What is Sin? Could Jesus Sin?

The Concept of Grace ~ Why do we let other men judge us?

It seems that there has arisen among those who profess to be God’s people and His servants, a controversy as to whether Jesus could have sinned or not. It seems they all agree that He didn’t, but don’t agree that He could have. It seems to some of us such a ridiculous thing that such an issue should even be brought up; and to others, it has reached such gigantic misproportions that anyone believing differently than they do are labeled as teachers of false doctrines and said to be possessed by wrong spirits. In some cases, some people have been put out of fellowship with others because of refusing to submit to this outlook. These people hold strongly to the belief that Jesus could have sinned, and if we don’t accept this belief, we are heretics.

Where does such a thing come from? Can we not see that such issues are brought up for the purpose of justifying the proponents thereof? Certain ones, seeking to strengthen their power base, will raise issues, and if they can prove themselves right to the most people, they can solidify their positions of rule among the people. Do we have to be reminded that Jesus taught that it would not be thus among His disciples, but that they would love, serve, and submit to each other, and the greatest would be the servant to all? Maybe we can make ourselves believe that such men are servants to all. The same can be said by the masses of Catholics regarding their pope, that he is really servant to all. When in reality, he is the one being served and extolled.

The question of whether Jesus could have sinned is not a new issue; it has always been a source of debate in the churches of the world and still is. It is something they have never reached agreement on, but has always caused a continual controversy. Such issues for the rulers are of importance because it’s a matter of who can influence the most people. For the people, the matter of most importance is to stand on the side of the greatest number. Really a matter of politics, then, is it not? Is this not really no more, or no less, than the blind following the blind?

We have been told that we have to believe that Jesus could have sinned in order to be saved. Can we imagine Him walking the roads of Galilee, or wherever, telling people, “Now you have to believe that I’m capable of sinning, or you can’t enter into the Kingdom of God”? We have no such message from His lips, so why do we pass on such a teaching. Do we feel that we can improve upon the teaching of the Master? There should be no problem in loving Him and rejoicing in that love, and in His grace without having to address such an issue in one way or another.

Could it be that the whole miscarriage of truth comes from a misunderstanding of what sin is, or what is sin? Maybe one definition could be that sin is the opposite from righteousness; and in the same respect, righteousness would be the opposite of, or abstention from, sin. Using this concept, we can deal with the matter of sin, whether it be according to the mind of man, or the mind of God; whether it be according to the Old Testament, or the New. Men have always had the concept of sin that it was the violation of their moral codes. Their moral codes, because anything that the Bible didn’t specifically deal with, they made up their rules to cover such. In this way, they always established their power among the people by imposing upon them the dictates of their conscience.

It is true that sin is the opposite of righteousness, and vice versa. However, there is a need of qualifications of the two things. If sin is smoking, righteousness is abstention from smoking. If sin is drinking, righteousness is the abstention there from, etc., etc., etc., down the line, taking in a myriad of different rules and regulations leading to constant controversy due to differences of opinions among the rulers. This, of course, is righteousness by works and not of faith; and according to the Word of God, is absolutely, totally vain and worthless; in fact, highly detrimental to true righteousness by faith. Those who are steeped in such belief or doctrine nearly always find it impossible to break from such traditions and accept the true righteousness which is by grace through faith, and the only thing that can free them from the bondage they’re in.

So, let us cast out the concept that sin is the violation of moral codes imposed by man or men, ANY man or ANY men, and approach the concept of sin according to the Old Testament. The law of Moses was given as a standard to Israel, and was full of ordinances regarding what TO DO and what NOT TO DO. So the righteousness of the law was to do the things they were told to do, and not to do the things they were told not to do. And as Paul explained later, as long as a person walked according to these rules, they would live; but if they despised this law, they died without mercy under two or three witnesses. And as we see in so many cases, Jesus Himself being one of them, the law was carried to a gross miscarriage of justice because it was handled by unregenerate, selfish, self-seeking men.

So, as Paul also explained, righteousness could never come by the law, and every effort to attain it thusly only resulted in dead works of the conscience. If, then, righteousness cannot be attained through, or by, the law, can we say that sin is really the transgression of the law? It would seem the answer would have to be “no”.

Where does that leave us then as to the question of what is sin?

We read in Romans that sin entered into the world because of Adam’s transgression; and thereafter, sin and death came upon all men. Sin was in the world from Adam to Moses; but it was not imputed, or charged against people, because there was no law. The law was brought in in order to impute sin to men and to make them conscious of it, not to cure them from it. Adam and eve were placed in the garden, free from sin. They were in perfect liberty to partake of everything at their disposal, within their reach; there was no condemnation in partaking of any of those things, except one. The desire for this one thing, the knowledge of good and evil, ushered in sin and death by sin for all mankind.

One might ask, and most of us probably have, what is the matter with knowing good and evil? Why did God not want people to know good and evil. Isaiah said about Jesus, that He would eat butter and honey that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. So, it isn’t really that He doesn’t want us to know the difference between the two. Is it then that God could not be pleased, never could be, and never will be, with the kind of service rendered through such knowledge brought to them through the coveting of the same. Such service is rendered thus: tell me the good so I can do it, and thus fulfill my obligations to God; tell me the evil so I can know how far I can go without offending Him.

The law of Moses was given as a manifestation of this tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Here is the good, do it; here is the evil, shun it. The history of the Children of Israel shows that they continually departed from the good and committed the evil. Thus they proved over and over again that righteousness could never come by the law. Yet we continue to impose the laws of good and evil upon people, much of which is only the dictates of our own conscience. Why is it that man continually gravitates to this distortion of truth and in spite of having seen and experienced the truth, returns to such bondage? Why, of the seven churches of Asia in Revelations 2 & 3, five of them had to be reprimanded for this very thing? The other two, it seems, had experienced it and had escaped from it.

But, where is the escape? What is the escape? How do we escape when it is so much in us, too, to gravitate to the bondage of the knowledge of good and evil? Paul told the Galatians to stand fast in the liberty wherein Christ had made them free and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage. Why do we gravitate toward bondage? Maybe it would help us if we can understand the ways that this is done.

Satan has had a lot of experience in drawing people into this condition. Some are drawn by law, and some by lawlessness. Some keep the law, some rebel against it; in both cases, they are in bondage through the law. The elder brother in Luke 15 was in bondage in keeping the law; the younger was in bondage through rebellion against it. Some are brought into bondage in a way that looks pretty; others, in a way that looks bad. In John 8, we read of a woman being brought to Jesus by a group of men who were accusing her of violation of the law. In truth, they were all in bondage through the law. The woman, however, was far closer to the way of escape than the men were, because she was offered the opportunity of sinlessness. When Jesus said to her, “Go and sin no more”, He was offering her the way of escape, not necessarily from adultery, but from sin. That if she could believe in Him, she could be guiltless, or sinless.

The devil has so many traps, we couldn’t begin to count them or comprehend them. However, we don’t really need to comprehend them; all we need to know is the way of escape. One trap is not an escape from another trap; it is only an alternative trap. The way of escape is so simple that the most simple person can understand it, because even the most simple can understand love and affection. Jesus, through His love for mankind, brought His grace to mankind, and that is the escape. When Jesus spoke to the woman in John 8, He spoke in love and offered grace. She probably detected the love in which He spoke, but it is doubtful she would have understood at this point the grace offered. What she did understand was that she had just been saved from ending up as a bloody heap under a pile of stones. She had experienced a degree of grace, but only a small foretaste of what she would experience if she would continue with Him.

Sometimes the word “grace” is used in connection with home mortgages, as well as other debts. If one doesn’t make his payment on time, there’s a couple weeks’ grace period before penalties are charged. Is this grace, or only postponement of punishment? In Hebrews, it speaks of coming to the throne of grace where we can find grace to help in time of need. If we can no longer pay our debt and two weeks or two months or whatever is not going to help, then what do we need? What we need is to have the debt forgiven, not just deferred, no? How many of us have not been in the situation where we thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this debt was forgiven?” But it doesn’t happen, does it? But they offer “grace”, maybe two weeks, maybe two months, maybe more. This, of course, is a big help in a lot of cases; but it doesn’t give a very good example for grace. When the man who owed his master 10,000 talents was called to give account to his master, the latter didn’t say, “I’ll give you two weeks’ grace.” That would have given him only a tiny bit more of freedom. But the master forgave him the whole thing; that was grace. But since he didn’t show grace to his fellow-servant, he lost all the benefit.

How have we been teaching grace? The two-week kind, or in other words, by measure? Are we teaching that the grace of God forgives our past, but we still have to obey the law in order to be saved? That is the two-week kind; the debt is still there, only the penalty postponed.

Can we grasp what Paul wrote in Col. 2:13-16. Let’s connect it up with Isaiah 42:7 where it says He would bring out the prisoners from prison and them that sit in darkness from the prison house. The prisoner is in prison because of some transgression of some law or laws, no? If he was let out of the prison, and the law that put him there was still in force, would he not find himself back in prison again, condemned by the same law, or laws?

Col. 2:13 he said, “Having forgiven you all trespasses.” This was the opening of the prison door, the freeing of the prisoner. And when he walked outside, did he find the same law in force that had put him there? The answer has to be ‘no’ as it goes on to say, “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, that was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross”, etc. Verse 16 “Let no man therefore judge you,” etc. This is true liberty, this is in truth the grace of God. Why do we fight it? Why do we not believe it? Why do we let other men judge us? Why do we fight the very thing, the only thing, that can set us free? The most beautiful thing that was ever offered to mankind? The concept of grace.

All these questions can be answered in the same way. Because we have been taught grace by measure, and not full and complete redemption. We can’t believe it because we have put our faith in others who say this concept is false, and we have been taught not to doubt what these say. We fight it because others are giving their lives in the fight against it, and we join ranks with them. Is a cause just, just because lives are given for it? Does the gift sanctify the altar? Or, the altar, the gift? In every conflict where liberty has been defended, about the same number of lives have been given for the conquest of it, as for the defense of it, no?

In Russia recently, a conflict took place, some men trying to destroy the measure of liberty that others had attained. Many gave their life in the effort to destroy liberty. It is sad, though, when those who give their lives in the fight against liberty do so believing they’re doing it in defense of it. How do we know then, the difference? There is a way of knowing, but it’s difficult to acknowledge because we have to acknowledge who our rulers are. The people listened to Jesus gladly, but their rulers turned them against Him. The rulers did this in defense of their liberty. Their language was, “We will not have this man to rule over us.” In Psalms 2:2 it mentions the voice of the rulers saying, “Let us break their bands asunder and cast off their cords from us.”

Jesus was not threatening their liberty. He was a threat to their power because He had no place in His kingdom for rulers. When Jesus said to the woman in John 8, “Neither do I condemn thee”, He freed her from the rulers by His grace. Why do we let men judge us? Because we don’t have the knowledge of His grace that frees us from the judgment of men? Paul said, “Why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?” Why do we allow other men to judge our liberty? Why do we cast our liberty at another man’s feet and allow him to trample it and take it from us? The answer is simple: because we don’t really have liberty, we are not really free. If we were free, we wouldn’t allow another to judge us; we would be free from that. The rulers don’t want to see us free in such a way because they lose their rule over us. Also, the rulers will go to any effort to defend their right to rule. Herod, in Matthew 2 stretched out his hand and destroyed all the children under two years old in an effort to destroy the One that he thought MIGHT take away his right to rule.

Again, why do we let other men judge us? Or rule over us, or dictate what we are going to reject or accept? Do we not have the understanding to examine a concept and judge it by its merits or its truth, and not by prejudice and tradition? If we don’t have this understanding, why don’t we? Is it because we are content to turn these things over to our rulers, saying that we’re not Bible students, and they are? Do we put these men up on a pedestal and say they’re men of God, and we have to obey them no matter what? Do we not see so clearly in the scriptures than ANY MAN who judges another is NOT a servant of God.

Paul spoke of being persuaded of the Lord Jesus, etc. This is something in which we can truly be persuaded of Jesus because He said He judged no man. Any followers of Jesus will not judge another because it is simply impossible. As soon as we judge, we are no longer following. Some take Matthew 7 and twist it in such a way as to justify their judging of others. This is also a gross misinterpretation, in spite of how convincing they may speak.

In Hebrews, it says we are to obey them that have the rule over us, etc. This text, in the way that it was meant, is good. But to whom should it be applied? The word ‘rule’ here means ‘to shepherd and feed’, not to dominate, or demand obedience from the flock. Jesus came as a Shepherd, to lead, feed and heal. He was a beautiful example of One whom we should obey. When those who are our shepherds follow this example, we can obey them without fear and with joy. Even Paul said, “be followers of me as I follow Christ.”

Back to the question, “What is sin?” This writing has been an effort to put forth a different concept than what we have been used to. If sin is not transgression of the law, what is it? If sin is not the violation of the traditions or standards of men, what is it? If sin is not dirty habits, what is it? Some will say this is a terrible doctrine and unacceptable to them. That we believe that everything goes, and we can do anything we want and go to heaven. That it is not liberty, but license. These are some of the weapons that the unbelieving will hurl against the Doctrine of Grace.

What God has done in His Son is this: He took away from all men or any man, the right, authority, or pretext to judge, or condemn another man. He took away from all men the power to impute sin to others; sin no longer being the violation of their laws or standards. He took judgment away from man and has reserved it for Himself. Why then, do we continue to judge and impute sin and allow others to judge us and impute sin to us? If we are in this situation, must we not conclude that we are dwelling in unbelief and therefore still in sin? We can talk about believing in Jesus and still not believe in the fullness of the riches of His grace.

In a few words, sin is unbelief, and unbelief is sin. We judge others because we don’t believe, and we allow others to judge us because we don’t believe. And we will defend the right of these people to judge us even though the Lord desires to free us from such bondage. There is a little verse in Jeremiah that says a lot if we can hear it. Chapter 20:13 “Sing unto the Lord, praise ye the Lord, for He hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.” Isn’t this just what we’ve already referred to? Are the evildoers the ones who would keep us in bondage to the fear of sin? God has held out to us in Christ a wonderous deliverance; why can’t we believe and accept it?

Jesus said in John 16:8-11 that the Comforter would reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. We notice that it doesn’t say God’s people, but “the world.” There’s a song in the hymnbook that speaks of the Holy Spirit reproving us of our sin. We’ve always thought we understood this because we can understand sin being reproved. But what about righteousness? Is the Holy Spirit going to reprove us for that? Could He not mean that the Spirit would reprove the world of its concept of these things, sin, righteousness and judgment?

The world has always had the aforementioned concept of sin, that it is the violation of their traditions. Their concept of righteousness, then, is the opposite: submission to the traditions. We still count them righteous who submit to all our customs that we have learned and taught, and we know nothing of the heart of the person. Their concept of judgment has been to judge or condemn those who don’t submit to their rules. Jesus, in all His teaching, condemned this concept and He was saying that when the Comforter would come, He would continue the same work that He, Jesus, had begun. So we can truly cast out the world’s concept of sin and thereby we are delivered from their hands, free from any power they would seek to exert over us.

So now that we’ve cast out this concept of sin, which is all we’ve ever known, what have we left? What then is sin? Jesus said that he that believeth on Him is not condemned but he that believeth not is condemned already. This presents the other concept of sin and righteousness which is truly God’s concept, because it came from the mouth of His Son. Believing is freedom from condemnation; or righteousness to not believe in condemnation or sin. Simple enough? Why do we insist on trying to complicate it? Because of the rulers? For them to believe has always meant for them to relinquish their power, which they don’t like to do.

It may not hurt to mention the difference between guiltlessness and faultlessness. Jesus promised the former, but not the latter. We will never be faultless, but we can be guiltless. And we are guiltless if we believe on Him. He said to the Jews that if they knew what this means, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice,” they would not have condemned the guiltless. His disciples were guiltless through their faith in Him, but they were always committing faults. We are always committing faults, too, but let’s remember that there’s a difference between sin and fault. And let’s not allow others to accuse us of sin because of our faults.

Some will say we’re justifying our faults and minimizing our sins by relegating them to the qualification of only faults. We don’t justify our faults, but we don’t deny them; we don’t castigate ourselves for them, neither do we give them power over our spirit by letting them rule over us. This is exactly what we are doing when we let our faults bring us into a continual state of self-castigation. This is a condition that brings on spiritual, emotional, and physical sickness, the very thing that Jesus came to heal. Why then do we choose to continue in this condition when we can know the healing of His grace. Can we see by these things, all the pitfalls, all the sicknesses, all the complications, etc., that simply believing in the riches of His grace can set us free from? This is the Truth that sets us free.

Back to the question, could Jesus have sinned? If sin was the transgression of the law, He was above the law, Lord of the Sabbath, and Lord of the rest of the law, so sin could not be imputed to Him by the law. If sin is the violation of the traditions of religious men or women, He was never subject to such. And in qualifying sin as unbelief also clears Him because He couldn’t not believe in Himself. Let’s look at II Tim.2:13 He cannot deny Himself. So we have to conclude by these things that He could not have sinned.

These conclusions are not put forth for the purpose of argument or for the justification of any person’s or groups of persons’ point of view. It is merely an effort to outline some of the foundation principles that simply preclude the necessity of such a controversy. However, it will not end the controversy; but if it can help some to see the source of such issues, it won’t be totally in vain.

The only defense we have against the encroachment of law and tradition is the Doctrine of Grace; and the only escape from its snares and pitfalls is faith in this grace.

Author:  Jim Wood, an Ex-Worker, Ex-2×2 (deceased)