Over the past months, we have viewed our Lord Jesus Christ when He was here on earth. We have found that in Him, and in Him alone, we see a perfect Man. Only in Him is the fullness of moral excellence. We now turn to the other side of that picture. Having seen what He was (and is), we now consider what He was not (and is not); that is, we have to look at Him in relation to the whole matter of sin.
The New Testament bears abundant evidence of the sinlessness of our Lord Jesus. We will look at some references in the gospels, and then in the epistles.
In John chapter 8, the Lord, conversing with a group of Jews who were hostile to Him and who refused to believe His words, asked them a question to bring home to them that His words were trustworthy. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (v46). In other words, was there anyone among them who could bring a charge of sinning against Him, and make it stick? Could any of them prove any wrongdoing in His life or any falsehood in His words?
If there had been anything that they could have brought forward in answer, they would have done so. But there was nothing, and their response was one still used by those who know they have lost the argument: name-calling (“Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil” v48).
In the following chapter, the Lord Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath day, much to the annoyance of the Pharisees. Their ensuing verbal tussle with the healed man is interesting for a number of reasons, one of which is their increasingly desperate efforts to get him to acknowledge that the Lord was a sinner (John 9:13-34). By the close of the chapter, far from stating the Lord to be a sinner, the man acknowledged Him as the Son of God (vv35-38), leaving the leaders frustrated in their efforts, and condemned by the Lord to judicial blindness (vv39-41). It is a grievous error to deny the person and perfection of our Lord.
When the leaders of the nation brought Him before Pilate, their aim was to prove that He was a criminal. If ever there had been anything that they could have submitted as evidence, surely this was the time to do it. However, the record of His trial shows the very opposite to be the case. For example, they accused Him of saying people should not pay tax to Caesar (Luke 23:2), when, in fact, earlier that week, He had told the people (in the context of a discussion on paying tax) that they should render to Caesar that which was Caesar’s (e.g., Luke 20:25). Clearly (to put it mildly) they were short of evidence! Pilate had to acknowledge that “I find no fault in Him” (John 19:4,6). Some may argue that, in saying this, he meant only that the Lord had done nothing worthy of death, and that this is not in itself an assertion of His sinlessness. However, Pilate went further, calling Him “this just Person” (Matt 27:24), agreeing with his wife, who earlier in the same chapter called Him “that just Man” (v19). Moreover, the thief said He had “done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41); and later in the same chapter the centurion at the cross declared, “Certainly this was a righteous Man” (v47).
Turning to the epistles, we can read the words of Peter, who was intimately associated with Him, and who, in his first epistle, states frankly of the Lord Jesus, “Who did no sin” (2:22). It would be impossible to state His sinlessness in clearer terms. Peter adds, “neither was guile found in His mouth.” Not only in His actions, but in His words, He was without sin. It is worth noting that Peter is referring to Isaiah 53:9, which is most assuredly speaking of none other than the Lord Jesus. Thus, the OT as well as the NT bear witness to His sinlessness.
In the previous chapter, Peter has likened Him to “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1:19), clearly alluding to the Passover, in which the Israelites were to take a lamb “without blemish” (Exo 12:5). Any lamb that had anything about it making it less than perfect could not be selected. Peter’s message could not be plainer: the Passover lamb had to be without blemish because it was a type of the Lamb of God, Who Himself is without sin.
In Hebrews 7:26 we read, “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled.” It has been helpfully suggested that these three descriptions point to three different spheres. “Holy” would emphasize Him in relation to God; “harmless” His interactions with others; and “undefiled” how He was, and is, internally. However we view Him, the message is emphatic. He is sinless.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:21, says that He “knew no sin.” He had no personal acquaintance with it. He was a total stranger to iniquity. It does not mean that He was unaware of the existence of sin, or that He did not come into contact with sinners. The Scriptures make that very clear. It does mean that sin was absolutely alien to Him. He was totally pure, in every aspect of His Person, and, of course, He still is.
This is all true and vitally important, but it is not the full story. It is not merely that He did not sin – He could not sin. That is what is meant by His “impeccability.” The verses we have looked at in this article strongly imply it, but next month, in His will, we will see that the Scriptures also teach it explicitly.