How Could Jesus be “Without Sin”?

Image result for virgin birth free images

How Could Jesus be “Without Sin”?

James R. Aist

The Bible says that “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yet, Jesus Christ lived on the earth for 33 years as a man, was tempted to sin in every way that all other people are tempted, but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). How can this apparent contradiction be resolved, and how could Jesus be the only man who did not sin? The full answer to this question may surprise you, as it did me.

The Dual Nature of Jesus

Part of the answer to this question lies in the fact that Jesus was fully man and fully God, at one and the same time. He received His humanity from His mother, Mary, and He received His Divinity from His father, the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). With the Holy Spirit as His father, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception and always had the full power of the Holy Spirit available within Him to resist temptation. Moreover, as the Son of God, Jesus was God, and, as such, it was not in His divine nature to sin, but to be true to Himself as the “Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 43:3). But, there is another unique characteristic of Jesus that gave Him a “leg up” on the rest of us when it comes to resisting temptation, and it has to do with His humanity. Let’s see what that advantage is and how He came by it.

The “Sin Nature” of Man

When Adam and Eve chose, of their own “free” will, to believe Satan instead of God (Genesis 3), they took on a “sin nature” (Colossians 3:8-10), or a predisposition to sin, that has been passed down to all subsequent generations, including ours. We have inherited, so to speak, from Adam and all subsequent fathers, a “sin nature”, an inborn desire to reject God’s provision and follow our own path in life. This sin nature can also be aptly described as an ever present readiness to do evil (i.e., disobey God). This predisposition to sin is so pervasive as to render us, in our “natural-born” state, in rebellion against, and at enmity with, God. Thus, it is relatively easy for us to yield to temptations to sin; it’s part of the nature of fallen man to do so. Note that it is from (i.e., through) Adam, not Eve, that all subsequent generations of men inherited this sin nature.

Now, let’s “fast forward” to the time of Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), not by a male descendant of Adam, as were all the rest of us. Thus, the inheritance of the sin nature was not passed down to Jesus. This is huge, because it means that, unlike everyone else since Adam, Jesus was not born with a predisposition to sin, as were all of the rest of us. This is why Jesus could say, in all truth, that Satan has nothing in Him (John 14:30); He did not have the sin nature that Satan takes advantage of when we are tempted. And, I believe, that fact must have had a lot to do with how Jesus could live for 33 years without sin. The “virgin birth” of Jesus achieved even more than I was aware of, until now.

What’s In It for Us?

Well, this changes everything for us, and here’s why. Whereas the First Adam sinned, and from that sin death entered into man’s relationship with God, Jesus, the Second Adam, broke the curse of that original sin by offering up to God a sinless life that enabled Him to pay the price for our sins and restore our relationship with God. Jesus undid the damage that was caused by Adam’s sin! But, without having lived a sinless life, Jesus’ sacrificial death would have paid for His own sins, not ours, and we would still be dead in our sins without any hope of escaping God’s wrath. All we have to do is to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross and our sin problem vanishes; then we will have been made, in Christ, the righteousness that God requires (Philippians 3:9), and we will qualify for heaven. Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross yet? Why not let today be the day of your salvation?

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

The Two Kinds of Faith

Image result for faith free images

The Two Kinds of Faith

James R. Aist

“There are two kinds of faith. There is the natural faith. But the supernatural faith is the gift of God.” – Smith Wigglesworth, in “Faith that Prevails”

Introduction

Several years ago I heard someone make the statement that “To help someone accept Christ, just show them that they already use faith in their everyday life, and explain to them that all they have to do is use the same faith to believe in Jesus.” Well, I didn’t know why at first, but that statement just didn’t seem to ring true, especially in light of what the Bible actually says about faith. So, I began to search it out more carefully, and that’s how I came to realize that there are actually two kinds of faith, and that they are really very different.

Natural Faith

“He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky…’” (Matthew 16:2-3a). Jesus is speaking here of a kind of faith that I call “natural faith.” Based on the appearance of the sky, we believe that the weather will be fair or stormy. And so, we plan and proceed with our day accordingly, using our natural faith.

What I mean by “natural faith” is the faith that we are born with, the kind of faith that we come by naturally. This kind of faith is in our “nature” from birth. Everyone, including atheists and scientists, has natural faith and uses it every day.

Here are some additional illustrations of the daily working of natural faith, to help you see more clearly what I mean by “natural faith.” By our natural faith, we believe that if we turn the ignition key, the car will start, and so we do it “on faith.” By our natural faith, we believe that the chair we are about to sit on will be strong enough to support our weight, and so, by faith, we “take a seat.” By our natural faith, we believe that if we put a dollar bill into a change machine, it will return four quarters, and in it goes. By our natural faith we believe that the peaches we see at the supermarket will be juicy, sweet and tasty, and so into the cart (“buggy” in the South) they go. And, by our natural faith, we believe that the pilot will get us safely to our destination, and so we board the airplane. We are all very familiar with this “natural faith.”

So we see that natural faith enables us to operate successfully and productively in this natural, material world in which we live. It helps us to overcome daily uncertainties that would otherwise paralyze us with fear and render us helpless.

While natural faith is a necessary part of successful and productive living in this natural world, it is not perfect, as witnessed by the fact that the car doesn’t always start, the chair doesn’t always hold, the change machine doesn’t always return four quarters, the peaches are not always juicy, sweet and tasty, and the airplane does not always arrive safely at its destination. And still, we continue to use our natural faith. What choice do we have, really?

Supernatural Faith

But there is another kind of faith, sometimes referred to as “saving faith.” Saving faith is the gift of God that enables us to believe the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught that saving faith comes from God in Matthew 16:17, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven”, and in John 6:64-66, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

Paul spoke of this gift of supernatural faith in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”, and in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…”

And in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul elaborates on the same teaching: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (For a scholarly exposition on the meaning of this passage as I understand it, click HERE). In this passage we have the two kinds of faith juxtaposed and contrasted:

  • this faith is “not from ourselves”; i.e., it is not something that we were born with and possess naturally; and
  • this faith is “the gift of God”; i.e., it is a present that is given, or added, to us by God (hence, “supernatural”)…that’s how we get it.

Likewise, we can see the two kinds of faith juxtaposed in one of my favorite Bible verses, Proverbs 3:5. To illustrate this example, allow me to reproduce this verse with the insertion of two italicized, parenthetical phrases: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (supernatural faith), and lean not on your own understanding (natural faith)…”

So, what does supernatural faith do for us that mere natural faith cannot? Well, among many other things,

  • it enables us to qualify for heaven, (John 6:27-29) “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent”;
  • it enables us to stand firm in the faith to the end (Matthew 10:22);
  • it enables us to understand spiritual things, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14); and
  • it enables us to extend the “resources” that we can call upon, as we are no longer limited to what we can do for ourselves, but we can now appeal to God for His help and provision, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).

Will this supernatural faith ever fail us? No, contrary to natural faith, supernatural faith will never fail us: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). God is faithful, even when we are not (Romans 3:3-4), and His word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Conclusion

We see, then, that our natural faith is necessary and sufficiently effective to enable us to operate successfully in this natural world, but it will not enable us to qualify for heaven. It takes a special gift from God – supernatural faith – to do that.

(For more articles on Biblical Teachings, click HERE)

Some Thoughts on Suffering

A tornado near Seymour, TexasSome Thoughts on Suffering

James R. Aist

“The way to deal with suffering in any form – from the mildest irritation to the mental and physical agony that so absorbs and overwhelms you that you groan and scream – is to offer it to God who has permitted it, telling Him to make what He wills of it, and of us through it.” – John Eldredge

Introduction

I’m not an expert on the topic of how to deal with suffering, and I doubt that I have anything really new to say about it. And I do not have the definitive answers that most people yearn for. But I do have experience with serious suffering, having been forced to suffer through a deeply painful divorce that broke up my family, and having had to deal with the death of my 20 year-old daughter who was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street. And, I tend to process and analyze thoroughly my experiences with suffering, rather than just dismiss them quickly and move on. So, perhaps, something I say here, or how I say it, will be helpful, at least in some small way, to you or someone you know who is suffering with a loss or a personal tragedy. For those of us with a Christian world view, one of the first thoughts that pops into our head when we are suffering is, “Why did God allow that to happen?” So, let’s start there.

God Has a Reason

The week following the death and burial of my daughter was a week out of Hell. I was numb, so stunned and emotionally drained that I couldn’t even go to work. All I could do was to sit in my recliner in the corner of the living room and rehearse the events of the past week. The unthinkable had happened, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Now, I’m usually not one to ask God “Why did you allow this to happen?”, but at one point during that week I was hurting so bad that this question was about to come out of my mouth. At that moment, I was stopped by the Holy Spirit with these thoughts that rushed through my mind: “You don’t need to know why. You know God well enough to trust that He has a good reason.” Suddenly, a peace came over me, and I no longer felt the need to ask “why?” God paints with a broader brush than we can even imagine. Put another way, God is sovereign over His entire creation and knows the end from the beginning. And, sometimes, in order to accomplish a greater good, He has to allow us to suffer in this life. Even if He were to explain it to us, I doubt that we would be capable of understanding the explanation, much less of accepting it as sufficient. Sometimes we just have to trust God to have a good reason, even if it hurts terribly and we can’t even imagine what that good reason might be.

God Does Not Delight in Suffering

 “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (Psalm 22:24).

In the Garden of Eden there was no suffering; that is, until Adam and Eve sinned against God. Then the whole creation, including mankind, came under a curse. As a result, sin, suffering and death became the lot of mankind in this life. Suffering is a result of sin entering the world through Adam (Romans 8:18-23). But one day, God will create a new heaven and a new earth in which the original conditions of His creation will be restored. Then there will be no more sin, no more death and no more suffering (Revelation 21:4). That is the heart and will of God toward His chosen ones, and that is the promised future for all born-again Christians.

Jesus Was a Sufferer

“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”
(Isaiah 53:3)

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering.”
(Isaiah 53:4)

Because Jesus experienced the most extreme and unjust kinds of suffering, He knows what we are going through. He invites us to cast all our cares upon Him, including our sufferings, because He cares for us and He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7).

Finding the Silver Lining

Suffering can be a good teacher. My brother, Gene, used to say, “Some people live and learn; others just live.” I’m more of a live and learn kind of guy. Although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I learned a lot from going through the divorce with my first wife. I learned what is most important to me in choosing a spouse. I learned what the roles of a Godly husband are. And I learned how to be strong in a marriage relationship. Ok, I’ll admit that there are less painful ways to learn those things, but, for some of us, it turns out that suffering through a divorce is just what it takes to motivate us sufficiently. I was determined not to make the same mistakes again. And I didn’t.

Suffering can also be a good trainer. In order to be a more effective and understanding high priest, Jesus was made like us,fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and … Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:16-18). In the same way, to the extent that we learn positive lessons from our suffering, we are made wiser, more compassionate and better able to minister effectively to others who are suffering. Granted, we are not likely to be thinking along these lines while we are going through the suffering, but this can be a silver lining that appears later around the edges of our storm cloud of suffering.

And finally, suffering can produce a harvest of undeniable good. Until a couple of years ago, I struggled to find any good that can come from a long, painful and seemingly undignified illness, such as often happens with cancer patients. Death comes without any easily identifiable good resulting from such prolonged agony. Then I heard an exceptional, true story that changed my mind. An elderly, born-again lady was suffering from cancer for six months and was under sedation for severe pain most of the time. In her hospital room, she drifted in and out of consciousness, mostly out. But during this time, something extraordinary happened. Her family began to sense a very strong presence of the Holy Spirit in her room every time they came to visit. The hospital staff began to sense the same thing. The born-again Christians among them were able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all who came into the room. Word of this spiritual experience spread among the staff, and more and more of them came into the room to find out for themselves. By the time the lady finally passed away, 18 people had received Christ as their Lord and Savior because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in her hospital room and the faithful obedience of the believers present! Now, this may sound presumptuous, but I can only imagine that this is one cancer patient who would agree that her suffering was well worth the harvest of saved souls that resulted from it.

Knowing When to Quit

When tragedy happens, it is normal — perhaps necessary – to try to understand why it happened, or why God allowed it, or if there is any good thing that can possibly come of it. I believe it can be a good thing to attempt to find answers to these important questions. Sometimes, one can come to, at least, a tentative answer that is satisfying to some extent. But, at some point, chasing these elusive answers gets to the point of diminishing returns. We find ourselves retracing our thoughts without any new revelations or any greater understanding than came to light the last time we agonized over the same thing. That’s a good time to practice self control and quit trying to figure it out. It’s time to force ourselves to focus on moving on, and to just let it be what it is.

Keeping the Faith

If you’re angry with God, you believe in Him. So trust in Him too. He has a good reason for whatever He allows in your life.

Sometimes, people get so angry with God for allowing something really bad to happen to people they know and love that they turn against Him, abandon their faith and break off fellowship with Christian friends. Nothing good can come from such a reaction. When this happens, it’s a good time to re-examine your knowledge and understanding of God and the nature of the faith that you did have. Was yours a natural faith contingent upon God pretty much doing what you want Him to do, or was it a supernatural faith based on a genuine, born-again experience? If you were born again, then you will not really abandon your faith; God will guard your heart and your mind and preserve your faith. You just have to stand firm until the storm passes.

Jesus didn’t promise us a “rose garden” in our Christian walk here on earth. But, He did say, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). So, hang on to your faith in Jesus no matter what happens in this world. That is the most precious of your possessions, and the one you can least afford to walk away from. Your eternal destiny is hanging in the balance.

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)