The following paper has been written in response to an appeal from a correspondent for help as to this question concerning the adorable person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Anticipating such question the Holy Spirit in the Word has been careful to record:
HE “KNEW NO SIN” (2 Cor. 5:21).
“WITHOUT SIN” (Heb. 4:15).
HE “DID NO SIN” (I Peter 2:22).
“IN HIM WAS NO SIN” (1 John 3:5). [Ed.]
Christ is our light. He is the One in whom the invisible God has shown Himself to men. No one but the One who is God could declare God. No light could show the sun to us, because the sun is itself the light. If God is to be known He must declare Himself; man cannot by searching discover Him (Job 11:7). A creature might carry a message if given him by God to do so. This has been done in many instances, both by men and angels. But what creature could be the manifestation of God in such a way that he could truthfully say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father”? (John 14). But this is definitely affirmed by Christ: “He that believes on Me, believes not on Me, but on Him that sent Me. And he that sees Me sees Him that sent Me” (John 12:44-45). Therefore to be defective in testimony for Him is to be defective in the knowledge of Himself. The question at the head of this paper is proof of that which I say. If we have right thoughts as to Christ we are not likely to have wrong thoughts about anything else relating to the will of God.
Let us turn to Philippians 2:5-11. The first thing here said of Him is that He was “in the form of God”; that is, exercising all the despotic authority, power, will and prerogatives of the Almighty Godhead. This form of God, which was outward, He emptied Himself of, taking the form of a servant, becoming in the likeness of men. Godhead He could not give up, nor is He said to give it up, the form of it He did lay aside. But He could not lay aside that which He was in His own essential being. Therefore, when we find Him in Manhood the fullness of the Godhead is said to dwell in Him bodily (Col. 1:19; 2:9). He was, is, and ever shall be, “God blessed for ever” (Rom. 9:5). “The Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and this before He became man. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus.” Why was this name given to Him? Because He was to “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Whose people? God’s surely. They are Jehovah’s sheep in Psalm 95, but Christ’s own in John 10. Therefore I see in Jesus, God come into His own world, the world that was made by Him, yet the Creator unknown by it. He was here in manhood, but at no time less than God. He is still Man, still the subject servant of the Father, ever submissive to the will of the Father.
From His childhood He increased in wisdom and in stature (Luke 2:52); His life was the revelation of the Father, yet was it the perfect expression of that which He Himself was. Hence He could say: “They have seen and hated both Me and My Father” (John 15:24). He quickens whom He will; He is the judge of living and dead (John 5:21, 27); He baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33), and raises up His dead body (John 2:19-21). He is “I Am” (chap. 8); He is “The resurrection and the life” (chap. 11). But I need not quote more Scripture. He is God, though having put off the form of God, and having taken the form of a bondman, a position less than God, the exercise of His almighty power is necessarily subservient to the will of God. It was so when here and shall for ever be so.
How could such a Being fall into sin? What temptation could be offered? Take the temptation in the garden: “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” But Jesus is God, and knows good and evil perfectly. Take His own conflict with the devil: “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” But did not He who was infinite in wisdom, who Himself was the wisdom of God, not know that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God? Or as to casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, or giving worship to Satan, did He who was God not know what was due to God? To Him the bare suggestions to put forth His own power, apart from the declared will of the Father, was painful in the extreme. There was nothing in Him that Satan could work upon, nothing that would respond to His temptations. His holy nature shrank from the presentation of sin. He had taken the place of a servant to do the will of the Father, was He now going to leave that path, and do His Own will? Referring to Satan’s coming to Him when the cross was in view, He says: “The prince of this world comes, and has nothing in Me”; no other man could have used such words, for there is a great deal in us that Satan can act on—the flesh is in us to be influenced.
But if Christ could have sinned when here below, He can sin now, and where then is the security of the believer? Adam fell, and we all fell in him. The believer is now under the headship of Christ, and if He fell, what then? If Christ could sin we have no Saviour that is worthy of our trust. He is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. He is unchangeable; what He was He is, and what He is He was; in Him there is no alteration. We are to be in the glory with Him, and all on the ground of His work and worth, but are we sure we are ever to be there? and if we were there, what guarantee have we that we shall abide there? Our eternal position depends altogether on Him, if there is the possibility of change in Him we have no security at all.
But we are born of God, and we are told that the one who has been begotten of God does not practise sin, for His seed remains in him, and HE CANNOT SIN, because he is begotten of God (1 John 3:9); and in 1 John 5:18 we read: “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one TOUCHETH HIM NOT.” Would it not be strange, and I might say past belief, that the Son of the living God could sin, and yet the soul born of God cannot? Of course the believer may sin, because he has still the flesh in him, which can do nothing else but sin; but viewed as begotten of God, nothing of the old nature is contemplated, and therefore it can be said, “He cannot sin.” When we are glorified we shall be incapable of sinning, for there shall be nothing of the old nature in us: the life and nature of Christ, and that only, shall be our life and nature, and we shall no more sin than He. But if we cannot sin because we have His life and nature, how would it be possible for Him to sin?
But we are told that the temptation would have been a farce had He been incapable of giving way under it. I fail to see any absurdity in a person putting himself to a powerful test, in order that he might display his ability to answer to the test, and to do it in such a way as would let all see that for a man of his power the test was practically no test at all. The temptation of Christ only brought to light the perfection of His glorious person, and has furnished for us an example worthy of following. We are tempted when we are drawn away of our own lust and enticed (Jas. 1:14-15). Our Lord was never tempted in this way. “He knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21); “AND IN HIM WAS NO SIN” (1 John 3:5). He was tempted in all points as we are, apart from sin (Heb. 4:15). His temptations came from without, and all the suggestions were loathsome to Him. “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). We have such temptations also, but we have others that come from the lusts of our own hearts, and these He never had.
But I must close. May we get better acquainted with Himself, and the things that may now seem difficult to us shall all disappear before the bright beams of His moral glory. On our knees before Him God will teach us the beauty and glory of the blessed person of our Lord, and we shall then judge with sorrow the wrong and unworthy thoughts we have had of the ever blessed Son of the living God.