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Don Stewart :: Could Jesus Have Sinned? (Peccability)

Brought to you with permission of Don Stewart, the Bible Explorer

There is an age-old question with respect to the sinfulness of Jesus. Was He able to sin?

The view that Christ could have sinned is called, "peccability" (from the Latin term meaning sin). This position states that Christ's human nature was susceptible to sin. There are three ways in which this view is expressed.

View 1. Christ Had A Sinful Nature And Did Sin

Liberal Christians, as well as unbelievers, believe that Jesus Christ possessed a nature that could sin and did sin. They do not seem Him as different from any other human being in that respect.

Response

The Scripture is very clear that Jesus did not sin. If a person takes the New Testament seriously they cannot hold the position of Christ's sinfulness.

View 2. Christ Had A Sinful Nature But Did Not Sin

There are those who held that Christ had a sinful nature but He overcame it by the power of the Holy Spirit. This false doctrine is based on a misunderstanding of Romans 8:3 which reads:

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man.

The idea that Christ came in the likeness of sinful man caused some to believe that He Himself had a sin nature.

Objections To This Theory

However this has a mistaken idea of human nature. Human nature does not have to be sinful. When God created Adam He created him with a human nature that was sinless. Likewise Jesus human nature was without sin.

View 3. Christ Did Not Have A Sinful Nature, Could Have Sinned, But Did Not

It is also widely believed that Christ could have sinned but did not. Though He was fully God, the fact that He was also human meant that He potentially could have sinned. Since the Bible says that Christ was tempted it proves that He could have sinned. Jesus Christ, as this theory goes, could not have been a sympathetic High Priest to us when we are tempted unless He himself could have sinned.

Objections To This Theory

The objection, to this perspective, is that the Bible teaches that Christ, as God, could not even potentially sin. His human nature was always in submission to his divine nature. Therefore the possibility of sin must be ruled out.

Summary

The idea of Christ's peccability means that He was able to sin when He was here upon the earth. Three different views are expressed from this position. One theory holds that Christ could have sinned and did sin. This, however, has no basis whatsoever in the New Testament. Another theory is that Christ had a sinful nature but overcame it by the power of the Holy Spirit. However having a human nature does not mean that Christ had a sinful nature. The main theory of Christ's peccability is that He was fully human without a sinful nature yet it was possible for Him to sin. Although it is admitted that He did not sin the possibility was still there.

Psalm 138:2

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