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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus

Don Stewart :: Did Jesus Ever Sin?

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Did Jesus Ever Sin?

What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus – Question 22

When we talk about the subject of sin we are referring to breaking the law of God. If Jesus had broken the law in any respect then He would be a sinner. Did Jesus ever sin? Was He ever guilty of breaking God’s law? What does the Bible say?

Jesus Did Not Sin

The Bible answers this question in the clearest of terms. It says that Jesus never once sinned. This is verified by the testimony of the angel Gabriel, the demons, unbelievers, believers, Jesus Himself, and God the Father.

We can make the following observations.

1. The Testimony of the Angel Gabriel as to Jesus’ Sinlessness

To begin with, the angel Gabriel testified to Jesus’ sinless nature when he announced the coming birth of the Christ Child to Mary:

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NRSV)

This description was never given of any other child that has ever been born. Indeed, this is the only baby which has ever been born who can be rightly be described as “holy, Son of God.”

2. The Demons Gave Testimony of Jesus’ Identity

During His public ministry we also find that demons, evil angels, also testify to the character of Jesus. Indeed, they recognized that He was the Holy One of God. Mark records them saying,

“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:24 NRSV)

They never said this of any human being no matter how righteous they acted. Jesus alone was the “Holy One” of God.

3. Even Unbelievers Acknowledged Jesus’ Identity

There were a number of unbelievers who gave testimony to Jesus’ sinlessness. They include: the Pharisees, the false witnesses at His trial, Pontius Pilate, his wife, Herod Antipas, the man who died next to Jesus, the centurion who presided over Jesus’ death, and Judas Iscariot. The evidence is as follows.

A. The Pharisees Could Not Trap Him in Sin

The enemies of Jesus, the Pharisees, attempted to trap Him by trying using something which He said against Him. We read,

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap Him by what He said. (Matthew 22:15 HCSB)

Yet they were unable to catch Him committing any sin.

B. There Were False Witnesses at His Trial

At Jesus’ trial those intimately involved in the proceedings admitted they could find no fault in Him. We read of what they were trying to accomplish in their accusations of Jesus:

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward... (Matthew 26:59-61a NIV)

How ironic. Even the false witnesses could not find any sin in Him.

C. Pontius Pilate Declared Jesus Innocent

Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, declared the innocence of Jesus after he had examined him:

Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.” (John 18:38 NRSV)

There was nothing which Jesus said or did which should Him guilty of any sin.

Later, Pilate again told the crowd Jesus was innocent. John records him saying,

Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” (John 19:4 NLT)

The man who sentenced Jesus to death realized that He was not guilty.

D. The Wife Of Pilate Adds Her Testimony

Pilate’s wife testified that Jesus was a righteous man. Matthew records what she said to her husband as Jesus was on trial:

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” (Matthew 27:19 NKJV)

Though an unbeliever, she realized Jesus was innocent.

E. Herod Antipas Did Not Believe Jesus Should Die

Herod Antipas, the ruler of Judea, did not think Jesus was worthy of death. Pilate said to the religious rulers:

...and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.” (Luke 23:14, 15 NIV)

Herod, like Pilate, found no wrong in Jesus.

F. The Criminal Next to Jesus on The Cross Saw His Innocence

Jesus died between two robbers, two men who were criminals. One of them recognized Jesus’ innocence. He said to the other dying robber,

“We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” (Luke 23:41 NLT)

The robber could see the difference between Jesus and himself. He recognized his guilt as well as Jesus innocence.

G. The Centurion Who Watched Jesus Die Realized He Was Innocent

The centurion who presided over Jesus’ crucifixion recognized Jesus as someone special. Luke records his response to Jesus’ death:

When the centurion saw what happened, he began to glorify God, saying, “This man really was righteous!” (Luke 23:47 HCSB)

The centurion must have presided over many crucifixions. He could see that Jesus was different than anyone else who had ever been put to death.

H. The Betrayer Judas Realized Jesus’ Innocence

The betrayer of Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot, realized that he had betrayed someone who was innocent. Matthew records the following:

“I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That's your problem.” (Matthew 27:4 NLT)

Even sinful Judas knew Jesus was innocent.

Therefore, we find that unbelievers could not find sin in Jesus.

4. The Testimony of Believers about Jesus’ Sinlessness

The Scripture also records the attitude those who believed in Jesus. They make it clear He was sinless. The Bible records the following testimonies.

A. John the Baptist

John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, testified to the fact that Jesus was without sin. We read of this in Matthew’s gospel as he records the baptism of Jesus:

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John didn’t want to baptize him. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It must be done, because we must do everything that is right” So then John baptized him. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. (Matthew 3:13-16 NLT)

John realized that it was not necessary to baptize Jesus in water. The reason for this is that Jesus, the Messiah, was without sin.

B. Peter

In his first letter to the believers, Simon Peter testified that Jesus Christ never committed any type of sin. He wrote,

He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. (1 Peter 2:22 NLT)

Peter spent three years constantly watching Jesus. In all of that time, though he saw Him in all circumstances, he never saw Jesus sin.

C. John

The Apostle John, another one of Jesus’ disciples, testified that Jesus was without sin. He wrote the following:

You know that Christ came to take away sins. He isn’t sinful... (1 John 3:5 CEV)

John, like Peter, knew Jesus for three years. While he saw him day and night, He too testified Jesus was without sin.

D. Paul

The Apostle Paul reported that Jesus was sinless. When he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians he put it this way:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NRSV)

Paul made it clear that Jesus was without sin.

E. The Testimony of the Early Church

When the early church gathered to pray, they recognized the holiness of Jesus. We read what they said in the Book of Acts:

Here in Jerusalem, Herod and Pontius Pilate got together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel. Then they turned against your holy Servant Jesus, your chosen Messiah...Show your mighty power, as we heal people and work miracles and wonders in the name of your holy Servant Jesus. (Acts 4:27, 30 CEV)

The church testified to the sinless Jesus. Many of these people had observed Jesus during His earthly ministry. They, like Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, had never seen Him sin.

F. The Writer to the Hebrews

The writer to the Hebrews testified that Jesus Christ was tempted but He did not give in to sin. We read,

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NKJV)

To be the High Priest for believers, Jesus had to be sinless.

Jesus’ Disciples Were Constantly with Him

Again we want to emphasize that the testimony of Jesus’ disciples is especially significant because it was given by some of the very same people who were constantly with Jesus. They saw Him when He was tired, they saw Him when He was hungry, they saw Him when the multitudes pressed around Him. Yet they testified that in all this they never once had seen Him sin. Their testimony, that He was without sin, carries considerable weight because they honestly reported their own faults and shortcomings.

5. Jesus’ Own Testimony about His Sinlessness

As we examine the account of the life of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament, we observe that He believed Himself to be without sin. When He came to be baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus was momentarily stopped because John realized it was unnecessary. Matthew records what happened as follows:

John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14 NRSV)

John’s baptism was for the confession of sin, but he realized that this One had no sin. However, Jesus insisted upon being baptized. We read,

But Jesus said, “It must be done, because we must do everything that is right.” So then John baptized him. (Matthew 3:15 NLT)

Jesus submitted to the baptism but did not confess sin, for He had no sin.

A. Jesus Did Not Give in to Temptation

Immediately after His baptism Satan tempted him. Yet, Jesus refused to give in to the temptation. He told the devil:

Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (Matthew 4:10 NRSV)

In the great spiritual battle with the devil, Jesus did not yield to sin. We also discover the following things about Jesus’ testimony to His lack of sin.

B. He Challenged People to Find Sin in Him

Throughout His ministry Jesus challenged those with Him to find sin in His life. He made the following public challenge:

“Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me?” (John 8:46 NLT)

The response from those surrounding Him was silence. They had never seen Him sin, for He had not sinned. Jesus claimed absolute sinlessness. Indeed, He was never conscious of any personal sin.

C. Jesus Offered No Sacrifice for Sin

Although Jesus Christ perfectly kept the Mosaic Law, we never find Him offering a sacrifice for sin. He daily taught in the temple yet never offered a sacrifice while He was there. The writer to the Hebrews describes His holy character in this manner:

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:26, 27 NRSV)

This is another indication that He had no sin.

D. Jesus Did Not Need the New Birth

Jesus told the religious leader Nicodemus that everyone needed to be “born again” or “born from above.” We read in John,

Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 HCSB)

However, Jesus never indicated that He needed the new birth. This was something which everyone else had to have.

E. Jesus Prayed on Behalf of Others for Their Forgiveness

Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of others. Jesus told Simon Peter that on that very night Peter would deny knowing Him. Yet Jesus also said that He would pray for him. We read,

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have all of you, to sift you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up your brothers.” (Luke 22:31, 32 NLT)

Therefore, Jesus would pray for Peter. While we find Jesus praying for others, we never find Him asking others to pray for Him.

F. Jesus Offered No Prayer for Forgiveness

In addition, we never find Jesus praying for forgiveness for Himself. Although a number of His prayers are recorded we never find Him even hinting that He had committed sin.

At the end of His life, while proceeding to the Garden of Gethsemane to be betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father and said the following:

“I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.” (John 17:4 HCSB)

Knowing of His impending death, His prayer was not one of confession, but rather one of victory. He had finished the mission given to Him by God the Father, and Jesus had finished it without committing a sin.

On the cross, He asked His Father to forgive those who crucified Him. Luke records Him saying,

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34 NIV)

However, He never asked forgiveness for Himself.

G. Jesus Said God Was His Father, Not His Savior

We find that Jesus called God His Father but He never referred to Him as His Savior. Why? It is because Jesus needed no Savior. Indeed, He claimed to do only those things that pleased the Father. John records Him saying,

“And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do those things that are pleasing to him.” (John 8:29 NLT)

Note that Jesus said that He “always” did the things which pleased the Father.

Our Lord also claimed that He kept His Father’s commandments. We also read about this in the Gospel of John. He said,

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:10 NRSV)

Clearly, Jesus believed that He was without sin.

6. The Testimony of God the Father concerning Jesus’ Sinlessness

By far the most significant testimony that Jesus was sinless came from God the Father. We find that He testified to the sinlessness of Christ on a number of occasions.

A. The Father Verbally Acknowledged the Son

At Jesus’ baptism, the Father verbally testified to the character of the Son. Indeed, He voiced His pleasure of the Son:

...and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are My beloved Son. I take delight in You! (Luke 3:22 HCSB)

The Father was well-pleased with the Son.

Later in His ministry, at the Transfiguration, the Father again voiced audibly that the Son had pleased Him:

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5 NIV)

In front of some of Jesus’ disciples, the Father again expressed His pleasure with Jesus.

On another occasion, before the multitude, the Father testified to the ministry of the Son before the crowd:

“Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” (John 12:28 NKJV)

Again, we have an audible testimony to the Son by God the Father.

B. The Father Accepted Jesus’ Sacrifice

The final act that demonstrated the testimony of God the Father to the sinlessness of Jesus, God the Son, was the acceptance of His sacrifice on the cross. The fact that He received Jesus into heaven showed that His mission was accomplished as the perfect, sinless sacrifice. Jesus’ last words were recorded by Luke:

And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.” Saying this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:46 HCSB)

If Jesus had sinned in any manner, then He would not have been able to appear in the presence of His Father. The Father’s unqualified acceptance of Jesus Christ was the final testimony to His sinlessness.

7. The Testimony of the Law (He Was the Perfect Sacrifice)

There is something else which we must appreciate. The Old Testament sacrifices gave a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. The Scripture was very specific about the requirement for the sacrifice.

A. The Animal Sacrifices Had to Be without Blemish

The animal that was to be offered was to be without any blemish to be accepted. This is made clear in the Book of Leviticus. It says,

“When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the LORD to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable.” (Leviticus 22:21 NIV)

A blemish animal was not acceptable.

Moses also wrote elsewhere about the requirements for sacrifice. He again made it plain that the sacrifice had to be without blemish. We read,

“This is a requirement of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke.” (Numbers 19:2 NIV)

No defect, no blemish. Only animals which were unblemished could be sacrificed.

We also read in the Book of Numbers about the necessity of the animals not having any physical defect. The Bible explains it in this manner:

“Say to them: When you present your daily whole burnt offerings to the LORD, you must offer two one-year-old male lambs with no physical defects...On the Sabbath day, sacrifice two one-year-old male lambs with no physical defects. They must be accompanied by a grain offering of three quarts of choice flour mixed with olive oil, and a drink offering. This is the whole burnt offering to be presented each Sabbath day, in addition to the regular daily burnt offering and its accompanying drink offering. On the first day of each month, present an extra burnt offering to the LORD of two young bulls, one ram, and seven one-year-old male lambs, all with no physical defects.” (Numbers 28:3, 9-11 NLT)

Again we have the emphasis that the sacrifices had to be without any defect, or blemish. They had to be as perfect as they possibly could be. This is what the Lord demanded.

B. Jesus Was without Blemish

The New Testament reported that Jesus Himself was without blemish. The writer to the Hebrews made this comparison of Jesus with the Old Testament requirements for sacrifice. He explained it in the following manner:

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:13, 14 NIV)

Jesus was perfect in every way. He was the unblemished sacrifice which was offered up to God the Father.

Simon Peter, in his first letter to the believers, emphasized that Jesus Christ was a lamb without blemish or defect. He put it this way to his readers:

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. (1 Peter 1:18, 19 NRSV)

Therefore, to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the human race, Jesus had to be without sin. There could be no blemish of any kind on His character.

Consequently, from every source, friendly and unfriendly, the testimony is unanimous; Jesus never sinned. Therefore, we conclude that Jesus indeed lived a sinless life while here upon the earth.

Summary – Question 22
Did Jesus Ever Sin?

There is the issue as to whether or not Jesus Christ ever committed a sin while He was here upon the earth. Scripture is clear that He did not. The evidence is as follows:

First, before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel, in announcing Jesus’ conception, made it clear that He would be the Holy One of God. We have another angelic testimony to Jesus’ sinlessness, from the demons. When confronted by Jesus, they confessed to Him being without sin.

There is another witness. Jesus’ own enemies testified to the fact that He was without sin. During His public ministry we find that several unbelievers testified to Jesus’ sinlessness.

To begin with the religious leaders, the Pharisees, attempted to trap Jesus in His words. But they could not find anything sinful in what He said. The false witnesses at Jesus’ trial could not find anything with which to accuse Him. Pontius Pilate said that he could find no fault in Jesus. The wife of Pilate also warned her husband not to harm this righteous man. The King Herod Antipas also acknowledged Jesus’ sinlessness. One of the two robbers which was crucified next to Jesus recognized His sinlessness.

We also find that the centurion presiding over Jesus’ crucifixion doing the same thing. He knew they were crucifying a righteous man.

Finally, the traitor Judas Iscariot recognized that he had betrayed an innocent man. Therefore, the enemies of Jesus give testimony to His sinlessness.

We also find that the friend of Jesus testifying to His sinlessness. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, would not baptize Him because he knew the Lord was without sin.

In addition, the disciples of Jesus, those who spent three years in constant ministry with Him, testified that they had never seen Him sin.

This, of course, is extremely significant for they were with Him day and night in all sorts of circumstances. If He had any sin, He would not have been able to hide it from them.

Moreover, there is the testimony of the Apostle Paul. He made it clear that Jesus committed no sin whatsoever.

There is also the witness of Jesus Himself to His own sinlessness. From the beginning of His life until the very end, He made it plain that He was without sin. Since Jesus never lied about anything we can be confident that He was telling the truth about His own sinless nature.

The most significant testimony we have is that of God the Father. Two things stand out. First, God the Father verbally acknowledged Jesus’ sinlessness at His baptism as well as at His transfiguration. Furthermore, the fact that He accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross shows that Jesus was indeed the sinless Savior.

This is consistent with what the Old Testament taught about the need for an unblemished sacrifice to be offered. Jesus was that unblemished, sinless sacrifices.

In sum, from all sources we find that Jesus was without sin.

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