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Do Christians Sin (1 John 1:8 vs. 1 John 3:9)?Sinless Perfection
The issue of sinless perfection causes somewhat of a rift between evangelicals. Conservative fundamentalists argue that Christians are positionally sanctified since we're indwelt with the Holy Spirit at salvation, but we won't be experientially sanctified (made perfect) until we get to heaven. On the other hand, many charismatics believe that Christians can receive a "second blessing" whereby they receive the "filling" of the Spirit at some point following salvation at which they reach sinless perfection. (Conservatives also believe in repeated filling of the Spirit, but only as it applies to restoring temporal fellowship with God by confession of sin, as explained in 1 John 1:9.)
However, there is a concrete (yet subtle) answer to this question in the scriptures. Interestingly enough, this answer first appears in a form which seems to indicate that the scriptures are contradicting themselves.
1 John 1:8
1 John 1:8 says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."
1 John 3:9
However, 1 John 3:9 says, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."
At first glance, this appears to present a glaring contradiction. Do Christians sin, or not? In one verse, John tells his Christian audience that we all sin. Then, in the very same letter, he says that if we're really Christians, we can't continue to sin.
I've heard many inadequate explanations for this passage. The best of these weak arguments says that the key to the interpretation is the tense of the verb used in 1 John 3:9. It says we can't "continue" to sin. In other words, this argument continues, when we sin and confess it, we won't be repeating that same sin again regularly. However, this proves of little comfort to many Christians who find they're confessing some of the same sins almost every day. In fact, this argument seems to serve only to make some true believers question their salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:17
To unravel this dilemma, we must start with 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
Newness of Life
This is a profound verse which is often quoted but rarely thoroughly understood. It's not just saying that when I became a Christian, I underwent a great change. It's actually saying that I went away (died, Romans 6:4-11) and was replaced by a brand new creation. Romans 5:14-15 explains that when we are born physically, we are born into lives of flesh and sin, and we have Adam as our federal headship. Then when we are spiritually born again, we are born into a life in the spirit with Jesus as our federal headship. Romans 7:6 calls this the newness of the spirit. This in not unlike what happened to Saul when he was being chosen as Israel's first king. In 1 Samuel 10:6,9, when the Spirit came upon Saul, "he changed into a different person." God changed his heart. The only difference for us is that while the Spirit eventually left Saul in 1 Samuel 16:14, we Christians are indwelt with the Spirit forever. We are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and what God sees when He looks at us is that new creation in His Son, rather than our old self.
Romans 7:15 - 8:1
Even Paul struggled with sin in his everyday life. In Romans 7:15, he says, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Verse 18 goes on to say, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." Here is our first clue to the puzzle. Obviously, Paul was a Christian, and he sinned as a Christian. In fact, verse 19 says, "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing." Not only did Paul sin, but he kept on sinning. He continued to sin, which 1 John 3:9 says that Christians can't do.
However, verse 17 says, "As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me." Although this sounds like an excuse, it's a reality. Verse 20 says, "Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."
In other words, when Paul was an unbeliever, and God looked at Paul, He saw Paul's soul. Paul was constituted by his soul. He was just a soul, and his body was only a tent (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). However, once Paul became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) in Jesus Christ, when God looked at him, He saw Paul's new spirit. Paul was no longer constituted by his soul. Now "Paul" was a spirit. Unfortunately, in his earthly life, he continued to drag along his old soul and body (the flesh). Romans 7:21 says, "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me." Although the spirit has power over the flesh, this flesh can still sin. Furthermore, Romans 7:22-23 says, "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." Paul's spirit wants to do good, but he sees his body sin.
Romans 7:24 says, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" So what's the answer? The answer is found in Romans 7:25 and 8:1, "Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Remember, Paul is his spirit (and mentality), which is a slave to God's law, although his flesh (but not he, himself) is a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, since Paul is his spirit, and he is no longer his flesh,
he is not charged with any sin his old flesh might do. He is not condemned, because,
in the eyes of God, he is perfect, in Christ Jesus.
1 John 1:8 is true, because the flesh associated with each Christian still sins. However, 1 John 3:9 is also true because the new Christian cannot sin. It's only the flesh associated with him that's sinning. In Romans 7, when Paul says he sinned, he's referring to the flesh associated with him, as in 1 John 1:8. On the other hand, passages such as 1 John 3:9 are referring to the Christian himself; i.e., his spirit.
So, is it OK to continue to sin? Paul anticipated this question in Romans 6:1, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" Then, of course, he gives us the answer in verses 2 and 12, "By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? . . . Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." Since the spirit has power over sin, we are still responsible for ensuring that the flesh doesn't sin. Those sins are still our responsibility in this life, but we will suffer no condemnation for them in eternity, although they may indeed cause us to suffer a loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).
An Opposing View
A reader e-mailed me with an opposing view, and I am including a debate of that view below. Actually, there are three different views on this subject of "Do Christians Sin?"
1) My answer (as explained above) is, yes, Christians do still sin.
2) Some, primarily in the neo-evangelical (charismatic) camp, claim sinless perfection--an elite status which is reached with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit--an event that follows salvation, instead of being concurrent with it. Many Christians reject this view because they believe that the indwelling of the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation, yet they find that they continue to sin.
3) An alternate view, included in the debate below, suggests that the Scriptures teach that sinless perfection can indeed be achieved, when one is indwelt with the Spirit (at some point in time following salvation). However, this view is perpetuated by those who profess to be Christians, but who continue to sin. They look forward to the future indwelling of the Spirit, which will render them to be unable to sin.
Summary of the Argument for Sinless Perfection
Romans 8:9 teaches that each of us has only a single nature by which we are controlled. Either we have the flesh, which causes us to sin, or we have the indwelling Spirit which keeps us from sinning. Romans 8:4 says that if we are freed from the flesh, then we walk in the Spirit; and, Galatians 5:16 says that if we walk in the Spirit, we cannot sin. We don't have both natures simultaneously, oscillating between the two.
We can further submit that there are two "events" with which we are primarily concerned in this debate:
1) Salvation--Being saved by grace through faith in Christ
2) Indwelling--Being fully identified with the Spirit, through His baptism
Sinless, and "mature"--an irrevocable maturity--possibly occurs much later than salvation
Some people experience neither of these; others experience only the first (saved but not yet mature); and, others experience both (maturity). At maturity, the flesh is replaced with the Spirit, without any coexistence--no falling in and out of the Spirit.
Also, each person eventually falls into one of three categories, as follows:
1) Those without salvation (the lost)--with (only) the flesh
2) Those with salvation (the saved)--but still with (only) the flesh
3) Those with salvation, and with the indwelling Spirit--without the flesh
The saved, mature, and sinless
4) Those in the book of Acts, without (before) salvation, but with the Spirit
The dual nature can be incorrectly inferred by the description of the struggle with sin that is described in Romans 7. Romans 7:24 says, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" One must understand that Romans 8 then provides the answer, a truth which is often hidden by the inconvenient chapter divisions.
My Response Concerning Sinless Perfection
Although sound hermeneutical principles would disallow building a doctrine upon such an exceptional case as # 4 above, this is where I would pose my first question(s). It seems to me that it would then follow that, in the meanwhile, these people were lost (without Christ), yet they had the indwelling Spirit. So, they had no faith in Christ as savior, but they were "mature" and sinless. They could not sin, but they were lost. This seems like an oxymoron, especially due to the use of the phrase "the Spirit of Christ" in Romans 8:9-10. They knew one person of the godhead (the Spirit), but they didn't know another person of the godhead (Christ). It seems to me that if they died in that state, by John 3:16, they would perish. Since they died in a state of sinlessness in the Spirit, with no accountability for their sins in their previous state of being in the flesh, would we then say that they perished due only to their imputed sin? (A lot of good their sinlessness did for them, huh?--Please excuse my natural (perhaps fleshly!) inclination toward cynicism. :)
Re. the mutual exclusivity of the flesh and the Spirit: I must agree that Romans 8:9 offers a strong argument here. However, I'm not sure that this can be further supported by Romans 8:4 and Galatians 5:16. The latter two verses refer to one's "life" or "walk" in the Spirit. Technically, this analogy could still fit into the dual nature argument. In particular, the imperative in Galatians 5:16 suggests that one can choose to walk in the Spirit (or not). This begs to question how one could be exclusively in the Spirit while He needs to be reminded to walk in the Spirit, with seemingly no other choice.
Re. Romans 8:9 (and related to those in the book of Acts above): Could Romans 8:9 be talking about salvation as well, because all who are saved are His (Christ's). If this is the case, then this seems to say that, if one does not have the Spirit, he is not saved. Furthermore, you mentioned the indwelling of the Spirit in relation to being "saved and baptized." I believe this baptism to be the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as opposed to the baptism of water. If this is the case, that the brand new believer is baptized (completely immersed) into the Holy Spirit, it logically follows that the indwelling of the Spirit would occur at this time. How can the Holy Spirit completely immerse the new believer into himself without completely indwelling (abiding within) him as well (instead of saving it for later--and why would He?)?
Re. Colossians 2:11: I do have a little trouble fitting this into your argument. I see nothing here to indicate that the circumcision of the flesh didn't occur (couldn't have occurred) at salvation (although I totally agree that it's not done by us).
Re. Galatians 2:20: "It's no longer me who lives but HE who lives in me." It seems interesting to me that this same language structure is used in Romans 7:17 (the strong argument for the dual nature), "It is no longer I myself who do it (sins), but it is sin living in me." This comes back to one of my articles that argued (in favor of the dual nature) that God sees me (my essence) as "me, in the Spirit," and not "me, in the flesh." In other words, even though "I" keep sinning, it's not really me--it's the sin living in me (my flesh, which coexists with "me, in the Spirit"). In fact, now that I've completed this paragraph, perhaps I've stated the dual nature argument better here than I did in my online article(s).
Also, Romans 12:1-2 seems to imply a logical relationship between the mind and the control of the Spirit. Consider Romans 7:25 in light of this relationship, "...I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in my flesh a slave to the law of sin." One might conclude a duality here of mind vs. flesh, as well as Spirit vs. flesh.
Consider also, Romans 8:23-25, "... we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Although we have the Spirit, we await the redemption of our bodies (flesh--which we also still have), but we do not yet have (physical) freedom from our corrupted flesh. Remember that this is the chapter that you cited as offering the solution to the struggle with sin in the previous chapter. Also, this brings into light the very definitions of these words: the relationship of our bodies to our flesh. Our bodies are our literal flesh.
Re. 1 John 3:9 vs. 1.8: You make a good point that we have all sinned "at some point." I agree that John is writing to the Church, and I also see your point that walking in the light "as He (Christ) does" is referring to Christ's sinlessness.
A side note: So, with your argument, is 1 John 1:9 no longer of any value to those indwelled by the Spirit? Sort of seems like an ultra-dispensational thought. For that matter, it just occurred to me (related to my above comments on Galatians 5:16) that most of the imperatives in the Bible would seem to be unneeded (in terms of application) for one who is sinless.
Re. 2 Corinthians 5:17: "... a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Yes, I understand your argument about the oxymoron of the dual nature argument--the "new" (Spirit) sinning against Himself (God). Again, however, I can still see the dual nature argument here, if it's the sin that's in me (not actually "me") which is doing the sinning (Romans 7:17).
Thanks especially for your comment, "In fact, it's not saying anything about being a Christian." You caught me violating my own pet peeve here--making things fit into our pre-conceived box.
Re. God's ability to make us sinless: Point taken!
Re. the newness of the Spirit: You asked, "How is this an indictment on my belief structure...?" I don't think it is, and this is not my intent. Do I detect a bit of emotion on your side here? :) No, my argument is not that God took the old body and made it new, but made it just as likely or easy to corrupt as the old one. (I agree that this wouldn't pass the common sense test.) Sort of summing up the dual nature argument here: They're two separate natures, and they stay separate. The flesh is there first. Then we receive the newness of the Spirit (even indwelling), but without losing the flesh. Thus the need for, and great importance of, 1 John 1:9 in the life of the believer.
I do appreciate your argument for historical present in Romans 7--the sinful nature in mankind, not in Paul. I had never considered this argument for this passage. However, it's difficult to tell with those pesky pronouns. (I think you would agree about this being difficult to tell, but sorry if I got a little lost in your comment about what you thought was "... nothing concrete.")
However, in general, I do think that we need to be extremely careful where we apply these types of hermeneutical principles to the Scriptures. It could be that this is what leads to confusion about: whether "all" really means "all"; what "you" means--all believers, or only those in the audience of a specific New Testament church; what "church" means--universal vs. local; what "baptism" means--Spirit vs. water; and even whether or not Paul's comments about women apply to the more sophisticated society of the 21st century.
The above reminds me of Bill Clinton's "...It depends on what the meaning of is, is." :)
Re. Philippians 3: I would take exception to the assumption that Paul claims perfection for himself here. Verse 12 says, "...not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal..." Verse 13 says, "I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it..." I believe that even verse 15a might be argued by both sides, "All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things." Does "mature" mean sinless perfection, or does it mean one hasn't yet taken hold of it? However, I am grateful for 15b, "...And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you." If I'm wrong, on this or any other doctrine, maybe there's still hope for me, as long as I keep studying, praying, and being open to the truth, and to the possibility of having to reject some of the baggage that I still tote from pre-conceived ideas.
Additional (Personal) Thoughts Related to Sinless Perfection
You said, "Some of the perfection folks claim that which they don't have;" i.e., Christians, therefore sinless. Yes, I too am annoyed by this. Frankly, when I first started reading your e-mail, I thought this was where you were probably coming from, when you spoke of the indwelling of the Spirit occurring at a point in time later than salvation.
Your explanation helped me to approach this doctrine more honestly than ever before. I believe that your words provided a way for me to set my emotions aside. Although this may not have been your primary intention, I was particular taken with the way that your argument removes the usual knee-jerk reaction of assuming that sinless perfection threatens one's faith and/or salvation. Thank you for that!
As for my-(perhaps emotional)-self, I have often tried to relate to what you described as those who "underwent a great change," in referring to the indwelling of the Spirit. If this is the smoke test for indwelling, then I've not experienced it personally. I grew up in church, and I was saved as a young child. As one might expect, there was no "great change" at that time. In fact, there would be significant outward (negative) rebellion during some of the coming years. As I now look back at all of the water under the bridge since becoming a believer, I still see no evidence in my own life of such a great change. I can even find myself envious of those who have experienced such a change (or of those who have claimed so!). If you are correct in your views on sinless perfection, then since I am not yet among those ranks, it follows that I have not yet been indwelled by the Spirit.
I loved your poker analogy of those who are not yet "all in" but are in the process of being there. You also said (I assume on a personal level), "So, I don't claim to be there yet, etc.." Taking your comments as a whole, is my assumption correct that you implied that you (personally) are not yet indwelled by the Spirit; i.e., mature? If so, then as a result, so far, do you admit to continuing to commit personal sins?
Indeed, I do find your arguments quite challenging. However, I wouldn't go so far as to say that it challenges all that I've studied to date. I've considered various stances on this doctrine in the past, especially when writing the web article that you cited. However, as I've already stated, you have opened some new doors for my continued study.
A Rebuttal (Summarized), From the Sinless Perfection Camp
- Romans 7:7-25 is not Paul's personal experience. Instead, he uses the historical present tense to identify with his audience, so as not to alienate them. This passage is an indictment upon all of mankind. It presents man's predicament with sin, and then Romans 8 provides the solution.
- Romans 8:9 is a proof text for the mutual exclusivity of the flesh and the Spirit.
- Although Galatians 5:17 shows a dual nature, the body is born with the flesh, and the Spirit battles from the outside to get in. Finally Christ conquers and circumcises the flesh, and at that point, the flesh is removed, and the Spirit indwells the believer.
- Romans 6:22 says that one receives a benefit from his obedience. This benefit is slavery to God (and the associated love that we grow to understand), which leads to sanctification. The progression is as follows: atonement, then obedience, then the benefit (a new way to love), and then (full) sanctification (or maturity).
- Galatians 5:16 says that if one walks in the Spirit, then he does not (cannot) sin. It doesn't imply that we have a choice to walk in either of two coexistent natures--the flesh or the Spirit. The Greek peripateo pneuma literally means to walk by the spirit--not beside the spirit. It's the transportation device--it has the power and ability. Galatians 5:16 says that if one walks by the spirit, he cannot sin.
- We only serve ONE master, instead of one master at a time. There were no co-owners of slaves.
- 1 John 3:6 says that if one still sins, he doesn't know Christ.
- Colossians 2:11 says that the flesh is removed.
- In Galatians 2:20, one has a body that lives through the whole process. At one stage it contains the flesh, and at another stage (afterward) it contains the Spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit implies that the flesh is gone. The Spirit replaces the flesh.
- John 1:9 (confession) doesn't apply to someone walking in the spirit. This whole letter, per verse 4, was written to those not yet indwelt with the Spirit.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "... a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" If the flesh isn't removed, then this is an oxymoron of the dual nature argument--the "new" (Spirit) sinning against Himself (God).
- God certainly has the ability to make us sinless.
- Philippians 3 suggests that Paul claims perfection for himself here.
My Answer, From the Positional Sanctification Camp
The Context of Romans 7:4-25
Maybe this is a question of context. I tend to look at Romans 7:4ff as a pronouncement that, through the body of Christ as a sacrifice, all law has been abolished, whether for a ground of acceptance, or as a rule of life. It's a statement on our salvation by grace, apart from works, and the believer's acceptance before God, wholly due to his (yes) position in Christ--on behalf of those of us without merit. Ephesians 1:6 says, "to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."
What I'm suggesting is that maybe these passages in Romans (and arguably Romans itself) are primarily teaching about justification by grace through faith, not the sinlessness of sanctification. If we've taken liberties with our assumptions about the box we've built, then maybe it's a futile effort to try to fill that box with other Scriptures.
Romans 7:4 - What Dies?
Re. the question, "If we die to the law, then what dies?" The law; i.e., the power of sin, which was a consequence of the law. One might say, "our position" in the law.
Re. the question, "If it's dead can it come back ... and cause us to sin?... This verse (Romans 7:5) in close proximity shows that you DIE to the law. I assume the word DIE is to show a permanency to that event?"
Maybe we need to level-set on the word, "die," as I'm not sure about your conclusion about permanency. Death means separation--not destruction. Christ's death wasn't permanent, and our physical death won't be either. This is plainly evident in this verse because it first speaks of him who was made to die to the law (separate from the power of the law) through the body of Christ; and then it contrasts this with the fact that we are to be (yes, passive) joined ("un-separated") to another, to Christ who was raised from the dead. We separate from the law, and unite with He who died for our sin. We separate from the power of the law (and sin), and we join (and yield to the power of) the Holy Spirit.
Re. the question, "... if it's dead, can it come back...?" Well, yeah, it's not "gone," it's just dead (separated). When one dies, is he gone, destroyed, etc.? Or will he live on in the afterlife and eventually be reunited with his glorified (flesh-free) body?
Re. the question, "Does one then go to hell because of sins caused by the flesh, even as the dual nature of the Spirit resides in Him?" No, one goes to hell because he did not have faith in Christ as his savior from his imputed and personal sins. However, going to hell doesn't even play into this discussion since we are talking about believers. Of course, I do understand, however, the point that you're trying to make, as well as your humor. Here, the dead flesh is not the body of a dead person that seems to be alive. Instead, it's the sin nature, held (positioned) separately (dead) from the Spirit, but held nonetheless--which raises its ugly head once in a while (quite frequently for me).
Re. the question, "So, who dies? The flesh dies (separates), meaning that the believer died to the law; i.e. to the ultimate power of the flesh. Re. "Who after that death lives in him?" The Spirit and the flesh. Re. "Why is it after the death that he lives in him? Why does he live all the way through the event?" Because he's only separated, not destroyed.
We agree that our goal is to glorify God by bearing fruit--not sinlessness. Romans 8:3-4 (really, as well as all of chapters 6 through 8) explains that the righteousness of the law, including the whole will of God for each believer, to the very last detail in every moment of life, might be fulfilled in us. Not "by us," but passively "in us." And, this truth is for those who (choose to) walk in dependence upon the Spirit instead of the flesh. It's deliverance from the power" of the flesh, not from the flesh itself.
We also agree about the passive verbs--that it's not me that's doing these things. This reminds me of my hobby of gardening. I've had people tell me that my home-grown tomatoes have the best flavor of any they've ever tasted. What am I supposed to say? Thank you? Isn't the real truth simply that I bought whatever seeds or plants that the store made available, planted them, water them (when I remembered to do so), and then harvested their fruit? Can I really take any credit for the molecular structure, changes, and growth (and flavor) that occurred? Or, my trees are so beautiful with the change of the color of their leaves in the fall, etc. God did it--not me.
Just for clarification, before my next point, my understanding of your argument is that one acquires the sinlessness via the following scenario: Atonement -> Obedience -> A Benefit: Slavery to God / Love -> Sanctification / -> Indwelling -> Sinlessness
However, if it's not me that's doing these things (the obedience), but rather the Spirit doing them through me, then this suggests that the Spirit was already there (indwelt?, coexistent in me, with the flesh?). Could this perhaps be analogous to Paul saying in Romans 7:17, "...no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me?"
Was Paul Ever Apart From the Law?
Re. Romans 7:8-12: "I was once alive apart from the law." <<<< Paul was never alive apart from the law."
I'm all for applying hermeneutical principles, but sometimes we can reach too far. Whenever I hear a bold statement like the one above, my instincts direct me to take a defensive stance on the literal interpretation of the Scriptures. What do the words say? Did Paul say, "I was once alive apart from the law?" OK, I accept that there could be a non-literal interpretation of these words. However, when I hear the immediate, "Paul was never alive apart from the law," then my antennae go up, and the onus is on that person to defend that statement. In other words, if the normal meaning of the literal translation seems to make sense, then that's my hypothesis. I may end up changing my mind on the theory, but not without good cause.
Pardon my boldness, but, to me, this may be subject to the "fitting it into my box" thing here. If one approaches these passages as though they are historical present, then, no doubt, an intellectual will be able to fit (squeeze, hammer, etc.) each one into that box. If I were able to offer a suggestion here, that just might make sense, then would you hear me out, or would you fear that pursuing it might discredit the historical present assumption? Let's try it.
I wonder if there some interpretation here such that when Paul says, "I was once alive apart from the law," then this means that he (Paul) was once alive apart from the law. Consider the context here, in the two preceding verses (Romans 7:7-8). It is obvious to me that Paul is referring to his own personal sins here, not imputed sins. Paul had personal sins in his life, such as coveting, but he would not have come to know the sin of coveting unless there was some established moral code to violate concerning coveting. However, the commandment came, and then came the opportunity for sin, and it produced in Paul coveting of every kind. (But maybe I'm wrong, so we'll dig deeper.)
Re. "The ticker started for that event, ... from his first breath." Maybe not. If he's talking about his own personal sins here (not imputed sins--Romans 5, etc.), then perhaps there was truly a time of innocence in the early days of Paul's life (his being alive). Maybe there was indeed a time when he was alive apart from the law. Even if not in his post-birth life, maybe then in the womb. Maybe he didn't personally violate a commandment until he was, say, two years old. In fact, I can identify with this from my personal experience, and both fit nicely into this passage (with no squeezing). When a toddler makes his first attempt, to commandeer a toy from a peer, he is doing so in innocence, because he's unaware of any rule that he might have been breaking. However, after his parents correct him that first time (with the appropriate explanation of the rule, and the reason for it), then, the next time he does it, it's on his nickel. In fact, in keeping with these Scriptures, after that first time, sin then produced a rebellion in him that made him want to do it again.
So, perhaps part of this whole discussion falls back to which hermeneutical principles one chooses to use (i.e., literalism, letterism, allegorical, mysticism, liberalism, etc.). My approach, right or wrong, stems from the fact that God chose the Koine Greek language for the New Testament. This was the common language for the common man (perhaps like me)--not necessarily that of the great philosophers of the day. Perhaps this is an implication about those who would study His Word throughout the Christian era. This is an issue that I struggle with. Can't today's common man (whatever that means) read and interpret the Bible for himself (perhaps with some assistance from some--his pastor, commentaries, and other tools), without, say, a doctoral degree in theology? i.e., my first pass is usually a test for literalism, then if that fails (such as conflicting with other sound established Scriptures and doctrines), then proceed (with caution) with alternate views.
Historical Present Tense
I guess you're saying that the historical present part starts in verse 7, not verse 14, right? It still seems a bit subjective to me, how one is supposed to determine which Scriptures are presented in historical present tense, and which aren't. I would find it quite difficult to start picking and choosing which parts of the Scriptures use "I" when they mean "I," and which parts are using historical present. I always have a fear of reaching too far. BTW, in my online research for this, I found a site you might like. It's a bit of a tangent (not exactly your position, or mine), but a good read: http://www.biblestudymanuals.net/ro7v25.htm
Somewhere between verse 6 and verse 9, Paul changes from using "...we have been released..." in verse 6, and "What shall we say..." in verse 7, to using "...sin... produced in me" in verse 8, and "I was once..." in verse 9. I'm still unable to see an intentional "transition" here, especially one which would result in a major doctrinal change. I guess the transition would be in 7b, but this would be quite subtle.
Paul's writings, in general, do not lead me to believe that he was often in fear of alienating his audience (Romans 1:14, 2 Corinthians 7:12). Rather, Paul was eager to preach the truth (Romans 1:15),
Romans 2:1-5 says, "1 Therefore you have no excuse, every one of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God..."
He seems fearful about neither offending believers or unbelievers with the (sometimes necessarily painful) truth, nor going to prison. As another example, in 1 Corinthians 15:36 "You fool!..."
Re. historical present: Sorry, but I currently remain unconvinced. I admit that this could be due in part to the liberties it provides for both subjectivity and the limitless possibilities for otherwise bound and sound hermeneutics. e.g., Within a given letter (Romans), Paul jumps into and out of historical present tense; and, for the 21st century reader, the applicative portions of the epistles vary, depending upon the particular reader (e.g., 1 John is not applicable to those indwelt with the Spirit). Also, perhaps I'm slow to accept this approach in fear of possible unintended circumstances that wouldn't be realized without further study, once I had committed to it.
Re. "I don't know how you could read (Romans) 8:9 and not conclude the Mutual exclusivity." I believe that the answer is that, due to sound hermeneutics, we can't build a doctrine on a single verse. You also said, "...it is also providing a consistent foundation that all the other verses fit into." Well, no, not "all" the other verses. We need to be careful that a single verse doesn't provide us the particular box for which we were searching, into which we force-fit all the other verses.
Re. "If (Romans 8:9) is about salvation, then you aren't saved until the spirit indwells us." I believe this to be true, but I would say it like this: The indwelling of the Spirit is among the dozens of changes that occur at salvation.
Re. "That is even more ominous and seems to render useless the comment salvation by grace, now it's about an accomplishment to be saved, albeit HIS accomplishment in us, but it still requires action from us... that just doesn't sit right in my gut." What you just described doesn't sit right in my gut either, but that's not my understanding. Salvation by grace through faith, apart from any works, is the one doctrine on which I would never expect to bend. Too much depends upon it, and this doctrine is stated more often and more emphatically than any other. I could start with Galatians 2:16 and go on seemingly forever from there. The suggested doctrine is neither ominous nor does it render useless salvation by grace. May it never be! :) It requires no action from us.
Here's what happens (Sorry, but to fully explain, I must invoke some of the tenets of Calvin.): God elects who will be saved. Each of those people eventually places his faith (and even that is from God) in Christ as savior, and in God's entire grace plan; i.e., they accept the free gift of grace from God, without any merit of their own. Due to their sin (both imputed and personal sins), they had nothing to bring to the table anyway. At the moment of salvation, God "graces" us in a multitude of ways, including, but not only, the following:
- Saves us from eternal death
- Gives us eternal life
- The appeasement of His wrath toward us by our substitute sacrifice, Jesus Christ (propitiation) - He accepts Christ's death on the cross as atonement (payment for the penalty) for our sins (expiation)
- Redeems us out of the slave market of sin. God used the payment of Christ in expiation to purchase us out of that slave market, and to forgive us, all made possible by the blood of Christ.
- Justifies us by imparting (I like to say "imputing") to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is why I say that when God looks at us, He sees the perfection of Christ, since we are now positionally in Christ. This justification part is by faith as well (Galatians 2:16).
- Positional sanctification - God sets us apart as new creatures in Christ. We have positional sanctification in Christ as opposed to our prior position in Adam. We also have experiential sanctification in our daily walk, because we now have power over sin. Yes, we are perfect--in Christ.
- Regeneration - He regenerates us into new creatures and gives us newness of life in the Spirit.
- He makes us to be His sons and daughters.
- By the work of regeneration, God gives us (indwells in us) His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:22, 1 John 4:13). God pours the Holy Spirit upon us richly (Titus 3:6), the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- Spiritual gifts--This would not be possible without the indwelling of the Spirit.
- Reconciliation, and the peace thereof--He reconciles us to Himself (Colossians 1:22).
- Future full (realized) sanctification when we're in God's presence
- Future glorification when we're in God's presence
- Responsibility as lights in the world; ambassadors for God
- Security of the believer
- Assurance of salvation
- (Last, but not lease) A living spirit (we had a dead spirit), indwelt with good
This is the first time I've ever heard this slant--that the Spirit battles (for indwelling) to displace the flesh. I would put my money on the supernatural divine Spirit every time, and it doesn't even sound like a fair fight, or much of a battle.
Galatians 5:16 & 1 John 3:9
Re. "... says if you walk by the spirit you cannot sin. Do you wish to validate the position that YOU can prevent the Spirit from keeping you from sinfully stepping out of that walk? Once you are walking in it, you cannot sin. If you were His it would be a sin to turn and walk away from Him. You are past submitting to his authority and have surrendered to his authority. He is LORD, not a suggestion, but a law." Also, "Gal 5:16 if you can't sin when you walk by the spirit, if he was ever in you once, it would be a sin to walk away. It says you won't. Many of these verses that would support this say clearly cannot sin. That implies not able to..."
I find this to be one of the more compelling arguments that you present for your case. Two observations:
1) Your word choice here intrigued me: surrender vs. submit. I had never tried to contrast these two words. I realize that these might have been your own words, but I thought maybe I was missing something here. The (English) dictionary for "submit" says, "to give over or yield to the power or authority of another." For "surrender:" "to yield (something) to the possession or power of another." This sounds synonymous. I tried to find other uses of "commit / poieo" from 1 John 3:9, as well as "surrender / paradidomi" from 1 Corinthians 13:3, but I'm still coming up empty. Just wondering if you can defend this by etymology.
2) Re., "I can't find anyway to change the implication of Romans 8:9... If you can convince me it says other than I've expressed, then I'll start bending the other verses to see if they fit in with it somehow I've yet to test." No, I think that it's fairly obvious that I cannot.
Re. "1 John 3:6 seems to say if you still sin, you do not know Him and haven't met him." You don't still sin--it's not you who's sinning. Your sins (even future ones) are imputed to Christ.
Re., "The Greek word for sanctification can be translated as saved alone, or towards maturity." I would ask where you found this translation. The Greek word for sanctification is hagiagmos. The usual translations for it (and its variations) are "sanctify," "saint," and "holy." The basic meaning of sanctification (sanctify, saint, holy) is setting apart, or classification.
Of positional sanctification, re. "We are reborn anew but not really new, because we are no better than we were before. It makes the whole concept of born again a joke. A claimed series of word with no life changing substance." No, we are reborn and a new creation. We are not only better than we were before, but we are, in God's eyes (the eyes that really matter) perfect, like Christ, because of our position in Him. Being born again is no joke. The life changing substance offered is by the power of the indwelling Spirit, which wasn't there before. This is quite lucky for us, because the Old Testament saints weren't permanently indwelled with the Holy Spirit. What chance did they really have against sin?
Re., "If this is the case, then this seems to say that, if one does not have the Spirit, he is not saved. Yes, that is my stance. It is also my view that Romans 6:22 (which you referenced here) indeed describes some of my above list of things that God does for us at salvation, including freedom from sin, enslavement to God, (positional) sanctification, and eternal life. It's just that all of these things occurred at the moment of salvation. Sometimes it doesn't seem this way; i.e., when it says "...you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." This makes it sound like a process, and it is. However, it's also true that it all occurs instantaneously at the moment of salvation. As though God already has the "template" of all of these great things ready for whoever believes.
Re. "...that salvation, or, sins atoned, is the first step, towards maturity which I would call full sanctification. So first we are saved, then matured afterwards." I don't define sanctification as maturity (see above). This is speaking of spiritual maturity, for which we should all strive, by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2), through the power of the Spirit (even as we continue to struggle with the flesh--That's one of the things that makes it so difficult).
Re., "To me it's clearly a point where I AM HERE but some concept of me is gone, I'm still here, so it's not ME in total that is gone, but a part of me... it's the flesh that is gone, the spirit replaces it. What part of you is gone other than the S. N." The ultimate power that it had over the unbeliever.
I believe that you almost made an argument for positional sanctification here. I'm still here, but I've died to the law, because Christ fulfilled the law, and I'm (positionally) in Christ. The flesh (unfortunately) doesn't leave. It's only dead (separated).
Again, God sees me (my essence) as "me, in the Spirit," and not "me, in the flesh." And yes, this is a permanent thing. Even though "I" keep sinning, it's not really me--it's the sin living in me (my flesh, which coexists with "me, in the Spirit").
This is why 1 John 1:9 is such an important verse for the believer. We walk in temporal fellowship with the spirit (filled by the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18) for a while, then we sin (maybe due to our flesh, or to the world, or to Satan). So, we've lost our temporal fellowship with the Spirit. We're still saved, of course, but the only way to regain our temporal fellowship with the Spirit is by confession of sin per 1 John 1:9. Think of it as two concentric circles. The inner one is temporal fellowship, and the outer one is salvation (eternal fellowship).
Yes, I understand that "body" is not the same as the "flesh / sinful nature," although I can understand (from some of my arguments) why you might worry about me in this regard. I will admit that I can fully separate myself neither from the etymology of the Scriptures nor from, as you mentioned, the way that human writers sometimes anthropomorphize God in order to try to convey an incomprehensible thought, to make it easier for us mere mortal to understand.
My understanding, simplistic though it may be, is that the flesh, in its larger sphere of reality, includes the sin nature. Just as one's body ("flesh" and bones) is the "temple" of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), so is the body the housing of the sin nature part of the "flesh." I find this use of terms as being no coincidence. Even someone like me (common man, simplistic, etc.), who has trouble identifying with the more subtle aspects of fictional writing, can easily see the symbolism here. The physical body is the muscle-and-fat part of a human that provides for material existence; the soul includes the mind, will, and emotions; and, the Spirit is the means for fellowship with God. (And, although the spirit is dead for unbelievers, it is very much alive for believers.)
"...Jesus Christ has come in the flesh..." (1 John 4:2)
BTW, my above view of the flesh also makes it easier for me to understand the concept of the glorified bodies to which we look forward (1 Corinthians 15:52, Philippians 3:21), in the likeness of that of Christ's (John 20:19). Just as our glorified bodies will be free from the physical flesh of our literal bodies that are so restricted by time and space, they will also be free from the flesh (sin) nature.
Re. the flesh, "... the word can be used in an allegorical way." What word can't? This freedom of interpretation is one thing that makes some of the (various) allegorical methods of hermeneutics so dangerous.
1 John 1:9
OK, sorry, but you've probably got me over-analyzing the historical present tense again. I do hope that you can at least appreciate my predicament in trying to understand this, as described herein. i.e., If I were to shift gears on the whole book of 1 John, I fear that my brain cells would start flowing out my ear onto my keyboard. (I say "If" here as in the vein of the Greek "ean", as opposed to the negative connotation of "ou," "me," or "ou me.)
Re. 1 John 1:9, and referring also to verse 3, you said, "It doesn't apply to someone walking in the spirit. He had just said that he wasn't writing to someone in the spirit but to people he wanted to help join HIM with being in fellowship with GOD...His purpose for the letter, so that you TOO may have fellowship with us, Father and Son." So, per your argument, 1 John 1:9 is historic present too, right? (not really the "mankind" argument made for Romans 7, but still the non-alienating language) i.e., Since John says, "If we confess our sins...," and we can assume / acknowledge that John is indwelt with the Spirit, then we know that he is excluding himself? If I am understanding this correctly, then in all of the many occurrences where he says "we" or "our" in 1 John 1:1 through 4a, he really means "we" (as including himself / John). However, in all of the many occurrences where he says "we" or "our" in 1 John 1:4b through the end of the letter, he's using historical present tense, so he really means "you," but he doesn't want to offend his audience. (I know that you'll stop me anywhere along the line here that I make an invalid assumption.)
The reason that this bothers me at first glance: Now we not only must parse the text by (albeit fallible) chapter divisions within a given letter, but now also by (likewise fallible) verse divisions within a given letter / chapter. In fact, in this case we might even have to parse the text by (what we would call an English) sentence--already difficult to us English-as-a-primary-language folks, due to the lack of our familiar English punctuation within the Greek text. I'm not too good at this, but most translations seem to follow the transliteration of verse 4 quite closely: "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." In other words, somewhere in this sentence, presumably at the comma, this changes to historical present tense.
Now, on to the other reasons that this bothers me:
- In Romans 7, it appears that Paul avoided the use of the second person pronoun "you," as would be consistent with historical present tense (euphemistically avoiding such modern terms as "you people"). In fact, it would seem that this would be standard practice for the non-alienating purpose for historical present tense (i.e., avoiding the use of "you"). However, in 1 John 1:5, John says, "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you..."
- 1 John 2:1 says, "... I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Here he uses first person, then second person, then third person (plural, "anyone"), and then back to first person plural ("we"). Again, not in the same vein (mankind argument, etc.) as Romans 7.
- 1 John 2:3 says, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments."
If "we know" refers to the non-alienated audience of becomers, there's not really any way that they have yet come to know him. If it means "we" as including the Spirit-indwelt John himself, then he could be running the feared risk of alienating his audience (i.e., we know, but you don't).
Likewise, if the "we have come to know him" means the non-alienating "we," then this is quite a paradox, because they haven't. If it includes John himself, then, again, he may have blocked himself into a corner with that darn historical present tense again.
And, if "we keep His commandments" means the becomers, then they don't, so who is this particular verse addressed to? It apparently can't be the indwelt folks, because of 1:3; and, neither can it be the becomers, because of 2:3.
These paradoxical situations continue with much of the rest of the text, but you see where I'm going with this, so I'll stop analyzing here. (Should you emphatically answer this to my satisfaction, it would be mute anyway, so it wouldn't be worth my time to continue this defense.)
Oh, but wait, here's a good one: 1 John 2:26 says, "26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you." Now, suppose that we've concluded that this was not written to the indwelt believer (by 1 John 1:3). It still brings up a question. Could the indwelt Christian be deceived? I'm thinking in terms of 1 Timothy 2:14, "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." See where I'm going here? If Eve was able to fall into transgression, even before the Law, then could an indwelt believer possibly fall into transgression as well? If so by deception, would it be sin?
1 John 4:4 says, "...greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." Who is the "He" that is in "you?" If it's not the Spirit, then is it Christ? i.e., "in Christ," but not baptized with the Spirit? i.e., as I've mentioned before, part of the godhead, but not all of it?
1 John 4:13 says, "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." So would the argument now have to say that God the Father "gives" His Spirit to the believer, but this is different from indwelling?
1 John 4:15 says, "...Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." The term "abide" here seems quite close to "indwell." Maybe another separation of the second and third persons of the godhead again here?
1 John 5:4-5 says, "4 ...and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" He's relating faith in Christ (salvation) with the power (of the indwelling Holy Spirit) to overcome.
Also, you asked, What other imperatives would it not need/ by fulfilling those other “imperatives” is the path you get there. NOT follow them you don't get there." 1 Corinthians 15:34 says, "Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning." Also, 1 John 4:1 says, "...test the spirits...?" BTW, both also imply a choice in the matter.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Re. "If he has to make us like we were, and still in sin, what was the point? Just to tease us?" It's not like we were. It's now with access to the overcoming power of the Spirit.
The noun "perfection" is a translation of two Greek roots: teleios, meaning mature; and katartizo, meaning adjust (repair, make perfect). Neither of these words has any reference to sinlessness. There is a complete deliverance by the Spirit for every believer, but this should not be confused with any use of the word "perfect" to imply the incapacity to sin.
A side note about positional perfection in Christ: Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." Or, those set apart unto God by their salvation. The extent and force of this passage will be seen if the word saved is substituted for the word sanctified. This is clearly a verse on the perfection of the work of Christ for the believer, and so must not be related to the Christian's daily life.
As I've stated, I don't adhere to your definition of sanctification. I believe that when the Bible means "mature," it says "mature." e.g., 1 Corinthians 14:20 says, "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature." (i.e., grown-up, as opposed to children)
A side note about progressive perfection: Galatians 3:2b-3 says, "... did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" Also, would this imply that the whole book of Galatians is addressed to the (elite) indwelt Christians only, even though Galatians 1:2 says, "to the churches...?"
Positional and Experiential Sanctification
A common New Testament word from which sanctification is translated is "hagiagmos." This word, or its derivations means to sanctify (set apart), saint, or holy, meaning to be set apart, or classified (by God). Paul addresses all believers as (holy) saints. He even addressed the Corinthian believers as saints, and as already sanctified. 1 Corinthians 1:2 says, "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling..." (not saints by obedience, etc.). Yet this very letter for Corinth was written for the purpose correcting those Christians because of sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). They were holy, saints, and sanctified as in Christ, but they were far from being such in their daily lives.
Re. positional sanctification: 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." This is a strong argument for positional sanctification, relating being "in Christ" to sanctification, thereby also relating being "in Christ" to the indwelling of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 12:13), so also to salvation. Hebrews 10:10 says, "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (ditto!)
Re. experiential sanctification: God's sanctifying work for the believer is progressive in some respects, in contrast to the positional sanctification which is "once for all." It is accomplished by the power of God through the Spirit and truth (John 17:17). Experiential sanctification is advanced in relation to sin. The child of God may so comply with every condition for true spirituality as to be experiencing all the provided deliverance and victory from the power of sin, or, on the other hand, he may be experiencing but a partial deliverance from the power of sin. In either case, he is set apart and thus is experientially sanctified (in his temporal existence).
The debate over the eradication of the flesh has been vibrant for more than a century. I find plenty of information on it from books written in the 1940s, and it probably came into the forefront with the advance of neo-evangelicalism in 1906. We do have an unceasing overcoming of evil by the power of the Spirit, in answer to a definite dependence upon the Spirit. We have redemption and deliverance from the flesh through Christ's death on the cross, and through the power of the Spirit. The Scriptures do teach a perfect victory over all evil by the constant enabling power of the Spirit. However, I believe that 1 John 1:8 is pretty straightforward, and it deals with the flesh, where 1 John 1:10 addresses the sin which comes from that flesh. One without the flesh would make the claim that he is "not able" to sin. However, I would argue that due to Christ's death and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are "able not" to sin.
We must acknowledge the overcoming work of the Spirit in the believer, and Christ's death as the grounds for deliverance. God's work enables us to walk upon a new life principle. Romans 6:4 says, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. " The human responsibility in this walk is emphasized far less than if the flesh were removed. Otherwise, again, why the need for all of the imperatives not to sin? Again, much of the New Testament Scriptures wouldn't apply to those without the flesh. Maybe the flesh isn't so much to be reckoned dead as that the believer is dead to it.
We need to be careful not to somehow "glorify" the human experience, even if a state of sinlessness is reached. That's when we start breaking the rule about fitting Scripture into our box. (At least that's the temptation for those of us with the flesh--can't speak for the others.)
The believer, in his temporal state, has three major enemies: the world; the flesh; and, Satan. Nobody claims a biblical plan for freeing us from the influence of the world by destroying the world, or from Satanic influence by eradicating Satan. Why then is there such great effort to demonstrate a similar plan of abolishing the flesh, while leaving the other two intact? The flesh is not eradicated, although it is definitely subjected to the Spirit when one's daily walk is committed to Him. (In respect to your position, I did find you some ammunition here. 1 John 5:18 says, "...the evil one does not touch him.")
Eradication of the flesh would still leave us subjected to the world and to Satan. Even if one no longer sinned due to influence from his flesh, he would still struggle with the influence of the other two enemies, so any claim of sinlessness is still brought into question.
Rationalism comes into play here, as it's difficult to validate the removal of the flesh; i.e., demonstrate some human whose experience has ever conformed to it. I have known some great, mature, and honest Christian people, each with decades of spiritual maturity, yet each of them would admit being guilty of personal sins on a daily basis. Although I have never witnessed a sinless life, it is conveniently impossible to disprove that one exists. Suppose we found two: a sinless husband and his sinless wife, each with no flesh. Would their children be born without the flesh?
Hey, that made me think of something that might make a good study from your viewpoint. It would be a strong argument for your case if one could demonstrate that one of the personalities of the Scriptures was able to reach a place of sinlessness. For example, Ezekiel 14:14 implies that Noah, Daniel, and Job were among the most righteous men ever. It would be interesting to see is one could make a claim for sinlessness in their lives, especially since Noah was a special case, in living before the law came.
Several things come to mind here, but I admit that my realm of thoughts are limited to one who still sins. I am not to a point where I can even imagine a sinless life. I can only wonder how such a person would approach the practical challenges of life. Would he never drive over the speed limit, or if he found himself unintentionally doing so, would he slow down to the designated limit as quickly as is safe? When he used the internet, would he actually read, understand, and commit to all of those terms and conditions to which he is pledging when he clicks on that OK button? Could he, in this temporal body, really break all of those old habits which, for all practical purposes, have become involuntary. Could he read 1 John 1:9, then acknowledge that he doesn't need that verse, all without (the worldly influence of) pride in such an achievement, which would otherwise restart the ugly cycle of sin, thereby needing 1 John 1:9?
Does (can) such a person exist in this temporal life, or do the Scriptures indeed challenge us with a perfection that will only come with "realized" sanctification in our glorified bodies? Who can be definitive on this issue? Like I said, maybe I don't understand it because I'm not there yet. Indeed, what a different perspective one would have, without the old me, my old habits, etc. My assumption has always been that this would be a state I would not realize on this side of eternity. If I were to argue common sense alone, this is still where I would settle on this issue.
The below is intended to be an objective (if I can step outside of my own bias?) summary of each of our arguments (BTW, just a sampling):
- Supportive of the argument for positional sanctification:
- Romans 7:14-24 - when interpreted more literally
- Romans 8:4 - if "walk" implies a daily choice
- Galatians 2:20 - not me, but He who lives in me; like Romans 7:17
- Galatians 5:16-17 - the flesh is in opposition to the Spirit so that you may not do the things that you please
- 1 John 1:7-8 - we might walk in the Light (sometimes), but the truth is not in those who claim sinlessness
- Colossians 2:11 - if the circumcision of Christ occurred at salvation, placing us in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13)
- Supportive of the argument for sinless perfection:
- Romans 7:14-24 - when interpreted in the historical present tense
- Romans 8:4 - if "walk" implies sinless, per Galatians 5:16
- Romans 8:9 - you are not in the realm of the flesh
- Galatians 2:20 - "I (the flesh) no longer live"
- Galatians 5:16 - in support of Romans 8:4 above
- Colossians 2:11- if the emphasis is on the "removal"
- 1 John 3:9 - if born of God, we cannot sin
From a simplistic (but credible) view, one could argue that the rebuttal to most of your points could be, "... because it's speaking about one's position in Christ"--yes, I know, a very frustrating refrain. Alternatively, and again simplistically, the positional sanctification stance could be argued with "... but Romans 7:7b through 7:24 is historical present." The problem that I see with the latter is that without this assumption, the rest of the arguments seem to cave; i.e., if all of the other arguments stand, but Romans 7 is not historical present, then the sinless perfection view has a significant hole.
I suppose that I feel no pressing need to endlessly defend either viewpoint--neither positional sanctification nor sinless perfection. What is the motivation here, and to the value of continuously pursuing this particular doctrine above others. In other words, why would one decide to spend countless hours on this one issue, and is it really worth his time? i.e., How does it bear fruit and glorify God? Or, is this just the first of many such doctrines?
Owen Weber 2010