DID JESUS LEAD A SINLESS LIFE?
Beliefs of different groups
Beliefs of most conservative Christians:
There appears to be unanimity among conservative Christians that
Jesus was without sin during his earthly ministry. Some typical quotes:
||Baptist Information Service: "There
was never even a hint of sin or error in Jesus Christ, not in thought nor in
||Dan Boeckmann, Spring to Life: "I have know Jesus most
of my 44 years here on this earth. He committed no sin...For people to
say he committed sin is unfathomable for me. They must have never met
||J.G. Machen, "Christianity and Liberalism" (1923)
"He never in His recorded words
deals in any intelligible way with sin in His own life...He always
assumes that other men are sinful; yet He never finds sin in Himself. A
stupendous difference is found here between Jesus' experience and ours."
||True Jesus Church: "Since Jesus was not born of Adam or
the flesh, he did not have the 'death' Adam and Eve brought to all human
beings. Therefore, Jesus is holy and sinless." 4
||Apostolic Truth Church: Referring to Jesus' execution, they write:
"All this was done to a man who never did anyone any wrong; the
only completely sinless man who ever lived....It is through the willing
death of this sinless One and His subsequent burial and resurrection
that we can be relieved of our sins and their consequences."
||Grace to You: "If God were a man I would expect Him to
be sinless. The record of history and the affirmation of apostolic
testimony and the truth is, Jesus was sinless." 6
||Dale Johnsen: "Throughout Jesus' life on earth, He
obeyed all of God's law perfectly. Of all the 613 commands [in the
Mosaic code], He obeyed
every single one that applied to Him. He is the only One who ever did
this. Thus, through His perfectly sinless life, fulfilled the law on
behalf of a sinful human race which was unable to keep it." 7
Conservative Christians derive their belief about the sinless nature
of Jesus largely from their concept of salvation and
quoted above: "It is through the willing
death of this sinless One and His subsequent burial and resurrection
that we can be relieved of our sins and their consequences." Religious
understand that Adam and Eve's transgression in the Garden of Eden brought
sin into the world for the first time; this has caused
succeeding generations of humans to inherit a sinful nature. Further, the sin of the first
parents has alienated all humans from God. There was only one way
that this sin can be cancelled, and the separation from God
overcome: Everyone's sin had to be
transferred to God's son, a perfect human being. Jesus had to accept all of
the sins of the human race (past, present and future) and be murdered on our
behalf. Then, if an individual repents of their sin and trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior, she/he
will be saved and inherit eternal life in heaven.
[Some conservative Christians have dropped the requirement for
repentance on the basis that this requires effort on the part of the new
Christian. They view salvation as being totally a gift from God.] In order for
Jesus to be an acceptable human sacrifice, capable of creating a path by
which we can cancel our sin
and re-unite with God, he had to be devoid of sin.
Their belief is reinforced by various
passages in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament), some of which are listed
Beliefs of some liberal Christians:
As with so many other elements of Christian belief, there
is an unbridgeable gulf between conservative and liberal Christians on
the topic of Jesus' sinlessness.
Many liberals view Jesus as a 1st century Jewish rabbi, as a follower of
the great Jewish philosopher and theologian Hillel, as a native healer, and/or as a philosopher of
the Greek "cynic" school, etc. -- a
prophet with such advanced teachings in the areas of spirituality,
religion and community that his followers were inspired to found what was
to become the largest religion in
history. They view Jesus as a great human being, not as a deity. Thus
they believe that it is quite unlikely that he could have lived his
entire life without sinning.
The concept of salvation is not of great importance to religious
liberals. Most view Hell symbolically, not as a real place. Most interpret
Satan as a symbol of evil, not as an all-evil quasi-deity. Many are repelled by the concept of
God being so incapable of
forgiveness and empathy that he required the torture death of an innocent
man in order to allow believers to be saved. They also
believe that sins are not transferable. Thus:
||Present-day humans cannot
inherit the sin of Adam and Eve.
||Jesus could not inherit our sins.
these beliefs about Hell, Satan, God and sin, there is no need for Jesus to
a perfect human while on earth. Thus there is no need for him to have led a
The Qur'an is accepted by Muslims as the direct words of God, dictated by an
Archangel to the prophet Muhammad. It does not contain a passage
that directly states the sinlessness of Jesus. However, there are two
passages in the Qur'an which imply his sinlessness:
||Sura 22: 51: "Never have We sent a single prophet or apostle
before you with whose wishes Satan did not tamper. But Allah
abrogates the interjections of Satan and confirms His own revelations.
Allah is wise and all-knowing. He makes Satan's interjections a temptation
for those whose hearts are diseased or hardened - this is why the
wrongdoers are in open schism - so that those to whom knowledge has been
given may realize that this is the truth from your Lord and thus believe
in it and humble their hearts towards Him. Allah will surely guide the
faithful to a straight path."
||Sura 3:36: "...and have called her Mary. Protect her and all
her descendants from Satan, the Accursed One."
What does the public believe?
The Barna Research Group conducts
nationwide surveys among American adults on a variety of religious topics. Some
results from 1999 phone surveys are:
||42% of adults believe that Jesus committed sins while on earth.
||40% believe that he led a sinless life on earth.
||33% of Roman Catholics believe that he led a sinless life.
||Groups most likely to believe that Jesus led a sinless life are: Bible
readers (67%), Born-again Christians (65%), Baptists (61%), Church goers
(58%), and persons who attend non-mainline (mostly conservative) churches
In 2001, the same question was asked again. The percentage of adults who
strongly disagree that he committed sins during his life on earth remained
at 40%. However, Barna Research also listed results by denomination:
||Pentecostal / Foursquare: 73%
||Latter-day Saints (Mormons): 70%
||Assembly of God: 70%
||Non-denominational, mostly Fundamentalist: 63%
||Church of Christ: 54%
||Seventh-day Adventist: 45%
||Episcopal: 28% 8
In 2004, a Barna Research survey of the
"unchurched" found that 51% believe that Jesus committed sins while
on earth. Barna defines the "unchurched" as "...
an adult (18 or older) who has not attended a Christian church service
within the past six months, not including a holiday service (such as Easter
or Christmas) or a special event at a church (such as a wedding or funeral)."
They include many Agnostics, Atheists, non-church going Christians, Jews,
Muslims, Wiccans etc. They constitute 75 million American adults, an massive
increase from 39 million in 1991. 9
Baptist Information Service, weekly E-Mail update, Vol. 4, Issue
Spring to Life Home Page, at: http://www.spring2life.com
J. Gresham Machen, "Christianity & Liberalism, Chapter 5,"
"Questions and Answers," True Jesus Church, at: http://www.tjc.org/
"The truth about repentance," Apostolic Truth Church, at:
"The child who was God," Grace to You, at: http://www.gty.org/
Dr. Dale Johnsen, "Law and Grace - Part One," Ahtanum Pioneer
Church, at: http://www.nwinfo.net/
"Religious beliefs vary widely by denomination," Barna Research,
"Unchurched People," Barna Research, (2004) at:
Copyright © 2000 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-APR-17
Latest update: 2004-OCT-31
Author: B.A. Robinson