Christians And Sin

An old idea seems to be coming back around—the idea that Christians don’t sin. Yes, they were sinners before accepting Christ, but not any more.

This revived view of the Holiness movement subscribes to the idea that sanctification is achieved by the true Christian, resulting in purity of thoughts, motives, and actions. In other words, the true Christian no longer sins.

Just recently I read an attack on “Calvinists” who believe otherwise. Some commenters went so far as to decry them as heretics because they say Christians sin.

I guess the Apostle Paul was a Calvinist then. 😀 As was James who penned the book of the Bible bearing his name. The point is, anyone reading the New Testament has to do some academic gymnastics, bending and twisting around straightforward passages addressed to those in the Church, to come to the conclusion that Christians don’t sin.

I’ll give several instances—not verses that someone can claim are taken out of context, but admonitions to churches or to individuals who were identified as Christians and were doing something sinful.

The most obvious was Paul’s confrontation of Peter. I don’t think any scholar doubts Peter’s salvation, but there Paul was, telling him to stop being a hypocrite:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 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. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
– Gal 2:11-13 (emphasis mine)

Another example, perhaps easier to overlook, comes in Philippians 4. Paul says in verse two, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.” Here he doesn’t name a sin, so a couple dots need to be connected, the key point being that Christ—who said if we loved Him we would obey Him—commanded us to love the brethren. Clearly living in disharmony contradicts the admonish to love fellow Christians.

A third example is Paul’s confrontation of the church in Corinth for the way they handled a sinning brother. The man was living in open sexual sin. Paul made it clear in both his first and second letter that this man was a part of the church (See for example, I Cor. 5:1 and II Cor. 2:5ff)

On top of this, when Paul confronted the church about the matter, he wasn’t only concerned about the man living in open sin. He was concerned about the church’s attitude toward it:

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
– 1Cr 5:1-2 (emphasis mine)

One more, though I could go on and on. Another dispute, more like a church split, also in the church at Corinth. Paul initiated his rebuke by saying, “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you” (I Ch 1:11, emphasis mine).

Here are a couple things I think those in the Holiness movement misunderstand. Because a Christian says he sins, he is not necessarily condoning his actions (or thoughts), as the Corinthians seemed to do with the man in open sexual sin. They were proud of their tolerance apparently. Christians who repent of their sin, on the other hand, are more often cut to the quick, realizing that they have offended the God they love and serve.

Repentance isn’t a facilitator for abounding sin. True repentance is an agreement with God’s standard, His righteous judgment, His declaration of the just penalty. In other words, it is a reminder that God mercifully washed and cleansed me by the blood of Jesus—yes, of this sin too.

Repentance is a renewal of the broken fellowship that sin causes. (“If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear” Ps. 66:18; and “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” James 4:3).

I have more to say on the subject, but I’ll save it for another time. (I hear those sighs of relief. :lol:)

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