The Person and Work of Christ Part VII: The Impeccability of Christ -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 118:471 (Jul 1961)
Article: The Person and Work of Christ Part VII: The Impeccability of Christ
Author: John F. Walvoord

The Person and Work of Christ
Part VII:
The Impeccability of Christ

John F. Walvoord

[Editor’s Note: This article is the seventh in a series on the “Person and Work of Christ.”]

Orthodox theologians generally agree that Jesus Christ never committed any sin. This seems to be a natural corollary to His deity and an absolute prerequisite to His work of substitution on the cross. Any affirmation of moral failure on the part of Christ requires a doctrine of His person which would deny in some sense His absolute deity.

A question has been raised, however, by orthodox theologians whether the sinlessness of Christ was the same as that of Adam before the fall or whether it possessed a peculiar character because of the presence of the divine nature. In a word, could the Son of God be tempted as Adam was tempted and could He have sinned as Adam sinned? While most orthodox theologians agree that Christ could be tempted because of the presence of a human nature, a division occurs on the question as to whether being tempted He could sin.

Definition of Impeccability

The point of view that Christ could sin is designated by the term peccability, and the doctrine that Christ could not sin is referred to as the impeccability of Christ. Adherents of both views agree that Christ did not sin, but those who affirm peccability hold that He could have sinned, whereas those who declare the impeccability of Christ believe that He could not sin due to the presence of the divine nature.

The doctrine of impeccability has been questioned especially on the point of whether an impeccable person can be tempted in any proper sense. If Christ had a human nature which was subject to temptation, was this not in itself evidence that He could have sinned? The point of view of those who believe that Christ could have sinned is expressed by Charles Hodge who has summarized this teaching in these words: “This sinlessness of our Lord, however, does not amount to absolute impeccability. It was not a non potest peccare. If He was a true man, He must have been capable of sinning. That He did not sin under the greatest provocations;

that when He was reviled He blessed; when He suffered He threatened not; that He was dumb as a sheep before its shearers, is held up to us as an example. Temptation implies the possibility of sin. If from the constitution of his person it was impossible for Christ to sin, then his temptation was unreal and without effect and He cannot sympathize with his people.”1

The problem that Hodge raises is very real, and, judging by our o...

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