Met a bloke the other day who seemed to be saying it is impossible for Christians to sin. I still can’t really believe he was actually saying that, but he did say that the Bible teaches he is ‘dead to sin’ and that therefore (if I understood him correctly) that he does not sin.
I said he was confusing the concepts of justification and sanctification.
He said No, 1 Cor 6:11 says that he is sanctified (which is does) so that there is no more sanctification required. I tried hard to express the difference between our legal position before God (which is forgiven, justified and holy) based on Christ’s atoning work and our experiential, daily, human condition which is that we regularly sin, even as forgiven, redeemed and spirit-filled believers, but I did not make much progress.
The concept of ‘died to sin’ occurs in Romans 6
6:6 ‘our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with..7 …anyone who has died has been set free from sin’
I want to follow Paul’s argument a bit.
Paul starts Romans 6 with the rhetorical question ‘1 Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase..15 Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace’ So right up front Paul is addressing the reality that Christians can and do sin.
He then talks about believers being crucified with Christ and therefore ‘dead to sin’, but I think he is saying that this should be our attitude, not that it is impossible to sin.
In verse 11 Paul says ‘count yourself dead to sin but alive to God’. This is how he demonstrates ‘dead to sin’ is an attitude, a disposition, the same that Christ had v.10 ‘The life He lives He lives to God 11 In the same way count yourself dead to sin’.
Paul talks about two kinds of slaves: slaves to sin and slaves to righteousness. But these slaves Paul describes as ‘obedient slaves v16’ those who ‘offer themselves’ to their masters. So the slavery that Paul describes is willing, i.e. a product of choice. He is telling the Romans to choose righteousness and not to choose sin.
Paul is exhorting the Romans to change allegiance. In Chapter 7 Paul expands on this by teaching that we have been ‘released from the law v2’ and that we have ‘died to the law v4’ so that we no longer belong to the law but to Christ and His new ‘law of the Spirit 8:2’
Paul describes his own battle with Sin in 7:14-25 and teaches that through the indwelling Spirit we have a new power to overcome Sin that was not available to believers under the Mosaic Covenant 8:13
So the death to sin that Paul writes of is one of attitude and the power to live a righteous life comes by the Spirit. Paul teaches that the Christian should use their ‘mind 8:6’ (i.e. make a conscious choice) to live according to the Spirit, that this is indeed an obligation 8:12 to resist the flesh and then use the Spirit’s power which indwells us to put Sin to death 8:13.
So Paul affirms that Christians can and do sin, but shows us how the example and death of Christ enables us to serve righteousness through a deliberately transformed mind and the power of His Spirit.
He summarizes some of this in Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Can Christians sin ? Well, Paul tells Christians not do do evil and not to be overcome by evil. I think that counts:
12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.