Is it true that the apostles were sinless?
Apostles are messengers of the Lord Jesus Christ, sent on a mission to communicate the message of the Gospel (Acts 1:8). The apostles received their authority from the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself. This authority was to be shown in their personal live (the way that they lived) as well as in the ministries that they performed. All of this was entrusted to them by Christ. Christ’s first 12 apostles were unique but there are still apostles today because I Corinthians 11:28 and Ephesians 4:11 both begin by mentioning the gift of apostleship. The status and evangelistic tactics of the 12 are still an example for all Christians today. If their unique status and authority then their behavior must be in accordance with the teachings learned from them. Their position and authority were to them by Christ and their lifestyle was to mimic the teachings that were also given to them by Christ.
But the question remains, were they sinless?
In Galatians 2:11-21 Paul speaks of true justification in Christ and a person who is in Christ is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Christ Jesus. To explain this fact Paul tells us of an incident that took place in Antioch when Peter was there.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles ; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews ? 15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles ; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law ; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Galatians 2)
Both Peter and Paul knew what it meant to be forgiven by Jesus Christ and to receive the Holy Spirit. Their experience with Jesus Christ shows that justification is by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law. When Peter came to the church at Antioch, Paul confronts Peter’s hypocrisy, or Peter’s wrong attitude toward the Gentile Christians. He separated himself from the Gentile Christians when a group of Judaizers came to Jerusalem, people who believed “that it is not permissible for a Jewish man to keep company with one of another nation or even to be near him “(Acts 10:28) and” If you do not receive circumcision you can not be saved. “(Acts 15:1).
The Apostle Paul had to confront the Apostle Peter’s actions toward the Gentile Christians when the Jewish Christians came, sent by James. By his attitude and actions, Peter contradicted the clear teachings of the Scriptures because in Acts 15:7-11, we are taught that both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith in Christ. Peter acted this shameful way because he was pressured by the Judaizers. What was worse is that Peter’s attitude began to affect the other Jewish Christian’s attitude, including Barnabas. He ended up being caught up in the web of hypocrisy. These types of attitudes become traps and stumbling blocks for all people, including those who are justified by faith in Christ. This type of attitude is a form of gangrene that spreads quickly and destroys.
Paul confronted Peter in front of everyone because of his attitude toward others. It was necessary because this attitude had begun to influence the Jews and even Barnabas, Paul’s fellow worker in the Gospel which was affirmed in Jerusalem (Acts 15). But now, as Peter yielded to the Judiazers’ pressures this influenced the others. In fact Paul had to confront Peter’s sin. Peter knew the Word of God yet he chose not to obey, choosing instead to be influenced by the Judiazers. Paul did what had to be done for the good of the Gospel.
So, who was guilty then, Peter or the Spirit if God in Peter?
17 “But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin ? May it never be! 18 “For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 “I have been crucified with Christ ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Galatians 2)
Christ is not the author of Peter’s sin. Even though I have been justified by Christ I still live in a sinful body and am capable of sinning but if I sin, it is not Christ’s fault but my own. My justification through Christ discourages living in sin. When we are justified by Christ then our character is also changed. We no longer live according to the sinful desires of the flesh. We now live by the desires of God’s Spirit. If I claim to be born again yet still live in habitual sin then my faith is in vain.
Are apostles sinless? Yes, if they live according to the desires of the Holy Spirit that is within them. This is taught in Acts 20:33-35.
32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. 34 “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”