[ Author: Kathy Petersen ]
Consider the implications
Some say “yes”, Jesus could’ve sinned while others say “no”, but I think the answer deserves a deeper response than that (though if I had to give only one answer, I would say “no”). To those who say “no”, even the very thought of someone saying that Jesus could have sinned is either blasphemy or tantamount to blasphemy (so if you’re a “yes” and are in discussion with a “no”, try to remember that, and if the other person seems to come across a little strong, know that it’s in defense of the deity and honor of Jesus Christ, and not anger directed at you personally).
The topic involves exploring things like what it means to be God and what it means to be human, the dual nature of Jesus (being both God and man), and even verses like (paraphrase) “Jesus was tempted like all humans, yet without sin”.
Those who say that, yes, Jesus could have sinned, often point to verses like that, so that if Jesus was tempted like everyone else, that must mean He could have sinned, or else He couldn’t be said to be tempted like everyone else. Others bring up that man has a fallen nature and that man sins, so for Jesus not to have been able to sin would somehow mean that He wasn’t fully human, but some sort of super-human, walking around in an impervious bubble, which isn’t quite fair since the rest of us don’t have that. However, the other side points out that Jesus is God, and the Scriptures are quite clear that God cannot sin, so to say that Jesus could have sinned would basically be saying that Jesus isn’t God.
Can God sin?
It comes down to this: can man be human without sin, vs. can God be God with sin? In that, the clear Biblical answer is, yes, man can be human and fully human without sin, but God could not be God if He had sin. We see that God created man without sin, and no one claims that Adam was somehow less than human before he sinned. [Except for Mormons, in that they believe that the Fall was necessary for Adam and Eve to have a sex drive so as to procreate, but even they would probably say that Adam was fully human, just childlike, before the Fall.] So if Adam could be sinless and fully human, why could not the Last Adam (Jesus) be sinless yet fully human?
We humans have a sin nature because we inherit our father Adam’s nature which is sinful; Jesus’s Father is God, so He would have inherited God’s nature, which is sinless. [Which, by the way, does away with the complicated and non-Biblical Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary as being necessary to allow for Jesus to have been sinless.] I John 3:9 says, “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.” (KJV) Is not Jesus born of God, and indeed, the only one to have been both spiritually and physically born of God?
You might point out that believers are also said to be born of God and to have been born again, yet we still sin, as Paul pointed out in Romans where even that great apostle said that when he would do good, evil is present with him, and that he constantly had to struggle against the old man, his sin nature, in order to do good. That is true but note that it is his spiritual nature fighting against his fleshly, carnal nature, and he keeps from sinning when his spiritual nature wins, but sins when his fleshly nature wins. In that, I think we can say with John the Beloved Apostle that the part of us that has been born of God does not sin, but when we sin, it is because we have allowed our fleshly nature to win.
Jesus came to earth in part to show us how to live. He lived by the Spirit and was fully indwelt with the Spirit of God. Can I say that we sinful humans can ever reach a state of sinless perfection in this life? I don’t think so, in that we will always have to contend with this “body of death”. Yet the more we yield to and are filled with the Spirit, the less we will sin. Jesus fully yielded to and was filled with the Spirit, and He had no inborn sin nature, so He had no sin.
If you want to argue that, hypothetically, Jesus as a man and fully man could have sinned like Adam sinned, I suppose that you can do that. But consider the consequences: Had Jesus sinned, He would have ceased to have been God, and then what would that mean – for Jesus, for this universe (since all things hold together in Him), and for us? It simply isn’t a tenable position to take very far.