The Truth About Christians And Sin

Some people claiming the name of Christ prefer to shuttle past the subject of sin. We’re all sinners, after all, no one is perfect. We sort of just have to live with it. Sin is part of the condition of Man.

A small group of Christians disagree, however, claiming that Christians have new birth and new life. There’s a new man inside, old things are passed away and all things are new. Sin is of that old life; consequently Christians — true Christians — no longer sin.

As with the passage in 1 John which I looked at in an earlier post, “The Christian And Sin,” these two conflicting views put those of us who believe in the Bible into a quagmire.

The Bible does indeed describe life in Christ as new. It does say old things are passed away. It even says we are no longer slaves of sin.

But the New Testament is also replete with commands to Christians about not sinning. If a “new creature in Christ” does not sin, then why all these pointed instructions? For example, Paul commands believers in Philippians to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.” James addresses his “beloved brethren” and says “if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

Be angry and do not sin

Or how about Peter’s command to those suffering for the sake of Christ? “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” Paul was pointed in speaking to the Christians in Ephesus, too:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4:25-26 – emphasis added).

Then there is his admonition to the church in Thessalonica not to quench the spirit.

Which brings up an interesting question. David said in Psalm 139

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me

Clearly he was turning to God to reveal any sin in him, a wise thing considering that Scripture says our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds. (Jer 17:9-10)

Wouldn’t it be true that those who quench the Holy Spirit would never ask Him to search their hearts?

But be that as it may, the Bible acts as the mirror to show us our lives. James again, addressing Jewish Christians dispersed because of persecution:

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.

James contrasts this believer with the who who “looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it.” Scripture, then, can inform us of our sin if we hold it up as a mirror and if we keep our eyes on it and live accordingly.

For example, the Bible says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Paul explains we are not to “merely look out for our personal interests but also for the interests of others.” As soon as a Christian turns his eyes exclusively on himself, then, he sins. Who among us can say we have always, since accepting Chris and His forgiveness for our sins, consistently thought of the interests of others and not merely our own?

In this instance, a person might claim selflessness in his heart, but I think actions override any protestations of righteousness. If someone is actually and truthfully thinking of the good of others, wouldn’t the “others” know it?

So what is the truth about Christians and sin? We are no longer slaves to sin, but our becoming like Christ is a process, not an accomplished state.

To know this is so, we have only to look at the first century Christians who the Bible showed to be sinners. Peter is one example. Paul confronted him for his hypocrisy.

Then there was the Corinthian believer who was living in sexual sin, and the rest of the church in Corinth who were feeling pleased with themselves for their tolerance.

In Phillipi there were Euodia and Syntyche, Paul’s fellow workers who were not living in harmony. Or how about John Mark who deserted Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary trip.

Yes, Christians sin. But should we respond with a fatalistic shrug — oh well, no one’s perfect. Hardly! We’ll need to look at that another time.

Published in: on August 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm  Comments (10)  
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