All too often we do not ask this question to God’s Word with a sincere heart; sometimes we simply don’t ask this question at all, while other’s we simply assume the answer based on personal experience, observations, and men’s sermons.
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR CHRISTIANS TO SIN?
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” ~1st Corinthians 5:1-8
If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. ~1 Jn 5:16–17
When asking if it is possible for Christians to sin (a totally different question than “can Christians sin”), the answer is simply, “yes”. It’s extremely important to understand that a Christian is not made invulnerable to sin, nor do Christians become immune to temptations; not only do Christians endure trials and tribulations for their faith, they also must persevere through various temptations and overcome.
But, when asking this question if it is possible for a Christian to sin, the next step is where so many beloved brethren have stumbled, some even being deceived by various sensual doctrines of demons that would proceed to tell you that because it is possible for Christians to sin, therefore, it is expected and ordained that you will sin.
Because of personal experience, observation, and demonic doctrines, we are now taught that it is a certainty that you will sin.
If you look at the Church’s response to sin in the Body it is quite clear that the expectation was not that we would sin: for the brother that we see sinning not a sin unto death, we are to pray for him that he may receive life, and the brother that has leavened the body is to be purged (removed) from the body so that the Church may remained unleavened (without sin).
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR CHRISTIANS NOT TO SIN?
Very rarely do I ever hear a Christian genuinely ask whether or not it is possible for a Christian not to sin; usually I only hear this question from those who maliciously want to trap another brother or sister that is preaching God’s very call to holiness.
So we’re going to ask God if it is possible for His children not to sin:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. ~Jude 20–25
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ~2 Peter 1:2–11
The answer as to whether or not it is possible for a Christian, who once was a desperately defiled corpse, totally dead and depraved in iniquity, to be entirely redeemed and walk without sin, is absolutely YES. In fact, that is the gospel.
God has not changed: it is still impossible for God to sin, or for those who walk in the darkness to have fellowship with God (1st John 1:5). The good news is that Jesus Christ is the Word of God made manifest in the flesh, the Light of God shining out of the darkness into our hearts. He walked this world in the flesh, having humbled Himself though He is equal with God, and willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice for sins according to the good-will of God, and was raised to life by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit of God so that all who would call upon Him and repent should be saved from their sins, and set free. Indeed, when Christ raised from the dead He lead captivity captive!
Indeed, it is by the power and dominion of Christ that we are able to not sin because “we have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of Light” (Col. 2:13) so that “sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14).
Jude exhorts the Church to build one another up in our most holy faith, praying in the Spirit, and keeping ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life; we’re told to have compasion on some, making a distinction, while saving others from the fire with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Peter reveals that it is by the grace and peace that is multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and Jesus by His exceedingly great and precious promises that His divine power gives to us everything for life and godliness and we are made partakers of His divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. In fact, Peter exhorts us that if we are partakers of these things, we will never stumble.
God speaks most clearly on this subject here:
And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. ~1 John 2:28–3:10
John wrote this epistle for the express purpose that “we may not sin” (1 Jn 2:1). Therefore, John exhorts the brethren to “abide in Christ” so that we may have confidence on the day of His coming (v28).
Just as Peter wrote according to the knowledge of God and Christ, so also does John write according to the knowledge of God and Christ (2:27, 29; 3:5). Indeed, he says that whoever sins is without the knowledge of Christ (3:6); it is by the knowledge of God and Christ that we become partakers of the divine nature and precious promises by which we will not stumble (2 Peter 1:2-11).
The Spirit of God reveals to us that Jesus came specifically to take away our sins and destroy the work of the devil (1 Jn 3:5, 8). The Spirit tells says that if you know that Jesus is righteous, you know that He who is of Christ also practices righteousness (2:29).
I want to stop here and challenge my brethren to ask whether or not you know that Jesus is righteous.
Most Christians would say, “yes, I know”, but I want to challenge you by saying that there is a difference between the empty words of our mouth and deep understanding by which you are filled with the knowledge of Christ Jesus.
Have you come to the righteous Jesus through the cross unto resurrection of the new man, or have you come to some other Jesus who has the righteousness of man, but not the righteousness of God?
Many Christians, myself included at one point in time, were led to faith in a false savior who was not the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, who did not come to take away the sins of men, but, instead, the false savior that many of us were led to was preached to come to cover sins and allow them to remain.
The crescendo is here in verse 6: “whoever abides in Him does not sin”.
The Spirit reveals the same exact thing through Paul; “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Again, Paul wrote “I die daily… Awake to righteousness and do not sin, for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” (1 Cor. 15:31, 34).
Some, not having the knowledge of God through which we become partakers of Him by faith, have strayed into sin and open shame!
Our victory in Christ, which is preached to us in these passages, is revealed to us in the follow scripture:
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world– ourfaith. Who is he who overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” ~1 John 5:4-5
We overcome this world, and the lusts therein, by faith; joining Paul in saying “I die daily”, we live unto Christ and abide in Him!
John warns, “do not be deceived in this matter: anyone who practices righteousness is born of God, and whoever sins is of the devil” (v7).
Teachers of demonic doctrines in sheeps clothing will appeal to your flesh in order to deceive you, seeking to twist the word of God, play with words, and giving you an excuse to sin, but I beg you not to be deceived, my beloved brethren, but gird up your mind in soberness and test all things, knowing that no doctrine is from God unless it agress with godliness (1 Timothy 6:3).
Know this, that the word of God offends the flesh because it condemns sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3) and pronounces death to our old body of sin so that it might be done away with (Romans 6:6).
CAN CHRISTIANS SIN?
The questions “is it possible for Christians to sin” and “can Christians sin” are quite different, both in answer, and (often), in motive.
Let us turn again to the Word of God for help that the Spirit of wisdom and revelation may be upon us so that the eyes of our understanding may be enlightened:
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say that 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 that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. ~1 John 1:5–2:2
Firstly, we find three unrighteous responses to sin, and one righteous response:
- The first unrighteous response to sin is to claim that you know God while walking in darkness; any such person is a liar and does not practice the truth.
- The second unrighteous response here is to claim that you have not sinned; anyone who makes such a claim has called God a liar and His word does not abide in him.
- The third unrighteous response is to claim that you are sinless (have no sin); anyone who says this has deceived themselves and does not have the truth in them.
- The only rightoeus response to sin is to confess your sin and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
In what way are the children of the Devil and the Children of God made maifest (distinct)? Whoever practices righteousness is of God, whoever practices unrighteousness is of Satan (1 Jn 3:10).
There is a righteous response to sin, and an unrighteous response to sin: the righteous response is to confess it before God and be cleansed from it- and we must understand being cleansed from sin in terms of 1st John 3:4, 5, & 6, that is, for our sins to be removed and we to move on from them.
Confession is given considerable time in John’s epistle, both in the beginning, and the end; we are to confess most certainly to God through Jesus Christ our advocate- which is what I believe the thrust of chapter 1 and 2 to be- but also one to another as we’re told in chapter 5. To confess our sin and be cleansed from it so that we no longer walk in sin by the power of Jesus’ blood and the faith that overcomes the world, which is in our righteous savior, is the only righteous response to sin.
However, there are three unrighteous responses to sin, all of which involve continuation in sin, either by denying our sin, deceiving ourselves, or lying about our sin by saying that we walk with God anyway, which is also deceiving ourselves.
What we are talking about here is the act of sinning (the Greek word ἁμαρτάνω[hamartanō] is the same word used in 2:1 as 3:6); the act of committing sin causes us to stumble in the way and brings us to a fork in the road by which we have a choice to make; either turn from our sin and contiue on the path of righteousness, or, at great peril to our souls, stray off the path of righteousness and walk in sin.
To choose one of the unrighteous responses to sin is to take the path of unrighteousness and walk in sin. At that point we are practicing sin and have deceived ourselves with the deceitfulness of sin.
If we choose one of the unrighteous responses to sin, either to claim that we still walk with God even though we have sin, or to deceive ourselves into thinking that we have not sinned/have no sin, then we have already chosen the path of unrighteousness and are walking in sin.
No one that knows God will do such a thing: if the truth abides in you, the only response that you have is to confess your sin and be cleansed by the blood of Christ.
On the one hand we have a Christian that has sinned before God, but, because of the truth that abides in them and the power of faith in Jesus Christ the righteous one, the Christian runs to Jesus Christ our righteous Advocate and is cleansed from all sin, while on the other hand we have those that do not know God, or that Jesus Christ is righteous, who deceive themselves and either claim to know God, though they sin, or call Him a liar by saying that they have no sin (one form of this that I have seen is by saying that sinful acts are no longer sinful in God’s eyes because of Jesus Christ- such a teaching calls God a liar who has specifically condemned sin even in the new testament).
Walking in sin is a condition of the heart in which even your response to sin becomes unrighteous. There are translations that render “sin” or “sins” as “practicing sin” or “goes on sinning” in 1st John 3 because of the continual tense that John is talking about; I have no problems with this because I believe it is readily evident in context.
But it is absolutely critical that we see what John defines as “walking in sin” or “continuing in sin”: our response either puts us on the path of righteousness or unrighteousness, and, we must remember, those that know that Jesus is righteous will not walk in sin.
The expectation of the Christian is not to sin; so great is the victory of Christ, so powerful is His mighty working towards us, and so wonderful is the perfect faith that He authored, that the expectation of the Christian is to overcome sin by putting off the old man and putting on the new man.
When we ask “can Christians sin” the answer is most certainly, NO, just as Paul wrote, “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2)
If you know that Jesus is righteous, you know that those who are born of His Seed do not sin, but, through Jesus Christ our Advocate, we overcome by the victory of faith.