Did Jesus Christ Have A “Sinful Nature”?


In a recent Q&A on human nature and the wrong concept of “original sin” of babies, we stated the following about Jesus Christ’s conception and birth as a human being:

“… all are born with HUMAN NATURE or, as the Bible puts it, with SINFUL FLESH. Christ never sinned, but He came into sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). He had human nature passed on to Him through His mother Mary, and He needed God’s help to overcome sin in the flesh. He had the fullness of God’s Spirit within Him without measure, and that from conception (John 3:34, Authorized Version), which enabled Him to stay sinless…

“Christ was not in any way guilty or sinful because of an ‘original sin’ which had been passed on genetically to Him when He was conceived in Mary’s womb, but Christ was conceived with human nature… Romans 8:3 tells us that Christ came ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ to overcome and condemn sin in the flesh.”

We also said this:

“A baby in his or her mother’s womb is not guilty because of ‘original sin,’ nor has he or she committed any sinful acts in the mother’s womb. When Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb, He was not guilty because of any ‘original sin,’ nor did He commit any sinful act in the womb of His mother. But as a human being conceived with human nature, a baby has the propensity of and proclivity for sin, and it would have sinned following birth (The only exception was the Man Jesus Christ—even though He, too, was conceived with human nature, God the Father’s Holy Spirit dwelt within Him from inception without measure, enabling Him to overcome sin in the flesh—including His own human nature—so that He NEVER sinned.).”

When the Bible says that Christ came “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” it also expresses the concept that He came “in” or “into sinful flesh,” as we pointed out in the above-stated Q&A.

The fact that both expressions (“coming in the likeness of sinful flesh” and “coming in sinful flesh”) are conveying identical thoughts has been clearly understood by commentators and translators. For instance, the Jerusalem Bible renders Romans 8:3-4 as follows:

“God has done what the Law, because of our unspiritual nature, was unable to do. God dealt with sin by sending his own Son in a body as physical as any sinful body, and in that body God condemned sin. He did this in order that the Law’s just demands might be satisfied in us, who behave not as our unspiritual nature but as the spirit dictates.”

The “likeness” of something or someone describes an IDENTICAL copy or representation of something or someone else.

The Greek word for “likeness” is “homoioma,” and means, quite literally, “something made like” or “being the same” (derived from “homos,” meaning “the same.”)

The same word is used in Romans 5:14: “… death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam…”

Adam’s descendants had not committed the same identical sin which Adam had committed, in that they did not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they had sinned, of course, because death reigned over them, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). We see, then, that the word “likeness” describes the identical duplication or representation of something else. If they HAD sinned according to the “likeness” of Adam’s sin, then they would have committed the same IDENTICAL sin.

The most convincing Scripture proving the accuracy of our statements in this Q&A can perhaps be found in Philippians 2:7 where we read that Christ came “in the likeness (“homoioma”) of man.” This is another way of saying that He came as a man; that He BECAME a man; that He WAS a man (compare John 1:1, 14).

So, when He came in the “likeness” of sinful flesh, He came in or into sinful flesh. That is, He became a man with human nature which is described as sinful as it CANNOT be subject or obedient to the Law of God (Romans 8:7). However, with the help of God the Father, Christ WAS able to OVERCOME His human nature—self—and learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

As Christ was fully man—as He came in the “likeness of man” and “in the likeness of sinful flesh”—He had to overcome His flesh and make sure that He would not succumb to the temptations of His flesh. That is why we read that Christ, “in the days of His flesh… offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear” (Hebrews 5:7). In that way, He overcame self.

We read that He had a human will which did not want to die, but He submitted to God’s Will, saying, “… not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39), adding, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (verse 41). He knew beforehand what would await Him, and He said to His disciples: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished” (Luke 12:50). But if He had followed His human will to escape His pre-ordained fate (giving in to the will of His “weak flesh”), He would have sinned, as He would have disobeyed God’s Plan for Him and for all of mankind.

If Christ would not have had “sinful” human flesh or human nature, He would not have been susceptible to Satan’s temptations either (since God cannot be tempted by evil, James 1:13), but He clearly was tempted by Satan and had to conquer him (Matthew 4:10; Mark 8:33). When Peter tried unknowingly to circumvent the Will of God, Christ told him: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense [a stumbling block] to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).

As Christ overcame His human nature, Satan the devil and the world (John 16:33), so must we (Revelation 3:21).  With the living Christ in us, we CAN obey God and become and stay righteous, so that the “righteous requirement of the law” CAN be “fulfilled in us” (Romans 8:4). We do not HAVE TO sin. Human nature cannot be subject to the Law of God, but God’s Holy Spirit in us helps us to overcome human nature and be obedient.

Christ NEVER sinned (Hebrews 4:15). But of Himself, He could do nothing (John 5:19, 30). It was the Father IN Christ who did the works (John 14:10), including the “works” of overcoming and staying obedient. With the help of God the Father’s Spirit within Christ without measure, leading, guiding and empowering Him, He could and did overcome the human nature of His “sinful flesh,” NEVER sinning even once (1 Peter 2:21-22; 1 John 3:5), and thereby becoming the perfect Sacrifice for us, paying the death penalty for our sins on our behalf and giving us the opportunity to “become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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