Jesus Christ Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary (5)
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Sunday, December 14, 2008 -

“We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen”

Today we conclude our study of Jesus Christ, His two natures, how He experienced temptation and how it all relates to us in our times of trial and weakness:


Now comes the final question: Could Jesus have sinned when He was tempted on earth? Again, I think we must keep both natures fully in tact in His person when we form our answer. It seems to me that the only way you can say, “Yes, Jesus could have fallen into sin, just like the rest of us”, is to ignore the plain fact that Jesus was fully God. And, as James is absolutely clear, God, as God, cannot be tempted by evil - James 1:13 - “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

This seems clear enough, but it creates problems. Once you say Jesus couldn’t have sinned (God, says James, cannot be tempted with evil), doesn’t that mean He never really faced temptation the way we face it? I don’t think so.

Just as long as we remember what I was saying last week about the way the attributes of deity were exercised in Jesus’ life while here on earth. I said they were exercised according to the will of the Father, not according to the will of the Son alone. And, secondly, I said those attributes were used always to further the Father’s plan of redemption in all it phases.

Remember, a big part of the Father’s plan of redemption is that ordinary people like you and me have a high priest, an intercessor, who could identify and relate to us in our time of need. So, the Father would direct (in ways we can’t fully grasp) the attributes of the Son to fulfill that goal of a sympathetic and understanding High Priest.

So, my thinking would be, and this isn’t something on which all Christians would agree, that when Jesus was tempted, while it is true that He couldn’t, if He were only divine, have sinned as we might, He was called upon to resist temptation as one who was fully immersed in humanity. In other words, the Father’s will was that the Son not face temptation in the sheer power of omniscience and omnipotence, but in the genuine reality of human flesh, crying out to the Father in humble, reliant prayer.

I would argue this is exactly what we see the Son doing over and over again when facing trial and temptation:

Hebrews 5:7-8 - “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. {8} Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”

And I think now you will see why I specifically chose the attribute of omniscience when I talked about how Jesus sometimes limited Himself in certain situations. This has special relevance to this whole issue of how Jesus faced temptation:

Imagine a small boy who is anxiously awaiting Christmas. His parents have told him that all the presents are safely stashed away in the store room closet. And he has been told to stay out of there because the presents aren’t all wrapped yet.

Then imagine the parents have to both go downstairs to paint the basement floor. They will be down there for hours and the boy knows it. As they go downstairs they tell the boy, “Now, remember, stay out of that closet. We’re not coming up for a while but we’re trusting you to be obedient.”

Then the boy hears the door close to the basement in order to keep the paint fumes as contained as possible. The next few hours pose an intense moral dilemma for the boy. He wants so badly to open the closet door. He approaches the door several times, only to turn away in guilt. He imagines the eyes of Jesus and the great white throne every time he goes near the door. But after much sweat and agony, the boy emerges victorious over sin. He has conquered the temptation. He never touched that closet door.

But let’s suppose, before the parents went downstairs, they actually locked the door to that storeroom closet. Of course, the boy never could have peeked at the presents. But, the way things happened, even though he never could have sinned, he certainly was tempted and resisted in his own strength.

That boy felt the full weight of genuine temptation even though he never could have sinned. And my thinking is, because it was the will of the Father that Jesus be a sympathetic high priest, tempted in all points as we are, faced all those temptations, not in the blazing strength of raw omniscience and omnipotence, but actually thinking He needed to rely desperately on the Word of God and prayer. In short, He felt temptation’s full force, even though, in my opinion, He never could have sinned.

Whether you buy that explanation or not, the important point of application for all of us is that, according to the example of Jesus, He resisted the full force of temptation. He understands it as fully as you and I do.

And one more thing: Not only did this work for the man Christ Jesus, Paul says it will work for us as well: 1 Corinthians 10:13 - “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.