Impeccablity of Jesus Christ

LIKE US IN ALL THINGS BUT SIN:
An examination of the question of the impeccability of Jesus Christ

Class: THEOL 510
Liberty University

11 October, 1996
The New Testament authors had no qualms about declaring that Jesus was
truly human and telling us that Jesus committed no sin. Bible passages
such as 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22 and 1 John 3:5
“witness that He [Jesus] did not give in to temptation, nor violate the
moral standards of God, nor was He inconsistent with the nature of his
character.” That is, Jesus was sinless.
It is vital to our theology that Jesus was sinless. For only if Jesus
was sinless could His death have been a vicarious substitution and
fulfil God’s redemptive plan for man. If Jesus had not been sinless,
then it would mean that He died for His own sins and not those of
mankind. Had Jesus died for His own sins then His death could not have
been accepted by the Father as a vicariously substitution for the
punishment and judgement each of us are entitled to receive.
Even though there is no serious debate that Jesus was anything but
sinless, theologians have discussed the question of whether Jesus could
have sinned if He had wanted. This is called the peccability of Christ.
The opposing argument, i.e., impeccability, being that even if He had
wanted, Jesus could not have sinned. Upon first consideration, one might
view this question as being trivial; something to simply keep the
theologians “out of mischief” when they have nothing better to do.
However, there are some very appropriate reasons for examining this
issue.
The first reason to examine the issue of Christ’s
peccability/impeccability is so that we might obtain a better
understanding and a more in depth knowledge about both Jesus Christ and
God, just as God has invited us. This is the same reason that we study
Theology proper. When we arrive at an answer to this question, we will
have additional knowledge about Jesus’ preincarnate state and a better
understanding of the meaning of the statement “Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, today, and forever .”
Second, some theologians have argued that the peccability of Jesus has
a direct impact on the humanity of Christ. That is, if Jesus was not
peccable then just how “human” was he? Could he have been “true man” if
he were not able to sin like the rest of mankind? (Note: this is a
question of whether Christ could have sinned; not that Christ had to
have sinned in order to be human.) Morris indirectly asks if Jesus’
impeccability implied that he was lacking a part of the human condition
that the rest of mankind have, viz., the consciousness of past sin? If
this is the case, Christ may not have been truly human because he only
took on most of the “qualities” of human nature but shielded himself
from the consciousness of sin.
Third, Sahl tells us that “the virgin birth, the Incarnation, and the
hypostatic union, are all influenced by the impeccability of Jesus
Christ .” Therefore, if we are to have a full understanding of these
doctrines, we need to study the question of Christ’s
peccability/impeccability.
Fourth, an understanding of the peccability/impeccability of Jesus
Christ will have an impact on our understanding of angels in general and
Lucifer/Satan in particular . That is, by examining the
peccability/impeccability of Jesus (and the related issue of the
temptability of Jesus) we will come to have a better understanding of
the realm of angels, especially the fallen angels. Furthermore, by
examining the temptations that Satan makes to Christ, we will also have
a deeper awareness of the powers of Satan and his followers.
Fifth, because the Bible tells us that Jesus did not sin, the question
of Jesus’ peccability or impeccability will have an impact on biblical
inerrancy and integrity. As Sahl states, “ if it is possible that the
Lord Jesus Christ could succumb to or be deceived by sin, then one must
also conclude that it is possible for Him to have given inaccurate
information about eternal things when He was growing in wisdom and
stature and favour with God and man .”
And finally, Christ’s peccability/impeccability will have an impact on
the victory over temptation and sin that the Redeemer accomplished . For
if it was impossible for Jesus to have ever sinned then it is indeed a
hallow victory: there was no chance of his ever not winning the battle.
Thus, the victory is a very mute point and raises the question if the
victory has any