“If we are asking if it was actually possible for Jesus to have sinned, it seems that we must conclude that it was not possible. The union of his human and divine natures in one person prevented it.”
Do the terms peccability and impeccability mean anything to you? Perhaps not. And that’s okay. Theologians use these two terms to describe Jesus’s ability to sin or not to sin. Those who hold to the peccability view believe that Jesus could have sinned but didn’t, whereas those who believe that Jesus was impeccable also believe that He didn’t sin, but they take it one step further and say He couldn’t have sinned. He’s impeccable. And therein lies the debate, leaving the question, “Could Jesus have sinned?” begging for resolution.
Again, note the point of agreement between the two views. Jesus didn’t sin. But could He have? Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” A person who believes Jesus could have sinned might argue, “How could Jesus have been tempted in all our ways if He wasn’t truly able to sin?”
Fair question. Though it’s not as hard to answer as some might think.
For example, consider this question, “Can an undefeatable army still be attacked?” Of course! In the same way, Jesus could have felt the force of temptation without the ability to succumb to it. In reality, to believe in the doctrine of peccability poses a deeper theological problem. Here’s why. One must remember that Jesus has two natures: a human nature and a divine nature.
I once heard someone describe the doctrine of impeccability as follows. Suppose I handed you a metal hanger. Could you bend it? Obviously, it doesn’t take Popeye to do that. It requires no spinach. But suppose I handed you a crowbar. Could you bend that? No way—even if you had just consumed a spinach buffet. The bar would remain unbendable. Now if you took the metal hanger and wrapped it around the crowbar, could you still bend the hanger? No, because it is now connected to the crowbar.
The metal hanger represents Christ’s human nature and the crowbar depicts Christ’s divine nature. Since Jesus had a human nature, He could experience the full force of being tempted, but because He had a divine nature, He was protected from falling into temptation, therefore remaining impeccable. His divine nature overrode His human nature. Aren’t you grateful for that? I am.
Here’s the real problem with the doctrine of peccability. God can’t act contrary to His nature. That’s a biggie. It’s impossible for God to sin. God can’t do what is logically impossible. He can’t draw a square circle. He can’t cease to be God. He can’t become me. Nor can He become you. And He can’t make a rock so big that He cannot lift it. These issues don’t pose problems. They may pose a little thinking, but not a problem. A holy God can’t sin. Impossible.
Interestingly enough, in one sense Jesus’s divine nature couldn’t even be tempted. As James wrote, “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13) and in another sense, His human nature could be and was (Luke 4:1-2). Since Jesus was God in the flesh, He couldn’t have sinned, but since Jesus was in the flesh, He could be tempted.
That’s worth chewing on.
Thought to Ponder
Jesus experienced the force of temptation and triumphed without sin.
“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).
Question to Consider
What’s at stake if it was possible for Jesus to sin?
One Minute Apologist Video
Bobby Conway, “Could Jesus Have Sinned?” www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Bao2whWL1A.