The Holiness of Jesus

The Bible is clear: Jesus was in all points tempted just as we are, yet He never sinned. Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson explains why this is key.

Spotless, cloudless, holy — the Spirit of God alighted on Him

“Write the word ‘holiness’ before the names of the great poets. Speak these words: ‘The holiness of Homer,’ ‘of Dante,’ ‘of Shakespeare,’ ‘of Tennyson.’ The heart revolts against it. Write the word ‘holiness’ before the names of the great philosophers. . . . There is something which offends the soul. Write the word ‘holiness’ before the names of the great scientists . . . and the word does not fit those illustrious names.”

“But when you say the ‘holiness of Jesus,’ that seems altogether proper. There is but one name in human history with which we can link that glorious noun. What do we mean by holiness? We mean wholeness, full-orbed perfection. A holy man is a man without a flaw, a character without a blemish or a stain.”

“There is nothing in Jesus’ consciousness which indicates that he was guilty of any sin. There is no trace anywhere of regret, no indication anywhere of remorse. From first to last he is serene, jubilant, confident, free . . . from that shadow which the consciousness of sin always casts.”

Increasing Consciousness of Sin

“Everybody agrees Jesus was a good man, exceedingly good, extraordinarily good. . . . But if we admit this, we are bound to go a great deal farther, for just in proportion as a man is really good does he become sensitive to sin; just in proportion as his spiritual sense is keen does his consciousness of sin become disturbing and appalling. If you want the saddest confessions of shortcomings, do not go to the worst men, but to the best. The higher a man rises in spiritual attainment, the more is he cast down by the knowledge of his sins.”

“Run through the Scriptures, and you will find that all the saints have their faces in the dust. Isaiah has a vision of God and his first cry is, ‘Woe is me, for I am undone!’ Job has a vision of God, and he casts himself upon the ground, saying, ‘I abhor myself and repent in sackcloth and ashes.’ John the beloved disciple says, ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’ Paul . . . cries out in an agony of remorse, ‘I am the chief of sinners.’ Peter says, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ There is no exception. . . . Every heart cries out in the language of the Psalmist: ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, and blot out my transgressions,’ ‘Wash me from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin, for my sin is ever before me.'”

Jesus: No Consciousness of Sin

“So far as any of the apostles knew there never escaped Jesus’ lips a cry for pardon. On the other hand he was always giving utterance to words like these: ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,’ ‘I do always those things which are pleasing unto him,’ ‘Which one of you convicteth me of sin?’ And even when in sight of the cross, with death only a few hours away, he looks into God’s face saying, ‘I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’ Other men looked into the unstained splendor, the white radiance of the world eternal, and fell back abashed and condemned; Jesus looks into that same unspotted glory and says, ‘I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.'”

“Not only did he hold himself immeasurably above the heads of all other men, but he forgave sins, he spoke as one having authority. No other man had ever exercised such a prerogative. Even the worst sinners when penitent at his feet received from him authoritative assurance of forgiveness.”

“Moreover he was a man without a human ideal. All good men have looked up to some man better than themselves; Jesus looked up to no man. He placed himself above Moses. He said, ‘A greater than Solomon is here.’ He said to men, ‘Follow me, I am the ideal’. . . . If he were indeed perfect, all this was right; but if he were a sinner concealing his sin or unconscious of his sin, then all such exhortations as, ‘Follow me,’ are demoralizing, and his pretensions are blasphemous. If he was good at all, he was sinless.”

Faithful Followers’ Testimony

“Men who were nearest to him got the idea that he was without sin. . . . John was the beloved disciple, coming the nearest to the Master’s heart. In the third chapter of his first letter he says this, ‘He was manifested to take away our sin, and in him is no sin.’ That was the impression which the Lord made upon him.”

“Peter was one of his most loyal friends. He was with him day and night through three years. In the second chapter of his first letter he says, ‘He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.’ Now these men were with Jesus. They ate with him, drank with him, slept with him, they saw him in all conditions and in all moods. . . . They saw him hungry, angry, stern, surprised, disappointed, amazed, yet they believed that in him there was no sin.”

“The writer to the Hebrews . . . reminds his readers that while Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, yet he was without sin. That was the impression then which was made upon the church. After the resurrection, they worshipped him as God. It is inconceivable that in so short a time a great body of intelligent men and women should have been worshipping him as God and singing hymns of praise to him if he had not made upon them the impression that he was holy.”

The Master’s Perfect Power

“Here, then, we have reached the crowning characteristic of Jesus. It is this which differentiates him from all other men who have ever lived. Every other man has known the pang of remorse, every other man has cried for pardon. . . .  Never has there been but one white soul, never but one life unspotted, never but one mind without a stain, never but one heart perfect.”

“It is this sinlessness which gives Jesus his power. You cannot understand the New Testament unless you acknowledge that he was holy. His life was one of suffering, persecution, ending in a horrible death, yet the New Testament is a joyous book. There is no gloom in it because there was no gloom in him. His soul was radiant. Nothing creates gloom in this world but sin. All the things which we count terrible are insignificant and have no power to cast a shadow. There is only one thing which makes the spirit droop, and that is sin. His sinlessness explains his joyfulness. . . . Because his heart was stainless, his vision of the Eternal was unclouded. He knew God as no other man has ever known him.”

“And it was this sinlessness which was the secret of his fascination. He drew men to him, they hung upon his words, they were fascinated by him even when they hated. . . . The reason we are drawn to him is not because of his courage, his sympathy, his patience, or his brotherliness; it is because we feel instinctively that he is far above us, a man without a sin. It is this which gives the Christian church its power. The Christian church has but one perfect possession, that is Jesus. . . . The church itself is imperfect, stained through and through with sin; but Jesus of Nazareth, the head of the church, is stainless. And because he is without sin the church will come off triumphant.”

The Spotless Lamb Says, “Come to Me”

“If you ask why it is that men are separated from Jesus, it is because he is sinless and they are not. Some of you are not interested in him; it is because he is so far above you. Some of you have no sympathy with him; it is because you are not at all like him. Some of you do not understand his words; that is because you are disobedient. Some of you have no disposition to do his will; it is because you are the prisoners of sin.”

“But the sinless Christ does not turn away from us, no matter how sinful we are. He says: ‘Come unto me. He that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.’ Without sin himself he can pity us in our sin, and is willing to wash away the stains. He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”

Excerpts from The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson (Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1908)

9 thoughts on “The Holiness of Jesus

  1. Friends, here are a few questions to ask yourself to get the most out of this character study: God says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” How has a holy Christ brought His holiness into your life? In what ways has He set you free from sin?

    Want to know Jesus better? Join us in classes on the character of the King! Scroll down and post a prayerful reply, and we will email details to you.

  2. For years, I thought sin was simply God’s way of saying: “you’re not perfect.” His commandments seemed unrealistic, even unattainable.

    I didn’t take sin seriously until I began to see how devastating and destructive it really is. Pain is a great teacher. My sin prevented me from becoming the man God intended for me to be. It blemished my character, caused hurt and division in my relationships, and deeply affected my confidence. Pride, lust, anger, and an unwillingness to forgive others quickly caused inestimable damage.

    These days, when I give into a sin, I grieve because I see clearly how it puts distance between me and my Heavenly Father. Thankfully, He accepts my confession and forgives my sin (1 John 1:5-10); however, the hardening of my heart and the effect on my conscience take time to heal — big reasons why He requires us to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16).

    As I strive to be holy, I am learning to appreciate how much Jesus suffered to be holy. It’s a life-and-death struggle! He was tested in every way, and yet He did not sin. I owe it to Him to suffer, too. In fact, I have a motto based loosely on an old Lucky Strike cigarette commercial. The old motto was “I’d rather fight than switch.” My motto these days is “I’d rather suffer than sin.” It’s my way of letting the Lord Jesus know how much I appreciate how much He suffered for me. He deserves this and more.

  3. To me, holiness means “walking in the Spirit”, and that means letting the Holy Spirit transform me into the kind of person who WANTS to do the right thing. My selfish heart of stone becomes a selfless, soft heart. I want to help set things right in the lives of others, at my own expense. My character is changed by the Holy Spirit within me so I am NOT being holy out of some attempt to earn God’s favor. When I “walk in the Spirit” I am holy without being self-conscious, because my character has been transformed. I am pleasing to God and living life abundantly. I am fully human as God created me to be.

    Recently, I have experienced a change in character by following Christ’s example. A brother pointed out to me that whenever something goes wrong, my default emotion was anger. I could sometimes dress it up as “righteous indignation” but it was part of my personality that seldom turned out to be Christ-like. Then, I began to notice in my Bible study how Jesus reacted when bad things happened to him. He reacted with submission, not anger. In fact, He went to the cross not in anger but in submission to His Father’s will. Now when something “goes wrong” with my life, it seems the Holy Spirit prompts me to see things in a Christ-like manner, and He helps me react to it in a way that is pleasing to God. Certainly, that is Christ’s holiness in me.

  4. These days I am having a lot of trouble. After reading today’s homework, I still have to say I’m “sinful.” Although I try very hard to walk the way in the light, I falter. I pray, I say the rosary, I sing praises, I serve, I am a minister of care, I’m a student at the age of 65. I’ve helped a lot of people, and I am happiest when I do! I am still sad in my heart because I’m sinful. I pray to be pure of heart, to erase my anger and stress. I do have a very compassionate heart, and I give of myself. But I am still sinful. When does the true conversion begin and stay?

  5. I now see that my anger towards my current situation has caused me to fall short much easier. I pray that Jesus will strengthen me so I don’t have to ever grieve the Holy Spirit.

  6. One of the most difficult and terrifying things to do is to confess our brokenness openly and then accept the love God has for us. It is this grace that teaches us to say no to sin. However, so often, we allow ourselves to be fooled by the enemy by taking our eyes away from Jesus and giving thought to the lie that “God can’t possibly love a man or woman such as myself.”

    Those of us who come from severely broken families with severely broken relationships suffer from deep insecurity, and we’re constantly looking for affirmation, love, and acceptance. It’s never-ending. It’s a bottomless drum that never seems to be filled. I have found that the problem is not that God can’t, but that I can’t seem to accept it.

    If this is you, just as a child runs to their parent after they’ve fallen, so we need to run to our Father and accept the love that is wrapped up in the arms that console us. When we do this enough, that need for affirmation from the world will slowly dissipate and allow us to be filled in a more profound way with the Holy Spirit.

  7. I’ve been trying to learn to pray the right way so that I can fully understand the word of God. I go through my days apologizing to my small children because I feel I’m not good enough for them and because I’ve allowed so much heart and pain in my life. Always wanting to be loved, or wanted, or appreciated. I am a sinner, and I want to live life the way God intended; I want to know what my purpose is. I want the tears to quit falling every night. I want to smile.

  8. It’s amazing the degree of transformation we can attain if we will only take time for Jesus. There is no limit to the amount of love God puts in us. When we feel that love, that is the Holy Spirit working in us! GodTreks is a very good thing, and I look forward to going deeper into God’s love.

  9. Oh!! I thank You, Jesus, for Your love and forgiveness for me. Lord, help me to always praise You with a thankful heart. Amen.

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