The Impeccability of Jesus Christ -- By: Joseph G. Sahl

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:557 (Jan 1983)
Article: The Impeccability of Jesus Christ
Author: Joseph G. Sahl

The Impeccability of Jesus Christ

Joseph G. Sahl

[Joseph G. Sahl, Pastor, Believers Fellowship, San Antonio, Texas]

Could Jesus Christ sin? Was it possible that He could have succumbed to the temptations He faced in the world and at the instigation of Satan? All evangelical scholars affirm that Christ did not sin. But the question is whether He could have sinned. The problem centers on the question of Christ’s susceptibility to sin. Theologically, the question is whether the Savior is posse non peccare (able not to sin) or non posse peccare (not able to sin). In other words, is it only that the Lord Jesus was able to overcome sin and temptation or rather that He could not be overcome by them? Peccability refers to Christ’s being liable to or prone to sin, and impeccability speaks of His not being liable to sin and being incapable of sinning.

The Significance of the Problem

Is such a discussion purely an academic exercise with no genuine significance? After all, the Lord Jesus Christ did not sin and in fact He remained sinless, so what is the difference whether He was posse non peccare or non posse peccare? Actually the problem makes a big difference. Besides a proper understanding of the person of Christ and the character of God Himself, several other doctrines are involved.

First, since the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), whatever attributes were true of Him during His earthly existence also must be true in His

preincarnate state, as well as in His present state of glory. Therefore any possibility that He could sin has ramifications for the eternal character of God.

Second, the virgin birth, the Incarnation, and the hypostatic union, are all influenced by one’s understanding of the question concerning the impeccablity of Jesus Christ. Christ, the God-Man, had a divine nature and human nature that were inseparably linked without confusion. This union demonstrated the humanity of the God-Man prepared by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35; Heb 10:5). If Christ could sin, then deity was capable of sinning.

Third, this doctrine has ramifications for angelology. The Scriptures affirm the existence of a personal being known as Satan, who is the primary instigator and sole originator of evil within the universe. Yet, if the Lord Jesus Christ is not impeccable, one can begin to question the temptation accounts of the Lord in the wilderness. If it is possible that He could sin or be overcome by tempta...

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