Christians Stop Sinning vs Christians Keep Sinning

here but not here

Challenge #1: The Christian Stops Sinning vs The Christian Keeps Sinning

1 John 3:6 says, “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.”[1]

Romans 7:21 says, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.”[2]

Does John not think that Paul was saved, since Paul was dealing with evil ideas working within him? Not likely, for surely John had the same nature as Paul did. This paradox extenuates the two natures of a person.

Does Paul speak of having one nature or two? What are the two natures? Paul calls them flesh and spirit. Which one does he refer to as dead? The flesh. Which one is alive? The spirit. If you live according to the flesh, you die—flesh dies. Which nature is responsible for sinning? The flesh. That which is counted as dead is not fully eliminated in this earthly life. If a person sins as a Christian, what is the penalty of the sin? It is not counted against him, because Jesus Christ, at the person’s salvation, eliminates sins past and present.

We can be confident that John also knew this about human nature. John, as a rather philosophical mind, may be focusing on the deeper things of the Christian spirit. Earlier in the epistle he established that sins must be repented. If we say we have no sin, we call God a liar. Therefore, John is aware of the sin problem.

There are two solutions at this point. One is that the true conversion of the individual necessarily results in the reduction in the habit of sins. If there is no change in the outward actions, then there was no change in the inward man. But the wording in 1 John seems more extreme than that.

Solution 2 is that John is focusing on the state of the individual’s spirit before God. That which is born of flesh is flesh; that which is born of spirit is spirit (John 3:6). It is the flesh that sins, not the spirit. God, crediting either the flesh or the spirit, no longer counts the sins of the individual after he has received God’s salvation, because he is now born of the spirit. From God’s perspective, that person is no longer a sinner. This will be fully realized, as John explains a few verses earlier, when we see Him as He is.

He then involves the word “practices,” which brings the solutions together. If sin doesn’t bother a person, his heart is set opposed to God. A heart opposed to God is of the devil. Paul, though he acknowledged his continued sin, was also bothered by the continual sin. He sinned against “practice,” which demonstrated that he did belong to God. He also continued in repentance as a proper dependence and demonstration of his need for God’s justice and faithfulness. All the while, God is not counting those sins against him.

The Bible has other harsh language for sinners. “But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together.”[3] “All the sinners of My people will die by the sword.”[4] “We know that God does not hear sinners.”[5] Even Paul, at the height of his ministry referred to himself as the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Paul also agrees that sin excludes one from the presence of God, listing in 1 Cor. 6 the sins that people commit which exclude them from the kingdom. Did they never sin again? Or did they become as if they never sinned again? “Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Sin applies to all of us born under Adam, and brings to light our desperate need for forgiveness.

An additional biblically-consistent solution is that John is not talking about himself or Paul, and is not addressing a salvation issue. If being born of God means that that one does not sin, and Jesus truly and entirely did not sin, then the conclusion can be draw that Jesus was truly and entirely born of God. There is only one who didn’t sin, and there is only one who truly abided in Him. If we have a nature that is born of God, then that nature does not sin—sin is drawn from the other nature that is still with us. John may be convincing the readers of their continual need and incompletion at that point.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (1 Jn 3:6). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ro 7:21). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Is 1:28). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Am 9:10). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Jn 9:31). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

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