Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15)
Hebrews 4 has been a great comfort to many Christians throughout history, including myself. Jesus felt all the temptations that we do and knows all the sorrows that we do, so He can sympathize with the situations that we’re in. Scripture also makes it clear that He never sinned. In fact, it isn’t even possible for God to sin, because He is essentially good and holy.
But when I contemplated this, it brought up questions in my mind. I sent this question to an apologetics website called STR Place to see what they had to say.
Scripture is clear that Jesus did not sin and that He can sympathize with our weaknesses. According to the traditional doctrine, Jesus wasn’t even capable of sinning because He is fully God. But if He wasn’t even capable of sinning, what is the significance of His temptations and sinlessness? What does it mean for Jesus to be able to sympathize with us, as Hebrews 4 states, if He never sinned like us? What is the point of tempting Jesus if He can’t sin in the first place? If one can be tempted, doesn’t that presuppose the ability to sin?
They posted this question on their blog as a challenge question for people to answer, then Brett Kunkle made his own video responding to it. Here it is.
A point that I’d like to add to this video is that when humans are tempted, we usually give in. We don’t know the full power of temptation because we usually feed it before it gets too strong. Jesus, however, fought sin to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). It is precisely because Jesus never gave in to sin that He knows the power and anguish of temptation better than we do. Though Jesus never sinned, He experienced the pain we feel, and one day we will experience the same joy He’s feeling now.