Saturday, June 3, 2017

Are Christians Still Capable of Sinning?

More and more lately I have become aware of how Christians are not understanding how we are made in God's image and what our response to God is to be in our relationship with Him. I have already written an article on living a holy and obedient life, for those who take freedom in Christ as a license to live in disobedience or licentiousness, but now I feel I need to address the other side of the coin, where it is taught that once saved, one can no longer sin. I was first introduced to this concept in college when I attended a Christian college. The college was affiliated with a particular denomination, and the pastor of that denominational church in town was often called upon to lead our chapel services (which were held daily). At one point he mentioned that he no longer sinned, since being saved. That brought quite a bit of a stir, as there were a number of denominations represented in the student body, and most of them did not agree with that concept. I understand why he believed in this concept, for I now know what he based it upon, however I disagree with it, as in my understanding of Scripture, he was ignoring a a big piece of the story, which he needed to address. That is what I intend to do in this article. I am going to look at that part of man (and the Scriptures) which he was ignoring.

On the sixth day of creation, God created man. He created man in His image, but His image was not just “My” but “Our.” Genesis 1:26 "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." God was not just creating man in the image of the Father, but also of the Son and Holy Spirit. Man was made in the image of God, but God is a Trinity, so when He created us, He created us as a trinity also. People find it hard to grasp how God is a Trinity, but it becomes a little easier to understand when one sees how our own trinity works.

Man has three separate parts to him, body, soul, and spirit. When man was first created, he was perfect. He was perfect in body (we would have lived forever), perfect in soul (the soul is our will, but also our intellect or mind, which is essentially our personality), and perfect in spirit (that part of us which connects to God, which at the beginning was alive and sinless, sometimes referred to as our heart in Scripture). Our soul is that part of us that is the go between, between our spirit and body. The spirit in its perfect and sinless state, being in connection with God, would influence the soul (the intellect/mind and will) to do righteously, and the soul or will would translate (decide whether or not to obey) those instructions to the body to carry out those ideas. Our brain and our soul (or mind) are not the same thing. Our soul is that part of us, the mind and will, which transcends the body, as does the spirit, which is the connection to God (when it is alive). The body is the material part of us, the shell which houses our soul and spirit, and the brain is merely an organ in the body which carries the message that the soul gives it to the rest of the physical body to make the body work in accordance with the will of the soul. The body, though, does have a will (so to speak) of its own, just as each of the divine Trinity has a will of their own. But just as the Son (God's “body”) and the Holy Spirit (the “spirit”) submit to the will of the Father (the “soul”), our soul dictates to the other parts of our trinity what decision will be made, regardless of their influence. This can be seen in Adam and Eve.

To see how these three parts of us, body, soul, and spirit work together, we need to look at what happened at the fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, their soul (their intellect and will) chose (note that they were perfectly sinless in all ways when they chose this, so to say that once the spirit is redeemed it is impossible to sin is disproved in the first chapter of the Bible) to depart from the inclination of the sinless spirit, (which would be to obey God) and instructed the body to carry out an act of disobedience against God. The soul was deceived in Eve's case. Adam made a willful disobedient choice. God created man sinless in all ways, but He gave our soul the ability to exercise free will choice apart from the influence and choice of the sinless spirit or the body. We still have that ability. Satan can deceive us (in our case he can also use our body's carnal inclinations), so that we find ourselves in sin without having malicious intent to sin, or we can willfully disobey. In disobeying God, whether intentional or not, the connection the spirit had with God was broken, not only for Adam and Eve, but for all their descendants, as we were born out of that corruption. Not only did the spirit die on that day, but their body began its descent into death. Their disobedience had corrupted all three parts of them - their body, their spirit, and their soul. To really understand how redemption works it is first necessary to understand what took place.

God had told them that the day they disobeyed they would die. They died spiritually by severing the connection they had with God, for sin or lawlessness (they had only one law and they broke it) cannot exist in God's presence. He cannot look upon it. So their spirits entered into the realm of Satan's control. They were spiritually dead to God, just as Satan is dead to God. In other words, disconnected from the source of true life. Next their bodies were forfeit to Satan also. He had won the battle for their lives when he got them to listen and obey him, for in so doing, he became their god. Not only did he become their god, but the god of this world, as they also forfeited their stewardship of the world to him. 

As God tells us the life is in the blood, Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,” their life and therefore their blood was forfeit, because of the decision their soul made. It needed to be sacrificed to make atonement for the sin of their soul. But if they died physically right then, all of God's creation and plans would come to naught. God did not want them to die right then (although they did begin the process of death), for He had a plan in place before He even created man to be able to redeem man, which was why Christ died for our sins. The body, however, was not redeemable. It had to die, because the blood or life force was forfeit. This worked for our benefit though, so that we would not end up with a redeemed spirit trapped in a sinful body for all eternity. That is why God barred them from the tree of life. By dying, God could then provide us with a new sinless body upon the resurrection, so that a redeemed spirit could live in perfection, as being born again, our soul would have chosen to want to be with God, so now all three would be sinless again by mutual agreement.

So God offered in place of their blood, the blood of an innocent victim. One whose blood was not forfeit, but because of its innocence could provide a temporary reprieve from the demand for the righteous justice of their blood. In this case God used animals. Animals have not sinned against God, so their blood could hold Satan's demand for the life blood of the person at bay, giving the person time for reconciliation with God by faith. And so animal sacrifices began as a temporary way to stave off immediate death, so that people would have a chance to have their spirits and souls redeemed. But an animal's blood was not the same as their blood. It could never really atone for their sin, nor hold off the demand for justice forever. (Hebrews 10:4) There needed to be a more perfect, sinless, innocent offering. One that would fulfill the requirements and yet free them of the penalty. What better substitution than God Himself offering His own blood, which was not forfeit, as a replacement for ours. And that is what God had planned. Christ would become a man, for only a man's blood, a son of Adam, a kinsman, could atone for man's sin of the soul and redeem him. But only God's blood would be perfect, sinless, and innocent enough to qualify and satisfy the punishment that sin wrought, the offering of the life's source, the blood.

But while the offering of blood, especially Christ's, would atone for the sin of the soul, it would not redeem the spirit without something more, for another penalty of sin is the spirit's eternal separation from God. The spirit had to be reconnected, so someone had to suffer that separation from God. Christ also paid that. When He hung on the cross, He cried out to God asking why He (the Father) had forsaken Him (the Son). God had to spiritually separate Himself from Christ or turn His back and break the connection in order to lay upon Christ the sins of the world, for God cannot look upon sin or have it in His presence. As God does not live in time, but in eternity, what appeared to us as just a momentary separation between the two of them, was in fact an eternity of separation, for God does not experience time as we do. The past, present, and future are all one to Him, so a moment of separation would essentially be experiencing an eternity. I sometimes get the impression that those who no longer think they can sin believe that somehow the actual commission of their sins are considered as Christ having committed the acts Himself, totally alleviating them of all guilt, when they say their sins were laid upon Him, so therefore they do not see any of their actions as sinful and do not think they are held responsible for any of their wrong actions (if they even consider them wrong actions) after conversion. It was not that Christ was held responsible for committing the sins in our place, and so no matter what we do now, we are not held responsible for the temporal consequences of those sins, big or tiny, as He took them from us. It was that Christ had the sins themselves laid upon Himself, taking the blame for them, so that God would see all of them at once and separate Himself from them, and so Christ suffered the penalty of eternal separation from God which needs to be paid for those sins, for us.

The spiritual penalty, the eternal separation from God was what the issue here was, not the making it impossible for us to ever sin again, for God had to place the sin where He could turn from it, as it could not be in His presence. It would be as if we robbed a bank, and Christ stepped forward and took the money and was holding it when the police came, and He took the blame, and suffered the penalty of jail, but He did not commit the crime in our place. We still committed the crime and we still had to live with the consequences of that knowledge. We might even have to suffer temporal  consequences, such as someone saw us and no longer wants to be our friend. Then if we were to shoplift later on, even something really small and insignificant, Christ is still standing there holding the object, and taking the blame and paying the jail time for our theft, but He still has not committed the crime. We are responsible for committing it, even though the crime itself is not laid at our door and we don't have to pay the penalty. It does not mean that we can never commit a sin of some kind again. We still have free will choice to do that if we want. In this way, even now if our soul chooses to sin, once we accept Christ, our spirit is not separated from Him, for Christ already suffered that on our behalf taking the blame and penalty, but we do suffer the temporal consequences of those actions, and also the spiritual problems, such as causing obstacles in our relationship with God, that they bring. Christ did not negate our free will and the ability to choose to not live every moment perfectly in accord with God's will. If it were so that we cannot sin, because Christ took all the sin including the commission of it, then once He took the world's sins on Himself, nobody should have ever sinned again. It should have been finished for all time that anybody could sin, but the fact is, people do still sin. Not just unbelievers, but believers too. If you don't think so, then take a closer look at the churches and congregations. We can still choose to sin, although as one grows closer to Christ, one will choose less and less to follow the carnal inclinations. The “big” sins aren't even a temptation for most. However, as one grows closer to God, they also see the teeny tiny sins that they once didn't even know existed, so they never really see themselves as being sinless. They always are aware of how far short of Christ's perfection they fall. 
We are told that salvation is by grace through faith, (Eph 2:8-9) and it has always been so, not only after Christ, but also before. The atonement would be offered when Christ came, but it also had to be believed in and accepted, for it to be applied, both before and after. God gave the promise to Eve that He would send a redeemer to atone for their sins, and they had to have faith in the coming of that redeemer for God's grace of forgiveness and atonement to be applied to their spirit. Belief and faith would redeem their spirits, whether before Christ's coming or after it. We know this to be true, for in Hebrews 11, otherwise known as the faith chapter, many of these people are listed as heroes of faith. They had faith in the promise that was afar off, not having seen it come to pass in their lifetimes, but their faith by God's grace saved them and upon death they entered Paradise, as until the final atonement was actually sacrificed, they could not have it applied to allow them into the presence of God. We on the other hand look afar off to the past and believe by faith, but the atonement can be applied immediately for us. 
The difference between those before and after Christ was that after Christ, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and write the law on our hearts, being an internal Reminder and Conscience for us to guide and teach us. We need no outer trappings or rituals to be a constant reminder to obey God's laws. On the other hand, before Christ, God provided external reminders that they had to keep God's law. It wasn't written on their hearts internally, but God told them to bind them to their foreheads and arms, and rituals, feasts, and sacrifices abounded to try to keep them on the straight path. Jews literally do bind them to their foreheads and arms using phylacteries, even though God may have meant it more in a spiritual sense rather than physical one. It isn't that we don't sin, because we have the Holy Spirit. That isn't what He does. He guides and directs and chastises us, but He doesn't make decisions for us. He does not keep us from sinning, for we can quench His voice. Nor did the lack of indwelling of the Holy Spirit keep those from before Christ from obeying God's laws. They were not unable to keep them, because they weren't indwelt by the Spirit. They had external reminders that they should obey, and they had a soul that decided which path to follow. Some obeyed and some didn't. We have an internal Reminder that we should obey, but we still have a soul that decides which path to follow. It may be somewhat easier for us, having it be internal, but it was no less of an expectation for them than for us. And it is just as easy for us to quench that internal reminder as it was for them to ignore the external ones. I will elaborate further on this Old Testament vs. New Testament situation later.

Now for a closer look at our trinity's three persons. Let's start by discussing the spirit. Because of the fall, we are all born spiritually dead. This is why Christ died, to restore that connection with God, by taking upon Himself the penalty (sacrificing the life force of the blood and suffering separation from God) to atone for our sins. The result of that is that when we accept that payment Christ made, or accept Him as our Savior, our spirit is redeemed and made sinless. But it is the only part of us that is made sinless. The soul still has free will choice, and the body will die in its sinful state. The spirit no longer desires to sin against God. It no longer has the stain of sin. It is reconnected to God and wants to be obedient to God's will. It will do its best to influence the soul to always make the same choice.
Next we have the body. At the fall, God cursed the body and said it would die. It became corrupt and non-redeemable. Because the body is sinful and cannot be redeemed, it will always lust after carnality and not righteousness. There is no good thing in it. When someone speaks of the residual effects of sin that Christians still have, and have to deal with, they are referring to the flesh and its carnal desires, which can influence our soul's choices. Paul spoke of this struggle that he (and we all) had. He tells us that sin still dwells in us (in the body of flesh) and it wars against the redeemed spirit, which is the inward man. We have a war waging inside us that we must constantly fight and strive to win. The closer we draw to God and the more we resist the devil, the more our soul will choose rightly. However it is a race that must be run to finish the course. We must endure to the end. 

Romans 7:14-25 " For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Hebrews 12:1-13 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” 
Paul was telling us that we have two natures inside us and we need to strive against sin and run the race to partake of His holiness. Why would God have to chastise us if we were not wandering off from the path? He would not if we were sinless. If we never receive chastisement, then it is doubtful that we are truly children of God, for whom He loves, He will chasten, as a father does his child to keep them on the path. If a redeemed individual cannot sin, as some believe, they would not be able to stray from that path. But we are told we can stray, which is why God chastises us. He purges us and prunes us so that we will produce good fruit. John 15:1-2 tells us that He must do this for us to bring forth good fruit. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Luke 6:41-43 “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” These passages are not saying, as some teach, that if you are a good tree you will never bring forth corrupt fruit. Ask any farmer if he can get some bad fruit off a good tree and he will say, yes. The adverse affects of weather can affect it; lack of pruning will affect it. I see it on my own farm, where the branches were not pruned on old apple trees, so while they were once good trees, producing abundant fruit, the previous owner stopped pruning them, and they went “wild,” as they say. The fruit is no longer of a good quality. In Luke, Christ was telling His disciples and the multitude that they shouldn't be so quick to judge others sins, for if they took a good look at themselves they might find their own sins were actually bigger. A corrupted tree (one that has gone wild or was never tended to begin with), will never bring forth good fruit. And a good tree, which is being tended, fertilized, and pruned (pruning is essential for getting good crops of fruit) will bring forth good fruit. But to believe that a good tree can never bring forth bad fruit is to simply to close one's eyes to reality and Scripture both. God prunes us (nips our bad fruit in the bud), so that we will hopefully only bring forth good fruit. It is essential and necessary if we are His children, because the truth is, we will sin on occasion. If not, why would God say all these things to us and tell us about all this? 
The third part of us is the soul. What some people and teachers/preachers and theologies do not seem to understand, is that the soul is separate from the spirit and can act apart from and even in opposition to the spirit, just as it did with Adam and Eve. It is our free will which can always choose to either obey the redeemed spirit or listen to the carnal body. It is caught in the middle of the war of the two opposing forces. If it were not so that our soul can still choose to sin, even once our spirit is redeemed, then Adam and Eve could not have sinned to begin with, for they were without sin even in body, so there was no struggle to be righteous as we now have between body and spirit. But they did choose to sin, and so can we. How much easier is it for us, who live in a sinful body, to be influenced to have our will choose to sin against the spirit than they who were totally without sin and connected to God? 

While the body dies, and the spirit is either connected to God or not connected to God, our soul (intellect and will) is very much a separate part of us that is self-aware and understands that we make choices. It is as much eternal for people who die and go to hell (those whose spirit is dead or disconnected from God) and who are very much aware of where they are, and how they got there (free will choice to disobey God and repudiate Christ), as it is for those who are redeemed. Free will means that. Free will. It can choose to obey God or not to obey God. It is not under blind subjection to the redeemed spirit. Now, should a person who has been redeemed be choosing sin? If they are walking with the Lord in complete harmony, I would think that they would not do it regularly or with malice aforethought or that their sins would be “big” ones. However if one allows sins (no matter how small) to accumulate, allows apostasy to creep in (due to lack of study) and does not repent (or turn from) these things, it will lead one further and further from a close walk with the Lord, and then sin begins to grow in a person's life. The more the Spirit is quenched, the easier it becomes to listen to Satan, the world, and the body. To think that one is not capable of being deceived into that state is to set oneself up to be deceived, for Satan likes nothing better than to convince someone that it is not possible for them to be deceived or sin, for then they are just ripe for the picking. And it is not just the sins of commission that cause us to have relationship problems with the Lord. It is sins of omission. Things such as not praying, not studying God's Word, not doing the positive things we are supposed to be doing like feeding the hungry, helping the needy, etc. 

Some theologies teach that once we accept Jesus, we are completely sinless. They focus exclusively on that one third of our trinity as if it is the only part of us, and ignore the other two-thirds, one part of that two-thirds being completely, irredeemably sinful. While our spirit is redeemed and without sin, we still have a free will soul and a carnal body to contend with. Some other theologies teach that Christ set us free from the law, so they ignore God's laws and live with free abandon to licentious behavior. If one ignores all the Scriptures that tell us about these other two parts of our body, that we need to mortify our body and bring it under subjection to the spirit, they risk the very thing of which they do not think they are capable. They can sin. Romans 8:13 “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” I Corinthians 9:24-27 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

If we are born again, our spirit wants to serve God. If we are born again, our will or intellect has also chosen the path of God and wants to serve God, but it can sometimes be deceived and convinced that sin is okay, and it allows the body to have its way. The odds of a Christian's mind giving into the "big" sins, such as murder, adultery, etc. are very slim, however we are easily convinced by the flesh that "little" sins are not really sins. I hear people calling them faults, mistakes, immaturity, being impatient, lacking in the fullness of fruit, freedom in Christ, or whatever term they like to use to justify what God actually sees as sin. We must remember that Christ said that if we hate (even if it only lasts 30 seconds), it is the same as murder. Lust (if you get momentarily aroused by someone – other than your spouse) for only 10 seconds is still adultery. Gossip can actually "murder" someone's reputation. Coveting is an easy sin to fall into. Who doesn't see things that they would like to go out and buy? There are a myriad of "little" sins one can commit without even thinking about it. Did you provoke someone to anger by insisting on your own way, when God would have had you sacrifice your own way instead? That's the sin of selfishness. Do you see yourself as spiritually superior to someone else, because you see their sins but not your own? That's the sin of pride. I could go on all day listing these types of things. So while some like to pretend that these are not sins, that they are just not bringing in the fullness of the fruits of the spirit, or an example of immaturity, they do what John says in 1 John 1:8 & 10 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.... If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." John was speaking to believers, not unbelievers about receiving salvation. We know this from the next verse in Chapter 2:1 "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." He warned us that we are capable of still sinning and gave us the remedy for this in 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." For us to sin, the body, the world, or Satan's forces can entice us, but the soul is responsible for choosing sin, as the spirit is now without sin due to being redeemed. Therefore these sins are still held to our account, because they are committed by our trinity, regardless of the opposition of the spirit who refuses to sin with them, as it is redeemed. It still resides in a sinful shell. So therefore we must confess these sins to repair the damage done to our relationship with God in grieving Him. They are not faults, they are not mistakes, they are not immaturity, they are not "not quite the fullness of the fruit," they are sins. And sin disrupts our relationship with God and allows Satan to then continue to deceive us away from the truth. And the more we deny that these "little" things are sins, the easier it is for them to become bigger ones. In fact to believe that one is incapable of committing a sin is the same sin of the Pharisees, self-righteous pride, pride being one of the big sins. The one that felled Satan in fact.

For those who do not believe that Christians can sin, they will point to verses that say that our spirit is redeemed and sinless as the final say on the matter. I concur. It is, on the matter of the spirit, however they ignore all the verses that tell us that our spirit is not our entire being, as they pose a problem for their desired theology. One must take all of Scripture together to arrive at the truth. When there is a contradiction, it means that there is something between the two opposing thoughts that reconciles them. 1 John is an example of this contradictory problem for this subject, for in 1:6-7 and 2:3-5 it says “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.....And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” That is the argument given for the “we do not sin anymore stance.” The argument is made that it says we cannot have any darkness in us (no sin) for if we do, then we are not of Him and lie if we say we are. Yes, when we are saved, we have no darkness in the spirit, we desire to keep the commandments, we are cleansed from sin, and we have fellowship with Him. But that is in the spirit. The problem comes in verses 1:8-10 and 2:1-2 “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 write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” The argument is made that this is speaking to unbelievers, that they can confess their sins and be saved, but that is not keeping in context. John is writing to believers. The entire book is directed at believers. He didn't write a couple verses to believers, then a couple to unbelievers, then a couple to believers and a couple to unbelievers. It is all aimed at believers and is in the same context of the letter. To reconcile this, we need to just acknowledge and understand that we have a sinless spirit residing in a sinful body and that the two war with each other and that we must strive to have our soul always choose to side with the spirit, so that we walk with the Lord. Once you understand that this is how our trinity works, then these verses are no longer contradictory. John is telling us that we have no sin in our spirit and as such should strive not to sin, but there will be times when we do, and when we do, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus, for He is the propitiation for our sins. If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us. It is only in this way that these contradictory verses make any sense at all. Or any of the other passages, such as what Paul wrote in Romans 7.

A couple more passages that are not understood are found in Hebrews 6 and 10. Some say that one slip up or major sin (and some of those “small” sins really are bigger than you'd like to admit – hate/murder, lust/adultery for example) and you have lost your salvation. This is another defense that we must not be able to sin, for if we could, we would all be condemned, because one sin and you've had it. That is not what these passages are saying. Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” To fall away means to walk away from Christ, to become apostate, to not seek repentance anymore or a relationship, to simply stop believing. There is a huge difference between deliberately turning away for all time in unbelief, and committing a disobedient act in the flesh. Committing a sin does not translate into a state of unbelief. The parable of the seeds in Matthew 13 would show us how to interpret the idea of falling away in this passage in Hebrews 6. This is the person who loses all interest due to no depth of commitment, lack of understanding, the cares of the world, persecution, and produces no fruit as a result. The only fruit he ends up with is unbelief. He simply walks away from Christ.

The other passage is Hebrews 10:26-29 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” This is speaking of deliberately, willfully, and continually considering Christ's blood an unholy thing and doing “despite” or in other words, doing something in a hate-filled spiteful way as a means of repudiation, because of despising God. It has been my experience that people turn from God in this manner when they blame Him for something that has deeply hurt them. They possibly have been told the lie that God only wants you to be happy and will give you all the good things in life, and then tribulation hits. Since they didn't get what they wanted (health, wealth, and happiness), they decide to get even by hating God. Even more than simple unbelief, this is out and out hatred that manifests in deliberate stomping on Christ, so to speak. They repudiate Him. This is much more than just falling away in unbelief. This is hate-filled vengeance. In both cases the act is one of deliberately turning from God in unbelief for all time, not a momentary letting down of one's guard against the enemy and committing an act of disobedience. These passages are speaking of the unforgivable sin. All other sins can be forgiven when repented. This cannot.

There are several passages in Scripture that list sins as the ones keeping one out of heaven. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is one of those passages. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Another is Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” And another is Galatians 5:5 “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” There are a number more of them, which list sins. What is overlooked, as is stated in the first verse above, is that these people are “the unrighteous”. The unrighteous are those whose spirits have not been redeemed. These sins are listed as those of unrepentant, unregenerate sinners who never had Jesus' blood applied to their lives. There is really only one sin that leads to spiritual death. 1 John 5:16 “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a (note the use of a singular article) sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it (again singular).” First of all, any sin that does not lead to spiritual death, is a sin which God will forgive and still give the person eternal life. The sin which leads to death (spiritual death) is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is the same thing as repudiating Christ, for the Holy Spirit is the one who reveals Christ to us. This is the unpardonable sin. All other sins against God and Jesus can be forgiven, but not repudiating Him. Mark 3:28-29 “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:” The key here is - are you an unrepentant, unbelieving thief, murderer, etc., because if you are, then the sin that sent you to hell was being unrepentant and unbelieving, not the sin for which you will be judged as to your level of punishment. These people kept out of the kingdom who committed these sins are identified by their sin, but it is not the sin which condemned them to eternal damnation. They could have been forgiven, had they repented. They did not. Therefore they cannot enter the kingdom and must be judged by their sins. That is why there is a Great White Throne Judgment. The unbelievers are judged according to their works, good and bad.

Earlier I had said that I would address the Old Testament vs. New Testament situation in this matter. In the Old Testament we see an example of someone, who was a believer in God and the promises of the Messiah coming to save people from their sins, in the person of King David. That means that his spirit was redeemed by grace through faith in God's eyes. Now remembering that the Holy Spirit does not make us sin-free, and that we still have a will to choose good or evil, we can see that while some think that a Christian may be able to commit “little” sins without worrying about calling them a sin, but the “big” sins will condemn them to hell, we can see that it is not the size of the sin, but the repentance of the heart that makes all the difference. King David was a man after God's own heart - Acts 13:22, one of whom God said that he kept all of God's commandments and statutes - 1 Kings 3:14, yet David was guilty of murder and adultery. Two sins that are listed in the sins that are in the “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” list, yet clearly David made it to heaven, and not only that, God called him a man after His own heart and one who kept His commandments and statutes. Clearly David did not keep them all the time. In fact, he committed two that had the death penalty. The excuse is given by some that well, David was under the law and we are under grace. He didn't have the Holy Spirit. I guess that means it didn't count, because he couldn't help himself? Of course it counted. He had a free will choice just as Adam did or we do. He knowingly chose to sin, knowing they were sins with the death penalty. David meditated on God's Word day and night. It wasn't something he didn't know. He didn't need the Holy Spirit to nudge his heart and tell him that. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not make us impervious to sin either. Our faith and Christ's redemption of us makes our spirit sin-free. The Holy Spirit is simply there to help, guide, direct, etc. He does not make our choices for us. He merely influences. If we sin, no matter the sin, if we still believe and repent, God forgives us. We will have to suffer the temporal consequences, but our spirit will not be damned.

The penalty for the sins David committed under the law was death. Yet God did not have David executed. Instead He forgave him when David repented. David's spirit was still redeemed. God still saw him as keeping the commandments and statutes, just as He still sees us as redeemed and law abiding when we sin. Did David suffer the consequences of those sins? You had better believe he did. Just as we suffer the temporal consequences of our bad choices and sins of the flesh. The difference between before and after the advent of Christ is not in what or how much is forgiven and what is not. It is, as said before, that instead of having to have constant visual and physical reminders of the law and our sin before us in the way of offerings and sacrifices, the temple, the phylacteries bound to forehead and arm, the rituals, the feasts, the memorizing of the Torah, etc., we have the law written on our hearts by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We don't have external reminders of God's law, we have an internal reminder in the person of the Holy Spirit who guides us and acts as our conscience. People were not saved by observing the law, people were saved by having faith in God and the Messiah to come. They looked forward, we look back. They went to Paradise until Christ shed His blood, we go directly to heaven upon death. They were beholden to walk with God and be obedient to Him just as we should, but just as they failed on occasion (as David did) and had to offer sacrifices in repentance and suffer the consequences, we fail on occasion, need to repent and ask forgiveness, and look to the sacrifice that was already offered as covering that sin. But we should not pretend it does not exist, nor ignore it by chalking it up to immaturity, or failure to exhibit the fullness of the fruits of the spirit, or just a lapse, any more than they could. We should go to God and confess that we allowed the flesh to overcome our spirit's directions and that we are sorry. When you love someone and you hurt them, do you not owe them an apology? It doesn't mean that our spirit has lost its connection to God, or some sin has been laid against our spirit as a debt unpaid, it means that our soul has made a free will choice to be lazy and give in to the flesh rather than striving to conquer the inclination. We owe God an apology for that.

In conclusion, we can see that Jesus told us that we are more than just our spirit. Matthew 22:37 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Notice that Jesus said we need to worship God with our heart (our spirit) our soul (our will) and our mind (our intellect). He did not include the body, because the body cannot worship God, now being totally corrupt. We are not just our redeemed spirit; we are a body, soul, and spirit and must worship Him with the latter two while bringing the first under subjection. This is the part that too many people ignore at their peril. It is because these other two parts of us are ignored that some believe they no longer sin, or some believe that they can sin with impunity. Neither is what God's Word teaches.

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