Do Christians Sin?
(1 John 1:8 vs. 1 John 3:9)?
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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;
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
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
- Romans 6:22 says that one receives a benefit from his
obedience. This benefit is slavery to God (and the associated
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
- Galatians 5:16 says that if one walks in the Spirit, then he does not
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
- 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
I wonder if there is 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
Re. the flesh, "... the word can be used in an allegorical
What word can't? This freedom of interpretation is one thing
that makes some of the (various) allegorical methods of hermeneutics so
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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 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