THE MAN WHO IS GOD  by Edward Heppenstall

Chapter 7 


We must lay the Scriptures, a "Thus saith the Lord," at the foundation of what we believe about the human nature of our Lord. Let us not be tired of affirming this so long as any point about Christ remains to be proved and accepted. Let us not venture to give priority to any other authority while ignoring what the Bible teaches.

We must continually go to God's Word for truth regarding the sinlessness of Christ. And we must consider no human interpretation as proved until we have brought the sacred writers to testify explicitly in the case. And if we ever call in our own interpretations, it will not be as material witnesses but merely as unessential evidence. The Bible, taken in its plain, obvious meaning, is certainly right. Any man's interpretation or philosophy may be wrong.

Let each text on the subject of Christ's sinlessness be studied without stopping to inquire who believes or who disbelieves. The sacred penmen delivered their messages under the leading of the Holy Spirit, who leads us into truth. Let that truth speak for itself.

The Bible gives us no right to say that Christ was born in a state of sinfulness as we are. The miraculous nature of His incarnation and birth, His deity united with humanity, His mission to provide a perfect righteousness for unrighteous men, Christ's own witness to Himself, the witness of the New Testament writers, are among the reasons given for His sinlessness. They are sufficient to set our Lord off by Himself.

How clear the Bible is about it all. "In him was no sin" (I John 3:5); "He did no sin" (I Peter 2:22); He "knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21); "He was tempted, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15); "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5).

Christ is the light of the world (chap. 8:12). "1 am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness" (chap. 12:46). By light is meant holiness, righteousness, purity; by darkness is meant unrighteousness, the presence of sin and error. In Christ there was no darkness at all; nothing that speaks of the slightest alienation from the Father. He alone is the one righteous Man.

We do not compare Him with men at this point, regardless of how good they have been. In Him alone dwells "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Let us guard against anything that would fail to do justice to His true nature. He is the one source of a perfect righteousness, found in no mere human being.

And so there is no place for human pride in the presence of God. You are in Christ Jesus by God's act, for God has made him our wisdom; he is our righteousness; in him we are consecrated and. set free. And so (in the words of Scripture), "If a man must boast, let him boast of the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:29-31, N.E.B.).

The Meaning of Sinlessness

Sinlessness is a life without sin in any respect, either as a state of being or as acts and behavior. Positively, sinlessness refers to a life in absolute harmony with God. Wherein man is separated from the presence of God to any degree or in any way, there sin exists in some form. Perfect righteousness and sinlessness spring from oneness and harmony with God.

Christ's life on earth was the full expression of harmony with God the Father. His human will corresponded in every respect to the eternal will of God. His moral perfection revealed the true character of God, showing what God is like. Anything less than this perfection would have given less than the perfect revelation of God, which Jesus came to give to the world.

The Greek word "anamartesia" means the absence of antagonism to the Divine will or law of God. In Christ there was not the slightest expression of a perverted will at any point. This attitude existed from His birth because He was born of the Holy Spirit in complete oneness with the Father. Man is born with a natural enmity or bias against God and against His law.

All good springs from harmony and union with God. Only under conditions of complete harmony with Him is sinlessness possible.

Because sin universally prevails in our world, unless there exists some divine power to reconcile and restore man to oneness with God, perfect obedience, perfect righteousness, and perfect love are impossible. Such a power is to be found only in one Person.

In considering the sinlessness of Christ, the issue centers not so much in that He lived a sinless life as that He was born of a sinful woman, yet was without sin. There is a distinction to be made between His living a sinless life and His having a sinless nature; between having the same human nature as we have and the possibility of having a nature with a tendency to sin.

The dictionary defines tendency as a bent or predisposition toward a certain line of action, often the result of inherent characteristics. Theologically, it means a set of mind, the bent and inclination to sinning as the result of man's separation from God.

Before the Fall, the whole bent of Adam's being was in favor of and in harmony with the will of God. Since the Fall, man's tendencies and propensities are just the reverse. Instead of every tendency being toward righteousness, man has a bent to sin so that all, without exception, commit acts of sin.

Furthermore, such things as desires, urges, are not necessarily sinful in themselves. They can be quite neutral. God gave us natural appetites of hunger, thirst, and sexual desire. To have such desires does not constitute sin.

As a man Christ had the same basic desires we have, otherwise He could not have been tempted as we are. Sin finds expression and occasion to sin through these desires. The point where sin begins is in the cherishing of such desires contrary to the will of God. Then man develops propensities and tendencies toward them that are sinful.

The Bible speaks of this as a "lust," which draws us away and entices us to sin. "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1: 14).

Apart or separated from God, all desires develop a tendency, a propensity, for use in the service of self and are out of balance. They function from a selfish, rather than a God-centered motivation and expression. Because man is separated from God, and thus unbalanced, this is his natural state. As a result, all his capacities are distorted in their function. His whole being is on the wrong side, "without God in the world."

The specific condition to which Adam brought all men, is original sin. Whether in infants or in adults, there is a defect in our relationship to God. Ours is a fallen nature. This fallenness involves all our desires and susceptibilities.

The connection of all other men with Adam has produced in them a fallen, human nature with tendencies to sin. Christ is the one exception in that He had no such inclination or bent to sin. There was no rupture whatsoever between Him and God the Father. He and the Father were totally one. His desires, inclinations, and responses were spontaneously and instantly positive to righteousness and automatically negative toward sin. There was nothing in Him that responded to sin. The effect of Adam and Eve's sin, while it affected His physical constitution, did not reach Him morally and spiritually as it reaches us.

According to Paul, every child of Adam has inherited a nature which lacks in spiritual power, and is under a law of sin and death,the evil of which manifests itself in dispositions and desires at war among themselves, and revolt against God and His holy law,which, in its carnal state, is "enmity against God." . . .
What then . . . of Jesus, who is born into this humanity expressly for its redemption? Is it humanity in its integrity, or humanity in its fallen and sin-corrupted state, that Christ assumes? Does Jesus, like others, stand in solidarity with Adam, and share the sinful nature, the loss of spiritual power, the perverted and godless desires? . . Jesus stood absolutely free from, and above, this law of sin and death.
Jesus . . . was differentiated from every other by the fact that, from the first moment of His existence, He was absolutely pure,that He was possessed of a Spirit of holiness which overbore all temptations, even to the slightest evil, and made Him continuously and perfectly a doer of the will of His FatherIbid., pp. 194-196.

However, if Christ was sinless from birth how could He be a normal child as we think of it and experience growth in all aspects of His person? Does not the Scripture speak of Christ's need to grow morally? Did He not learn obedience as we all do? "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the thing's which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:8, 9).

Obviously Christ's being born as a babe revealed His need to grow and develop His capacity for fulfillment as a man. The text does not refer to His need for moral improvement, but rather growth to spiritual maturity. Christ's growth was not from disobedience to obedience, but one of maturing for the task at hand.

This growth is clearly seen throughout His life when, in times of trial and temptation, He learned to do the will of His Father. Jesus had to learn to live by the power of the Holy Spirit in complete trust in His Father. At every step from childhood to manhood He advanced in harmony with God. At every step of the way He was sinless.

Jesus experienced in His own life the law of human growth, which growth in Him was sinless. The holiness into which He was conceived and born was never dimmed by the stain of sin. He experienced the divine holiness as no other men felt it. He hated sin as no other man did. In every aspect of His life from the dawn of consciousness He was free from sin.

In Christ, humanity is not only free from taint, but, in the moral and spiritual region, also at the goal of development. In Him first we see man completely in the image of God, realizing all that was in the divine idea for man. He was a perfect child, according to the measure of childhood, boy according to boyhood's measure, man according to man's standard; and He was perfected at last according to the final destiny of manhood in eternal glory. . . . We behold Jesus, not only the captain of our faith, but its consummator in glory.GORE, op. cit., pp. 181, 182.

Not a shadow falls over His lifeat least no shadow issuing from His own sins and weaknesses. . . .  Instead it witnesses to the Son, the course of whose entire life was absolutely oriented to the will of the Father, and therefore even in the most painful moments of His life, spread the radiance of absolute personal holiness. At no point in Scripture does the guilt of the world as borne by Christ cast a shadow upon His personal devotion to the Father. Precisely His guilt-bearing elevates His holiness above every doubt. The mystery of the Son of man is precisely that His guilt-bearing and spotless holiness can go together.G. C. BERKOUWER, The Person of Christ, p. 250.

"The Holy Child"

Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for God has been gracious to you; you shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall give him the name Jesus. He will be great; he will bear the title 'Son of the Most High.'. . . The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child to be born will be called 'Son of God"' (Luke 1:30-35, N.E.B.).

What is the meaning and significance of the term "the Holy Child"? The conception of Jesus was absolutely unique in that it was the work of the Holy Spirit. However, the virgin birth does not guarantee Christ's sinlessness, since Mary provided the link with sinful humanity. If the state of sin is transmitted genetically, Jesus would have received from her a sinful nature.

This scripture affirms that there is a great difference between His birth and ours. His real birth was directly from God. He had a divine Father. We do not, in the sense of human conception. Both our parents were born with sinful natures. If Jesus had been conceived as all other men are, He could not have been different from us. But in the conception and birth of Christ there is a decisive break with sinful humanity. Jesus was born of God in a sense that is not true of us. Christ never needed to be born again and find a new divine center. At the center of His being was Deity itself.

The text declares that the effect of this divine operation upon Mary would be that her child would be none other than the Son of God, born holy in a unique sense.

The angel in these words does not merely announce that the incarnation of Jesus will take place through the direct influence of the Holy Ghost, but also expressly declares that He who will through Him be begotten as Man will be free from all taint of sinHe will be the Holy One. It was necessary for the Redeemer to be "born of a woman" (Gal. 4:4) so that He should be of the same nature as those whom He came to save. But it was just as imperative that He should be perfectly holy, since no sinful being can accomplish reconciliation for the sins of others.NORVAL GELDENHUYS, "Commentary on the Gospel of Luke," The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p. 77.

The declaration "shall be called holy" does, then, have this significance, that Jesus was born without spot or blemish, untainted by sin.

This picture stands in sharp contrast with David's reference to his own conception: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). The psalmist realizes that he was sinful from his birth, ever since his mother conceived him. Christ was different.

The witness of Scripture to the holiness of Christ is so plain and incontrovertible that people were often obliged simply to acknowledge it.BERKOUWER, op. cit., p. 251.

"In the Likeness of Sinful Flesh"

"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). This scripture does not say that God sent His son "in sinful flesh" but only "in the likeness" of it. Christ actually became flesh, thereby taking our nature. His flesh, or physical being, was like ours. In the term "the likeness of sinful flesh" Paul emphasizes the fact that Christ took flesh as it had been affected by sin for four thousand years. He was truly a man. When men looked at Him He appeared no different from themselves. But this "likeness" went no further than that. Every other man was born in sinful flesh, not in its likeness.

In the likeness of sinful fleshthe flesh of Christ is like ours inasmuch as it is flesh; "like" and only "like" because it is not sinful.Wm. SANDAY and ARTHUR C. HEADLAM, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary, p. 193.

Every man comes into the world in sinful flesh possessing the stain of sin, of separation from God. For Jesus Christ this was only an assumed condition. If Christ had been born exactly as we are Paul would not have written "in the likeness" but "in sinful flesh." Paul is very careful to make clear the sinlessness of Christ's nature. 

In order to guard against giving the impression that Christ was born in a sinful state as we are, he uses the word "likeness" and stops there. God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh without possessing a sinful humanity. Christ does not have a sinful nature like our own.

"In likeness of flesh of sin" is one of those exact Scripture phrases which admit of no change. . . . Christ assumed our flesh but not its sinfulness. Paul has just used the term "flesh" . . . in the sense of our corrupt nature; if he had continued in this strain and had written that God sent his Son "in the flesh," the sense would be that Christ appeared in our sinful nature. This thought he avoids by writing: "in the likeness of flesh of sin." The likeness of the flesh of sin is the flesh without sin. . . .
Jesus resembled men, all of whom had sinful flesh, but he only resembled them because his flesh was not tainted with sin.R. C. H. LENSKI The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, p. 500.

Paul also uses the Greek word translated "likeness" in comparing Christ's death and resurrection with our spiritual death and resurrection to new life. "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Rom . 6:5).

According to this scripture, the Christian is in some way to be united with Christ in His death and resurrection. This does not mean that we die as Christ died or are resurrected here as Christ was. Christ's death was unique. By it He atoned for our sins, for which we cannot atone either by dying to self or by dying literally. So Paul is emphasizing our spiritual union with Jesus, which comes as a result of our death to self-will and resurrection to new spiritual life from God. This likeness with Christ is also symbolized by baptism (Rom. 6:3, 4). While Christ's death and resurrection were actual literal events, our death to sin and resurrection to spiritual life are spiritual, not literal.

When we ascribe to Jesus flesh such as that which His contemporaries had after 4,000 years of sin, it is easy to assume His nature was exactly like ours, once we tie original sin to the physiological processes, which can be transmitted genetically. But once we separate original sin from the genetic process, Christ's being born by the power of the Holy Spirit leaves Him free from sin.

There is no sin in the flesh as such. If by "sinful flesh" we mean our physical state as affected by sin, then no such thing as a sinful nature is involved. The physiological properties of the race have deteriorated since the time of Adam. Christ was not born free from physical deterioration. He inherited all this from Mary. Christ came into the world with the curse of sin operative upon his physical being. For thirty-three years he experienced the aging process. He was subject physically to the decline of the race; but since sin is not transmitted genetically, but is a result of man's separation from God, Christ was born without sin.

The New Testament uses the term flesh in various ways. First, it is used in a purely physical and literal sense. "The word became flesh" referring to Christ. "Flesh" here is used in a good sense as created by God.

Second, "flesh" also denotes man in his weakness. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (I Cor. 15:50), because in its present state it degenerates and dies, owing to the sinfulness of man. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). Here Christ refers to Peter's coming trial, for which he is not prepared. He was weak against temptation. The "flesh" here is not sinful. Through the weakness of the flesh temptation exercises greater power and appeal.

Third, the New Testament uses the term "flesh" in the sense of being tied to sin. The unconverted man lives by "the desires of the flesh" (Eph. 2:3). The Christian is to die to the flesh, to crucify the flesh. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24). "The works of the flesh" are spoken of as including the whole category of sin (verses 19-2 1). "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (verses 16, 17).

This third meaning and use of the term refers to man's life as lived apart from and independent of God. The whole person is involved. The conflict between flesh and spirit is not between two parts or two halves of a person. It is between two tendencies of the whole person.

As for the first two uses and meanings of the term flesh Christ was born as we are; but with the third use where flesh is identified with the nature and life of sin, there was no identity with Christ. Christ was different. He was entirely without sin.

"Separated From Sinners"

"Such a high priest does indeed fit our conditiondevout, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners" (Heb. 7:26, N.E.B.). Hebrews 7 discusses a decided difference between Christ our High Priest ministering in heaven and the Levitical priests of the earthly sanctuary. Christ is holy, perfectly at one with God; guileless"free from all evil within His Person; "undefiled"unstained by sin, requiring no cleansing such as other men need; "separated from sinners"sinless. His bearing our sins on the cross was His only contact with sin. He bore the sins of men while being sinless Himself. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1: 18, 19). "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb. 9:14).

This offering of Christ by Himself is contrasted with the Levitical priests, who first offered sacrifices for their own sins and then for the sins of the people.

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people (Heb. 9:6, 7).

Christ's offering was not for Himself, but for sinful man. If Christ had had a sinful nature, He could not have offered a perfect sacrifice, without spot. Like the Levitical priests He would have needed to offer sacrifice for His own sinfulness.

Consequently, the Levitical sacrifices could not take away sin (Heb. 10:4), whereas the perfect sacrifice of Christ did. The blood of Christ did a much greater thing than did the blood of animals. His sacrifice dealt completely with sin, offering forgiveness and redemption. The efficacy of Christ's sacrifice lay in His absolute sinlessness and His deity.

Our High Priest is such a completely "holy personality" who never deviates in the least from all God's ordinances and commandments, he is without a speck of pollution. . . .
Jesus lived his entire life among the sinners, but his whole life long he was "holy, without anything bad, without a stain," was ever in his whole person and character separated from them. . . . That is the kind of High Priest that is proper for us if we are to have one such as we really need.R. C. H. LENSKI, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 242, 243.

Christ's atonement and His sinlessness finely complement each other. Except as He was the Lamb of God "without spot or blemish," His atoning work must fail.

To believe that Jesus Christ inherited a sinful nature as all men doa nature that was inclined to evil and incapable of doing any good of itselfis to ascribe total depravity to Him, to say that the whole of His being was sinful as is ours. If this was so, then He needed to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Christ's sinful nature would then have to come under the judgment of God at the cross. His sacrifice would have had, in part, to be the penalty, not only for our sins but for His own sinful condition. For a sinful state of being brings men to judgment and condemnation as do sinful acts and unrighteous deeds.

But the Scripture is clear. What put Jesus on the cross was the sins of others, and never His own. "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3). "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (I Peter 2:24).

We need to believe in the nature and person of Christ as God's gift of a perfect sacrifice for sin. Only in Him has God offered a sinless life and a sinless sacrifice. Only a sinless Christ is sufficient to provide us with a perfect atonement and redemption from sin.

Christ's sinlessness must be complete. Were there any basis for rejecting this concept, either by His being in a state of sin or His having committed sin, then no saving atonement could be made by Him.

Because He is sinless, redemption is available for the entire, sinful race. Because He is sinless, He provides for us a perfect righteousness that is in contrast with the unrighteousness of all men. In Christ alone God has one perfect man and in no one else. Thereby He alone could offer to us the eternal gift of a perfect righteousness. Redemption could not be offered if He were a sinner, either by possessing a sinful nature or by committing a sinful act.

Sin always separates from God, but there was never a gap between Christ and His Father created by a sinful nature in Christ, or by acts of sin by Him. Christ was in conscious and unbroken oneness and fellowship with God through every phase of His life. He was never alone until the hour when He bore our sins at Calvary.

"Yet Without Sin"

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).

This text does not say that Christ was touched or stained with sin in any way. He was "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" without being a sinner, either in His nature or in His conduct.

The emphasis in this passage of Scripture is that Christ experienced the reality of temptation as we do. The only difference was, He was "without sin." "For the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30).

Jesus was in no way subject to Satan. There was not the slightest taint of sin that could give Satan a foothold. Nothing in Christ was related to the prince of this world. Consequently, Satan had no power over Him.

Jesus' likeness to us, in which he was tempted, was total with one exception, namely sin. "Likeness without sin" resembles Rom. 8:3, "in likeness of sinful flesh." When temptation assailed Jesus it found no sin with which it could connect.LENSKI, Hebrews, p. 151.

Be careful, exceeding careful as to how you dwell upon the human nature of Christ. Do not set Him before the people as a man with the propensities of sin. . . . Not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity.The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on John 1:1-3, 14, p. 1128.

In taking upon Himself man's nature in its fallen condition, Christ did not in the least participate in its sin.Selected Messages, book 1, p. 256.

"Made . . . to Be Sin for Us"

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21). "Made . . . to be sin" does not mean that Christ was made to be a sinful person. It is quite out of the question to believe that God made His Son sinful in any way.

Sin itself cannot be transferred to another man who is innocent. Furthermore, if this is what the phrase, "made him to be sin" meant then, by way of contrast, "made unto us righteousness" would mean that we are made righteous persons rather than have Christ's righteousness imputed to us. When we become Christians we are not made righteous in the sense that Christ is intrinsically righteous. We are still sinners who are declared righteous by having Christ's righteousness reckoned to our account with God.

God did not make His Son a sinner. Jesus became involved in our sins by  bearing them on the cross, not by becoming a sinner Himself.  At the cross God "laid on him the iniquity of us all," not at His birth or any time prior to the cross.  We become involved in His righteousness by receiving it as a gift.  We are declared righteous, although in fact we are still in a sinful state.  God acquits the guilty, not the innocent.  "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (1Peter 2:24). "But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the climax of history to abolish sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26, N.E.B.).

Therefore, if being "made . . . to be sin" means being made a sinful person, Christ was not "made . . . to be sin" until He was nailed to the cross.  He could not have been born in a state of sin as we are.

Jesus never knew sin as we do by sinning, by in any degree realizing sin in himself. . . .  No sinful motive or desire ever entered his soul.  The Son of God was made flesh, but "without sin" (Heb. 4:15), ever "separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26), so that those who were closest to him ever beheld his sinless glory . . . .
God made Christ sin . . . by charging all that is "sin" in us against him, by letting him bear all this burden.—R. C. H. LENSKI, The Interpretation of I and II Corinthians, pp. 1052, 1053.

Christ, although He was sinless, was treated as a sinner.  We are accounted righteous, not because we are so in ourselves, but because we have come into a right relationship to God.

Christ's Personal Testimony

The Pharisees saw in Jesus only a man like themselves.  Therefore they refused to believe in His word or accept Him as the Messiah, the Son of God.  In response, Jesus declared the truth about Himself, His teachings, and His relation to the Father: His life was in complete harmony with the Father: His teaching was from the Father.  He pointed out to the Pharisees that by rejecting His authority, they rejected the authority of the Father.  As a consequence Christ met with increased opposition from the Pharisees.

Finally, Jesus appealed to His sinlessness as the guarantee that He spoke the truth.  "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" (John 8:46).  He challenged the Pharisees to find the slightest sin in Him.  They could expose none.  Since He was without sin, His teachings must be true.  If His life was sinless, then He spoke the truth.  In that case they could have no legitimate reason not to trust in Him as the Son of God.

The Pharisees' rejection of Jesus and increased hostility toward Him exposed their error, and pointed to them as "children of the devil."  Their opposition to Jesus was opposition to God.  Their dishonoring Him was dishonor to God.

The point that Jesus made was that only by being without sin was He in a position to affirm the infallibility of His teaching and His words.  This could not be true if He were a sinner.  Jesus asked the Pharisees, "Which of you convicts me of sin?"

Jesus uses . . . [harmartia], the generic term for "sin."  He even omits the article, so that we are compelled to understand "sin" in the broadest sense of the word and not as restricted to some one sin. . . .
It is Jeus who utters this challenge.   Morally he would convict himself of inner falseness if he knew of any sin in himself. . . .
Since there is no sin in Jesus, everything that he says is and must be pure truth and verity.—R.C.H. LENSKI, The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. pp. 654-656

On the clear conviction and consciousness of His sinlessness He built His mission to the world.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 7:51). I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

On several occasions Jesus uttered these most significant words: "Thy sins be forgiven thee," "The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. 9:2-6; Mark 2:5-10). He stood between man and God and the sacredness of this position expressed His sinlessness.

Furthermore, Jesus never once confessed Himself a sinner or as having committed sin. He never once asked His Father for forgiveness. He had not the slightest trace of personal guilt that would come from being born into a state of sin or from remorse over some sin committed.

Christ came not confessing His own sins; but guilt was imputed to Him as the sinner's substitute.ELLEN WHITE, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, p. 59.

His whole life breathed sinlessness. He never did an injustice, never resented a wrong, never uttered an untruth, never was guilty of the slightest deception, never in any way revealed impurity in any form. He was always loving, gentle, kind, in spite of all the hostility of unbelievers. In His life was the absence of all selfishness. His teachings were perfect, without any taint of egoism inherent in other men. His absolute righteousness rebuked all selfishness. He poured out His life in compassion for lost men.

Jesus never made excuses for Himself, never apologized. He who was the Truth always spoke the truth. He never asked others to pray for Him. He asked men to pray for themselves. He called on others to repent, but never repented Himself. Never did He express discontent with anything He was or did. At the end of His life He declared that He had fulfilled perfectly the work that God had given Him to do. Consequently, His disciples declared Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Peter and James spoke of Him as the "just" one (I Peter 3:18; James 5:6). He "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (I Peter 2:22).

Men sometimes equate their own sinful nature with the nature of the Redeemer and reduce His stature to their own level. Yet the whole gospel rests on the truth that Christ offers to men a perfect righteousness from within Himself in place of their unrighteousness.

The sinner needs a spiritual dependence upon One who alone can be his righteousness and atonement. He can find no surer ground for trust, no truer strength for victory in the life, no better warrant for salvation, than in the sinless Christ. So let no one claim to be righteous in the sense that Christ was righteous, sinless in the sense that Christ was sinless.

No good purpose is served by insisting that we must achieve in this life the absolute perfection in the sense that Christ had perfection. Our hope and faith in Christ does not depend on our imitating Him. The imitation of Christ has been emphasized by Christian believers through the centuries; but by some this has been falsely taken with the impression that this was the Christian's responsibility. It has been interpreted to mean that Christ commanded His people to copy Him more or less independently.

Imitation may be possible with external requirements such as the ordinances of the Lord's Supper and foot washing: "I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15, R.S.V.). There is no problem when speaking of the performance of rites and ritual. But living the Christian life of obedience to all the will of God cannot be achieved by imitating Christ or trying harder. There is one sense alone in which imitation applies: to imitate Christ in His living by faith in the Father and to depend on His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. And even faith is the gift of God, not something realized by any effort of ours to imitate or copy.

Only by continual dependence on Christ can we rise higher in obedience to and fulfillment of God's will. By Christ's righteousness we are citizens of God's kingdom. Through Christ we have on the white robe of His righteousness and join that countless number of the redeemed who will stand in the presence of the Father on the sea of glass.

The Christ presented as a human being with a sinful naturea nature bent to evil, as previously definedis not the God-man of the Scriptures, but only a godlike man. God is on the side of those who, in humility and total dependence, look entirely to Christ, not of those who merely closely imitate His Son. We cannot claim to depend on Christ's righteousness while at the same time we put trust in our own. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, not His own. He made His sinless soul an offering for our sin. He bore our guilt, not any guilt of His own, on the cross. His only shame was the shame of our sinfulness, never His own. Christ does not call us to imitate Him as a superman. Faith appropriates His righteousness. Our real strength lies not in ourselves but in Him.

It is hardly possible to overemphasize the need for a sinless Christ. To believe that Christ had a sinful nature implies that He was little more than a good man: the highest type that we, in ourselves, may become. Christ's gift of righteousness is either lost sight of or repudiated.

The tendency on the part of some to reduce Christian living to a system of ethics and moral achievement reduces the gospel to a concentration upon self. The highest ethical imitation of Christ, and the most sincere belief in Him as a perfect example, fails to do justice to the sinner's hopeless condition, regardless of how hard he may try to be like Christ. Such religion creates the peril of independence by relying upon ourselves.

Much is said of righteousness as a quest, but our gospel does not invite people to join in a quest for righteousness, but to depend on Christ and His righteousness. It was the glory of the early Christians that, having nothing in and of themselves, they yet possessed all things in Christ.

Spiritual health and growth requires Christ's righteousness for our horizon. When we speak of righteousness through Christ, as God's great gift to us, we refer, not to any achievement by man, but a divine drama enacted by God in His Son. This is not something given to us to imitate. Were this so, we should be more concerned about imitating Christ than trusting Him and committing ourselves to Him.

Take away from the Christian the concept of trusting in the sinless, perfect Christ, and we have a good moral life left, but not the Christian life. We may have some measure of truth left, but not Biblical truth. We may have some moral growth left, but not Christian growth. We may have some hope left, but not Christian hope.

The everlasting gospel and the third angel's message of righteousness by faith are based upon certain basic facts: first, our utter inability to live like Christ and achieve spiritual maturity by any effort of our own; second, our consequent need for daily dependence upon Him. "Fear God, and give glory to him" is an essential part of our message. We give glory to Him by yielding ourselves to Christ that He may perfect His work in us. We merit nothing. We achieve nothing simply on our own. We receive everything in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

There is no saving righteousness except that which comes directly from Christ; that which He, by the Holy Spirit, breathes into us. "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. . . . They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isa. 40:29-31).

We are to let the living Christ be our life. We are to receive that life in its fullness each day by commitment to Him and in utter dependence, that His actual life, presence, and power may fill and control our lives. Whatever our spiritual and moral needs, our hope and expectation is to be in Him and not ourselves. Absolute sufficiency is found only in Christ.

The great purpose of making Christ alone our righteousness is to bring us into God's presence that we will know we have met God Himself. This does not allow for spiritual laxity. Its purpose is to let God get possession of all His people in every church and thereby lead them to a saving and transforming knowledge of the truth.

The secret of Christ's power over our hearts and lives is found in the amazing love and righteousness of the only begotten Son of God and Son of man which attributes surpass those of all other men. In Christ we have the communication of God's righteousness in place of our unrighteousness, His light in place of our darkness, His eternal life in place of our mortality and condemnation. Whatever victory we experience is because of this one cause: The Holy Spirit takes Christ's righteousness and writes it in our hearts and lives.


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