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An Examination of the Question of the Impeccability of Jesus Christ

Essay by review  •  September 3, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  5,303 Words (22 Pages)  •  1,244 Views

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An examination of the question of the impeccability of Jesus Christ

The New Testament authors had no qualms about declaring that Jesus was truly human and telling us that Jesus committed no sin. Bible passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22 and 1 John 3:5 "witness that He [Jesus] did not give in to temptation, nor violate the moral standards of God, nor was He inconsistent with the nature of his character." That is, Jesus was sinless.

It is vital to our theology that Jesus was sinless. For only if Jesus was sinless could His death have been a vicarious substitution and fulfil God's redemptive plan for man. If Jesus had not been sinless, then it would mean that He died for His own sins and not those of mankind. Had Jesus died for His own sins then His death could not have been accepted by the Father as a vicariously substitution for the punishment and judgement each of us are entitled to receive. Even though there is no serious debate that Jesus was anything but sinless, theologians have discussed the question of whether Jesus could have sinned if He had wanted. This is called the peccability of Christ. The opposing argument, i.e., impeccability, being that even if He had wanted, Jesus could not have sinned. Upon first consideration, one might view this question as being trivial; something to simply keep the theologians "out of mischief" when they have nothing better to do. However, there are some very appropriate reasons for examining this issue.

The first reason to examine the issue of Christ's peccability/impeccability is so that we might obtain a better understanding and a more in depth knowledge about both Jesus Christ and God, just as God has invited us. This is the same reason that we study Theology proper. When we arrive at an answer to this question, we will have additional knowledge about Jesus' preincarnate state and a better understanding of the meaning of the statement "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever ."

Second, some theologians have argued that the peccability of Jesus has a direct impact on the humanity of Christ. That is, if Jesus was not peccable then just how "human" was he? Could he have been "true man" if he were not able to sin like the rest of mankind? (Note: this is a question of whether Christ could have sinned; not that Christ had to have sinned in order to be human.) Morris indirectly asks if Jesus' impeccability implied that he was lacking a part of the human condition that the rest of mankind have, viz., the consciousness of past sin? If this is the case, Christ may not have been truly human because he only took on most of the "qualities" of human nature but shielded himself from the consciousness of sin.

Third, Sahl tells us that "the virgin birth, the Incarnation, and the hypostatic union, are all influenced by the impeccability of Jesus Christ ." Therefore, if we are to have a full understanding of these doctrines, we need to study the question of Christ's peccability/impeccability.

Fourth, an understanding of the peccability/impeccability of Jesus Christ will have an impact on our understanding of angels in general and Lucifer/Satan in particular . That is, by examining the peccability/impeccability of Jesus (and the related issue of the temptability of Jesus) we will come to have a better understanding of the realm of angels, especially the fallen angels. Furthermore, by examining the temptations that Satan makes to Christ, we will also have a deeper awareness of the powers of Satan and his followers.

Fifth, because the Bible tells us that Jesus did not sin, the question of Jesus' peccability or impeccability will have an impact on biblical inerrancy and integrity. As Sahl states, " if it is possible that the Lord Jesus Christ could succumb to or be deceived by sin, then one must also conclude that it is possible for Him to have given inaccurate information about eternal things when He was growing in wisdom and stature and favour with God and man ."

And finally, Christ's peccability/impeccability will have an impact on the victory over temptation and sin that the Redeemer accomplished . For if it was impossible for Jesus to have ever sinned then it is indeed a hallow victory: there was no chance of his ever not winning the battle. Thus, the victory is a very mute point and raises the question if the victory has any real impact on mankind under these circumstances.

Thus, we can see that the peccability or impeccability of Jesus is more than simply an academic debate. The outcome of such a debate could have far reaching implications on our view and knowledge of God, our doctrine of the humanity of Jesus, the doctrines of the virgin birth, the Incarnation and the hypostatic union, our theology of angelology, the question of biblical inerrancy and integrity and finally, our view of Jesus' victory over temptation and sin.

I would now like to turn to the arguments for the peccability of Jesus, i.e., Jesus could have sinned if he had wanted to sin. As stated earlier, a positive result of this investigation does not imply that Jesus had to have sinned during his earthly life. Only that it was possible for Jesus to have sinned.

Our first argument that Jesus was peccable centres on the question of the temptations of Jesus. Charles Hodge has been quoted as "summarizing this teaching in these words: This sinlessness of our Lord, however, does not amount to absolute impeccability. It was not a non potent peccare. If He was a true man, He must have been capable of sinning. That he did not sin under the greatest provocation ... is held up to us as an example. Temptation implies the possibility of sin ." Sahl states this as "if a person has no susceptibility to sin or if sin has no appeal for him, the temptation is a farce ." In short, this means that if Jesus was not capable of being tempted by sin and capable of sinning and then He was not truly human. For temptability and the ability to sin are part of being human.

In order to fully understand and respond to this argument based on temptability we must examine the nature of temptability. Sahl argues that the problem with this argument is that we have a misconception of the nature of temptability. Specifically, he says, "the Greek word "to tempt" does not mean to induce evil. The word means 'to try, make a trial of, put to the test ... to signify the trying intentionally with the purpose of discovering what of good or evil, of power or weakness was in a person or thing,' " or "to have an appeal. " In this regard, Sahl concludes that the temptations

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