Statement of Faith Current Teaching Teaching Index
The Perfect Life of Christ
Part one

April 2017

1.      Old Testament types

2.      New Testament Reality

Last month we have just seen that Jesus was wholly human and wholly God. He had the full nature of God as well as the full nature of man.  But with this knowledge comes a deep theological question on whether Jesus was capable of sinning or was sinning impossible for Him.  But there is another question that arises also in regards to the sin potential in Christ’s temptations.  There is no dispute to whether Jesus was severely tempted (cf. Matthew 4:1-11). The debate comes over the question “could He have fallen to these temptations?  Those who teach that Jesus was capable of sinning are convinced that the temptations faced by Christ were real (cf. Matthew 4).  They believe that as being fully human Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). They believe that real temptations imply the real possibility of sin.  If it were impossible to sin, they reason, then how could someone really be tempted?  It is vital at this point to examine this fact.  Understanding that Jesus was God and a member of the Godhead which includes the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, why did not the devil tempt God or the Holy Spirit at any time?  He waited until Jesus was baptized by John for ministry before the temptations began.  If Jesus in his physical state was incapable of temptation and sinning like the Father and Holy Spirit why tempt Him at all?  For surely the devil is smart enough to know the uselessness of such an action.  So again why go through the attempt of tempting Him if He could not sin?  Jesus was all God true enough, but He was all man as well.  Jesus was a perfect union between God and man.  As a result of being fully man the potential for sin was a present reality.  That can be the only reason why the devil would try so hard to tempt Jesus to sin.

 

The opponents of this belief respond by saying that the potential for Jesus to sin was not there, but that does not negate the potential for temptation.  For example; suppose there was a fortress so powerfully fortified that it could not be overthrown.  Could people still try to attack it?  Of course!  Would it be correct to say that because an army cannot be conquered that it cannot be attacked?[i]  When the children of Israel were right with God, they were invincible and could not be overthrown, but they could be attacked.  In fact, they were attacked often.  But because of their right standing with God they won every battle.

Let us now consider several arguments used by those who do not believe that Jesus could sin.  First; If Jesus was God, and as we all know God cannot sin; then how can you say Jesus could sin.  For if God were to sin He would no longer be God for He is holy.  That would be paramount to God lying or breaking His promises or in some way be unfaithful.  We all know that this could never happen; therefore, how you can say that Jesus could sin is to say the lease unfounded.

 

This argument is a good one.  However, let us consider that the Word of God says that God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4), but Jesus did (cf. Matthew 8:24; Mark 4:38)!  The Bible tells us that God is all knowing [omniscient] (cf. Job 36:4, 37:16; Proverbs 5:21; Hebrews 4:13).  But Jesus was capable of learning (Luke 2:52)!  God is the same, He never changes, He never ages (Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:12; James 1:17). But Jesus aged.  He grew from childhood to manhood (Luke 2:40).  God never wearies (Isaiah 40:28).  But, Jesus wearied (John 4:6). We all know that God cannot die, He is immortal (cf. Psalm 90:1-2, 103:27; 1st Timothy 1:17).  But, Jesus died (John 19:33).  God cannot be tempted (James 1:13).  But Jesus was (Hebrews 4:15).

 

Simply put, when God was incarnated He became a human being with all the frailties of a human.  These frailties made it possible for Him to experience and do things that God in His heavenly nature could not do and visa versa.  These humanly weaknesses made it possible for Him to sympathize with our weaknesses and upon His sacrificial death He once and for all opened up the way into God’s very presence and there once entered, we are to abide.  We are then capable of receiving all the blessings God has offered to His followers.           

  

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (16) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and  find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).  Notice, that it was those very human weaknesses that were tempted; and it was by the very power of God that dwelt in Him, that He was capable of overcoming all  temptations without sinning.  “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people; (18) for in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).   Once His temptations had finished and His life offered, the throne of grace was once and for all opened to anyone willing to bow before it.  Jesus’ atonement, His subsequent resurrection, and His entrance into the very presence of God would take away the sin of the world and lead us to living fountains of water, while wiping away all our tears (Revelation 7:10, 14, 17).

 

The second argument goes like this; “Jesus did not have a sin nature therefore He could not sin.” To respond to this let me use the same argument already used.  Satan did not waste his time trying to tempt God the Father or God the Holy Spirit, but when God became man he went to work immediately trying to make Him sin.  If Jesus had done what Satan wanted, He would have sinned and God’s plan for salvation and Satan’s ultimate defeat would have come crashing down in failure.  Understanding this brings us to a logical conclusion that Satan either believed hoped, or was so deceived due to his own pride that Jesus could sin, that he did all he could to cause it.  Honestly brethren, whether or not Satan believed in the possibility that Jesus could or could not sin is not the question.  In Satan’s heart and mind he absolutely needed Jesus to sin.  His pride forced him to do all he could to bring that about.

 

Deception is Satan’s nature; being deceived is not his problem.  He is smarter than we are and more devious than we could ever think of being therefore it stands to reason that he understood the meaning of Christ coming to earth as a human better than we do.  As for me and my house we choose to believe that if Satan believed that the possibility of Christ sinning existed I am so inclined to believe it also, or how could it be possible to interpret Hebrews 4:15 in any other way than “He did not sin;” which obviously infers that the possibility did exist.

 

Before we close this section let us look at the meanings of the actual Greek words used in this verse.  “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  First let us examine the words “Touched with the feeling of” (συνπαθῆσαι - sumpatheō). Only used here and in Hebrews 10:34. It means more than the knowledge of human infirmity; it is actually feeling it by reason of common experience with all men. Second the word “Infirmities” (ἀσθενείαις - astheneia).  This does not mean sufferings, but weaknesses, moral and physical, which influences one to sin and facilitates ones actions to it. Third: “in all points tempted” (Κατά πᾶς πειράζω – kata-pas-peirazō).  The word “tempted can mean either “tempted or tried.” The Greek word used here means to be “put to the proof;” to try the nature or character of; and this may be done either:

  1. by subjecting a person to “afflictions” or “sufferings” that his true character may be tried – that it may be seen whether he has sincere piety and love to God; or.
  2. by allowing one to fall into “temptation,” where some strong inducement to do evil is presented to the mind, and henceforth becomes a “trial” of virtue.

Jesus was subjected to both these in as severe a form as was ever presented to mankind. His sufferings surpassed all others; and the temptations of Satan (cf. Matthew 4) were presented in the most appealing form in which he could think of.  Being “proved” or “tried” in both these respects, Jesus showed that He had the strength of conviction which could bear all the allurements presented Him in order to seduce Him from His relationship with God and distracting Him from and destroying His divine purpose.  Also His strength of conviction and dedication to God made Him a perfect model for those who would be tried in the same manner in the future.   Forth: the phrase “Like as we are” (καθ' ὁμοιότητα - kat-ah' homoiotēs). The Greek literally means, “according to likeness.”  Like “us” or “our” is to be understood, or, as some translate it, “according to His likeness to us.”

 

Last: “yet without sin” (χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας - chōris hamartias).  Greek, word choris,” is used here and in (Hebrews 7:26) and it means to be “separate from sin.”  If the Greekaneu” had been used in either verse, sin would have been regarded as the object absent from Christ (Jesus had no nature of sin) who is the subject; but the word “choris” being used implies that Christ, the subject, is regarded as separated from sin the object. Meaning, throughout His temptations in their origin, process, and result, sin had no hold on Him; He set Himself apart and separated Himself from it.  This is the outstanding difference that must never be overlooked in considering the actual humanity of Jesus. He did not yield to sin. But even more than this there was no concealed sin in Jesus that could be stirred by temptation and no habits of sin to be overcome. But He did have “weaknesses” (astheneiai) common to our human nature (hunger, thirst, weariness, etc.).  Satan used his strongest weapons against Jesus’ human frailties in order to tempt Him to sin; he did it repeatedly, and failed every time. Jesus remained, by choice, “undefiled” (amiantos) in a world of sin (John 8:46).

 

This is our foundation of hope, the sinlessness of Jesus which permits Him absolute and complete empathy toward us.  There is therefore, no temptation that He cannot understand and has already defeated.  Let us draw our strength, hope and faith from that knowledge.

 

We have looked at the arguments pro and con of the sinlessness of Jesus and also the actual language that was used in the main text that states that Christ was sinless. This is all good but let us go farther; as in a court of law witnesses are called upon to prove or disprove a fact before any judgment is reached. Let us attempt to do the same.

 

The first witness is God the Father.   We all know that the Father is Holy and without sin in fact He hates sin.  We see that in His creation of hell, His statements regarding it (e.g. Matthew 18:6-9) and in Him sending His son to die to eliminate the penalty of it.  We also know that the Father is well pleased with those who do not sin.  In Matthew 3:17 the Father made this statement, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” At the time the Father said this Jesus was about 30 years old.  Therefore it is reasonable to assume that throughout Christ’s life, even as a boy He never sinned or how could the Father be pleased with Him.

Another witness to the sinless life of Christ is the author of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit.  Who inspired the writers to write the Bible (c.f. 2nd Peter 1:21).  For example let us look first at Isaiah, who wrote this concerning Christ approximately 800 years prior to Christ’ birth. Isaiah 53:9-10“And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.” 

 

Now let us look at an un-named witness who wrote the book of Hebrews. Both these verses have been looked at before but it will do no harm to look at them again.  Hebrews 4:15 reads like this; “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  And Hebrews 7:26 reads thusly; “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens.”

 

Now let us look at some friends of Jesus that testified about His sinless life. 

First; Dr. Luke; notice what he said in Luke 1:35;  “And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”  Notice the one to be born was the “Holy One. What does that mean?  According to Webster it means, “Properly, whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense; pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections.  Applied to the Supreme Being, holy signifies perfectly pure, immaculate and complete in moral character.”

 

Now the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church, our apostle writes of Jesus (2nd Corinthians 5:21) “For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

 

Then there is the Apostles Peter and John who were two of the three closest to Jesus.  They along with the Apostle James have been called the pillars of the Church of Christ.  What did they have to say about Christ’ sinless life.

 

Let us start in Peter’s sermon to the Jews found in Acts 3:14-15.  “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, (15) and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” And in His epistle he wrote “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1st Peter 3:18).  And in 1st Peter 2:22 Peter quotes from Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 53:9) when he says in reference to Jesus; “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.”

 

Another of Jesus’ disciples, John, who was in many ways closer to the Lord than Peter; for it is of him who it was said that he was the one “whom Jesus loved” (Ref. John 13:23, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20).  Said this about Jesus; “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” Therefore, according to a man who knew the Lord very well, Jesus never sinned either with His lips or in his actions; He was righteous and holy the perfect Lamb of God, who was perfect and holy.

 

The argument can easily be made that these witnesses hold no merit for they were all close friends of Jesus and their opinions are extremely tainted.  Granted!  But there is another group of witnesses we therefore should examine before making any decision.  These perhaps are the best of witnesses; for they are the ones that hated Jesus.  They would do anything to destroy Him and His work.  So the question arises why would they say or do anything that would benefit or give credence to Jesus. 

 

Judas would be a good one to start with, he betrayed Christ after all.  He said of Jesus after he betrayed Him “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4).  Notice the context it is very important.  He said “I have sinned” and in comparison “he betrayed innocent blood.  There is little to no doubt that he must be referring to Jesus’ sinless life when he said this. 

 

What about the man who condemned Jesus to death, Pontius Pilate.  What was his witness when he had to answer a howling mob of Jews who wanted Jesus crucified; “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it” (Matthew27:24).  The word “just” in the Greek is the worddikaios” (dik'-ah-yos).  It means equitable (in character or act); by implication innocent, holy, sinless (absolutely or relatively), just, proper, righteous.

 

What about Pilate’s wife who God gave a dream.  What did she have to tell her husband about Jesus; “Have nothing to do with that “just” man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him” (Matthew 27:19).

 

What about Christ’s greatest enemies, the demons.  They more than mortal man would know what kind of a person Jesus was!  In Luke 4:33-34, an unclean, unholy demon cried out and said, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!”  

 

It is all together certain that the Lord’s enemies would have loved to find some sin in His life for if so all the plans of God for the salvation of man and the destruction of all who were not God’s would have been destroyed.  Satan would then be the victor and ruler of all creation.  That is why they were always trying to find something for which they could blame Him, but they could find nothing. He was blameless! It would be as if someone wanting to shoot his enemy, but when he tried to do it, he found that there were no bullets to shoot with! Jesus gave His enemies no bullets to shoot at Him with! There was no sin or fault in His life that they could grasp and use against Him!  Jesus knowing the enemy’s ultimate plan challenged His enemies by saying, “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me” (John 8:46)?  This was the perfect opportunity to all Jesus’ enemies and skeptics.  Name a sin and all God’s plans for the salvation of mankind will be destroyed and you win. But no one said a word! Why?  For they knew that he had committed no sin!

 

This demands the question, “why is the sinless life of Christ of such importance?”  For the answer to that question we must look into the Old Testament starting in the Garden of Eden.  But first; have you ever asked yourself why Christians do not sacrifice animals anymore?  Jesus gave us an answer to this question.  It can be found in His first major sermon which we refer to as the “Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew 5-7.  Let us look at Matthew 5:17-20 for the answer.  "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (18) For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (19) Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (20) For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

This is not an easy passage to understand clearly because it seems that Jesus, at least at first glance, seems to be saying that the Law and Prophets is still active and will be until heaven and earth pass away.  But as we just noted, Christians no longer sacrifice animals in order to pay for their sins. How do we explain this seeming contradiction?  The answer is that the Old Covenant is to the New Covenant what promise is to fulfillment!  How did, Jesus Christ fulfill the promises of the Old Covenant?  The answer is that He was our one time sacrifice for sin.  He (Jesus) was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Ref. John 1:29; Hebrews 9:26; Revelation 13 8).  When Jesus was called the Lamb of God by John the Baptist (John 1:29, 36) he was referring to Jesus as the perfect one time sacrifice for sin who was the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant sacrificial system and the visible, physical revelation and final completion to that Covenant.

Brethren before we explore John 1:29 in more detail, there is a foundational fact that must clearly and precisely be understood in order to appreciate the historical significance of what is being said in John 1:29.  That is that, Christianity is not a new religion but a historical manifestation of an eternal purpose, devised, created, ordained and implemented by God for the salvation of man.  This is clearly evident in such Scriptures as Revelation 13:8 “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” 1st Peter 1:19-20 “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (20) He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” Other Scriptures one can use for further evidence include Exodus 12:3, 6, Titus 1:2, Ephesians 1:4 and Acts 2:23, etc. 

 

The sacrifice of lambs played a very important role in the Jewish religious life and sacrificial system. When John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the Jews who heard him might have immediately thought of any one of several important sacrifices. With the time of the Passover feast being very near, the first thought might be the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. The Passover feast was one of the main Jewish holidays and a celebration in remembrance of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. In fact, the slaying of the Passover lamb and the applying of the blood to doorposts of the houses (Exodus 12:11-13) is a beautiful picture of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. We will look deeper into this later.  Those for whom He died are covered by His blood, their sin forgiven, and then immediately adopted into God’s family.

 

We will conclude this study next month by examining what Christ came to do. We must begin with the Old Testament, which from the very beginning contains examples and prophecies concerning the coming of Christ as a “sin atonement” (Genesis 3:15, 21; 4:4-5; 22:2-13; Exodus 12; Leviticus 6:8; Numbers 28; 29; Isaiah 53:10 plus many more).



[i] This illustration taken from George Parsons, Pastor of Middletown Baptist Church, Middletown Ct.

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