Perfectionism is a doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or has been attained.

Does the Bible Say True Christians Never Sin?

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  • Does the Bible Say True Christians Never Sin?

    by John Piper

    We dip into the Ask Pastor John podcast inbox. “Pastor John, my name is Jake from Mexico. What does 1 John 5:18 mean?” End of question. And I’ll go ahead and read the text from the 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.” Pastor John what does this mean?

    I am not sure what part of this verse Jake is stumbling over. There are three he could stumble over.
    • One could be: “Those born of God do not keep on sinning.” What does that mean?
    • A second would be: “He who is born of God protects them.” What does that mean?
    • A third would be: “The evil one does not touch him.” Whoa. Really? What does that mean?


    So I am not sure which of those three he is stumbling over, so maybe I better say a word about each one.

    And what I am thinking is maybe Jake is reading the King James Authorized Version or the New American Standard Version of that first clause, because it is even more perplexing. It says: “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” That is the King James. Or the New American Standard says: “We know that no one who is born of God sins.” So I would join Jake, if I read those, and say, “Huh. Really? Christians don’t sin?”

    That sounds truly problematical: Christians never sin. I met a woman one time who did believe that. She threw 1 John 5:18 and 1 John 3:9 at me. And I asked, “Well, what do you call the bad things you do?”

    And she had invented a lot of names for her sins, like: mistakes and flaws and shortcomings and imperfections, but she was adamant. I don’t sin.

    Now the ESV is right to translate “we know that everyone who has been born of God” — and then it translates — “does not keep on sinning,” which helps a little bit, maybe. First John 3:9 has the same issue: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning for God’s seed abides in him and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”

    Now I could pull rank with Greek here — which I will — and then I will back up and say that is not the key issue. The idea of the Greek present tense [ἁμαρτάνει / ἁμαρτάνειν] which is being used is that those who are born again, and have the Spirit of God in them, cannot ever make peace with sin, settle in with sin, make sin a friend, be okay with sinning, just go on sinning as though no war needs to be made against it, and nothing will come of it if we do. The present tense says: No, you can’t do that, you can’t make a practice of sinning like that.

    But if you don’t know Greek, you don’t have to trust me at this point, because there are a couple of other reasons why non-Greek readers know that this text does not mean that Christians don’t ever do anything wrong.

    First John 5:16, two verses earlier: “If anyone sees his brother” — a Christian — “committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life.” So he can’t mean that Christians don’t sin, because he just gave instruction for how to help Christians who do sin.

    The same thing is true in 1 John 1:8–10. “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.”

    So in the meaning of 1 John 5:18, I think here in the context, the first and obvious meaning would be: The one who is born of God does not sin unto death; that is, we don’t make peace with sin, settle into a pattern of sinning that will destroy us in the end, prove that we are not truly born of God and are not truly Christians. Christians walk in the light and, according to 1 John 1:8–10, walking in the light is not sinlessness. It is walking in a way that you have eyes to see in the light the ugliness of what you just did and you are sorry for it. You confess it. You keep short accounts with God and you move on. So I think “does not sin” means (1) doesn’t commit the sin unto death and (2) doesn’t settle into a pattern of sinning that proves you have no spiritual life in you.

    Second issue: “He who is born of God protects him.” I think that means that Christ — who is called the one born of God, the only begotten of God, the eternally virgin born Spirit, but born by the Spirit Son of God, Christ — guards us from the devil. He intercedes for us and he is with us to the end of the age helping us. And his blood covers us and keeps us safe from Satan’s accusations because none of them can hold, because Christ has died for us.

    Third issue: “The evil one does not touch him.” The devil’s accusations and temptations and harassments can hurt us terribly, but they can never destroy us. There is no deadly touch. There is no poisonous bite. His fangs were removed at the cross, and his lethal poison is taken away from believers. He cannot destroy us.

    So I take “cannot touch us” to mean can’t touch us with any deadly touch. He can hurt us terribly. I don’t want to minimize Satan’s realty in this world. He can throw us in prison and he can move others to kill us, according to Revelation 2:10, but he can’t hurt us ultimately. He can’t touch us with the touch of destruction and damnation. That has been taken out of his hand by the blood of Jesus. Jesus did that when he died on the cross according to Colossians 2:15. He disarmed the principalities and powers when he died and shed his blood.

    So the only begotten of God is, indeed, our perfect and everlasting protector.

  • #2

    Well yeah its like Jesus told Peter "Satan has asked to sift you as wheat" and he was protected, I have never seen any man who does not sin even Peter sinned right before the cock crowed but he was quick to repent, as for the sin unto death it has to be some kind of speaking against the faith or blasphemy because of Paul's teaching that "so and so should be handed over to Satan for his flesh to be destroyed so that his spirit may live in the day of the Lord".
    Comment>

    • #3
      I'm going to side with "Christians don't sin."

      >Now the ESV is right to translate “we know that everyone who has been born of God” — and then it translates — “does not keep on sinning,”

      Just because you might prefer the wording doesn't make it the right translation (but, what real difference does "not keep on sinning" make). "Whoever is born of God doesn't sin" is the correct translation. πᾶς ὁ [whoever] γεγεννημένος [is born] ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ [of God] οὐχ [doesn't] ἁμαρτάνει [sin]. οὐχ means "doesn't" (doesn't sin) or "not" (sins not). οὐχ does't mean "does not keep on".

      1 John 1:8–10 is often used to support the claim that Christians keep on sinning. But, that's not the meaning of the passage. Consider 1 John 1:7-9 "If we say we have fellowship with him while we 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 his Son cleanses us from all sin. 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."

      When it says "if we say we have no sin..." it means those people who refuse to confess their sin (i.e. repent) because they deny having sin in the first place. It can't mean saved Christians because 1) if we have sin (i.e. walking in the dark) then we do not have fellowship with Christ (grammatically, I believe the biblical text links sinning with walking in the dark). 2) Those in fellowship with God are cleansed of all unrighteousness, are cleansed of all sin, have no sin.

      How do you [still] have sin when you are cleansed of all sin?
      Comment>

      • #4
        Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
        I'm going to side with "Christians don't sin."

        >Now the ESV is right to translate “we know that everyone who has been born of God” — and then it translates — “does not keep on sinning,”

        Just because you might prefer the wording doesn't make it the right translation (but, what real difference does "not keep on sinning" make). "Whoever is born of God doesn't sin" is the correct translation. πᾶς ὁ [whoever] γεγεννημένος [is born] ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ [of God] οὐχ [doesn't] ἁμαρτάνει [sin]. οὐχ means "doesn't" (doesn't sin) or "not" (sins not). οὐχ does't mean "does not keep on".

        1 John 1:8–10 is often used to support the claim that Christians keep on sinning. But, that's not the meaning of the passage. Consider 1 John 1:7-9 "If we say we have fellowship with him while we 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 his Son cleanses us from all sin. 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."

        When it says "if we say we have no sin..." it means those people who refuse to confess their sin (i.e. repent) because they deny having sin in the first place. It can't mean saved Christians because 1) if we have sin (i.e. walking in the dark) then we do not have fellowship with Christ (grammatically, I believe the biblical text links sinning with walking in the dark). 2) Those in fellowship with God are cleansed of all unrighteousness, are cleansed of all sin, have no sin.

        How do you [still] have sin when you are cleansed of all sin?
        So you believe Christians are infallible, unerring, unfailing, faultless, flawless, impeccable, perfect, precise, always accurate, meticulous, and scrupulous? You seem to believe Christians do not sin at all, and I mean never?

        God bless,
        William
        Comment>

        • #5
          Originally posted by William View Post
          So you believe Christians are infallible, unerring, unfailing, faultless, flawless, impeccable, perfect, precise, always accurate, meticulous, and scrupulous? You seem to believe Christians do not sin at all, and I mean never?
          Christians do sin, but that doesn't mean Christians have sin. The difference is being repentant, forgiven and cleansed of sin. If you run up debts but someone pays off your debts, you don't have debt. You have no debts even though you sometimes commit deficit spending. The Bible says Christians are holy (sinless). But, we do sin. That contradiction needs be resolved without denying either teaching. That resolution is the heart of the Gospel.




          Comment>

          • #6
            The primary consideration governing the tense of the verb in Greek is not time but rather the kind of action. The present active indicative verb usually denotes continuous\progressive action. It designates an action in progress or a state of persistence.

            I think that 1 John 1:8 is the defining verse for this topic. It states "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Both verbs, "have" and "deceive", are in the present tense. Also note the pronoun "we." The author clearly included himself in the group and his audience was Christian. That then leaves a dilemma if the verbs in in others verses do not denotes continuous\progressive action which is the normal use of present active indicative verbs.

            I also think one verb use by John is very helpful on this point. The Greek verb translated "practice(s)" in the ESV is ποιέω. Louw and Nida (J. P. Louw, & E. A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic Domains, Vol. 1, p. 803) point out:

            ποιέω: a marker of an agent relation with a numerable event--'to do, to perform, to practice, to make'
            By its very nature "to practice" something is more than a one time event.

            "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."" 1 John 1:6

            If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him." 1 John 2:29

            "Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness." 1 John 3:4

            "Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 1 John 3:7

            "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil..." 1 John 3:8

            "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning..." 1 John 3:9

            All of the examples are present active indicatives. It is best to understand these as habitual actions which signal either an action that regularly occurs or an ongoing state of being.
            Last edited by Origen; 02-14-2016, 05:18 PM.
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            • #7
              If we, anyone of us, say we have no sin then we cannot repent of our sin and have that sin removed from us being counted against us. One side of the coin is committing sin. The side of the coin is having our sins washed away.

              The difference between the saved and the lost is not that one doesn't sin and the other does. The difference is hating our sin vs. embracing (practicing) sin without repentance.

              Comment>

              • #8
                I don't disagree with any of that. My point is that John does not think that Christians never sin or cannot sin. Beyond that John is clear that no Christian can live in a state of habitual sin which signal either an action that regularly occurs or an ongoing state of being.

                You do bring us an interesting point. In his commentary Raymond E. Brown (The Epistles of John (The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries) thinks John is not addressing those who claim they do not sin but rather those who claim that sinning does not matter now given Christ's atonement. That is a type of early antinomianism.
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                • #9
                  Paul clearly addresses the issue of people who might say it's okay to sin, because of Christ. Maybe John was addressing the same attitude. But, I take John as referring to people who sin but deny they sin, preventing them from confessing their sin and having their sins washed away. There are now a large number of proud homosexual "Christians" who deny they have sin (in regard to their disposition). They say they nave no sin therefor they do not confess their sin and therefor have not been cleansed of their sin.
                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cornelius View Post

                    Christians do sin, but that doesn't mean Christians have sin. The difference is being repentant, forgiven and cleansed of sin. If you run up debts but someone pays off your debts, you don't have debt. You have no debts even though you sometimes commit deficit spending. The Bible says Christians are holy (sinless). But, we do sin. That contradiction needs be resolved without denying either teaching. That resolution is the heart of the Gospel.




                    I have to disagree with you there.

                    When a Christian is reborn and saved, their sin is removed and washed clean. However, if they sin again, the new sin remains until he/she seeks forgiveness again. This does not mean that you are not saved anymore. You can never lose this salvation. Your salvation cannot go away. But at the same time, you still have sin. The bible speaks clearly about needing to draw yourself close to God and continuously praying to cleanse yourself of sin. I thought most of you would know this. Hence what baptism is for. I should make a point there.

                    When a person is baptized they are washed clean again in the eyes of God but only for the moment. Which is why many get baptized more than once. Even this has nothing to do with true salvation. Only the asking of forgiveness and christ into your heart is being saved.

                    The bible also speaks of sin being a sin nature. In other words, you get drawn in to it and you must keep repenting so that you can draw yourself away from at as much as possible. Otherwise what would a man do but draw himself back into the lifestyle. This brings my next point which is the change of heart. Your heart does change which leads you to automatically draw yourself away from sin. Now this does happen as well. You are more driven to God and less driven to sin.

                    But sin as a whole is an entire sin nature. It's the nature of sinning and it will get christians too. The bible speaks clearly of the devil working the hardest on christians. Which he does. It also speaks clearly of Gods protection over Christians, that a simple rebuke will expel a demon possessed Christian. But temptation... does this ring a bell? This should be starting to make some sense now.

                    If the devil was to tempt an innocent woman in the garden of eden, he would tempt the Christian heart every chance he could get, so that even a small chance of their life going downhill would lead them to lose their faith.

                    Let me know what you all think.

                    - Cloud
                    Comment>

                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cloud View Post
                      However, if they sin again, the new sin remains until he/she seeks forgiveness again.
                      Can we be guilty of unforgiven sin and saved at the same time?

                      Can we have the stain of sin and be washed white as snow at the same time?

                      Where do you get, "continuously praying to cleanse yourself of sin", as opposed to being cleansed at salvation and never having the stain of sin again?


                      Originally posted by Cloud View Post
                      When a person is baptized they are washed clean again in the eyes of God but only for the moment. Which is why many get baptized more than once.
                      Nope. Sorry. There's only one baptism.
                      Comment>

                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cloud View Post

                        When a person is baptized they are washed clean again in the eyes of God but only for the moment. Which is why many get baptized more than once. Even this has nothing to do with true salvation. Only the asking of forgiveness and christ into your heart is being saved.
                        Hello brother,

                        More than one baptism conveys doubt. It is no more appropriate to baptize a second time as it was to re-circumcise. Galatians 2:20 Paul speaks of being crucified with Christ, but living by faith in the Son of God who died and rose again. Paul speaks of our union with Christ, the state of all true Christians. Our union with Christ is signified through the New Birth by baptism. Paul speaks about the meaning of the New Birth, using language of circumcision in Colossians 2:11, Paul then speaks of baptism in Colossians 2:12, and returns to circumcision in Colossians 2:13.

                        Neither circumcision or baptism saves anyone. In John 1:12-13 we read, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God." Both circumcision and baptism are performed by man. There's nothing in the water but which it signifies (only the Spirit truly washes us of sin), the water has no inherent power to make us the children of God. That is, the performance of baptism does not benefit us if we have no faith.

                        God bless,
                        William
                        Comment>

                        • #13
                          You guys sort of took me out of context there. But that's okay.

                          Baptism is done more then once by certain people and that's a fact. I never said it was the right thing to do. Also William, we agree on the same thing, that it does not mean your saved. As I said in my first message, it does not mean your saved at all.

                          But I've read the bible enough to know that you can't be saved and not have sin. It's just not how it works. Jesus had no sin. And that's clearly stated in the bible. But we are not like jesus. We are not in the same presence with God as Jesus is.

                          And for that reason, we still have sin regardless of our prayers. But I believe we are washed clean each time we pray for our sins to be forgiven even though I also believe you can only be get saved once, that lasts a lifetime.
                          Comment>

                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cloud View Post
                            You guys sort of took me out of context there. But that's okay.

                            Baptism is done more then once by certain people and that's a fact. I never said it was the right thing to do. Also William, we agree on the same thing, that it does not mean your saved. As I said in my first message, it does not mean your saved at all.

                            But I've read the bible enough to know that you can't be saved and not have sin. It's just not how it works. Jesus had no sin. And that's clearly stated in the bible. But we are not like jesus. We are not in the same presence with God as Jesus is.

                            And for that reason, we still have sin regardless of our prayers. But I believe we are washed clean each time we pray for our sins to be forgiven even though I also believe you can only be get saved once, that lasts a lifetime.
                            Hi Cloud,

                            I think we agree on the essentials. Anything further would just be semantics.

                            God bless,
                            William
                            Comment>

                            • #15
                              I think that perfectionism is absolutely impossible, (Irony is ironic xD, I am a bit of a perfectionist by society's standards, not religious standards, though.). We are below God, God is the only perfect being, Christians are sinful, and do commit sin. That's why Jesus came here. I think, that if someone can claim to be "pure", then, it is as if they're spraying perfume on a casket. It just doesn't make very much sense.
                              Comment>
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