Can we dispense with the notion that Jesus as a simple peasant, a godly one, from Galilee, but no more than that?
This is the table or illustration of the states of Christ—what he went through for us, all of humanity.
His sinlessness is contained in his Life, on the left side of the up-sweeping arrow.
For a brief explanation of the table, see 1. Do I Really Know Jesus? His Entire Existence in One Image.
For other posts on his life and ministry, see 7. Do I Really Know Jesus? Thirty Truths about His Life
The New Testament is uncompromising on this doctrine. There is no ambiguity. Jesus is sinless. Seven passages spell it out for us clearly and straightforwardly.
If you would like to see the following verses in many translations or in their contexts, please go to biblegateway.com.
1.. Jesus himself offers his own assessment
He posed this rhetorical question to his opponents and accusers in in John 8:45-46:
Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can you prove me guilty of any sin?
In his culture, “prove guilty of sin” refers to his keeping the Law. Did he deviate from it? His opponents do not take him up on his challenge.
2.. The Apostle Peter’s testimonial
Peter lived and walked with Jesus for at least three years. If anyone could, then the chief Apostle surely saw some minor sin in the Lord, right?
21 To this you [Christians] were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. (1 Pet. 2:21-22)
In verse 22, Peter quotes from Is. 53:9, which Jesus fulfilled in his suffering and death. So the chief Apostle did not find even a minor sin in Jesus Christ—no sin at all.
3.. The Apostle John’s testimonial
He also lived and walked with Jesus for three years. What is his assessment of Jesus from his own observations?
But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
The verdict is in: John never saw a sin in the Lord, whom he saw up close and personal.
Both declarations by Peter and John are remarkable. It is one hundred percent certain that if we had followed these apostles for three years every day, then we would have seen at least one sin. But these two did not see even one sin in Jesus.
4.. The author of Hebrews
He had contact with the apostolic community, so he gets this theology from that source. He also gets it from his interpretation of the Old Testament, as he was inspired by the Spirit of God.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Heb. 4:15)
5.. The same inspired author describes Jesus-as-high-priest in this way:
Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Heb. 7:26)
Leviticus (the second book in the Bible) describes a sacrifice for the holiest of days, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). Aaron, the first of a long line of high priests, had to sacrifice a bull for his own sins. The sequence in the ritual goes on in small detail, but the point is clear. Humans—even God-ordained and holy ones—had to sacrifice for themselves and their sins. The author of Hebrews is at pains to prove that Christ the eternal, sinless high priest did not have to sacrifice himself on the cross for his own sins because he had none. But he graciously and blessedly gave himself for our sins.
That is the good news of the gospel. Now we no longer have to worry about getting into heaven. Christ opened that door for us two thousand years ago.
6.. Paul heard early reports about Jesus
He was inspired by God as he wrote Scripture, says that God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us. Why?
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
The clause “God made him . . . to be sin” sounds strange, so what does it mean? The mystery is solved once we understand the Old Testament. God made Jesus to be our “sin offering” (Lev. 4:1-5; 6:24-30) so that when God looks at us, he sees the blood of Christ, not our sins. This is why no Bible-educated Christian could give up the Biblical doctrine of the atonement (being “at one” with God).
7.. The Gospel of Mark
God’s exclusive right to forgive sins completely agrees with the New Testament. But it also reveals the nature of Jesus Christ. This is seen when Christ heals a paralytic after some religious leaders question Christ’s declaration that he could forgive the sins of the paralytic.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately, Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking such things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’ 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” . . . . (Mark 2:5-10; cf. Matthew 9:2-8; Luke 5:18-26)
Jesus then heals the paralytic. The teachers of the law make the right inference. Only God can forgive sins in this manner. Jesus forgives sin in this manner, so what does this say about his divine nature? He is deity in human form.
So how do I get to know Jesus more deeply?
The doctrine of atonement is fully developed in Christianity, which is the fulfillment of atonement in the Old Testament. As we just saw in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Christ is the unique high priest who sacrifices himself, instead of animals, for our sins, once and for all. Christianity abolishes animal sacrifices. Bible-educated Christians understand that they do not have to do good works to get into heaven. They depend only on Christ’s Good Work on the cross. After our salvation is secured, we do good works out of gratitude and by the direction of the Spirit of God. Therefore, it is absolutely indispensable that Christ should be sinless in order to qualify for this gracious act of dying for our sins.
It may surprise the readers that when average Christians who come under the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross—that is, they accept Christ’s forgiveness and atonement—they are permanently filled with the Spirit of God. This means that Christians live in a perpetual state of forgiveness. This is how great Christ’s work on the cross is. No Christian who knows the Bible could give up this precious doctrine of the atonement and the infilling and indwelling of the Spirit of God himself.
Any Christian who asks for forgiveness receives it. Any unbeliever who asks for forgiveness also receives it. Such is the goodness of God.
Written by James Malcolm
ARTICLES IN “DO I REALLY KNOW JESUS?” SERIES
8. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Was Sinless