When Joseph learned that his betrothed was pregnant, he was minded to put her away. But an angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph that Mary’s conception was miraculous and that the virgin would bring forth a son (Matthew 1:23). He was instructed to name the child Jesus, “For it is he that shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). We would expect, therefore, that while the Son of God was on earth, he taught much regarding sin. Indeed he did, and we would profit from a humble reflection on some of the sayings of Jesus about sin.
Some of the Lord’s remarks about sin have been misapplied. For example, when a woman was taken in the act of adultery, she was brought to Jesus for judgment. He dispersed the multitude by stating, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). The verse is loved by many who hope that its recitation, at just the right moment, will inoculate them against “judging.”
Note the following: First, Christians should judge one another (1 Corinthians 5:12-13; John 7:24). Second, the Lord did not condone this woman’s sin. He commanded her to “go thy way; from henceforth sin no more” (John 8:11). Third, Jesus revealed the hypocrisy of the accusers who were more interested in ensnaring the Lord than preserving holiness in their community (cf. Mark 7:1-13). And where was the man who also was caught in “the act of adultery” (cf. Leviticus 20:10)? Fourth, Jesus respected the Mosaic law that prohibited adultery and the punishment that the law prescribed. He also regarded the laws of accusation and testimony, which may not have been satisfied in this case. Fifth, the Son of God had the right to forgive sins (cf. Mark 2:10). The response to this situation by Jesus, the Son of God, was not designed to insulate wicked and impenitent individuals from rebuke or discipline in the Christian Age.
Some of the sayings on sin by Jesus are perplexing. He said on one occasion, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22). Did Jesus mean that the Jews would not have been in sin had he not come? Would they have been better off had he not come?
The Lord was not saying that the Jews were, before his coming, absolutely sinless. They did have other sins in their life. But when he came, taught, and performed his works, they had a choice. And they chose to sin by rejecting him. The point of Jesus is this: their rejection was in the face of indisputable evidence. With the great opportunity of witnessing the incarnation of the Son of God came great responsibility. The stubborn Jews rejected their Messiah and were held accountable for it by God (cf. Matthew 22:5-7).
Other sayings of Jesus teach us regarding the nature of sin itself. Sin is a master to whom we become enslaved (John 8:34). Only the truth will set us free (John 8:32). Sin is blinding (John 9:39-41). The conscience’s reprimands are harder to hear the more we pursue sin (cf. Hebrews 3:12-13). Positive influences and opportunities are removed when we disregard the longsuffering and goodness of God (cf. Luke 8:12; Romans 1:20,21,24,26,28; 2:4-5). Only humble submission and sincere obedience to Jesus Christ will remedy our spiritual blindness.
Some of the sayings on sin revealed the very purpose for his coming. The Lord said to the paralyzed man, “Thy sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20). Subsequently, Jesus healed him to prove his divine right to forgive sins. Similarly, he instructed Simon the Pharisee when he said, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said to her, Thy sins are forgiven [Grk., perfect tense; i.e., were forgiven and remain forgiven]” (Luke 7:47-48).
When the Lord was criticized for eating with sinners, he revealed the purpose of his coming by responding, “They that are in health have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
He taught the nature of his coming in parables as well. Remember the “lost” chapter of the Bible, Luke 15, wherein the Lord taught the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost boys? Similarly, when the Lord requested the hospitality of Zacchaeus, he said, “For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
One of the most memorable sayings of Jesus on sin is found in Matthew 26:28. It reminds us of the purpose for which Christ left heaven and took on flesh. Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins.” This ought to enlighten us regarding what Jesus taught about sin. Sin is so horrible that only the spotless blood of Jesus can atone for it. His love for the sinner is so deep, he was willing to pour it out. Thanks be to our Lord for teaching us the truth about sin and providing the ransom.