Exploring An Age Old Question
by Lee Enochs
“But examine everything carefully, hold fast to the truth” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
Why do Christians sin? This has long been a conundrum for well meaning people inside and outside of the historic Christian church. Inherent in this question is the broader theological question is whether or not a person who has truly become a Christian by the power of the Holy Spirit can reach a point in his or her sanctification where they do not sin anymore.
Also intrinsic in the question, “why do Christians sin?” is the expectation rightly and Biblically held by many, that a true Christian should live a holy life. As God says in His inerrant, inspired, infallible and exclusively authoritative Word, “Be holy as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
The Bible is very clear that God expects His church individually and corporately to live consecrated and holy lives apart from sinful conduct.
“I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground” (Leviticus 11:44).
“I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45).
“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).
“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 20:7).
God’s Word’s is very clear that He demands and requires holiness in our lives as the following inspired Biblical passages with out question illustrate.
“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:6-10).
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”
“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (I Thessalonians 4:7)
Thus, it is clear that God calls His people to be holy and practice holiness and that godliness and holy conduct are not optional. However, despite God’s command for holiness, many professing Christians commit sin constantly. In the face of the reality that many name Christ as their Lord and Savior often commit acts of sinful rebellion against God, there are a few things I have concluded after evaluating the relevant Biblical date;
Those who commit individual acts of sin need not question their salvation to look to Christ who forgives and cleans us of all sin “If we confess our sins, (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteous” (1 John 1:9).
Those who practice sin better make their call and election sure as to whether or not that have been justified by God’s sovereign grace in the first place (2 Corinthians 13:5 and 2 Peter 3:15).
True Christians will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lordship of Christ (2 Peter 3:18
Christians, while saved and justified by God’s grace in Christ do at times and in fact sin and act in a way that is contrary to God’s revealed will and moral law.
True Christians will bear fruit worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8 and 13:23).
True Christians will at least bear some fruit worthy of repentance, those who do not and should examine whether or not they have been justified by God’s grace in the first place.
There is a difference between individual acts of sin and the practice of sin. All Christians will sin but those who practice sin better examine if they are truly Christians (1 John 1:9 and 1 John 3:10)
I have also concluded that Christians sin because they are still in their non-glorified bodies that have certain proclivities towards sin. The curse and fall of Adam still effects Christians today.
While a Christian should always strive for holiness and freedom from all sin, truth be told, these same believers in Christ will periodically fall into individual acts of sinful rebellion against God.
While true Christians will grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and will show growth in their progressive sanctification, the work of being conformed into the image if Christ, the fact that all human beings are part of fallen creation that longs to be delivered from the bondage of corruption.
“The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body..” (Romans 8:21-23).
I personally believe that Christians sin because they, as part of fallen creation, need to be delivered from their bodies of corruption that will occur at the resurrection at the last day.
I also believe that Christians will struggle with what the reformed scholar John Owen called the indwelling sin within a believer and must continually mortify their members and pursue godliness and holiness in Christ.
I also believe that our justification before God is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, but is not left alone in that true saving faith will not fail to produce good fruit and works of righteousness.
Those alleged and professing Christians who live in ungodliness and unbroken sin have no reason to believe that there are one of the elect in Christ Jesus our Lord.