Dr. W. Noble King
1. In this study we are to show that the Christ is eternally God, and that the undividable Essence of Deity is resident in that eternal Person.
2. We are also to show that all of the attributes of Deity are present and active concurrently in each one of the three Divine Persons.
3. We shall further show that the Second Person is eternally impeccable, with no lapse therefrom as this impeccability is grounded in the Essence of Being.
4. This being so, we are to show that the temptations of the Christ were out of the realm of sin (cwr_V _mart_aV [khoris hamartias]).
5. Lastly, we shall observe that temptation may be fiercely real out of the field of possible sin (cwr_V _mart_aV [khoris hamartias]).
I The Essential Personality of the Eternal Christ
1. We read: "In the beginning (Bereshith: at the commencement of time) God (Elohim) created" (Gen. l:la). The word Elohim is both singular and plural in form. Richard Watson points out that its plural form cannot refer to majesty, or power, or authorship merely, but to persons only; and its singular form refers to but one of those three Persons, in whom is the totality of the Essence: "And God (Elohim) said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen. l:26a). Then referring to the singular use of the word Elohim we have: "So God (Elohim) created man in His own image" (Gen. l:27a). These singular and plural interpretations of the term Elohim are uniform throughout the Bible, and prevail throughout Trinitarian literature (The Pulpit Commentary). There is thus one undivided will in the Trinity Absolute. That will is the will of each one of the three Persons. With regard to this matter Dr. Pope says:
There is a perfect (peric;rhsiV [perikhor_sis]) in the redemptional Trinity, even as there is in the absolute Trinity. . . . Hence there is no support for the theory of a covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son, according to which the three Persons concerted the plan of salvation: the Son undertaking on His part to undergo the Penalties of the law for His people, and the Father pledging Himself to give the Son His own glory, and His people's souls as His recompense, and the Spirit witnessing in order to administer this covenant. The Spirit speaks only of the will and purpose of God's love to redeem mankind, which will was the will of the undivided Trinity (11, 102).
Thus when Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane and said, "Not my will, but thine be done" (Mark 14:36b), He meant: not my human-nature-will, but the one will of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit be done.
2. Dr. Richard Watson, Theological Institutes,, I, 449, points out that the three Persons of the Trinity are not separate, but they are distinct. He says, "The Scripture doctrine therefore is that the Persons are not separate but distinct; that they are united persons having no separate existence, and that they are so united as to be but one Being, one God." The one undividable Essence is totally resident in each one of the three distinct Persons. Erich Sauer ably states this basic truth by pointing out that the Father is neither the Son nor the Spirit, but the Father is God; the Son is neither the Father nor the Spirit, but the Son is God; the Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but the Spirit is God (From Eternity to Eternity, p. l4). Louis Berkhof also emphasizes the same position in the following words: "The real mystery of the Trinity consists in this that each one of the three Persons possesses the whole of the divine Essence, and that this (Essence) has no existence outside of and apart from the Persons" (Summary of Christian Doctrine, p. 42).
3. The three main creeds
of the Oecumenical Church emphasize those aspects admirably. Of the
three, the Apostle's Creed was probably formed first, the Nicene Creed
second, and the Athanasian Creed third. Each succeeding one is a
fuller expression of the former one. Dr. H. O. Wiley states that
the three Oecumenical Creeds may be said to preserve the faith of the undivided
Church (Christian Theology, I, 40). Dr. Summers says that this creed
is a veritable and valuable symbol (Systematic Theology, p.35). Dr.
Miley also speaks highly of the Athanasian Creed (Systematic Theology ,
I, 226-231). The Athanasian Creed emphasizes the fact that the Essence
is an undividable unit resident in its totality in each Person, and each
Person is eternally and immutably God. We quote the Athanasian Creed
in part as follows:
4. Further, types or symbols of this Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity may be found in both man and nature; but types or symbols are not analogies. The symbols of (1) intellect, sensibility, and will in man are used; (2) length, breadth, and height in space are used; (3) future, present, and past with regard to time are used; (4) subject, copula, and predicate in the sentence are used; (5) body, soul, and spirit in man are used; (6) the orb, heat, and light with regard to the sun are used; (7) the divisions of light by means of the prism are used; (8) liquid, vapor, and ice with regard to water are also used. All such types or symbols, however, miserably fail as the totality of the divine Essence is concurrently in each Person, and each of the three Persons is eternally distinct (as a Person) from the other two Persons. Dr. H. Jessop says that the Trinity "has no human analogy and consequently we have no basis of comparison" (Studies in Christian Essentials, p. 23). Dr. Richard Watson says that types and symbols of the Trinity are to be found in natural objects, but any attempt to explain this doctrine by analogy therefrom is highly objectionable (op. cit., Int. p. 23). The doctrine rests entirely upon the Scriptures. The Father is God: "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father" (Romans l:4). The Son is God: "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever" (Heb. 1:8). The Holy Spirit is God: "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, . . . thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 5:3a, 4d). Jesus himself accepted the appellation when Thomas said, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Thus each member of the Trinity, in Personality, is essentially God.
II The Inviolate Person of the Eternal Christ
1. The divine Essence in its totality, as we have said, is grounded in each Person, and the totality of the attributes is grounded in the Essence. Hence the totality of the divine attributes is grounded concurrently in each distinct Person. Now there is but one thing that the Members of the Godhead cannot do, and that is to violate their own Essential Natures or Persons. God the Father is immutable in every attribute of His being; God the son is immutable in every attribute of His being; God the Spirit is immutable in every attribute of His being. God the Father is immutably holy; God the Son is immutably holy; God the Spirit is immutably holy. God the Father is immutably omnipotent; God the Son is immutably omnipotent; God the Spirit is immutably omnipotent. Thus it is impossible for the Three Persons of the Trinity to change in Essence, to become unholy, or to be conquered.
2. Again, all three Persons of the Trinity are immutably omnipresent. While the son was on earth in His human nature, He chose to localize that human nature only. He Himself in Essential Person filled the universe as always. Isaiah calls Him: "The everlasting Father"' (Isaiah 9:6g), and Paul said, "He is before all things, and by Him all things consist" (Col. 1:17). Then Jesus said, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:l3). Dr. Richard Watson (I, 580) says:
To those essential attributes of Deity, to be without beginning and without change, is added that of being extended through all space--He is not only eternal but omnipresent. Thus He declares Himself to be at the same time in heaven and upon earth, which is assuredly a property of Deity alone.
Thus, while the human nature of the Christ was on earth the eternal Person of the Son is in heaven, is before Abraham, is the everlasting Father, and is before all things (Wiley, II, 171). Thus the Christ became incarnate, but not incarcerated: Hence the Son, as a member of the Absolute Trinity, was on earth before He came to earth, and when He came to earth, He never left heaven. Then when He finally left the earth for heaven, He remained on earth, He said to His disciples, "And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" or age (Matt. 28:20). At another time He informed His disciples that He would be in the midst of them after He was gone (Matt. 13:20). Richard Watson (I, 58l) declares that that statement refers to His real personal presence in the spiritual order. John Calvin (Institutes, 13, 43f.) also says, "The Son of God miraculously descended from heaven, yet in such a manner that He never left heaven; He chose to be miraculously born of the virgin, to live on the earth, and to be suspended from the cross; and yet He never ceased to fill the universe, in the same manner as from the beginning. The Person of the Christ was both spaceless and timeless through all His human nature experi-ences from His conception by Mary to His resurrection from Josephís tomb" (Boettner, The Person of Christ, p, 47). Only as a member of the Redemptive Trinity, and for our benefit, can it be said that He came and went (Pope, II, 102).
3. In each divine Person of the Godhead there is also an unbroken and unclouded continuity of identity and Personal consciousness. There never was a time when the Father did not know who He was and is. There never was a time when the Son did not know who He was and is. There never was a time when the Holy Spirit did not know who he was and is. That is, each one of the three Persons knows Himself as God; and He knows the other two as God also. Thus, each knows the others as He knows himself. All three are immutably God, and no one of the three can cease to be himself, or lay aside or suspend, or suppress one attribute of Deity permanently or even for a moment. Such suspension would vitiate their own nature, and that is the one thing that Deity cannot do.
4. With regard to this matter Dr. A. M. Hills, refers to Dr. John Miley, and says:
The subject of the incarnation was not a mere nature, but a Person, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Divine Son of God. . . . Christ could not be a wholly new personality, because the personality of the Son could not be suspended or neutralized by the incarnation. His true and essential divinity forbids the notion of any such result. The personality of the Son as verified by Himself in the facts of His own consciousness, must forever abide. The immutability of the Son, in His essential being, and in His personal attributes affirms this truth. Herein lies the ground of the immutability of Christ "The same yesterday, today, and forever." With all His mutations of estate, He is essentially the same. The personality of the Son must abide forever (Hills, Fund. Christian Theology, p.290; Miley, op. cit., pp. 17, 18).
5. Referring to the identity,
continuity, and immutability of the Son, Dr. Pope says:
6. Dr. John Miley is also very emphatic about the everlasting immutability of the Christ in every attribute of His Being. He says, "Immutability is the truth of His eternal absolute identity or being. He is immutable in the plenti-tude and perfection of His personal attributes. His omniscience, holiness, justice, love, considered simple as attributes, are forever the same" (op. cit., p.221). Thus the Christ is God, and is inviolate in Personality, and is in possession of every attribute of Deity immutably. He cannot be conquered. He cannot cease to be omnipresent, and He cannot cease to be absolutely holy. On these basic propositions the great Trinitarian Theologians, of all schools, from Athanasius and his supporters, to A. M. Hills and H. 0. Wiley have stood, at the risk of life and limb, when occasion require, like a mighty phalanx against all errors
7. The errors of a possible
mutation in the nature and personality of the Son, caused by sin, must
now be discussed and properly classified. We shall now briefly mention
the three major fields of concern in this possible mutation:
8. Dr. Wiley, II, 153, points out that as long as the two natures are distinct in one person the problem of peccability or impeccability is merely an academic one. In fact the problem cannot arise as long as the two natures are maintained (II, 153).
(1) The Augsburg confession states:
. . . The Word, . . . took unto Him manís nature, . . . so that there are two natures, the divine and the human inseparably joined together in the unity of the person; one Christ, true God and true man.
(2) The Westminister Confession states:
The son of God, . . . being very and eternal God, . . . took upon Him man's nature, . . . yet without sin, . . . so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, . . . were inseparably joined together in one person.
(3) The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England states:
. . . two whole and perfect natures, . . . were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man.
(4) The Twenty-five Articles of Methodism states:
. . . two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very man.
(5). In the Articles of Faith, Church of the Nazarene we read:
We believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune God-head: That He was eternally one with the Father; that He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary, S0 that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and manhood, are thus united in one Person very God and very man.
III The Impeccability of the Eternal Christ
1. Those three Persons in
the Godhead may work so close together as to be one in insight, decision,
and result. This is the difference between a Trinity and a triad.
The three wills may become one will. This is what Dr. Pope means when he
refers to the undivided will of the Absolute Trinity in perfect (peric;rhsiV
[perikhor_sis]) (op. cit., p. 102). From that (peric;rhsiV [perikhor_sis])
in the Trinity the three Divine Persons fanned out for our accommodation
and effected redemption. Then when the period of redemption is over,
and the Christ has stepped down from His mediatorial throne, the three
will again return to that close (peric;rhsiV [perikhor_sis])for which there
is no known analogy to man. Paul refers to this, both before and
after time, when he wrote: "And when all things shall be subdued unto him,
then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things
under him, that God (the Godhead) may be all in all" (I Cor. 15:28).
Dr. Pope also points out that in the beginning God was all in all, and
then after redemption has run its course in human history God shall again
be all in all (op. cit., p.104).
(1) Dr. Wiley points out that a mere nature as such cannot sin. It takes a free rational person to sin. He says:
There was no original sin in Christ. . . . Having God alone as His Father, the birth of Christ was not a birth out of sinful human nature, but a cojoining of human nature with Deity which in the very act sancti£ied it. Sin is a matter of the person, and since Christ was the pre-existent Logos, the Second Person of the adorable Trinity, He was, as such, not only free from sin, but from the possibility of sin (op. cit., p.l77).
(2) Dr. Pope is emphatic on this matter, and points out that even in the temptation in the wilderness Christ could not have sinned. He says:
He came to His baptism as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world: though sinless and incapable of sin, He was in the river Jordan already numbered with the transgressors. . . . In the temptation also, He represented the sinning race; while He demonstrated that in him is no sin, nor the possibility of sin (op. cit., p.l56).
(3) Dr. Martenson holds that Christ " experienced temptation as an actual power," but that "it was impossible for Him to sin." That impossibility is grounded in the indissoluble union between the persons in the Trinity. He writes:
Though the temptation itself and the conflict against it were not apparent merely, but real and sternly earnest, the result could never have been doubtful; for the bond between the divine and human natures, which may be severed in the (created) creature, was indissoluble in Him who is the Mediator between the Father and all His creatures (in-dissoluble because it is grounded in the Essence of Deity itself) (Christian Dogmatics, pp. 284, 285).
(14) Dr. Shedd states that "a mere man can be overcome by temptation, but a God-man cannot be. When therefore it is asked if the Person named Jesus Christ, . . . was peccable, the answer must be in the negative." Dr. Shedd then points out that the Christ "was an impeccable Person." Hence the holiness of the God-man was more than mere sinlessness. The first Adam was peccable, but the "last Adam was impeccable. He was not only characterized by the posse non peccare, but the non posse peccare. He was not only able to overcome temptation, but He was unable to be overcome by it" (Dogmatic Theology, II, 333, 334).
(5)Neander states that St.
Augustine argued that it was not possible for Christ to have sinned (non
posse peccare). Neander also states that Anselm pointed out that
Christ could not will to sin. This impossibility was grounded in
His Deity which could not be laid aside (General History of the Christian
Religion , IV, 495, 496).
IV The Eternal Christ
was Tempted Apart from Sin (cwr_V _mart_aV [khoris hamartias])
1. It is futile to argue that all temptations involve the possibility of Sin; or that all temptations are in the realm of evil, and, if yielded to, would involve sin. There is, I presume, no argument against the impeccability of God the Father, and God the Spirit, and the pre-incarnate Christ. Yet all three have been tempted, and have repented and been made weary--both of which call for temptation. All three have also yielded to the pressure of temptation in both directions. We have personally checked over thirty-five times in the Bible in which it states that the Persons of the Trinity repented or were made weary, and over thirty times in which it says that they repented.
2. We are fully aware that there is an element of accommodation in such expressions; but accommodation does not remove the fact that manís attitudes to God places God under pressure, and that pressure has been yielded to in both directions. When man's attitude to God places him beyond promised mercy, God may then extend him further mercy, or pour judgments upon him. That pressure was yielded to in mercy, when Moses prayed and Israel was spared (Exodus 32:33, 34). It was yielded to in further mercy when the Ninevites prayed and were spared (Jonah 3:9.10). That pressure was yielded to on the side of judgment and wrath when the earth was destroyed by a flood (Gen. 7), when the cities of the plain met their ignoble end (Gen. 18), and when Judah was carried into Babylonian captivity (II Chr. 36:20, 21). God, Himself, was tempted as stated in Psalm 95:9: "When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works." God the Son, in His pre-incarnate state, was tempted: "Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents" (I Cor.10:9). God the Holy Ghost was tempted in the case of Ananias and Sapphira: "Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?" (Acts 5:9a--called the Holy Ghost in Acts 5:3). All such wearyings, pressures, and temptations were outside of the realm of evil: for the Godhead cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13).
3. Dr. Shedd (op. cit., p.332) further points out that there were two distinct natures in the one Christ, or Theanthropic Person; but the divine nature and Person control the human--not the human the divine. The God-man came to this earth commissioned to suffer and to die, and did suffer and die; but he was not commissioned to be tempted in the realm of evil, nor yet was He tempted to sin, nor yet to enter and pass through a period of probation--He experienced no probationary period. The author of the Hebrew letter says "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as (we are, yet) without sin (cwr_V _mart_aV [khoris hamartias]). Christ was not tempted like a vile passion distorted-sinner is tempted. Neither was He tempted as a carnal hearted Christian is tempted; for in Christ there was no sin. Nor yet was He tempted as a sanctified Christian is tempted. The sanctified Christian has memories of sin, and is still carrying the scars of sin in body, mind, and soul. For example Adam, in his unfallen state, had a perfect human nature in an uncursed order, with a finite human self. The sanctified Christian today has a scarred human nature, in a sin cursed order with a finite self. Christ had a reduced human nature, in a sin cursed order, with a Very-God-Self in charge of that perfect human nature. Thus Christ's Person, and human nature were brought under pressure, as human nature would be in that unique position. Thus Christ was not tempted as any particular human being on this planet has ever been tempted for no human being has ever stood in His unique position.
4. Berry's Interlinear Greek
New Testament, and Westcott and Hortís
(1) Lange, in his Commentary, commenting on Hebrews 4:l5, says, "Christís likeness to us in respect of being tempted extends to every relation with a single far reaching exception--an exception that, in fact, modifies the relation of likeness at every point, apart from sin (cwr_V _mart_aV [khoris hamartias]). Lange points out that that does not mean that He remained sinless when he could have sinned, but that His temptations were out of the realm of possible sin. Then he says, "Everything took place with him separately from sin."
(2) Ellicott, in his Commentary on Hebrews 4:15 says that the words "was tempted in all points in like manner, must not be overly stressed." Ellicott also translates the clause in question as follows: "but one that hath in all points been tempted in like manner, apart from sin." Ellicott continues and says, "In him sin had no place. Not only was the temptation fruitless in leading to sin," but it could not lead to sin (John 14:30).
(3) The comments on Heb. 4:15 in The Pulpit Commentary are similar to the other comments to which we have referred. We read: "The concluding apart from sin is not a categorical assertion of Christís sinlessness, although it implies that, but an exclusion of the idea of sin from the likeness spoken of. His temptation was after the likeness of ours apart from sin or sin ex-cepted." Thus the possibility of sin is again excluded.
(4) Matthew Henry, and Adam Clark, in their Commentaries on Heb. 4:15, are of the same persuasion. Clark says, "His mind or human soul, being free from all sin, being in every respect perfect, could feel no irregular temper, nothing that was inconsistent with infinite purity."
Thus the Christ is God, inviolate in Personality, in possession of every attribute of Deity immutable, making it impossible for His to sin. And further, all of His temptations were out of the realm of sin.
V Temptation is Possible
Apart from Sin
2. Jesus, with His undulled and unscarred susceptibilities could suffer in all physical areas far more than could anyone who had been reduced by sin. Hence no human being, who has lived, since Adam's fall, could suffer or be tempted as He suffered and was tempted. His could be brought to the point of death by mental or spiritual agony (Mark 14:34b). The insults hurled at him in Pilate's hall, and at the cross were hurled at Him by men who had passed beyond any specific promise of mercy for them. Hence Christ could have smitten them with death, but he did not. The temptation to do so must have been fierce. Only Deity could have that power and at the same time, refrain from using it (Shedd, op. cit., p.34l).
3. Wherever the resistance is greater the attack is correspondingly great-er. When the power of resistance is infinite, as it was in the case of Jesus the Christ, the attack may be unrestricted in tone, and almost limitless in fury (Isaiah 53:1-10; 63:l-3. Dr. Shedd, in Dogmatic Theology, II, pp. 330-349, has excellent chapter on the impeccability of the Christ. In this chapter he voices, very ably, the general position of Orthodox Trinitarians with regard to the matter of temptation in an impeccable personality. As a matter of fact divine grace does not operate like chloroform, and deaden the fierceness of the conflict. The bereavement of a friend has to be endured; but the fact that it has to be endured does not remove the bereavement or deaden the soul pain. A Christian may long, with intensity to do something for someone, and yet be powerless to do it. That fact does not remove the regret at his own inability.
A sinner who yields readily to temptation is tempted but little.
A sinner who fights long over temptation and then yields is tempted far
1.Thus the Christ was very God, and was inviolate in Personality, and was in possession of every attribute of Deity immutably. As a result He was not tempted in the realm of evil at all, as God cannot be tempted with evil.
2. Being in possession of a perfect and complete human nature, that nature could be brought under great pressure. Being also in possession of the totality of the Essence of Deity, in which was resident every attribute of the Godhead, that Being could not be conquered. Thus as long as the two natures are held to be distinct impeccability is assured.
3.When the two natures are denied, or converged into a composite, or the personality split, we then have a being, lower in essence than God, who must pass through probation, and in doing so may sin. We then find ourselves in the camp of the Arians, the Semi-Arians, the Socinians, and the Unitarians. We must also embrace the moral or ethical theory of the atonement, as we do not have a Savior by blood, but merely a Savior by example.
4. On the other hand, the Athariasians or Orthodox Trinitarians hold that Christ was of identical Essence with the Father and with the Spirit. Thus Christ is held to be a coequal member of the Godhead, and as such is in Essential Nature impeccable. This position is expressed in the Apostlesí Creed, Nicene Creed, and in the Athanasian Creed. It also found lodgment in the Augsbury Confession, in the Helvitic Confession, in the Thirty-nine Articles of Church of England, in the Twenty-five Articles of Methodism, and in the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene. The contention is not between Romanism, and Protestantism as such. Neither is it a contention among Romanists, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Armenians. It is not an issue between Perfectionists and Suppressionsists. It is an issue solely between Arianism and all of its variations, and Trinitarianism proper. By holding to the two natures in Christ, and His impeccability Christ is then a Savior from sin by the shedding of His own blood, and an absolute conqueror in His own sacred Person, and infinitely able to succor all those who trust in Him (Hebrews 2:18).
Now the God of peace, that
brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the
sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect
in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing
in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever.
Amen. (Hebrews 13:20,21).
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