Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Loaded question

The loaded question of the day "Is it possible for a Christian to go the rest of their lives without sinning". It's a loaded question, not an application question. I am going to attempt to lay out my theology and thought process as systematically as I can. There has been some spirited discussion happening that I believe is less that fruitful. If you disagree with me, that is fine, I won't call you a heretic, that is between you and God.

The foundational issue comes down to the difference between possible and probable. Let's start with possible. Is it possible to never sin again. If we think about my life, assuming I am going to live to 82, that is 50 years from now. The idea of going 50 years without committing a sin seems overwhelming. Seems impossible, but is it? A lifetime of sin or holiness is made up of hundreds of thousands of individual decisions. In each decision, I have a choice to do what is bad or what is good. Let's talk scripture.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor 10:13 (ESV).

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:17-18 (ESV)

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 1 John 5:18 (ESV)

After we have accepted Christ and are set free from sin, we have the ability through God to say no to each sin. There is no sin that we are forced to commit. That brings me to the nature of what a sin is. Let's start with original sin. Some believe that we have guilt from original sin, and we are condemned because of that sin. In that theology, a baby who dies is guilty of sin, and the wage of sin is death, which means an infant who dies goes to hell. I reject this theory, I believe that we are responsible for our sins and not the sins of others, even our fathers. Here is my scriptural references.

“Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. Deut 24:16 (ESV). This verse is speaking of Mosaic law, but I believe the principle is the same. God is more just than man.

Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live.
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. Ezek 18:19-20 (ESV)

Now, you ask what about Psalms 51:5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me

So doesn't that verse say that we are guilty of sin from birth? In this Psalms, David is lamenting after his sin with Bathseba, and he is reflecting on the sin that he has committed, as well as the reality of sin. We live in a sinful world, we are born into a world full of sin, our parents are sinful, our families are sinners, we are surrounded by sin.

So what about original sin? I believe we are born with the taint of sin, but not born guilty. Let me explain. The first sin committed by Adam and Eve was eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are born with the capacity of knowing good and evil, but it's a capacity that is developed. Developmentally, small children are not capable of understanding evil. Kids know they are punished for bad behavior, but are not cognitively developed enough to understand that what they did is evil or sinful. I believe that God did this intentionally, making children innocent by not having the ability to understand good and evil, and a still born baby does not spend eternity in hell. I believe that is why Jesus says:

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:3 (ESV)

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 19:14 (ESV)

This is the reason behind many Jewish traditions, the Bar-Mitzvah, the coming of age, when children are old enough to understand the difference between good and evil. Once we understand evil, we commit evil. Once something is said to be wrong, our flesh craves to do that which we shouldn't, bringing sin. Paul explains all this.

Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Romans 7:7-12 (ESV)

Paul states in verse 9 that he was once alive, before his age of accountability, but as he grew and developed to cognitive ability to understand the difference between good and evil, his flesh, which is tainted by the nature of sin, brings him to the point of sin. Paul is going to sin. All those who are capable of sin will sin.

So what do I mean by "capable of sin". As I stated, I don't believe that babies can sin, because they are don't know evil and can't choose to defy the law. They are apart from the law. Some individuals have a developmental disability and never mentally age beyond a very young age. These individuals are apart from the law, and sin lies dead, according to Romans 7. These individuals are unable to comprehend the words of the Gospel, cannot accept Christ and do not understand good or evil. Like the little children Jesus spoke of, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as they.

They are the exception, if you are reading this, you are capable of knowing Good and Evil, and you have sinned. All of us have sinned. Romans 3:23 says we all have sinned.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV)

We have sinned, each one of us, which makes us in need of a Savior. This brings us back to the question at hand. Once we have been convicted of our sin, confessed and repented, Christ has declared us righteous and we are set free from the law, is it possible to live the rest of our lives and never sin again. As we stated at the beginning, it’s possible because there is no sin that we are forced to commit. If we had to sin, then would it be just to punish us for it? So if there is no sin that we MUST commit, then it is POSSIBLE, but is it PROBABLE? This is where the question is loaded.

NO. It’s not gonna happen. There is a doctrine called “sinless perfection” that is attributed to John Wesley, saying that someone can have the taint of original sin removed after salvation, making one free from sin. The doctrine was taken farther than I believe Wesley intended, and has been taken by some in the 70s and 80s to say that if we declare ourselves sinless, then we are through the power of the spirit. The Seventh Day Adventist Church also teaches of The Last Generation, which they believe will be sinless.

Paul teaches us in Romans that while we are set free from bondage to sin, we still have sinful flesh, live in a sinful world and experience temptation. Even Paul stated:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25 (ESV)

We still have flesh that is fallen and sinful, and even though we been released from bondage to sin, we still struggle, and we will fail. We don’t have too, so it’s not impossible to stop sinning, but it’s so improbable that you can just bank on that fact you will. So why have the conversation? We will sin, but we must continue to work towards being perfect.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:48 (ESV)

We never stop trying to be free from sin, and even when we fail, daily, sometimes by the hour or by the minute, we get back up and through the power of the spirit try to do our best to live a righteous life.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Missing the point to make a point

So you have noticed I had a theological throwdown. My facebook page was ripe with conversation, no one commented on my blog, and that's ok. As I was looking at the 'free will' pillar text, I noticed something. Let's put the text up before we examine it.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
1 Tim 2:1-7 (ESV)

I have heard one piece of this quoted a lot. "God desires all people to be saved". Let's step back and look at this in context, I think it is a mind blowing statement. First of all, I'll state I believe that Salvation is God's work (and if you have read anything on my blog, you know that). If that is the case, then that verse alone makes little sense. If God wants everyone to be saved, why doesn't He just save everyone?

I believe the key lies in the beginning of the verse. These verses command us to pray for all people. So what does prayer and salvation have to do with one another. Simple, we pray for salvation and God brings them to Salvation. Out prayer affects God in a profound way that it cuts through time and space. We know from scripture that God's will has been predestined since the foundaiton of the world, yet our prayers affect it, so our prayers can actually affect those things being set at the foundation of the world. God exists apart from time, so our prayers reaching Him can have ramificaitons for today, yesterday and tomrrow.

I also don't want you to hear what I'm not saying. I am not saying not to evangelise. In fact, that is the last part of this passage, Paul preaches. He (Paul) wants people to pray, he is going to preach the Gospel. Your job is to 1. pray and 2. preach the gospel.

I am also not saying that everyone you pray for will be saved. There is some responsibiliy, confessing, repenting are both put on us. Believe is a key to salvation. Praying for someone can soften their hearts, open their eyes and release the power of God, but we have no guarentees how it will work out. What I do know is that we have a responsibility to pray, to preach and to trust God.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Theological Throwdown

I am offering you a challenge, a Theological throwdown. Our pastor, Pastor Gene preached a message about Romans 8:28, which sparked some discussion. So here is my throwdown.

There are verses in scripture that SAY we have been predestined.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us [2] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Eph 1:3-6 (ESV)

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
Eph 1:11-12 (ESV)

There are also verses that speak about the elect

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior
Titus 1:1-3 (ESV)

To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
1 Peter 1:1-2 (ESV)

and election

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
2 Peter 1:10 (ESV)

These are stated emphatically in scripture, no inference needed. It says we are predestined. Find me the verse that STATES we have free will. No inference. What I mean is:

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Tim 2:3-4 (ESV)

From this verse, you can make an assumption there is free will, but this verse does not say there is free will. You can argue from this verse that God is letting humans had free will and has a desire that man choose Him. You can also say that from the context, this verse is talking about the responsibility of the believer to be involved in the work of the Gospel, and the focus is not on the lost, but that's another blog.

So, all my theological minds, find me the verses that speak DIRECTLY of free will. No inference. Find a verse that supports free will with the same sort of logic that support predestination. Ready? GO!