Matthew 4:1-11 records the temptation of Jesus Christ. After fasting for forty days in the wilderness, the Devil came to Jesus to tempt Him. Every time the Devil offered Jesus a shortcut to the Heavenly Father’s plan, Jesus quoted Scripture and refused the offer.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NASB). In this context the term “tempted” means “to be tried, tested, and put to the test.” Like us, Jesus was tempted to sin, but how genuine was that temptation?
Generations of Bible teachers, seminary students, and theologians have debated the question, “Could Jesus have sinned?” We know He didn’t sin, but was sin even a possibility? Those who argue for the “peccability” Christ usually point out His humanity, His temptability (which implies sin), and His free will. Those who advocate the “impeccability” of Christ emphasize His deity, His divine attributes, and the Heavenly Father’s unchangeable plan for salvation.
A key part of this debate is identifying the nature of Christ’s humanity. Is Jesus human is like Adam was human before the fall, after the fall, or glorified in eternity. If Christ’s nature is human like Adam was before the fall then it was possible for Him to sin. If Jesus is like humanity glorified in the heavenly state, then He could not sin.
There is no clear cut answer to this perplexing question based on evidence that we have in God’s Word. If forced to choose, I would lean towards Christ’s deity and say, “No, He could not have sinned, even if He wanted to.” While this answer may be unsatisfactory to those who lean the other way, it underscores the bottom line – that Christ didn’t sin so that He could be our Savior.
At some point, this question should drive us to confront sin in our own lives. We have already given in to temptation, so what’s next? The next verse in Hebrews 4 urges us “…draw near to with confidence to the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need” (Hebrews 4;16, NSAB). Jesus overcame sin and temptation so that He could help those who could not overcome on their own.