Q: While on earth, did Jesus have a holy, sinless nature or a fallen, sinful nature like ours?

            This is an ongoing, sometimes heated debate that has especially troubled many in the community of faith. Many a church potluck has been spoiled by Christians arguing over this unsolvable mystery. In my own family, my dad and his father-in-law (my grandpa), both pastors, held to opposite views! The fact is that the Bible gives no clear-cut answer to this difficult question. It is important to know that all Christians accept that in terms of his life and deeds, Jesus was absolutely sinless in every way.  Hebrews 7:26 declares that Jesus was “holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” He could only be the Calvary sacrifice for the entire world as a perfect and unblemished Lamb.

However, the two schools of theological thought do exist today.  Many believe Christ, born as a Man in our world, had a sinful nature like ours. They point to verses like Hebrews 2:17, 18, where we read that Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest . . . because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” They suggest that Jesus had to overcome evil in the same way as all of us.

Many other Christians hold that Jesus was like “the second Adam,” that he arrived in our world with the same unfallen, holy nature that Adam had before he and Eve fell into sin in Eden.  Jesus declared boldly in John 14:30 that “the prince of this world [Satan] is coming. He has no hold on me.” And adherents of the pre-Fall position suggest that the results themselves – Christ’s 33 years of absolutely perfect obedience, even as a small child – suggest something unique and holy about the nature of our Savior.  It might be summarized that those who believe in the sinful nature of Christ emphasize his role as our example, while those who lean toward the sinless view focus more on His role as our Savior and Rescuer.

There are those who carry this second view to an even bolder level, and describe the nature of Jesus as impeccable – that he was simply incapable of sinning. However, the dramatic temptation showdown between Christ and Lucifer in the desert (Matthew 4) seems to suggest that the Devil certainly considered it possible that he could seduce Jesus into doing evil.

In the final analysis, this is not a question that can be resolved here on earth.  It is well to explore this particular concept with humility and charity for those with other views.  It’s also true that Jesus achieved his holiness by fully depending on the strength and guidance of his heavenly Father (John 5:19, 30), which is how the Bible encourages us to obey as well.