Saviour of the World
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 15 — Objections Considered, Part 1

Those who teach that Christ took a sinless spiritual human nature at His incarnation — the spiritual nature of Adam before the Fall — do so out of a sincere concern to preserve the perfect sinlessness of our Saviour.  That is why they object to the truth that Christ assumed our sinful nature, the post-Fall nature of Adam with its bent to sin.  Their main arguments are four in number:

  1. If Christ took our sinful nature, as we know it, He would have been tainted with sin and, therefore, could not be the spotless Lamb of God; He would Himself be a sinner in need of redemption.

  2. Although Christ did assume humanity and was like us physically, the Scripture refers to Him as “that Holy One” (Luke 1:35), “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), “separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26).  Therefore, His spiritual nature was like Adam’s before the Fall.

  3. Christ could not have resisted temptation had His human nature been sinful in all respects as is ours.

  4. Christ is the second Adam; therefore, He took the sinless spiritual nature of the first Adam.

Since a correct view of Christ’s humanity is essential to a true understanding of the salvation He obtained for all mankind, both in terms of justification as well as sanctification and glorification, we cannot ignore these objections which come from sincere people of God.  Let’s consider them, then, in the spirit of truth, unity, and the clarity of the full gospel so that the divine purpose of enlightening this dark world with God’s glory may soon become a living reality.

1. If Christ took our sinful nature, as we know it, He would have been tainted with sin and, therefore, could not be the spotless Lamb of God.  This argument comes from the doctrine of original sin.  This doctrine, as we saw earlier, teaches that — because of the Fall — sinful human nature stands condemned because of indwelling sin:

Romans 5:18-19, 7:20,23
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.  ...Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  ...But I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

Hence, it is thought, if Christ assumed such a sinful nature, He would automatically become a condemned sinner as all men and women are from their birth.

It is true that Paul refers to our sinful humanity as “the body of sin” (or “the body ruled by sin”) because it is indwelt by “the law of sin and death”:

Romans 6:6, 8:2
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—  ...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

But the problem of original sin cannot be applied to Christ.  At the Incarnation, Christ’s divinity was mysteriously united to our corporate humanity that needed redeeming, so that Christ was both God and man at the same time.  However, it is most important that we keep these two natures distinct — a distinction the sixteenth-century Reformers unfortunately failed to preserve.

In the Incarnation, Christ took upon His own sinless divine nature our sinful human nature.  For this reason, wherever the Bible refers to Christ’s humanity, it uses the qualifying word “made.”  He was “made flesh,” “made ...  to be sin,” “made of a woman,” “made a curse,” “made of the seed of David”:

John 1:14
The Word became [or “was made”] flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  [KEY PTS.]
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Galatians 4:4, 3:13
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born [or “made”] of a woman, born under the law....  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming [or “made”] a curse for us, for it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”
Romans 1:3
...regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was [“made”] a descendant of David...

The word “made,” as we saw in Chapter 12, means that Christ was made to be, or became, what He was not by nature.

So, while Christ did really and truly assume our sinful nature which is under the curse of the law and, therefore, condemned to death, this did not make Christ Himself to be a sinner or a blemished sacrifice.  That human nature which He assumed was not His by native right; He took it in order to redeem fallen mankind.  Had Christ, even by a thought, yielded to the sinful desires of the flesh, He would have become a guilty sinner like us.  But as long as He did not unite his will or mind to our sinful nature which He assumed, He cannot be considered a sinner.

Yes, Scripture tells us that He was tempted in all points like as we are (that is, through the flesh), but He never sinned:

James 1:14
...But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.

Yes, at the Incarnation He took upon Himself our sinful nature as we know it in order that He might be the Saviour of the world.  But instead of that human nature contaminating Him, He cleansed it on the cross.  This truth is beautifully illustrated in His miracles of healing for lepers.  To the Jews, leprosy was a symbol for sin.  According to Old Testament laws, anyone who touched a leper would become unclean.  But in Christ’s case, it was the very opposite; He did touch lepers, but instead of becoming unclean, He cleansed them!  This is the glorious power of the gospel.

Because Christ was “made flesh,” and took on Himself something that was not intrinsically His own, Paul is very careful to use the word “likeness” when he says that God sent His Son in “the likeness of sinful flesh” to condemn “sin in the flesh”:

Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....

On the one hand, Scripture identifies Christ with our total sinful situation, apart from actually sinning, in order that He might truly redeem us from every aspect of sin:

Hebrews 2:14-18
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

But, on the other hand, it also makes it very clear that He was not altogether like us.  He was not a sinner; this can never be.

The International Critical Commentary (Romans, vol. 1) says Paul used the word “likeness” in Romans 8:3 to emphasize the fact that “the Son of God was not, in being sent by His Father, changed into a man, but rather assumed human nature while still remaining Himself.”  Therefore, this commentary concludes, “Paul’s thought seems to be that the Son of God assumed the selfsame fallen human nature that is ours, but that in His case that fallen human nature was never the whole of Him — He never ceased to be the eternal Son of God.”

We may explain it this way:  Every born-again Christian has become a “partaker of [or “participant in”] the divine nature” through the experience of the new birth:

2 Peter 1:4
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

This divine nature is sinless, but in no way does this make the believer himself innately sinless, even though Scripture considers him to be a righteous person and declares him to be a child of God:

Romans 8:16
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
1 John 3:1-2
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

This is because the divine nature does not belong to the believer by native right.  In the same way, partaking of our sinful nature did not make Christ a sinner because that human nature was not His by native right.  He assumed it in order to redeem it.  Therefore, as long as Christ Himself did not consent to sin, or yield in any way to temptation, He remained spotless.

Those who insist that, by taking our sinful nature, Christ would have disqualified Himself from being the spotless Lamb of God have failed to see the true significance of the sanctuary symbolism with reference to Christ’s redeeming work.  Because of the Fall, all humanity stands condemned and under the curse of the law:

Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
Galatians 3:10
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

God’s law demands two requirements if fallen men and women are to be redeemed from this condemnation and curse and have their status changed to justification unto life.

First, the law requires perfect obedience in order to qualify for life.  Christ accomplished this by His thirty-three years of active, positive obedience to God’s law in our human nature which He assumed.  However, this obedience, even though it was absolutely perfect, could not cleanse our humanity from the curse and condemnation of the law.

Second, the law requires death — eternal death — as the wages of sin.  Only death could set us legally free from sin:

Romans 6:7
...Because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

So, until Christ took this condemned humanity to the cross and surrendered it to the full wages of sin, He could not qualify to be our righteousness and justify the ungodly:

Romans 4:5, 25
However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.  ...He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Christ satisfied this further demand of the law, its justice, by dying for us on the cross.  Thus, by both His doing — which satisfied the positive demands of the law — and by His dying — which met the justice of the law — Christ obtained eternal redemption for mankind and forever became the Saviour of the world:

Hebrews 9:12
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
John 5:24
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

Only in the light of this truth can we understand the Old Testament sanctuary symbolism.  By His perfect active obedience to the law, Christ fulfilled the symbolism of the spotless lamb; it was this that qualified Him to meet the justice of the law on our behalf.  Nowhere in Scripture do we find it hinted that the spotless lamb represented the sinless human nature of Christ.  This is only an assumption that cannot be proven explicitly from the Word of God.  What that spotless lamb represented had to do with our salvation; it represented the perfect obedience of Christ which the law demands of us in order to qualify us for life.  When the spotless lamb was slain, it represented the blood or death of Christ which cleanses us from sin.

Hebrews 9:22-28
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.  Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.  But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

This twofold symbolism of the Old Testament was replaced by the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament.  The bread we eat represents Christ’s body in which the perfect will of God — the law — was fulfilled:

Hebrews 10:5-9
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:  “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.  Then I said, ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, my God.’”  First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” — though they were offered in accordance with the law.  Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”  He sets aside the first to establish the second.

The grape juice we drink represents the sacrificial death of Christ which met the justice of the law:

Matthew 26:27
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.”

Had Christ taken Adam’s sinless nature as our representative and substitute, the law would have required of Him only positive obedience, as it did from Adam.  But since Christ came to redeem fallen man — not sinless man — our sins which proceed from the flesh had to be condemned at their very source, the flesh.  This is what Christ did by assuming that same sinful flesh and submitting it to death on His cross.  Thus He “condemned sin [singular] in the flesh”:

Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....  [KEY PTS.]

Some argue that, if Christ assumed our sinful nature as we know it, His perfect obedience would have been polluted because of the “corrupt channel” through which it was performed.  (They derive this term “corrupt channel” from a mistaken reading of [Ellen G. White’s] Selected Messages, 1:344.)  But this cannot be substantiated by Scripture.

It is true that, in itself, Christ’s perfect obedience could not justify the fallen race, because of the “corrupt channel,” the sinful human nature, that stood condemned.  Hence both the dying as well as the doing of Christ was necessary in order to justify sinful man.  But in no way was our Saviour’s perfect performance marred by the sinful human nature He assumed.  According to Scripture, Christ “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”:

Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.  [KEY PTS.]

His obedience was perfect.  Never for a moment did Christ consent to temptation; not even by a thought did sin rest in His mind.  According to the Greek New Testament scholar K. Wuest, “The words ’without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15) mean that in our Lord’s case temptation never resulted in sin” (Hebrews in the Greek New Testament, 95).  Thus Christ produced a perfectly sinless character in our corporate sinful nature that He assumed.  In doing so, He fully satisfied the positive requirements of the law as our substitute.  This qualified Him to be the spotless Lamb of God.

Yet, on the cross, this same Christ, as the Lamb of God, took away the sin of the world:

John 1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

How could Christ take away “the sin” of the world if it was not there in the flesh which He assumed?  How could Christ condemn “sin in the flesh” in a sinless flesh?

Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....

But Christ did take away our sin by condemning it on the cross.  He could do this because He assumed our flesh which has sin dwelling in it:

Romans 7:17, 20
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  ...Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Hebrews 9:26b
But he [Christ] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

According to Wuest, the putting away of sin denotes both the sinful nature as well as sinful acts:  “The verb (thetos) means ‘to do away with something laid down, prescribed, established.’ Sin had established itself in the human race through the disobedience of Adam, a sinful nature and sinful acts” (ibid., 40, emphasis supplied).

Because Christ partook of and overcame our sinful human nature, He is able today, as our High Priest, to both understand and “empathize with our weaknesses” [or “infirmaties,” in some translations], as well as “aid those who are tempted”:

Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.
Hebrews 2:18
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

The word “infirmities” must not be limited to physical weaknesses such as fatigue or aging, as some teach.  Again, according to Wuest:  “The word ‘infirmities’ is astheneia, ‘moral weakness which makes men capable of sinning,’ in other words, the totally depraved nature.”  Interpreting the expression “He Himself [Christ] also is compassed with infirmity,” Wuest continues:  “The high priest has infirmity, sinful tendencies, lying around him.  That is, he is completely encircled by sin since he has a sinful nature which if unrepressed, will control his entire being” (ibid., 98).

In this connection it is interesting to note Karl Barth’s observation:

The International Critical Commentary, Romans 8:3
Those who believe that it was fallen human nature which was assumed have even more cause than had the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism to see the whole of Christ’s life on earth as having redemptive significance; for, on this view, Christ’s life before His actual ministry and death was not just a standing where unfallen Adam had stood without yielding to the temptation to which Adam succumbed, but a matter of starting from where we start, subjected to all the evil pressures which we inherit, and using the altogether unpromising and unsuitable material of our corrupt nature to work out a perfect, sinless obedience.

Thus we may be assured that our redemption in Christ’s holy history was both perfect and complete.  Not only do we believers have in Christ’s righteousness “justification of life,” but, in Him, we can likewise claim liberation from our bondage to sin, so that we may now live unto God:

Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
Romans 6:7-13
...because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

This is the basis of true justification as well as sanctification, both of which are to be received by faith alone.

2. Although Christ did assume humanity and was like us physically, the Scripture refers to Him as “the Holy One,” “without sin,” and “set apart from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26):

Luke 1:35
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  [KEY PTS.]
Hebrews 4:15, 7:26
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.  ...Such a high priest truly meets our need — one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  [KEY PTS.]

This is the second objection raised to the idea that Christ assumed fallen, sinful human nature.  But do such statements of Scripture suggest that Christ’s human nature itself was sinless?

In order to understand these statements correctly, we must take into account other Bible texts which identify Christ with our sinful human condition.  There must be no contradiction in Scripture.  Note, then, such statements as:  God “made Him ... to be sin for us,” God sent Him “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” “he had to be made like them, fully human in every way,„ Christ “took up our infirmities”:

2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  [KEY PTS.]
Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....  [KEY PTS.]
Hebrews 2:17
For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  [KEY PTS.]
Matthew 8:17
This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:  “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”  [KEY PTS.]

Some try to reconcile these two apparently opposite views by teaching that Christ took our sinful nature only as far as our physical makeup is concerned.  Thus He was prone to fatigue, aging, etc., but, they insist, morally or spiritually, He took the sinless nature of Adam before the Fall.  Such a view goes far beyond what can be supported by an honest interpretation of these Scriptures.  Furthermore, in Scripture, our physical and spiritual natures are related, so that if the one is sinful, so is the other.  Hence “the perishable” is identified with “mortal,” and “imperishable” with “immortality”:

1 Corinthians 15:53
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

Similarly, “the body of sin” is identified with “the body subject to death”:

Romans 6:6, 7:24
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin....  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

As I see it, a true harmony of these two groups of texts — which on the surface seem to contradict each other — is possible only when we take into consideration two important facts:

  1. First, Christ was both God and man, so that He had two distinct natures united in one person — His own divine nature, which was sinless, and our corporate sinful human nature, which He assumed.  Thus Christ was a paradox.  On the one hand, He could be called “that holy thing,” and on the other hand, He was “made to be sin.”

  2. Second, although Christ took upon Himself our sinful nature, this must not be identified with our sinning nature.  Our sinful nature has sinned and continues to sin, but His human nature did no sin, so that in performance His humanity can be called sinless.  According to Scripture, Christ understands our weakness since He took our sinful nature that is dominated by the “law of sin.”  Nevertheless, His mind never for a moment consented to sin, so that His flesh was totally deprived of sin:

    1 Peter 4:1
    Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.

Once we come to grips with these two important facts — the sinlessness of Christ’s divinity and the perfect sinlessness of the character He produced in His humanity — the problem of reconciling these two sets of apparently contradictory texts ceases.  Clearly, the texts referring to Christ’s sinlessness are dealing either with His sinless divine nature or His sinless performance or character.  And the texts that identify Christ with our sinful condition are referring to His equipment, our sinful human nature which He assumed, and which is “sold under sin”:

Romans 7:14
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Incidentally, a similar group of apparently contradictory statements can also found in the writings of Ellen White, and the same principle applies to her writings, too.

With this in mind, let’s examine the key texts that refer to Christ’s sinlessness and see if this conclusion is valid.  Do they, indeed, refer either to His divine, sinless nature or to His sinless performance that He produced in our sinful flesh — rather than to the human nature He assumed at the Incarnation?

  1. Luke 1:35:
    The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

    In this verse, the angel announces to Mary her conception of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He calls Him “the Holy One.”  Notice that the angel uses this phrase in connection with Christ being called “the Son of God,” a term applying to His divinity.  It was Jesus’ divinity, the fact that the human child to be born was also the divine Son of God, that the angel was referring to when he called Jesus “the Holy One.”  He was not speaking of Christ’s human nature.

  2. John 8:46:
    Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?  If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?

    Jesus challenged the Jewish leaders who were incapable of discerning His divine nature or appreciating His perfect character.  He was referring to His performance which was without sin, not to His human nature which, incidentally, was made in all points like human beings:

    Hebrews 2:17
    For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
  3. John 14:30 (Jesus is speaking):
    “I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world [Satan] is coming.  He has no hold over me....”

    It was ever Satan’s purpose to thwart the plan of salvation by enticing Christ to sin.  The temptations in the wilderness are a good example.  But all his attempts failed, as Hebrews confirms:

    Hebrews 4:15
    For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.

    Again, Christ was referring to this victory over temptation, His sinless performance.  Jesus Himself explains this passage in the next verse:

    John 14:31a
    “...But he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

    Thus this text refers to His perfect obedience, not His human nature.

  4. Hebrews 7:26:
    Such a high priest truly meets our need — one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

    This verse says of Christ that He was “set apart [or separate] from sinners,” “holy, blameless, pure,” all of which suggest Christ’s perfect performance, His righteousness.  Christ was unlike, or separate from, the sinful human race He came to redeem in His sinless living — not in the nature which He took.  Otherwise, Hebrews 2:17 makes no sense when it says of Him:

    Hebrews 2:17
    For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

    I believe Hebrews 1:9 explains in what sense Christ was separate from us:

    Hebrews 1:9
    “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

    The perfect character Christ produced in our sinful humanity separated Him from the rest of us.

  5. 2 Corinthians 5:21:
    God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    This text says of Christ that He “had no sin” or “knew no sin.”  The context of this statement is Christ as our sin-bearer.  In fact, the entire text says, “He [God] made Him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us” (emphasis supplied).  Christ knew no sin with reference both to His divine nature as well as to His character or performance.  Yet the Bible is clear that He “bore our sins in His own body on the cross”:

    1 Peter 2:24
    “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

    He did this by bearing our sinful humanity on the cross, the humanity He assumed at the Incarnation.  That is why Peter adds in this very same text, “that we might die to sins and live” (emphasis mine).  The only way we could have died to sin by Christ’s death is if His humanity was really our corporate sinful humanity that stood condemned:

    2 Corinthians 5:14
    For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

    This is why Paul tells us God “made him who had no sin to be sin for us.”  This is the only way we could have died to the law “through the body of Christ”:

    Romans 7:4
    So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
  6. 1 John 3:5:
    1 John 3:5b
    And in him [Christ] is no sin.

    The context of John’s statement indicates that “sin” here means sinning — not the human nature Christ “took.”  The preceding sentence in this verse reads:

    1 John 3:5a
    But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. 

    “Our sins,” plural, referring to our acts of sin.  Christ did not commit even one single sin, but He came to take away our many sins.  He did this, of course, by taking our sinful, corporate humanity to Himself and executing that humanity on the cross.

  7. Hebrews 9:14:
    How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

    This text says Christ “offered Himself unblemished” or “without spot.”  This expression, as well as the one which follows — to “cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death” — suggests performance rather than nature.  Christ was “without spot” in performance, although tempted as we are:

    1 Peter 1:19
    ...But with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
    Hebrews 5:8-9
    Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him....

    To the above text, we must add John 1:14:

    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    Some Adventist pastors interpret the statement “the one and only Son” or “the only begotten of the father” to mean that Christ’s humanity was unlike ours.  Their argument is that the word “begotten” in Greek means “one of a kind.”  They insist, therefore, that, since Christ was “one of a kind,” His spiritual human nature must have been different than ours — that is, spotless or sinless.  The problem with such an interpretation is that John does not say that it was Christ’s human nature, or His humanity, that made Him “one of a kind.”  He says that what made Christ, the God-man, “one of a kind” was the fact that “the Word [Christ as the divine Son of God] was made flesh [human].”

    Further, if the word “begotten” [or, in some translations, “one and only Son”] is referring to Christ’s sinless human nature which was unlike ours and, therefore, “one of a kind,” then we must admit that Isaac, the son of Abraham, also had a sinless human nature since the writer of Hebrews uses the same Greek word translated “begotten” when referring to Isaac:

    Hebrews 11:17 [Emphasis Added]
    By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son....

    What made Isaac “one of a kind” was not his human nature, but the fact that he was a miracle child born after Sarah had passed the age of childbearing:

    Romans 4:19
    Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.

    In the same way, what made Christ “one of a kind” was His unipersonality — the fact that He was both God and man at the same time.  The “Word became flesh” making Him unique or one of a kind:

    John 1:14
    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Thus, it seems clear that none of these texts refers to Christ’s human nature itself; they cannot be used to prove that His spiritual human nature was sinless like that of Adam before the Fall.  When correctly harmonized, Scripture teaches that Christ’s sinlessness was in character or performance, produced in a human nature exactly like the one He came to save.  He “condemned sin” in the human nature which is dominated by the principle of sin, or love of self.

Hence, God’s righteousness manifested in sinful flesh can be truly called “the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh”:

1 Timothy 3:16
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

The Greek word translated mystery means “something that can be seen and known, but that cannot be explained.”  How Christ produced a sinless life in a sinful human nature is indeed a mystery, but it is a biblical fact.  Had Christ lived a sinless life in a human nature that was spiritually sinless, His holy living would not be a mystery.

This brings us to the third and fourth objections raised against the idea that Jesus assumed our sinful, fallen human nature at the Incarnation — which we will deal with in the next chapter.


Key Points in Chapter 15
• Objections Considered, Part 1 •
  1. Those who object to the truth that Christ assumed our sinful human nature, the post-Fall nature of Adam with its bent to sin, do so out of sincere desire to preserve the perfect sinlessness of our Saviour.
  2. One objection this group raises is:  If Christ took our sinful human nature as we know it, He would have been tainted with sin; He would Himself be a sinner in need of a Saviour.

    1. However, in the Incarnation, Christ took upon His own sinless divine nature our sinful human nature.  That is why the Bible uses the qualifying word “made” when it refers to Christ’s humanity — “He was made flesh” (John 1:14).  This means that Christ was made to be, or became, what He was not by nature.

    2. While Christ truly did assume our sinful nature, which is under the curse of the law and, therefore, condemned to death, this did not make Christ Himself to be a sinner.  That human nature which He assumed was not His by native right; He took it in order to redeem fallen mankind.

    3. Had Christ, even by a thought, yielded to the sinful desires of the flesh, He would have become a guilty sinner like us.  But as long as He did not unite His will to our sinful nature which He assumed, He cannot be considered a sinner.

  3. Had Christ taken Adam’s sinless nature as our representative and substitute, the law would have required of Him only positive obedience, as it did from Adam.  But since Christ came to redeem fallen man — not sinless man — our sins which proceed from the flesh had to be condemned at their very source, the flesh.  This is what Christ did by assuming that same sinful flesh and submitting it to death on His cross (see Romans 8:3).

  4. A second objection raised against the idea that Christ assumed our sinful human nature is this:  Although Christ did assume humanity and was like us physically, the Scripture refers to Him as “the Holy One” (Luke 1:35); “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15); “separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26).  Do not such statements suggest that Christ’s human nature was sinless?

    1. The Scripture also contains other statements which identify Christ with our sinful condition (see 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:17; Matthew 8:17).  Some try to reconcile these two apparently opposite biblical views by teaching that Christ took our sinful nature only as far as our physical makeup is concerned.  Thus He was subject to fatigue, aging, etc., but His moral nature was the sinless nature of Adam before the Fall.  However, in Scripture, our physical and spiritual natures are related; if one is sinful, so is the other.

    2. A true harmony of these two groups of texts is possible only when we take into consideration two facts.  First, Christ was both God and man.  He had two distinct natures united in one Person — His own sinless, divine nature and our corporate, sinful nature which He assumed.  Second, although Christ took upon Himself our sinful nature, this must not be identified with our sinning nature.  Our sinful nature has sinned and continues to sin, but His human nature did no sin.  In performance, His humanity can be called sinless.

  5. A close examination of the texts used to support the idea that Christ’s human nature was sinless shows that they do not refer to Christ’s human nature itself.  When correctly harmonized, Scripture teaches that Christ’s sinlessness was in character or performance, produced in a human nature exactly like the one He came to save.

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