COULD CHRIST SIN?
It is not, however, the object of these remarks to repudiate or disregard the mode by which the Father wrought out these results by Christ, or the principle involved in that mode. Though Christ was the Father's manifestation by the express operation of the Spirit, it is not to be suggested that he was without a separate and independent will in the part he performed.
The existence of a separate and independent will is several times alleged by himself, as when in the Garden of Gethsemane, he desired to escape from the terrible ordeal impending, but added, "not my will but thine be done". The existence of a separate and independent will was a necessity for what he had to do; for what was that? To yield an acceptable obedience. Thus Paul says, "he was obedient unto death" (Phil 2:19). And again, "By the obedience of Christ many are made righteous" (Rom 5:10). Because of his obedience, he was styled by Yahweh, "my righteous servant" (Is 53:11). There can be no obedience or righteousness without independence of will. The very essence of obedience is voluntary compliance, and there can be no voluntary compliance if the will is chained. No one would say an engine is obedient; neither could it be said that a child is obedient if you give it opium and tell it to be quiet, and it does so; or if you tie it in a chair and tell it not to leave the room, and it does not do so. The nature of obedience, and the beauty of it require the utmost liberty of action on the part of those from whom it may be exacted. That Jesus had this liberty, he expressly declared in saying, "thinkest thou that I cannot now pray unto my Father, and He shall presently give more than twelve legions of angels, but how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled? (Luke 26:53). So that the thing that deterred Jesus from praying for deliverance at this stage was the consideration that the Scriptures would thereby be broken. So with his temptation in the wilderness. He had power to make stones into bread, but he refused to exercise that power because of the sanction it would have given the tempter's philosophy of life and its objects.
If the question be asked, how came it that Christ's will always acted with the Father's as no other man's did, it is here that the object of God Manifestation becomes apparent. There never could have been such an obedient man if God had not produced him, and made him what he was; but God does not stultify himself in any part of his work. Therefore, though God, in Christ, produced one who was righteous under all trial, he did not tie or force his will, but gave him that complete independence of volition, and ample opportunity of disobedience which gave acceptability to his obedience, and value and force to it as an example to us.
The principle involved in God's procedure towards man absolutely required this. The object aimed at throughout is the voluntary consecration of independent will to his glory. It is for the development of this result that all ages of evil are allowed. The prevalence of evil is the necessary foundation of righteousness. If it were not for this element of the work of God, the world's history is without an explanation. Take it away, and we are in darkness, and there is no reason why God should not at the first have populated the earth with sinless immortals. The long reign of evil is the measure of the value God attached to the voluntary obedience of independent will. The evil has come through the impartation of this power of independent will. Man has misused it, and hence the reign of evil; but the gloriousness of the obedience of a multitude who will come out of this great tribulation, is so great as to be more than a compensation for the night that broods over the world.
Christ was the inauguration of this race of sons obedient under trial. His obedience was perfect, and we are forgiven and accepted by God through him at last, if Christ at the judgement accounts our obedience to him sufficient. It is left in his hand to determine this. But we must not shut eyes to the fact that he in himself inaugurated the principle of our acceptance. It is expressly testified that he was "made perfect through suffering" (Heb 5:8); further, that "though he were as son, yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered" (Heb 5:8); also, that because he loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, therefore he is exalted to his present position of supremacy (Heb 1:9); also that it was the consideration of the joy set before him that led him to endure the cross and despise the shame (Heb 12:2). We must not allow any conception we may form on the subject of God manifestation to exclude these scriptural declarations. One part of the Truth never interferes with another, when rightly understood. There is always a tendency on the part of those who strongly sympathise with one phase of truth, to shut their eyes, to other phases, which are not in opposition, but which on a superficial view appear to be so.
To the question "could Christ sin?" The answer in view of the foregoing facts, is easily discernible, and ought to be offered for the agreement of all sensible men. Christ could disobey, so far as the possession of an independent will, and the opportunity to disobey, were concerned; but Christ could not disobey with the clear and constant perception he had, (which no other man had) of the glory and righteousness and sweet results of obedience, and the delight it was to him to do the will of God. The case is perfectly illustrated by the remark made a few months ago which was unreasonably presented by those who have gone to extremes, VIZ that a sane, healthy man can commit suicide so far as power to commit self destruction is concerned, but cannot commit suicide in view of all the facts and principles that bear on the act.
Bro Robert Roberts, The Christadelphian Magazine, 1875