One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” It reminds me that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, understands my struggle. As I am tempted, I can look to the throne of grace where my great High Priest sympathizes with my weakness. What a baffling and glorious truth that God in flesh can look at my struggle and can honestly say, “I know what you’re going through.”
But there’s one phrase in Hebrews 4:15 that, at times, has prompted me to downplay the power of Jesus’ temptation: those three little words, “yet without sin.” If you have an affinity toward theological debates, you probably think that I’m about to delve into a detailed discussion on the whole peccability/impeccability debate (i.e. although Jesus never sinned, could he have sinned?). I’m not going to, but, for those of you dying to know, I don’t believe Jesus was capable of sinning (I believe he was “impeccable”).
Well, one might object, if Jesus couldn’t have sinned, how does his resistance of temptation provide any example for us sinful humans? You have a fair point. If I was incapable of sinning, temptation wouldn’t seem as scary. So, does Jesus’ sinlessness ruin his example?
Not by a longshot. Yes, Jesus was God. No, I don’t believe he was capable of sinning. But I don’t think this ruins his example in the least. Consider his temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4; Luke 4), and consider, not just the fact that he resisted the Devil’s temptations, but how he resisted them.
Think about those three interactions with Satan–the temptation to turn the stones into bread, jump off the pinnacle of the Temple, and bowing down and worshipping Satan. Not once did Jesus play the “God Card” to resist the Devil. In none of these confrontations did Jesus respond with, “that would be tempting if I wasn’t God-in-flesh, but I can’t sin so nice try.”
How, then, did he resist temptation? He did by power of the Spirit, in submission to the Father, and through the authority of the Word. Luke 4 describes Jesus as “full of the Holy Spirit” when he was led into the wilderness. In each of his responses to the Devil, he exhibited a complete submission to his Father, as he magnified him through the use of Scripture. And this wasn’t just his approach during these temptations. This is how he lived.
He performed miracles and cast out demons by the power of the Spirit (Matt 12:28; Luke 14:18). Everything he did was in submission and obedience to the Father (Heb 5:8; 10:7; John 14:31). And he was constantly referencing the authority of God’s Word, as he reminded his audience, “Is it not written?” (Mark 11:17; Luke 10:26; 19:46; 22:37; 24:46; John 6:31; 10:34)
This is precisely what makes the example of Jesus so powerful: We have all the same resources, tools, and advantages as Christ did when he resisted temptation in the wilderness. We have the same Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9; Gal 4:6). We have the same Father (John 20:27). And we have the same Word (John 17:17).
He did it, not just to succeed where Adam failed, but to set forth as an example for all believers the only way to live righteously. And in his baffling grace, he provided us with everything we need. We are at no disadvantage. We have no excuse.
Jesus resisted temptation yet without sin, and he did so as we ought. Let us never use Jesus’ sinlessness to downplay the power of Jesus’ example.
Let us live as Jesus did: through the power of the Spirit, in submission to the Father, by obedience to his Word.
Aaron Berry earned both his undergrad and MA in Bible at Bob Jones University and most recently completed his MDiv at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, MI, where He and his wife Hanna, currently live with their two children, Brooklyn and Joshua. He also serves as the Director of Recruitment at DBTS and is a pastoral assistant at Inter-City Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter @AaronMBerry
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