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Sinlessness and 1st John

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Question #1: 

Some other questions, Dr.,

1. Why does God call Job blameless if (1:8) sin is embedded in our nature?

2. In the footnote in my study Bible for Zechariah 5:3 (3 And he said to me, "This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished) it says that this text is unclear and that instead of 'banished', some translations propose something quite opposite, i.e. 'justified'. This obviously makes a big difference and I would like you to clarify the matter.

3. What is meant in 'handing over to Satan' in 1 Corinthians 5:4-5? How far should the punishment go?

4. You say that: 'As sinners by nature, we are predisposed toward wrong, but thanks to God's gracious provision (initially through the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and subsequently by inheritance from our first parents)...' - why is the tree a gracious provision if eating from it was forbidden?

5. You write about the trap of trying to improve 'cosmos diabolicus'. While I understand what trap you mean, I am wondering whether you consider all efforts directed at systemic changes to be wrong? They are bound to fail eventually as this is devil's world, but doesn't God call some direct their efforts at increasing others' awareness of certain problems, or even some political activity?

6. I cannot understand what you mean when you say that 'we cannot substitute anything for his Word so as to help Him'.

7. You state that 're-creation' explains the appearance of age. Why is that the case? Could God not have created in infantile state?

Response #1: 

Good to hear from you my friend. As to your questions:

1. Job was doing what God wanted him to do in both major areas of the life of faith: he was serving the Lord based upon his spiritual maturity, and he was refraining from sin and evil as a reflection of the same. I would prefer to translate tham and yashar respectively as "a man of integrity and righteousness" – which is not the same as saying "blameless as sinless". Job was doing what we all should be doing, and doing it so well that the Lord can refer to his positive efforts as "possessing integrity" (aka "blameless") and his efforts in avoiding negatives as "righteous" (aka "without sin"). Quite a set of compliments from the Lord, but not a pronouncement of complete sinlessness.

2. The Hebrew verb here is naqah which means "to cleanse"; the particular form is the niphal, the Hebrew passive stem. "Literally" the meaning is "will be cleansed", so the question becomes does it mean "cleansed" in the sense of "removed from the land so the land will be pure" (i.e., "purged out"), or does it mean "cleansed" in the sense of "forgiven by having one's sins cleansed" (i.e., "purged within"). Most versions go with the context's sense of judgment and separation and so with the first possibility. In English, I could only find one version (Young's Literal Translation) which opted for the second. I think the second unlikely since, for one thing, if the passage were talking about the forgiveness of sins, it would not be restricting the area of forgiveness to theft and false swearing. I interpret this passage to be talking about the Messiah's millennial reign wherein crime will be suppressed to an unheard of degree, and with these two crimes standing for overt crime and corruption respectively.

3. This is a case of the "sin unto death" (see the link). When a believer strays so far from the Lord and involves him or herself in such gross sin and apostate-like behavior that apostasy would result – except for the fact that the individual in question is unwilling to give up his/her faith or his/her sin – God takes that individual believer out of this life in a painful and terrible way, often, apparently, by withdrawing the divine protection without which no believer would be able to continue in this life in the face of satanic and demonic opposition. The unique thing about this passage is that it is shows a very special and unique apostolic authority to bring on this judgment personally and immediately. No such authority exists today, but believers who turn their backs on the Lord to the same degree can expect the same sort of horrific exit from this life – absent repentance, confession, and turning around, that is.

4. The tree of knowing good and evil was a gracious provision because it ensured that when mankind fell into sin the "innocence" experienced in the garden would be replaced by an activated conscience capable of recognizing and distinguishing between good and evil (neither of which categories existed before the fall for Adam and Eve except for the one prohibition not to eat of the tree which gave that knowledge). Being imperfect and infested by a sin nature after the fall, the lack of a conscience which recognized and was able to distinguish between such critically important things would have doomed the human race to near immediate destruction and, even if that had been supernaturally prevented, would have made it impossible for us to recognize that we are sinful and in need of a Savior. Recognition of our sinfulness is one of the key aspects of grace which leads us to salvation, for, along with realizing that we will die, realizing that we will be condemned for our sins and crimes when we face a righteous judgment in eternity, is one of the main prods to the human conscience to seek salvation by any means possible (for all, that is, who are willing to submit to God and His solution in Jesus Christ). For much more on this please see BB 4B Soteriology, section II.2, "Natural Revelation and Accountability".

5. Everyone has to make their own decisions about such things. But my rule of thumb on this is that if an action involves coercing someone else into doing something they would otherwise not do (as most politics does), then it is hard to see how that is not a fundamental violation of the essential principles of the Plan of God. Our time here is short, and there is no lack of people out there willing to waste their lives in political pursuits. More than that, it is always the case that a people always receives the government it deserves: so the best way to "change things" is through personal spiritual advance and prayer. If there really were a "remnant of salt" in a given country which was consistently praying for that country's good, then things would go far better for said country than if it had the best government possible but was lacking a remnant. The Bible is replete with instances of secular blessing and great security wiped away in an instant when the people turn their backs on the Lord. Things are no different today. One prayer from one genuine Christian is of more worth before God than all the political activity in the history of the world. I call it a "trap" because it is almost impossible to get involved in politics to any degree and not seriously compromise or even destroy one's own spirituality. "Task #1" for every believer is to grow and advance spiritually and help other Christians do the same. The circumstances and situations where this calls for becoming involved in political action are in my view very rare. That is not to say a Christian cannot have a state-related job – far from it. But attempts to mold the political process are only playing into the devil's hands in almost all instances, and a believer should certainly take a step back and think it over carefully if he or she assumes that he or she is different or that his or her situation is so unique that the usual rules don't apply.

6. God's Word is His fundamental means of helping the human race: through the Word we are saved; through the Word we grow and progress, through the Word we help others and earn eternal rewards. There is no substitute for the Word of God, the truth of God. If we think what we do is "helping God", we are following our own plan, our own "Word", and that is never acceptable to Him. He is the One who helps us; He may allow us to enter into the work of the kingdom, but only if we do it His way. All true ministries, like all true gifts and effects, come from God to us – they are not our own inventions or the result of our own efforts (cf. 1Cor.12:3-6).

7. What I mean by this is that "The Genesis gap is the most likely explanation for the perceived contradiction between the biblical account of the seven days and the fossil record". That is to say, Genesis chapters 1-2 depict an immediate creation rather than an evolutionary development, yet we have a fossil record which suggests that rather than an immediate creation of all things 6,000 years ago, the earth existed a very long time prior to that. Re-creation explains how both can be true: an indeterminate period of existence followed by judgment, then a re-creation 6,000 years later exactly as Genesis describes it – at least for those who do not blind their eyes to the gap. The earth already exists in verse two, so verse one cannot be a summary (see the link: "The Waters Above and the Genesis Gap").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hi,

I came across your study about the Great Tribulation and would like to make a comment. I read the Introduction and bits of part One, but had to stop when you said the pre-trib rapture is not correct. The pre-tribulation rapture is reserved only for those who have ceased from doing the deeds of the flesh, as mentioned in 1Cor. 6: 9-10; Gal. 5: 19-21; Eph. 4: 17-32; Col 3: 5-10; Rev. 21: 7-8; etc., which sadly is not many. The word of God says that Christians do not commit sin! (1 Jn. 3: 3; 6; 9; 1 Jn 5: 17;). The rest of Christians who name the name of the Lord, but are continuing to give into the deeds of the flesh, will have to endure the Great Tribulation. We can die to our flesh now (and escape all these things coming upon the earth); or endure the first half of the tribulation and then die; or give allegiance to Satan and ultimately be thrown into the Lake of Fire. Thank you Lord for freewill!!

Blessings in Christ,

Response #2: 

Dear Friend,

Comments are always welcome. There are two issues here, the first of which is the incorrect teaching of a pre-Tribulation rapture. I am happy to have that conversation if you wish. Suffice it to say by way of brief introduction that the Bible only speaks of one "return" of Christ (Gk. parousia), and the Second Advent is always what is clearly meant when it does. The fact that the pre-Tribulation rapture hypothesis is, uniquely and suspiciously, not a doctrine which any believer would ever come up with on their own from reading scripture speaks volumes about its non-genuine nature (see the links: "No Rapture" and "The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory").

Secondly – and much more importantly for you personal spiritual welfare – is the idea that true Christians are incapable of sin (or are completely capable of never sinning). This idea is so clearly and so strongly contradicted by every Christian's experience and by the testimony of the Spirit in convicting our individual consciences that in the history of the Church very few individuals or groups have ever seriously tried to maintain this non-biblical position. Indeed, the only way a Christian can ever begin to assume that he/she has become sinless is by redefining sin to exclude his or her personal areas of weakness and then shutting one's ears to the Holy Spirit's remonstrances to the contrary. Sin covers quite a bit of ground (what about "sins of ignorance", for example?), and virtually anything we think or say (as well as what we do) can be sinful (please see the link: Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin). Claiming to be without sin when one is not is a very good example of ignorant sin (at least), and an extreme one and usually highly culpable one:

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

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1st John 1:10 KJV

Please note that these two passages come from the same epistle which you cite to suggest that Christians do not commit sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 KJV

This last verse is also from 1st John. Please explain to me why we Christians would ever need to be confessing our sins if we cannot or do not commit sin?

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
1st John 2:1a KJV

Also from 1st John. If we cannot or do not sin, why would John need to write this epistle with the express purpose stated here that his recipients stay away from sin? If we cannot sin, or if we do not sin, there is certainly no reason to warn us not to sin.

And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1st John 2:1b

Also from 1st John. Praise God that Jesus is our Advocate to intercede on our behalf with the Father when we do fall into sin! But if we no longer sin, why would we ever need this help?

The interpretation of the verses in 1st John which at first blush seem to support your position of Christians sinlessness are therefore contradicted by the Spirit, by our consciences, by the rest of the Bible (e.g., 1Ki.8:46a; 2Chron.6:36a; Job 15:14; Ps.130:3; 143:2; Eccl.7:20; Rom.3:9; 3:23; 7:14; 7:23; Gal.3:22; Jas.3:2), and, most persuasively for those who wish to draw the wrong conclusions from statements in 1st John, by numerous verses in 1st John itself.

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 sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
1st John 5:16-17 KJV

So please take careful note that whatever the correct interpretation of the other verses in 1st John may be, the position that they teach Christian sinlessness in any way has to be wrong because that would be completely contradictory to the other statements John makes, statements which are consistent with everything else we know about sin from all of the rest of scripture, backed up by the testimony of the Spirit informing our consciences.

As to the verses you cite 1st John 3:3; 3:6; 3:9 and 5:17, John is not, in fact, contradicting himself. First, 1st John 3:3 actually proves the point that believers are imperfect even after salvation (in that our bodies are not transformed, still have a sin nature, and still lead us into sin). For in that passage John says, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure". Please note that 1) the believer is the subject of this action, the one doing the purification, and 2) since the purification is not described as completed, therefore it is on-going. This is the process of sanctification "without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb.12:14); as we grow spiritually, we do more and more give up "childish things" and we should get better about putting away our sinful behavior – but we never become perfect, and that is why this "purifying" is described here as an on-going process rather than a completed result.

Secondly, 1st John 3:9, carefully considered, helps to explain what John really means. When he says "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", John is qualifying his absolute statement, giving anyone interested in coming to the truth here a very clear statement of what he really means. Both the word translated "for" and the one translated "because" in the KJV's text quoted above are the same word in Greek, hoti (ὅτι). While these are not impossible translations, the fact that they are varied by the KJV even though the words and the syntax are identical in Greek in both cases is a good indication that the translator did not completely understand what John meant. A better way to take this verse, one that not only allows an identical translation for the word hoti in both places but also shows how the verse is consistent with all the other verses in 1st John is as follows:

No one who has been born of God continues in [a life of] sin, in that His seed (i.e., the Word of truth in which we believe) remains in him (i.e., he continues to be a believer), and [so] he is not able to continue in [a life of] sin in that he has been born of God.
1st John 3:9

That is to say, the two hoti clauses show us in what respect we are "sinless", namely, we are "sinless" positionally, sinless "in that" the Spirit remains in us even when we err, "in that" we are children of God and so have access to the forgiveness which is in Jesus Christ – "in that" we are in Jesus Christ the sinless one. Any Bible-believing Christian with experience in the scriptures is well aware of the difference between our "position in Christ" and our present position in the world. We have eternal life – but are not experiencing it yet. We have an inheritance undefiled kept safe for us in heaven – but do not see it yet. And we have a perfect, sinless body waiting for us at the resurrection – but we are still residing in our sinful flesh at present. Make no mistake. Part of our job as Christians is to live a sinless life – and that is the desire of our spirit too; but the weakness of our flesh makes any perfect carrying out of this mandate an absolute impossibility. Make no mistake. We are disciplined for our sins, and sin does militate against everything we are meant to do and should be trying to do in the service of Jesus Christ. But while we will – one hopes – become more and more sanctified as we grow in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, sinless perfection is something that no believer has ever attained in the body, in the world – and none ever will.

1st John 5:17, quoted above, actually tells us the opposite of the false doctrine of sinless perfection: "there is a sin not unto death", and that is the sort of sin we are told by John to pray for in respect to our brothers and sisters in Christ (1Jn.5:16). This again helps to bring to light on what John is actually saying. All sin is wrong – and there comes a point if a person gives himself over to sin to a gross degree that death can result. There is no point in praying for people in this condition because they have already put themselves beyond help by turning away so completely from the "purifying" and "sanctifying" course that all Christians should embrace that there is now no further remedy but "the sin unto death" (please see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). So here we find the two "opposite poles" of the Christian experience here "in the world": we should strive for complete sanctification, the opposite of which is complete carnality which results in death.

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
1st John 3:6 KJV

Finally, in the remaining citation you provide, we see John's purpose completely. He is writing that "you may not sin", and tells us here that the believer who "stays/abides" in fellowship with Jesus is not sinning; but the person who is sinning is behaving as one who has neither seen Him nor known Him in the first place. When we have confessed our sins and are walking with Jesus in a sanctified way, we are "not sinning" (the literal translation of the Greek text here), and our behavior matches up with our position (as it should); but when we sin, we are walking and behaving as we did when we were unbelievers. These are the two extremes always mentioned in scripture when believer behavior is in view, and much in the Christian life depends upon unto which we give our allegiance, the (still) sinful flesh, or the guidance of the Holy Spirit:

(16) But I tell you, walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out what the flesh lusts for. (17) For what the flesh lusts for is contrary to the Spirit's will, and the Spirit is opposed to what the flesh lusts for. Since these are diametrically opposed to each other in this way, what you are doing is not what you yourself choose.
Galatians 5:16-17

We Christians have a choice. We either walk in consonance with our position in Christ (not sinning); or we walk in consonance with our previous unbelieving state. And nothing this side of heaven will remove the necessity of making that essential choice day by day and step by step by step in the Christian walk. We will never be relieved of the responsibility of carrying out the command "walk in the Spirit"; that is the only way we will at any time be keeping ourselves free of the lusts of the flesh we still inhabit, and that is the choice of progressive sanctification we will need to keep making at all times – until the resurrection sanctifies us eternally in keeping with the positional sanctification we presently enjoy. The only thing that assuming we have completely perfected that walk does is to guarantee a walk which is the opposite of the one which Christ enjoins.

For more on this please see the following links:

in Peter #13: "Sanctification".

The "Sin unto Death" in 1st John 5:16.

1st John 1:9 and confessing sin.

1st John 3:9 and salvation

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification.

Yours in the Lord we love and seek to serve day by day with all our hearts – in truth – Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Bob Luginbill

Question #3: 

Blessings Robert,

In response to Christians incapable of sin, please forgive me if I didn't make myself clear. I am not implying this. The sin nature is ever before us, but God's word is very clear: IF we are truly born-again, then that person keeps the sin nature in subjection (1 Cor. 9: 27). We are told to put the sin nature to death (Rom. 6: 1-7). This is the cross of Christ we are to identify with. "And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10: 38). Let's keep 1 Jn. 1: 8 in context with the passage. If vs. 8 was by itself, then I would agree with you, but it's not. Read vs. 9. Well, if I confess my sin (wherefore I am forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness) is it wrong for me to say at that moment that I have no sin? No it's not. But what you and many others want to believe is that this passage supposedly means that we can never be free from the sin nature. That is incorrect. Jesus Christ came to set us free from our sin nature; the Father giving us the Holy Spirit to empower us (Helper) over our sin nature, because of the cross! "Jesus said them, truly, truly I say to you, whoever commits sin is a servant of sin. And the servant abides not in the house for ever: but the Son abides forever. If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" (Jn. 8: 34-36). His written word tells us what things constitute the sin nature. If anyone does, practice, commits, fulfills, etc. (use any verb you want, it still comes down to doing it) these things, the wrath of God abides upon him (actually it says, "let no man deceive you with vain words: because of these things the wrath of God abides on the children of disobedience (Eph. 5: 6). Anyone doing these things is a child of disobedience. All through Scripture God tells us to be holy. Please do not think that I'm saying that I have reached perfection; but we can be perfect by not giving into the deeds of the flesh, which I do. Those who do give into the deeds of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God.

To believe or teach any other doctrine is a perverted doctrine (Gal. 1: 6-9). Therefore, the reason I know that true Christians will not have need to endure the tribulation period because they have overcome the flesh (for they love God); and reason why those still doing the deeds of the flesh will go through it (for they love not God), and will have to die physically for their faith.

Repent, and be converted (Acts 3: 19).

Blessings in Christ,

Response #3: 

Dear Friend,

To be honest, this response makes things a good deal less clear since I don't know what you mean when you say, "I'm not implying this". Both the previous email and this one too seem to me for all the world to say that a Christian can overcome sin completely. Perhaps the distinction you are making is that, in your view, while we are not immediately able to be sinless after salvation, we can get to that point. If so, I do not see how that distinction would change any of the biblical analysis provided in the previous email to the effect that sinless perfection cannot be achieved regardless.

Not to repeat everything but just for example, 1st John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (KJV), gives no indication that it is only meant for younger believers who have not yet achieved a state of sinless perfection. Indeed, the form of the condition is present general – i.e., it is something we are to be doing now and are to continue to keep doing – and John refers to the confessors as "we" (which clearly includes himself as someone who needs to keep confessing). Were this verse to be consistent with your point of view, it ought to read, "When you [previously] confessed [in the past] your sins, they were forgiven [at that time]". For we certainly cannot assume that John's recipients represent only the spiritually immature: later on in chapter two he lauds all three generations of his listeners for their spiritual accomplishments (1Jn.2:12-14), and gives no specific indications anywhere in his epistle that there was any particular spiritual deficiency in this group whatsoever (compare by contrast 3Jn.1:9-11). Indeed, this congregation has already been cleansed, for as he says at 1st John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us" (KJV) – here the verb is in the past (aorist) tense.

However, I am not sure that my assumption about the distinction being drawn by you is correct, because when you say, "IF we are truly born-again, then that person keeps the sin nature in subjection", I see no other way to read this than that "true believers are sinless and never let the sin nature out of subjection"; otherwise, we are both understanding that believers err by sinning from time to time. I certainly hope you are not trying to draw a distinction between believers, as in "'kinda-sorta'-believers" and "real believers". We are either born again or we are not. We either have eternal life or we do not. We are either children of God or we are not. We either belong to Jesus or we do not. The Word of God never makes any accommodation or allowance for "second class citizens" in the Kingdom of Heaven (1st John certainly does not, especially in the passages you cite). We are either positionally in the Kingdom . . . or we are not.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have most certainly been forgiven our sins: Jesus died for them (e.g., 1Pet.2:24), and we obtain forgiveness of them by grace through faith in Him (e.g., Acts 13:38; 26:18).

[Jesus Christ], in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
Ephesians 1:7 KJV

[Jesus Christ], in whom we have redemption through his blood, [even] the forgiveness of sins:
Colossians 1:14

Please notice that we "possess" this forgiveness; it is something we "have" in Him, that is, by virtue of our belonging to Jesus. This positional forgiveness is not said to be conditional upon our behavior but exactly the opposite. As long as we are believers in Jesus, we have the status of "forgiven", "redeemed".

Confusing this positional deliverance from sin with our behavior in this world is at the heart of the confusion in your position, and it is no small error. For once we start thinking that our salvation is dependent upon something we do, then we actually do risk that salvation – because now we are working for our salvation rather than receiving it by grace, and that sort of legalism is inimical to faith in the long run. And the key issue in all this is faith.

As long as we are believers, we are saved, and loss of faith is, generally speaking, neither a quick nor an arbitrary development. Sin is part of the process of apostasy (as well as of the sin unto death), but in the sense that violating one's conscience through giving oneself over to be a "slave of sin" is antithetical to faith in the long run (see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). As I shared with you before, this is the other extreme from a life of obedience and following Christ as we should (which can never be perfected).

No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1st Corinthians 9:27 NIV

However one translates this verse, the verbs are in the present tense. Paul says, "I am pummeling my body" and "I am bringing myself under strict control", very clearly describing an ongoing process rather than a completed state – apparently necessary even for this great apostle whose spirituality certainly outstripped anything we might aspire to. Surely, if anyone could have gotten to the point of having achieved a sinless walk, one would think it would have been the apostle Paul. But he does not say "I have beaten my body into submission", which is what he would have said if sanctification were not a continuing process even for him. Every place where scripture talks about sanctification in the world, it addresses it as a process. As Christians we are sanctified in Jesus (positionally); as those still in the world, we are encouraged by scripture to pursue the goal of sanctification as something we must continue to do for spiritual safety throughout our earthly lives :

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14 NASB

While not, strictly speaking, pertinent to this discussion, I notice that you repeat your assertion to the effect that only perfect people will be "raptured", while others (who are apparently also Christians) will be forced to endure the Tribulation. Please realize that you provide no scripture or even any reasonable argument to 1) divide Christians into two such classes; 2) support the "rapture" of one group over the other; or 3) demonstrate that there is any pre-Tribulation rapture at all (which there most definitely is not; see the previous email and link).

I mention this because you make many statements in this email which you clearly accept as "doctrinal" but which are neither couched in the precise language of the Bible nor supported by any Bible verses at all (or, once or twice, are referenced by verses that in no way imply what you are claiming). This suggests to me an extremely esoteric approach which is inconsistent with sound exegetical methodology, not to mention inconsistent with sound doctrine and even basic logic. For example, you say in your closing paragraph you claim that you are not saying "I have reached perfection", but then go on to say "we can be perfect by not giving into the deeds of the flesh, which I do". If there is a distinction here between being perfect and perfectly acting perfect, surely it is a distinction without a difference. And when you say that those who are not perfect are not true Christians and so will have to "physically die for their faith", how can someone have faith and not be a true Christian?

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
1st John 5:4-5 NIV

We are saved by grace through faith (Eph.2:8-9), not through works, lest any man should boast. Refraining from sin and doing better with that command day by day is part of the Christian walk and spiritual advance, but it is a result of salvation and responsiveness to Christ, not a means of salvation; and sinless perfection is most definitely not a prerequisite for the resurrection – otherwise no one could be saved, including yourself.

Apropos of that, let me make a brief comment about your closing valediction, "repent, and be converted". Far be it from me to judge you or your spiritual status or your motivations. However, it seems fair to point out that these words strongly suggest that you think that 1) I am in need of repentance from sin, 2) I am not saved, and 3) I am completely in the wrong on all these issues we have discussed. Considering that you nothing about me whatsoever apart from this brief email exchange (wherein I have been battling for your spiritual safety and edification), this strikes me as judgmental, mean-spirited, and arrogant. It is judgmental because only God knows the heart, so that you cannot possible know that I am not saved or that I am somehow "living in sin"; it is mean-spirited because it throws in my face the worst possible evaluation of my spiritual status and my motivations, and that would be an ungracious approach even if true ("Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth" 2Tim.2:25 NIV); it is arrogant because it assumes that you have superior knowledge and understanding of all matters biblical, a supposition which, even if true, certainly cannot be based upon such a peripheral reading of the vast material available at the Ichthys website. In short, from what I have seen, if the standard is "be perfect by not giving into the deeds of the flesh, which I do", that standard can only be said to be true to any degree by redefining sin to your own benefit. That is to say, if sin is only "drinking, smoking, dancing, card-playing, swearing and lewd conduct", well then you might just be perfect. The problem with such an approach (apart from the fact that it is completely incorrect biblically) is that it does not produce perfection or even true sanctification, only self-righteousness; and if there is a more dangerous spiritual attitude than self-righteousness, I am not aware of it.

Under the circumstances, unless I dead wrong, no one will be getting a pass from going through the Tribulation because of achieving sinless perfection, present company included.

Apologies in advance for misjudging you or any of your positions.

Written in the love of Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi Robert,

Just a quick summation of what was taught me to believe. First, I grew up in the evangelical Christian church and later non-denominational; the combined total of about three decades or so. Everything you said your email are things I am quite privy to (and agree). Please allow me to share: One day I was traveling back home (I left the state to be in a very sinful relationship with a woman, and it didn't work out between us). In the midst of my hurt of breaking up I found time alone, and I cried out to the Lord to show me His truth. If fact, my exact words to Him was: "I'm tired of being a hypocrite (I was being a two-faced Christian). There's got to be more to you than what I've been taught. Please show me the way." (Please understand that before all this occurred after I've accepted Christ into my life; rededicated my life to Him; again, again, again. I really wanted to be able to not give into my flesh, but because of how I was taught to believe, I accepted my condition). A myriad of things occurred along the way back home, but in a nutshell, it was all His doing. He led me to a minister where I listened to one of his teachings. All I can say is that his message spoke directly to my heart, as his message answered my heart's cry when I cried out to Him initially. About one week later I prayed with this minister, and confessed my sin, and asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart for real. At that moment in time I was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit (knowing I was possessed by God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and I knew that I knew I was cleansed of all my unrighteousness. Amen!! Now, from that point in time, have I sinned? Yes. Does He forgive me the moment I confess it? Absolutely. But here's the difference: In the past I was taught to believe that we have a sinful nature (as we do), and that there's nothing we can do about it, therefore that person learns to accept their personal condition, confesses their sins and invites Christ into their life, and relies on the work of the cross of Christ (His blood) to justify them. This is all biblical and correct, BUT THERE'S A BIG PROBLEM!!!! All I can say is that at the moment I confessed and repented of my sin (for real) is the moment I was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit (knowing I was possessed by God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and I knew that I knew I was cleansed of all my unrighteousness. Amen!! Am I subject to temptations? Absolutely. In fact the Lord says that temptations must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes (Matt. 18: 7). Jesus tells us to "watch and pray that we enter not into temptations...the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Mk. 14: 38). We are told in the scriptures to put away sins of the flesh (Col. 2: 11). If we are doing the deeds of the flesh we will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5: 19-21) . Period! God's word says that His kids do not commit sin, but rather they keep themselves..." (1 Jn. 5: 18). If I should give into sin, will He forgive me? Absolutely!....the moment I confess it (1 Jn. 1: 9), but His children do not give in to the deeds of the flesh because they keep themselves.

Here's the truth: You have a good theological understanding of scripture, and you've followed protocol, but have you really surrendered your heart and mind to Him? How much does it really affect you that God sent His Son to die for you because He loves you? How moved are you in your spirit? Our response to these questions determines how willing we are to love Him in return. Jesus said, "if you love me, keep my commandments" (Jn. 14: 15).

And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little. 4 (Luke 7: 40-50).

Most people in the church today live their lives like Luke 17: 11-19. This isn't a matter of maturity in Christ (as even the thief hanging next to Jesus was told he would be with Him in paradise), rather it's about sincerity of repentance of the heart, which leads us to confess, repent, to be converted. The true child of God loves Him because He first loved us.

Only when we truly understand the severity of our sinful condition will it compel us to take action to cry out to Him; and to ask Him to show us His righteousness.

The bottom line is true Christians have stopped doing the deeds of the flesh because they love Him. The deception is believing you cannot do this, but God says:

"With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

As you know time is short. Get real with Him.

In Christ,

Response #4: 

Dear Friend,

Thank you for clarifying your position. I think I understand where you are coming from personally; my main problem would be how you are defining it theologically.

I very much understand what you mean when you imply that many Christians and not a few pastors and theologians seem to soft-peddle sin and the need for Christians to be deathly serious about turning away from it. Certainly, no one reading the Bible with an open heart is going to get the message "it's OK, it doesn't really matter, there's nothing you can do about it any way, so don't worry about it". Far from it. Any honest reading of scripture puts the need for us as followers of Jesus to turn our backs on sin entirely in very clear and unmistakable terms. To the extent that any ministry or system of teaching encourages believers to have any sort of different point of view, to that extent it is flawed . . . and dangerous. This ministry, Ichthys, is completely up front about the dangers of sin, and no little amount of the "flack" I have received over the years has come from "once saved always saved" adherents who do not wish to accept that sin, when it gets out of control or "conceives and gives birth", as James puts it, can destroy faith (and without faith we are not believers at all).

I am also very happy for you that you found a way to "get serious" about your walk with Jesus Christ. In my experience and observation it is very often the "prodigal son" type of person whose conscience is finally penetrated by the Spirit who ends up coming back to Christ with a vengeance and being very serious about his/her walk with Jesus from that point forward. The alternative of continuing in sin is, as mentioned before, either the sin unto death or apostasy. For all those who are willing to turn back to the Lord with all their heart if only the right pressure is applied, God always knows when and where and how to apply that pressure. It is also true that He always supplies the spiritual food we need for the problems and spiritual deficits we have at the time. He is also willing to supply everything we need in terms of spiritual food . . . if and when we ever getting around to wanting it.

I have observed Christians who react to their own bad behavior getting straightened out, but then being comfortable with that measure of personal sanctification and never getting off the mark to grow spiritually thereafter (as if staying clean were enough). I have observed Christians who have grown wonderfully and gotten to the point of even having effective ministries for the Lord, but who never got around to straightening out their walk the way they should (as if their service excused their conduct). And I have seen plenty of Christians, the majority really, who are deficient in both areas and are living a Christian life which is marginal by any measure. Sadly, the number of Christians who have embraced the whole counsel of God so as to grow spiritually while walking honorably is very small indeed. That is tragic, because only growth really hones sanctification, and without sanctification service is hindered and compromised, and unless we are doing everything our Lord called upon us to do we are not, in fact, doing what He has called upon us to do.

I understand that you had a positive emotional response to your "return to Jesus" moment, and that is certainly consistent with everything I read in the Bible. But emotion is not scripture. It sounds to me as if you were saved before, but you came to be "serious about it all" at this moment of crisis. That is fine, but it does not follow logically (and is certainly not scriptural) to assume that everyone who is serious gets that way in the same way. Some rare individuals, like Daniel, for example, seem to have been completely serious about their salvation from day one. Some come to it through a process rather than all at once. Other people, I can tell you from my observation and experience, have that kind of emotional experience you describe all the time, then drop back latter into their previous pattern of behavior. I think it is wonderful that you got with it and that you are staying with it – with sanctification, that is. But I can tell you as someone charged to provide the truth that the best way to be safe, no matter how safe you may feel, is to continue to grow spiritually by taking in the Word of God, believing it, applying it to your life, and then helping others to do the same. The devil is clever and we are weak. No one is so strong that they won't be tested again. Every wall can be breached, if it is only standing there waiting to be attacked. That's what walls do, of course, and that is why we are called on to advance, not to "dig in".

So while I too have problems with teachers and systems that downplay sin and/or the need for us to master it and the scriptural methods we should use to confront it, I also I have major, theological problems with relying for our spiritual safety on emotion, on defense without spiritual growth, and on other individuals who micro-manage our lives (e.g., pastoral confession, and your continuing assumptions that I need what happened to you: "repent and be converted"; "Get real with Him"). None of these things are biblical and all are very spiritually dangerous.

My advice for you is the same as for all readers, namely, to commit to a diligent and consistent regime of spiritual growth through prayer, personal Bible reading, personal Bible study and the accessing of substantive and correct teaching of the truth, believing the truth, applying the truth, and helping others do the same through whatever gifts and ministries one has been blessed with. That is, in truth, the only way to stay safe in the midst of the intense combat we find ourselves engaged in.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your words of encouragement. My born-again experience was indeed emotional, yet very very real! I know, because it happened to me; for I know how I once lived, being presumptuous. I praise God for you because you are one of His children, but whether we are saved or not is measured by our obedience in putting the fleshly deeds to death (obedience is better than sacrifice). That's why we are called to judge ourselves. Again, God's word tells us that anyone doing the deeds of the flesh "will not inherit the kingdom of God", but rather, the wrath of God abides upon him. It's because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the children of disobedience. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh is our barometer; and the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18: 3).

When put together all of our email conversations I think you see what is being said, which I know is the bottom-line Scriptual message to all: "Be you holy for I Am holy" (1 Pet. 1: 16).

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God... (Heb. 12: 14-15; KJV)

This is why I know without doubt that only those who are holy (those who have put away the deeds of the flesh) will escape all these things that are coming on the earth.

Unless we die to our flesh now, we will experience the tribulation; for the tribulation is to purify those still sinning, as the end of this period is reserved for those who will not repent.

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. 20Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that workes in us, 21Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Eph. 3: 14-21)

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Blessings in Christ,

Response #5: 

Dear Friend,

Let me start with an issue we have been "back-burner-ing" up til now for priority's sake, namely, that of "who goes through the Tribulation?" You write in your latest response, "Unless we die to our flesh now, we will experience the tribulation; for the tribulation is to purify those still sinning, as the end of this period is reserved for those who will not repent". I would be interested to see your scriptural support for the part I have italicized. As mentioned previously, throughout the New Testament the "return" (parousia) of Jesus, a matter of encouragement for all believers (e.g., 1Thess.4:18), is always His Second Advent, and that is always when the resurrection is described as occurring (e.g., 1Cor.15:23; see the links: "No Rapture" and "The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory"). I see no biblical basis for suggesting that believers of every spiritual status will not go through the Tribulation (there are certainly Jews saved under Moses' and Elijah's tribulational ministry who will do so, and no indication that this will be because of any failings on their part). Believe me, I am all for encouraging believers to prepare for the Tribulation, and a big part of this ministry is to do so – but only with genuine scriptural teachings.

I also remain somewhat perplexed by the way you are describing things. For example, you now seem to be equating your turn-around with being saved (i.e., "my born-again experience"). Maybe so. God knows; you should know too. However, salvation is often not accompanied by a warm-fuzzy experience (although genuine repentance often is). The question is, has the person in question genuinely placed their faith in Jesus Christ, His perfect Person and His perfect work on the cross? If yes, the person is saved; if not, then not. It's not a matter of how we feel.

He that believeth on him is not condemned.
John 3:18a KJV

"Be holy" is a perfect standard, but it is in almost every case not a standard which believers can immediately fulfill at salvation, no matter how dramatic the salvation experience. That is why the passage you quote at length, Ephesians 3:14-21, is replete with commands that tell us to be doing things to improve as opposed to commanding us to maintain some perfect ideal we have already achieved:

That he would grant you . . . to be strengthened

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith

That ye . . .May be able to comprehend . . . and to know the love of Christ

that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God

These passages are addressed to believers and all assume a coming and continuing spiritual progress rather than a once-for-all holy status in terms of our behavior (we are of course holy in Christ). In other words, these passages are consistent with spiritual growth and spiritual advance, with an idea of sanctification that is progressive rather than immediately perfect and static thereafter (and are in fact not consistent with the latter).

We find this idea of progressive rather than static sanctification also in one of the other verses you quote, Hebrews 12:14. I prefer to translate "pursue sanctification" rather than the KJV's "follow holiness"; that is because "holiness" is an abstract noun which does not necessitate any idea of action or progression, but "sanctification" in English does open up the possibility of what in the Greek is a necessity: hagiasmos (ἁγιασμος) is a verbal noun closer to meaning "the process of getting sanctified" than it is to "the state of being sanctified". The distinction is profound. According to your way of looking at the passage, we will not see the Lord until we have one of these transformative experiences and are all of a sudden "sanctified" in every respect, including behaviorally. But that is not what the text says. Note that the main verb in the text makes this clear even in the KJV: "Follow . . . holiness". The verb is a present-stem imperative emphasizing continuing action. A far better translation of the verb here, one which avoids all potential misunderstanding, is "pursue . . . sanctification" (dioko; διωκω, always means "pursue" and never means "follow" in our 21st century sense of the word). This also stands to reason in the context: just as "peace with all men" is something we need to work at, so is sanctification. If we don't work at sanctification, we risk apostasy and loss of faith through the conception and birth of a life of sin (Jas.1:15).

Finally, the "children of disobedience" are quite clearly unbelievers, not believers, who are being deliberately contrasted with believers:

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:2-6 KJV

So I suppose where this leaves us is the question "who is saved?" For if your position is that the saved are raptured but unbelievers go into the Tribulation, while I disagree with the theory of a pre-Trib rapture entirely, at least that is consistent with what most evangelicals believe and teach.

I suppose from this and previous emails that we may differ on the question of what is necessary for salvation (I am very firm on faith absent any sort of works) and what salvation does (you can find all the details at the links: "The Saved and the Unsaved" and "BB 4B: Soteriology: the Study of Salvation"). In my view of scripture, we get a "new start for the heart", and kudos to you if you have grabbed that new start and kept yourself relatively clean from day one. I stress "relatively". It seems to me that since you admit to non-perfection after your experience, we are really just debating about where to draw the line. I have always tried to be consistent in my teachings – because I believe the Bible emphasizes it just this way – that we need to embrace holiness and sanctification with all our might, because any other course is fraught with spiritual danger. However, it is also true that Christians do stumble and fall, and failing to appreciate and teach God's mercy and restoration would be equally deficient on my part. As in very many cases in scripture, we have a situation where two things which seem to earthly eyes contradictory are equally and completely true. God demands perfection. God is merciful to imperfection – for those who belong to Him and repent. I thank him for all who cleave to the former; but sooner or latter we all have need of the latter.

In Jesus our dear Lord who has already expiated all of our sins.

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Blessings Robert,

Again, I appreciate conversing with you. I totally understand your viewpoint of those who teach or believe in the pre-trib rapture, as the reasons are legit, but the flip side of this is: those expecting to go through the tribulation period (as you do), most who hold this view maintain the mind set that it's impossible for any Christian to be free from sin, therefore they live their lives with no expectation to overcome sin, therefore they accept their condition, even though this view is contrary to why Jesus came in the first place:

"Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin...."If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" (Jn. 8: 34, 36).

The statement, "whoever commits sin," applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. Of course verse 34 continues on to say, "and the servant abide not in the house forever."

But what do you do with the Lord's statement?: "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Let's keep this statement in context, and in practical terms, as I can believe I can fly, but that is not how we were originally made. Mankind (Adam/Eve) were originally made holy, but because we inherited a sin nature His mission was/is to set the captives free from sin.) What YOU choose to believe is that the sin nature cannot be overcome, but if it can't, where does freewill come into play? I realize we live under a new covenant, but there are many things in Numbers 13 and 14 that support this very topic of overcoming the sin nature. Besides the literal interpretation, what do the giants represent? They represent our sin nature. Who represent the spies that gave a bad report? They are the pastors and teachers within most of the churches today that teach we can never overcome the sin nature. Who represent the congregation of the children of Israel that murmured against Moses and Aaron saying, "Would God that we died in the land of Egypt"? These are those Christians that name the name of Christ, yet still commit sin. I encourage you to reread John chapter 6: 24-71. Please pay attention to vs. 66. I know most Christians, if they knew what God not only requires but expects of them, would walk away because they are not willing to let go of their sin. Scripture says,

"....The Lord know them that are His. And, let everyone that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity'" (2 Tim. 2: 19).

In regard to equating being saved with my born-again experience; for you to have any say on this matter is not for you, but for me. And for you to limit my experience, calling it, "warm and fuzzy" is not right. "For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2: 11). Apparently, you do not know yet the power and strength of the Holy Spirit:

"So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Are we dead to sin? If not, then we have to question (judge ourselves) if we really have the Holy Spirit dwellings in us. This is where most Christians become presumptuous in their walk in Christ; believing they are saved and are not because of sin.

In response to the Ephesians 3:14-21 passage you are very correct in saying "Be holy" is a perfect standard. Again, the standard of perfection that God expects of us in this physical realm is for us to cease from doing the deeds of the flesh (adultery, fornication, lasciviousness, lusting in the heart, etc.; as it states in Gal. 5: 19-21, and other places). There is confusion between sinless perfection and perfection. Even when a person ceases from doing the deeds of the flesh (sinless perfection) they still have a body (tent) that is subject to decay because of entropy, but perfection will only occur when we get our new bodies; but we can be perfect in our inner man; to be pure in heart, which only comes through Christ:

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done , but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly , that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."

In regard to the Christian life being a progression is absolutely correct. I just hope you see the difference between progression and process, because living a sanctified life is NOT a process!

Regarding the Tribulation, I will admit as we get closer to the end of the "Beginning of Sorrows" (that I believe we are going through now) things will get so bad during this period it will feel like we are in the Tribulation (but aren't), and we need to prepare for it, but as for Christians actually going through the Tribulation period, I know, based upon the word of the Lord, those who have a pure heart will escape all these things.

All I can say is repent from sin and be holy.

Blessings in Christ,

Response #6: 

Hello Friend,

On the Tribulation, it is an obvious logical fallacy to say that because "most who hold a view" are wrong on some other point that therefore they are wrong on this point. Even if I agreed with everything else you have been saying chapter and verse, it would not have any effect whatsoever on the doctrine of the resurrection (which happens when Christ returns, not before). I repeat my request for scriptural support (in your last paragraph here you state this belief is "based upon the word of the Lord"). I ask again that you have a look at the links: "No Rapture" and "The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory".

On "if the Son shall make you free". At John 8:36 Jesus says "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed". Christ sets us free from sin at salvation, I am sure you agree. But this cannot mean that therefore we never ever sin again entirely, because as you agree we do sometimes sin. The freedom here is therefore a freedom in principle. We are free positionally on the one hand (we have been bathed clean of all sin, forgiven in toto), and a potential freedom in practice (but as we are imperfect, we will occasionally need our feet washed, forgiven for specific sins when we confess them). What we do depends on what we choose day by day, but, practically speaking, spiritual growth makes sanctification more likely and more effective; whereas standing pat, even with good intentions, produces spiritual vulnerabilities – the only safe way is to keep moving forward.

On "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible", that statement occurs in a different book of the Bible altogether (Matt.19:26; repeated at Mk.10:27), and is Jesus' response to the disciples' question, "Who, then, can be saved?" Since God can effect salvation even when this seems impossible, that is a clear indication of His mercy. In spite of our sinfulness and failures, in spite of the seeming impossibility of our ever being "good enough" to make it through "the eye of the needle", yet it is possible, "with God". It is that same mercy which makes it possible for believers who fail to be restored and to resume their lives in and for Jesus Christ. One should never tempt the mercy of God (and this ministry is very clear not to ignore that important "flip-side", as you put it, of the truth), but it is a comfort and a blessing to know that we have been forgiven and that God is ready to continue to forgive us whenever we need that forgiveness (which, as I often point out, is more often than most realize). God does expect us to advance spiritually and to begin to overcome all of the "giants" which oppose us. I certainly have never suggested otherwise. Quite the contrary, I have been saying from the beginning that sanctification is a necessary process: both necessary, and a process. Just as the land was not conquered in an instant and the "giants" were not put down in a moment, so spiritual growth takes time, and salvation neither makes a person spiritually mature nor does it automatically yield complete, experiential victory over sin. The former and the latter both take continuing good decisions, the former of restraint, the latter of positive action. Ideally, the Christian pursues both and in that way one reinforces the other. Neither, however, is perfectly formed at the moment of the new birth: just like children have to learn how to behave as well as how to fend for themselves, so new Christians have to learn sanctification and grow spiritually if they want to progress in the Christian life.

On John 6:66, this ministry acknowledges and teaches the possibility that believers can "turn away" from Christ (aka "apostasy"). That is what is being reported in context. These people do not turn away because Jesus told them they would have to stop sinning but because of the "hard saying" about being the Bread of Life (v.60), and because of His acknowledging of being the Messiah (vv.61-65). The majority of that generation of Jews was not willing to accept a suffering Messiah.

If I gave any offense with my characterization of your salvation experience, I sincerely apologize. My point is that emotion may be present in a big way in a person's salvation experience or it may not be. The level of emotion, on which you have clearly placed a large theological weight, is of no consequence to God. Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, His Person and His work. To the extent that a person relies on their own experience instead of on the object of faith, Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, to that extent the individual in question may not even be saved. Please note, I am definitely not saying that you are not saved. I am saying that how you felt about it at the time has nothing to do with your being saved, and that for anyone to claim that someone who has not had a comparable emotional experience is not saved is not even close to being biblical (and if said to the wrong person can easily fall into the category of "causing little ones to stumble"). As to your characterization of my own salvation experience, since I have not shared anything of that with you, you are on thin ice indeed. Jesus knows that I belong to Him, and, blessedly, I know that I belong to Jesus. That is emotionally moving indeed.

I know full well that we have been charged to "depart from iniquity", and have been saying that repeatedly since the beginning of this conversation. My issue with your apparent position, although it does not seem to be particularly well sketched out, is, to be blunt, that any idea that salvation, or re-dedication, or "true salvation which my emotional reaction lets me know was really real and really 'took' this time", or a 'second blessing', or a special baptism of the Spirit, or any other such thing at all makes a person less likely to sin than would otherwise be the case is simple not biblical. As born-again believers, we all have the mandate not to sin and we have free-will. This means we can respond to the mandate and not sin. It does not mean that, however good our intentions and however perfect our walk from salvation forward, we are going to remain sinlessly perfect from that point forward. The indwelling sin nature, the opposition we face from the evil one and his hordes, and the world in which we live make that prospect impossible in practice even though it is the standard we have to face up to. An honorable Bible teacher makes the standard clear but explains the practical realities too – not by way of making excuses but in order to help his sheep understand the truth. That is the only way Christians can get better about sanctification day by day – by knowing and believing and applying more and more of the truth. And that is exactly what we find Paul, for example, doing in all his epistles. If there really were some super-charging experience that made sin less of an issue, scripture would have something to say about that on the one hand, and then it would also be rather unnecessary for the New Testament to expend so much ink on the problem of sin on the other. To the extent that you really have gotten to a higher plateau of refraining from sin, it is because of consistent good decisions on your part, responding to the truth of this area of doctrine with the help of the Holy Spirit. But you will continue to hold this high ground only as long as you are determined to do so. The sin nature has not "gone away", nor has the devil. And the best way to hold on is not to hold on at all but to advance spiritually through learning and believing the truth, applying it to all areas of your life (not just defensively vis-a-vis sin), and helping others to do likewise through the proper functioning of your spiritual gifts in the ministries to which Christ calls you.

On Romans 8:10, you need to reconsider the exact wording: "And if Christ [be] in you, the body [is] dead because of sin". Yes, the sin nature guarantees that this body cannot live unto life eternal. It is dead . . . because of the sin which is in it. This is said to be true here, please note, of those whom Christ "is in", that is, believers. We most certainly need to "reckon ourselves dead to sin" (Rom.6:11; cf. Rom.6:2), committing ourselves to a sanctified walk with Jesus day by day. But nothing in these verses and nothing in Romans and nothing in Paul and nothing in the New Testament and nothing anywhere in the Bible tells us that our corrupt mortal bodies have been transformed after faith in Christ. If they were, how or why would they die physically? Indeed, it is our minds that we are told to transform (e.g., Rom.12:2; 2Cor.3:18), and it is in the thinking of our hearts wherein the spirit battles the flesh (e.g., Gal.5). This is a battle which we have to continue to fight as long as we are in this flesh. Kudos to you if you are getting the better of it, but please do remember that if you have to fight it at all and if you ever suffer even the slightest defeat it proves this point every time.

I am not sure what you mean in the next paragraph by "deeds of the flesh" and "sinless perfection". From a scriptural point of view, anything we think or say or do is potentially a "deed of the flesh" as we are "in the flesh", i.e., alive, and "sinless perfection", though not strictly speaking a biblical term, would have to mean "not sinning" (which no man can claim).

Your final broadside, "repent from sin and be holy", seems to me to sum up your positions and mistakes very well. First, here we go again with the assumption that anyone who does not see things in your way theologically must of necessity be involved in some sort of gross sin. Second, there is the assumption that this act of repentance will give a lasting victory over sin resulting in experiential "holiness" that is somehow a notch above what others who call themselves Christians are achieving (although not 100% somehow). Third, there is the idea that this "holiness", while not positional (for I certainly believe in all Christians being sanctified in Jesus) is somehow complete (although not 100% somehow).

As I say, this all seems to me in need of refinement from a logical point of view – and in need of rejection from a theological point of view.

I certainly wish you continued success in your struggles against the sin nature. But I don't find anything biblical here to suggest to me that this is the result of a "true salvation" that myself and others do not yet possess.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

All I know is that He loves you and I very very much, and because He is holy, He must needs require us to be holy to live with Him. And to the extent He went to redeem us, this should move our whole being to love Him back by keeping sin out:

"We know that whosoever is born of God sins not; but he that is begotten of God keeps himself, and that wicked one touches him not" (1 Jn. 5: 18).

Please recall the words of Jesus when he said, "Take heed how you hear." For in how we hear translates in how we perceive and understand the Scriptures (Matt. 13: 1-15), which forms our belief. It all goes back to what Jesus said, when He says, "According to your belief let it be done unto you." If you believe it's not possible to overcome your sin nature, then you won't. It's that simple.

"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that does evil hates the light,neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved" (Jn. 3: 19-20).

Again, by definition of the sin nature I refer to 1 Cor. 6: 9-10; Gal. 5: 19-21; and other similar passages. Jesus says, "If you can believe...." This constitutes a choice to choose to believe based upon freewill. But first, the power to holy change is through love (Gal 5: 6); also you've gotta want to be pure! (Matt. 5: 6, 8).

If the devil can get people to believe it's not possible to be without sin, then his mission is accomplished; and then it'll be just a matter of time when "they" stand before a holy and pure God and hear the words, "Depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you." (All of this based upon presumption). Here's an analogy: A couple has strong feelings to each other and get married. But if while married they were having relations outside of marriage, this would not be love, even though they may have strong feelings toward one another; and they may even think this is love. As we know, only when they abide in the proper guidelines of marriage created by God can they truly love each other, others, and Him. I do not assume anyone who says they're in love, and married, if they were to be unfaithful, that this relationship would last, let alone really know each other. If they love each other then they remain faithful no matter what is thrown at them. But not like the physical marriage, are we are to be married to Christ (Rom. 7: 1-4). Will He forgive if one should commit the sins of the flesh? Absolutely! That's because He is merciful, compassionate, and full of grace. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3: 9); also regarding forgiveness, "...not seven times...." (Matt. 18: 22). Repentance, true repentance!

The power given for us to not sin is based upon love:

"....but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7: 47).

If we are still doing the deeds of the flesh that is defined in the above first paragraph, then I would have to say the marriage commitment to Christ is not based upon love, but something else and something less; and then throw into the mix a presumptuous understanding of scripture, and you've got a recipe for a religious spirit. This person may have a very strong appreciation for what Christ did for us (shedding His blood on the cross), but if they are still sinning, then His cross hasn't taken effect to the point of holy change, as they need to get real with Him.

"...the demons believe and tremble" (James 2: 19).

This is not to say if we still commit sin that His cross is made of no effect. The truth of the matter is His love to us is unconditional no matter what we do, but because He is holy, having done all and given all He can for us (His light, His name, blood, Holy Spirit, Word of God), if we still commit sins of the flesh, then as scripture says, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth" (1 Jn. 1: 6).

All I know is faith works by love (Gal. 5: 6). So let's have strong faith! Amen?

"Jesus said to him, if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mk. 9: 23).

Let us encourage one another to stay strong in the faith.

Blessings in Christ,

"Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!"

"But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4: 20-24).

Response #7: 

Dear Friend,

I don't strongly disagree with anything you have said here in this latest email, except perhaps the implications of "If the devil can get people to believe it's not possible to be without sin, then his mission is accomplished". As you no doubt know, this sentiment is never attributed to the devil nor is this conclusion about his "mission" based upon anything but speculation.

Moreover, we seem to keep dancing around this issue of possibilities. Is it possible not to sin? Certainly. Has any human being ever refrained from sin completely? Only Jesus Christ. Has any believer ever achieved sinless perfection? Absolutely not. So while, as I say, I don't necessarily disagree with the way you have phrased things here, the objective you proffer of building up faith – one with which I mightily agree – can actually be weakened if Christians are given the wrong impression about this important matter.

I know from experience and observation that if a pastor fails to explain this entire issue in a biblical way, with the result that a young Christian leaves church with the idea that he/she is not only commanded to never sin but also capable of never sinning, then one of two negative things is going to happen. Either that believer will have his/her faith damaged (possibly even destroyed) when failure inevitably occurs, or said person will redefine what sin is to the benefit of his/her own areas of strength and weakness. Telling people the whole truth avoids spiritual shipwreck on the one hand and a life of overwhelming hypocrisy on the other.

I do understand that a bigger scare helps some people stay straight. But, to use an analogy, telling young people that if they smoke marijuana their heads will explode may stop a few from trying it, but, since it is not actually true, in the end will only cause them to undervalue the actual truth that such behavior is "a bad idea" for many reasons – not the least of which is that it is illegal. Sinning of any kind is "a bad idea" for many reasons – not the least of which is that it provokes very painful divine discipline from the Lord. But while we hope at least that Christians will stay away from all illegal activity, we know from scripture that if a person is not occasionally disciplined by the Lord for sin it is because said individual is not a Christian at all:

If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
Hebrews 12:8 NIV

The marriage analogy has a number of problems with it, but the biggest one is the problem of scale. All sin is lawlessness, but there is a big difference between committing the mental attitude sin of worry and prostrating oneself to a pagan god. The latter is genuinely analogous to marital infidelity but the former is more akin to doing something selfish which upsets one's spouse. Infidelity can destroy a marriage; peccadilloes are the stuff marriage is made of (imperfect persons that we are). If we fall into pagan worship, it is difficult to see how faith can long survive; but when it comes to controlling our thoughts and our tongues (leaving out for the moment overt sinful actions), we will find we have plenty to confess at the end of a long and difficult week – at least if we are honest with ourselves about what sin entails. And if we have managed to gain a great measure of control over what we say and think, well, that is certainly what our Lord wants from us and requires of us. For as you point out, the standard is perfection. But telling people they can be perfect is a recipe for spiritual disaster. Even more important, it is also not scriptural.

We know that everyone who is born [again] from God is not [continually] sinning, but the one who is born [again] from God guards himself [against apostasy], and [so] the evil one is not [able to] lay hold of him.
1st John 5:18

This expanded translation of the verse you quote, 1st John 5:18, demonstrates what John means. This verse occurs in the context of the sin unto death, one of the signal results of apostasy. True believers do sometimes turn apostate, and there is a relationship between sin and apostasy (please make an effort to look at that link I keep referring to: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). If we give ourselves over to sin, that is exactly the opposite of giving our obedience over to Christ and estranges us from Him. But it is not an either or thing. No one can avoid sin altogether, and the only ones who make any serious progress in that fight – again, when we understand how insidious and wide-ranging sin really is – are those who are experiencing serious spiritual advance. But no true Christians is "[continually] sinning" (please note the progressive aspect here in the Greek – John could have used a perfect or a gnomic aorist instead); rather, all those genuinely committed to Jesus Christ avoid the extreme of apostasy which the devil does everything he can to try and effect.

So, as I say, I agree with you about the perfect standard, and I agree with you about our free will being 100%. But the Bible tells us about confession, tells us about Jesus' role as our advocate, encourages our progress in the fight against sin, and assures us that all true Christians are disciplined (etc.), all for a reason. Orthodox teaching has to reflect the entire counsel of God, and I think I have expressed myself sufficiently above on the reasons why focusing exclusively on the single aspect of the perfect standard and our ability meet it is inappropriate. Refusing to give people the impression they can be perfect is not at all the same as telling them it doesn't matter if they are imperfect. Giving people the impression they can be perfect, however, strikes me as height of hypocrisy for all who have not attained a status of absolute perfection and complete freedom from sin themselves.

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them."
Matthew 23:2-4 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ the Righteous,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Blessings Robert,

The Lord revealed this to me, and I need to share it. He showed me His people can get so caught up in defending their position in what they believe that they lose sight of perceiving and hearing the truth. For instance, when we read His word, are we really hearing and doing, or just hearing? Or maybe that person hears and understands, but because of their unwillingness to let go of sin they find ways to reason away the truth of the word of God, therefore making the word of God ineffective for them, because they continue to sin. There's many like this. They go to church, read and memorize scripture, they go to bible studies, involve themselves in missions work, etc., yet they still continue to give into their sin nature, (even if it's once in awhile; Gal. 5: 9), because they were taught they can never overcome it. (Matt. 7: 22-23). So they take the cross of Christ, and all it represents, and use it to represent their holiness. Christ does not represent our holiness, but our past sins! Rather, what He does, when we confess and truly repent, is that He conforms us into His Person (this is a process over time), but the power to overcome the sin nature is immediate.

We have to know their is an expectation of each person who names the name of Christ to depart from iniquity. We are called to be an overcomer, because we are through Him!!

On many things we agree scripturally but when it comes down to the "nitty-gritty" of the Holy Bible regarding the sin nature, this is where we separate. You think what I teach, preach, and believe is wrong and foolishness. God says word says,

"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1Cor. 2: 13).

You say that being perfect is not scriptural. Why then does Jesus say in scripture,

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5: 48)?

and why does scripture say,

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12: 1-2).

And then you say it's not a either or thing with God. Again, I'll let scripture be my defense:

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit" (Matt. 12: 33).

I've lived your position already, and I understand it very well. It's end is unfruitful. Why is it I can now defend holiness through Christ, yet you still defend the sin nature? It's because you still desire sin, or else you wouldn't defend the sin nature as you do.

What I say now, I don't say this with the intent to be condescending in any way, shape, or form, nor is my intent to elevate myself over you, God forbid! As best as I can explain it to you (since you don't know me) is that I know through scripture that we are sinners saved by grace (scriptural), but then it's added, because it's not understood, that we will continue as sinners as long as we posses this earthly body (unscriptural). I think where you're mistaking me, is thinking I believe we can obtain sinless perfection in this mortal body and physical realm. I do not believe this. In fact, scripture supports... not until heaven. Again, I touched on this in an earlier email (which confused you), but now I'll try to be more clear. Sinless perfection means that all the influences of sin are taken away. This will only occur when in heaven; and death and sin is swallowed up. What I speak of, and know is true, is that we are given the power to overcome the sin nature in the inner man right now.

Only the Holy Spirit is the Convincer of the truth. If I'm wrong, then I'm deceived, and I'm not in Him or Him in me, therefore I have nothing but a horrible eternity awaiting me! I should then be most miserable, but I'm not wrong, because I know where I've been (sinner) and who I am today, even right now, only because of the working power of the cross!! He has made me free from being a slave to my sin nature. He has made me righteous!! I have learned that taking up my cross daily means I die to the flesh daily. I have learned what it means to renew the mind. Jesus says, "Come learn of me..." In short, I have learned through the power of the Holy Spirit (Teacher) and His written word of truth that God means what He says, and He says what He means:

Be you holy for I am holy".

Or why do you think Jesus says,

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7: 13-14).

In closing, if you continue to allow this belief that you cannot overcome your sin nature to continue, rather repent, you will die in your sins. I know this sounds harsh but its the truth. Jesus said even to His disciple's that followed Him in John 6, "does this offend you"?

Please know everthing I say to you is in His love,

Blessings in Christ,

Response #8: 

Dear Friend,

Matthew 7:22-23 is speaking of unbelievers exclusively; the people mentioned as those whom the Lord "never knew" are not believers, not even marginal and floundering ones. Please see the links:

"I never knew you"

"I never knew you (II)"

While there is much I would agree with in your initial characterization of believers who are not really responding to what the Lord wants them to do, going through the motions of religious activity but not actually making any spiritual progress, I would note on the one hand that this does not ipso facto rule them out as being believers, and on the other that the failure, where there is failure, is a failure to really seek and believe and practice the truth. That is to say, many Christians are going through the motions and not really dedicating themselves to the truth of the Word of God. There is going to Bible study . . . and there is going to Bible study. To the world, it is one and the same thing, but God certainly knows the difference between those who are genuinely seeking the truth, listening to the actual truth, really believing the truth, and actually applying the truth to their lives . . . and those who have some other agenda.

On Matthew 5:48, "be perfect" is a 'perfectly' fine translation, but the Greek word here is teleios which means "complete", a word which in its core meaning suggests a process to get to that completion. That is to say, there is no doctrinal distinction between this verse and all the other scriptures which teach sanctification as a process (as in the next verses you quote, Rom. 12: 1-2, which show process from beginning to end). We are to strive for complete sanctification. The fact that attaining complete perfection (in the English sense of the English word) is not possible does not change the fact that this is the perfect standard to which we have been called.

I don't understand your argument about Matthew 12:33. We all know believers who are not perfect and yet are producing good fruit for the Lord. That seems to me to prove that good and bad trees are general categories. The passage (and its companion passages in Matt.7:16ff. and Lk.12:43 ff.) does encourage us to be completely good, but the main teaching point Jesus is making is that those who were opposing Him could be known as clearly not of God because of their deeds, while He could be clearly known as of God because of His. This certainly applies to all of us as well: look to the fruit and you will see the quality of the tree. That does not mean, and to my lights does not even imply, that in order to have "good fruit" a believer has to be sinlessly perfect – or to have achieved some special spiritual plateau defined by a unique spiritual experience (see below).

Excuse me for pointing out in the most vociferous way that I most certainly do not "defend the sin nature" and that I most definitely do teach sanctification in and through Jesus Christ – even if I do not agree with your phrasings of some of these matters.

I teach the Bible on the Bible's terms. Part of the problem we are having here is in the way things are being expressed, and it always dangerous to "go beyond what is written". Just as "sinless perfection" is not a biblical term – and I am very happy to have you state clearly that you do not believe it to be a possibility – so also when you state "we are given the power to overcome the sin nature in the inner man right now", you are putting things in terms of your own understanding, not in a purely biblical formulation, and up until this present moment what you mean by this precisely is not precisely clear.

Nowhere does scripture speak of "overcoming the sin nature". Since this does not mean sinless perfection in your view on the one hand, but yet somehow it means something quite different from what conservative, evangelical theology has always taught, I would need to have something, a definition at least, a couple of scriptures at least, to be able to continue this conversation in a fruitful way. For, to be frank (as you have been), you do not seem to have this idea "perfectly" thought out yet.

I am not offended by the truth, but I would appreciate – finally – some straight answers:

1) What is the sin nature in your view?

2) How does one "overcome the sin nature" in your view?

3) Is "overcoming the sin nature" a synonym for salvation in your view?

4) Does "overcoming the sin nature" result in sinlessness in practice?

5) Are Christians who have not "overcome the sin nature" really Christians?

6) How many other Christians besides yourself have managed to "overcome the sin nature" in your view?

7) When you "overcame the sin nature", was this the same as "getting the Spirit"?

8) After having "overcome the sin nature", have you ever sinned?

9) Are some sins worse than other sins in your view?

10) Is the commission of some sins consistent with "overcoming the sin nature" but others inconsistent with it in your view?

11) Are those who have not "overcome the sin nature" going to hell in your view?

12) Are those who have not "overcome the sin nature" of necessity committing gross sin in your view?

These are just a few of the question I have after our discussions on this matter. Quite frankly, it is one hallmark of a good teacher to leave his position in little doubt after finishing the lesson. That is to say, I may disagree with someone after the lesson, I may disagree entirely, but there is little point in listening at all if at the end of the day I do not understand where the person stands on the issues he is trying to teach about (one can get that in any given church on any given Sunday morning, after all).

Evangelicals and serious theologians throughout the history of the church have been discussing these issues at great length, and I have never come across this point of view before (to the extent that I understand this point of view). It seems to me that what you are saying is completely unique in the history of the church. Certainly, that does not automatically make it untrue. It does, however, require from you a higher standard of clarity than has heretofore been the case in our communications, and the presentation of at least some scriptural evidence which directly explains and supports your claims.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior, through whose blood we have been cleansed once and for all.

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hi Robert!!

Wow! I'm so excited by your response email. It's rare to have someone, like yourself, ask questions to clarify what is being said. Usually the response is to immediately deny and dismiss. Praise God for that!! (and I'm also not presuming you're agreeing with me). At least we're engaging. I praise God for your time in sharing with me.

My deepest apologies if I haven't made myself clear in past emails. I honestly hope I will be clear now so you there will be no misunderstandings. I ask in Jesus' name, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that He would bring clarity and knowledge of what's been said, and what will be said henceforth in future correspondences. Amen.

I realize you have many other questions beside the ones listed. I really do hope and pray that clarifying the sin nature will answer your other questions (listed and not listed) as well.

The sin nature has a wide range, in which some areas of the sin nature we will have to deal with until we see Him face to face, for we are imperfect. These things we deal with are sin, but God doesn't impute these things against us. The things I've been speaking of in regard to the sin nature are very basic. These basic things are told us in 1 Cor. 6: 9-10; Gal. 5: 19-21; and such like. God tells us, anyone who does these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. These things are called "the deeds of the flesh," or "the lust of the flesh," or "the sins of the flesh." This is what I refer to as the sin nature. God's Holy Bible clearly instructs us to keep ourselves from doing these sins of the flesh. When we do, this, in God's eyes, is our reasonable service (Rom. 12: 1-2). If we do the deeds of the flesh (quantity doesn't matter) (see Gal. 5: 9), we are not in Him, nor He in us, for His children keep (guard) themselves, and the wicked one doesn't touch them (get them to commit the sins of the flesh, or the lusts of the flesh, (i.e. the sin nature) because they love Him.

God tells us that His children abide (continuously remain) in Him; and as long as we abide in Him, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (Jn. 15: 5).

"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5: 16).

We know Christ died for our sins, but He did not go to the cross for us to remain slaves to sin. He died to free us from having to be slaves to sin.

"Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (Jn. 8: 34).

"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (Jn. 8: 36).

He made it possible for us, based upon freewill choice, to say no to "the lusts of the flesh" each and every time it comes knocking.

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. It's only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we cease from doing the sin nature" (1 Cor. 10: 13).

This is why Paul says,

"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8: 9).

Here's the same above verse in the Modern NIV verson:

"You however, are not controlled by the sin nature but are in the Spirit, if indeed that Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ" (Rom. 8: 9).

In summary, if we claim to be in Christ and yet commit the sins of the flesh (sin nature), we are deceiving ourselves. Yes, there are certain areas we struggle with because of our earthly corrupt body but God does not impute those things upon us. The area that God calls "the lust of the flesh, etc. are completely forbidden, and anyone, which includes Christians, who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Period!

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die , it abideth alone: but if it die , it bringeth forth much fruit" (Jn. 12: 24).

We are called to die to our fleshly desires (lust of the flesh). In doing do we are loving Him, because we do love Him.

"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" (Matt. 22: 37-38).

AND THE ABILITY TO NOT SIN WORKS BY LOVE!!!

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit

Blessings in Christ,

Response #9: 

Dear Friend,

You are certainly welcome. I will pass over the fact that you did not address most of my questions and respond to what you did have to say.

It seems to me now that you are attempting to make a distinction between types of sins. In your view, some sins cause us "not to inherit the kingdom of heaven"; other sins do not carry that consequence. From what you had originally said about some "Christians" not being delivered from the Tribulation, it seemed to me that you were positing two levels of Christians, "the good" (who have "mastered the sin nature") and the "not so good" (who have not). From this latest characterization, however, it is not clear to me that these "not so good" are saved at all since they "will not inherit the kingdom of God. Period!" This is no small point.

The (false) position that Christians do not sin has been held by many groups throughout the millennia. In my assessment of their theology, broadly speaking, they have had to redefine sin, that is, they have had to exempt many behaviors which, from an unforced straight reading of the Bible would be seen as sinful, from being sin. Generally speaking, however, these groups have not been as straight-forward as you have been in this latest email in actually publishing criteria to help the rest of us understand what sins are not really all that sinful and what sins are going to result in us "going through the Tribulation" or "not inheriting the kingdom of heaven" or "losing our salvation" – as I say, I am still unclear as to the precise status of a believer who commits a "sin of the flesh" (or what precisely that is).

Or perhaps it is in your view the case rather that "real Christians" never ever commit a "sin of the flesh"? That would be a difficult position to defend however the term is defined, since by your own quotations of so many passages over the course of this correspondence it is at least abundantly clear that the New Testament tells us over and over again to avoid sin of all types – and why would that be necessary if it were impossible for a "real Christian" to commit any such sin? So I am assuming, based on this logic and our prior emails, that your position is rather that a "real Christian" has the power not to commit "sins of the flesh", but that if he/she does, the consequences go beyond divine discipline and the natural ramifications of the sin in question, and result in either 1) loss of salvation, or 2) some dire purging experience as in missing "the rapture" and "going through the Tribulation" . . . and then what about those in the last two thousand years who have not had the benefit of that coming purging? Is there then a purgatory of some sort? If so, how would David not be there?

I think you may see what I am driving at. This all sounds very much like Roman Catholic theology (e.g., "the seven deadly sins" – I understand your list is quite different, but the principle is the same). Certainly, some sins are worse than others. It is worse to murder someone than to tell a white lie. However, both are sins. If the experience of the Roman Catholic church is any guide, it would seem to me that (falsely) elevating one category of sin or sins to be "real sins" has the opposite effect on Christians than might at first be supposed. In many cases, rather than preventing murder (for example), establishing a hierarchy of deadly sins (which most of us are not going to be running out to commit anyway) results in diminishing our concern for doing anything that does not fall into the "deadly" category (however defined). That would not be an issue nor should it be a concern if this distinction were biblical. However, since in my considered view it is not, the point weighs heavily in demonstrating how such false distinctions, made no doubt out of good intentions, have unintended negative consequences (as is always the case when scripture is twisted, even a little bit).

As to the distinctions drawn in your latest epistle, let me start by observing that when you say "The sin nature has a wide range, in which some areas of the sin nature we will have to deal with until we see Him face to face, for we are imperfect", by definition you are admitting that our "mastering the sin nature" is not total, that our "freedom" is not complete, and that therefore the end of our "slavery to sin" is limited to those sins you later define. However, when you adduced these "liberation" passages before, you did so in absolute terms – and they are absolute. I hope you can see that while you may be personally comfortable with reading into "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" the idea that only certain sins are meant, or with reading into "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" the idea that the freedom is limited to sinning as narrowly defined, etc., that others might be confused (to say the least): those qualifications are simply not in fact present in the text of these or any of the many other passages which deal with the standard of Christian perfection.

Many of us who have spent years carefully considering the scriptures and conscientiously entertaining alternative points of view have done so out of a strong desire to let the Word of God and the Holy Spirit lead us where they will irrespective of any preconceived theological positions. Were I an adherent of your point of view, this need to emphasize the absolute nature of the liberation from sin in such passages on the one hand, then turn around and understand it in a limited way which is completely at odds with the absolute nature of these verses would trouble me greatly. As it is, a better explanation would need to be forthcoming for me to see any validity in this approach.

As to the core issue here of what constitute "sins of the flesh", you cite as your two main passages for circumscribing sin 1st Corinthians 6: 9-10 and Galatians 5: 19-21. However, any honest appraisal of these passages will show that Paul has in mind all manner of sin in these verses, not merely a category of "worse sins which are imputed":

(9) Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders (10) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
1st Corinthians 6:9-10 NIV

If I believed that refraining from ever committing any of the above sins were necessary for salvation, I would be plenty comfortable with that proposition for most of what is listed here. But what about greed? Who can say that they have never done or said or thought anything "greedy"? The Greek word here pleonektai, refers to those committing the sin of pleonexia, greed, covetousness, desiring to get "more" than others, etymologically. In other words, it means acting with a lack of love for others in the furtherance of one's own self-interest: lust in general. This is the one sin Paul could never bring himself to assume that he had never committed, the one that "killed him" (Rom.7:7-11), and the one commandment out of the ten designed to cover all the other ground of sinfulness not specifically cataloged – for it is the opposite of love which "fulfills the Law" (Rom.13:10; Gal.5:14; Jas.2:8; see the link: "The Ten Commandments"). Idolatry may seem simple to avoid, but not so much when we consider that "greed is idolatry" in God's eyes (Col.3:5; cf. Eph.5:5). Slander is also problematic – for anyone with the power of speech. Who can honestly claim never to have uttered a single bad or condescending word or even partially untrue statement against another person since being saved? Finally, of course, in the next verse Paul tells us that this is what "some of you were" but that now we "have been washed / sanctified / justified". In other words, we have been justified by our faith, made holy in Jesus, and forgiven all of our sins. That is our positional status as believers, and one which does not exempt us from pursuing sanctification behaviorally although sanctified positionally (Heb.12:14; 1Pet.1:15-16), striving to be righteous though justified (Rom.6:17-19; Eph.5:9), or confessing our sins though forgiven (1Jn.1:9; Jas.5:16). And this really is at the root of your misunderstanding of these things, to wit, the failure to distinguish between our positional perfection and our experiential need to strive for improvement (only really possible through consistent spiritual growth).

(19) The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; (20) idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (21) and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 NIV

Again, some of these things would be no problem for most of us. But "hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy"? Herein we see a whole host of mental attitude sins and compound sins that necessarily involve sins in the heart and their carrying forward in speech and action. What Christian can claim to be completely free of these from the point of salvation forward? And if anyone foolishly so dared, Paul adds most pointedly, "and the like", a better translation being "and whatever is similar to all these things". Since we already have here all three categories of sin as traditionally understood: sins of deed, word and thought, this "rider" can only be interpreted to mean "and any other thing that is sinful. Period!"

I certainly agree with your statement that "He made it possible for us, based upon freewill choice, to say no to 'the lusts of the flesh' each and every time it comes knocking". Indeed, we have the Spirit, and we have access to the truth of the entire Word of God; we also have free will. Where I disagree is with the assumption that a 100% sin-free track record is or ever has been within the grasp of any believer who has ever lived: that is impossible unless a person dies immediately after salvation. Everyone is tempted in different ways. There are certainly believers whose particular sin nature is not tempted to err in areas which you seem to be defining as "sin that counts as sin" (the others, as you claim, "God doesn't impute against us"); others may have strayed into such areas and become so disgusted with themselves (and so badly disciplined by the Lord), that they learned well enough the lesson of staying away from such "gross sins" as to actually have success in walking in a sanctified way thereafter in regard to crass carnality. But from the biblical point of view, this does not qualify them as sinless, does not obviate their need for confession of all other sins, and does exempt them from the same ground rules for the Christian way of life we all have: spiritual growth is the only way to make lasting improvements in one's sanctification. Redefining what sin is – and that is the essence of what you are doing here – only retards spiritual growth by engendering a completely unjustified sense of self-righteousness.

For a Bible teacher, it is somewhat uncomfortable to teach the absolute standard of sinless perfection which God requires from all Christians (because we know it is impossible for anyone to ever meet it, even ourselves); it is also somewhat uncomfortable to teach the absolute forgiveness God offers through the blood of Christ to all who confess their sins, no matter how gross or severe (because in doing so we worry about emboldening those who listen in regard to sin). The best approach, in my considered view, is to try never to teach one without the other, as both are true and as each needs to be understood in light of the other. Our God is a God of perfect justice and perfect mercy, though these two blessed qualities often seem contradictory to the world. Most serious theological error stems from leaning too far one way or the other. Without the justice inflicted on our Lord Jesus in the darkness at the cross, there would be no heaven; and while there is a hell, no one ever goes there without first spurning the mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

In His holy Name,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Robert,

Thank you for your questions, answers, and rebuttals! They are legit, and again, I humbly with meekness present this scripture:

"Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, [be] glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever Amen" (Jude 1: 24-25)

The reason I didn't answer everyone of your questions is because in defining the sin nature (lusts of the flesh) it should answer them. I didn't pass over your questions except for this reason.

Please don't misunderstand me regarding Christians sinning. Everyone, including Christians, can commit sin, for we have freewill to do so. It's just that true Christians do not do the deeds of the flesh because they are born again, as the living God (Father, Son, and H.S.) lives in them; for those things (lusts of the flesh) are against God, mankind, and ourselves.

When we are truly moved (not based upon emotion only, but one that cuts to the core because we come to realize our sinfulness) in their inner man/woman because of His mercy, grace, and love, which He has bestowed upon us, this should move us in gratitude with sincere humility and meekness, causing us to bow our knee to the One who saved us from utter destruction, for our past lifestyle was contrary to holiness. And because of the cross, and the hearing of God's word, and then responding to it, in believing, His faith (the faith of Jesus Christ) that is given us, that operates in us, and which works by love (Gal. 2: 20), it is this love that is poured into our heart (Rom. 5: 5) that gives us power over the lusts of the flesh; a faith which works by love (Gal. 5: 6)! But God knows our heart. I refer to the seed parable in Matt. 13.

Only when we continuously abide in Him, because we love Him (Jn. 15: 5), can we be holy. For where else are we to go? Like Peter, "Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn. 6: 68). There is no other place to abide, except in Him, to keep us empowered to stay holy, which is by Him and through Him.

Please allow me to ask you a question: If it's no longer us who live, but Him in us, will Christ lead us to sin?

What is deceptive is the teachings of man, which teaches that He still abides in us during the act of committing (doing) the lusts of the flesh. This is a great presumption, and sending many to Hell! How can a holy God live in a unholy temple?

"And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6: 16-18).

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Let no man deceive himself... " (1 Cor. 3: 16-18).

"Be you holy, for I Am holy" (1 Pet. 1: 16).

Many believers choose Hell each time they choose to disobey by doing the lusts of the flesh. Sadly, those who choose to give into temptation of the lusts of the flesh are not abiding in Him, and if not abiding in Him, we can do nothing. And praise God that He provides forgiveness each and every time one should give into the lusts of the flesh (1 Jn. 1: 9).

But what happens to a relationship (i.e. marriage) if one spouse says to another, "I love you, but I committed adultery against you again this week?" Surely this is not a committed love.

In response to Christ's discipline....His discipline is given to conform us into His image (i.e. fruits of the Spirit). Trying to compare this discipline to a believer giving into the lust of the flesh is absurd. There is no middle ground to this. Either we are grateful for all He has done for us, as this gratefulness is shown by us through holy change (ceasing to do the deeds of the flesh), or we live presumptuously before Him committed with a halfhearted heart.

In response to Catholicism and sin comparisons, I will say this. There are types of sin that God does not impute it against us. For instance, being slow to believe. Example: Let's say that He has a plan for you to carry the Gospel message to a stranger at such and such a place, but you are slow to react, or maybe you don't go at all, because you really aren't sure if it's Him calling you.

Is that sin? Yes. It's because we live in a corrupt state that brings slowness. But does He impute that against us? No. Only when we receive our new bodies and are translated into our incorruptible ones will we be perfect, because then we will know, even as we are known (face to face).

So in comparing this type of sin, which I exemplified, to the lusts of the flesh, which are sins we cannot do, for they are forbidden, cannot be compared. Is it all sin? Yes. But there is sin that is not imputed:

"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 sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death" (1 Jn. 5: 16-17).

In response to your comment that Paul refers to 1 Cor. and Gal. as "all manner of sin" (i.e. greed), we must be cognizant that Gal. 5: 21 says, "and such like."

Your interpretation of, "and such like," in Gal. to mean "all manner of sin" leaves 1 Jn. 5: 16-17, inconsistent to scripture.

As much as I truly love and care for you in the Lord, and I love our communications, I must say that we are getting to the point where it really comes down to how you and I differently see, hear, and perceive the scriptures.

I believe you understand fully of my position on sin and what I'm saying. And to tell you the truth, I already understand your arguments, for I at once time shared your same view(s), but because of my experiences since 1990-91, I am what I am; and I know what I know. What I am is a saved child of God because of His love, mercy, and grace. What I know is that love is the greatest, and that with God (me and Him together) all things are possible, which includes the ability to not give into the lusts of the flesh, because of the power of His love!!!

I have no issues to continue in corresponding with each other if you want, but I know what is the truth for I live it; and I know what is of the many lies of the Devil, for I lived that also.

My last comment in this email is: Either we love Him by keeping His commandments, or we hate Him.

"For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved" (Jn. 3: 20)

Blessings in Christ,

Response #10: 

Dear Friend,

You are very welcome. I hope that this exchange has been profitable for you in honing your understanding of these matters. To be honest, however, I from my point of view it is still in need of further honing. My last email was an attempt to point out to you that the distinction your are attempting to draw between different categories of sin has not even come close to being made clear (at least to me – and I am trying). As your most recent response does nothing to remedy that fatal flaw in your argument, I am left to wonder whether or not this is because – while you are convinced in your heart from your personal experience of the correctness of your view – you cannot find a solid scriptural basis for what you are claiming. If positions were reversed, that would certainly give me pause, and I would urge you to revisit this issue at some point, even if this is the last time we talk.

You do say a couple of things here which are worthy of brief comment without rehashing the issue again de novo. Let me say at the outset, however, that over the course of this correspondence I have brought up for your consideration many points and many questions to which you never responded. In a rhetorical debate, it is often a good strategy to respond only to what one perceives as the weakest point in an opponent's argument. With any luck, the audience will remember only one's refutation of this easy target. It is not a profitable approach in seeking the truth, however, nor is it generally an effective method in persuading the other party himself of the rightness of one's position. Just as an example, when you dismiss here the list of questions I presented you with the claim that this is legitimate "because in defining the sin nature (lusts of the flesh) it should answer them", not only would I strongly disagree with that statement, but I find it particularly curious inasmuch as you never have "defined the sin nature" – or sin or categories of sin or the distinction between important and unimportant sin, or just what you mean by "sins of the flesh", etc.

These six [things] doth the LORD hate: yea, seven [are] an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness [that] speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
Proverbs 6:16-19 KJV

The Lord hates and even abominates the sins described on this list. Now I cannot say for certain, because you have never shared with me specifically what a "sin of the flesh" is as opposed to one "not imputed", but since you completely ignored the problems I brought up with your two proof-passage lists, I can only assume that in the Proverbs passage above you would be unlikely to consider most of these in the "imputed" category. That is a problem, because, for example, who has never been guilty of "a proud look" or "a lying tongue" – and yet the Lord abominates such behavior on an equal basis with murder (which I am assuming is "imputed").

I have affirmed repeatedly that the standard is perfection. I do not see how this new tack of having fellowship versus not having fellowship with our Lord affects the argument one way or another (that is not addressed in your email). Clearly, if we sin, it negatively affects our relationship with the Lord. That is surely why 1st John 1:9 assures us of forgiveness and of cleansing from all unrighteousness through simple confession, doing so in a context of our fellowship with the Lord (cf. 1Jn.1:3; 1:6-7). Sin compromises our fellowship with Jesus; confession restores it. That does not mean we are not to be punished for our sins. But your dismissal of Hebrews chapter 12 as applying to more serious transgressions has no biblical basis. Both that chapter and the passages in Proverbs it quotes are speaking of punishment, not discipleship. And we have plenty of examples of "severe chastening" of believers in scripture (David endured fourteen years of terrible trouble as a result of his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah – but did not lose his salvation). The point is, experiential fellowship is relative; our eternal relationship with Jesus is absolute. The confusion of the two, as I have explained now many times, is, I believe, at the heart of your misunderstanding of these important issues. And, as I have also pointed out repeatedly, that would be bad enough if you were being consistent about it; but you really cannot have it both ways, admitting that we do sin but that it doesn't matter to our position in Christ as long as the sin is not in a certain category. We are either sinless or we are not. And if we are not, then we need to admit it, teach what the Bible actually says about these matters, and accept that the perfect standard we cannot actually achieve is yet one for which should always strive.

On "imputed sin", this is a much misunderstood concept in theology because the Greek passages in Romans which the KJV and other versions translate with various forms of the verb "impute" do not actually say anything at all along the lines of what Augustine and the Reformers came to construct elaborate, extra-biblical systems to address (see the link: "The So-Called Imputation of Adam's Sin"). Be that as it may, your use of "imputation" certainly seems to be absolutely unique in all of theology. Some definition or explanation of what you mean by this would need to be forthcoming even to understand your argument, let alone agree with you.

I have dealt with the problems with your marriage analogy before, but received no response (i.e., there is a big difference between unnecessarily hurting your spouse's feelings and cheating on him/her). Your claim that my pointing out that Galatians 5:21 is meant to include all other sin "leaves 1 Jn. 5: 16-17, inconsistent to scripture" is not explained. Clearly, much of what you believe is based primarily upon your own experience which in turn informs your interpretation of critical passages – but that connection must be communicated to others to be persuasive, and no such connection is provided here beyond your assertion.

I am willing to continue the dialogue if you like, but if you do wish to continue, kindly provide a sufficient answer to the following essential questions first (I will wait on the rest):

1) What is the sin nature in your view, and what, precisely are "sins of the flesh"?

2) Precisely what sin(s) are "imputed" and what sin(s) are not?

3) How do you deal with my critique of 1st Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21? And what about Proverbs 6:16-19? How do you justify distinguishing sins on these lists which very clearly continue to be committed by all Christians from the ones which are equally as clearly extreme for anyone who calls himself "Christian"?

Your position on these really does need to be clarified for any continuing dialogue to be profitable. Without that clarification, I am afraid further progress is very unlikely.

Yours in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Robert,

I honestly don't know where to go from here. It was clearly defined in my email what the sins of the flesh are. Again, Gal. 5: 19-21 tell us. Galatians includes, "and such like." 1 Cor. 6: 9-10, Eph. 4: 20-32, Col. 3: 5-10, Rev. 21: 8, etc., are passages that represent the "and such like" sins (sins of the flesh). If anyone does these things they are in God's eyes unbelievers, and therefore have not the Spirit of God in them, for they continue to allow sin in them.

I choose not to go into explanation of all your questions because there's a problem.

The problem is that you don't believe it's possible to actually be free ("free indeed) from those sins in the above verses. You would rather debate the issue, for it's how you hear, perceive, and therefore believe. This is because it was taught you in this manner and confirmed by the lifestyles of many in the mainstream, as they also were taught the same as you. We must do first things first for anything further to make sense. Jesus says, "Whosoever commits sin is a slave to sin..." (Jn. 8: 34). Whosoever means anyone. I don't care if you at one time said the "sinners prayer" and invited Christ into your heart (that's a perfect foundation to build upon) or preaching behind a pulpit; if after coming to Christ you still do these sins, you are not free, but still slave to sin. Jesus continues on in this passage and says, Whoever the Son sets free, is free indeed." (Jn. 8: 36). Jesus Christ came to set the sinner free from their sin, not to die on the cross only to keep them slaves to sin. Either you are free from sin or not. Either you want to be free from sin or not.

If you want to be free from sin, then throw away all your preconceived theological reasoning of the mind ideas and stop debating, and grasp the simple truth (the simplicity of Christ) doctrine of Christ. Please read each word in each of the verses below:

"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Cor.. 11: 3)

"But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Eph. 4: 20-21).

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1: 6-8).

If you desire to be free, then call upon Him (Rom. 10: 10).

It's a sad truth, but many will die in their sins, including those who claim to be in Christ.

Please do not take this in a condescending way (that's not my intent), but you have been brainwashed, and are in need of a complete cleansing of the written word of God, and need to learn the simple things of Christ and His love. YOUR FOREVER DEPENDS UPON IT!!! I know, because I was once brainwashed.

In Christ's love,

Response #11: 

Dear Friend,

I don't either. You don't know me. You don't know what I have been taught. And your statement about "what I believe" makes me wonder if you've bothered to read my emails at all.

You clearly have developed a personal theology about all this which may be consistent in your in own mind. The problem is, it is completely inconsistent with scripture – to the extent that you have deigned to engage with scripture.

Case in point – my last go-round with this – are your two proof texts. No, excuse, me, but you have most definitely not "clearly defined" what constitutes "sins of the flesh". I have been trying to get you to commit to that from the first communication. I have pointed out to you repeatedly now that Gal.5:19-21 and 1 Cor.6:9-10 and all such other passages you should care to add include all manner of sins. Therefore, if we are to take these lists as our guide, all sins would have to be "sins of the flesh", and I challenge you to give me one example of a biblically mentioned sin which is not a "sin of the flesh".

Since the distinction you are attempting to make does not exist in the Bible, we are left with two possibilities: 1) either Christians can attain sinless perfection (not biblical and, needless to say, not observable), or 2) the issue of sin is precisely how I have been presenting it to you and how I have been teaching it through this ministry (see the link: BB 3B: Hamartiology: the biblical study of sin).

No, I have most certainly not been "brainwashed", but I shudder to think of what you mean when you say "you are in need of a complete cleansing of the written word of God, and need to learn the simple things of Christ and His love" (emphasis added). If this means what it seems to say, i.e., that I am too heavily focused on the scripture, then it is I who begin to be concerned with your "forever". When we start to assume that we can pick and choose what scriptures we will pay attention to because of some over-ridingly important personal experience we have had, the next step is to invest the verses we choose to consider valid with whatever meaning we desire. It is not a far stretch from that to a complete divorcement from the truth, consequent loss of faith, and eventual enlistment into the ranks of the evil one.

Apologies for the bluntness, but this is very important. I beg you in Jesus Christ, cleave to the truth of His Word beyond all else. That is the only path to spiritual growth – or spiritual safety.

In the love of our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hi Robert,

Here are examples of sins that is of the flesh, but they are not of the "sins list" as in 1 Cor.6:9-10, Gal. 5: 19-21, and such like, etc.: worrying, slowness of heart to act in a call from the Lord (i.e. Jonah), etc.

The reason I haven't answered your question regarding giving you examples of sin that is not of the flesh up until now is because you would rather argue to be right then be willing to accept the truth, which would lead to total repentance and conversion:

"Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which says, By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; *lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, _and should be converted_, and I should heal them"* (Matt. 13: 13-15).

Your emails (speech) gives you away, therefore, that is all I need to know of you for me to know you. Either you love God by being holy, or you hate Him by continuing to sin. As of right now, according to you, you still sin, therefore you shown Him that you do not love Him. Unless you truly repent in your heart and be converted, you will die in your sins.

Repent!

In Christ,

Response #12: 

Is pride a sin of the flesh?

Question #13: 

Yes, pride is sin. And who is the accuser of the brethren? I've done nothing but shared holiness, as the word of God calls for us to be holy. You on the other hand have done nothing but reasoned away God's holy word, therefore for you making it of no effect.

And you call yourself a teacher and have a ministry? As Jesus said, "Let them alone. They be blind leaders of the blind; and if blind, both shall fall into the ditch."

The word of God always reads how, what, and why it's possible, not impossible.

In Christ,

Response #13: 

So, pride is a "sin of the flesh", and you are innocent of the sin of pride since salvation – that is quite a claim, especially given your surprising hostility in this latest email.

How about lying?

Is lying a sin?

Question #14: 

If one should sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous when we confess, repent, to keep going in Him. The problem is that most are taught that we can never overcome the sins of the flesh (defined in that earlier email). For those who are taught this way, the mindset for these believer's will always be in a frame of mind to ever learn, but never come to the knowledge of the truth, being a product of the teaching they hear, which forms their perception of the word of God, in which they believe the cannot overcome sin.

We have grace to get out of sin, not to continue in it. God's love and mercy is shown by paying the price for our sin, so we didn't have to endure His wrath, but His expectations toward us to be holy is high toward because He knows what His Spirit can do within us.

Most are taught that Christ does it all, therefore there's nothing we can do. But for example, what about 1 Jn. 3: 3, which says, "And every man that has this hope in Him, purifies himself, even as He is pure." This verse clearly shows that there is a doing on our part.

But you would argue that this verse is a process. I used to see it that way myself because that is how I was taught to read scripture, but since I was given new eyes to see to read scripture, which only comes through complete surrender to Him, I am telling you (not I but the Holy Spirit) this is not a process. Repenting from the sins of the flesh is immediate, but conforming into His image is a process.

My last email is not of hostility but righteous anger, for you would rather reason with the word than believe in the possibility to be holy.

In Christ,

Response #14: 

Dear Friend,

Maybe we are finally getting somewhere. This would be easier if you would be willing to give straight answers to simple questions. You have to know that guarding knowledge as "secret" and only dispensing it to those who have somehow "proved themselves" is the stuff cults are made of. But what does the Bible say?

You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.
Acts 20:20 NIV

For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.
Acts 20:27 NIV

How are our positions different? In our understanding of God's perfect standard and expectations of us? Not at all. I have said repeatedly that God does expect perfect holiness from us, and also that is wrong to teach that something less is alright with Him or "normal" Christian behavior. It is not. In our understanding of the provisions God has made for us when we do fail? Not at all. You say just above and have said before in effect what you say here that "confession and repentance keep us going in Him", precisely as I understand scripture to teach.

The way I see it – and forgive me if I have this wrong in some respects as I have earnestly been trying to understand your positions precisely for some time now (and I think if you were reading my responses more carefully instead of imputing to me the thinking of others with whom you have had discussions on this before you would already know mine clearly enough) – there are two fundamental differences between us on this critical subject:

1) You seem to believe that a Christian can make some sort of "complete surrender" to the Lord, and from then on that person will be able to master the sin nature as never before (however, without such a life-changing experience, no such mastery / moving to a higher level of sanctification is possible).

2) You seem to be saying that this quantum leap in sanctification, while it does not result in absolute sinless perfection, nonetheless does produce a complete liberation from "sins of the flesh" (still undefined).

Assuming I am understanding this correctly, I have to say that I find no biblical basis for either of these two theses, and, despite repeated questions and requests for such support, have not seen so much as a single scripture that would lead a person to believe either of these two assertions. Please understand – I am not saying that there are not scriptures which, in your own personal interpretation of these matters, seem to you to be consistent with what you believe / are teaching. But that is quite something different from being able to produce scriptures which teach on their face a principle one wishes to espouse.

I also find these two assumptions extremely dangerous. The first, if untrue, cannot help but exalt personal experience over the Bible. The second, if untrue, cannot help but result in a redefinition of what is sin (or, to be more precise in your terminology of choice, "sins of the flesh"), to one's own benefit.

In regard to the first assumption, Christians who have not, for whatever reason, had an earthshaking moment of teary confession to the Lord following catastrophic failure will be left to think they are not saved or at least not on the "A" team, when their only failing may well be that they have never erred so horrendously as to have a correspondingly great emotional reaction to their failure. Though all are vulnerable to sin, not everyone is given to gross carnality:

"Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
Luke 7:47 NIV

In regard to the second assumption, since in my reading of scripture no one can live a perfect life, even after salvation, this teaching of a hierarchy of sins divided into two discrete classes will force an otherwise honest Christian into the hypocrisy of redefining all the sorts of sins he / she is liable to commit as not being "sins of the flesh" and those he / she is capable of refraining from as the only ones which really "matter". For those unwilling to commit to such hypocrisy (or who have been ungenerous with themselves in the distribution into the two categories or have somehow failed later even in respect to sins which they can't see their way clear to exempt from the "sins of the flesh" category), spiritual devastation is very likely to be the result following failure to live a, for all intents and purposes, perfect life after making this commitment (however one does it).

To be frank, the fact that after such a long conversation you have proved either unwilling or unable to define in regard to the first assumption precisely what this experience that produces the quantum leap of sanctification is or entails (is it salvation, re-dedication, reception of the Spirit, etc., and how precisely is it achieved?), and with regard to the second assumption that you have proved equally unwilling or unable to define precisely and thoroughly what goes into the "sins of the flesh" category and what does not, are strong indications to me that you do not have these answers. Since I find no scriptural support for these assumptions, I am guessing that you have not been able to make the Bible square with them either, and that this failure explains your reticence.

I thoroughly understand how a person who has been involved in a pattern of gross and dangerous sinfulness might have a dramatic repentance experience. And a really honorable Christian in such a situation might just be "scared straight" to such a degree that thenceforth the particular behaviors of that type of sinfulness are never a problem again. Indeed, I have seen that many times. Many Christians, especially younger ones, do fall into serious sin, then, instead of drifting into apostasy or persevering in sin until they encounter the sin unto death, do turn the ship around before they suffer shipwreck. This is not everyone's testimony, but it is a very common one.

I also thoroughly understand why a pastor or a believer who has had such an experience would bristle at making the reality of Christian imperfection an excuse to continue in imperfection without apparent concern. It is folly to assume that sin is meaningless to God, or that there are no consequences for sin. It is also indicative of living one's life for oneself instead of for Jesus Christ. However, just because some people misuse and abuse grace is not a valid justification for teaching things that are not true, even if the intentions are good.

One of the things that troubles me personally about this incorrect approach is that it is focused on spiritual defense to the exclusion of offense. It is easier to sit in place and defend the castle than it is to sally forth out of the gate and advance towards the Land of Promise. It is true that sitting safe in the castle one may seem safer from enemy arrows, but even that is only apparently true: the evil one is an expert in siege warfare; it is just that he is less concerned with opposing those who have by their actions forsworn spiritual advance. Satan saves his best efforts for those who are advancing. That is one reason why describing sanctification as a process is entirely biblical.

And every man that has this hope in Him, purifies himself, even as He is pure.
1st John 3:3

Your verse makes the process clear: if we live by the hope of the resurrection, the hope of our reunion with Jesus and attendant rewards, we most certainly will be "purifying ourselves" day by day as we draw closer to Zion and closer to our Lord through the process of spiritual growth. Note that this verse describes a process (Greek:  hagnizei, "is purifying" = continuous action), and not a once-for-all status (that would require an aorist or a perfect tense, whereas here we have the progressive present).

Indeed, as I have pointed out many times now, as we grow, we get better at sanctification. If we are not growing, we may feel we are pretty well sanctified, but consider: without growth, we are not out there advancing, but are instead cowering behind our walls. We are not making strides forward in the Christian life, we are not aggressively applying the truth we are learning and believing to the new circumstances and new types of testing we would otherwise be facing everyday. We are not being bombarded by the evil and one, not being tested by his minions to see what may work against us – because in that case we are no real threat to him. Spiritual growth is a process as you seem to acknowledge: "conforming into His image is a process". What makes you think that as we learn more about the truth of the Bible we will not discover more and more ways we fall short, more and more defects that need to be addressed, more and more areas of our lives where we need to live better for Jesus, not just in avoiding obviously crass things but also and just as importantly learning to serve others better as He would have us to do? Anything that is not of faith, and anything that is not of love, is sinful (Rom.14:23; 1Cor.13). Perfection is not just refraining from foul thoughts, words and deeds; perfection is doing everything we ought to be doing in precisely the way we ought to be doing it.

As I have repeatedly said, we are never going to be perfect, but that is the standard to which we have been called, in all things, not just in some select category of gross sinfulness where for whatever reason we have been able to gain a temporary mastery.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord, who lived a truly perfect life for us to save us from all our imperfections.

Bob L.

p.s., Ephesians 4:26-27 and Psalm 4:4, correctly translated, do not excuse anger as somehow not sinful; no such distinction between righteous and unrighteous anger is to be found here (as is commonly supposed); see the link: "In your Anger, do not Sin: Ephesians 4:26 and the Sin Nature".

Question #15:  

Robert,

The Holy Bible was written for man to conform to it, not that the Holy Bible conform to man.

Just because you say that you cannot see the biblical support for what I'm saying doesn't mean it's not true. And no, I'm not putting my own "spin" on the word of God.

Do you realize that the phrase "process of sanctification" are words of contradiction? It would be good for you to really think and meditate on this before you respond. And I will explain this following your response, but I would like to hear from you first.

Again, you continue to say that I'm saying that we can be perfect. Perfection will not occur until we are transformed. All that God is expecting from us who claim to be "born-again" is that we keep from doing the deeds of the flesh/sins of the flesh. Doing this is our reasonable service. When doing our reasonable service God sees us as perfect, even though we may sin in other areas, which those sins He does not impute against us.

In Christ,

Response #15: 

Dear Friend,

Of course, it is certainly your right to continue to repeat without logical foundation or scriptural support the claims you have been making from the beginning, and without even pretending to interact with the careful responses I have been sending you. From your latest offering, it appears that you didn't even bother to read my last response at all. As you are clearly unwilling to listen, consider, or even respond to what I've been taking the time to write to you, I see no profit in continuing this discussion.

For your information, the phrase "process of sanctification" is not contradictory. Sanctification is a verbal noun so that the idea of process is inherent in it. As believers we "are sanctified" (positional sanctification), but we are also commanded to "pursue sanctification" (experiential sanctification; Heb.12:14): that is the very definition of a process.

Your behavior was not perfected when you believed. It was also not perfected when you had your life-changing experience (however you wish to define it). If you really do think you are perfect – or functionally perfect, taking a wide-range of sins even you cannot deny committing from time to time and excepting them from this mythical category you have invented (all sins are "sins of the flesh" in the Bible) – you have some rude awakenings ahead of you, if not in this life, most certainly in the one to come.

Genuine Christian teaching tells Christians the truth, and the whole truth. It does not distort the truth for the sake of establishing one's own theories. Genuine Christian teaching helps our brothers and sisters in Christ progress forward – in sanctification and spiritual growth. It does not give them a false standard on the one hand and abandon them on the other.

My only prayer is that you not be allowed to take others down this false path of "secret knowledge". For once again here you say, "I'll explain it to you later" – but you have still not yet adequately explained the first thing regarding your highly esoteric positions. Attempting to make people "itch to hear" some special insight, something that somehow is just never forthcoming, may be good Scientology but it is bad Christianity.

At some point, it was important for you to hear the truth from someone. I have been telling it to you. I am very sorry to see that after all this time and effort you have not bothered even to begin to hear it.

In Jesus Christ in whom alone we possess the righteousness of God.

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Robert,

1 John 5:16-17 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 sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. [17] All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

How can we sin a sin not unto death? and why does it say to not pray toward the person committing a sin unto death? Hmm? Last time I checked the scriptures it tells us to get out of committing sins of the flesh, which if we do will lead to death. The above verse easily separates that sin which leads to death from that sin which does not. This is our barometer in knowing if we are in Him or out of Him. It's a continuous abiding in Him; something we can only do by the power of the Holy Spirit, for without Him we can do nothing.

You're right, to continue would be insane.

Good-bye,

Response #16: 

Dear Friend,

As I have explained to you many times already now, "sinning unto death" is the die-hard Christian's alternative to apostasy. It is not a separate category of sin. There is no indefinite pronoun, no "a", present in the Greek text with "sin" anywhere in the context:

There is sin unto death: I am not telling you to pray in that case.
1st John 5:16b

All unrighteousness is sin: and there is sin not unto death.
1st John 5:17

Thus John is not referencing "a" particular sin, but sin in general – which may or may not be "unto death", depending upon the spiritual status of the believer concerned. This is a very important grammatical point, because wrongly placing an English indefinite article where it does not belong, i.e., an "a", has resulted in more than one heresy (cf. the JW's blasphemous translation of John 1:1: "the Word was a god"; the situation here is precisely parallel in terms of the grammar).

The true "sin unto death" is giving into a life of sin and being unwilling to repent and return to the Lord. When a Christian refuses to reform their sinful behavior long enough, that pattern of living will often erode faith – to the point of killing off faith in extreme cases, resulting in apostasy. There are cases, however, where a believer refuses to renounce Christ but also refuses to turn away from their sin. In such a circumstance, the Lord graciously removes the wayward Christian in question by a painful death – so that said person may not lose salvation:

I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1st Corinthians 5:5 NASB

That is the sin unto death. And that is why we are told not to pray for someone "committing it", because it is not any one sin or any one type of sin but a whole pattern of unrepentant sinning, and because anyone suffering under the sin unto death is being saved in the process (but if they were allowed to live, apostasy and loss of salvation would be the alternative result). You can find out all about this at the link: in BB 3B, "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

The idea that there exists a category "sins of the flesh" which is different from other "sin" is not biblical, and I repeat my observation that to my knowledge you are the only person in the history of the Church who has ever found this distinction, not to mention taught it as if it were true – and without being willing to define it in the bargain. Perhaps that does not make you wrong, but it does place the onus on you to answer legitimate question which challenge your supposed biblical support.

For example, you have repeatedly brought up the Galatians 5:19-21 passage as a key support for your view. But that passage and its entire context are teaching an absolute opposition between following the Spirit on the one hand and following the sin nature on the other:

[This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Galatians 5:16-17 KJV

There is no middle ground here, and I wonder what Paul would have to say to you if you tried to explain to him that fear or worry or pride (or any of the other things you wish to exclude from your "sins of the flesh" category) really fall under "walking in the Spirit" and not under "walking in the lust of the flesh". For beyond all argument "lust" is generic sin, and it is this same "lust" (Gk. epithumia) which "put Paul to death" (Rom.7:7-11).

Further, there are many other indications here that rule out any possibility of the sins mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21 forming a "special category" even as they show quite clearly that sin in general is what is meant (just as everyone else in the history of biblical interpretation has taken this passage, apart from yourself):

1) verse 18, right before verse 19 "works of the flesh" (notice, not "sins" but "works" = anything we think, say or do; cf. Rev.20:12-13), says that if we are led by the Spirit, we are not "under the Law"; so that very clearly verse 19 is explaining/expanding what being under the Law means = obligated not to be sinning in any way – for we all know very well that the Law covers all manner of sinning (covetousness, generic lust, for example, which commandment is meant to cover virtually anything else not mentioned since it is the opposite of acting/thinking/speaking in love).

2) In the Greek, verse 19 says more precisely not "which things" but "whatever things", or, to accord with English usage, "things like . . . ". In the Greek, the fact that verse 19 is giving us examples rather attempting to be comprehensive is very clear.

3) verse 20 has "disputes and dissensions" which are primarily verbal sins (they flow from the heart and may involve actions, but they are accomplished primarily with the tongue). Therefore verbal sinning cannot be exempted from any sort of special category you are trying to construct here.

4) verse 20-21 have "anger, strife, jealousy, ... envy" as examples of such sins; since these are all attitudes of the heart, mental sinning cannot be exempted from any sort of special category you are trying to construct here.

5) verse 21 "things like these" refers to all that has preceded. Since that includes a variety of sins of action, sins of the tongue, and sins of the heart, this addition is clearly designed to prevent precisely what you are trying to do, namely, to restrict this passage from what it is meant to be: a blanket condemnation of all sin as being contrary to walking in the Spirit.

6) Finally, in the verses 21-22 which directly follow we are given the alternative to this catalog of sin, namely, the "fruits of the Spirit" – it is therefore impossible to suggest that any sin, no matter how benign you may feel it to be, is consistent with the description of being led by the Spirit given here (or with anything that follows in the chapter).

I don't really expect you to engage with any of this inasmuch as you have consistently shown a strong propensity not to allow yourself to consider closely anything which seriously challenges your theory. But the correspondence thus far is certainly sufficient to remove any genuine excuse you might otherwise have for continuing to teach things that are not true.

May the Lord lead you into every right path.

In Jesus our Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

I truly hope you have a great day, tomorrow, and future. May we both see each other in heaven, as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

"And He said, truly I say to you, except you be converted, and become as little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18: 3).

"Be you holy for I Am holy" (1 Pet. 1: 16).

Sincerely 

P.S. You have said that I haven't laid sufficient scriptural evidence to support the view of what I've been writing about, something that you say is not scriptural, then I leave you this to ponder:

If everything I've been saying is wrong, then what is the point and purpose of scripture? Isn't the bible called the Holy Bible, and it's point is to show us that we need to change because of our sinful condition, which only comes through Jesus Christ?; and the purpose of scripture to instruct us in how to be holy?

Everything you have said leads to a Christian life-cycle to: sin, confess, repent, repeat. There must come a time for every believer to draw a line in the sand and say, NO MORE! This is true sanctification (to separate ourselves from the world for a holy purpose).

"For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10: 14).

You will no doubt correct me, but I read the above verse: as long as we are separated from the world (not doing the sins of the flesh) then we are perfected because we have sanctified ourselves by His power. Therefore if I'm still doing sin then I'm not perfected because I haven't sanctified myself from the world. We must come out from among them and touch not the unclean thing.

"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God" (Heb. 6: 1).

Response #17: 

Dear Friend,

Thank you for that very kind and uplifting sentiment with which you open your latest email. I do think that it is very true that every Christian should indeed want to get to the point of truly "living for Christ" – and do so as quickly as possible. No doubt there are some who do so very quickly (maybe I'll meet them in heaven). As we both agree that some sin, at least, will ever be with us in spite of our efforts, I leave it between you and the Lord to figure out where you feel that line is to be drawn. I think by now you see my position on this well enough.

It is true that we are supposed to learn how to "put the old man to death" et al. I agree entirely that being carnal is a sign of spiritual immaturity (e.g., 1Cor.3:1-4). You see this overcoming of gross carnality as something that can, in some respects, be accomplished at one decision point, and if that is the way it worked for you in regard to some categories of gross sinfulness. Well, we can praise God for that. Certainly, some sins are worse than others because of the damage they can do to ourselves and to others, as well for the larger degree of divine discipline we receive for them (e.g., 1Cor.6:18; cf. 1Thes.4:3-9); still and all, when we are told to "flee fornication" and "abstain from fornication" it is certainly not because committing fornication is impossible after salvation but precisely because it is possible – and devastating.

Finally, as you anticipated, I do have to quibble with your interpretation of Hebrews 10:14. As I have been opining for some time now, as with many things in the Christian life (like eternal life), sanctification is something we possess perfectly now in a positional sense, but in terms of our actual behavior sanctification is something that needs to be perfected. Moreover, I would also certainly agree with the essence of your position (if not the precise expression of it) that the more gross, carnal, wicked, evil, and overt the sin in question is, the more fitting it is for the Christian to master that sin at the very outset of his/her Christian life. Nevertheless, while sometimes scripture talks about our positional sanctification, more often – as in Hebrews 10:14 – it talks about the process.

[B]ecause by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Hebrews 10:14 NIV

The NIV's rendering "are being made holy" is actually better than the KJV version you quote because it does a better job of bringing out the progressive aspect of the present participle hagiozomenous. Not that KJV is wrong, for it is possible to understand its rendering in the same way; the problem is that it is also possible to (wrongly) assume KJV is expressing a state of sanctification (which is in fact not at all what the Greek says). We "have been made perfect" = our perfect position; but we "are being made holy" = the continued and continual refinement of our behavior here in time.

It is true that the hazard of my position is that it may perhaps lead some to ignore sanctification entirely on the flimsy excuse that they are "still in process". However, the hazard of your position is that it may perhaps lead those who accept it to assume that they "have arrived" and stop a process they should be continuing, redefining sin to their own benefit so that they are not bothered in their consciences by doing so, and falling into terrible spiritual depression and perhaps even losing their faith when they fail in some area they cannot deny as serious sin – which they almost certainly inevitably will if they stop growing (especially if they are operating on this false standard). Blessedly, we don't get to choose based upon our anticipation of what might happen. We have to stick with what the Word of God actually says and teach that truth regardless of whether we find it advisable or not.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Hi Robert,

I just want to comment on your bit about the rendering of the KJV. I read other versions from time to time (NAS; NIV; ESV; ect.), as they most definitely tell sinners how to get saved in a more round-about way compared to the KJV. The reason I prefer the KJV is because there's no holds barred. It's direct and to the point. Maybe that's why it's less wordy and much easier to memorize and understand.

All throughout the Old and New Testaments sanctification is a call to be, not something that is processed.

To believe we are positionally perfect when we are still in process is not scriptural, but mere fantasy.

Here's an analogy I believe will explain more clearly the truth:

When we get a wound there's a process of healing that takes place. After the scab falls off, it has completed its healing, but what if we should pick at the scab before its complete healing? The wound would no doubt be in constant process of healing.

In the same way, though there's a process to be healed, many Christians have been taught incorrectly that complete healing will not (nor ever) occur until that Day. I'm not saying we can obtain perfection, because we still live in this body (tent) that is subject to decay and dying, but we can (and must) obtain perfection in our heart.

Only those worthy to obtain the coming world to live with God must first believe it's possible to not sin, then learn and do what is possible with God. The work of the cross gave us the potential to be holy. Not that He represents our holiness, but rather that we actually be holy. God will continue to forgive and encourage the believer even when he/she falls, but to believe that it's not possible to overcome the lusts of the flesh is self defeating already.

And then to teach that we cannot do this.....? is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. For God knows what His Spirit can do! Amen!

It all works by love!!!

Power and strength in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Blessings,

Response #18: 

Dear Friend,

The KJV is not a bad version, but it is the ultimate "politically correct" version; rather than "no holds barred", it is deliberately ambiguous in its renderings throughout wherever there is any possibility of doctrinal controversy. When one adds to that the problem of being based upon inferior manuscripts which have lead to many outright mistranslations, and the now archaic language, one has to admit that its utility is limited. It is a literary masterpiece, but it would be folly to rely on it over the original languages (which error, sadly, is all too prevalent today). You can find out more about this at the following links:

Versions of the Bible Compared

Who wrote the KJV?

Problems with the KJV

KJV "onlyists"

Inspiration and the KJV

If sanctification is a "call to be" given to believers, then by definition it is something that we are not when we get that call; therefore it is a process – that is true whether the process is a one-shot, hop-skip-jump or takes many years. But if it were a one-shot deal, accomplished by rededication or rebaptism or second blessing or what have you, it is powerfully strange that this would not be the same as salvation or that scripture would have so much to say to believers on the subject of sin.  It cannot be so, of course, because as your statement properly assumes this command/call is given to believers. However, while we find the Bible replete with encouragement and commands to spiritual progress and growth, we find no indication whatsoever of some immediate "step up" independent of salvation to a "second tier" of believer-status (which your thesis requires).

Analogies are always dangerous, especially when they are not strictly biblical. Scripture is better. We have eternal life (Jn.3:36); but we are not experiencing it now. I.e., we have eternal life "positionally", by virtue of our position "in Christ", but we will only see it, enjoy it, experience it in eternity. That is not a fantasy. That is a blessed reality. Likewise we will receive our "ultimate sanctification" at the resurrection. An important part of this complete removal from sin is the complete removal of our "old man", for none of us will have a sin nature in eternity. This (viz., the sin which indwells us now) is the underlying reason why complete sanctification is not possible in this life: no amount of effort can remove the sin indwelling the physical bodies we currently inhabit.

And no one is saying that it is impossible not to sin (I am certainly not saying that). It most definitely is possible not to sin. Sin is a choice (a poor one). Not sinning is a choice. We are here to choose. If we had been perfected in sanctification, sin would be impossible. It is not. And that is the critical distinction. We are commanded and required not to sin. We are also given the means of recovery through confession when and if we fail. Failure is not part of the plan. We do however all fail. This seeming contradiction is a function of our positional status of perfection even as we live in a world and in bodies of gross imperfection.  To use an (imperfect) analogy, when we form our plans for battle we do not intend that any of our soldiers die in combat; sadly,  some always do, sometimes a good many are killed, and without this shedding of blood there could be no victory.  We will not get where God wants us to go in the Christian life by sitting on laurels and if we engage in the struggle of spiritual growth, progress and production, we will be opposed by the evil one, and we will occasionally succumb.  That, however, is no excuse to refrain from spiritual combat altogether (or pretend we are not being hit with failure when we are).

Everyone should believe it is possible not to sin. No one should be taught that it is possible to achieve sinless perfection. That is true whether we are talking about mental, verbal or over sinning.

I think it is true that a Christian can get to a point of being fed up with a particular sort or class of sin he/she is committing and finally decide (no doubt motivated in large part by the heavy dose of divine discipline he/she is receiving) to "get serious" and really determine "never to do that again" (whatever "that" may be), but this is part of the process. As we grow spiritually, we become aware that many things we didn't even ever realize as sinful before may very well be. The need for improvement will always be with us. Failing to accept that fact is not an excuse not to stop sinning (far less a motivation to continue), but a guarantee of arrested spiritual development because of the resultant need to deliberately ignore the insidious and all-pervasive nature of what sin really is.

But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Romans 14:23 NIV

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
James 4:17 NIV

All wrongdoing is sin.
1st John 5:17a NIV

Everyone in this world sins and falls short of God's glory – and God's holiness (Rom.3:23). Some may find this a teaching which can be wrongly used by half-hearted believers as an excuse to continue in their carnal ways. However that may be, it is incumbent upon those who handle the truth to do so in all integrity, withholding none of God's counsel, whether they feel it appropriate or not. As long as we live in this sinful flesh, there will be room for improvement:

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Romans 6:21 NIV

In Jesus our dear and holy Lord,

Bob L.

 

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