[Updated!] Could Christ Have Sinned?: The two Adams

This will be a relatively brief post, but as we’re talking about temptation and Christ and whether or not he could have sinned, I thought I would ask a question that I’ve been thinking about:

If we believe that we (or any other man or woman) would have sinned had we been in Adam’s place, then what is the difference between the first and second Adam? What is the difference between Adam and Christ?

One of issues that I had in answering this question was that I had some wrong ideas about what a perfect man would look like. You see, in my mind, before Adam sinned he was Super Adam (with capital letters, and a cape, and everything), able to leap Antediluvian trees in a single bound, with skin that could stop bullets, completely impervious to disease, unable to be killed, etc. But this just doesn’t work. Reading through Scripture, I get the impression that even a perfect man is a fairly frail thing.

And this helped unseat another false idea that I had. You see, I’ve heard pastors talk about what the end-result of glorification is going to be like, and while there is definitely some uncertainty on their part, I often get the idea that what we end up being is much like Adam was in the beginning. “Salvation begins the restoration of our relationship with God,” they say, “glorification gets things back to the way they were in the beginning.” I no longer believe this (at least not in the sense that things are just restored to where they were)

As proof, read what Paul has to say to the Corinthians about the resurrection and the nature of our glorified bodies:

But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
(1Co 15:35-58)

Or in other words, the difference between the two Adams is that the first was just a man, the second Adam was both God and man. The first Adam was a thing that could not stand on its own, the second Adam could not only stand, but could save all the rest of us as well.

Anyway, criticisms, comments? A special thanks to Randall for his thoughtful comments which helped me in thinking through this issue. If any of you are up to it, feel free to add something in the comments below or on your own blog (if you do post on your own blog and it doesn’t show up here automatically, leave me a comment with a link and I’ll put it in the body of the post)

Could Christ Have Sinned?: Understanding Temptation as “trying” or “proving”

In the New Testament, the Greek word peirasmos, is the word that is typically used when we read the words “temptation”, “trial”, or “test”, and it is the idea of trying or testing that I think sums up the nature of temptation (the other aspect of being tempted, which is being drawn away by our lusts or desires, I still want to talk about, but that needs a whole post to itself). At this point you might be saying, “what’s the big deal, I’ve always thought about temptation this way. It’s a trial that we have to face, a time of difficulty, a test.” And you’re right in a way. But sometimes, the concepts that we hold about a word or an idea don’t translate as neatly as we think they do. Sometimes, they actually introduce contrary concepts into the mix.

Let me try to explain how it happened to me. You see, I always used to think of a trial in the courtroom sense, and while that works on a certain level, I would let the other aspects of a courtroom drama invade the way I thought about the word. The essence of a trial is that something is tried against a standard, in the same way something that looks like gold is tried to determine if it is, in fact, actual gold, or in the case of a courtroom, the way a defendant is tried against the law to determine how they stand in relationship to it.

To my mind, temptation functions much the same way. When we are tempted by our desire for something, we are tested against the law based on whether we attempt to achieve our desire in accordance with the law.

As an example, let’s take a look at the three clearly documented temptations of Christ: He was tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, he was tempted to take his rightful place as ruler of the world, and he was tempted to use his position as the Son of God to bring glory to himself. (If these descriptions sound odd to you, go back and re-read the text.)

With the stones to bread, I think there is little controversy. Christ was hungry from his fasting, but his time of fasting was not yet complete and/or it was not His Father’s will that he do miracles yet.

When Satan offered him the kingdoms of the world, Christ’s temptation was not to worship Satan, but rather the thing that he rightfully desired was to take his place as King of King and Lord of Lords. Worshipping Satan was the unlawful means that he was offered to bring it about.

When he was taken up onto the pinnacle of the temple, he was tempted to extricate himself from a physical location in a way that would bring glory to himself (think angles streaming down from heaven to catch him). The unlawful means that Satan offers Christ was to tempt (test – same Greek root word) God by putting God in a position where He would have to act to save Christ.

One last note that I’ll make in this post is that the things that Christ was tempted by were not evil, but were good things (feeding his hungry body, taking his rightful place as the King of the earth, and bringing himself glory.) It was only the unlawful means that Satan offered that would have been sin. For me, this ties right into Galatians 4:4

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law

What do you think?

Could Christ Have Sinned: Understanding temptation

Before we can get into the issue of answering whether Christ could sin or not, we need to do some groundwork. Specifically, we need to talk about temptation.

Let me start out by saying this: I think most Christians would agree with me that being tempted is not a sin in and of itself (if you hold that being tempted is sinful by nature, you need to be asking the question, “Since Christ sinned, what does that mean?”) Outside of that concession, opinions on temptation seem to vary quite a bit, both as to the mechanics of an actual instance of temptation and as to temptation’s overarching purpose.

So, I’d like open a dialogue about temptation. What is the purpose of temptation? What is temptation actually? What does Christ being tempted and never sinning tell us about Him? What does our failure in the face of temptation tell us about ourselves?

Anyone want to take a shot at it?