I’ve seen a lot of conversation this week on Twitter on one man’s public misunderstanding of what Scripture means when it assures us Jesus was, “tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin” (Heb 4:15). He asserts that Jesus experienced the same kinds of inward temptations of the heart we do–sexual thoughts and passions, for example. I’m not going to get into the whole debate (for reasons which will become clear), but I have two brief thoughts on the matter I’d like to share…
First: For years I thought in a similar heretical way that man does. Surprised? Well, the real surprise is that I did so because that’s what I was taught by one of my professors at a respected, conservative, Reformed seminary. It wasn’t until probably five years later–after I’d repeated what I was taught many times–that a learned brother read something I wrote and corrected me as to why that understanding is wrong.
To be charitable to my professor, I think he was well meaning, trying to show us Jesus loves us and knows our weaknesses. He may be a seminary professor, but he’s human. He may have since changed his understanding of that verse, I don’t know. He certainly wasn’t trying twist it the way some do, to coddle their fallen inclinations. Still, consider my story maybe another example of how sending someone through seminary, even a trusted, conservative one, doesn’t guarantee everything taught will be sound.
In context we see that God came to earth as fully God and fully Man. We know he experienced fully what it means to be human, “yet he did not sin.” As I would later correct my writing to say,
The Scriptures themselves only give evidence of Jesus only being tempted to sin by an external enemy, the Devil, and not from any inward inclination, which would have been contrary to his perfect, sinless nature.
Second, and to the heart of the matter: To focus on that one aspect of Hebrews 4:15 is to miss the point entirely. The point isn’t Jesus’ tempt-ability, if you will, but that his incorruptibility and perfection as our Great High Priest should give us confident conviction, which then ought to produce confident, fervent prayer.
The point isn’t Jesus’ tempt-ability, if you will, but that his incorruptibility and perfection as our Great High Priest should give us confident conviction, which then ought to produce confident, fervent prayer.
Sound doctrine is given to lead us into sound living. Hebrews 4:15 is a theological (doctrinal) statement at the heart of the two practical exhortations around it, in verses 4:14 and 4:16.
“Therefore, [which goes back to the theological truths given in the previous verses] since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess” (4:14 NIV, emphasis added).
[Next verse, 4:15, “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.” So…]
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:16 NIV, emphasis added).
Let someone else argue on social media (a pearls before swine endeavor, in my opinion). Instead, let’s you and me grab hold of these truths, go to our closet, shut the door, fall confidently to our knees, and pray, pray, pray.