How Could Jesus Be Born Without Sin?
How sin is transmitted
...just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned...
— Romans 5:12
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.
— Genesis 3:15
God’s plan was unfolding. But who could have ever imagined it would happen like this? From the ancient promises of God, one might have considered that to overcome sin, the Deliverer would be without sin, just as God is without sin. But who would have expected that the Deliverer, promised by God throughout the ages, would be God Himself in human form?
— The HOPE, Chapter 8
And through Adam, sin would be passed down from generation to generation, infecting all humankind to this very day.
— The HOPE, Chapter 3
Observe & Consider
In the previous lesson, we said that we would revisit the issue of a holy God putting on flesh. How could a sinless God enter this sin infected world as a human and yet remain sinless? First, let’s deal with why this is important, and then we’ll deal with how it is possible.
As we see from the Chapter 8 HOPE excerpt above, in order for the Deliverer to free mankind from sin, He would need to be sinless Himself. This line from The HOPE summarizes the truth of a key theological doctrine. The Deliverer had to fulfill the Law in order to be the mediator and reconciler between God and man. In order to fulfill the Law, He had to be without sin.
Many verses in the Bible state that the Deliverer was without sin (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5). But how is this possible? Repeatedly in our study of The HOPE we have read about the sin that has infected all mankind (see Chapter 3, Lesson 18). And from Romans 5:12 above we read that “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” How then could the Deliverer be born of a human and not be infected with sin? Let’s consider two possibilities.
First, we must acknowledge that if God can do whatever He pleases, then He could certainly have miraculously protected Jesus from being polluted by sin while He was inside Mary’s womb.1
Second, we must consider carefully Romans 5:12. Notice that the verse says that “through one man sin entered the world” and so death spread to “all men.” The verse does not say through “one man and one woman” sin entered the world. Sin entered the world through Adam, not through Eve. It was Adam, not Eve, who passed sin on to their descendants.2 Perhaps this is why in Genesis 3:15, God promises that the One who will bruise (literally “crush”) Satan on the head will be One who comes from the seed of woman, not from the seed of man.
It is a known fact that certain traits, disorders, and diseases are transmitted only by fathers, or only by mothers.3 Similarly, it is possible that sin (the power of sin, not the act of sin) is passed down from generation to generation to every person through the father, not the mother. In the case of Jesus, through a miraculous conception by the power of the Spirit, God was His Father, and so Jesus was without sin. Despite what some religions teach, this would explain why Mary did not have to be sinless in order for Jesus to be born sinless. As a woman, her sin would not have been passed on. The Bible says that every person that has ever lived has sin (Romans 3:23, Romans 3:10)…except Jesus! (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 3:5, Hebrews 4:15).
Ask & Reflect
- Why was it was necessary for the Deliverer to be sinless? The fact that the Passover lamb had to be unblemished (Exodus 12:5) foreshadowed the fact that the Deliverer would be unblemished by sin (1 Peter 1:19).
- Have you ever thought about how, unlike every other person that has ever lived, Jesus could be born without sin? Can you see why this is a difficult concept for some to accept?
Decide & Do
Often when people cannot understand how God could do something, they resolve the conflict in their minds by compromising the truth. Some religions say that God could not possibly become a man without becoming tainted by sin. They view this concept as an abomination, and they reduce Jesus to nothing more that a prophet. Others say that in order for Jesus to be sinless, Mary would have to have been sinless. But as we can know from the Bible, 1) God did take on human form in the body of Jesus (Colossians 2:9), and 2) Mary was not sinless (Romans 3:23). And as we have also seen in this lesson, upon closer examination of the scripture, there is a way to explain the sinlessness of Jesus without having to compromise the truth.
The lesson here is simple. Never compromise the truth of scripture in order to resolve what appears to us to be a contradiction in scripture. Rather, dig deeper into the His Word and ask Him to give you understanding.
1What Is the Immaculate Conception? (Got Questions Ministries, © 2002–2006). (http://www.gotquestions.org/immaculate-conception.html). Retrieved October 27, 2006.
2Matthew J. Slick, If Jesus is God in the flesh, why did He not inherit original sin? (© Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, 1996–2006). (http://www.carm.org/questions/Jesus_sin.htm). Retrieved October 27, 2006.
3Genetic Counseling. (Medindia Health Network Pvt Ltd, 2006). (http://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/geneticcounselling.htm). An additional reference is Richard M. Lebovitz, Natural Selection in Family Law: Legal Cases and Materials; 3.7. Maternal transmission of citizenship. (Biojuris, 2005).( http://www.biojuris.com/natural/ - search Maternal Transmission of Citizenship). All retrieved October 27, 2006.