Could Jesus have sinned?

Hanegraaff, Hank-Jesus Sin

Q: Did Jesus in His humanity have the option to sin?

Hank Hanegraaff: The temptation that came to Christ was from without, but for sin to take place there always has to be an inner response to the outer suggestion to sin. Since Jesus was divine, He could not respond to temptation. In fact, if Jesus Christ had mulled over a temptation to sin for even a moment, He would have been tainted by sin. So we have to say, “No, Jesus Christ could not have sinned, and therefore, Jesus Christ could not have responded.” Now the temptation was real, but for sin to take place there has to be an inner response to the outer suggestion to sin.

We can, in some sense, relate to that. We who are born into sin can identify with being tempted to do something that we are utterly disinclined to do. I’ll give you an example. A mother would never consider killing her child, even if she was offered a life free from suffering. Nonetheless, the natural desire to avoid suffering would render such a temptation genuine. The temptation would come, it’s a genuine temptation, but the mother would be completely disinclined to yield to that temptation because she couldn’t imagine killing a child. That gives a bit of an earthly perspective on how this could happen.

Now, Jesus did not have a sin nature. To have a genuinely human nature does not require a sin nature. In saying that “God cannot be tempted by evil” in the Epistle of James (2:13, NIV), there’s a focus on God as the self-sufficient sovereign of the universe, as such He has no unmet needs. Conversely, the accounts of the temptation of Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13) focus on God in human flesh, and as such, He experienced all the essential physical and psychological needs that are commensurate with humanity. He suffered hunger, fatigue, and desire for self-preservation.

The biblical truth that God cannot be tempted and yet Christ was tempted are complimentary, they’re not contradictory.

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Heb. 4:15, NIV).

For further study, please see the following resources:

If God Cannot be Tempted, How Could Jesus be Tempted? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Genuine Temptation and the Character of Christ  (Adam Pelser)

The question on Jesus Christ being tempted is also addressed in That’s Just Your Interpretation by Paul Copan.

Blog adapted from “Did Jesus have the opportunity to sin?