Sins of Commission and Sins of Omission
To me, it is a shame that the wealth of scripture plainly resolving our complete freedom from sin is so easily sacrificed for a substandard mentality that has only been justified by a select few misinterpreted scriptures. We have such a poor understanding of God’s idea of freedom that we immediately shun any topic revolving around the idea of perfection because, frankly, these ideas scare us. Regretfully, this fear has roots from within the church, who, in recent history, twisted the concepts of sins of commission and sins of omission in order to trap people in the mind-set that they are always innately flawed and will never be completely transformed in this life. The fact that we are innately flawed is, in fact, true, but nowhere in the Bible will we find that we must always remain flawed after we have been born again (just the opposite actually: we become flawless through faith in Christ). Essentially, the two terms are defined as this: sins of commission are sins that we commit whether against others, ourselves, or God, while sins of omission occur when we omit something that we know we ought to do and thus we have sinned because we are not walking completely uprightly. Scripture about sins of commission is easily found all over the Bible, but the sins of omission concept primarily originates from these two scriptures:
- “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin” Romans 14:23.
- “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” James 4:17.
Sadly, these two verses, which are the foundation for the sins of omission doctrine, have been twisted into something that they were never meant to be used for. Many pastors and teachers have unfortunately targeted disagreeing, naïve Christians with aggressive questions such as this in order to forcefully assert their doctrine of sin on the body of Christ: “Do you always do as God wants you to do 100 percent of the time? Are you living exactly the way Jesus lived when He was here? Do you truly believe that you are walking as He walked 365 days a year or even for a full twenty-four-hour day? Because if you aren’t, then you are not walking in the fullness of God and are living in sin.”
This is exactly where the unbiblical idea of sinning every day emerged. People who teach in this manner unknowingly cause others to cling to self-doubt (rather than faith in God), and it causes newer followers to be weighed down under severe bondage at an early stage of their Christian walk. These teachers believe that no one can even come close to walking like Jesus walked (which completely contradicts scriptures such as John 14:12 and 1 John 2:6), and thus, they place a veil of doubt over their hearts and shut themselves off from His presence. These types of questions misguide the church by causing us to take our focus off what is essential to remember: God overcame the power of sin for us, not us for ourselves.
When we are launched into these intense moments of introspection, we quickly find ourselves negatively assessing our lives, and therefore, we only end up focusing on what is lacking in our lives, and in doing so, we miss the entire point of faith in Jesus! This would be similar to a lion cub looking in the mirror, evaluating itself, and then coming to the conclusion that it is not actually a lion. Did the lion cub make itself a lion? Did you make yourself a Christian, free from sin, or was it God who transformed you? So is it really faith to say that we are still sinners considering that God is the one who is fully responsible for transforming us, or is it, in fact, doubt? Therefore, do you really think that Paul and James said what they said in the earlier two verses so that we would never forget that we are hopeless sinners? Absolutely not! They wrote those two verses so that we will never forget to walk by faith!! These verses aren’t meant to discourage us from trying to attain the prize; they are meant to encourage and motivate us toward faith and action! The true warning to us is to never lose our faith because then we fall into the risk of sin! Never forget that it is our faith that makes us righteous (Romans 4), and the word of God says that if we walk in the Spirit, then we shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). We walk in the Spirit through faith in God, so let’s make sure to always walk in faith; otherwise, sin will be knocking at our door.
I hear this counterargument all the time from well-intentioned believers who are trapped in law-minded bondage: “Jesus said to give to those who ask and help those in need, and we are slaves of righteousness, so does this mean that I’m required to stop and help every single homeless person that I see when I’m out? If so, then I would never get anything done!” My brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to open our eyes and realize that we are freer than this. Jesus bought us incredible freedom to live as people of righteousness, faith, and goodness all the time, not to put us under slavery to others’ needs. Are we to live as generous men and women of God helping when we can and faithfully serving others all our lives? Absolutely! We have been transformed into lights in the world who reveal the Father’s heart by our good deeds. Therefore, live as slaves of righteousness, do good deeds for those in need, and at the same time, always live as free men and women of God!
James makes it very clear that we are expected to live generously when he tells us that faith without works is dead. A faithful man or woman of God moves to serve and help those in need—not out of obligation, but out of the goodness in their hearts and the agape love that God has written within us and that radiates from us. Does this mean we are required to stop and serve every single person who is holding a sign? Again, we are not under obligation to others’ wants and needs, but we are a people who love helping those in need. Scripture shows us that even Jesus did not stop and help every person, nor was He obligated to use every resource He had to alleviate others’ pains (see the scriptures below). We are people who love others, but we are not under the power of anyone or anything other than God and His Spirit.
In summary, do not deny others your generosity, love, and service, and do not deny yourself God’s gift of freedom in your life. For scriptural references, go to 1 Corinthians 9:1–14 to see Paul’s explanation of his freedom in Christ as he serves others, and also read the two passages in scripture I wrote out below.
- “But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian” Luke 4:25–27. Notice that sometimes God only sends us to certain people and not to others. We are not obligated to give and serve everybody.
- And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” Matthew 26:6–13. Notice that Jesus did not use the oil to give to the poor, but rather enjoyed the gift for Himself. We are not obligated to give just because others lack.