Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Temptation of Christ: Could Jesus Have Sinned?




Satan’s greatest deficit is his arrogance. It is his supremely cultivated arrogance that led him to where he is today; as one who rejects all truth and calls it a lie while embracing his lies and calling it truth. He is on a crusade, one he believes he can win, before he begins serving his eternal sentence because this crusade is precisely with the objective to stop his sentence from being served. This stage of satanic history can rightly be called Satan's appeal in the court of heaven.

And of course as part of Satan’s appeal which asserts that God is wrong and he is right, Satan seeks every opportunity to demonstrate this erring doctrine but fails repeatedly. And he never learns, never repents or acquiesces to the shame of his error.

Somewhere in eternity past during the era or age before humanity in angelic history, Satan chose to reject the person of God, instead believing he knew better. Ultimately Satan did not just reject God but categorically dismissed God’s essence; all that God is and all Satan understood about God was denied. Satan rejected God’s omniscience, justice, righteousness, and sovereignty and so on. One of the attributes of God that makes up His essence, immutability, was also part of the package Satan spurned.

Immutability refers to the unchangeableness of God. That is, from eternity past into eternity future, with no beginning or end, God’s essence is the same. He never changes. And when it refers to His immutability with respect to whether God could change and sin, which He cannot, this is called his impeccability.  God is impeccable due to His immutability, He cannot sin.

And when one rejects the principle of God’s essence which includes His immutability they then, by default, believe God can and will change given the right motivation or cause. Satan rejected God’s immutability and believed that God could not only change but could do so in a manner that would violate His own integrity. Hence, in his blinding self-aggrandizement Lucifer devised a plan of which he was convinced was inescapable for the God/Man Christ Jesus.

So we come to Matthew 4:1-11 (also in Luke 4:1-13 and Mark 1:12-13) where the temptation of Christ is recorded. My brief essay is not to treat the temptations themselves though they merit examination since such work certainly yields beneficial enlightenment to both the person of God and Satan. Rather I simply wish to treat the text as it relates to the immutability of God and the possibility of Jesus  sinning.

But It Says Jesus Was Tempted So Couldn’t He Have Sinned?

In all three gospels it records Jesus being tempted (or tested but for the sake or argument and to make my point it will be left as tempted). The word used in all the accounts comes from the verb peirazō. And in all of the accounts it is translated as Jesus being tempted. So, if Jesus could be tempted couldn’t He have sinned?

There are two ways to understand this temptation, either that within Himself Jesus was tempted or as referring to an outside agent (Satan) offering something. If it is the first we truly have a dilemma because if our Lord, within Himself, was tempted it fairly implies He could have sinned. If Jesus contemplated and mulled over whether or not to act upon the offers of Satan then one must say with this view that it is possible for Jesus to have sinned.

On the other hand if we understand it to mean Satan is offering temptation, that is, the Evil One is attempting to solicit the interest of our Lord with his diabolical offer, the implication is removed and we maintain the position of Divine immutability.

So Which is It?  How Can We Know?

Fortunately a bit of elementary exegesis yields the answer which is found in the Greek. As I noted earlier, each account uses a form of the verb peirazō. And though the verb tenses are different in the Gospels with Matthew using the aorist tense and Mark and Luke using the present tense, all three use the same voice, namely the passive voice.

Verbs use what are called the voice which tells us who is doing the action of the verb. For example in the active voice the subject performs the action of the verb such as, “I am baptizing Susan”. However, the passive voice is different. In the passive voice the subject receives the action of the verb as such, “I am being baptized”.

As cited above each writer (through the oversight of God) clearly attributes the passive voice to the event. That means Jesus is not the one performing the action of being tempted, rather he receives the action or someone is tempting Him. In other words, it was not “Jesus was tempted” and the view is an internal struggle or consideration, hence Jesus performing the action of the verb, rather “Jesus was tempted” and the view is something or someone has come upon our Lord to offer temptation, with our Lord receiving the action of the verb or the verb is being done to him. 

Ultimately all of this is corroborated by Matthew 4:3 where the text identifies who the one performing the action of the verb is, specifically Satan, who is called “the tempter”. 

Satan’s Folly Need Not Be Our Folly

But this is the course of Lucifer, the Fallen One.  He has rejected in whole the essence of God who is indeed immutable. Our Lord could not have sinned but Satan did not believe this. He tempted our Lord and failed.

But never minding Satan for a moment consider that you might run across a believer or two, now and then, who imagines in this text is a revelation that challenges the immutability of God and declares the possibility that our Lord could have sinned but chose not to.  No my friend, the text holds no such thing and to those poor souls who might believe otherwise you may show them, possibly with a bit more clarity, that in all cases everywhere the immutability of God stands and His impeccability remains eternal.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read this earlier and it looks like you added the word impeccability for clarity. Thanks, nice blog article.

Denise said...

I agree. It was impossible for Jesus Christ to sin b/c He is eternally God. There was nothing within Him that Satan or sin could appeal to, and considering Jesus came down from Heaven, really, what could Satan have in this world that would make Jesus consider his offer....the sinful, vile, unholy, God-hating, temporary kingdoms of the world vs. His Kingdom? I mean, wow, that's a tough choice....putrid junk or heaven...hmm, wow, that's a mighty fine offer Satan gave to Jesus. UGH.

A friend of mine noted:

A hypothetically sinning Jesus = open theism. Potentially different outcome. Plan B,C, just in case Jesus did sin. Maybe Jesus will change His mind in obeying the Father’s will in returning to earth. Mutable even NOW.

Thanks for a good post.

Denise said...

Hey Alex, any info on Eric Ludy?

Thanks.

Alex Guggenheim said...

Very interesting note on the implication of our Lord sinning, open theism. Thanks.

As to Eric Ludy, I am staying current with his organization (at least every couple months)and the teaching coming from it.

It does seem more of the same right now. But your question has reminded me to make inquiry in the next week or so and do new research. Thanks.