The Impeccability Of Jesus
“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.”—Hebrews 4:15
The devout follower of Jesus Christ is greatly shocked by the denials of the deity of our Lord; equally grieved is he by the claims of many of the rationalists that He could and did make mistakes, especially during that period denominated “The awakening and evolution of His God consciousness.” Yet, that same devotee of the Master may do Him as serious an injustice as the unitarian or the rationalist by holding that Jesus could sin else He could neither enter “into the feeling of our infirmities” nor succor us when tempted. Sad as it is, we are compelled to acknowledge that many of the saints are guilty of this offense.
Most of our theologians assert that He could not sin theologically but could sin physiologically; in other words, as God, He could not sin because “He tempts no one to evil, neither is He tempted of any man,” but as man He could, otherwise there is no point to His being “tempted on all points.”
Beyond doubt, many of those who occupy this position are very devout in their adoration of our Blessed Lord and are unusually active in His ministry. How then are we to account for their lack of clear perception of His impeccability? Simply on the ground of their lack of familiarity with the Word of God. Other subsidiary causes may be behind this but the main reason is found in ignorance of the teaching of Revelation.
We take it for granted that all sincere Christians are anxious to be without offense toward God in this matter, so we inculcate: “To the Word and the Testimony to see whether these things be of God or no.”
As we approach the Word it is incumbent to premise, at once and continuously through this discussion, that we are occupied for the present with Jesus as a man and not with the Lord Jesus Christ as very God of very God, for while we accept the latter in its entirety, we know that as God our Lord does not come into the question. It is with the “Son of Man” we are concerned at this moment.
This being understood, let us proceed.
Our first duty is to clear away any mistiness that may obtain [sic] regarding this word “temptation,” or its verb form as used here, “tempted.” The Greek word pepeirasmenon given in Hebrews 4:15, “was tempted,” is from the root peira, trial. The noun form, peiramos (trial, proof or test), occurs frequently in the New Testament. The word, therefore, does not imply “sin” but the testing of the person who is tempted in order to prove him. Satan tempts, but always with one object in view: sin and ruin. God tempts, but never to evil (see James 1:13), only having in view the good and proof of the person whom He tries. Witness His temptation of Abraham and His permission of Job’s temptation or trial. Hence the point of the Spirit in James is well taken: “Blessed is the man who endureth temptation: for when he is tried (tempted or proved) he shall receive the crown of life,” James 1:12. Therefore, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” When we come to Jesus, then, what more than this can it imply? For Him the trial never suggested the possibility of sin.
This being clear, we note next the claim that “He was tempted on all points”—the words “Like as we are” being an interpolation.
How fundamental and comprehensive are these words “on all points”! Follow them in their all-pervading movements. In 1 John 2:16 we have the predication: “all that is in the world (cosmos, the world systems, maxims, motives, maneuvers, civilizations, and attainments), the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Nothing so subtle, so comprehensive, so profound as this can be found in any system of philosophy from Socrates to Royce. Indeed, philosophy is not concerned with sin in its Adamic character nor is it concerned with redemption from sin. Here, however, in one all-inclusive utterance, the Holy Spirit gives the three main sources of all the different forms of evil to be found in the world today whether found in the human race as a whole, in society at large, in civilizations or individuals. The profoundest metaphysics are but surface ripples compared to its unfathomable depths!
What the Holy Spirit communicates through John He similarly did through Moses ages before in revealing the primal cause of the Fall: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.” Have we aught here but John’s enumeration with its full and unending ramification?
Keeping all this in mind, we invite the reader to turn to Matthew 4:1–10 where we have the record of the most familiar temptation of Jesus which came as the great test at the gateway of His three years’ earthly ministry. We do not quote the entire passage but quote its three saliencies: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down (from the pinnacle of the temple): for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
“Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Here also, we have the same sweeping enumeration and classification of 1 John 2:16: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life! Satan requisitioned all the diabolical possibilities at his command; all the subtle and poisonous forces of hell, and flung them at Jesus. He attacked Him “on all points,” but the Son of Man achieved a complete victory over every conceivable phase and form of sin. It was hell’s culminating effort which had been gathering during all the preceding ages, against the “seed of the woman” in a master effort to frustrate the Divine purpose of Redemption through the blood of the immaculate One. How utterly failed Satan’s master stroke! Hallelujah!!
To say that Jesus gained the victory over Satan is not enough, however, because He might do that and yet be peccable. What has been said above is for the purpose of demonstrating that He had been assailed from every conceivable point of possible vulnerability; now, we come to the glorious fact that He was invulnerable and could not be successfully overcome.
Such is the implication of our text: “He was tempted on all points; sin apart”—not, as in our version, “Yet without sin” which clumsily implies He could sin; but rather He was altogether apart from sin, separate from sinners and knew no sin or was entirely beyond the power of sin.
This is so important we must linger here some time for serious consideration.
The contention of some is that Satan, who was an exalted being of superb splendor, fell; the angels, who were pure and glorious beyond expression, fell; Adam, who was surrounded by Edenic propitiousness and faultless innocency, fell; so Jesus, who was a man with all His human propensities and tendencies, could have fallen. Such a parallel is impossible for the simple reason that Satan, the angels and Adam were created beings who were merely innocent, a quality ever implying ignorance of evil with the possibility of coming to a knowledge of it by committing it; whereas the Son of Man was not a created being, having been begotten of the Father by the Holy Spirit and having been the One by whom the Father created all things. Thus in the matter of sin there is no comparison instituted.
Moreover, Jesus was not the seed of Adam but the “seed of the woman”; He therefore did not inherit the Adamic lust or sin principle called lust in the Word, which lust every other human being has inherited. “The seed of the woman,” Genesis 3:15. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” Isaiah 7:14. “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost,” Matthew 1:20.
“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” Luke 1:35. Mark carefully how He is denominated in this passage: “That Holy Thing,” a distinctive and discriminative designation never applied to any of the seed of Adam; a title that marks Him off even as a man as being immeasurably superior to all the human race.
At this point let us call into service that remarkable statement of the Holy Spirit in James 1:14: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” There is one man who is an exception to this: the Man of Galilee, because the “Seed” of God—not the seed of Adam, and, therefore, absolutely free from lust which is the root of sin inherited from the federal head of a fallen race—a race to which Jesus does not belong, therefore He could not sin.
It is often proclaimed that we are saved by taking Him as our example. Such a claim is untenable, seeing that in His manhood He occupied and still occupies an attitude of grandeur that man of himself can never attain to. What hope is there then for any human being reaching that holy aloofness germane to Jesus? If he cannot attain thereto, where is the possibility of his ever beginning even to follow the example of Jesus? And if he has no slightest prospect of making a beginning, how can he be saved by such an inconceivable process? This may seem digressive but it is introduced as a warning and as an emphasis on the immeasurable and incomparable superiority of the lowly Nazarene to all the sons of Adam.
Christ Himself throws a flood of light on this phase of our study in John 14:30: “For the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.” Satan found nothing responsive to his approach because the Master had nothing that could be ignited by Satan’s fiery darts any more than the ocean has any particle of inflammability to answer all the combined conflagrations of Earth.
Permit the introduction at this juncture of a supplementary thought, yet a thought of vital importance: If Jesus could have committed sin while on the earth, inasmuch as He, according to Scripture, underwent no change in His manhood after His temptation, He resurrection and his ascension for His nature was incorrupt, therefore immortal—“He alone hath immortality”—so that without any limitation of that nature He is now within the veil; what guarantee is there that he may not fall through in the glory? If we concede the possibility of His succumbing to the wiles of the devil while here, we cannot deny, in view of the foregoing, that some day He, too, may be overcome with the transcendency of His glory.
You see this question has as much to do with Christ’s present exalted position as our great High Priest within the veil as it had to do with His earthly ministry. His impeccability is fundamental to His saving power, His keeping power, and His “coming again” power.
It is asserted that to predicate the impossibility of His sinning is to deny the volitional function in Him and imply that He was under the bondage of a fatalistic compulsion which emanated from the eternal councils that He must not sin and thus forbade Him the right of “free will.” This contention finds its source in a failure to distinguish between a nature and a person. Jesus was begotten of the Spirit as a nature, human nature and not as a person!
Of that nature and of that alone it was pronounced “That holy thing,” therefore His human nature was essentially holy; a holiness produced by the Holy Spirit, hence the very holiness of God the Father which is eternally without any sin tendency. His blessed body was not a body of humiliation like ours, but was “holy, harmless and undefiled.” In other words, in Him were two natures, the human and the Divine, for “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” and “the Godhead was pleased to indwell Him” but there was only One Person, the eternal personality of the eternal Son who would say with sublime complacency “That they all may be one; as Thou Father in Me and I in Thee,” and of whom the Spirit could proclaim “And the Word was God” so that his human nature could not err, any more than His Divine, without the dictum of that dominating Person, God. That personality could not consent to sin, it was therefore impossible for Him whom we know as the “Son of Man” to sin in His human nature. “I seek not mine own will but the will of the Father who hath sent me” (John 4:30). He was absolutely and always in the “will” of the Father, hence as volitionally free as any one.
There is another angle of attack upon this blasphemous theory, an argument which Dr. I.M. Haldeman characterizes in his own forceful manner as “a smashing finality.” In 1 John 3:9, the Spirit states: “Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Here it is declared of the regenerated nature in the Saint that “it cannot sin” because “begotten of God.” The whole testimony of Sacred Writ is that if the Saint sin, it is because of the presence of the “body of humiliation.”
Note, then, what we have seen already that Jesus never had the Adamic nature, but a “begotten of God” nature distinct, unique, aloof, a “holy thing,” the “Seed of the woman,” therefore it “cannot sin.” Surely, surely, when this is credited of God to the regenerated nature of the ordinary Christian, it can, with greater force, be credited to the sublime humanity of the Man of Sorrows. Ne plus ultra.
One of the most striking features of the Word of God in the New Testament is our Lord’s positive claims to entire freedom from sin in His nature and practice. Can anything be more emphatic than such a claim made by Him in John 7:18: “He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him?” That same is implied in His challenge of John 8:16: “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” Or take John 8:28: “For I do always those things that please Him,” than which there is nothing more assertive of faultlessness. Already in another connection have we reverted to John 14:30, but we refer our readers to it again as a forceful example of His conscious perfection: “For the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me.” The loftiest reach of His self-assertion is found in John 17, where He claims equality with the Father in person, power, pre-existence, glory, perfection, and perpetuity. In the whole range of Revelation there is nothing grander or more altitudinal. The Holy Spirit testifies of Him: “A lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19); “In Him was no sin” (1 John 3:5), “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Hebrews 7:26, the Spirit claims for Him: “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” Many other passages of the same import might be requisitioned but these suffice. It remains, however, to be said that the doctrine is axiomatic to the Word of God and ought never to be called in question by any child of God.
That the “Son of Man” should be impeccable is fundamental to the whole scheme of redemption which, of course, implies the essentiality of the Virgin Birth. There cannot be any salvation, past, present, or future, without both—no Sonship, no Heirship, no Blessed Hope, no Millennial Glory, no Bride to share His triumph and no Remnant to share His kingdom.
If we insinuate that Jesus could sin, we leave redemption with an element of uncertainty that is disconcerting to the elective grace of God and the covenant of the Almighty; indeed, it would jeopardize the Messiahship, the Sovereignty, the “without-spot-or-blemish” sacrificial fitness, therefore all the anti-typical values of Jesus. In order to meet all these in their utmost demands and to their farthest reaches, He must be essentially, inherently, theologically and psychologically, intrinsically, and extrinsically sinless. This He was, absolutely. Truly sin was something “apart” from Him.
It may be claimed that, the foregoing being true, the temptations of “The Second Man” were of the character of a sham fight and not a true test inasmuch as He could not be successfully attacked. Let us see. When Napoleon brought his veterans against the allied British and Prussians on the field of Waterloo, did he or do we hold it as a sham battle because he was greatly handicapped by more causes than one? Certainly not! When the Light Brigade made its famous but fatal charge on the field of Balaklava against such overwhelming odds, did men call it a sham battle though the famous regiment was swallowed by the opposing force? Is that why Tennyson wrote his immortal “Charge of the Light Brigade”? Nonsense!
“When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!”
Shall we be any less generous and wise in denying to the Son of Man the magnificently heroic and essentially positive in the struggle He endured, not alone on the Mount of Temptation, but all through His earthly ministry when constantly pitted against Him were all the subtle and forceful elements of hell, because there was not a single inflammable quality within Him responsive to Satan’s fiery darts? Surely not! ‘Twould be imbecilic! Evidently, Satan did not consider it “sham”!
Naturally, there arises in the minds of some the question: Then, what was the purpose of our Lord’s temptation?
Already a partial answer is provided in the meaning of the word “tempted.” Let us expand it.
The federal head of the race, Adam, the first man, was tested or tempted and proved a failure; the Second Man, Jesus, was tested—not to demonstrate His liability to fail; not to discover lustful tendencies; not to unveil innate weakness, but to manifest to the whole world, Satan, angels, and demons, that in Him was no sin nor any possibility of falling into it; that He not alone as God was impeccable, but also as man, He was impeccable in which He is held forth as the One supreme “Son of Man” in whom we may rest our faith with unquestioning composure as did the Apostle to the Gentiles: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to His trust against that day.”
To postulate that He was thus tempted in order to present to us an example of how we are to meet and overcome, aye, even to suffer in our struggle against sin, is to commit the blasphemy of bringing Him into the sphere of fallen humanity’s tendency to sin.
To predicate that if He could not make an affirmative reply to sin’s onslaught, He would have been no better than a volitionless piece of machinery of no consequence to God or man, is to categorically dismiss the true significance of the “temptation.”
God places it before us on the same plane as the great basics of our salvation, viz., on the plane of the fundamentals of His Atonement, Resurrection, Exaltation to the Right Hand of God, Intercession, Advocacy, Mediation, and His Second Advent; in fact, all these presuppose His sinlessness because without that last quality all the others would be impossible of conception.
Because His testing sets Him forth with faintest flaw, He is made to us as the living object of our faith in whom we may confide with unshaken confidence, recognizing His competency to save us from sin’s penalty and keeping us from sin’s power.
In the mint at Washington the coins are put to the test in many ways: by weighing, by ringing and by the acid test. And all these for the simple purpose of demonstrating their fitness as standard currency.
For a similar purpose our Father put His Son to the proof.
After the catastrophe of the Tay Bridge collapse near Dundee, Scotland, the North British Railway Co. did not take any chances on the Forth Bridge, but subjected it to every possible test from above, on the runway, at the sides and from below—tests by traffic, pressure, weight and temperature—tests from the laboratory and the elements, and proved it invulnerable. Thus, they demonstrated to a gazing world that it could trust itself to this masterpiece of engineering skill without a qualm of fear.
What is this but a feeble illustration of that Grander Work in which God tested from every angle His Son in Incarnation as well as in His Deity in order to prove Him as the Competent One who “succors” all who are tempted.
There remains a few words to be said on the suffering He endured in being tempted.
How could He who knew no sin possibly suffer when He knew He could not possibly succumb to sin’s onslaught? The very fact that He was “too pure eyes to behold iniquity,” that “He knew no sin,” that He was impeccable, lies at the very root of His agonies because it was so repugnant and repellant as to cause Him pain. Why that grief, producing tears at Lazarus’ tomb? The grief caused by considering the awful havoc of sin. Why that heroic appeal to the women on the way to the Cross: “Weep not for me”? It was the cry of His own deep throes as He visualized the horrendous doom overhanging these same children in the fate of Jerusalem as the consequence of that wolfish howl: “His blood be on us and our children!” In Gethsemane the blood gushed from the pores of His body as He met and vanquished Satan’s fierce attack of sissuasion from the disgrace and forsakenness of the Cross with its unfathomable anguish of being “made sin.” “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” The explanation of it all is found in His horror at the exceeding sinfulness of it. The cry: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death,” was the painful protest of a sinless nature against a wickedness deep as hell! Among men who are saints, to whom is sin most sinful? To the most saintly to whom its very thought is also most painful. In an immeasurably superior sense is this true of our Lord. “He Himself hath suffer’d being tempted.”
“Hence,” to conclude, “we have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Or, to put it in the direct affirmative of [Hebrews] chapter 2, verse 18: “He is able to succour them that are tempted.” Again, let it be noted, and that with joy, that being impeccable, He is the better fitted to sympathize with, support and give the strength of victory to the tempted saint. Because of His immaculateness as the Second Man as much as by His deity grandeur, God can “supply our every need according to His riches by Christ Jesus in glory.” (Philippians 4:19). Because of this: “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous”; so that: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 2:1 and 1 John 1:9).
“No mortal can with Him compare,
Among the sons of men;
Fairer is He than all the fair
Who fill the heav’nly train.”