Physical and spiritual nature
Let us first of all make note of a fundamental truth: Every person in the universe possesses a physical or a material nature which depends on genetics or physical attributes. However, each one also possesses another nature, a spiritual nature which depends on the state of his spirit.
Man's body has a carnal or fallen nature. It has weaknesses and tendencies which are genetically passed on. But he also has a carnal spiritual nature. He has a mind or spirit which is totally selfish and which will naturally lead him to do what is self-centered. Sin is not a matter of genetics. Sin originates in the mind. It is a matter of the state of the mind.
The source of selfishness
The only person in the universe who is naturally unselfish by nature is God. When God brought forth a Son, this selfless nature was passed on to His Son who inherited the very life and nature of His Father.
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) (1 John 1:2)
Therefore there are only two Beings in the universe who are naturally selfless and they are God and His Son. All other beings are only selfless if they are united to God through His spirit. Without this union they are naturally selfish and self-seeking.
But selfishness is not a thing of the flesh. Selfishness is not a thing which depends on behaviour or how a person responds to the law. Selfishness is a quality which comes from within, from the mind of man and is the natural attitude of all men who are separated from the spirit of God. Even if a person learns to obey the law, it will not make him an unselfish person.
Education cannot make a person unselfish. Studying the Bible, relating to the law cannot make him unselfish. The only thing which can make a person unselfish is union with God. Therefore, no amount of education in itself could have made Jesus behave properly if His nature was not a good nature.
Here, some say that He was good, only because He was filled with His Father's spirit, but that He Himself, by nature, was just as selfish and corrupt as all men are. This is a totally false idea. If this was so, where did this selfishness and corruption come from? He inherited Adam's flesh, but not Adam's mind.
The Divinity of Christ
When He came to this earth, Jesus emptied Himself of his divine power and divine glory. What else was left of the Son of God? What made Him still the son of God?
There are some who go so far as to say, His power was gone, His glory was gone, His mind was gone, His nature was gone, His character was gone – so what was it that came from heaven? What remained of the Son of God? According to their theory, He was all gone! All that remained was a name and it had to be a false name, because NOTHING of the original remained.
Well, if this were true, then the only conclusion we could come to is that Jesus was not the Son of God, and God could just as easily have taken any other human baby and done the same with him as He did with Christ.
Those who believe this have destroyed the Son of God. If we accept this belief we have destroyed the truth that Jesus was the Son of God even more effectively than the doctrine of the Trinity has done.
The truth is, divinity is not just power , but it also includes nature .
Divine power has to do with the almighty ability of God to do anything, to work miracles to create worlds, to repel every device of Satan. Jesus left every such ability behind when he became a man. (Phil. 2:5-8).
Divine nature is that quality of being which God and His son alone possess as a natural attribute, but which can be imparted to those who receive the life of Christ. This quality is an aspect of God's nature which makes His attitude totally different from all created things. When Jesus came to this earth He did not leave this divine nature behind.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
“.... let every human being be warned from the ground of making Christ altogether human, such an one as ourselves; for it cannot be. The exact time when humanity blended with divinity, it is not necessary for us to know. We are to keep our feet on the Rock Christ Jesus, as God revealed in humanity.” (5BC 1128)
God is good. He is wholly good. This means that He never has and never had a single impulse which was not wholly based on love and selflessness. We all know this to be true. This quality is not based on God's power, nor is it based on God's knowledge. It is the very essence of God's nature. As the Bible tells us, “God is love.” It is what He is. It is the essential quality of His being and in truth, it is the great quality which separates divinity from all created beings.
Contrary to what some believe, power is not the main attribute of divinity. If this were so, then Satan would be closer to being divine than men, because he has far greater power. The main attribute of divinity is that God is perfectly good. He is pure love.
Jesus, as the Son of God possessed this (spiritual) nature of divinity, fully combined with the fallen (physical) nature of Adam. It was His by right. It was His by birth, by nature, because He was divine. He was the Son of God. As Ellen White so aptly put it, “a divine spirit dwelt in a temple of flesh.” So all His impulses were to do good, to do what is loving, to do what is righteous, and it was so by nature.
However, it is evident that the power of God was available to him and that without this power, He would not have been able to carry out many of the good things which His mind made him want to do. Though He was good in himself, yet he did need to be baptized with the holy spirit, he did need the power of His Father to carry out the desires of his heart.
In one sense, Christ had to come down to our level. He took our physical nature with all its liabilities, weakened by 4000 years of degeneracy. Here, He came down fully to our level. But now that He was here, how could he help us if he was in exactly the same position? Can a man pull another from quicksand if he is also standing in the quicksand? No, that is an impossibility. Jesus needed to stand on vantage ground even as He came down to our level. He had to have some means of uplifting humanity and this means could not be found in humanity, for there is nothing good in humanity. He had to bring divinity into humanity and He could only do this if He himself was divine. In Himself He united divinity with humanity and in this way He elevated humanity to the place where man became the son of God.
He did not take humanity and then teach man how to receive the holy spirit. Any other man could have done this, but only the Son of God could have become one man who was both divine and human, for He was both. This is what humanity needed to save it.
Can divinity be tempted?
A mind with divine powers cannot be tempted because such a mind knows the end from the beginning. But a divine mind without its powers which cannot see the future and which cannot know all things can be tempted. It can be tempted to choose the way of self rather than the way of surrender.
It is true that the very essence of evil is selfishness and divinity is entirely loving and selfless. Jesus by nature was selfless from the moment of birth. But what Satan tried to do all his life was to get him to do something which was not outwardly selfish, but which was based on self-government. This was another way of getting Him to submit the principle of self, which is the foundation of Satan's government.
His three temptations in the wilderness were illustrative of how Satan tried to get Christ to sin.
He first tempted him to turn stones to bread. This was something which did not seem to be selfish, but it would have meant that Jesus acted on his own initiative without the Father's direction. In actual fact, Satan was tempting Jesus to become His own God. Jesus told Satan that man must live by the word of God. God must direct every aspect of life and man must make no decisions of his own.
Jesus was next tempted to jump from the pinnacle of the temple and prove that he was God's Son. This was an invitation to prove that He was God's Son by performing a miracle. This would have been His decison rather than God's. Again, He was tempted to act without God's direction.
Thirdly, he offered to give Jesus control of the world without any need to struggle or die, if he would just worship him. It was an offer for Jesus to gain control of the world by a means other than the one which God had ordained. Jesus immediately repelled the suggestion.
The only time the Bible reveals Jesus struggling with self-will is in Gethsemane and on Calvary. At no other time in his life did He ever struggle against the Father's will. But even then, what did Jesus say? “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” Did He seek a selfish way? No. He said, “if there is some other way that they may be saved without me having to be separated from you, then please let it be done in that way.” There was no selfishness in this. If there was an easier way, then there was no need for him to take the difficult way. But now, we see that He was being tempted to choose His way, rather than the Father's way. Not a selfish way, but a self-determined way.
This was the very root of Lucifer's rebellion. Selfishness means to be thinking of self instead of others. Self-determination, self-government means to be choosing my own way rather than God's, even in doing good. It has to do with faith or the lack of it and means trusting my wisdom above God's. Even if I do good for others and it is self-determined it is sin.
But did Jesus have to struggle and fight against the temptation to commit fornication? Did His body pull him towards sex with such force that He had to take cold showers to cool off? Did He have to struggle to avoid saying suggestive words to Mary and Martha and resist the urge to touch them in inappropriate places? Absolutely not! But there are some who believe that Jesus was tempted with the same temptations, with the same degree of intensity with which these temptations appeal to us. But the Bible says that sin was a thing which Jesus hated . It was not something which He was drawn towards.
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Heb 1:9)
Of course the Bible says that He was tempted in all points like as we are. However, when we consider a few things carefully it becomes plain that though He was tempted like us in principle, He did not undergo our temptations in every detail.
First of all, two persons can face the same exact temptation and while one finds it impossible to resist, the other has no such problem. The fact that Jesus had to face the same temptations as we do and was tempted as we are, does not mean that He had to struggle just as we struggle with those temptations.
When does temptation become really strong, is it when it momentarily comes to our minds, or is it when we begin to think about the possibilities?
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:14-15)
When a man looks at a beautiful woman, when is he really strongly tempted to go to bed with her, is it when he first looks at her, or is it when he begins to cherish the thought of what might happen between them? Every honest person knows the answer. Temptations are only strong when we cherish the thought of what it would be like to give in. When a person's mind is decisively made up that he will not carry out a certain action, then effectively, that action loses all power to tempt him.
We can consider Joseph's response to Potiphar's wife and compare it to David's sin with Bathsheba. Temptation gained a foothold in David's mind as he lingered on the roof, feasted his eyes on the beautiful body of his neighbour's wife and considered the possibilities. Not so with Joseph who never for a moment contemplated the thought of what it would be like to be in bed with his master's wife.
Now, did Jesus ever play with the thought of sin? Did He ever make room for the possibility of wrong doing? Absolutely not!! Therefore it is clear that in terms of the temptations which frequently beset us, Jesus never underwent the struggles to overcome which we often have to go through.
It is true that Jesus had to obtain victory over sin. This is what He has to give us. But this does not mean that He had to struggle with sin in the same way as I struggle. Why not? Because He did not come to give me a struggle with sin, He came to give me a victory over sin. What He needed was to be victorious over sin. This is all He needed to do. Having obtained that victory, by whatever means, he now gives that life to me which is already victorious over sin.
Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The reason why we find his yoke easy, is because Jesus came to give us what he had already obtained.
“He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions. As the sinless One, His nature recoiled from evil.” (T2, page 202)