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Do I believe that a born again Christian can sin?


This problem confuses many people, particularly those who are young in Christ. I am going to tell you my answer and then give you Scriptures that will support it. Yes,  born again Christians can sin in the sense that they don't always do what is right and what pleases God. No,  born again Christians can not sin in the sense that they can reject God (or act like Satan which is the thought in 1 John 3). So sin has to be defined by the context. Why do I think Christians can sin or be disobedient to God? 

1. David was an old testament saint (a picture of a new testament Christian) and he certainly sinned.  2 Samuel 12, 2 Samuel 24. 

2. Most of the new testament letters were written to deal with problems in the assemblies or churches. These problems were either doctrinal (for example, Galatians) or moral (for example 1 Corinthians, particularly chapter 5). Provision is made for excommunication of a "so-called" believer who commits gross moral sin. 

3. Our experience agrees with the fact that Christians sin. See Romans 7 and 1 John 1:8-10. Generally we would say that a new life in Christ does not eliminate the "flesh", the sin principle that we receive by our first birth. But the new birth does give us a new attitude toward sin and tools to deal with it. I would say that a Christian is not sinless, but a Christian should sin less (than they did before they received Christ). Scriptures that you might want to look at include: 

  • Romans 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

  • Romans 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

  • Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

  • Romans 7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

  • Romans 7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

  • Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

  • Romans 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

  • Romans 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

  • Romans 7:23 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.

  • Romans 7:25 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.

  • 1Corinthians 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

  • Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

  • 1Timothy 5:20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. (This had to do with our leaders sinning).

  • Hebrews 12:1 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.

  • James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

  • 1John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

  • 1John 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:

  • 1John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. The last scripture mentioned seems to contradict what I have said. But in the context it is saying that a Christian does not act like Satan.  That is, he doesn't hate his brother (1 John 3:15)  and he does not reject Christ (1 John 3:23).

The next question is, "what happens when a born again believer sins?" Here we must distinguish between salvation and fellowship. My salvation is secure because the blood of the Lord Jesus cleanses from ALL sins, 1 John 1:7 (not just the ones we committed before trusting the Lord).  My salvation is dependent on what Christ did for me, not on what I am doing for Christ (and of course what Christ did for me becomes effective when I receive or believe in or trust Him). When Christ died for us all of our sins were future but His death is still sufficient to forgive them all. Now fellowship is broken when I sin, much like fellowship between a husband and wife can be broken by not treating each other right or like fellowship between a father and son if the son disobeys the father. This will make it hard to pray and to be in the presence of the Lord. The solution is to confess that sin as in 1 John 1:9 (that is to say the same thing about our sin that God says) to have fellowship restored. This is like a husband and wife being reconciled after a problem or a father and son being reconciled after the son's disobedience. Notice the relationship is not the issue, the couple is still husband and wife, the father and son are still father and son when the fellowship is broken. But the fellowship is the issue.  Notice that 1 John is a family letter dealing with fellowship (1 John 1:3,6, and 7). So we confess our sins, not to be born again and again and again, (since the new birth only happens once) but to restore the sweetness of our fellowship with the Lord and to be in a condition to be used of God.


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