The Old Testament. The concept of blamelessness carries with it two different, yet not dissimilar ideas. The first refers to sacrificial animals that were "without defect" (Lev 1:3; 3:1, 6; Num 6:14). Only animals that were undefiled physically were worthy of being offered to the Lord. Sacrificing blemished animals was a violation of biblical law and a demonstration of brazen disrespect for God (Mal 1:6-14).
From this religious ritual idea comes the notion of moral perfection for individuals. "Blameless" people are those who cannot be accused of wrongdoing before people or God (Psalm 15:2; 18:23). David prays, "Keep your servant also from willful sin… Then will I be blameless" (Psalm 19:13). David is seeking blamelessness not in a physical but in a moral sense.
The New Testament The concept of moral blamelessness is heightened in the New Testament and employed almost exclusively as a characteristic of Christ and his followers. The sacrificial terminology is applied to the work of Jesus Christ when he is described as "a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Pe 1:19), who "through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God" (Heb 9:14). The blameless character of Christ is seen in his continuing work as the believer's high priest who "meets our needone who is holy blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens" (Heb 7:26).
When applied to Christians, the quality of blamelessness is both a positional benefit of salvation and a moral character to be achieved. Each person is worthy of accusation in the sight of God. The blameless character of Christians, however, is the intention of God, who "chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight" (Eph 1:4). Christ's love and sacrifice for the church were such that he could present her to himself "without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph 5:27).
This positional quality of blamelessness is not earned by personal gain, but imputed by the death and resurrection of Christ (Col 1:22). God's power and protection ensure that the believer maintains a blameless status until the final judgment (1 Cor 1:8; Jude 24). In these occurrences, the legal connotation of deliverance from accusation is clearly seen. God alone has the power and right to accuse the believer and pronounce condemnation, but through his grace and power he renders the believer blameless in his sight.
In light of the positional reality, the believer is called to live in such a way as to attain the quality of blamelessness. In these cases, it is evident that blamelessness refers to public respectability as an outgrowth of private moral character. Christians must "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him" (2 Peter 3:14). By growing in discernment and avoiding a critical spirit, believers can become "pure and blameless" in an age marked by wickedness (Php 1:10; 2:14-15).
The importance of a blameless character for the church is seen in the qualifications for church leaders who must be blameless and above reproach (1 Tim 3:10; Titus 1:6). The Scriptures further define the sphere of the Christian's blameless behavior as including godly service (James 1:27) and the marriage bed (Heb 13:4). The characteristic of blamelessness thus should define the believer's private and public life as a reflection of the transforming work of God's grace in salvation.
William E. Brown
Bibliography. R. Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament; W. E. Vine, M. F. Unger, and W. White, Jr., Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words.