My six-year-old daughter is full of questions. If she’s not asking what set the sun on fire, she wants to know why our noses point down instead of up. It’s a fun and exhausting season as I find myself trying to explain ideas I’ve taken for granted. My favorite questions, though, are the ones she asks about God.
One such question came up as I tucked her into bed the other night, “Mama, can God sin?”
“No, Baby, God is wholly good; He can’t sin.” I quickly replied, hoping this wouldn’t delay her imminent bedtime. Seemingly satisfied, she rolled over and fell asleep; leaving me alone with my swirling thoughts, wondering . . .
But, What if God Could Sin?
Throughout Scripture, the prophets and saints tell us with passion and certainty that God is without sin.
In Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses declared God to be “[t]he Rock–His work is perfect; all His ways are just. A faithful God, without bias, He is righteous and true.”
During his diatribe to a grieving Job, Elihu said, “It is impossible for God to do wrong, for the Almighty to act unjustly.” (Job 34:10)
In his letter to the early Church, James warned, “No one undergoing trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ since God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.” (James 1:13)
It’s clear then, according to Scripture, God is without sin, He could not possibly act unjustly, or fall into the temptation of evil.
But what if God could sin? What would that mean for His character? What would that mean for us? What if, just for a moment, we considered the impossible? Perhaps, it would lead us to love the Lord just a little bit more than we already do.
Daring to Engage With the Possibility
First, we need to understand what sin is. In his book, Systematic Theology, Dr. Wayne Grudem asserts, “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature”. (p. 491)
Sin violates God’s law either by action (ie: physically stealing someone’s belongings) or attitude (ie: coveting someone’s possessions). But it’s also anything that violates God’s law by nature. What does that mean?
When Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit, they ushered in a new human nature. Their “DNA” was altered, so to speak; it became corrupt. Therefore, every human thereafter is born into this world bent toward sin and destruction, in direct opposition to the will of God.
This is what makes our situation so hopeless without Christ. We come into this world inherently opposed to God, with no way to reconcile ourselves.
Uncovering The Real Question
Now that we’ve defined sin, we understand “could God sin?” really means, “could God violate His own moral law?”
According to 2 Timothy 2:13b, the answer is NO: “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
In other words, God cannot be anything other than Who He is.
So who is God?
Well, among many other things, God is omnipotent, righteous, and holy.
God is Omnipotent (all-powerful). God’s omnipotence means He can do anything, right? But if He can’t sin, is He truly omnipotent?
Yes. You see, when we sin, it is often because our will fails and we bend to Satan’s power. So, in order for God to sin, He would have to give in to temptation; His will would have to bend. But because God is all-powerful, His will can never fail. No temptation can overpower Him. If God could sin, it would be a sign of weakness, proving He is not all-powerful, and therefore, no god at all.
God is Righteous. In His letter to the Romans, Paul considers human nature and declares, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). God, however, is righteous, meaning He always does what is right and just. (Psalm 119:137-144) If God was able to sin, He could act unjustly or even cruelly. An unjust (and all-powerful) god would be a terrifying reality.
Finally, God is Holy. To be holy means to be untainted by sin and set apart for the service and glory of God. If God could sin, He would no longer be holy. And no longer holy Himself, He would have no power to make us holy, leaving us without hope and without a savior.
After consideration, I am compelled to agree with Scripture: God is, indeed, without sin.
He cannot act unjustly or cruelly.
He cannot deny Himself.
I’m so thankful for these truths. And I’m thankful to serve a God who invites us to come to Him as a child- a crazy, inquisitive child- and seek His truth. For when we do, our hearts cannot help but echo Jeremiah 10:7 in exclaiming,
“Who should not fear You, King of the nations?
It is what you deserve.
For among all the wise people of the nations
And among all their kingdoms,
There is no one like You.”
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