Jesus of Nazareth is the unique, one-of-a kind Person in all of history. Having witnessed His miraculous calming of the sea, His disciples asked in wonder and amazement, “What kind of a man is this?” (Matt.8:27). Jesus clearly and directly claimed to be God when He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Throughout His teachings, Jesus audaciously claimed to be equal with God (Matt. 11:27; John 5:17-18; 10:30; 12:44; 14:9-11).
Jesus is also man. In His incarnation the eternal Son of God took upon Himself, an additional nature, humanity (John 1:14; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7; Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4). He did not stop being who He is, but He changed the form of who He is. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. He poured out the fullness of His deity into a human form. It is amazing and incomprehensible to our minds!
The result of incarnation is that Christ remains forever unblemished deity and perfect, complete humanity in one person forever. Thus, Jesus is the unique God-Man (in theological language, the theanthropic person)—the union of full deity and perfect, complete humanity in one person. This is called a hypostatic union, a union of two natures to form one person. This is indeed a very difficult concept to comprehend. But the Scriptures make it clear that Jesus is the union of full deity and perfect humanity in one person. His human nature is built upon His divine nature. He is always God, in all situations God.
Jesus is not a split personality, with His divine and human natures in conflict. The Lord Jesus is not two persons, one human, and the other divine; but having one personhood, He is one person. He always acts as one Person. Jesus never spoke of either His deity or His humanity as separate from Himself; He always spoke and acted as one Person. He is a unique Person with two natures, making Him the God-Man. Attributes of both natures (known as the communion of attributes in Christian theology) are expressed through the one Person. His human nature never exists without His divine nature. Jesus could not sin, for He was God as well as man in one person. He was more than a true man; He was the God-Man.
Our Human Nature and Jesus’ Human Nature
We have only one nature—a fallen, corrupt, sinful nature. But Jesus had two natures, a divine nature and a human nature. The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. The virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin. Luke 1:35 connects the conception by the Holy Spirit to the moral purity of Christ—“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35, RSV). Jesus did not inherit a corrupt, fallen sinful nature. Inherited sin and moral corruption did not taint His humanity. There was no latent sin in Him.
When Jesus became a man, “He was being made in the likeness of men” (Phil.2:7). The Son was sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom.8:3). “
Observe with what care the incarnation is stated. Paul does not say “in sinful flesh,” lest the Son’s sinlessness be compromised, nor “in the likeness of flesh,” which would convey a docetic idea and thereby deny the reality of the humanity of our Lord, making it only an appearance of corporeality.”1 Ryrie observes that “The word “likeness” is crucial, for it indicates that Jesus was a true man but not a sinful man”2 Jesus’ human nature was both sinless and real.
Jesus was tempted in all things as we are “yet without sin” or apart from sin (Heb.4:15)3. He was in all points, apart from sin (or sinlessly) tempted like as we are. The New English Bible (NEB) brings out the meaning well: “One who, because of his likeness to us, has been tested everyway, only without sin.” The author of Hebrews affirms that Jesus Christ is a high priest “who is holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners…” (Heb.7:26). “Separate from sinners” is corresponding to “apart from sin” (Heb.4:15). The category of sinners is a category to which He does not belong. Though Jesus lived and worked among men, and had close contact with family, friends and His own disciples, His nature was totally separate and different from theirs and ours. He was free from any moral or spiritual blemish not only in His character and conduct, but also in His very nature. There was no constitutional susceptibility to sin in His human nature.
Jesus—Sinless and Impeccable in His Person
I believe a proper understanding of Jesus’ unique person with two natures (the perfect God-Man) helps us to answer the question, was it actually possible for Jesus to have sinned? We must conclude that it was not possible. The union of His human and divine natures in one person prevented it. His divine nature was the dominant and controlling principle in His personality. Thus, the person was impeccable. An act of sin would have been a moral act that would have involved the whole person. Jesus was fully man and Jesus was fully God in one person, and “God cannot be tempted by evil” (Jas. 1:13).
1. Everett F. Harrison, Romans, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary With the NIV, Vol. 10, p. 87
2. Ryrie Study Bible, NASB, p. 1712
3. “Tempted in all things like manner, sin apart” (Darby Translation)