Was Jesus Sinless and Does It Matter?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Yes, he was, and this is an essential doctrine of Christianity. I was quite surprised several years ago when I was talking to a friend of mine at work about Jesus, and he asserted that obviously Jesus was not sinless because he became angry.

My response to him was that anger, in and of itself, is not sinful. It is good to be angry about sin. There is such a thing as righteous anger.

But what disturbed me even more was his further claim that Jesus’s sinlessness, as far as he knew, was not taught in Scripture, and that it really didn’t matter anyway. Is that the case? Does it matter whether or not Jesus was declared sinless in Scripture?

First, we need to establish whether the Bible claims that Jesus was sinless. That is pretty easy to do, as there are several passages:

  • In 1 Pet 1:19 Jesus is referred to as a “a lamb without blemish or defect.”
  • In 1 Pet 2:22 Peter applies the prophet Isaiah’s words to Jesus: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
  • In 1 John 3:5 John proclaims about Jesus that “in him is no sin.”
  • In 2 Cor 5:21 Paul reminds us, about Jesus, that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.”
  • In Heb 4:15 the writer explains that in Jesus “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 it seems clear that the New Testament writers stated unequivocally that Jesus was sinless. However, it wasn’t just Jesus’s followers who claimed he was sinless. His enemies, likewise, found no fault in him.

  • In Mark 14:55 we read, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.”
  • In Mark 12:14 the Pharisees and Herodians said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.”
  • In Luke 23:22 Pilate asked, “What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty.”

But why is it so important that Jesus is sinless? Why is this an essential doctrine of the Christian faith? Theologian R. C. Sproul explains in his book Essential Truths of the Christian Faith:

The sinlessness of Christ does not merely serve as an example to us. It is fundamental and necessary for our salvation. Had Christ not been the “lamb without blemish” He not only could not have secured anyone’s salvation, but would have needed a savior Himself. The multiple sins Christ bore on the cross required a perfect sacrifice. That sacrifice had to be made by one who was sinless.

Sproul adds:

It was by His sinlessness that Jesus qualified Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. However, our salvation requires two aspects of redemption. It was not only necessary for Jesus to be our substitute and receive the punishment due for our sins; He also had to fulfill the law of God perfectly to secure the merit necessary for us to receive the blessings of God’s covenant. Jesus not only died as the perfect for the imperfect, the sinless for the sinful, but He lived the life of perfect obedience required for our salvation.

In summary, only the sinless God-man could bridge the gulf between God and man.

  • I’m not sure what people are thinking to think Jesus sinned. Obviously, they are missing the point of the gospel and/or are just coming from the idea that Jesus was just a man, a good teacher among many, and not seeing the signficance of the cross & resurrection. I wrote a paper on a related topic that might be of interest to some: “Could Jesus have sinned?” It is posted at http://bit.ly/Y4ToQE