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.


  1. Wow, this blog is fabulous. I'm having so many thoungts on this right now but I don't have the time or eloquence to post them. So I'll just say, 'Bravo!' This is both compelling and encouraging and I very much enjoy reading your blog Pastor Dan.

  2. In answer to your original question . . . I vote YES.