Could Jesus Sin? (Part One)
This question may never be explicitly decided based upon the Scriptures themselves but we can make some honest deductions. To get this question right, we must begin with Christ's personal identity, not His human nature. This question if it is to be understood, must be viewed, by His identity, and the ontological limitations of that identity (Heb. 1:3). If Jesus is God, and God cannot sin or be tempted (James 1:13), then Jesus could not sin because such an act would have been the act of God (in a human manner). Jesus freely and willingly chose to submit Himself to the will of the Father (John 14:10-11, 28). Even under tremendous pressure He could do nothing but obey the Word of God (Luke 4:3-4). In this He is our greatest example.
In self-giving and self-limitation God became what he was not (John 1:14), in order that we might become what we are not. In time, He came to us in the flesh. In an authentic human life. He is eternally immutable in his divine moral nature, and eternally faithful (Mal. 3:6). Indeed, Jesus is said to be the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Yet, we must always remember that there is one subject of the divine and human actions. The one person of God embraces the unique nature which is fully human and fully divine thus a true reconciliation between God and man. That is why the human nature had no independent reality or identity other than God. The flesh would be lifeless without it and that is what happened when God experienced death in His human nature.
A nature is not tempted. It is the person utilizing that nature who is tempted or not. If it is truly possible for Jesus to sin then both His nature and person must be capable of sin. But, for us there is ONLY ONE person in Christ Jesus, our Lord. This is the case in Trinitarianism as well. It is Satan who did the testing and it was Christ who was tested. The temptation of Jesus, while existing in the form of God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:6), was not internal to Christ but an external action by Satan directed at Christ. This is important but does not blunt the reality of the tempation. Below James, the brother of Christ, tells us about the nature of sin:
James 1:14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ESV
In the wilderness Christ is tempted for the first time when He is hungry after fasting for forty days. While the temptation did not arise in Christ's character or person the genuiness of the temptation upon the person or consciousness of Christ cannot be disanulled. Yet, even here Christ, who was in the form of God physically and morally, did not use the divine prerogatives that He possessed.
Matthew 4:3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” ESV
Satan wanted Jesus to remove His human hunger using His divine power. To exercise His divine power and thus destroying the integrity of the Incarnation. Any mere human would have probably caved in to the pressure but here Jesus, exising in the form of God, is truly tempted by this test. Jesus is God, but was not looked upon as God. He was seen and looked upon as a man. Therefore, Jesus as God manifest in the flesh felt and knew the entire range of human emotion during testing.
If Jesus had a person inside of him capable of sinning and another that is not then that is obviously two persons. I believe Jesus is the ONE who possess a unique nature--which is fully human and fully God. He was indeed God in human flesh (John 1:14). He did not have one nature off doing one thing while the other was doing something else. Theoretically, if Jesus was only a human He could've sinned but we know this isn't the case and it can be said that Jesus "knew" no sin. In his consciousness and mind, or internally, there was nothing sinful in Him for He was God in the flesh.
2 Cor. 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ESV
When or if we sin it is done because sin is already within us. Sin still exists, no matter if we can carry out that sin to its completion (See Matt. 5:27-28). If a man "lusts" after a woman in his heart, even though he did not act upon his lust he has still sinned in his heart. Jesus did not struggle with sin but ultimately defeat it--for us. You can not struggle with something internally that is not within you therefore the tests and temptations of Christ were not immoral ones. The ruler of this world and sin had no "claim on Jesus" (John 14:30). The reason it was not possible for Jesus to sin, or capable of sin is because the person of Jesus is God and inherently incapable of sin.
It is by this perfect, spotless sacrifice that we can EVER become the righteousness of God. It is not our righteousness, but it is indeed HIS. The "him" here refers to Jesus as sin's representative who bore its judgment at Calvary. This enables Paul and his companions to become the righteousness of God. The righteousness comes from God. It comes from the work of Calvary. Thus to be made righteous by God is be made righteous by Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is the perfect, spotless sacrifice. Our perfection for us. The lamb slain, for us.
Hebrews 4:14-15 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. ESV
Hebrews 4:14-15 explains that Christ was tempted in all points of His being, or in every respect of His personality, as we are. All the temptations and tests of Christ are not compiled for us but the Hebrews writers makes it an accepted reality. We will look at these verses closer in part two but the reality of temptation was valid for Him as is for all of us. If not, Jesus would not have been genuinely human. However, can this logically mean that the same "evil desires" we are tempted with are the very same that Jesus was tempted with? That is not the point of this text. Could it be said Jesus was tempted to do heroine? To murder? No. It is not necessary to say He was tempted in each and every way, simply because some things were never physically present, to conclude that He was genuinely tempted.
Christ can sympathize with our infirmities or weakness and He was tested as we are, yet without sin. Note the Scriptures do not say Jesus "did not sin" but rather "without sin." The distinction is crucial and instructional in light of the identity of Jesus. His human nature would have hungered and it is also by our human natures that we sin. Yet, Jesus was not in internal conflict or confusion. His human nature was not as though it could act independently of his divine nature. Jesus is the one who is fully human and fully divine. Jesus' human nature is not isolated. It is always in union or submission to the divine nature. His person and nature were in harmony
In summary, Jesus knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21), He committed no sin (1 Pet. 2:22), and there is no sin in Him (1 John 3:5). It was impossible for Him to sin, either as God or as man. As the perfect man, He was obedient to the Father (John 5:19), and certainly the Father would cause Him to sin. Did He face things like fornication or theft? Possibly. If so, was he actually tempted to do them? No. Was he tempted and tested? Yes, without sin. Christ did not come so that He could relate to us, but He came so that we could relate to Him. His is our perfect example. The spotless lamb.