DID JESUS LEAD A SINLESS LIFE?
Is this a reasonable question to ask?
||"The doctrine that Jesus lived a sinless life on Earth is a
cornerstone of traditional Christian theology that transcends the
Catholic-Protestant divide." Baptist Standard. 1
Is this a "petty and small-minded" topic?
On 2003-MAR-6, we received a critical E-mail from a visitor to our web site that
referred to one of our essays on Jesus' sinlessness. He wrote:
"Please let me take this opportunity to thank you for making me
laugh so hard that I thought I might actually pull a rib muscle. Honest to
God, I laughed so hard that my wife came in the room because she thought I
was taking a seizure!! I just read your detailed description explaining
why Jesus Christ was actually a sinner. To be perfectly honest with you, I
have never encountered anything so petty and small-minded in my life as
what I just read. No, I am not even a Christian!"
While we were pleased that this visitor enjoyed
reading the essay, we do not share his evaluation of it. We believe
that it is a serious topic to investigate. Realizing that there are probably
many dozens of people who believe as he does and who did not write us
an E-mail, we decided to write this essay.
It is a worthwhile topic:
Some of our site visitors will consider the question of
Jesus' sinlessness to be a worthwhile theological point to discuss: some
that Jesus was sinless during his earthly ministry; most will probably believe,
with the majority of Americans, that he sinned.
Other visitors don't care.
Still others will think like the above E-mailer: that the question is
silly. It is like a debate on how many angels can dance on the head of a
pin. It is in the same class as the question whether God can create a stone
so heavy the he cannot move it. (Some have suggested that if he can, then he
is not omnipotent; if he cannot, then there are limitations to God's
Our belief is that Jesus' sinlessness is a worthwhile and significant question to
explore. We offer the following observations:
||People hold different opinions on this topic: His sinlessness is a matter of considerable division within
Christianity. Polls by Barna Research showed that
there is an almost equal split in opinion among
American adults. 42% believe that he sinned; 40% believe that he did
not. The percentage of those who believe in his sinlessness ranges from
73% among members of Pentecostal and Foursquare congregations to 28% among
Episcopalians. An even lower result would probably be found among members
of the United Church of Christ if they had been polled. The topic
obviously divides Christians.|
||Conservative denominations, and some mainline denominations, believe that
Jesus was sinless, and that this is an extremely important factor in his
||A main reason for
this belief is that the Bible states that he was free of sin as a matter of fact in a number of places.
Conservative Christians typically believe in the
inerrancy of the Bible. So the matter is settled.|
||Jesus' sinlessness is an integral part of the "fall-sin-redemption"
model, which is almost universally accepted as a key belief by
conservative Christians. That is, that:|
||Adam and Eve disobeyed God when the ate of the
fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
||By their actions, sin and death entered the world for the first time, and
produced a gulf between God and humanity.
||Through the concept of imputation, Adam and Eve's sin has been
assigned to their children, their grandchildren, and all the way to
present-day humanity. Not a single person since our first parents has
avoided acquiring their sin. 2
||Jesus had the power to forgive sin only because of the incarnation, in
which God took human form in Jesus, and because of Jesus' sinlessness.
||Persons can be saved by repenting of their sin, and trusting Jesus as
Lord and Savior. They will then attain Heaven
when they die. They become a new creation. Through a process of
sanctification God helps them change and become more like Christ.
3 Otherwise, without having been saved, they will be tortured in Hell for all eternity
The "fall-sin-redemption" model involves a number of
||Original sin -->
||Gulf between God and humanity -->
||Imputation of sin to all persons -->
||Jesus' sinlessness -->
||The opportunity for humans to be saved.
If you delete any component, then the whole message of the Bible would
collapse. Supporters of this model believe that, for example:
||If Adam and Eve did not sin, then there would have been no sin imputed
to all of humanity. All humans would not have become saturated with sin. There
would have been no salvation role for Jesus to play. If he were sinful, he
would have been only an
ordinary itinerate Rabbi-teacher. Because of the importance of all
elements in the "fall-sin-redemption" model, many
conservative Christians promote a literal interpretation of the Garden of
||If Jesus had not led a sinless life, they reason that he could not forgive sins of
the 1st century Jews and Pagans that he came in contact with. Further,
trust in him as Lord and Savior could not save anyone. His execution would
have no more significance to us today than the death of the two thieves on either side
had sinned, then the atonement would not have
happened. His death on the cross could not have created a route to
salvation for the entire human population.
||Liberal Christians typically believe that he did commit sin. A main
reason for this belief is that the Bible describes a number of events in
Jesus' life which many consider sinful. Four examples
are: his lack of respect to his mother on a number of occasions, his racial insult
hurled at a non-Jew, the aggravated assaults that he committed in the Temple,
and his conspiracy with his followers to steal an animal. |
||By inputting the search string
jesus sinless into the
www.google.com search engine, one can
find about 31,100 web sites
which deal with this topic. It is not a trivial subject to discuss.|
Some quotations from other web sites:
The following texts emphasize the importance of belief in the sinlessness
eThoughts: "Sinless: Jesus was utterly without
sin. He never said or did anything, unless his father God in heaven told
him to; and therefore he never did anything that was not the will of God.
He was perfect and without sin."
"Perfect Sacrifice: And so Jesus, being perfect and being the son of
God, became the perfect sacrifice that would be sufficient to atone for,
to make up for, all our sin for all time. The Bible often refers to Jesus
as 'the Lamb'." 4
||BibleTruths.net: "Jesus dared, if you will, any of his
contemporaries to find fault with him (John. 8: 46). Only a sinless one
could thus successfully challenge his enemies." 5
||Messiah Truth (A Jewish web site): "...Christian
missionaries...will...claim that Jesus died as a sacrifice for their sins,
i.e., that his spilled blood covered their sins, and that, according to
the laws of sacrifice, a sacrificial offering had to be in perfect
condition (unblemished), and only the sinless Jesus was able to
fulfill that requirement." 6
||Gahanna-Jefferson Church of Christ: "Jesus' sinlessness is
one of the great declarations found in the Bible...Christ testified to His
own sinlessness...Christ's followers testified to His
sinlessness...Sinlessness allowed Christ to atone for sin...[If Christ had
sinned, he] would have destroyed God's purposes and plan. He would have
needed saved [sic] instead of being the atonement for others." 7
||DanaSgmon.org: "Jesus NEVER SINNED! Since the wages of sin
is death (HELL)... Jesus' sinless blood was able to pay for your sin and
||Faith to Faith Ministries: "Only Jesus' sinless Blood is
accepted by God as 'the eraser' of sin." 9
||United News: Jesus' sinless blood began the process of salvation for us and all
mankind. No part of the overall process of our salvation (i.e., living our
lives out in a saved state) could proceed any further without this vitally
important event and glorious gift." 10
||TimeInTheWord.org: "Sinlessness is required for Jesus to be
our Savior. He could not die for our sins if he had his own sins to die
for (Psalm 49:7-9). And sinlessness is necessary for Jesus to be our Lord
and Master. He could not demand our supreme allegiance and be our perfect
example if he fell into sin himself." 11
Do we do a poor job explaining the topic?
The visitor who E-mailed us went on to say that the author of the
essay was stupid, a liar and ignorant.
We receive many unsolicited E-mails that call us liars, and clueless. Such
comments appear to be inevitable because we try to explain all sides to each topic.
Many people hold their religious beliefs very seriously and with absolute
certainty. So when they see
some beliefs expressed that conflict with their own, many of them assume
that the author:
||Is a hypocrite -- he knows the truth but tells lies in order to promote
his hidden agenda;
||Is incredibly stupid and does not have the intelligence to
differentiate between truth and falsehood; and/or
||Has no real knowledge of the topic and is writing out of ignorance.
We are chronic victims of the "attack the message by attacking
syndrome. If a person considers a particular belief to be stupid, a lie, and ignorant,
it is only a small leap to their assumption that the essay's author is stupid,
a liar and ignorant.
Ours is a no-win/no-win situation.
"Key doctrine of Jesus' sinless life fading from Americans' perspective,"
Baptist Standard, 2002-JUN-10, at:
Consider the following biblical passages: "For there is not a just man
upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." (Ecclesiastes 7: 20). "If
we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us"
(I John 1: 8). KJV translation.
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might
be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5: 21). KJV
"What is sin?," eThoughts, at:
"The Sinless Jesus," BibleTruths.net, at:
"Sinless Jesus?," Messiah Truth Counter-Missionary Education, at:
Don Treadway, "Jesus' Sinlessness," Gahanna-Jefferson Church of
Christ," 2002-MAR, at:
Dana Sigmon, "Free Tickets," at:
"Statement of Faith," Faith-to-Faith Ministries, at:
"The Passover Season: the Death and Life of Jesus Christ," United News,
2002-FEB, at: http://www.ucg.org/articles/un/
"Sinless? Jesus Christ, really a man?," Time In The Word, at:
Copyright © 2003 and 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-MAR-6
Latest update: 2004-OCT-31
Author: B.A. Robinson