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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Sinlessness —‘The sinlessness of Jesus’ is a phrase which only imperfectly indicates the ground it is intended to cover. It is too negative. ‘The sinless perfection of Jesus’ would be a more adequate phrase. But ‘the sinlessness of Jesus’ has an attractive sound; it is the title of a book—that of Ullmann cited below—which may be called classical; and it would be unwise to displace it from the position of honour it occupies, although we must use it with the understanding that it means more than it says. It is not to be confounded with the errorlessness of Jesus. Indeed, the very latest writer on the subject (Max Meyer, op. cit. infr .) refers with the utmost frankness, if we ought not rather to say thoughtlessness, to the mistakes of Jesus (p. 9), while vigorously defending His sinlessness. But on this subject see the much more profoundly considered judgments of Dorner ( Glaubenslehre , ii. p. 472 ff.) and Tholuck ( Das AT [Note: T Altes Testament.] im NT , p. 24 ff.).

An argument for the sinlessness of Jesus has been elaborated by Ullmann from the prevalence of holiness in Christendom.

Wherever Christianity exists—thus the argument proceeds—there holiness also is to be seen. While exceptionally advanced holiness may be of rare occurrence in any society, there is not a country, or even a town or village, in which Christianity is established but there will be found in it numbers of persons striving after a holy life. In every Christian congregation there are at least a few specimens of character so striking that even those who are themselves destitute of religious aspiration acknowledge them to be no earthly products, but to have a heavenly origin; while more sympathetic observers will say that to them the sight of one such holy person has been a more convincing argument for the reality and the blessedness of religious experience than all the verbal arguments they have ever listened to. For this phenomenon is specifically Christian. It is true that heathenism has its so-called holy men—that is, persons separated from the world and devoted to God—but it requires little discrimination to perceive the difference between an Indian fakir and a Christian saint. The classical nations produced many a splendid specimen of human nature; but the best of them were essentially different from those whom Christendom would recognize as holy. Even Socrates, as every one must know who has read the Memorabilia of Xenophon, was not holy in the Christian sense, but, at certain points, very much the reverse. In what precisely the difference consists it may not be easy to say, but it is quite easy to feel, holiness being, like beauty and some more of the finest things, in the last resort indescribable. But whatever may he its exact definition, holiness is, at all events, essentially Christian. Those who are possessed of it would acknowledge that they owe it to Christ, their communion with God being based on the sense of reconciliation through Christ, and their benevolence towards men due to their adoption of His views as to the dignity and destiny of human nature. They are imitators of Him, yet they always know Him to be infinitely above them. Here, then, is the argument: ‘If Christ is the source of holiness in others, and if He stands far above the holiest of those who derive it from Him, it is a reasonable inference that He must Himself be sinless’ ( op. cit. pt. ii. ch. 2, § 3).

On different minds such an argument will make different impressions; but we are certainly going upon more solid ground when we turn to the testimony of Scripture.

1. Here the first thing to be noted is the impression which He made in the days of His flesh on both friends and foes . Thus, when He presented Himself for baptism among the multitude at the Jordan, the Baptist forbade Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?’ ( Matthew 3:14). Whether this sense of inferiority and unworthiness on the part of the Baptist be ascribed to a long acquaintance with Jesus beforehand, or to the rapt dignity in the expression of Jesus at the moment, it is equally remarkable. Even more pronounced was the sense of the same contrast expressed by St. Peter, when, after the miracle wrought before his eyes in his own boat, he shrank away, exclaiming, ‘Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ ( Luke Luk_5:8). This was the spontaneous effect on a sensitive conscience of the proximity of the Divine; it was the terror of sin at the manifestation of sinlessness. These were testimonies of friends; but His enemies, in their involuntary tributes, were no less explicit. Thus, the centurion who presided over the crucifixion exclaimed, as he saw Him expire: ‘Certainly this was a righteous man’ ( Luke 23:47). The wife of Pilate made use of almost the identical expression when she sent to her husband the message: ‘Have thou nothing to do with this just man’ ( Matthew 27:19). Pilate himself said: ‘I find no fault in him’ ( John 19:6). And even Judas Iscariot, though he had known Him long, and had, at the moment when he spoke, a strong interest in recalling anything with which he could have found fault as an excuse for his own conduct, acknowledged that he had betrayed ‘innocent blood’ ( Matthew 27:4).

2. Of more theological importance are the statements in what may be called the authoritative parts of the NT . St. John says: ‘Ye know that he was manifested to take away sins; and in him is no sin’ ( 1 John 3:5). Such was the total impression carried away by this disciple from the years of intimacy with his Master. Elsewhere he expresses the same sentiment more positively, as for instance in the prologue to his Gospel; but this statement of the negative may here suffice. Next to St. John in intimacy was St. Peter; and he summed up his experiences, very soon after these had been received, when, in his great speech on the Day of Pentecost, he referred to Jesus as ‘the Holy and Righteous One’ ( Acts 3:14); and that, with the process of time, his convictions on this point had not changed is proved by the declaration in one of his Epistles: ‘Christ also suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ ( 1 Peter 3:18). St. Paul echoes the same sentiment when he states: ‘Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). No other NT writer has, however, set down statements on this theme so striking and beautiful as those of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who calls Jesus ‘holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners’ ( Hebrews 7:26); and, in another passage, declares: ‘We have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ ( Hebrews 4:15). These quotations are not exhaustive; but they are so directly to the point that it is useless to add to them. If there be any virtue in proof-texts, the sinlessness of Jesus is proved beyond contradiction.

3. Of all the testimonies of the NT, however, the one to which we turn with the keenest curiosity is the testimony of Jesus Himself  ; and we have to see whether He committed Himself on this subject. The result of such an investigation is perhaps less satisfying than might have been hoped. On one occasion, indeed, He said to His opponents: ‘Which of you convicteth me of sin?’ ( John 8:46); and if, as appears to be the case, this was a general challenge in reference to His whole life and conduct, and not a denial of a particular sin, it would hardly have been possible to make a more distinct claim to sinlessness. On the same occasion He said: ‘He that sent me is with me: he hath not left me alone; for I do always the things that are pleasing to him’ ( John 8:29). Very similar was His declaration on another occasion: ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work’ ( John 4:34). To the Apostles, at the Last Supper, He said: ‘I will no more speak much with you; for the prince of this world cometh, and he hath nothing in me’ ( John 14:30), which seems to be a denial that in Him there was any point of contact where the Evil One might bring his accusations or fasten his temptations. It will be observed that all these citations are from the Gospel of St. John; and there are none of equal force in the other Gospels.

But if the things about Himself which He says in this connexion are less striking than might have been expected, all the more impressive are the things about Himself which He does not say. He never makes any confession of personal sin. This is one of the cardinal facts of the Gospels. It is not as if He had been one of those religious teachers who, whether deliberately or inadvertently, pass by the subject of sin. Not only did He spend a great deal of His activity in the denunciation of sin, but He taught His own intimate disciples to pray habitually for deliverance from it; no fewer than three of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer being to this effect. Yet what He advised others to do He never, as far as we can learn, did Himself. Of His intimate life of prayer we possess pretty ample records; but in none of these are there any confessions of sin. This omission is all the more remarkable when the practice of other conspicuous figures in Holy Writ is noticed. The most prominent names of the OT are all remarkable for their frequent and ample confessions of personal guilt. Thus the Psalmist says: ‘Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me’ ( Psalms 51:5); Isaiah says: ‘Woe is me; for I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips’ ( Isaiah 6:5); Job groans: ‘I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes’ ( Job 42:6); Ezra prays: ‘O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our heads, and our guiltiness is grown up unto the heavens’ ( Ezra 9:6). With the corresponding figures of the NT it is not different. Thus, St. Paul cries: ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?’ ( Romans 7:24); and even the saintly St. John confesses: ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ ( 1 John 1:8). Thus, both the worthies of the OT, from whom Jesus learned, and the worthies of the NT, who learned from Him, speak on this subject with one consent; and it may be added that the more of religious genius any of them had, the more poignant were their cries for pardon. Jesus, however, differs in this respect radically from them all, and science must assign a reason for the contrast. If it was a defect, it was a serious one. If He sinned, like the other children of Adam, but failed to be humbled and to confess His fault, this brings Him down beneath the religious heroes of the race; for what feature of religious genius is more essential than humility? But if it was no defect, what other explanation of it can there be but sinlessness?

4. Objections. —Ever since the time of Celsus there have been objections raised to the sinlessness of Jesus, and exceptions, more or less specific, taken to His moral character. During the greater portion of Christian history, however, it has been taken for granted that He was without sin; this being the very least that has been spontaneously conceded by any affecting to believe on Him in any sense. Even the early Socinians were ardent defenders of this doctrine. It was not till the age of Deism and Rationalism that to express doubts on this subject became a common characteristic of unbelief. The revival of evangelical faith in the nineteenth century raised up a host of defenders, not only those in the full current of the revival being on this side, as a matter of course, but many distinguished scholars who stood somewhat aside, such as Schleiermacher, Schweizer, Hase, Keim and Weizsäcker being forward in the same cause. On the contrary, Strauss, in his books on the Life of Jesus, advanced further and further in the direction of denial; and Pécaut in Le Christ et la Conscience , 1859, displayed a zeal worthy of a better cause in heaping up every conceivable objection to the Saviour’s conduct. On the whole, the great series of Lives of Christ, which have formed a leading feature of the theology of the last two generations, have been loyal to the conviction and testimony of Christendom; but, in the very latest productions which have appeared in this field, an uncertain sound is heard (see, e.g. , O. Holtzmann, Leben Jesu , esp. p. 34; Weinel, Jesus im neunzehnten Jahrhundert , esp. pp. 61 ff. and 274 ff.), so that it is quite within the bounds of possibility, or even probability, that this belief may lave to be earnestly contended for in the not distant future.

The objections alleged are either ( a ) of a more general and philosophical order, or ( b ) relate to actions of Jesus in the Gospels which are considered inconsistent with a perfect character.

( a ) In the days of the Old Rationalism the commonest objection was that sinless perfection is inconsistent with moral development: man has to raise himself from matter to spirit, and from imperfection to perfection. Kant held that virtue consists solely of moral conflict; and many, appealing to him, concluded that Jesus could not be a genuine man unless He began in imperfection and fought His way up to sinlessness. Similar to this is the well-known position of Strauss, that it is not the way of the idea, in fulfilling itself in actuality, to pour all its fulness into one specimen, which is thereby enabled to boast itself over all the rest; but that, on the contrary, it likes to display its riches in a multiplicity of specimens, which mutually supplement and complete one another. Such objections formed part and parcel of the intellectual world in which they were excogitated; and, as that world has long ago passed away, it is hardly necessary now to attempt the refutation of them.

Far more persistent has been the impression that sinlessness is inconsistent with genuine temptation; and as it is certain that Jesus was tempted, it may be argued that He cannot have been sinless.

Under the stress of this consideration, Schleiermacher, who made the sinlessness of Jesus the very basis of his speculative system, practically denied the reality of the temptations of Jesus. Edward Irving, on the other hand, appealing to such texts of Scripture as  Romans 8:2 and  Colossians 1:22, taught that the human nature of Jesus had in itself the principle of sin and error, and not only was capable of erring and falling, but was disposed to all evil; although, by the energy of the Holy Ghost within Him and the energy of His holy will, He overcame every temptation as it arose.

What Irving and others who have agreed with him or adopted kindred notions have felt has been that, without such imperfection in the human nature of Christ as they postulate, there can have been no real conflict with evil, and that so the accounts of our Lord’s temptation, which are intended to be so priceless to His tempted disciples, lose their virtue, the conflict being reduced to a sham fight. To this it has been replied, by Dorner and others, that the presence in the human nature of our Lord of the contrast between knowing and willing makes real conflict possible; for the knowledge is antecedent, and then the will has to be brought up to the level of knowledge. Further, the contrast between body and spirit makes conflict possible, because the body may, without sin, feel strongly all the instincts of life; yet the spirit may discern the necessity for overcoming these and accepting, as Jesus did, suffering and death in loyalty to a peculiar vocation. As a faultless man, Jesus had a right to all the rewards and pleasures which ought, in the nature of things, to ensue upon welldoing; and it could not be without conflict that He resigned His rights and embraced a lot so contrary to His deserts. In the little work of Meyer, mentioned below, the greater part of the space is devoted to the solution of these riddles.

However the enigma is to be solved, certain it is that Jesus was tempted. The scenes in the Wilderness, in Gethsemane, and on the Cross, when He is represented as in conflict with the powers of evil, were not less severe than the similar experiences of ordinary mortals, but far more so. His purity made the inrush of temptation more painful. His humanity had not the stolid calm of a lethargic temperament, but was sensitive at every pore; He felt not less but more than others the condemnation of unjust authority, the desertion of friends, and the apparent frustration of Providence. Even if the attempt to reconcile the two should be beyond the reach of human wisdom, we will not surrender either member of the great assertion, that He was tempted ‘like as we are, yet without sin’ ( Hebrews 4:15).

( b ) The other kind of objection relates to specific statements of the Gospel history which are held to be inconsistent with sinlessness. Thus, it is contended that His staying behind at Jerusalem, when He was twelve years of age, and His answer to Joseph and Mary, were not worthy of an obedient child; and objection is, in like manner, taken to His sharp reply to His mother when she tried to turn Him back from the fulfilment of His vocation. In cleansing the Temple, He is charged with displaying undue vehemence, and it is held that He exhibited an arrogance unbecoming His youth and His position in His attacks on the scribes and Pharisees. In cursing the fig-tree, it is claimed, He gave way to temper; and, in the casting of the demons out of the possessed man of Gadara and giving them permission to enter the swine, with the result that two thousand of these were lost to their owners, He displayed a lack of respect for the rights of property. Most of such charges are venerable with age and have been answered so often that it may be scarcely necessary to attempt to answer them again; but there are two more, of which something may require to be said.

It has been held that the action of Jesus in presenting Himself before John to receive ‘the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,’ betrayed a consciousness of guilt. This objection has been recently revived by O. Holtzmann, who quotes from the Gospel to the Hebrews —a document to which he attaches great importance—a statement to the effect that, when solicited by His mother and His brethren to accompany them to the Jordan, Jesus demanded wherefore He should go, as He had no sin to wash away, but immediately checked Himself by adding, ‘Unless, indeed, this is uttered in ignorance’; and the author adds that, unless Jesus had said this, no writer of a Gospel would have invented it. Much more, however, than is known of the Gospel to the Hebrews would require to be ascertained before this could be asserted; it may have been the organ of an Ebionite tendency in the early Church, to which such an invention would have been congenial (cf. Enseb. HE iii. 27). The movement of John had a positive as well as a negative side: it was not only a ‘baptism of repentance,’ but a great new consecration to God and country, in which Jesus was bound to take the lead; and many have believed that, even at this stage, He so identified Himself with His people that He felt their sin to be His own, and in the act of baptism symbolized that washing of it away which was to be accomplished through His death.

The other objection to which importance attaches is the answer of Jesus to one who addressed Him as ‘Good Master’—‘Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God’ ( Mark 10:18). It is not obvious why Jesus should have objected to be called ‘Good Master,’ such a mode of address being, one would suppose, a form of courtesy in which there was no harm; and this suggests the probability that the humour or irony of Jesus may have been at play; so that it is dangerous to interpret Him too literally. What was it that He wished to turn the inquirer’s attention to? Stier’s dilemma ought not to be forgotten: ‘Either, There is none good but God; Christ is good; therefore Christ is God: or, There is none good but God; Christ is not God; therefore Christ is not good.’ The reading in Mt. ( Matthew 19:17), where the point under discussion is the Good in the sense of the Summum Bonum , renders it dubious what was the real topic of the conversation. But if it really was about whether or not Jesus was good, then it is possible to say that Jesus was not ‘good’ in the same sense as God; because His goodness, being that of a human being, was only in process of becoming, and had to realize itself on every step of a long ascent. The comment of Dr. A. B. Bruce in EGT [Note: GT Expositor’s Greek Testanent.] may be subjoined: ‘The question means not “The epithet is not applicable to Me, but to God only,” but “Do not make ascriptions of goodness a matter of mere courtesy and politeness.” The case is parallel to the unwillingness of Jesus to be called Christ indiscriminately. Weinel complains that this objection is usually answered with too much levity; and it cannot be denied that there is a body of objections worthy of candid and careful investigation. Not only will they bear pondering, but they will reward it; for if they do not cause the student to stumble, they will have the opposite effect of leading him further into the mystery of the Person of Christ.

5. The relation of the sinlessness of our Lord to other elements of the Christian system .

(1) It has an obvious bearing on the Virgin-birth . Had Jesus been an ordinary link in the chain of humanity, He could not have been sinless; for ‘there is none righteous, no, not one’: in all who have descended from Adam by ordinary generation, there is a ‘law in the members warring against the law of the mind.’ It has been said, indeed, that immunity from this sad inheritance could not have been secured in the way suggested, because the motherhood of Mary, unless she also had been sinless, would have transmitted the tainted nature. We know, however, too little of the way in which the soul is transmitted to be sure of this. And if it must be allowed, on the other hand, that we know too little to have scientific assurance of the contrary, yet the providential arrangement seems intended to suggest this end. It may, indeed, be said that it suggests it too obviously, and that the story of the miraculous birth was an afterthought, to confirm the sinlessness. But the theory of the Gospel history which presents one part as fitted to another with miraculous cleverness, so as to make one idea account for another, is not consistent with the simplicity of the character of the authors or the straightforwardness of their narration. There is a logic in facts as well as in ideas; and this seems to be an instance of fact answering to fact in the Divine intention, the human mind only discerning the fitness as it looks back on the accomplished history.

(2) It has a bearing on the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ . Some have, indeed, held it directly to prove His Divinity; because, they have argued, the moral force of mere manhood would not have been equal to the task of maintaining a life of sinlessness in a sinful world. If even Adam, in an empty and sinless world, fell, what chance was there of another, standing in a world so corrupt and a society so perverted as that in which Jesus lived, moved and had His being? To bring the Divine nature, however, into play, to account for the sinlessness, would obscure the reality of the temptation of Jesus; and it obscures the vital truth that His sinlessness was not only a gift but an attainment, which He had to secure afresh on every step of a human development, and which rendered Him supremely well-pleasing to His Father in heaven. God gave the Spirit without measure unto Him ( John 3:34); and, by constantly receiving this Divine communication and giving it free play within Him, He garrisoned His human nature against the advances of sin. This is enough to account for His constant victory over temptation. Although, however, His sinlessness does not directly prove His Divinity, it is not without a bearing on it of an important kind: it lends weight to all His statements, and especially to His statements about Himself. A sinless being could not make statements which were false, extravagant, or overweening. Now, Jesus made statements about Himself that either were visionary and unbecoming, or proved Him to be greater than the children of men; and if His character supplies strong reason for accepting these as words of truth and soberness, the bearing of this fact on our beliefs about Him cannot be ignored.

(3) It has a bearing on the doctrine of the death of Christ . The Apostles of Jesus did not expect Him to die; and the reason of this was that they knew Him to be without sin. Death is for sinners; but why should one die who is sinless? This was the puzzle with which the followers of Jesus were perplexed when He was lying in the grave, and it seemed as if His cause had perished in this unanswerable enigma. It is well known what came, through the illumination of the Resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to be the Apostolic solution of this mystery. The Apostles believed and taught that He had, indeed, died on account of sin, yet not on account of sin of His own, but for the sins of others. Jesus Himself had declared in the days of His flesh that He would give His life a ransom for many ( Matthew 20:28). Had He been one of the sinful sons of Adam, He could have done nothing of the kind; for ‘none of them can redeem his brother or offer to God a ransom for him’ ( Psalms 49:7). Had Jesus been a sinner like the rest, He would have had to die like the rest for His own sin.

There are probably other elements of the Christian faith on which this subject could be shown to have a bearing; but these will suffice. Since Ullmann’s celebrated exposition this argument has proved one of the handiest and most effective of apologetic weapons. Persons who have grown up in a Christian atmosphere readily yield to its truth; and then they can be shown how much more it involves. In those times of inward storm, due to many causes, to which young minds are subject, it is sometimes of the greatest advantage to find a spot of shelter in which to cast anchor, till the onset of doubt has subsided a little; and for this purpose the sinlessness of Jesus is without a rival. It is not a place to rest in, but a stage on the way.

Literature.—Ullmann, Die Sündlosigkeit Jesu [first sketch appeared in 1828 in SK [Note: K Studien und Kritiken.] , seven editions in author’s lifetime, English translation, T. & T. Clark]; Dorner, Jesu sündlose Vollkommenheit [appeared in 1862 in JDTh [Note: DTh Jahrbücher fur deutsche Theologie.] ], see also chs. 105 to 107 in the same author’s Glaubenslehre [English translation, T.&T. Clark]; Schaff, The Person of Christ 12 [Note: 2 designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 1882 [with bibliography]; Liddon, BL [Note: L Bampton Lecture.] , Lect. iv.; Forrest, Christ of Hist. and of Experience , Lect. i., and Authority of Christ , 10. The latest publication is Meyer’s ‘Jesu Sündlosigkeit’ in Zeit- und Streitfragen .

James Stalker.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [2]

sin´les - nes  : The 15th Anglican article ("Of Christ Alone without Sin") may be quoted as a true summary of Scripture teaching on sinlessness: "Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted, from which He was clearly ( prorsus ) void, both in His flesh and in His spirit... Sin, as Saint John saith, was not in Him. But all we the rest, though baptized, and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things; and, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves."

1. Christ Sinless:

Here the sinlessness of the Incarnate Son is affirmed. It needs no elaborate argument to show that this is the affirmation of Scripture. It is not only, as we are reminded above, definitely taught there. Yet more is it implied in the mysterious (and morally miraculous) phenomenon of the Lord's evidently total immunity from the sense of sin , His freedom from inward discord or imperfection, from the slightest discontent with self. It is not too much to say that this representation is self-evidential of its truth to fact. Had it been the invention of worshipping disciples, we may say with confidence that they (supposed thus capable of "flee handling") would have been certain to betray some moral aberrations in their portraiture of their Master. They must have failed to put before us the profound ethical paradox of a person who, on the one hand, enjoins penitence and (with a tenderness infinitely deep) loves the penitent, and, on the other hand, is never for a moment penitent Himself, and who all the while has proved, from the first, a supreme moral and spiritual magnet, "drawing all men to him." Meanwhile the Scripture represents the sinlessness of the Incarnate Lord as no mere automatic or effortless condition. He is sensitive to temptation, to a degree which makes it agony. His sinlessness, as to actual experience (we are not here considering the matter sub specie aeternitatis ), lies in the perfect fidelity to the Father of a will, exercised under human conditions, filled absolutely with the Holy Spirit, willingly received.

2. Saints Not Sinless:

On the other hand, "we the rest," contemplated as true believers, are warned by the general teaching of Scripture never to affirm sinlessness as our condition. There are passages (e.g.  1 John 3:9;  1 John 5:1 f) which affirm of the regenerate man that he "sinneth not." But it seems obvious to remark that such words, taken without context and balance, would prove too much; they would make the smallest sense of sin a tremendous evidence against the person's regeneration at all. It would seem that such words practically mean that sin and the regenerate character are diametrical opposites, so that sinning is out of character , not in the man as such, but in the Christian as such. And the practical result is an unconquerable aversion and opposition in the regenerate will toward all known sin, and a readiness as sensitive as possible for confession of failure. Meanwhile such passages as 1 John are, to the unbiased reader, an urgent warning of the peril of affirming our perfect purity of will and character. But then, on the other hand, Scripture abounds in both precepts and promises bearing on the fact that in Christ and by the power of His Spirit, received by faith into a watchful soul, our weakness can be so lifted and transformed that a moral purification and emancipation is possible for the weakest Christian which, compared with the best efforts of unregenerate nature, is a "more than conquest" over evil (see e.g.  2 Corinthians 12:9 ,  2 Corinthians 12:10;  Galatians 2:20;  Ephesians 6:16;  Judges 1:24 ). See further Flesh; Spirit .