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Christ, Original Sin, and Pain

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Covenant Reformed News

December 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 8

Christ, Original Sin, and Pain


Our readers will recall that in the last News we discussed whether our Lord could be sick. I answered in the affirmative for He was like us in all things, sin excepted (Heb. 4:15). The thought occurred to me that the fact that our Lord was without sin, even though He was born into our human race, requires some further explanation. In fact, one reader asked me personally how that could be: How could the Lord escape original sin and original corruption, for He was born of Mary and in the line of Adam?

The answer to this question is not stated in so many words in Scripture. The answer must be deduced from other truths the Bible tells us about our Lord Jesus Christ.

So that all our readers may know what original sin (consisting of original guilt and original corruption) is, a short explanation will assist us.

Original guilt is the guilt imputed by God to the whole human race for the sin Adam committed. That is, Adam was guilty before God for eating of the forbidden tree and he transgressed this divine command as the federal head of all who descended from him. What then of Christ Himself, for He was born a member of the human race?

The central proof for original guilt is found in Romans 5:12-14: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”

Although the truth of the above text is denied almost universally, it stands firm against all enemy attacks. Adam sinned. Death came into the world because of Adam’s sin. Why did death come on all men, even though they had not sinned as Adam did? Death came on all because all have sinned in Adam. People go to hell because mankind is guilty in Adam of eating of the forbidden tree. God also, of course, punishes the impenitent for their actual sins, the sins they commit personally.

Furthermore, Adam was a “figure” of our Lord, for Christ was eternally appointed to be the federal head of the elect. The result is that the righteousness that our Lord earned on the cross is imputed to all the elect for whom Christ is head and for whom He died.

Original corruption is the lot of all men, for death, which is the penalty for sin, came on all men. Paul reminds the Ephesians that they were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). All men are totally depraved (which is what death in sin means) who carry in them the corruption of sin. Total depravity is the punishment on guilty sinners that comes on all from guilty Adam.

Our Lord escaped original guilt because, although He was a part of the human race, His Person is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit who preserved Him from the corruption that is passed on from parents to children through conception (Luke 1:35). And so our Lord was like us in all things except sin.

Some also use the following argument: guilt is transmitted through the father; our Lord had no earthly father; God was His Father; therefore, Christ was without original guilt and corruption. In this argument, the last three statements are true but where is the proof that “guilt is transmitted through the father”?

In connection with this discussion, another reader wrote asking the following: “Could Christ feel pain? Could He have an accident?” I take the last question to mean, Was Christ subject to unintended injuries through some mishap?

In answer to the first question, yes, of course, He could, and did, feel pain. He could feel the slap in the face during His trial by the Sanhedrin. He could feel the crown of thorns pressed into His head. He could feel the whipping by the Roman soldiers. He could feel the excruciating pain of being nailed to a cross and hanging from those nails in the heat of the blazing sun. He felt the wrath of God as the very torments of hell, a pain we shall never have to feel, if we believe in Him who suffered for us. He suffered terribly in both body and soul.

The question about “accidents” is somewhat different. The reader should understand, first of all, that there is no such thing as an accident. We might be hurt if something happens to us that we did not expect. But God’s providence determines all things down to the smallest detail (Eph. 1:11).

Nothing could happen to Christ without His will as the eternal Son of God. He could not drown in a ship sunk by a storm on the Sea of Galilee. He could not be killed when the wicked tried to push Him off a cliff in Nazareth. Because He was “true God of true God” (as our beautiful Nicene Creed expresses it), nothing could take Him by surprise or happen to Him without His will.

But whether Christ’s divine nature, which is omniscient, always revealed all He knew to His human nature, I do not know. He knew, without being told, what His disciples were thinking. He knew that the cross lay at the end of His ministry. He knew what the Jews would do to Him, what Pilate would do to Him and what God would do to Him.

But did He know the identity of the woman who touched the hem of His robe? He asked, “Who touched me?” (Mark 5:31). Was that merely to bring the person forward? Or did He really not know? His divine nature did but did it always reveal things to His human mind? I do not know.

This is part of the great mystery of Immanuel, God with us. I know what the Creed of Chalcedon confessed: that Christ united in His divine Person both the divine and human natures without separation, without confusion, without mixture and without change. And I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (II Tim. 1:12). This is enough and this is my salvation!    Prof. Herman Hanko

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 16
  • Issue: 8
Hanko, Herman

Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)

Ordained: October 1955

Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965

Emeritus: 2001

Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko

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