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Non Posse Peccare

Regarding the impeccability of Christ, I’ve always had some trouble with the belief that Jesus was unable to sin. If he was truly unable to sin, then his temptation—it would seem—was meaningless, a fraud perpetrated by a con-man. However, the belief that he was not unable to sin, but only able to not sin, brings its own problems. I found the following explanation helpful.


Theologians commonly use two similar Latin phrases to make an important distinction in their discussions of Christ’s impeccability. He is non posse peccare (not able to sin), not merely posse non peccare (able not to sin). His holiness as a perfect man was not merely the happy result of His supernaturally empowered human self-control. His absolute sinless perfection was the necessary corollary of the fact that He possessed both divine and human natures. As God incarnate, Christ could no more sin than God can tell a lie, and “God . . . cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). “He cannot deny Himself “ (2 Tim. 2:13). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). His perfect, immutable, divine holiness made it impossible for Him to sin—not because he lacked any of the human faculties or natural weaknesses that make us susceptible to temptation, but because His revulsion for sin is so utterly absolute and His divine holiness is so gloriously superlative.

—John MacArthur, None Other (Reformation Trust, 2017), 74–75.

Posted 2018·04·16 by David Kjos
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