Was Jesus truly tempted as we were?
The supporting scripture(s) on this are: 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.” TNIV
Luke 4:1-2 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. TNIV (ESV, NLT, HCSB all use “tempted”)
James 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
In Hebrews 4:15 the ESV also uses the word “tempted”, HCSB uses the word “tested”, and the NLT uses “testing”. According the ESV Study Bible (ESVSB) “The Greek (peiraz?) can refer either to temptation intended to bring one down or to testing designed to build one up; both connotations probably apply here”. The NLT Study Bible (NLTSB) says “Our High Priest understands our weaknesses, our human pull toward sin, because he faced all of the same testings we do. He was tempted with all the essential aspects of sin, such as lust, greed, unforgiveness, and dishonesty.”
From these two notes it would be fair to say that Jesus was not only tested, but also tempted as we are. However, is it accurate to say as the NLTSB states that “He was tempted with all the essential aspects of sin…”? Is that a correct understanding?
“This meant that he had to obey in his human strength alone. If he had called upon his divine powers to make the temptation easier for himself, then he would not have obeyed God fully as a man.”, [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology]
This in my opinion is a correct statement, but later Grudem states that Christ was fully tempted, yet he could not sin.
“But if Jesus as a person had sinned, involving both his human and divine natures in sin, then God himself would have sinned, and he would have ceased to be God. Yet that is clearly impossible because of the infinite holiness of God’s nature. (5) Therefore, if we are asking if it was actually possible for Jesus to have sinned, it seems that we must conclude that it was not possible. The union of his human and divine natures in one person prevented it.”, [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology]
This is where we part ways in our understanding. Now in a way it is a moot point for it is clear from Hebrews that Jesus never sinned. However, I think that if we follow the logic that I have laid out that Jesus did not take advantage of his divinity, which Grudem supports if I understand him correctly. Christ is no longer relying on or taking advantage of his divinity making him subject to these temptations. Grudem holds to what is referred to as the “impeccability of Christ,” which means that Christ was not able to sin.
But it would appear to me that a temptation is not a temptation if there is never the real ability to fail (i.e. sin). How can there be a temptation if there is no capacity to fulfill it? I think that it was possible for Jesus to have sinned, but would not sin (notice I did not say could not), because he was God, and because his humanity was completely in submission to the Spirit, and was totally obedient to the Father. He lived a truly obedient life, led by the Holy Spirit, and thus fulfilled all of the requirements of the law. He is our perfect (human) example.
To deny his humanity is as equally wrong to deny his deity. If it was not possible for him to sin then he was not human, and we are missing the whole point of what Phil 2 – is trying to teach us. It’s kind of like saying Jesus cheated because he was not truly capable of sinning, so none of the temptations or testing really matter. Jesus could have sinned but He did not. Why? Not just because he was God, but because he was obedient.
This is why:
And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death?even death on a cross! God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil. 2:8-11 TNIV
How did He humble himself? By becoming obedient! I fear that somehow that by acknowledging that Jesus was truly human we somehow think that we are denying that He was God. And that is just not the case.