How He Doesn’t Get Us


A key theme in the New Testament Book of Hebrews is that Jesus “gets us” because he became “like his brothers and sisters in every way” (Hebrews 2:17) and has been “tempted in every way as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). Because of this truth, he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15) and “help those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). At the same time, Hebrews also stresses that he is not like us in a very significant way in that he was “without sin.” 

Recent studies have shown that this truth of Jesus’s sinlessness declared in Hebrews is not affirmed by many people, including a large number of Christians. The American Bible Society 2022 “State of the Bible” study showed that 38% of Generation Z believe “Jesus was a human and sinned like other people when He lived on earth.” This generation had the highest percentage holding to this belief, but not by much as Boomers (35%), Gen X (37%), and Millennials (35%) had similar numbers; the only generation with a significantly lower number were “elders” (26%). Those figures don’t seem to delineate between Christians and non-Christians, but another part of the study noted that 18% of “Bible-users” (defined as “Individuals who read, listen to, or pray with the Bible on their own at least 3–4 times a year, outside of a church service or church event”) believe that “Jesus Christ was human and committed sins, like other people.” Another study (The 2023 American Worldview Inventory) showed that only 44% of born-again Christians believe Jesus didn’t commit any sins during His life on earth; that figure was 58% in 2020. 

These studies made me realize how important it is to articulate that the Bible teaches Jesus’s sinlessness and explain why this belief is so essential to our faith. Hebrews is not the only place in the Bible that states that Jesus was without sin; it is a common thread throughout the New Testament. We read in 1 Peter 2:22 that Jesus “did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” The Apostle Paul describes Jesus as “he who did not know sin” in 2 Corinthians 5:21. A statement of Jesus’s sinlessness also appears in 1 John 3:3, which says “there is no sin in him.” Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 describe when Jesus was tempted by Satan and withstood those temptations. The New Testament, particularly the Book of Hebrews, also describes why Jesus had to be sinless and how his sinlessness benefits us.

Why Jesus Had to Be Sinless
As I noted in a previous post, Jesus had to be fully human (having a human body and human soul) in order to be our high priest, as a priest was selected from among the people to represent them and to offer gifts and sacrifices for them (see Hebrews 2:17; 5:1-2; 8:3). If Jesus had sin in him, then he would be like every other high priest who served God’s people and would first have to make an offering for his own sins before he could make an offering for the sins of the people (Hebrews 5:3; 9:7). Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus is our priest but that he is a different kind of priest from those who served God’s people, the very priest that we needed. This is what Hebrews 7:26-28 says about Jesus’s priesthood based upon his sinlessness: “For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all time when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever” (CSB translation).

Jesus’s sinlessness allows him to offer a single sacrifice for us and to do it once and for all. Those verses also point to the fact that it allowed him to offer a different kind of sacrifice than those brought by the priests, as “he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:27). The other priests brought blood of “bulls and goats” which were not able to take away sin (Hebrews 10:11) or cleanse our consciences (Hebrews 9:9), but rather stood as reminders of sins (Hebrews 10:3-4) and the need for blood to be shed for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). This blood could not be the blood of bulls and goats, though, as they are not our equivalent. This is why Jesus needed to be human, as that allows him to truly stand in our place in a way that a bull or goat never could. He could only stand as our substitute, though, if he was truly sinless – otherwise he would need to offer himself for his own sins. The fact the animals offered were without “blemish” was a picture of the need of the substitute to be pure, with Jesus’s sinlessness the reality to which this shadow in the law pointed (Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). Therefore, it is not simply Jesus’s humanity that allows him to be our high priest, but his sinlessness as a human that allows him “to make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:18) because he bore our sins as our sacrifice (Hebrews 9:27-28).

Why Jesus’s Sinlessness Helps Us
As noted above, Jesus’s sinlessness helps us in a vital way in that it allows us to be forgiven by God through faith. Because he offered his sinless life in our place, we can draw near to God “with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22). Our cleansed consciences allow us to turn from “dead works so that we can serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). 

However, I do not believe that this is the only way in which his sinlessness benefits us. The fact that he was tempted as we are but without sin (Hebrews 4:15) shows us that temptation itself is not sinful and thus something that we should not feel guilt or shame about. It is not the temptation itself, but our response to the temptation in terms of how we engage it and what we then do with it. Jesus’s sinlessness even while tempted also means that he can help us as we experience temptations. After noting that Jesus was tempted like us but without sin, the writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We need Jesus’s help when we are tempted and can do more than just look to his example of how he overcame temptation – we can look to his very presence as our high priest who is like us but also different from us. 

We can receive help in the time of temptation, and we also have hope in it. Hebrews 10:11-14 says that “Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. He is now waiting until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified” (CSB translation). Because Jesus was sinless and offered himself as a sacrifice in our place, he now sits at the right hand of God. His enemies will be conquered, and he has promised to sanctify us, to make us holy and perfect forever. He can help us in our temptations so that we don’t fall, he offers forgiveness when we do fall, and he gives us hope for the day in which we will never again fall and fail in his kingdom. Because he is our sinless and resurrected high priest, we have hope and confidence.

Jesus needed to be sinless to save us. Let us hold fast to this belief and rejoice in the fact that this is a way in which he actually doesn’t “get us.” 

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