Mary the mother of Jesus was a godly and blessed woman, but she was not without sin. Jesus was the only human without sin. Jesus “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “In him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Nothing of the sort is ever said of Mary or anyone else. Jesus Christ is fully human, but He is also fully God (John 1:1). He is the Lamb of God, “without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19), a title and description no other person can claim.
As an ordinary part of the human race, born into the world the ordinary way, Mary was not without sin. Romans 3:23 teaches that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, and there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that Mary was an exception to this rule. The apostle John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8–10). The “we” in this passage includes Mary, the mother of Jesus. To claim Mary is without sin is an example of “deceit.”
To help bolster their teaching that Mary was sinless, the Roman Catholic Church has invented the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (formally accepted as Catholic dogma in 1854). According to this false teaching, Mary was, from her very conception in her mother’s womb, “preserved free from all stain of original sin.” That is, Mary had no sinful nature. This doctrine is neither biblical nor necessary. The virgin-born Christ Jesus was free from the stain of original sin, but it was not necessary for His mother to be—or His grandmother—or His great-grandmother, etc. How far back would we have to go to insure Jesus’ perfection, if it were necessary for Mary to be sinless?
Rather than teach that Mary was sinless, the Bible gives evidence that she was a normal person with a normal person’s need of salvation. In Mary’s praise-filled, humble prayer in Luke 1, she says, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (verse 47). If she were sinless, she would not have needed a “Savior.” Mary receives a gentle rebuke from Jesus in John 2:4, which hardly seems fitting if she were sinless.
Catholicism also teaches that the reference to Mary being “highly favored” (Luke 1:28) and one who was “blessed . . . among women” (Luke 1:42) supports the view of a sinless Mary. However, neither verse makes such a claim. It is possible to be blessed and know God’s favor without being sinless. Catholic teaching also describes Mary as “full of grace,” but that phrase is found only twice in the Bible, and neither time is it in reference to Mary. Jesus is said to be “full of grace” (John 1:14), and so is Stephen (Acts 6:8).
The veneration of Mary in Catholicism and some other liturgical religious systems has led to the unbiblical claim that Mary was without sin. Other unbiblical doctrines have also cropped up around the view of a sinless Mary: the teaching that she was a perpetual virgin, that she hears and answers our prayers, that she shares in our redemption, and that she is a mediator of grace, to name a few. Those who revere a sinless Mary are being “led astray from . . . sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).