ’s temptations
a. Appeal to one’s appetite
b. Desire to have
c. Desire to be wise
3. Conclusions about Christ’s temptation
a. He was fully tempted
b. By never sinning he felt the full weight of temptation
4. Solution: distinguish between why Christ could not sin and why he did not sin
a. As God he could not sin
b. As a man he used resources at his disposal and did not sin
Both the Old and New Testaments teach that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human. The Old Testament contains specific references to His pre-incarnate existence. The New Testament teaches that the incarnation is an historical event that was prophesied in the Old Testament. Christ fulfills the roles of prophet, priest and king. His deity is emphasized by the names of God that are ascribed to Him.
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ had attributes belonging solely to God, and did works that were done by God alone. Christ was worshipped and accepted worship. He Himself claimed to be God.
Christ was fully human, as well as fully God. The Old Testament prophesied it and His historical life demonstrated it. Philippians 2: 6-8 uses the word kenosis to explain the relationship between Christ's human and divine natures.
The "impeccability" of Christ deals with the question of whether or not Christ could have sinned. The answer to this question has implications for both His life and ministry. (At the 51 minute mark, the reference to "John the Baptist," Dr. Ware meant to say, "John the Apostle.")
Delegates at the Council of Chalcedon tried to explain the hypostatic union of Christ's natures. The theological bases for the work of Christ on the cross focus on the sin of humanity and God's holiness and mercy. The atonement is God's self-satisfaction through self-substitution
Christ's atoning sacrifice was comprehensive. The different aspects of the atonement may be compared to light refracting through a diamond – you can see different colors, but they are all light. Three aspects of the atonement are sacrifice, substitution and redemption.
Three more aspects of the atonement are propitiation, expiation, and reconciliation. Christ's resurrection is a ratification of the efficacy of the atonement.
The most significant aspect of the past work of Christ is the atonement. Some people teach that the extent of the atonement is limited, while others teach that it is unlimited. Christ's present work is mediator and Lord. His future work is coming judge and reigning king.
Throughout Scripture, the Holy Spirit is referred to as having the attributes and performing the actions of a person. He is also shown to have the attributes of God, and is declared to be God. Both the Old and New Testaments cite examples of the work of the Holy Spirit in empowering people.
The work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is characterized by the empowerment of selective individuals for a temporary period of time, for the purpose accomplishing a specific task. The Old Testament prophets record a vision of the role of the Holy Spirit in the latter days.
The Holy Spirit had a central role in the life and ministry of Jesus. Many Old Testament passages prophesied the coming of a Spirit empowered Messiah. The New Testament records specific examples of the involvement of the Spirit in Jesus' life and ministry. Jesus also promises the future coming of the Holy Spirit and describes what he will do.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came into the world and filled the lives of every believer. The first great work of the Holy Spirit is bringing people to Christ. He also empowers believers for service in the Church where we are remade and conformed to the image of Christ. The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is for us to serve one another.
The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ and bring attention to Jesus. He does this by empowering believers in the areas of evangelism and discipleship. There are specific gifts of the Spirit and He gives specific gifts to each believer. There is a question about whether all the gifts are still active today. There is also a distinction between people having a certain gift and God performing mighty acts.
The Holy Spirit accomplishes the work of regeneration in a person by bringing them new life. The Spirit also indwells and fills a believer, produces fruit and gives us the freedom to become what God created us to be. The Holy Spirit is also the guarantee of the hope of our eternal future in God's presence.
Rob Lister, a Garret Fellow, introduces concepts that are basic to the Biblical doctrine of salvation. Salvation is both physical and spiritual, includes all of creation, it is "already, but not yet," and the goal is the glory of God. Election is a key concept in Scripture. Some people think that there is a conditional aspect to election.
Rob Lister continues by reviewing the Arminian position (conditional election), then explains the Calvinist view. The Calvinist position is based on God's sovereign rulership over everything, salvation by grace alone, and God's love and justice. There are major differences between the ideas of conditional and unconditional election.
Among those who hold to the view of unconditional election, there are those who believe in single predestination, and those who believe in double predestination. There is also a difference between a "general call," and a "special" or "effectual call."
Continuing in the logical order of salvation, Rob Lister examines regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption and sanctification.
Christ is Lord of the Church and it is formed by the Spirit. As a community, we testify to what God has done in our lives through the ordinances, the proclamation of the word and the testimony of our lives. We worship God together, and Jews and Gentiles are united in one community, testifying to the preeminence of our identity in Christ.
The "mystery" of the Church refers to the truth that was formerly concealed, but now revealed. Another aspect of the "mystery" is the inclusion of Jews and Gentiles in one community of faith. There is some debate about whether or not Israel and the Church are the same. The "Body of Christ" and "Bride of Christ" are two metaphors used in the New Testament that refer to the Church.
An additional New Testament metaphor for the Church is a "Building," which is made up of the "Cornerstone," "Foundation" and the "Living Stones." "Christ's Flock" is also a metaphor for the Church and relates to Jesus as the "Good Shepherd." There are also passages in the New Testament that give us insight into local congregations by referring to elders as the leaders.
New Testament passages give specific instructions about the functions of elders in local congregations. There are also lists qualifications for elders that emphasize character qualities. The roles and qualifications for deacons are also given.
The question of the role of men and women in ministry is a significant issue. The main question is, "According to Scripture, is gender particularly and uniquely relevant in assessing whether or not a person is qualified for a given ministry in a church or home?"
You can download the Roles Handout by right-clicking on the link and selecting the "Save Link As" option.
Different denominations have chosen different models of hierarchy and leadership based on their understanding of Scripture. The two ordinances of the Church are Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They are ordained by Christ, point to the Cross, and are to be done in remembrance of what He has done for us.
There is value in studying eschatology besides curiosity about what will happen in the future. The three most common views of the millennium that can be supported by Scripture are postmillennialism, amillennialism and premillennialism. Also related to eschatology is the Scriptural teaching regarding physical death and the intermediate state.
Within the premillennial position, there is a difference of opinion on whether the rapture will be pretrib, midtrib or posttrib. Regardless of your position on the millennium, there is clear teaching in Scripture about the final judgment and our eternal state. There will be a final judgment and everyone will spend eternity either in heaven or hell.
The second of a two semester class on Systematic Theology.
1. The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ
A. Pre-Incarnate Existence
B. The Incarnation of Christ
C. The Deity of Christ
D. The Humanity of Christ
E. The Kenosis
F. The Impeccability of Christ
1. The Meaning of Impeccability
It doesn’t mean what we mean colloquially where we talk about somebody being an impeccable person. I think of my mother a being that kind of person. She would sit there on the sofa most of the time with a piece of masking tape wrapped around her fingers backwards; that is, the sticky side out. So that any little speck of anything she spotted she could over and pick up; a hair, a piece of lint. This is my mother impeccable. This is not what this word means.
This comes from the Latin word to sin (peccare). Impeccability of Christ means that Christ could not have sinned. The impeccability of Christ means that it was impossible for Christ to sin. Shedd in his systematic theology, Dogmatic Theology defines it this way, “an impeccable will is one that is so mighty in its self determination to good, that it cannot be conquered by any temptation to evil however great.” The church has affirmed though the centuries that Christ did not sin. This is affirmed by all Christian people within orthodoxy and there abundant Scriptural evidence for this. I’ll give you some of that evidence in just a moment. This is not controversial, but what is controversial is that Christ could not sin. While the first one is true, Christ did not sin, that is not the impeccability doctrine. The impeccability doctrine is that Christ could not sin. It is the standard position that the church has held through the centuries but it is increasingly a minority view today among theologians. Many and perhaps it is at the point where most have given up the impeccability doctrine. There is one fundamental reason why they give it up. It is obvious, is if Christ could not sin, in what sense did he really face temptation, how could temptation be genuine for him as Christian theology has also held, that He really was tempted? The book of Hebrews makes that clear. Let me tell you where I am going with this. I continue to affirm the impeccability doctrine that Christ could not sin. Obviously if that is the case, I have my work cut out for me and I am going to involve you in that of defending a viable vibrant notion of the real temptations of Christ having also claimed of Him that he could not sin. Both are true, both are required biblically. How they can be held together is a challenge but one that I want to suggest to you.
Christ could not sin. In Latin the way they put this is He was non posse peccare, not able to sin, peccare the term for sin, so impeccability He could not sin not merely posse non peccare able not to sin. Everyone agrees with that, in fact He did not sin but here is the stronger affirmation.
2. Christ did not sin
Please remember that this isn’t impeccability per see but it is important to establish first of all that He did not sin.
a. Passages from the Gospels that show this
Luke 23:41 where is it said of Him at His trial
Luke 23:41 “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
John 8:46 “Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?
When He says that He is obviously implying by the question, nobody can convict me of sin.
Matthew 27:4 Judas says that he has betrayed innocent blood
Matthew 27:4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!”
b. Passages from the Epistles that show this.
These statements in the Gospel, as important as they are, obviously establishing the Gospel writers view that Christ was sinless they are nearly as direct and powerful as the statements in the Epistles about Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Theologians have really wrestled with, struggled over a text like that; it is one of those texts you realize is incredibly profound in what it is saying about who Christ is and what is done to Him and for what effect. It is a great text, but one thing clear about it is that it indicates that He was sinless, He knew no sin.
1 Peter 2:22
1 Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 1 Peter 2:22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;
He really expounds this notion is some concrete ways
1 Peter 2:22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 1 Peter 2:23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
So in these ways he expounds, He didn’t lash back, He didn’t get even, He didn’t hate, He trusted God. All of these ways He lived His life without sinning.
1 John 3:5. This is the true God, John says
1 John 3:5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.
In Hebrews, there are two statements that are clear and they raise the issue for us of the temptations of Christ
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
“without blemish,” picks up the notion of the sacrificial lamb had to be without blemish, couldn’t have spots, couldn’t have defects in and that was a symbol of the Lamb of God who would be offered as the spotless lamb. It also echoes, in Hebrews 9, Isaiah 53:9 it speaks of the one who would come and give His life
Isaiah 53:9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
That is one the phrases that Peter picks up in 1 Peter 2:22 No deceit was found in His mouth, He did no wrong nor was any deceit found in His mouth.
It is clear that Jesus did not sin and we all celebrate this. When you think about it, all it would have taken is one lustful look one time, one revengeful thought one attitude of bitterness; just one. We are talking sinless, that is an absolute concept. I hope that this will be more meaningful to you when we are done with this section and you will be able to marvel even more fully that you are right now. Marvel at the fact that Jesus lived the entirety of His life never once in thought, word, attitude or action; neither in neglect nor in act. In no way did He sin. This is absolutely phenomenal. Wouldn’t you like to have one day, one hour, one minute. It is just unbelievable when you think of the accomplishment of Christ who is obedient to the point of death even death on the cross, who went to the cross without blemish, it an amazing thing.
3. Christ could not sin
The harder one on this issue and this is at the core of the impeccability doctrine is that Christ could not sin. In my judgment the doctrine of impeccability rests squarely on the fact that Jesus was in one person God and man united in such a way that moral actions that He did could not be done without implicating the moral nature of God.
Some people have asked, can’t you separate humanity and deity in certain ways? Absolutely yes, in fact we could talk more about that, it is very interesting. In terms for example when he got hungry, or tired, or thirsty was that His deity that tires. When He dies on the cross is that deity? No it is not. So couldn’t you say that just as Christ got hungry and that doesn’t implicate His deity, that He might sin, not that He did, hypothetically, that he might sin and that action out of His humanity will not implicate His deity Here is the problem with that in that the deity of Christ and His humanity are alike in some respects and different in other respects. One the ways in which they are alike is that they are both moral in nature as opposed to hunger which relates to the humanity of Christ and not the deity of Christ, why? Because deity does not have a physical nature that can experience hunger. But moral nature unites both of them. So would it be possible for Christ to commit a sin and that not implicate His divine nature? I don’t see how that could be. I don’t see how it could be that Christ can sin any more than God can sin because of His divine nature. And furthermore we know for example from Hebrews 1:10-12 and Hebrews 13:8 that Christ is immutable.
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands; Hebrews 1:11 They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like a garment, Hebrews 1:12 And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.”
You may remember in that passage where He quotes Psalm 102:25-27 and he compares the Son to the heavens and the earth that are like a garment and we throw them away but his years will never come to an end, He does not change.
So in what sense could we hold that Christ is immutable if in fact the most important sense in which we talk about immutability in being the very character of God if that could in principle be challenged? Obviously if Christ sins, then the divine nature that is Christ is involved in sinning and that involves an enormous change of character. But this is impossible for God. God is immutable in an absolute sense; meaning that He cannot be other than He is. He is a truth teller not a liar; He is a promise keeper not a promise breaker. God is in His nature the way He is. So it seems to me that if you deny impeccability that you have a huge problem theologically in the doctrine of God. It implicates the doctrine of God; it indicates that actually even though it is the case that God has never lied, never broken a promise or the like, it doesn’t mean that he could not in principle lie or break a promise. This would be an enormous shift theologically, one that I am unwilling to make; it is called volunteerism. I am unwilling to go the route that God chooses to be a promise keeper. There is nothing in His character that says He must be that way it is just that He has chosen to be that way.
Volunteerism, it comes form the notion of voluntary will, so God has willed to be a promise keeper, God has willed always to tell the truth but ultimately His will could will something differently and if that is the case, the entire moral structure of the universe is arbitrary. It is absolutely frightening to start thinking of the implications of the notion that even though it is the case that God has been this way it is not the case that He must be this way. Well then, why is He this way? Because a will chose for Him to be this way, then that will could choose the other, so there is no absolute morality that governs the will. No, will is what creates morality. That is volunteerism.
In order to avoid volunteerism, back it up I think you have to hold to the impeccability of Christ. In other words, denying impeccability threatens theology proper on this issue that calls for an ultimately arbitrary understanding of morality. The implications are huge, in other words. I don’t think that theologians who give up impeccability have thought sufficiently about what they are doing because all they are focusing on is this one problem of how could He be tempted and they want to solve that problem. Well my friend this is not the solution to that problem.
I have another proposal to put on the table for the solution to that problem but I don’t think this is it.
Sin and temptation are two different things. Sin and temptation are more like sin and hunger. Why is that sin and temptation are more like sin and huger than they are like each other? Because temptation is not in itself an evil. Christ was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin.
This is aside. It is a very helpful thing for Christian people to be come clear on. You have not sinned when you are enticed. The enticing, the temptation that is put in front of you or that arises out of your heart, James 1, is not itself sin and you are not going to avoid it, you are not going to get rid of it. You cannot lead a temptation free life. What we have to realize then is that the sin happens in response to the temptation, what we do with it. We can talk about that for quite a while and perhaps at some point we should but I don’t want to get into that here.
But here is the difference then, the reason that Wayne Grudem raises that verse is that it backs it up even, not only can God not sin He can’t even be tempted to sin. Would we want to say that of Christ? Not only could He not sin, He couldn’t even be tempted to sin? No, He was tempted and yet He could not sin. Right there you realize He is human, He is temptable but He is impeccable so He could be tempted but He could not sin. So that is what I am trying to hold together, with God Himself, if we are just talking about God. Why can God not be tempted? What is it about temptation that is irrelevant in relation to God? If you have everything and everything that you have is fully satisfying then there is nothing that could tempt you by virtue of appeal by some lack or some resource that could be satisfying that you don’t have. God by definition by being infinite and by being holy good and being holy holy cannot be tempted. What can you offer God that is a real good (and He knows the difference) that He doesn’t have? The answer is nothing. So God cannot be tempted, in principle it is impossible. Christ can be.
You don’t have to agree with me on this. Millard Erickson does not, he denies impeccability in his volume, it is a way that a number of people are going, I just am urging you to think carefully about what this means and if there is a way to retain impeccability, which I think on theological ground is enormously important and uphold the true temptations of Christ all the better than give it up and do that. Even if you are stuck with, suppose you don’t like my solution to the problem of accounting for His temptation. I would encourage you to settle with not being able to explain adequately how He was really tempted but not deny impeccability. In other words, hold it as a mystery, but I have something to put on the table for this.
4. The reality of Christ’s temptations
a. He truly was tempted
I don’t want in any respect to trivialize either reality or the extent of the temptations of Christ. That is not a way to solve this problem by turning it into something less that what it really is. Christ really was fully and truly tempted.
In Matthew 4:1-11 when Satan tempted Christ, you will notice in that, I think the main point in those temptations is that they parallel the temptations in the Garden of Eden and thereby indicate that Christ was tempted in the full range in which human beings can be tempted.
In the Garden of Eden the women saw the fruit, that it was good for food, it was a delight to the eyes and it was desirable to make one wise. Good for food, there is something here that appeals to my appetites. He had been fasting forty days, He was painfully hungry; we are not just talking about just hungry, painfully hungry. I have heard that to fast that long is an excruciating experience. We are talking water only, forty days and you insides are in knots craving something to eat, it is very painful. So here He is and has this craving, this appetite for food and that is the nature of the first temptation that comes to Christ, make these stones bread, if you are the Son of God you can do that. That matches that was good for food. So the woman looks at the food and says, why has He told me I can’t eat what looks awfully good to eat? So she interprets God now not as one who is for here but one who is against her by withholding from her good food. Boy God is stingy. Stingy right, of all the trees in the garden you may freely eat. That is hardly stingy, except, one, there is one tree here that you can’t eat of it, of all the trees you may freely eat, but I want that one. We have seen that before, haven’t we, in some of our children and in us?
Second temptation to Christ, think of Genesis 3 where she saw that it was a delight to the eyes. Delight to eyes cannot mean simply that it was really nice to look at because there was no sin involved in looking at the tree, God did not tell the man, do not look at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the day you look at it you will die. No, so a delight to the eye could not mean merely it was a really beautiful tree and enjoyed looking at it. So delight to the eyes must mean when you see something that is a delight, what do you want to do? You want it to be yours. It is like you little four year old son who is visiting a friends house and he sees a toy that is a delight to his eyes, that is the idea. I want to take it home, I want it to be mine. There is this sense of covetousness that is involved in this. So what did Satan tempt Christ with? All you have to do is bow down to my feet and you will get all the kingdoms of this world, you can have them, I’ll give them to you, you don’t have them now, I’ll hand them to you. So taking to Himself what was not His yet. Of course, He came to buy them, He came to get them, it was a legitimate offer. If it had been a lie, notice what Jesus contests. He does not contest the offer, He contests the terms of the offer, namely, if You bow down to my feet I’ll give them to you. So He said you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only. Clearly that is the problem, was the terms of the offer. Think then in Matthew 28:18
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Guess what He won by His death and resurrection? He won the right to rule over the nations. Remember Revelation 5:9.
Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
In Philippians 2:9
Philippians 2:9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
So there is something very significant to this, otherwise this wouldn’t have been any temptation at all. Satan would have been an absolute fool, this is no temptation to do this if the nations are already His. In fact what he tempted Him with was the one thing He came to get; the nations. The one thing He came to get, and here is avoid the cross, avoid the pain, avoid all of the mess right now, just one thing bow an you’ve got it, You have got what you came for, quick and easy. This succeeds with us because we want pleasure. We read Psalm 16:11
Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
yet we succumb to temptations to have pleasure right now, my way. So it is a real temptation.
The third one, temptation of Christ, matches Genesis 3 where the woman saw the fruit was able to make her wise. So here is the notion that she wanted to be able to demonstrate to everyone she was wise, she was not dependent upon God. God was withholding from her wisdom by which she could be wise. She could establish her own position and have people give here the respect. I call this the prideful urge.
The first one I call the hedonist urge, the second one the covetousness urge, the third one the prideful urge in this temptation. And Christ, remember the third temptation of Christ, throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, prove it, show off. Show off that you are the Son of God, you can do it. And Christ’s response is, you shall not tempt the Lord you God. He hasn’t told me to do this, I won’t do it.
That statement in Hebrews 4:15 that I read to you before. That Christ was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. I don’t think that we ought to press the language of that. Christ was never a drug addict so He does not have the same exact temptations that a drug addict would have, I don’t have them either because I have never been a drug addict. Think about what He would have to be if He was tempted in every way in that sense. He would have to be a man and a woman, I take it. Let’s start there because obviously men’s temptations and women’s temptations can be quite different in certain ways. Obviously He is not androgynous or bisexual or something like that, He is a man and He doesn’t have Adam’s sinful nature, He is the Second Adam, so what this must mean, He is tempted in every way as we are, every kind of temptation that comes to us. I think those categories, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the boastful pride of life from First John or the three in the Garden of Eden or the three in the temptations, those three really do encompass the three broad kinds of temptations that we all experience. They are common to all of us in those three categories.
The second thing I want to say about this is that whatever temptations that we experience that sort of unique to our own backgrounds, or our own addictions or our own patterns of behavior etc. that Christ never had because He didn’t have those bad patterns of behavior, so whatever we experience that He didn’t. Think of the external temptation that came from the Devil to Him that would have been maximal. Satan knew everything hinged on whether or not Christ was successful. He would have pulled out the stops and done everything imaginable that he could do to trip Him up. How many sins does it take? One. I think that we have to just accept what Hebrews says and take great comfort from that. So He was fully tempted.
b. By Never Sinning, He endured the full weight of temptation
This is a very helpful point because it makes us realize that He felt temptation’s power in a way that none of us ever can. What is one of the reasons you give into temptation when you do? Just to get it over, the temptation quits right when you give in to it. If you are tempted to get back at somebody just do it and the temptation is over, otherwise you are face with this ongoing lingering urge within you to retaliate, to be bitter, to be whatever it might be. One of the things that we do to escape the force of the temptation is to yield. If you never, never once yield, you always experience those temptations in their full force. Can’t you see this in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prays three times, urges His disciples to pray with Him and they fall asleep, which makes me wonder if they had prayed as He asked if His strength would have been greater? In other words does prayer matter or was His agony increased in that struggle in the Garden to obey the Father, was it increased because the disciples did not pray. I don’t think His asking them to pray is of no avail. Isn’t prayer efficacious? In the Garden what we see is that He endured to the end of that temptation; the temptation out of His own nature. Sometimes I have been asked the question, are all of the temptations of Christ external. The answer is No. the temptation by Satan to make bread out these stones, yes Satan is giving the temptation, but what really is the inner drive that causes that to be a temptation out of His own limitations as a human being. He is hungry, He is painfully hungry. In the Garden of Gethsemane, obviously it is this deep anxiety over going to the cross so He prays three times, Father if you are willing let this cup pass from me. The fact that He never give in to the temptation means that He endured to the end of it until He was strengthened by the Father, Angels came and ministered to Him, the Spirit strengthened His heart and He resisted.
5. Why Christ did not sin and why He could not sin
Neither point, small letter “a” or “b” answer the question if He could not have sinned how was He really tempted. Neither of those answer that. They are both very helpful points. But is sort of like points “a” and “b” assume something else, or require something else to make sense of them. Because ultimately if you hold that really He couldn’t have sinned, then how was He really tempted? And yes He endured but what does this mean that at the end of the enduring He really never could have sinned? Obviously we still need something else. So here is my last point here that we need to talk about.
There is a key distinction and solution that I purpose and that is to distinguish between why Christ did not sin and why He could not sin. In my judgment these are two different questions that require two different answers. You already know the answer to the question, why Christ could not sin? Why is ultimately, theologically, that people have proposed that Christ could not sin? His immutable deity, the fact that He is God in nature (He is not just God in nature) but He is God in nature and any sin that He would commit would implicate the divine nature which cannot happen. He cannot change in His divine nature therefore sin would be an impossibility.
A lot of people who are thinking about this automatically assume that the reason that Christ did not sin is the same reason, namely He is God. What that does is trivialize the entire temptations of Christ. It is sort of like; imagine having a calculator in the 1400's, nobody knows that a calculator exists. You’ve got one, a little pocket one and you are attending a mathematics class in 1400 and you are given this very elaborate mathematics exam and you pull out your pocket calculator and it’s a whiz and you get a 100% on that exam. What kind of test was that, if you have the pocket calculator it is a breeze. That is what people think of here. Let me change the analogy, suppose in 1400 you have the pocket calculator, you are given the exam and you keep the pocket calculator in your pocket, you never once pull it out, you do the exam out of your head and you get 100% on the exam. Then would say the person did not fail because of the pocket calculator? No.
Let me give another example. This is example is meant to illustrate the difference between why one did not do something and why one could not; that these two things are different. Here is the illustration. It is kind of like the pocket calculator one but it is better, it is more clear on the distinction. The illustration of a person who wants to break all of the records there are for the longest swim (I tried to look up and it indicated that it was about 78 miles); the longest, single continual, unbroken swim. So this person wants to break this record and they train for it and work very hard to build up their endurance to break the world’s record. The one problem this person faces regularly is that after several hours in the swim his muscles begin to cramp and he fears that if he presses it, and tries to break this record, he never has gone that extra 20 miles, that his muscles will cramp up and he will drown. So they arrange for him, to have a boat follow behind, 15 to 20 feet plenty far back so that there is no question of the boat’s interference in anyway in his swimming, but close enough that at the first sign of a real problem the boat could get there and pick him so he wouldn’t drown. The day comes, and they are out in this huge lake, Lake Michigan or somewhere like that, and it is a beautiful sunny day and he dives in and starts swimming. Right behind him 20 -25 feet is the boat, all along the way and this guy swims and he swims hour upon hour and finally he breaks the record. Here is the question for you. Why is it that the swimmer could not have drowned? The boat is there, the boat is following the whole time, he could not have drowned because there was a mechanism put in place to prevent that from happening.
A different question. Why is it that he did not drown? Because he swam. He did not drown because he swam, he could not have drowned because of the boat. The fact that he did not drown is totally unrelated to the boat being there. The fact that he did not drown does not depend upon anything to do with why he could not drown. Why is that Christ could not have sinned? He is God. Why is it that he did not sin? As a man he faced every temptation and given the resources that were given to him as a man.
What were they, what resources did God give to him by which he fought temptation? The word, look at how He knew the word. When He was 12 years old teachers of Law, these are among the very most learned teachers of the Law in Israel; 12 year old boy comes in and they marvel. Even there when you think of how did he learn the Law so well? Well He was God, don’t jump to there. He was a man, a boy who loved the Law of the Lord with all His heart; he meditated on it day and night. He was the Psalm 1 epitome; that is how it happened. He loved the Law of the Lord, it was His delight and so by 12 years old being taught the Law, studying the Law, meditating on the Law, memorizing the Law He goes to Jerusalem and the teachers of the Law marvel at Him. At His temptation, Scripture, Scripture, Scripture. His discourse is full of Scripture. So obviously the word is given and He makes use of it.
What else is given? Spirit. Why does God in Christ need God in the Holy Spirit? The answer is He doesn’t. What can God the Holy Spirit add to the divine nature of Christ? Nothing. So what is the point of Him being the Spirit anointed Messiah? Why is so much made of this in the Bible? Look at Isaiah 11.
Isaiah 11:1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
Isaiah 11:2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Now ask yourself this question, what is the point of him indicating these qualities will come about in Him because the Spirit is in Him if He has all of those qualities by being God. Doesn’t it trivialize this if you say He lived His life, spoke what He did, knew what He did, did everything as God. It trivializes a passage like this. It indicates the Spirit was on Him. This, Isaiah 11:2 is lot like Galatians 5:22-23.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Galatians 5:23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The point is that when the Spirit takes up residence in your life, controls your life, when you walk in the Spirit, the Spirit’s qualities are manifest through you. Jesus exhibited the life of the Spirit. He was the original New Covenant person, filled with the Spirit. He brought the Spirit with Him when He came so that He could give the Spirit to us. Here is Jesus the man, the human being living His life in the power of the Spirit. If you don’t hold this, I don’t know what you do in the Gospel of Luke with all emphasis on the Spirit. Think of Luke’s Acts, why so much emphasis in Luke’s Gospel on the Spirit? Then he writes Acts, do you see the connection? Jesus lived His life by the Spirit, now He gives the Spirit to us.
What else did Jesus have that in His human nature He would resist temptation with? Prayer. He often prayed long into the night, went away, left the crowd sometimes. He did things that most ministers would never do. When things were going really well, the crowds were coming like crazy, he would up and leave. Most ministers, bring them on, bring them on, the more the better, we are not leaving. Jesus never did care for numbers per see. The one thing He cared about, I have come to do the will of my Father. If that meant 3, 12, 500, 5000 that is up to the Father, I have come to do the will of my Father. By the end of His life the numbers get pretty bad, they kind of dwindle down a fair bit to His mother, Mary of Magdalene and another Mary at the cross weeping, John evidently still hanging in there, you know take of My mother, John. So you have few that hanging in there. Peter; lost cause, the rest of the disciples; scared to death. Everybody else, they crucified Him. We are not talking about a wonderful end to this ministry in the sense of building all of these people that loved my ministry. That is not what it is about. It is about I have come to do the will of My Father. God gave Him prayer to seek to know what this is.
I think that this is worth a little more time to think through. In part because it is so glorious, it is rich. One of the great, great tragedies of the 20th century was that when fundamentalism retreated from the culture and liberals extolled the social Jesus. Liberals preached from the Gospels. Fundamentalist who don’t want to be liberals basically gave up the Gospels, they preached Paul, they preached Peter. For a whole generation we lost the Gospels. Here is a call to you my friend. Why do you think God gave us four Gospels? Look at them this way, look at them this way, but look at them this way and look at them this way. Isn’t it clear that He wants us to see Jesus? Part of this has to do with 2 Corinthians 3:18 how does the Spirit make us like Christ? We see, and adore, and become like what we love. So beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, incrementally, bit by bit we become more like Christ because we adore Him, we marvel at Him. Marveling at Jesus, ought to be for Christian people a preoccupation, marveling at Jesus; four Gospels. I don’t want you to miss this.