Sinning Saints?

H. Sweeten

The enmity of the world to Christ and His religion is, undoubtedly, the natural result of man’s universal sinfulness; for as the apostle Paul says, “We are all by nature the children of wrath.” The natural man is therefore constitutionally and fundamentally at variance with God and His holy religion. The forms of religion may be desirable to many, but when it comes to the practice of God’s holy precepts, many who are admirers of the rituals and forms of religion are the greatest antagonists to practical and experiential aspects of consistent salvation. Many desire to have religion, providing that religion does not interfere with what they want to do. If it calls for no discipline, no sacrifice, no inconvenience, no obligation, it is a desirable thing to have, but if they are faced with the responsibility of consistently practising the precepts of divine truth, this is an entirely different thing.

It has ever been the policy of Mr. Worldly Wiseman to deny, or to wrest the scriptures, so as to make them mean what he wants to believe, rather than what he ought to believe. It is tragic indeed to see how often the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, has been made impotent, through the desperate effort of some of its advocates to make it popular. Generally speaking, in order to make a gospel popular with a world that is carnal and unfriendly to grace, it will be necessary to remove from it such obligations as call for discipline or sacrifice. This, no doubt, will tend to make it popular, but will also make it impotent, for the gospel of the New Testament is to be “the power of God unto salvation” and to give deliverance to mankind from the bondage and servitude of sin.

In seeking to determine the governing factors which discriminate saints from sinners, and determining whether or not sin and sainthood are compatible, it is essential that we have a proper understanding of what constitutes sin. There are many who seek to take a very extreme and unscriptural position in defining sin. In the minds of some, every mistake, failure, and human weakness, is to be reckoned as sin. This position is neither reasonable nor scriptural.

The apostle John definitely defines sin in his epistle when he says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” It is with this interpretation in mind, that we discuss the question as to whether or not Christians must sin.

The writer does not preclude the possibility of a person sinning, but we do believe that the normal standard of consistent Christian living is a life that is victorious over all known and wilful violation of any or all of God’s laws. There may be mistakes and errors in the life of a Christian that are not to be reckoned as sin. They are the result of human weakness, of faulty judgment and other reasons, other than a wilful transgression of God’s law. If these things are to be reckoned as sin, of course neither saint nor sinner lives right, for these are the common heritage of mortals, but that these are sins, we humbly deny. For if so, the Bible is a maze of contradictions, for it says, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” If these things, however, are to be reckoned as sin, the blood does not cleanse us from all sin, for there are no mortals exempt from mistakes.

It may be true that mistakes are often offenses toward God, but the motive that prompted them was of pure intention, and God looks at the inward intention and motivating purposes behind the act. It is very evident from many of the exhortations of the Word of God, which call for a forsaking and abandonment of sin, that these things are not to be considered as sin, lest we find God making Himself utterly ridiculous, by demanding of His subjects that which He knows to be impossible. If all the failures and blunders and mistakes of humanity are to be reckoned as sin, seeing there are none free from these, the ultimate conclusion is, that God has no children except those that belong to the devil, for “he that committeth sin is of the devil.” To sin in the scriptural sense, and so as to become guilty, one must of his own volitional choice commit those things which he knew was violating God’s will, and regardless of this, proceeded to do wilfully and knowingly that which he knew to be wrong. When we insist on doing a thing against our knowledge of right and wrong and against a knowledge of God’s will or commandments, then we may know of a surety that we have sinned. No man can follow such a course of conduct and be a Christian. When we talk about living without sin, we simply mean that the religion of Jesus Christ is sufficient in both purpose and power to enable its possessors, by the grace of God given unto them, to so live as not to willingly violate any of God’s precepts or commandments, because “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is a transgression of the law.”

The first sin of our foreparents was not a mistake, or a mere error in judgment, but a wilful act of disobedience against light, knowledge and known duty. Likewise, all sin is wilful disobedience to known duty.

Among the blundering inconsistencies of a nominally professing Christian world, there is none more tragic and more deplorable than the doctrine of a sinning religion. That is to say, we accept Christ as our Saviour, but continue to live in sin, believing that it is impossible for anyone in this life to do otherwise. Let one become obsessed with this idea and he is most certainly destined to live a defeated Christian life here and be weighed in the balance and found wanting hereafter.

The poverty of this age is its skepticism as to God’s willingness and ability to effect an efficient deliverance from sin.

A maze of contradictory teaching has no doubt led many into confusion. Is there no way by which a human being may know that he is infallibly safe? Is there no standard by which one may know whether or not he has met with the desired requisite on the part of divine authority? Is there any way by which one may determine whether or not he is in the right or wrong way? Thank God, there is a way by which we may safely determine our course, and know when we have conformed to the demand of Him who holds the destiny of us all in His hand. That way is revealed in the Word of God.

He who makes the eternal God his refuge, and His truth his shield and buckler, will successfully ride the stormy scenes of the great judgment, and anchor safely in the harbor of celestial bliss. His Word is the only dependable source of information, it is the authoritative declaration of duty, and is the revelation of God’s divine requisite and provision for our standard of living here, in order to he ready for the hereafter. Too much stress cannot be put upon the veracity and the authority of “thus saith the Lord.” What does the Bible say about the sin problem? This is the voice that settles the whole matter.

The foundation of true religion is determined by our attitude toward sin. Liberal theology and true theology meet and part at the signboard marked SIN. One road leads to the cross and deliverance, and the other leads to various human inventions, substitutions and defeat. One leads to heaven, the other to hell. We doubt if a more serious blunder has ever been propagated by the modern “church” and we are sure none more hurtful to the progress of experiential Christianity, than that idea which makes sin to be unavoidable in a child of God.

While we admit the visible deficiency in the lives of many who profess to be Christians, we are not willing to concede that these inconsistent lives are to be the basis of our conviction of duty and obligation, but that we are to get our convictions out of “thus saith the Lord” and not out of the lives of those who misrepresent the privileges of New Testament Christians by their defeat and humiliation in the warfare of grace. Too many who profess to be Christians are so in name only and are making little or no effort to live as a true Christian should.

Is it a fact that Christ died for nothing better than to permit us to continue in sin? The apostle Paul asks this very question. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin?” and at once proceeds to answer it in no uncertain language: “God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Oh, for a professing Christian world that will have a profound conviction of the sinfulness of sin, and the efficiency of Jesus Christ as the great Deliverer. May we never lose sight of the fact that a religion that does not save you from sin here, will never be sufficient to save you from the penalty of sin hereafter.

There is no neutral place in grace (Matt. 12:30). If God rules in the soul, sin must go out. If satan rules, God will depart. We cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). Therefore, “to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are, to whom ye obey” (Rom. 6:16). Let no one be deceived and made to think he is a Christian, when he is in the bondage and servitude to sin, for victorious living is an outstanding mark of discipleship. “He that committeth sin is of the devil” (I John 3:8). “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (I John 3:9). “In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil” (I John 3:10). In what? In that one sins and the other does not. He that sins belongs to the devil, while he that belongs to God does not commit sin. If this language does not teach that the child of God is to be discriminated from the child of the devil by the fact that one sins and the other does not, will the reader offer some language that would convey this idea? The birth of the Spirit puts an end to sin.

It is unreasonable to suppose that a sinning religion is the ultimate product of God’s provision for man in the plan of redemption, for it is unlike God and insufficient for man. Who can imagine that a God who is unlimited in the provisional aspect of His salvation, who hates sin with a consuming hatred, would subject His Son to Calvary to make provision for men to sin, when they were already living in the habitual practice of sin without such provision? Who could imagine an intelligent God, knowing the needs of man, making a plan of salvation that was a failure at the very point where it was most needed? God sending His Son into the world to “save his people from their sins” and only providing for them to continue in sin? Thank God, this is not the glorious gospel which the apostle Paul was to herald to the Gentiles, for in his defence before King Agrippa, relating his experience and call to the ministry, he says, he was sent “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God.” Here is deliverance from the power of satan.

Let it be remembered that no one can have a hope of heaven, except a false hope, who is out of harmony with God. Furthermore let it be remembered, that no one can be in harmony with God, when he loves what God hates and hates what God loves. Sin is utterly hateful to God, and it is a reflection upon His intelligence, His power, and His character to assume that He has made any provision in the great plan of salvation, other than deliverance from sin. Those who are the servants of sin, can by no stretch of imagination be made to be servants of God, for Jesus Christ became the Author of eternal salvation to them that obey Him. Does the reader class himself with those that sin every day in thought, word or deed? Then do not class yourself with those that have been born again, for “He that committeth sin is of the devil” and “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin,” for “Whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey,” and “No man can serve two masters.” Can we be the servants of sin and the children of God? Sin disqualifies one from being a Christian.

Many there are who have no higher conception of the plan of salvation than to suppose that the sinner is pardoned, but left in bondage to a certain amount of sin. Hence they talk much about being a sinner saved by grace, meaning that though they are saved by grace, they are still a sinner by practice. The fact is we are never saved by grace until we have renounced and turned away from our sins; unless a transformation accompanies the pardon. Sinners are not saved in their sins, but from them. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” says Paul, “hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).

Did Christ cry, “It is finished,” only to discover later, that the real design and purpose of the plan had not yet been accomplished, and deliverance was yet impossible? If there is no power of deliverance in the present gospel plan, then it is far from being finished either in design or achievement. Is the Christian life to be nothing more than a life of daily sinning and repenting? Such a “gospel” is worth about as much as a hospital that never cured a patient. Is this the finished product of Calvary? Is there no deliverance from the bondage of sin?

Sin is mighty, but Christ is Almighty.

The apostle declares, “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” That is a wonderful promise of the Almighty when He says, “For he shall save his people from their sins.” That is a thrilling announcement made by the preacher when he says, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” There is no ground left for debate, in the language of Paul, as to whether we must not sin, when he says, “For the law of the spirit in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” How can any person contend for the necessity of sinning when he reads these scriptures, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal. 1:4). “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11, 12). “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18). “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:12). “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:13, 14). “For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20). And “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).

These and innumerable others, ought to convince even a sinning religionist, that he is entirely out of harmony with such instruction as the Word of God gives. Is it not apparent to any thoughtful person, that no man can live wrong and die right? After you have put on sin its last covering, and sought to make it as pleasing and permissible as possible, it is still God’s enemy and man’s arch foe.

If the church is to be a covering for sectarian perverts, who revel in the forms of godliness, but deny the power thereof, then the doctrine of a sinning religion is a success. But if the church is to house the people of God, serve and meet the needs of mankind and magnify the Almighty and His power to save, then the doctrine of a sinning religion ought to be banished back to hell, from whence it came. God’s gracious promise is that “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” (I Cor. 10:13).

Jesus, Himself, has declared that, “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Did He mean all power, except power to save from sin? Did He say that all power was given him in earth, except power to do exactly that for which He came (I John 3:8)? Too many are banking upon the mercy of God to save them in the hour of judgment, without complying with the condition upon which mercy can be extended to them.

To sin every day in thought, word and deed, and then at the close of each day, balance up accounts with the Almighty, is the highest conception of some people as to the possibilities of grace. Such a conception of Christianity gives the Christian little advantage over the sinner except in profession. If both the Christian and the sinner are alike to be the servants of sin, why does the Christian have any more or better hope than any other sinner? It makes Christianity to have no advantage over even the pagan religions of the world, for unless the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation, what better is it than other religions? Such a conception makes Jesus to be, not a Saviour, but one who grants indulgences–not saving you from the practice of sin, but from the penalty thereof. Does the conforming to certain religious ordinances entitle us to the special privilege of disobedience, unfaithfulness, and lack of fidelity; to the privilege of bragging about the fact that we do not claim to live right and yet at the same time, entitle us to the approbation of God? If a church member sinner can go to heaven in his sins, what is to prevent any other sinner from doing the same? What other way has God to save any man from hell except to save him from his sins? If a man can sin every day in thought, word and deed and go to heaven, what does he have to do to gain God’s displeasure and be condemned?

Are we to label ourselves Christians when we are daily in the practice of sin? If being saved from sin does not distinguish the Christian from the sinner, what difference is to be found?

How the Almighty can smile upon such a travesty enacted in the name of His holy religion is more than we can determine. We imagine it would be difficult indeed to become enthused about a religion of that kind. Apology and defeat are not the conduct of a New Testament Christian. A man may be defeated and may need to repent and turn back to God, but the man who has to ask forgiveness for the same things each week, is either a poor, ignorant weakling, or a deliberate hypocrite and there is no sincerity in his conduct. Obedience is better than sacrifice, and God is ever and always pleased with it. Victory is the rightful heritage of every Spirit-born child of God. Thank God, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus can make you free from the law of sin and death.

There is nothing more needed at this time and place, than a definite conviction for and a real indignation toward sin. There is altogether too much smiling at and apologizing for it. If the church fails in its uncompromising attitude toward sin, it is sure to fail in its fundamental purpose in the world.

If Christ cannot deliver the “church” from its bondage to sin and its allurements to the world, what encouragement do we give the sinner to leave these things? “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy [loose you from] the works of the devil.” If this cannot be done, then the plan fails right at the point where it is needed.

If the position of the writer in regard to this matter is extreme, then when John said, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin,” he should have added, “But do not believe this, for it is rank fanaticism, for no one in this world can live without sinning every day in thought, word and deed.”

If men cannot preach any gospel but that of a sinning religion, it is better to preach none. Better let men read for themselves, for no matter how ignorant they were, they could hardly pervert the truth any more to their own destruction than by such teaching from the pulpit. Dangerous, did you say? Dangerous to teach deliverance from the bondage and power of sin? Dangerous to teach a victorious life? If we cannot teach this, pray what is the purpose of the gospel and what is it worth? Was Paul a dangerous teacher when he said, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death?”

Was Jesus a dangerous teacher, and a promoter of fanaticism when He said to the woman, “Go and sin no more.” Or did He just mean to go and sin not quite so much? If we cannot teach deliverance from sin through our Lord Jesus Christ, for what purpose are we to preach His gospel? Certainly the gospel, which is “good tidings,” must bring news of deliverance. When the “way of the transgressor is hard” and “the wages of sin is death,” and “the soul that sinneth it shall die,” it is far from being good tidings to learn that no one can do otherwise. Away with such a travesty on the gospel of Jesus Christ! Away with such nonsense, for the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

A victorious life over sin is the rule of Christian action. The normal standard of Christian living is one of victory rather than defeat. This is God’s plan, God’s provision and God’s expectation. When a man sins, he falls below the standard of Christian provision and privilege. Hence, if he fails to repent and acknowledge the fact and renounce his transgression, with a purpose to refrain from further repetition, it will forfeit his adoption and fellowship with God. Christ in you, the hope of glory, is the secret of the overcoming life, because “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” This is the rule of life for the New Testament Christian, “that ye sin not.”

If the question is asked, as it often is, in ridicule, “Who in this world ever lives without sin?” we might answer in the language of John, “Whosoever is born of God.” Or we might have the apostle Paul answer the question for us. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” The apostle John says, “hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”

What stronger language could be used, than is used by this apostle, when he says, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” I Jn. 2:4.

Excerpted from “Sinning Saints?”
H. Sweeten


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