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Theology An Examination Of The Question Of The Impeccability Of Jesus Christ

.. ory: an explicit attestation to [Jesus] sense of sinlessness we do not find until we encounter them, as the fruit of the Logos-theology, in the pronouncements of the Johannine Christ . While I am not personally convinced with Berkouwers interpretation and prefer to base the rejection of this argument for Jesus peccability on the correct interpretation of the passage, I will grant that Berkouwer presents a logical and plausible argument given what we know about the development of the New Testament writings. The second argument Berkouwer presents is based on the story of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. In Matthews account of this incident, John the Baptist recognizes the holiness of Christ and tries to avoid baptising Him.

However, Christ instructs John the Baptist to give in for now (Matthew 3:15). From this, the argument arises that if Jesus was sinless why was it He had to be baptized and repent His sins? The Jerome Biblical Commentary points out that the dialogue between John the Baptist and Jesus is not found in the accounts of either Mark or Luke and proposes that it is an addition by Matthew because it was necessary to explain how Jesus could submit to a rite of repentance and confession of sin . Berkouwer has a more fuller explanation saying Christ was obedient to the divine law in precisely this manner .. To this law Christ was already subject in his circumcision and in his presentation in the temple and in nothing was he distinguished from the other children of his [i.e., the Jewish] people. He was born of a woman, born under the law (Gal. 4:4) .

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In other words, Jesus was simply fulfilling the Judaic law and being a good Jew. Like all other Jews of His time, He was keeping the precepts and following the rules. It was not an attempt to deny his holiness or to claim that He was sinful. It was simply a rite of passage. Had He not followed through with the baptism it is possible that Jesus would have been condemned by the Jewish leaders and banned from the Temple.

Therefore, we can see that the baptism of Jesus does not carry any weight as an attempt to prove the peccability of Jesus. Berkouwers third unique approach of the peccability of Jesus is based on Hebrews 5:7-8. In this passage we are told by the apostolic author that [Jesus] learned obedience from what he suffered. This statement has lead people (at least according to Berkouwer) to question if there was a stage in which Christ was not yet obedient .. a stage antedating Christs obedience. In countering this argument Berkouwer points out that Hebrew 5 is related precisely to the suffering of Christ in Gethsemani where Christ is tempted to derail the divine plan, His cross, death and resurrection. However, Christ was obedient in the sense that He accepted the divine will and accepted the will of the Father.

This passage does not relate to the whole life of Christ, but merely to a single episode. Therefore, this passage is not supportive of the peccability theory. In summary therefore, we have seen that the question of the peccability of Jesus, i.e., Jesus could have sinned if He had wished to sin, cannot be supported by appealing to the following arguments: a) that in order to have a true human nature Jesus had to be able to sin; b) that in order to be really tempted as man is tempted Jesus had to be able to sin; c) that temptability necessitates susceptibility to sin; d) that if Jesus were a true man he would have to be able to sin because sin is part of the human condition; e) that if Jesus were really the Second or New Adam he had to have been able to sin; f) that Jesus statement in Luke 18:19, Mark 10:18 and Matthew 19:17 (None is good but God alone) implies that Jesus had to have been able to sin; g) that Jesus baptism by John the Baptist implies Jesus sin nature and hence the ability to sin; and h) that Biblical passage of Hebrews 5:7-8 implies that Jesus was not always obedient and thus, able to sin. Therefore, we can conclude that there is no argument that would require us to admit or concur with the peccability of Jesus. Having determined the lack of evidence to support the peccability of Jesus, I now wish to examine the arguments in support of the impeccability of Jesus.

The first argument to support the impeccability of Jesus is based on Jesus divine nature. Towns tells us Jesus was unalterably God and to back up this statement he presents nine proofs. Sahl tells us that it is precisely because Jesus is God that it is not possible for Him to sin . Pannenberg explains this more fully, saying, if sin is essentially life in contradiction to God, in self-centred closing of our ego against God, then Jesus unity with God in his personal community with the Father and in his identity with the person of the Son of God means immediately his separation from all sin . That is, the concept of peccability in the person of Christ is contradicted principally by the attributes of immutability .

Pannenberg notes that for Tertullian, Jesus is .. sinless .. because he is one with the sinless God . In other words, both Pannenberg and Tertullian conclude that it is impossible for Christ to be peccable because to do so would fly in the face of Gods (including Jesus) immutability. For Christ to be able to sin there would have to be a substantial change to the very nature of God.

However, God himself has clearly revealed that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and you [Jesus] are the same, and your years will have no end (Hebrews 1:12). Walvoord has extrapolated these verses to imply, it is unthinkable that God could sin [in] eternity past, it must also be true that it is impossible for God to sin in the person of Christ incarnate. The nature of His person forbids susceptibility to sin . Towns states this as To rob God of any attributes would be to rob God of deity. It would mean that God is no longer immutable (unchanging), and therefore, causes Him to be less than God .

Therefore, based on the above, it is clear that Jesus could not have been able to sin. Second, it has also been argued that since Jesus was God, His omnipotence, even though he chose not to exercise this attribute through the kenosis, would guarantee His impeccability: peccability always implies weakness on the part of the one tempted. .. On the part of Christ, this is clearly out of the question . Bechtle states this argument as falling to temptation shows moral weakness or lack of power and ability.

Christ had infinite power, and was therefore not susceptible to sin . Third, it is argued that because Christ was omniscient He could not have sinned: sin frequently appeals to the ignorance of the one tempted. .. In the case of Christ, the effects of sin were perfectly known, with all the contributing factors. It was impossible for Christ having omniscience to commit that which he knew could only bring eternal woe to Himself and to the race.

Having at once infinite wisdom to see sin in its true light and at the same time infinite power to resist temptation, it is evident that Christ was impeccable. Towns takes this argument based on the definition and attributes of God one step further and presents a fourth argument which includes the fact that Jesus was omnipresent as a proof of His impeccability: Christ is omnipresent (His presence in heaven at the time of the temptation disallows sin), therefore, Christ could not sin for He lived a perfect life in heaven at the moment of the temptation . The fifth argument in supporting the view that Christ was impeccable appeals to the statement God cannot be tempted with evil which is found in James 1:13. However, this is an inaccurate translation of the original manuscript. A more correct translation would be Surely God, who is beyond the grasp of evil, tempts no one .

This latter interpretation is supported by the Jerome Biblical Commentary . Thus, the passage in James 1:13 is not appropriate to the current discussion and does not prove either the peccability or impeccability of Jesus. The sixth argument in support of the impeccability is what Sahl refers to as the unique person of Jesus or the hypostatic union. Under the doctrine of the hypostatic union Jesus had one intellect, one set of emotions, and one volitional ability to make decisions . However, some theologians, such as Shedd, believe that the divinity [of Jesus] is dominant in his person. .. the divinity is the dominant factor in Christs complex person . Walvoord concurs with this opinion: In the person of Christ, however, the human will was always subservient to the divine will and could never act independently .

While such an argument would seem to support the impeccability of Christ, I am not sure that it does not erroneously interpret the two natures of Christ. Under the doctrine of the hypostatic union we know that the two natures [of Jesus] are bound together .. by a bond unique and inscrutable, which constitutes them one person with a single consciousness and will . This means that the human and divine natures did not mingle or merge together into a third nature with a different expression . However, if Christ had only one single will (a position which the Third Council of Constantinople in 681 condemned ) which was in fact dominated (and hence controlled) by his divine will, does this not imply that there is a blending of the wills or the creation of a third nature? Accordingly, while I would like to say that this argument supports the claim of Christs immpeccability, to do so would be to accept an inaccurate definition of the hypostatic union. Therefore, this argument is not applicable to this discussion.

The seventh argument in support of the impeccability is that Christ could not sin because he was doing the will of the Father, i.e., arguments from Jesus omnipotent desire [and] His submission to the divine will. We know that Christ was doing the will of the Father because the Bible clearly states this: Then [Jesus] said, As is written of me in the book, I have come to do your will, O God (Hebrews 10:7); Jesus explained to them: Doing the will of him who sent me and bringing his work to completion is my food (John 4:34) and I have come down from heaven, but to do the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38). The will of the Father is also clearly stated in the Bible: [God] has sent his Son as an offering for our sins. (1 John 4:10).

As an offering for our sins, Christ is a substitute for sin . However, the only way that Christ could be a substitute for our sin would be if Christ had no sin himself. It would only have taken one sin to make Jesus a sinner. .. In that case, he would be unable to save Himself, let alone be the sinless substitute for the sins of the world .Therefore, if Christ were to fulfill the will of the Father, there would have to be an assurance that He remained sinless throughout his entire life. The only way to guarantee that Christ would remain sinless would be if Christ could not sin.

Therefore, Christ had to be impeccable. The eighth argument for the impeccability of Christ is presented by Sahl and is based solely on the Biblical statements of Christ and the fact that the Bible is inerrant, accurate and authoritative. Sahl extracts the following verses: Mark 2:1-12 (the account of the Paralytic at Capernaum), John 7:18 (Whoever speaks on his own is bent on self-glorification. The man who seeks glory for him who sent him is truthful; there is no dishonesty in his heart.), John 8:29 (The One who sent me is with me. He has not deserted me since I always do what pleases him.), and John 14:6 (Jesus told him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me) and then concludes Jesus is the impeccable Saviour who saves His people from their sins .

In summary therefore we have seen that: i) the fact that Jesus, who is God, is holy means that He his impeccable because for Him to sin would mean that God is capable of change; j) the fact that Jesus, who is God, is omniscient implies that He is impeccable; k) the fact that Jesus, who is God, is omnipotent implies that He is impeccable; l) the fact that Jesus, who is God, is omnipresent implies that He is impeccable; m) the fact that Jesus is a unique person who has an omnipotent desire and is submissive to the divine will implies He is impeccable; n) the fact that Jesus is the offering and sacrifice for mans sin implies that Jesus is impeccable; and o) the fact that Jesus own statements concerning Himself in the Bible, which is inerrant, implies that Jesus is impeccable. Thus we can conclude that Jesus was impeccable, i.e., he could not sin. This assignment requires that after having examined the question of Christs peccability or impeccability that the author select a view and defend it. There is no doubt that I would like to take the view that Jesus is peccable and could have sinned if he had wanted to sin. For some reason, I cannot fully express why the peccability of Jesus is very comforting for me.

Perhaps it is because such a view would mean that it might be possible for me to also live my life without sin. That is, if the perfect man, Jesus Christ, could live his life without sin, then there is at least the possibility that I could do likewise. There may also be comfort in the fact that it always easier to deal with another person who is similar to ourselves and who is not superior, i.e., without sin. Or maybe, it is because I find myself being tempted so often the idea of a Saviour who can also undergo temptation and who is peccable seems to be less threatening and more approachable than the alternative. However, after reviewing the above material and searching my heart, I would have to select the view that Christ is impeccable as my stand on this issue.

While the Bible passages which proclaim Jesus sinlessness and His impeccability are compelling, the ultimate arguments which convince me is the nature of Jesus, the God-man. For me, Jesus is clearly both God and man; fully the two natures and never separable. If Jesus is God then it means that He must be holy, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresence. Given these attributes and the fact that God is, by definition, immutable then I must conclude that Jesus is impeccable. In conclusion therefore, we have seen that there are several arguments which attempt to prove peccability of Jesus.

However, all of these arguments fail to be convincing and have inherent fallacies. On the other hand, we have seen that there are several arguments which prove beyond a doubt that Jesus Christ is impeccable. Each of these arguments, by their very definition and by logical conclusions they lead to, show us that Jesus was impeccable. For myself, while I would like to believe that Jesus is peccable, the evidence and weight of conviction is clearly proves that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity, the true God-man, is impeccable.


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