Did Jesus assume a fallen nature?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: Did Jesus assume a fallen human nature?

Answer: Thank you for asking such an important question. It took over three centuries for Christians to write down a doctrinal consensus about the nature of Christ… how it is that he is fully human yet fully divine. The thing I can’t tell is if you are challenging the consensus of Christian scholarship that has stood for over 2000 years… because that would be a huge wall to scale!

Here’s why I am confused about your intentions: your question is based on a false premise. Its wording implies that if Jesus is a human being (and that is Christianity’s stand), then he is — necessarily — a fallen being. After all, that’s the nature of human nature.

But I reject that conclusion. The Bible does indeed teach that Jesus is a human. But it does not teach that he is fallen. Granted, he is unique in being unfallen. But that’s what Scripture teaches! Through both direct and implied affirmations, the Bible tells us that Jesus was human, yet sinless — and this, I affirm. But I can’t continue without challenging your motives.

I don’t know if you “designed” your question thinking that, if you insert your desired answer in the question — and if we agreed that Jesus is human — then we must conclude that he is fallen. That won’t work because — if that was your intention — then your question is based on a false premise… and questions based on false premises can’t be answered without first correcting their propositional content.

You might be innocent, though. It might be that that’s just how the question came out! But either way, I will answer this query by giving you a Bible-based answer on how it is that Jesus is human — yet not fallen.

The first thing we will do, then, is show you where the Bible teaches that Jesus was human, and here we will run into two types of verses. Some state plainly that Jesus was human. Others imply (or have their logical basis in) the fact that, when we are talking about Jesus, we are talking about a human being. These two types combine to make a cumulative that Jesus was fully a man — just like us.

Of the first type, the Bible states plainly that Jesus was a man.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,”
(1 Timothy 2:5, NIV, emphasis mine)

Note also that Jesus identified himself as a man.

“As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.” (John 8:40, NIV)

Acknowledging that Jesus came into this world as a man is a hallmark of spiritual truth.

“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,” (1 John 4:2, NIV)

Of the second type, the Bible shows that Jesus was a human through its narratives.

Jesus had a normal human ancestry (Matthew 1:1-17) and a normal human birth (Luke 2:7). He was a normal child (Luke 2:17) who developed as a normal human being (Luke 2:52). He also had a normal human name and a normal human penis (Luke 2:21).

The Bible also shows Jesus doing normal human things… like being tempted (Matthew 4:1), being hungry (Matthew 4:2), being thirsty (John 19:28) and being tired (John 4:6). He also touched people (Matthew 8:3), felt sorry for them (Luke 19:41) and bled (John 19:34). Jesus prayed (Hebrews 5:7), he suffered (Luke 22:44) and he died (John 19:33).

There are two takeaways here. One is that the Bible teaches that Jesus was human. But, when it came to being human, Jesus was no “superman.” In fact, he was just the opposite. Jesus was an “everyman.” You see, if Jesus did not have a human nature just like ours, then two things would suffer:

First, he would not have been able to bear our sorrows and sins as effectively as he did (Hebrews 2:18). Second, he would not have been able to redeem us! Under Jewish law, a redeemer has to be related to the one redeemed… and every one of us “born again’ Christians are children of God (John 1:12) — Jesus’ brethren (Hebrews 2:12). So, it was a big deal that he was human. God could not have worked his purposes for humankind unless that was so.

As you can see, the cumulative case is overwhelming: Jesus was just as human as you or I. The thing the Bible does not teach is that he was as sinful as you or I. Those are separate issues… but in your question, you joined them. That is obfuscation — a logical error. So, if you cast the question that way — trying to “trick” us into admitting that Jesus was fallen — it didn’t work. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that the wording was incidental.

Now, that’s only half the answer. The Bible also teaches plainly that Jesus was without sin. Here are a few of the verses that teach this.

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:21–22, NIV)

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV)

So, does the Bible say how God pulled this off… how it is that Jesus took on a definitively sinful nature yet remained spotless? In fact, it does. He came in the “likeness” of flesh, not in the flesh itself.

“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3–4, NIV, emphasis mine)

Got Questions Ministries has an entire article that is dedicated to this very question. Instead of just restating it, I will include it below.

What does it mean that Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh?

Romans 8:3–4 says, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” To understand what it meant for Jesus to come “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” we need to define a couple of terms.

When the Bible refers to “the flesh” (John 6:63Romans 8:8), it usually means the human tendency to sin that we all inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12). When Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God’s commandment, they became “sinful flesh.” At that moment, sin entered God’s perfect world and began to corrupt everything (Genesis 3). Since every human being came from Adam, we have all inherited his fallen nature. So every person is born as a sinner (Romans 3:1023).

The word likeness means “resemblance” or “the state of being like something else.” A likeness is not identical in substance or nature, but it is similar in appearance. A likeness is a representation of the original. For example, idols are made in the likeness of birds and beasts and created things (Romans 1:22–23; Exodus 20:4–5). A photograph is a likeness. Philippians 2:6–8 describes Jesus setting aside His divine privileges as God to take on the likeness of the humans He had created (see also John 1:3). However, Jesus did not have an earthly father, so He did not inherit a sin nature as all other human beings do (Luke 1:35). He took on human flesh, yet He retained His full divinity. He lived the life we live, suffered as we suffer, and learned and grew as we learn and grow, but He did it all without sin (Hebrews 4:155:7–8). Because God was His Father, He lived only in the likeness of sinful flesh. Jesus inherited the flesh from His mother, Mary, but not the sin from Joseph.

Jesus became man in order to be our substitute. In His flesh, He had to suffer physical pain, emotional rejection, and spiritual separation from God (Matthew 27:46Mark 15:34). He lived the life human beings live, but He did so in the way we were meant to live—in perfect fellowship with a holy God (John 8:29). Because He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, He could then present Himself as the final sacrifice sufficient to pay for the sins of all humanity (John 10:18Hebrews 9:11–15).

In order to receive the gift of a full pardon from God, every person must allow Jesus to be his or her personal substitute. That means we come to Him in faith, recognizing that, because He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, was crucified, and took on the sins of the world, our sin can be paid for in full (2 Corinthians 5:21). Our own sinful flesh is crucified with Him so that we are free to follow the Spirit in total obedience to God (Romans 6:6–11Galatians 2:20). Christians are those who have Christ’s death and resurrection credited to their account, thus wiping out the debt we owe God (Colossians 2:14). Because of this full pardon, Christians daily reckon themselves dead to their own sinful flesh. Since Christ conquered sin and death in His flesh, we can live by the power of His Spirit, who will conquer sin and death in all who trust in Christ (Galatians 5:1625Romans 8:37).

https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-likeness-sinful-flesh.html

My prayer is that these answers might pave the way for you to become a child of God. Alternately — if you are one — that they will help you have faith in God’s word. Either way, God bless you.

To find out more about salvation, click here.

 

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20210719 Did Jesus assume a fallen nature?).

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