Our Saviour’s Weakened Human Nature
A reader asks, “Could Christ have contracted disease while on earth? He had no original sin and had He not had our sins imputed to Him would never have died. Correct?” There are really two questions in what the reader writes. I will try to answer both of them in turn.
Our answer to the first one, “Could Christ have contracted disease while on earth?” must be in the affirmative. We never read that our Lord was sick but Paul does write, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).
Christ came not in the likeness of sinless flesh but in the likeness of sinful flesh. We must not take this to mean that Christ could sin for He most emphatically could not. Scripture is clear on that. He is the Second Person of the Trinity who possesses the entire divine nature and He united to it His human nature. He was God in our flesh and God cannot sin: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).
That He came in the likeness of sinful flesh means that He did not come in the strong and powerful human nature that Adam possessed before he fell but in the likeness of our flesh: weak, subject to trouble and disease, easily wearied (for our Lord was weary, hungry and thirsty) and eroded by 6,000 years of sinning. This is why, for example, Hebrews can tell us that He was tempted, even as we are tempted. He knew from experience the power and attractiveness of temptations. As such, He is a sympathetic high priest to whom we may boldly come to seek forgiveness and strength to stand against the wiles of the devil (Heb. 4:15-16).
I remember that long ago my pastor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema, began a sermon on Hebrews 4:15-16 with these words: “Beloved, this is such a beautiful and comforting text that I thought about reading it several times and then sending you home. I am afraid I might spoil it.” He then preached a sermon that was gripping, comforting and spiritually encouraging. The text is possible only because our Lord was born in the likeness of sinful flesh.
Christ was born a baby, weak, helpless, dependent on His mother and crying when He was hungry, yet without any sinful petulance. He did not have a halo on His head, any more than any of us has a halo—even though in our pride we sometimes think we do.
Finally, Psalm 103:3 reads, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” Our Lord could not heal our diseases without experiencing them Himself. He was indeed like us in all things—except sin.
The second question cannot be answered. It is like asking: If Adam and Eve had not eaten of the forbidden tree, and they had lived forever, how many children would they have had? Or, if Adam and Eve had not sinned, would everyone now born have also been born, only in a state of moral perfection?
The fact of the matter is that Christ came into the world in order that sin might be imputed to Him. If one looks at the matter from the historical viewpoint, one would say that Adam and the whole human race sinned, and God provided Christ in order that He might save His elect from the fallen human race through the imputation of their sin to Christ. God sent Christ into the world to bear the sins and guilt of His people. If God had determined not to save a people for Himself, He would never have sent Christ into the world. The moment Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit the sin of the elect was imputed to Him. It was the very purpose for His coming into the world. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21).
Paul calls this the “great” “mystery” (I Tim. 3:16), for God’s purpose is profound and glorious, and the way of salvation is a wonder of which no mere creature could possibly have thought. Here is where the Arminian, with his heresy of a universal, ineffectual atonement, comes to disaster—with all his false theology. God imputed our sin to Christ. That means that Christ suffered the full penalty of sin for all those whose sin was imputed to Him. He bore the penalty of sin that consisted of death when God drives man from the world and assigns him an eternity of punishment in hell: “To live apart from God is death!”
If God imputed to Christ the sin of all men absolutely, no man any longer can or will perish in hell; all will be saved. But if God chose to glorify Himself through Christ (Eph. 1:3-14), and through Christ by imputing to Him the sins of the elect, then Christ had to die and go to hell for the elect alone.
Blessed gospel! “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:19). Prof. Hanko
For more on Christ’s real, complete, sinless, individual and weakened human nature, plus His virgin birth, temptations and His fulfilment of God’s covenant prophecies, listen to the 8 CDs on “The Incarnation of the Son of God.” The cost for this attractive box set on Belgic Confession 17-18 is £10 (inc. P&P) or listen free on our website.
- Volume: 16
- Issue: 5
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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