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

Chapter 16 — Objections Considered, Part 2

In this chapter, we will continue looking at the objections raised by sincere Christians against the idea that Christ assumed our fallen human nature when He became a man.  As outlined in the previous chapter, the third of these objections is:

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

As mentioned in Chapter 14, this was the very objection raised against the 1888 message.  Note again how Ellen G. White responded:

Review and Herald, February 18, 1890 [Emphasis Added]
Letters have been coming in to me affirming that Christ could not have the same nature as man, for, if He had, He would have fallen under similar temptations.  If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not be our example.  If He was not a partaker of our nature He could not have been tempted as man has been.  If it was not possible for Him to yield to temptation, He could not be our helper.  It was a solemn reality that Christ came to fight the battle as man, in man’s behalf.  His temptation and victory tell us that humanity must copy the Pattern.

In Romans chapters 2 and 3, Paul demonstrates that both Jews and Gentiles “are all under sin” so that “there is none righteous”:

Romans 3:9-10
What shall we conclude then?  Do we have any advantage?  Not at all!  For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.  As it is written:  “There is no one righteous, not even one....”

Therefore, so far as sinful human nature is concerned, “There is none who does good”:

Romans 3:12
“All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Yet the same apostle also informs us that the very thing that sinful human beings, in and of themselves, cannot do, God did through Christ!

Romans 7:14-25
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.  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.  So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 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.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The very thing that the law could not do because of weakened human nature, God did!

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.]

God did it in Christ’s humanity which was “in the likeness of sinful flesh.”  And he did this so that:

Romans 8:4
...In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us [believers], who [like Christ] do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Christ’s sinless living did not prove that sinful human beings, in and of themselves, can resist temptation and live above sin.  Instead, His sinless living demonstrated that sinful human beings, indwelt and controlled by God’s Spirit, can overcome all the powers of the devil that he musters through the sinful flesh.  This is what the New Testament teaches.  Speaking of Himself as a man, Christ made it clear that He could do nothing of Himself and that He lived “because of the Father”:

John 5:19, 30
Jesus gave them this answer:  “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  ...By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”  [KEY PTS.]
John 6:57
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.  [KEY PTS.]

Even His works all proceeded from the Father:

John 14:10-11
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”  [KEY PTS.]

Luke, after relating the temptations of Christ in the wilderness, concludes:

Luke 4:14a
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit....  [KEY PTS.]

Speaking of Christ’s death, the writer of Hebrews says:  “By the grace of God” Christ tasted ”death for every man”:

Hebrews 2:9
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

It is only in this context that Christ could resist all temptations and, thus, make it possible for the born-again believer to live above sin:

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

Paul makes it clear that humans, in and of themselves, cannot resist temptation, but he makes it equally clear that what is impossible with man is possible with God:

Galatians 5:16
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Romans 13:14
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Thus, in the light of these texts, if any dare to say that sinful humanity cannot resist temptation or live above sin as long as they walk in the Spirit, they are elevating the power of the devil and sinful flesh above the power of God.  Paul declares:

Romans 8:2
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

And he adds:

Romans 8:11
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

This is the glorious truth of the gospel which gives all believers everlasting hope in this world of sin.  The ultimate power of sin is the grave.  So anyone who can conquer the grave proves they can conquer sin.  God allowed the sins of the whole world to put Christ in the grave, but they could not keep Him there.  Christ’s resurrection is the greatest proof that all our sins were conquered in Him.

4. Christ is the second Adam; therefore He took the sinless spiritual nature of the first Adam.  This is the fourth objection raised against the idea that Jesus assumed our fallen, sinful human nature at the incarnation.

It’s true that Christ is the “last Adam”:

1 Corinthians 15:45
So it is written:  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

But the New Testament clearly qualifies in what sense Christ is like Adam.  To go beyond this qualification is to take liberties not warranted by God’s Word.

In Romans 5:12-21, Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ:

Romans 5:12-21
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned —   To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:  The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
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.  The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  [KEY PTS.]

This passage makes it clear in what sense Christ resembles Adam.  It is not in nature, but in representation.  All mankind was present in the first Adam when he ruined his posterity by his representative sin.  In the same way, God united all men to Christ, qualifying Him to be the second or “last” Adam:

1 Corinthians 1:30
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Ephesians 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

By Christ’s representative obedience, all men were legally justified unto life in Him, just as by Adam’s sin, all mankind were made sinners:

Romans 5:19
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.

It is only in this sense that Scripture makes a comparison between Adam and Christ.  What Adam did affected the whole human race, and what Christ did, likewise, affected all mankind:

Romans 5:15,18
But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  ...Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

To go beyond this comparison and identify Christ’s human nature with Adam’s sinless nature before his fall, is to add to Scripture an idea that is not present in the texts.

Nowhere in the Bible do we find Christ in anyway compared with Adam in terms of nature.  On the contrary, Christ, is called the Son of David and of Abraham, both of whom had sinful flesh:

Matthew 1:1
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham....
Romans 1:3
...Regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David....

He is referred to as being made “in the likeness of men”:

Philippians 2:7
...Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Scripture says of Him that in all things He had to be made 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.

Clearly then, we cannot say that Christ took Adam’s sinless nature in the incarnation simply on the basis that He was called the second Adam.

Any attempt to preserve Christ’s perfect sinlessness at the expense of the full significance and power of the gospel is to undermine the truth of the gospel.  Those who teach that Christ assumed only the pre-Fall nature of Adam must of necessity teach that He did not have to contend with the power of sin dwelling in sinful flesh.  But such a teaching destroys a vital truth of the gospel.  The gospel offers sinful man not only legal justification, but also God’s power unto salvation from sin itself:

Matthew 1:21
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:  first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 24
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  ...But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

To appreciate this salvation, we must understand sin in the light of the great controversy between Christ and Satan.  At the heart of this controversy lies the issue of God’s law, founded on the principle of selfless love (agape), a love which “does not seek its own”...

1 Corinthians 13:5
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Matthew 22:36-40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied:  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

...versus the law of sin, founded on the principle of the love of self:

Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Philippians 2:21
For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

These two opposite principles met and fought each other in the humanity of Christ.  On the one hand, Satan, working through Christ’s flesh, desperately tried to entice Christ’s mind to consent to self-will.  But, on the other hand, the Holy Spirit working through Christ’s mind, never yielded.  Thus, every attempt on Satan’s part failed, for Christ’s response was always, “Not as I [self] will, but as You will”:

John 4:34; 5:30
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”  ...“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
Matthew 26:39
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

This battle began the moment Christ was old enough to choose for Himself, and it ended at the cross when Satan, using the full driving force of temptations arising from sinful flesh, tempted Christ to come down from the cross and save Himself:

Luke 23:35-37
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him.  They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him.  They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

But Christ refused to yield and was obedient “even unto death”:

Philippians 2:8
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

Thus, Satan’s kingdom, along with his principle of self-love, was totally defeated forever:

John 12:31
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
Romans 8:2-3
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  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....

This victory is a vital part of the good news of the gospel.  “Be of good cheer,” Jesus says, “I have overcome the world”:

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

John’s definition of the “world”:

1 John 2:16, 5:4
For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.  ...For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

Some who hold to the idea of Christ having a sinless human nature may object that Christ did not need to take our sinful nature in order to be tempted.  This is true, of course.  Adam has already proven that sinless human nature can be tempted and sin.  But this is not the issue involved in Christ’s temptations.  It is a mistake to identify and equate Adam’s temptation and fall with our own temptations and failures.  When Adam sinned in Eden, he committed an unnatural act, for his sin was a contradiction to his sinless nature.  His act of disobedience was inexcusable and, therefore, unexplainable.

On the contrary, when fallen, sinful man yields to temptation, he is doing something perfectly natural to his sinful nature.  Those who teach that a person need not have a sinful nature in order to be tempted — and who, therefore, argue that Christ could be tempted and subject to the possibility of falling even though His human nature was sinless — may be making a correct statement per se.  But the fact is Scripture clearly states that Christ was “in all points tempted as we are”:

Hebrews 4:15 [Emphasis Added]
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.

This means that Christ had to be tempted through His flesh even as we are, because for us, temptation is defined as:

James 1:14
...But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.

The real issue in Christ’s earthly life was not that He could be tempted or that He was subject to the possibility of falling as did Adam.  The issue was:  Could Christ, in sinful human nature, resist Satan and defeat temptation — the principle of self-seeking?  For, you see, our real problem is not only that we are born with certain sinful tendencies, but that we are in slavery to sin and the devil:

John 8:34
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
Romans 3:9, 6:16, 7:14
What shall we conclude then?  Do we have any advantage?  Not at all!  For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.  ...Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  ...We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
Acts 8:23
“For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
2 Peter 2:19
They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity — for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
1 John 3:6-8
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.  Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.  The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.  The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

This was not true of Adam or his nature before the Fall.  Hence Adam’s temptation and fall in Eden must never be identified with our temptations and failures.  The sinless Adam had no “self” that needed constantly to be denied or crucified.  But Christ had to deny Himself all His life; His self-will had to be crucified daily:

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

It is true that the fundamental issue in every temptation is the same, for temptation is simply being enticed to say “No” to God and live independently of Him, to follow self-will instead of God’s will of love.  In that sense, no fundamental difference may exist between Adam’s temptation and ours, but a world of difference exists in the actual struggle against the temptation itself.  For if sin is saying “No” to God or living independently of Him, then our basic definition of a sinful nature must be one in which there is a bent toward self-love and independence from God.

Paul brings this out clearly when he describes mankind’s sin problem in Romans 1:

Romans 1:18-23
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

By our very nature, sinful men and women are self-seeking and self-dependent; sinful tendencies are simply different manifestations of this principle of self-love.  This, in fact, is the primary meaning of the Hebrew word translated “iniquity”:

Psalm 51:5
Surely I was sinful at birth [“shaped in iniquity,” in some translations], sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The mind controlled by the flesh, what the Bible calls the “carnal” mind, is:

Romans 8:7
The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

But this was not true of Adam as God created him.  Adam was tempted to sin in a nature controlled by selfless love and, hence, his failure is inexcusable.  Satan tempts us in a nature that is controlled by “the law of sin” — the love of self — a nature that naturally seeks its own way.

Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Philippians 2:21
For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Adam’s sinless flesh was subject to the law of God and, in fact, he delighted in God’s law.  But our carnal nature is not subject to God’s law.  It is at war with God’s law.  There was perfect harmony and agreement between Adam’s sinless nature and the Spirit of God who dwelt in Him.  But, in the case of the born-again believer, the Spirit and the flesh are at war with each other:

Galatians 5:17
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Sinning was unnatural for Adam; it was an extremely hard thing for him to do.  But for us, sin is enjoyable to our sinful nature; it is the most natural thing our nature feels like doing (see Romans 7:14-23). 

Romans 7:14-23
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.  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.  So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 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.

Adam could be justified by keeping the law, but, in our case:

Romans 3:20
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Galatians 2:16
...Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Adam’s sin cannot be explained for it is the “mystery of iniquity,” revealing the power of the devil.  With us, it is the opposite.  There is no mystery involved in why we sin.  But when the righteousness of God is manifested in our sinful flesh, it reveals God’s power over sin and the devil and is called “the mystery of godliness”:

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.

This mystery of godliness was first manifested in Christ and, through Him, it was made available to us by faith:

Colossians 1:27
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The great error of those who claim that Christ did not need to come in our fallen nature in order to be tempted as we are, is this:  They identify Adam’s situation with ours.  Much more was involved in Christ’s victorious life over temptation and sin than would have been required for Adam’s success had he not fallen.  This is a point we need to consider carefully if we are to fully appreciate Christ as our righteousness.  When we discover the real difference between Adam’s temptation in his sinless nature and our temptations in our sinful nature, we cannot but conclude that, if Christ had assumed the sinless spiritual nature of Adam before the Fall, He could not possibly be tempted as we are.  This, in turn, will open our eyes to appreciate how great a salvation Christ has accomplished for us.

Let’s consider, then, the temptations of Christ in relation to that of Adam.  Christ was both God and man and, therefore, possessed inherent divine power.  Therefore, it would seem that the temptation would be very great to use that divine power independently of His Father.  Thus we could conclude that His temptations were far different from, and greater than, either Adam’s or ours, since we do not have this divine power at our disposal.  But while this may sound convincing, we have to realize that this can be true only in the context of a sinful nature.  In the context of a sinless human nature, such a conclusion makes no sense.

You see, if in a sinless human nature, Christ’s temptations were greater than ours because of the inherent divine power available to him, then would we not have to admit, as well, that Adam’s temptation was also greater than ours, since his natural ability to do righteousness, inherent in his sinless nature, was greater than ours?  If so, if Adam experienced greater temptations than we face, would it not also be much more understandable that he should give in to temptation than that we should do so?  Would not this make his sin more excusable than ours?  But such reasoning flies in the face of the facts and also undermines God’s perfect creation.

Further, if it was extremely hard for Christ to be God-dependent because of His own inherent divine power, should not the very opposite be true of us because of our inherent weaknesses?  Should it not be very easy for us to be God-dependent?  Yet we must all confess that, to live by faith — that is, to be God-dependent — involves a constant struggle, as well as continual self-denial and acceptance of the principle of the cross:

1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

It is true that, in tempting Christ, Satan tried to persuade Him to take matters into His own hands and act independently of His Father.  But we must keep in mind this distinction:  If Christ had assumed a sinless human nature, Satan would be tempting Him to do an unnatural thing, because His human nature would have been naturally unselfish.  In order to resist temptation, He would not have needed to deny His own will as He told us He had to do:

John 5:30, 6:38
“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.  ...For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”

On the other hand, if Christ took our sinful nature upon Himself, a nature naturally bent toward yielding to self-will, then Satan would be tempting Him to do a perfectly desirable thing, something extremely desirable to self, when he tempted Him to act independently of His Father.  There is a world of difference between being tempted in a sinless nature as Adam was and being tempted in a sinful nature as we are.

The principle of self-love is foreign to God’s nature or, for that matter, to sinless human nature which He created.  The devil originated the law of self-love, and he infected the human race with it at the Fall:

Isaiah 14:12-14
How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!  You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!  You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.  I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

If Christ had assumed a sinless spiritual human nature, without the inclination to sin, He obviously would not have had to contend with self-love as a part of His human nature; Satan could not have tempted Him through the flesh as he does us.

Jesus declared that He came not to do His own will, that is the self-will of His human nature, but the will of the Father:

John 5:30, 6:38
“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.  ...For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”
Luke 22:42
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

The fact that Christ, as a man, could speak of His own will, in potential contradiction to His Father’s will, clearly indicates that He identified Himself in His humanity with the temptations to self-will of those sinful human beings He came to save.  And He could do so only by assuming our sinful nature.  The Gospels show that the great battle in Christ’s life was against this principle of self-will — the stumbling block to holy living that exists in the lives of all sinful men and women.

If Christ’s flesh was exempt from the law of sin, the law of self-love, then His flesh need not have suffered each time He refused to yield to temptation.  But we read in Hebrews that “He Himself suffered when he was tempted,” that He was made “perfect through suffering,” and that He learned “obedience from what He suffered”:

Hebrews 2:18, 2:10, 5:8
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.  ...In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.  ...Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered....

Christ’s victory was attained in His mind, because it was surrendered to the control of the Spirit.  But this involved suffering in the flesh, since His flesh was deprived of its own way, that is, of sin.  This is how Peter expressed the conflict:

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.

What is true of Christ must be true of us, because the flesh He assumed was the likeness of our sinful flesh.  Had Adam successfully resisted the devil’s temptation, this would not have involved crucifying the flesh or human nature.  But for Christ, as it must be with the believer, victory over sin involves the principle of the cross:

Galatians 5:24
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Our Lord’s holy life, if produced in a sinless nature like that of Adam before the Fall, can bring no hope or encouragement to believers struggling with temptation.  Satan has used this lie — that Christ came in sinless flesh — to destroy in the hearts of millions of Christians all belief that sinless living in sinful flesh is possible.  Thus, he has opened the door to antinomianism and makes the power of the gospel null and void in their lives.

If Christ assumed Adam’s sinless spiritual nature, He becomes Adam’s example, but not an example for fallen humanity.  In which case, our only hope of holy living would be either through the eradication of our sinful nature (the heresy of “holy flesh” or perfectionism), or by waiting until the second coming when “the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:53].  If this is true, all admonition in the Bible to holy living becomes futile.

But if the gospel is to be vindicated before the end comes, the last generation of believers must restore the truth as it is in Christ so that the world may be enlightened with His glory:

Revelation 18:1
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.
Colossians 1:27
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

This was God’s purpose in the 1888 message.

Our Saviour accomplished far more than merely what Adam failed to do in Eden.  Christ produced the perfect righteousness of God in the likeness of sinful flesh.  Herein lies the true sinlessness of Christ and the fullness and power of His gospel.  God did the “impossible” by producing perfect righteousness in our sinful flesh in Christ Jesus.  And if we, by faith, will obey this truth and allow the Holy Spirit to indwell and dominate us, then He will also reveal His power in the “body” of Christ, the church.

1 John 5:4
...For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

This, too, is righteousness by faith.

It is the knowledge of Christ’s righteousness produced in our sinful flesh that gives every believer the hope of glory.  Let us, therefore, abide in Him and, thus, make ourselves totally available to Him so that we may live as He lived:

1 John 2:6
Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Key Points in Chapter 16
• Objections Considered, Part 2 •
  1. A third objection raised against the idea that Christ assumed our fallen human nature is this:  Christ could not have resisted temptation had his human nature been sinful in all respects as is ours.

    1. Ellen White responded to this objection in this way:  “If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not be our example.  If He was not a partaker of our nature He could not have been tempted as man has been” (Review and Herald, February 18, 1890).

    2. Paul declares that the very thing sinful human beings, in and of themselves, cannot do — keep from sinning — that very thing God did in Christ’s humanity which was “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (VERSERomans 8:3).

  2. The real issue in Christ’s earthly life was not that He could be tempted or that He was subject to the possibility of falling as was Adam.  The real issue was:  Could Christ, in sinful human nature, resist Satan and defeat temptation — the principle of self-seeking?

  3. Christ’s sinless living did not prove that sinful human beings, in and of themselves, can resist temptation and live above sin.  Instead, His sinless living demonstrated that sinful human beings, indwelt and controlled by God’s Spirit, can overcome all the powers the devil musters through the sinful flesh.  This is how Christ lived a sinless life in His humanity (see John 5:19, 30; John 6:57; John 14:10-11; Luke 4:14).

  4. Our Lord’s holy life, if produced in a sinless nature like that of Adam before the Fall, can bring no hope or encouragement to believers struggling with temptation.  If Christ overcame in sinless flesh, what assurance does that give us that we can overcome in sinful flesh?  Christ produced the perfect righteousness of God in the likeness of sinful flesh.  Herein lies the true sinlessness of Christ and the fullness and power of His gospel.

  5. A fourth objection raised against the idea that Christ assumed our fallen human nature is this:  Christ is the second Adam, therefore He took the sinless spiritual nature of the first Adam.

    1. Nowhere in the Bible do we find Christ in any way compared with Adam in terms of nature.  Romans 5:12-21 makes it clear that Christ is the second Adam not in nature, but in representation.  Paul’s comparison between Adam and Christ is that what Adam did affected the whole human race, and that likewise, what Christ did as the second Adam also affected all mankind.  To go beyond this comparison and identify Christ’s human nature with Adam’s sinless nature before the Fall is to add to Scripture an idea that is not present in the text.

    2. We cannot say that Christ took Adam’s sinless nature in the incarnation simply on the basis that He is called the second Adam.

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