ARE CHRISTIANS SINNERS
Wrtitten by Anthony Guida
BACK COVER SUMMARY:
There has only ever been one way to obtain the miraculously transformed life in Christ that we hope for, and that is through our faith in God. Are Christians Sinners will take everything that you thought you understood about sin and your identity in Christ and completely turn it upside down. Prepare to see the path to freedom that is so direct you will wonder why you never learned this before. Prepare to read revelations from God that will astound you and instantly draw you closer to Him. Prepare to truly understand that, through our faith, we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus and that we truly have the power living within us to conquer sin once and for all.
“One of my greatest challenges as Senior Pastor and Church leader was figuring out how to get people to think for themselves. Rather than sitting in the pews dutifully waiting for me to tell them what they should think, I longed for congregations that would dive into God’s word on their own to feast on His word. What you hold in your hands is a meticulous, well thought invitation to take a seat at the banquet table to eat a serving of ‘meat’ that is so large it might test your ability to digest it all in one read. Are Christians Sinners will not tell you what to think, but might challenge everything you do think about sin, your identity, and what God really thinks about you. Warning, this book could be dangerous to anyone who wants to remain a defeated, pitiful victim stuck at the foot of the cross, hoping God doesn’t give them what they feel they deserve.”
—Dr. Louis Angone, Founding Pastor of New Community Christian Church, CoFounder and CoChairman of AKD Enterprises
Permission is granted to copy or quote from the contents of this book at no charge for non-commercial purposes only.
ISBN 978-1-64191-208-2 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-64191-209-9 (digital)
Copyright © 2018 by Anthony Guida
All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy or quote from the contents of this book at no charge for non-commercial purposes only.
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Anthony Guida is a man who practices what he writes (and says). Anthony is a faithful hus-band, devoted dad, and radical follower of Jesus. Anthony is a man full of joy, full of faith, and full of love. He is eager to bring a word of knowledge to a stranger on the street, heal cancer, or command the dead to come back to life. His face beams with joy and his eyes and words and deeds offer love. He believes scripture means what it says: That it is alive, pow-erful, true. Anthony’s valiant approach to the subject of sin in a follower of Jesus may raise considerable debate among reputable, mature, and Godly people. His book affirms that we sometimes act or speak in ways that appear to contradict scripture—but that doesn’t change the fact that what God says is true. It is a matter of faith—do I believe scripture or not? As I believe, I become who and what God says I am! Anthony’s life and book move me to believe who God says I am—rather than my own opinion of my identity. Thank you, God, for Anthony. And for Your Word. I love being who You say I am.
–Robert Adrian (Believer!)
Anthony Guida’s book is amazing. In the last six years of my walk with Christ the Lord has revealed to me the importance of our identity in Christ and what He ask us to not only do but believe. Identity as a sinner is one of those beliefs in the Church that I believe has crippled the Church and made it ineffective. Few have approached this subject as well as Anthony has. His revelation of scriptures and the ability to bring a complete understanding of what God is really saying to us is refreshing, and life changing. It is an easy and short read with lots of scriptures to affirm his point. In fact, many are scriptures we have trained ourselves to ignore and simply could not reconcile with our false beliefs. Renew your mind and be ready to be transformed.
–Todd Scholl (Head Pastor – The Rhema Group)
With enthusiasm and gratitude, I give a thumbs up to Anthony Guida’s book “Are Christians Sinners?”. It challenged my excuses to live with mediocrity and refreshed my expectation that God has given me everything I need to live a godly life. This is a must read for anyone hungry for all that has been promised them in Christ.
–Allan Reed (Head Pastor – Making Men Better Foundation)
A must read for those saints who desire a mindset of an overcomer!
–Bob Sandberg (The Rhema Group)
Table of Contents
(Click on the links below to go to the chapter)
- Chapter 1: Our Current Understanding of the Christian-Sin Relationship
- Chapter 2: The Willful Sinner
- Chapter 3: Thoughtlessly Ignored Scriptures
- Chapter 4: The End of Romans 7
- Chapter 5: Liars from 1 John
- Chapter 6: True Freedom by the Spirit
- Chapter 7: Sins of Commission and Sins of Omission
- Chapter 8: Dual Nature Theology
- Chapter 9: False Hope through Dual Nature Theology
- Chapter 10: Teachings from the Devil
- Chapter 11: The Second Position: Perfection?
- Chapter 12: Good and Evil since the Beginning
- Chapter 13: Always Produce Fruit for the Kingdom
- Chapter 14: The Growth Process and Choices
- Chapter 15: How to Handle Trials and Challenges
- Chapter 16: Our Holy Identity
- Chapter 17: Sanctification – How Does This Fit In?
- Chapter 18: Run to Obtain the Crown
- Chapter 19: Conclusion
Flashing back years ago, I can vividly remember my first impression of the word of God after finishing my very first read-through of the New Testament. God had opened my eyes to His truth and got me born again only months before I finished this initial reading, and as a new believer, I definitely had God’s zealous fire within me that created a hunger to devour all His word and learn all His ways as quickly as possible. I had also begun to attend a mainstream, contemporary, evangelical Christian church of my choosing, and I was beginning to discover the deeper meaning of my newfound faith. In my childhood, I had grown up going to church with my family, but because my heart was never really in it, I had never learned anything besides the Cliff Notes versions of the sermons being preached from the pulpit. So as a new believer, I readily admitted that I didn’t know much about Christianity, and I made a conscientious effort to value the knowledge and opinions of other members of the church, especially those of the people who were willing to teach me and mentor me on my journey. I had a great respect for my pastor and the associate pastor at my church, and both were very knowledgeable about the word of God and had obviously been believers for many years.
Due to my large respect for my pastor and his knowledge of God, I was extremely excited to tell him about my first impressions of the New Testament so that he could help me learn more. I had noticed a distinct and common theme in all the Gospels and the other letters, and this theme stood out to me like the text was divinely highlighted. It felt as if God was speaking to me personally about this subject, and that thought thrilled me. So I memorized a few key verses that clearly represented this theme, and I approached my pastor to ask him for his feedback. I said to him, “Pastor Scott, I just finished reading the New Testament, and I noticed a common theme in the language. The Bible seems to say that as Christians, we don’t sin anymore, and a lot of the verses even say that we can be perfect! Is that possible? To never sin again after we accept Jesus into our lives or even become perfect in this life?” I immediately received a response from him, but not the one I was expecting. Scott waved over the associate pastor to come join us, and he said to me, “No, that’s not what the Bible is saying at all. We are never perfect in this life. Perfection only happens after we get to heaven. Think about it: we constantly mess up, and these screwups happen daily, even if we don’t know it. And also think about this: if we were able to become perfect, then why would we need Jesus? We wouldn’t have need of a Savior if we were able to be perfect. No, sin still exists in us after we accept Jesus, but once we get to heaven, then we will be fully cleaned from it.” Then he left me and the associate pastor to continue speaking, and the associate pastor proceeded to walk through the verses I had memorized while disproving my line of thinking, thus completely dismantling everything that I truly thought I had learned from God.
Needless to say, I was crushed. In mere moments, everything that drove me toward growing closer to God was cut out from under me, and I felt like God’s word was impossible to understand. I also felt like I had nothing to strive for anymore. To me, it seemed pointless; I thought, If I’m always going to sin, then what’s the point of trying so hard not to? Thus began my very first backslide as a Christian, occurring only months after being saved and baptized. I lost my drive and quickly reverted back to many of my old destructive habits. I wasn’t about to totally give up on God over my own unintelligent first impression of His word, so I still continued to go to church and my small group, but I still felt like something in me had died. It was like my fire went out.
Well, God was prepared for this miniature backslide, and thankfully, it didn’t last long. He had me surrounded with fellow believers and close, godly friends who kept an eye on me. I know for a fact that their prayers and direct support got me back in the saddle much faster than I ever would have without them. However, for the sin and perfection ideas that I had, I put them to death. I firmly decided that I was going to continue on without them because I was obviously totally off track with those thoughts.
It took God nearly two years to revive those thoughts in me again, and the next time they revived, He wouldn’t let them die. Allow me to share with you why He wanted to bring them back to life and everything that He showed me and taught me about sin and perfection over the following several years.
Before I continue, I want to make you fully aware of what you are about to read. The content of this book covers the current and common doctrine in churches today about the influence of sin in our lives. I’m sure it is obvious to you by now that I’m getting ready to challenge all these ideas, and in the first chapter, I launch right into my argument. I touch on all the topics that are relevant to this theme while offering an overabundance of scriptural support for every argument. I am about to introduce to you the truth about living in continual sin, living a perfect life, and everything in between that we are deceived into believing is an acceptable and normal Christian lifestyle. As you read this book, you will wake up to the fact that living a sinless life in Christ is not only possible but that it is also an expectation from God for every believer. You will also learn that the taboo idea of perfection in this life is not at all what we think it is, that it is very possible to attain as well, and that it is also an expectation from God for our lives. My forewarning to you is that everything written in this book will deeply challenge many honest and faithful followers of Christ in a good way, but the book does not leave you simply feeling challenged because it also offers encouragement, strength, and an increase in faith on an incredibly deep level as well.
This book was written over many years of my life, and these years produced transitions, trials, tribulations, valleys, mountains, storms, persecutions, growth, and always-abundant blessings from God. God would speak to me about this doctrine whenever He chose to along the journey. Sometimes several months would go by without revelation, and sometimes I received dozens of revelations in a single day, but throughout its compilation over the years, I found that God continued to refine what He taught me further. In other words, the blade of this doctrine never became dull over the years of composing it—like the way a blade becomes dull after battle—but rather it always seemed to grow sharper, like life itself was honing the blade. Every so often, God would drop a new nugget of truth into my lap and the blade would get slightly sharper; my case would become stronger. Whenever other well-meaning believers questioned my doctrine in this area, I found that the truth God had given me would cut into these obstacles and challenges like a knife, and the knife always seemed to be sharper than I expected. I am grateful that it took me so long to finish the book, because with God as my witness, never once in the years of writing it did I reconsider this doctrine or turn and glance back toward my old way of thinking. Also, I never gave up on finishing writing the book, so everything you are reading had been proven and tested by the weather of life’s storms over years and years of writing. God encouraged me to continue up until the very end, and now the final copy is what you are currently reading.
I want to specifically encourage you to remain open-minded and open-eared to anything God speaks to you as you read through these opposing arguments to our current doctrine of sin. All the references that I have come directly from the Bible, mainly from the New King James Version, and you will see that in many of the verses I added my own emphasis in the form of bolded, italicized, and/or underlined text in order to highlight aspects of the verse I want the reader to notice. Since the Bible speaks for itself, I decided at the outset of writing this book not to clutter it with extra biblical opinions from well-known commentators of any kind because they would only subtract from the attention the Bible verses themselves deserve and would distract the readers from the revelations God gave me as He opened my eyes to this doctrine. I did seek and receive consistent feedback from other mature believers as God taught me everything, but to be as transparent as possible, I have much less interest in other men’s interpretations of God’s word than I do in what the Bible itself says about a topic and what the Holy Spirit speaks to me. I realize that what I am presenting is also another interpretation, and therefore, if you would like the best possible guide to understanding this topic other than what I myself or anyone else can offer, then I highly encourage you to stop reading this book, open up your own Bible, and pray that God opens your eyes to understand His word as you read it. Ask Him for an explanation about sin’s power in the Christian life and I promise that you will receive far more wisdom and understanding than I am able to give you in the following pages. However, if you do choose to continue reading, then I hope everything written here encourages, uplifts, and refines your understanding of God and His purpose for your life.
Father God, I pray specifically for the individual who is about to read the book that You helped author. May this brother or sister in Christ find renewed power, love, and identity through a reawakening to Your will for their life. I pray that the individual reading this has a completely open heart to hear Your words to them, Lord. I ask You to open the eyes, ears, mind, and heart of the reader and that nothing can stand in the way of Your message to them. Upon acceptance of Your truth, I pray for a fire to ignite in their spirit that is unquenchable. May You quickly and significantly increase the faith of the reader, and may they walk in Your complete wisdom and fullness for the rest of their lives. You are the Almighty God, and nothing stands in the way of the outpouring of Your Spirit and Your will for Your children. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
Our Current Understanding of the Christian-Sin Relationship
In the life of every follower of Christ, the reconciliation of remaining in sin while we occupy our earthly bodies is a troublesome position to understand. To most of us, the idea of not sinning feels, at best, like an uphill battle, but at our worst points, it can physically, mentally, and spiritually feel like trying to hold on to the edge of a cliff. In the minds of most believers, our daily cross we are meant to bear is putting to death our sinful passions and desires every day, and yet times still come when we slip up or get deceived and fall into sin once again. Many of us admit these occurrences are daily, and furthermore, many pastors and teachers accede that sins and screwups are a part of the normal Christian life daily. If we are totally honest with ourselves, we would admit that the trends are cyclic; the same old sins always manage to creep back into our lives during difficult times, and in our hearts, there is an intuitive awareness that we are not completely free from that sin.
The world understands this about Christians, and the church is currently surrounded by a world unbothered by their own sin and pointing an accusatory finger at the church and stating, “You’re no different from us.” Well, the world will always believe what it wants to believe about Christians, but the true shame of this situation is that the common retort of many of our churches has been to strategically accede this worldly claim by tagging a welcome message to the accusation such as “Yes, we are all messed up. Join us and let’s do life together,” or more astutely stated “Even though we are all messed-up people, join us and we’ll all struggle to beat sin together.” I understand that the heart of these messages is to communicate to nonbelievers that it’s okay to come to church with a messed-up life, but the obvious implication is that things don’t seem to change much after you receive Christ, and life is more manageable when we all go through our messed-up lives together as a team. I realize that I am making a generalization, but it is something that I have found alarmingly consistent throughout many churches, and it is a point that God has moved me to address in this book.
Since God has revealed to me the inerrant flaws in our present doctrine on sin, it doesn’t seem that simple or appropriate to answer the world that way, and it actually comes off as misleading because it is nothing but a paradox. Logically, the following question that we should be asking is this: If we are no different from the rest of the world, then what do we even have to offer it? If our sinful lives continue to be incomplete and we continually slip and fall into sin after beginning to follow Jesus, then are we giving anything more to the world other than group therapy? After we accept Christ and the God of the universe enters our physical bodies and the Holy Spirit of God makes His home in us, do we truly remain messed-up human beings with an unending sin problem until the next life?
The reason that I pose these questions is because the root of them dwells in our doctrinal position of sin. As ridiculous as some of my previous questions might sound, we must face the fact that they are not very far-off from a legitimately relevant question that many Christians struggle to answer: If I have truly been transformed by Christ into a new creation, then why do I continue to sin?
This question has burned in some of the most esteemed minds of the Christian church since the earliest stages of Christianity and continues to be a question that perplexes most of us today. As we continue, I want to remind the reader to remember that no matter what the church believes at any point in history, the word of God will always stand firm and remain the sole, unwavering foundation of observable truth, whether our interpretations are correct about a matter of doctrine or not. Considering my own personal struggle to answer this question, I used James 1:5 and asked God for wisdom on this subject, and in faith, I expected it to be given to me liberally. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, and I knew that He had the revelation that I needed to grow closer to Him and gain a deeper understanding of His will for my life. Well, God did as He said He would, and He taught me what I wanted to know. So I would like to share with you what I learned from the Lord about our current doctrine on sin, the true renewed identity of a transformed Christian, and the faith that God expects us to have in order to permanently overcome sin and the temptations from the world.
The Lord showed me two polar positions that are perceived by today’s church, and He explained to me that the majority of believers settle on a balanced approach between these two positions. However, do not be surprised when you find out through reading this book that God does not want His people to maintain a balanced approach on our freedom from sin. Instead, He entirely prefers an imbalanced approach, an approach that is fully submerged into His truth rather than one that is still testing the waters. You will also find through reading this book that true freedom only comes to those who have given their whole hearts to God’s truth; they have placed all their faith in Him and His Word, and they have truly dived headfirst into the pool with no notion of turning back. The Bible tells us that any who doubt (or waver among multiple options) should expect to receive nothing from the Lord, because these people are unstable in all their ways (James 1:6–8)! Don’t be surprised at this, because this is God’s perfect design for faith, and I hope that the words in this book help both encourage and guide you toward that faith in Him that He has always expected us to have. For it is by grace through faith that we have been saved, and even that did not come from us; it is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).
The Willful Sinner
Now the first positional belief about sin that God showed me is this: we are still sinners, and we will always be sinners until Christ returns, so let’s just continue sinning until Jesus fully frees us from sin in heaven.
Paul answers this approach very quickly and simply in Romans 6:1–2 where he says, “Do we continue to live in sin so that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” This verse very clearly states that there is a common error in the way people think. This error (or deception) leads us to believe that the sinful life is somehow more gratifying and fulfilling than a free life, and since Christ’s sacrifice washes us clean of all our sins every day, then we don’t have anything to worry about. So let’s just believe in Jesus, have some fun with our sin, and God will just continue washing us clean, right? Wrong! This belief clearly doesn’t understand the concept of the renewed mind (Romans 12:2), which is what Paul is trying to explain. He goes as far as to say that we are dead to sin, so how could we live in it any longer? What Paul is telling us is that a transformation occurs (which is actually the same root word as metamorphosis [i.e., caterpillar –> butterfly]) and the renewed (or reborn) person has changed so drastically from their old nature that they simply do not live in sin any longer. Just as there is no resemblance of a caterpillar when you look at a butterfly, there should also be no resemblance of the old man in the new creation.
To the average Christian, the previous paragraph describes a rather obvious extreme that needs to be actively avoided. It addresses what we refer to as habitual sin or deliberate sin, which is correctly perceived by the church as a very dangerous form of sin. However, there is another form of sin called accidental sin or occasional sin, which is something that has largely been perceived as common and normal within the body of Christ. The unspoken understanding of our belief about sin within the church is this: as long as you are always trying your best to grow in the Lord and are not continuing to live in a knowingly blatant, habitual lifestyle of sin any longer, then you have reached the expectations that God has for you while you are on earth, even if you fall into unintentional sin regularly. This widespread view maintains that God will always continue disciplining you because you will never reach your final goal of perfection in this life, so as long as you remain humble and keep to that mentality, you will stay saved and God will continue giving you good instruction.
It is true that there is a distinct difference between willful sin and involuntary (or accidental) sin, which is clearly described in 1 John 5:16–17 (sin leading to death versus sin not leading to death), but I believe a major stumbling block arises when the church begins to accept that accidental or occasional sin as a common and inescapable everyday occurrence. I will elaborate on this more as we continue. Another obstacle for the growing Christian emerges when we readily yield to the impossibility of perfection in this life. I believe the reason that this can become an obstacle is because we have been trained to lower our eyes off the true prize that God bought for us down to a lesser trophy. Much of the body of Christ has been duped into not going for the gold medal that God wants us to strive for, and instead we have reluctantly settled for just hoping that we can finish the race.
On that note, I would like to shift the first position on sin and introduce the true subject of this book. As I said before, the first position of willfully continuing in sin is a rather obvious deception to any true follower of Christ, so it is not a good position on sin to take while in Christ at all, but is actually an identifier of a false convert. As you read the modified first position on sin below, please note the striking similarity to the old one, because they are actually very similar.
The false-convert position about sin: we are still sinners, and we will always be sinners until Christ returns, so let’s just continue sinning until Jesus fully frees us from sin in heaven.
The church’s current position about sin: we are still sinners, and we will always be sinners until Christ returns, but let’s try our best not to sin until Jesus fully frees us from sin in heaven.
Do you see how close our current position of sin is to what false converts believe about sin in their lives? Is this alarming to you at all? Because it should be! I sincerely hope that reading this small difference impacts you because it should begin to reveal some very enlightening truths about the church’s current doctrinal stance about sin. And now I will proceed with showing biblically the deep error of this innately harmful doctrine that has unfortunately dominated today’s church.
Thoughtlessly Ignored Scriptures
Now the general position of most Christian churches states that we are all sinners, that we will always have sin within us, and that even after we are born again, we will still continue to live in some kind of sin until Christ returns. This doctrine tends to breed a certain attitude in the church. As an example, have you ever heard “I’m just a sinner, saved by grace” before? This is the attitude that is commonly expressed in the church today because it is directly born from this teaching. I think we believe that this attitude displays a form of godly humility in some way, but honestly, we couldn’t be more wrong. Jesus died on the cross so that we could become much more than “just sinners”, so I want to unravel this doctrine further by exploring what the Bible says about sin more deeply.
As I’ve restated multiple times, the general teaching in the Christian church is that even after we have come to Christ, we still continue to sin. So I have to ask: did Paul miss something when he said in Romans 6:1–2 to not continue living in sin? Or was Jesus mistaken when He said to the woman who was about to be stoned to death by the Pharisees, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11)? Or was He mistaken when He said to the man healed by the pool of Bethesda to “sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14)? Or is it possible that Jesus actually meant it? You see, the “always a sinner” position of the church misses the entire picture of the teachings of Jesus and His sacrifice, and when we view our lives through that lens, we effectively render the crucifixion powerless to deliver us from sin in our minds. Romans chapter 6 does an extremely good job at explaining how much of an effect sin should have in the born-again life, and I think it is very clear: none. Paul says it over and over again in phrases like this:
- “…our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” Romans 6:6–7. When the church mandates that we will always be sinners and we can’t help but continue to live in sin, don’t you think that sounds like we are declaring that we are still slaves of sin?
- “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:11. Again the word “dead” is used here, which is not the typical doctrine I hear preached on Sundays.
- “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” Romans 6:12. Well, this verse refutes the idea that we will only be completely free from sin in heaven. Obviously, Paul believes sin shouldn’t reign in our bodies while we are mortal.
- “For sin shall not have dominion over you” Romans 6:14.
- “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” Romans 6:22.
Here are more verses scattered all over the New Testament about the absence of sin. These selected verses, by no means, encompass all of them but are just a handful that God highlighted to me:
- “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” 1 Corinthians 15:34.
- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
- “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor” Galatians 2:17–18. This verse should concern any reader who believes they have accepted Christ but are still a sinner. Beware that it very clearly says, “If we, while seeking to be justified by Christ, are still found to be sinners, then we are rebuilding the things that were destroyed, making ourselves transgressors” (paraphrased for clarity).
- “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” Colossians 2:11. Just for the sake of making my point clearer, would it be logical to physically only partially circumcise a man’s flesh? Do you think that it is logical to believe we are partially circumcised to sin?
- “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” Colossians 2:15.
- “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity’” 2 Timothy 2:19.
- “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” Hebrews 10:26. If we stand on the belief that we are sinners saved by grace, then this verse tells us what we are committing to be: a willful sinner.
- “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9.
- “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on a tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” 1 Peter 2:24.
- “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” 2 Peter 1:3–4. Are having a sinful nature and having a divine nature the same thing? Absolutely not. We can only have one or the other.
- “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” 2 Peter 3:14. I have two important points with this verse: 1) If a lamb can be “without spot” (i.e. blameless, see 1 Peter 1:19 as reference) then how much more can a person made in the image of God be spotless?, and 2) notice the verse says we should be diligent “to be found by Him” without spot and blameless. This disproves the idea that we will only be spotless (i.e. free from sin) after Christ returns or in heaven.
- “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” 1 John 5:18.
1 John 3:4–11 says it the most clearly. Many people don’t even know that these verses are in their Bible.
- “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” 1 John 3:4–11.
Generally speaking, at this point, I lose people. Immediately after showing biblically that we are not supposed to live in sin any longer, the common believer gets defensive and starts to defend—you guessed it—the sin in their life. Why do we do this? It’s simple. Because it’s a part of ourselves that we cannot control. No matter how hard we try, we cannot keep ourselves from sinning (which is the entire point of the Old Testament). So we do the natural, logical, yet carnally minded thing that we inherited from Adam: we defend ourselves. I think this alone shows that we are definitely not seeing the clear picture here.
The End of Romans 7
Ninety-nine percent of the time, believers use three different scriptures to defend their sinfulness post-Christ, so I will explain these three scriptures and show why they do not defend a post-Christ sinful nature in any way. There are maybe a few other verses that have also been used to defend a post-Christ sinful nature such as Galatians 5:17, but if you look into the context of these verses more closely, you’ll clearly see that the author’s point was not to tell you that it’s acceptable to continue living in sin with Jesus in your heart.
The number one most used section of scripture to defend the doctrine of sin remaining in the believer’s life is the end of Romans chapter 7 (verses 14–24). I encourage you to follow along with me in your Bible translation of choice as I go through these verses:
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”ROMANS 7:14-24
Most of the church finds the end of Romans 7 to be extremely comforting. They read about how Paul wills to do what he does not do and about how he is constantly in a losing battle against his flesh. He says that he only practices evil and that he doesn’t even know how to perform good (verses 18–19). “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” he cries near the end. The reason people latch on so closely to this scripture is because the scripture is doing exactly what Paul meant for it to do. Paul was describing what it feels like when you try, try, try to live a sinless life and keep God’s laws all on your own. Paul was describing the exact feelings that we get when we try to keep ourselves from sinning. And he should know what that feels like because it was his career as a Pharisee for a long time. In my opinion, he nailed it. Applause to Paul. But you see, the point of Christ’s sacrifice was so that we don’t have to try, try, try to avoid sin anymore. He set us free from that struggle when He won the battle on the cross, and now sin has been defeated! It really is finished!
Just to make sure that you see this clearly, let’s look into the context of the end of Romans 7 more closely. In Romans 7:13, right before Paul begins his oration of feeling trapped within his own body, he says, “But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what was good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.” Then Paul goes on to explain how sin produced death through the law in his life (i.e., I will to do what I do not do, etc.). What people miss is that he’s describing what it used to be like back when he was a Pharisee and living for the law. But the thing is that we don’t live for the law anymore. We have been bought with a price, so our bodies and spirits belong to God, and now we live as slaves of righteousness for holiness (1 Corinthians 6:20, Romans 6:19).
If this one scripture isn’t enough to convince you, then let’s go back even further in Romans 7 and make sure that we get the complete context. First, be sure to recognize the simple fact that the entire chapter is referring to the law (and the end of the chapter is no different). In these next four verses, pay close attention to how Paul is alluding to his past while living for the law in all the verses prior to that end section of Romans 7 that people know so well.
- “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” Romans 7:5–6. Did you notice how Paul is linking his sinful passions to the law and placing all the verbs in the past tense? Also notice how he clearly distinguishes the past from the present in verse 6 with the words “But now,” and here in the present tense, he is dead to the law and free in the Spirit, so he is not going through this battle anymore! What it says is that the sin at work in his members that was aroused by the law is what is bearing fruit to death. Now turn to Romans 7:23 and you will see that Paul purposely parallels the EXACT words from Romans 7:5 by speaking about laws in his members in the very middle of his famous oration at the end of the chapter: “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Can it be any clearer? The end of Romans 7 and the beginning of Romans 7 are all talking about the same thing: living under the law and how there is no freedom in it! And Paul wanted to make it very, very clear!
- “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire…” Romans 7:8. Notice that sin came to Paul when he tried to live by the commandment. Also continue to notice the common themes of the law, sin, and the past tense being grouped together.
- “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me” Romans 7:11. Again, Paul is describing his past when he used to live for the commandments of the law and how it deceived him and killed him. Honestly, that’s what it sounds like Paul is feeling in the end section of Romans 7: deceived, trapped, enslaved, and killed. At the end of the chapter, he is simply speaking in the present tense in order to act out what his past feelings used to be like as a Pharisee. This literary device is a very common technique in playacting in theater; it is called a soliloquy.
Here’s the final nail to drive into this doctrine’s coffin: at the end of Paul’s rant about how he’s torn apart by sin, he says, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And then he says something unexpected: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25a). That’s weird; it sounds like Paul has every reason to be depressed, yet he is celebrating?! If you ask me, it sounds like Paul has found his Deliverer from his body of death. Then he goes on to say, “So then, with my mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:25b). Now most people stop reading here because it’s the end of chapter 7, which is a mistake. If you stop here, it’s easy to conclude that while we have fleshly bodies, we are subjected to the law of sin in the flesh.
However, it’s important to know that the end of chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8 are linked. There didn’t used to be different chapters or verses in the original letters that the apostles wrote that make up the New Testament. The beginning of Romans 8 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” This is the answer to the riddle. How do we go through life without sinning? We stop walking according to the flesh, and instead we walk according to the Spirit! Do you see? It’s not up to us at all! The Spirit of God is doing all the work and all the leading! He has given us the means to go through life without sin through His Spirit!
Just a few verses later, Romans 8:9 stated even more explicitly, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Wow! The word of God actually says that we are not even in the flesh anymore; we are in the Spirit! And this is what the remainder of Romans chapter 8 describes, walking in the Spirit and obtaining the freedom and the glory of God. Philippians 2:13 says this: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Does that remind you of the end of Romans 7 or what? “I will to do what I do not do…”) But this verse is saying that God is in charge of both of those things in our lives now! Wow! We truly serve an awesome and amazing God, don’t we?
A quick note: if you are identifying with Paul’s feelings about being trapped in his sinful flesh when you read the end of Romans 7, then you are not walking according to the Spirit as God wants you to. A believer who is walking according to the Spirit should be reading the end of Romans 7 and then joyfully giving thanks to God that He has provided us with a way to be completely free from that struggle (just like Paul did in Romans 7:25). Let this be a gauge for you to check and see if there are certain areas in your life where you are still living under the law and not walking in the freedom of the Spirit. Don’t get caught in sin management, and above all, please stop believing that you have a scheduled appointment with sin in the future! There is true freedom in the Spirit, and finding this freedom will come to those who seek it!
Liars from 1 John
The second and third most used scriptures to defend sin in a believer’s life are practically in the same place, so I’ll do them together: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8) and “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). Here’s the thing: a lot of honest Christians are bad at reading context. If we would read and attempt to understand context more often, I doubt so many lies would creep into the church. So let’s make sure we get the correct context and go back a few verses starting at 1 John 1:5.
- “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” 1 John 1:5.
- “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” 1 John 1:6. Wow, there’s another great scripture to show we shouldn’t live in sin any longer.
- “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” 1 John 1:7. It seems like John really expects us to be able to walk in the light. Would you say that continuing to sin is walking in the light as He is in the light? Also, notice that it says Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
- “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” 1 John 1:8. Most people use this scripture to say, “See, I do have sin.” But the problem is that the verse before this one is saying that Jesus cleanses us from all sin. Then I would ask, “Did Jesus cleanse you from all sin or not?” This scripture is very clearly stating that everyone has sin in their lives before they begin to believe in Christ. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Those who are deceived are those who believe that they have never sinned before. Let’s keep reading to get more context though.
- “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9. What’s the first step to someone being born again? Confessing their sins and being cleansed by the blood of Jesus. After that, Jesus is faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Pay attention to the next verse because it further clarifies verse 8.
- “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” 1 John 1:10. Again, this is clarifying verse 8. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all need His Son as a sacrifice! Now just as Romans 7 and 8 were linked, we’re going to keep reading and you’ll see that 1 John chapters 1 and 2 are linked also.
- “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin” 1 John 2:1. You see? John is writing this letter to the church so that the church will not sin! So why do we continue to declare that we are sinners and we can’t help but have sin in our lives?? I think John would disagree with that teaching!
- “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” 1 John 2:2. This verse shows that even if we do sin after we have been born again, which is possible but usually only happens when a well-meaning believer gets sucked into one of the devil’s stupid traps, God will still forgive us because Jesus sits at His right hand as an Advocate for us—wonderful!
- “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” 1 John 2:3. Amen!
I believe that it is much easier to understand 1 John 1:8 and 1 John 1:10 if you read the two scriptures within context. As you can see, John is clearly not telling us to live in sin, despite what those who do not have renewed minds may want to believe.
True Freedom by the Spirit
I need to clarify something here. I think it is very clear at this point biblically that we are no longer supposed to live in sin, so what now? Like I said earlier, the Christian church these days accepts that people live in sin every day because we cannot help ourselves. That’s the point right there. We can’t do anything about our sin nature. Only God can. I don’t believe God’s intention is to hold people in a legalistic/law-minded form of bondage. On the contrary, sin took advantage of the law (Romans 7:8), and God does not want the Christian to be law-oriented; He wants Christians to be freedom-oriented. God always knew the law was powerless to set us free but that was His desire for us all along—complete freedom. So what did He do? He took the list of requirements held against us by the law and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14)! And since we were fully cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, God had a perfect avenue to send us His Spirit who empowers us to fulfill the law and finally achieve all that God designed us to do.
So what are we supposed to do? How do we fulfill the law and be freedom-oriented simultaneously? We are supposed to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. It’s time to stop being sin conscious and start being God conscious, and we do this by committing to keep our focus on the One who sets us free. Too often we get so wrapped up in what we did wrong or why our struggle against the flesh is so difficult, but that is not God’s vision for us. We need to stop focusing on our problems and start focusing on the Solution!
While Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus, he was doing great until he did one thing: he took his eyes off the Lord. He started looking around at the storm (at his problems, worries, fears, hardships, etc.), and then what happened? He started sinking. Honestly, I believe that God fully expects us to do the impossible, which is to live a sin-free life, starting now. Yes, I know it feels like walking on water. But if we keep our focus on God, “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23)! Nothing is impossible if we have God with us! I think it’s time for the church to change our understanding of the word believer. Don’t you?
Amazingly, our identity changes drastically when we begin to actually believe that Jesus bought us complete freedom, and through that belief, we can begin to sincerely walk in the Spirit. I’ve seen the fruit of this in my own life and the lives of others, and it is wonderful to behold! Fear, worry, anxiety, and depression are replaced by permanent peace and joy; wrath and lust are rendered powerless; sickness flees as the body is healed; hope continually anchors the soul; and the love of Christ compels us to share the Gospel with any who will listen! It’s essential to realize that walking in the Spirit and obtaining this miraculous transformation is all about faith. You see, as believers, we hold on to faith, despite how difficult our circumstances or present situations seem to be. And we are not empowered by our own strength or ability to keep this faith, but rather our faith lies in the faithfulness of God to deliver us from any struggle or any obstacle that seems to be in our way and He will be our power for us (see Psalms 91).
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I am very aware that our daily hardships and tribulations can easily feel consuming, overtake us, and leave us feeling burned, but I’m telling you that the fire cannot harm you because the fire is not the issue. We need to believe that there is Another in the fire with us and that He will carry us through it unharmed (Daniel 3:25)! If God shut the mouths of the lions for Daniel because Daniel was found innocent before the Lord (Daniel 6:22), how much more will He shut the mouths of lions for you who were cleansed and made righteous by the precious blood of Jesus?
So do you believe that you are truly innocent and righteous before the Lord, or are you still a sinner who sins every day? My deep concern for us is this: if we truly believe that we are continually tainted by sin, then does that belief actually cause us to remain tainted? And if we are, in fact, tainted by sin, then will we truly be found innocent before the Lord when the lions come into our lives seeking to devour us? I want you to seriously give this question some thought. What is your regular confession about your innocence and righteousness? Do you regularly express gratitude that Jesus your Savior has made you righteous? Or do you more regularly confess that you are nothing but a wretched sinner? Hear me brother or sister in Christ: I want you to know that your confession will absolutely affect whether or not the enemy has power over your life. Your expression of faith (or the lack thereof) is certainly known in the spirit world.
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.
Dual Nature Theology
A name that God told me to give to the modern-day theology about sin is this: Dual Nature Theology. Dual nature theology is defined as the belief that we have two natures living within us: a fleshly/human nature and a spiritual/godly nature. Essentially, dual nature theology instills the belief that our fight against the flesh will never end in this life because we must constantly overcome our fleshly nature and choose the godly nature living within us. But let me be clearer about the core concept of dual nature theology by phrasing it this way: dual nature theology is the belief that Christ lives within us, but sin lives within us also. Interesting. So what that means is that both good and evil occupy the same space at the same time within our physical and spiritual bodies. Is this even possible when we think about what the Bible teaches us?
“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18 and Luke 6:43). In other words, Jesus said that you are either one or the other. You are either a good tree that produces good fruit or a bad tree that produces bad fruit. It directly contradicts the teachings of Jesus to claim that we have both good and evil living within us. Here is another scripture that confirms this from John: “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.” (1 John 3:7)
Based on the words of Jesus, what should we expect to happen if we really did have conflicting dual natures present within us simultaneously? “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand” Matthew 12:25 and Mark 3:25.
Okay. Where is the kingdom of God? Where is the city of God? Where is the temple [or house/tabernacle] of God?
- “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” Luke 17:20b–21.
- “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” Matthew 5:14.
- “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glory God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” 1 Corinthians 6:19–20.
- “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God’” Revelation 21:3.
Is it possible for God’s house (i.e., you, if you are in Christ) to be a house of righteousness and a house of sin at the same time? The answer is vehemently no. Dual nature theology is a tradition of man, and I believe that it is time for us to put away the idea of a dual nature and to build our faith on rock rather than sand. We need to commit to the truth that we are not warring within ourselves on a daily basis because the flesh has really died! Let us not forget that Jesus said to us that a “house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:25), so it is very clear that those who struggle with dual nature theology will fall into sin again once they are tested: “And the rain descended, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:27).
False Hope Through Dual Nature Theology
We incorrectly counsel the body of Christ when we teach that we will always have to struggle with a dual nature. We rightfully assert that the Spirit of God lives in us but err when we teach members of the church to “recognize reality,” which states that because we still live in natural bodies, we are therefore subjected to the lusts of the flesh on a daily basis. But what reality are we mistakenly preaching we are living in with these words? Are these messages teaching a worldly reality or a kingdom reality?
We should be more careful about what we teach, because when we judge the “reality” of life based on our personal ideas and views, we can quickly trap ourselves and others in our own misconceptions. Let us not forget to determine God’s expectations for us in this life based on His word rather than our emotions, our feelings, or even our own personal performance. Always remember, we are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), so stop focusing on where we aren’t and start focusing on what He has empowered us to become!
One of the most serious problems with dual nature theology is that it instills misguided (or false) hope into the body of Christ. Our true hope should always be in the immediate deliverance of all our bondages through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, but instead of believing in the power of His sacrifice that works today, many of us have been greatly deceived into another hope, a false hope of escape from this world, which only comes through either the rapture or death. It is a very sad thing when we place our hope in the rapture or death, because then believers are simply left waiting for their God-given end. We are waiting for God to get us out of this mess through the rapture, or if we have to die, then at least we get to go to heaven and will finally experience true peace and joy in our new bodies. But don’t we already have peace and joy promised to us right now in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)? Perhaps there is much more available to us through the Holy Spirit that we don’t fully understand, and the indwelling of the Spirit is more worthy of our hope than the rapture or death. Never forget that hope is the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19), so be very careful about where you set that anchor.
Dual nature theology will readily admit that true freedom from sin only comes in the next life, but Jesus said otherwise: “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:36). Please actually go to your Bible and read the full context of this verse, because Jesus is specifically talking about freedom from sin and unfortunately most pastors tend to gloss over that fact. (Specifically refer to John 8:31–47.) We constantly forget that God has already given us full peace, joy, and a brand-new life along with all the other fruits of the Spirit through His Son, and He has told us that death is actually our enemy (John 8:51, 1 Corinthians 15:26, Revelation 20:14), so it is a shame when this enemy manages to twist itself into hope for so many of us.
I have spoken in depth with Christian brothers on this subject many times, and I have heard this tragic theme projected constantly. One brother, who has followed Christ for decades, literally made this statement to me: “Death is our great deliverer!” It was both troubling and sad to hear him say that. Where did he learn to speak that way? No, death will never be my deliverer; my Deliverer is Jesus Christ, and He did the impossible by conquering death and the grave!
Teachings from the Devil
So how did the church manage to get so ensnared in the idea that we sin every day even after we have been born again? Did you know that there is not one verse in the Bible, Old Testament or New Testament, that says God’s people sin every day? Look for yourself. I think I have a very good guess as to who put that idea into the minds of the church. I’ll even give you a hint; he’s really good at deceiving people…
I believe that this doctrine from the devil has caused an extremely significant amount of damage in the church because it is a foundational doctrine in every believer’s life and it can completely reshape our thinking into something other than what God wants. Christians are expected to mature and grow, but if we can’t even get past the most elementary principle of sin, then how can we progress at all? We will just satisfy ourselves with milk when there is solid food out there to be eaten. Let’s examine Hebrews 5:12-6:1 briefly.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first [elementary] principles of the oracles God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age [i.e. mature in the faith], that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go onto perfection [ i.e. maturity], not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God“HEBREWS 5:12-6:1
Hebrews 5:12-6:1 is one of the most clear sections of scripture that illustrates my position. As we examine the passage above we can see that there are two distinct groups: those who only drink milk and those who eat solid food. To define the ones that only partake of milk, they are: 1) unskilled in the word of righteousness, 2) they seem to repeatedly lay the foundation of repentance from dead works, and 3) they lack some level of faith towards God. Amazingly, the author of Hebrews is referring to the exact problem that I am describing in this book. Those who only partake of milk are unskilled in understanding righteousness because they repeatedly have to repent from dead works due to the fact that they really don’t have the proper foundation of faith towards God. In other words, these baby Christians are continually falling into sin because they do not have faith that God can make them righteous, therefore, they do not understand the word of rightousness. Are you seeing this? Evidently, those of full age are 1) the ones who are skilled in the word of righteousness, 2) they have a strong foundation for faith toward God, and 3) they understand how to discern both good and evil. That means that the mature believers understand how to keep themselves from dead works (i.e. sin) because they know good and evil and they have the faith in God that is required to propel them into maturity.
The immense failure of our modern-day churches by not teaching this stuff is truly horrible. But unfortunately it gets worse, because by teaching dual nature theology (i.e. the exact opposite of the true biblical doctrine) pastors are instead teaching Christians a slavery doctrine instead.
Romans 6:16 states, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” This is a scary verse considering the doctrine of sin generally taught today. How often is it taught that we can’t help but live in some level of sin, even after we have Jesus in our lives, because we are still imperfect creatures? Sounds like slavery to me. Not only that, but when pastors imply that it’s a normal thing to sin for the born-again individual, isn’t it obvious that they are setting up their own flock for failure? What’s the first thing that an immature/baby Christian is going to do when his pastor tells him that he still has to live with sin after being born again? He’s going to fall right back into his old sinful patterns and lifestyles and continue living an enslaved life.
I’m sorry to be so frank because it is not my intention to crush peoples’ toes, but the idea that we continue to sin after being born again is completely from the devil. If I were the devil, I would want a Christian to believe Christ can’t change your situation one bit, and keep you believing that you have to continue fighting a battle that has already been won. This mentality will trap the average Christian in works (like the end of Romans 7) because it just returns the believer back to the law! And when we return to the law, we have lost all the power and fruit of Spirit and we end up just trying to avoid sin or trying to be a good Christian. At that point, we’ve missed the entire picture and have completely halted our growth and power in the Lord! This is exactly what the devil wants us to do, because let’s face it, infants are much easier for the lion to hunt down and devour.
Now that the current doctrine of sin taught in churches today has been thoroughly dismantled, I am going to move on to the second position to consider about sin in the body of Christ. As you go into this second section, keep in mind that God desires our focus to shift. He doesn’t want us to focus on the middle ground between sinfulness and perfection; He wants us to keep our eyes on the prize! God does not want us to maintain a balanced diet between good and evil; He wants us to have an imbalanced diet by only feasting from the Tree of Life!
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the entire purpose of this book is to increase your faith towards God, and on that note it is my hope that this book helps you achieve the freedom and more profound spiritual maturity that God desires for you to obtain.
The Second Position: Perfection?
The second position available in Christ about sin in our lives is this: after being born again, we become transformed into a completely new creation, we no longer have a sinful nature, and we will never sin again. Perfection is attainable.
Before I begin to launch into my explanation of this position, I must acknowledge that I fully understand the sheer absurdity that strikes most of my readers regarding even entertaining the idea of perfection outside of heaven. I am also very aware that the reputation of so-called perfectionists by the vast majority of pastors is generally negative. However, I committed to teaching what the Lord has taught me, and because I know for a fact that what the Lord has shown me is beneficial for instruction and provides wonderful fruit, I will continue with a sincere promise to you: if you will remain humble and open to what I say below, like a child would be, then you will gain beautiful insight into God’s will for your life, your identity, your destiny, and your ultimate purpose. God truly sacrificed everything on the cross, and through the ultimate sacrifice, He intends for us to receive everything that His kingdom holds (John 16:14–15).
First, it is important to define what the word perfect means. Many of us think that the word perfect denotes individuals who are 100 percent correct in every single thing that they say and do. These persons are believed to be never wrong because they know everything and are more advanced than everyone else in all their thoughts and actions (i.e., they are supposedly omniscient). The problem with this definition is that it is not how the Bible defines perfection.
The words for perfect in the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are very similar in their definitions. In fact, they virtually mean the exact, same thing, and rather than describing the great abilities, knowledge, or actions that we might expect to see from a perfect individual, the words actually describe the purity of a person’s character and heart and their full growth in the Lord.
For example, most of the Hebrew words for perfect originate from the word tamam, and collectively they mean “to be finished,” “complete,” “at an end,” “to cross over,” “made whole,” “to deal in integrity,” “perfect,” “perfectly honest weights for scales in business transactions,” “unblemished,” “whole,” “blameless,” “to act uprightly,” and “to be clean.”
The words in the ancient Greek for the word perfect originate from telos, which is translated as “complete,” “brought to an end,” “perfect,” “finished,” “nothing more necessary for completeness,” “consummate human integrity and virtue,” “mature,” “full-grown,” “an adult,” “full of age,” or “paid in full.” And collectively, the other words in Greek that mean perfect are translated similarly. Some of these other definitions include “repaired” or “restored,” “nothing is maimed,” and “the presence of all parts necessary for completeness” and also “the adaptation and aptitude of these parts for their designed purpose.”
These are the comprehensive definitions of the word perfect as it is used biblically. I hope the biblical definition of the word perfect clarifies your understanding of how God views perfect people on earth. Now that we have a better understanding of what it means to be perfect, let us take a closer look at people in the Bible who are characterized as being perfect. This might surprise you, but in the Bible, Jesus Christ was not the only human described as being perfect. The biggest difference between Jesus and the rest of humanity is that Jesus never sinned in His life, but even though these other men sinned in their lives, they were still seen as perfect in God’s eyes. This only further proves how powerful and wonderful God’s grace and mercy are for us.
In the Old Testament, there are several people who are described as perfect. Obviously, God is described as perfect (2 Samuel 22:31), but we also see several other men given the exact, same description of perfection. Noah was perfect (Genesis 6:9), Abram/Abraham was told to be perfect by God (Genesis 17:1), God says that Job is perfect (Job 1:1, 1:8, 2:3), King David is described as perfect (1 Kings 11:4), King Asa was perfect (1 Kings 15:14 and 2 Chronicles 15:17), King Hezekiah asks God to heal him because he was perfect (2 Kings 20:3), and John the Baptist’s parents, both Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, were righteous and blameless in all of the commandments and ordinances of the Lord (Luke 1:5-6). So we can see that even before Christ even came onto the scene and died for the world’s sins, some people were still able to attain perfection in God’s eyes.
If this strikes you as odd, it should, because what is absent from the picture here is the infilling of the Holy Spirit who empowers us to accomplish more than we ever thought possible. Don’t forget that the kings and prophets of old didn’t have the Holy Spirit living in them the same way as we do today. And considering that fact, it is important not to make the mistake of comparing yourself to the great kings and prophets of old and doubting your ability to achieve or attain what they have accomplished, because Jesus Christ made this all-inclusive statement to put it into perspective for you: “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28).
Do you see what Jesus is saying? He is saying that if the kingdom of heaven lives within you, then you have something greater than every single man ever born before John the Baptist (which includes every person featured in the Old Testament)! So what is being declared by God Himself is that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, the ceiling of the kings and prophets of old has actually become your floor. You are therefore expected by Jesus to be greater and to do greater things than any men from the Old Testament ever did!
This aligns perfectly with what Jesus said about what we would accomplish in comparison to even His own works while He was on earth: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). The point of all this is to never allow your expectations (or your faith) in God’s ability to work through your life to falter in any way at all, because His will for you is that you believe that through your life, He will do the greatest and mightiest works this world has ever seen! If we could believe that this is possible, then maybe we would start to see some of the mighty miracles that Jesus performed in His time on earth happen today.
I believe that it is crucial to lay a solid foundation of any doctrine we form using an abundance of scripture. For a scriptural doctrine or theory to be presented, I believe that two or three “witnesses” should be required (based on Deuteronomy 19:15, Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1). Considering this biblical practice of finding two or three witnesses, I asked God to show me some scriptures testifying toward a perfect nature doctrine in His word.
Here are some of the scriptures that God revealed to me in the Old Testament:
- “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be perfect…” Genesis 17:1.
- “You shall be blameless [or perfect] before the Lord your God” Deuteronomy 18:13.
- “God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect” 2 Samuel 22:33.
- “Let your heart therefore be loyal [or blameless, wholly true, perfect] to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at this day” 1 Kings 8:61.
- “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless [or perfect] toward Him” 2 Chronicles 16:9.
- “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect” Psalms 18:32.
- “Mark the blameless [or perfect] man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace” Psalms 37:37.
- “I will behave wisely in a perfect way…” Psalms 101:2.
- “My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with Me; he who walks in a perfect way, he shall serve Me” Psalms 101:6.
- “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever” Psalms 138:8.
- “For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it” Proverbs 2:21.
And here are the witnesses that God showed to me in the New Testament:
- “You will be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” Matthew 5:48.
- “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” Matthew 19:21.
- “If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light” Luke 11:36.
- “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” Luke 6:40.
- “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” John 17:22–23.
- “…the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, [goes] to all and on all who believe” Romans 3:22.
- “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” Romans 12:2.
- “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” 2 Corinthians 7:1.
- “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. And this also we pray, that you may be made complete [or perfect]” 2 Corinthians 13:9.
- “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete [or perfect]. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” 2 Corinthians 13:11.
- “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure and stature and fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning and craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” Ephesians 4:13–15.
- “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” Colossians 1:28.
- “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” Colossians 3:14.
- “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” Colossians 4:12.
- “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but into holiness” 1 Thessalonians 4:3–7.
- “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely [or perfectly]; and may your whole [entire, complete, free from sin, no part incomplete] spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
- “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete [or perfect], thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16–17.
- “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” Hebrews 6:1.
- “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified” Hebrews 10:14.
- “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, That Great Shepherd of the Sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete [or perfect] in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” Hebrews 13:21.
- “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” James 1:4.
- “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” James 3:2.
- “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” 1 Peter 1:22–23.
- “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” 1 Peter 5:10.
- “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble” 2 Peter 1:10.
- “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” 1 John 2:5–6.
- “Little children let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” 1 John 3:7.
- “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” 1 John 4:17–18.
- “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” Jude 24.
Wow. I have reviewed this section easily a hundred times, and reading these verses never ceases to amaze me. I encourage you to take a quick moment right now and lift up your hands and thank God Almighty for His wonderful provision and power in our lives. May His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Now you have read the abundance of scripture that supports the idea of perfection (which has always been there and has been just waiting for us to see it), but somehow it seems as though we have been snared into believing that we are still sinful with Christ in us!? At this point, isn’t it obvious to you that we have been fooled? The truth is, we don’t believe that we are still sinners because God wants us to remain humble; we believe that we are still sinners because the devil doesn’t want empowered believers to walk the earth. I just gave you thirty-nine distinct scriptures that are practically ignored in mainstream church doctrine about perfection, not to mention over thirty scriptures in the previous section about freedom from sin! Is it clear to you now that God has much greater intentions for our lives than we do? We have an incredible legacy to live up to, and we are falling short because we do not believe in it!
Good and Evil since the Beginning
One important question to ask is this: are being perfect and being sinless the same thing? I think that this is a very interesting question with a very encouraging answer that will help you better grasp what sinlessness and perfection truly are. In order to explain this properly, I like to look at Adam and Eve and ask the same questions: before the fall of man, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, were Adam and Eve sinless? Obviously, the answer here is yes because sin hadn’t been introduced into them until they ate the fruit.
Now comes the more interesting question: were Adam and Eve perfect before the fall? There is a less obvious but clear answer to this question that can be deduced by looking at the facts of what happened. Remember, perfection means that someone has come to full maturity; they are a full-grown individual with discernment and understanding. A perfect man walks uprightly and is righteous, and the wicked one does not touch him because he cannot touch him. Therefore, I would easily argue that Adam and Eve were not perfect before they ate from the tree because they were not mature enough to discern the evil of the serpent. Their lack of maturity and understanding is what caused them to fall into deception. In other words, the wicked one was able to touch them, proving imperfection in their discernment and wisdom.
You might be wondering, how is this encouraging? It seems as though a lack of perfection will cause us to slip and fall into sin. The reason this is encouraging is because there is a growing period for every born-again individual. Just as children who are born must grow into adulthood, in the same way, a reborn person spiritually must grow into the maturity of the faith as well! In the same way a seed planted must have time to grow before it bears fruit, we must expect growth to occur before we will reach our full potential and be full-grown, which the Bible calls perfection. Adam and Eve clearly were not fully grown in the Lord, but nevertheless, everything that was made on the earth before the fall was still considered good by God.
Therefore, the encouragement is that we can all give ourselves space and time to grow into deeper understanding with God, because that is His will for us, but we must realize that there is a point when we are expected to be all grown-up! And we don’t have to wait for our life in heaven to get there! God fully expects perfection (i.e., maturity) in our lives on earth as believers. Do you know that everywhere in the New Testament where Jesus and Paul refer to maturity, it is the same, exact word in the original Greek as perfection, just translated differently? The verses below show that maturity/perfection is expected of us, so let’s try to get used to the idea of getting there. Deal?
- “Now the [seeds] that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity [or perfection/full growth/fruitfulness]” Luke 8:14.
- “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature [or perfect/full-grown], yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” 1 Corinthians 2:6.
- “Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature [or perfect/full-grown/adult men]” 1 Corinthians 14:20.
- “Therefore let us, as many as are mature [or perfect/full-grown], have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you” Philippians 3:15.
Always Produce Fruit for the Kingdom
Never forget that just because there should be a complete absence of sin from our lives does not mean that everyone around us will be instantly release from sin at the same time. We very well may find ourselves surrounded by thorns and tares on all sides, but we are still expected to be fruitful. The parable of the wheat and tares, along with the parable of the talents, should instill in us a fearful expectation of judgment if we do not enter the maturity that God intends for us.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”Matthew 13:24-30
As you can read, it is well understood by God that we are surrounded by thorns, thistles, and tares in our lives, but He has chosen to allow us to grow side by side with the tares until the harvest comes, we are reaped from the world, and then the good crop and bad crop are separated. As you can see, even though we are surrounded by thorns, we are still expected to be fruitful for the kingdom.
The parable of the talents/minas portrays a similar message (Matthew 25:14–30, Luke 19:11–27). In this parable, Jesus makes it clear that God will expect to collect what He did not deposit and reap where He did not sow, which means that we are obligated to produce fruit for Him, even in the midst of a sinful world. There should be a fearful expectation for followers of Christ who do not bear fruit to maturity because, clearly, God judges those who don’t! This is an important warning from Jesus about the judgment to come that should instill a healthy and valuable fear of the Lord in your heart.
But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”Matthew 25:26-30
Did you notice that the lord in this parable gathered where he did not scatter? The significance of this is incredible because only mature, full-grown plants are able to produce fruit, which causes more seed to be spread! Therefore, God fully expects us to grow to maturity and produce fruit for the kingdom!
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16).
The Growth Process and Choices
Even though an expectation of God for us is to become mature, produce fruit, and therefore be viewed as perfect in His eyes, I would also like to point out that a growing process does take place in the believer’s life before maturity occurs. I want to exhort you to never use the fact that a growing process exists to give yourself an excuse to fail or stumble but rather allow this knowledge to encourage you and press you onward as you continue to walk through the various trials in life. I will reemphasize my point from earlier: Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galations 5:16). So our daily and constant focus should always be walking in the Spirit, and that will be the path to how the growth process gets accelerated and completed in the man and woman of God in this life. Remember, you are not made to be in a state of never-ending growth, but rather you are expected to go on to perfection, produce fruit for the kingdom of God, and be a mature follower of Christ. Nevertheless, here are several verses that indicate there is a growing period for our lives:
- “But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest…’” Matthew 13:29–30a.
- “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into him who is the head—Christ” Ephesians 4:15.
- “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” 1 Timothy 4:15.
- “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, all hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” 1 Peter 2:1–2.
- “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” 2 Peter 3:18.
Just as it was in the beginning of creation, it is still the same today. God always gives us a choice about which tree to eat from: the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was the biggest mistake Solomon continually made throughout his lifetime. The Bible said that Solomon was not perfect before the Lord, and it was because he sought the knowledge (i.e., the experience, the thrill, the enjoyment) of good and evil (see 1 Kings 11:4 and 1 Kings 15:3 and the book of Ecclesiastes). In other words, instead of continuing to eat only from the Tree of Life (as he was supposed to), he continually pursued carnal knowledge and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the eyes of God, this is not a full-grown, mature man of God but rather an ignorant, foolish, and inexperienced child of the faith, who is persuaded by any and every wind of doctrine and who will pursue and believe many lies and deceptions of the devil. It is amazing, and fearful, how one of the wisest men to ever walk the earth can lack so much wisdom in such an important aspect of life. Remember that even with all the wisdom God has made available to you, nothing will ever compare to being led by the Spirit. This is why the Holy Spirit, as a Helper, was such a powerful and important gift from God for us, because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17).
On a sidenote, the word for evil in Hebrew is ra and is the same word that we see in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The full definition of the word includes not only immorality, unrighteousness, uncleanness, and evil but also misery, sadness, heartbreak, illness, death, and suffering. When you consider the meaning of this word, it becomes clear why God did not want humanity to eat from this particular tree in the Garden of Eden: because He wanted to spare us from any form of evil altogether! It was His love for humanity when He told Adam not to eat from the tree, because God’s only desire for Adam was goodness, joy, peace, life, and love, which can only be obtained by eating from the Tree of Life. Just as a loving earthly parent wants to spare their children from any form of suffering, sadness, heartbreak, and immorality, God, in His infinite love, only desired the same thing for us, His children, from the very beginning. He will always give us a choice to follow Him or not, but He hopes we will pursue life and godliness rather than evil and pain.
How to Handle Trials and Challenges
In my opinion, one of the best challenges to address this subject is this: “What happens if sinful thoughts run through my head? Jesus did tell us that if you lust in your heart, you commit adultery, or if you hate in your heart, you commit murder.” Amen, He did say that. But notice that Jesus did not say, “If a lustful or hateful thought runs through your mind, you have committed adultery or murder.” This is important because it seems to be a stumbling point for a lot of people. Think about it like this: the fact you don’t even enjoy the thoughts that sometimes race through your mind is evident enough that your heart has been changed. Read that last sentence again until you understand it. There is a huge difference between a thought passing through your mind that you deliberately and quickly reject versus meditating on lustful or hateful thoughts and placing them on your heart. Remember that there used to be a time in your life when those thoughts would settle on your heart and you wouldn’t even blink an eye! Just the fact that those thoughts bother you now reveals that your heart has been changed!
Also, remember this: just because the serpent succeeded in tricking Eve into eating the fruit in the garden does not mean that the serpent has stopped whispering in our ears. So if you have a nasty thought passing through your mind that you want nothing to do with, odds are, something is whispering to you and trying to get you to believe that you are something that you’re not! Jesus said, “A stranger’s voice my sheep will not follow” (John 10:5). Notice that He doesn’t say we won’t hear the stranger’s voice (i.e. the voice of temptation), just that we won’t follow it. Always remember when you hear the stranger’s voice to submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). How do you submit to God? You declare the truth, because the truth sets you free. Start thanking God (out loud) that He has changed you and that you are a completely new person who is completely free from sin. By doing this, you are confessing with your mouth that you believe Him and His word rather than the words of a stranger. And don’t stop submitting to God until the stranger’s voice is good and gone!
So let’s say that a day comes when you do find that you made a mistake. Let’s say that you forgot to submit to God in the moment that you needed to, you committed a sin, and God, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, told you that you sinned. Remember that this is possible for believers (see 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 5:16–17); it’s just highly unlikely and very rare among mature believers. God wants us to have the correct response in this situation, so how should we respond at that time if it comes?
First of all, I want to tell you what the devil is going to say to you in the intensity of that moment. You’ll hear something along these lines: “You see! You’re still just a screwup. You haven’t been changed at all or else you never would have sinned in the first place. How can you believe that you are actually righteous and perfect when you go and do something like that? You’re never going to be what God expects you to be. You failed Him, you failed yourself, and you failed the people around you. You are nothing but a failure.” Pretty harsh, huh?
Know that there are several things that the devil loves for you to focus on in order to trap you further, so you’ll hear some twisted combination of these negative emotions coming from him at any chance he can get: guilt, shame, discouragement, condemnation, fear, and especially doubt. How do I know that these negative emotions are often fed to us by the devil? Because the devil is the accuser of the brethren and literally accuses us before God day and night (Revelation 12:10), and I am not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). Besides, God wants us to have nothing to do with these types of responses if He has convicted us of sin. Check out these verses:
- “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” Romans 8:1.
- “For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’” Romans 10:11.
- “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” Hebrews 12:5–6.
- “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7.
- “For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” James 1:6–8.
The Lord wants our focus to continue to remain on one thing and one thing alone in the middle of these testing times: Him. We are not meant to get ashamed and go cover ourselves up with fig leaves and hide like Adam and Eve did! We are to come to our loving Father completely exposed, confessing our sin, and allow Him to wrap His loving arms around us and embrace us with His never-ending forgiveness. We are meant to regret our actions but our regret should produce godly sorrow, not the sorrow of the world, so that repentance will be produced, leading to salvation, and we can be cleared of this matter forever (see 2 Corinthians 7:8–12). We are to fall on His mercy and grace and allow Him, the God of hope, to fill us with all joy and peace in believing that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
With this hope, we can look up to heaven, to the face of God in the middle of our correction and express sincere thankfulness. We can actually thank the Father in the face of our sin for being loving enough to teach us. We can thank Jesus that His blood washed away this sin the second it happened, and we can thank God for the wise insight that He has given us about that sin so that in the future, we may walk in greater wisdom and will never fall into that sin again! I sincerely urge you to thank God in these moments. Thank Him that He is faithful, that He has made us righteous, and that He will always keep us in righteousness. This is the most humble and raw form of worship that we can offer our God, and I promise you, it pleases Him greatly. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
Our Holy Identity
There is unquestionable, biblical proof that all born-again believers are called saints. The word saint is used approximately sixty-one times to describe believers throughout most modern translations of the New Testament, and it is never used to refer to a nonbeliever. But do you know what the word saint means? The Greek word for saint is hagios, and it literally translates to mean “holy.” Want to know where else in the Bible the word saint, or holy, appears? It is used to describe the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Father, the Holy One of God (another name for Jesus) and is even the same word used to describe the Holy of Holies, which is the innermost room of the tabernacle where God’s presence dwelled with ancient Israel (Hebrews 9:3, 8).
Did you know that during every single moment of existence for all eternity, there are four living creatures in heaven who worship God nonstop, singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come,” and they are saying the same word as our name (Revelation 4:8)!!?? It is emphatically astounding to fathom the height, the depth, the length, and the width of God’s extraordinary, endless love for us when we realize that He gave us a name bearing such incredible glory and honor—His very own name!! “For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Luke 1:49). And another incredible example: “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed (i.e. holy) be thy name“ (Matthew 6:9)
Knowing this brings light to the true intentions of God for us through scriptures such as 1 Peter 1:15–16, which says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” What is the ultimate purpose of your life? Why were you born? Why do you exist at all? These are questions that the world will always ask, but as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we alone hold the answer. You were made to bear the name and the image of God and be a brightly shining lighthouse where the Lord Himself dwells, and there is no greater purpose, destiny, or calling in all existence! You were made to represent Him and He is holy, therefore you were made to be holy just like God is. It is time to claim what He purchased for you and live and walk in faith! You were made to bear His glory, His image, and His name for the kingdom of heaven to proclaim on earth, and it is time to believe it!!
You have heard it said that God will not share His glory with another: “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another…” (Isaiah 42:8). But I say to you that you are not just anybody to God; you are His body, and God wants us to carry and manifest His glory everywhere we go! In John 17:22–26, Jesus Christ prays the following prayer for all believers on earth:
“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name (i.e. holy), and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Consider this point as well: We are sons and daughters of our Father God, we are betrothed to the Son of God to be His holy bride in marriage, and the Holy Spirit lives within every believer! Does God need to be any clearer about the fact that we are in His holy club? If you truly want to see the depth of God’s desire to be one with us, then I highly encourage you to study out these scriptures and come to your own conclusion: Psalms 82:6, John 10:31–39, John 17:20–26, Romans 8:14–17, Hebrews 2:10–11. As deceived humans, we regularly attempt to place veils between ourselves and our Father, but never forget that He is always trying to tear the veil between us and connect us to Himself! Here’s my final passage of scripture to drive this point home—in Revelation 3:9, Jesus says to the faithful church on earth, “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” Do you see that in the last days, God will force disobedient men to come and actually worship faithful believers in the church? Did you ever expect that part of God’s will is that certain men will receive worship from others?
I realize that the content in this chapter will deeply challenge many readers, and I am not intending to push or even suggest that I have a dogmatic position on these statements about our oneness with God other than this one fact: God’s desire is not for us to continually focus on differences between us and Him (thereby separating ourselves from God and forming a veil) but rather focus on our oneness and likeness with Him, such as what He determined in the beginning: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’” (Genesis 1:26a).
In response to what I am writing, many will say that the idea of perfectionism will cause great arrogance to come to the Body of Christ and that will cause enormous problems for the church. It is possible and probable that many will take this doctrine too far and can become arrogant and proud and stray from God’s path. But let us not forget that Jesus, not us, is the head of His church, the body, and that the Lord will chasten those whom He loves. We are meant to judge one another and keep our brethren from slipping into sin, but not at the expense of truth in our own lives, so I say let us move forward toward perfection and expect correction, chastisement, and guidance from God the entire way! Do not look at the future and be fearful of other men’s abilities to stray from the path; instead look at the future with hope, knowing that God is leading and collectively guiding our lives into maturity, tremendous fruit, and great increase for the kingdom! This is the perfection that God wants for us!
Believing that you have been perfected by Christ and completely transformed is, by no means, the widely traveled or easy road. It takes sincere faith to hold on to God’s truth for our lives. It’s not any type of cop-out or a delusion of grandeur; it is a battle of the mind for faith. Jesus promised that we would face opposition because of our faith, and the truth is that this opposition won’t simply come from our own battles within our minds, but it will also come from the world, from family, from friends, and even from fellow believers. Jesus said that we would be hated by all for His name’s sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22). This tells us that true faith in God is never taking the easy road, but remember that the right path goes through the narrow gate.
I’m not afraid of the moment when I finally meet Jesus face-to-face that He will say to me, “Whoa, buddy! You believed that I accomplished WAY too much on the cross! Did you really think that My blood was that powerful? I can’t just make you perfect through faith alone!” This fantasy is actually humorous because we all know that Jesus would never respond that way. Instead, I know that when He returns, He will wonder to Himself, “Will I really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
The Bible is very clear in telling us that it takes humility in order to come to God. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34). It takes humility to realize that you need a Savior, but it also takes humility to realize that your Savior has really changed you, even to the point of perfection. We could say to ourselves that it isn’t possible for God to perfect us in this life and believe that we are taking the humble approach, but what we are truly doing is elevating our own understanding of what we believe God’s intentions are for us while completely ignoring what He clearly said His intentions are in His word! This is not humility at all. It’s pride. Instead, let us genuinely humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us in due time (1 Peter 5:6), because if God said that He would make us perfect, who do we think we are to argue?
Sanctification – How Does This Fit In?
During the course of writing this book, I was conversing with a very close brother in Christ about this topic. As we discussed sinlessness and perfection, he requested more information about the component of sanctification and how it fits into everything. Below you will read our discussion.
“About the sin doctrine you present… I understand we are sinless in Christ, and that we need never sin again—that is, to be like Christ now, before eternity. That is an awesome, faith-filled way to live. I’m torn because there are scriptures that talk about becoming sanctified, and many that state we are already made new in Christ, and our old self is dead. I’m curious how you conclude that you are now without sin, and need never sin again in regards to sanctification as I see it presented in scripture. Please convince me!”
I believe your question strikes the foundation of Christianity, and it especially strikes at the foundation of how the modern church has come to interpret God’s word as they read those seemingly contradicting scriptures that you are referring to. As for myself, I believe that this question marks just the beginning of our future as we grow in understanding God’s grace that He has given us. As I prayed about how to answer your dilemma, the Lord brought me to Hebrews 5:12–6:3. These verses impacted me greatly as I was growing in my understanding about sin because God revealed to me that the “elementary principles of Christ” referred to in these verses includes the modern church doctrine of sin. Hebrews 6:1 reveals it the most, where I underlined the key part I am referring to:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judg-ment. And this we will do if God permits.Hebrews 5:12-6:3
You see, in Hebrews 6:1, Paul is urging the Hebrews to not lay again the foundation of repentance from dead works. To put it plainly, Paul is not only telling us to put sin behind us once and for all, but on an even deeper level, he doesn’t even want us to reapproach the notion of sinning and repenting over and over again because that issue truly reveals a lack of faith in the individual. He urges the church to go onto something that is largely considered to be taboo in modern churches today: perfection (Greek word telios, which means “fully mature,” “full age,” “completed/finished work,” and literally “perfect”). Paul includes the words “faith toward God” in the end of Hebrews 6:1 because that is the biggest reason that we fall into the sin cycle over and over again: we have little faith that God has actually enabled us to turn from sin once and for all. Paul encourages us to have our faith fully established so that we can move beyond the elementary principle of sin.
Please understand that I am not suggesting that you are weak in the faith, and I am not criticizing your dilemma either. However, I would place some blame on the pastors and teachers who are teaching bad doctrine. Unfortunately, the current seminary-taught interpretation of scripture has formed a doctrine of sin that has become a stumbling block to followers of Jesus, and this bad doctrine is preventing us from growing in the Lord as He wishes we would. So back to what I was saying before: your dilemma strikes the foundation of Christianity, but I believe that when God answers your concern in a personal way for you you will see this is just the beginning of the journey toward perfection and complete maturity, just as Paul is saying in Hebrews 5:12–6:3. There is more than milk available to believers! Let’s grow into eating the solid food!
The reason I brought up repentance, sin, and perfection is because those things are largely linked to our modern cultural understanding of sanctification. So then, onto your dilemma: are we fully sanctified, or are we becoming sanctified in Christ?
Surprisingly, being fully sanctified is not the same as being perfect, but even though they are different, they both work together powerfully in the life of the believer. Basically, the difference is this: we can instantly be made pure and holy (i.e., sanctified) without having the maturity and understanding (i.e., perfection) to continually keep ourselves in purity by correctly discerning good and evil. One of the problems we face when trying to understand sanctification is that we try to make sanctified a synonym of perfection. So our misinterpretation of “fully sanctified” is to incorrectly translate it as “perfect, mature, or a finished work,” and likewise, the misinterpretation of “becoming sanctified” is to incorrectly translate it as “a work in progress in becoming holy.” What this has come to mean to us (in our incomplete understanding of sanctification) is that being fully sanctified must mean that we are completed and totally perfect (a concept most believers are unwilling to consider) and that being in the process of sanctification means that we are still working toward perfection, which seems to fit the sin doctrines taught in churches today.
So essentially, the concept that we are still becoming sanctified confirms to the believer that they are still imperfect, which means that they will always continue to have sin in their life and that, unfortunately, this will not change until they reach the goal of perfection, which only occurs in heaven. The true shame is that this seems to be what most of today’s Christians want to believe. By believing that we are not fully sanctified in this life we can effectively dismiss a certain level of our responsibility with our sin, and then we permit ourselves to freely accept imperfection because we are stuck in an endless pursuit of becoming sanctified. That means, when we mess up and sin, we can write it off with the “nobody is perfect” attitude, thank Jesus for washing away our sins, convince ourselves that we’ll try a little harder next time, and then simply continue on with our lives, only to repeat the same mistake again in the near future. This is how so many believers get stuck drinking milk and are not growing up and eating solid food. Of course there is a place in every believer’s life to grow closer to God and become more mature through a process, but growing to spiritual maturity is directly linked to faith, which comes by a more complete understanding of our full sanctification.
The reality is that sanctification and perfection are different, but understanding both is essential to our godly growth. Sanctification began in the very beginning with Adam and Eve being dressed in animal skins by God. God performed this sacrificial action to cleanse them from their sin because He wanted them sanctified when they departed from the garden. This model for sanctification eventually progressed to sacrifices of bulls and goats so that the Hebrews could remain holy before God as His people even though they regularly struggled with sin. However, the blood of bulls and goats was insufficient to make anyone perfect and it only served as a continual reminder of sin that needed to be cleaned year after year. Therefore, the sacrificial ritual was undesirable to God, and He sent His Son to make a final sacrifice that would sanctify His people forever (Hebrews 10:1-10).
Perfection, on the other hand, was unobtainable through the law (i.e. the law was powerless to make someone perfect—the law can only curse/condemn), and perfection was also unobtainable through ritual sacrificial sanctification as described in the Old Testament. The amazing hope that we are given in the New Testament is the hope that we can be fully clean [i.e. sanctified] from sin once and for all and finally become perfect in honor of our King. This is the grace of God that was never offered prior to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and the Holy Spirit being sent to His disciples. Perfection is our sustained spiritual maturity to continually bear good fruit for the kingdom while maintaining the wisdom, understanding, and the discernment to keep ourselves clean after Christ has washed us completely clean, which we are only capable of doing through the indwelling and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s get back to the idea of becoming sanctified—the truth of the matter is that it is impossible to be in a transition of sanctification. There is no such thing as becoming sanctified. Either you are sanctified or you are not. Period. For the Hebrews, the blood of their sacrifice was spilled for them, and then they were instantly purified… that is, until they inevitably sinned again… and at that moment they knew they were unclean and would have to go make another sacrifice. There never was a transitory period of time; the Hebrews were either pure or impure; clean or unclean. We see in Exodus 19:10 that Moses was instructed by God to go and “sanctify the people“, and in verse 14 Moses did as he was told. No transition period; the sanctification was simply performed as instructed. We also see that Aaron and his sons, and even all of their garments were sanctified before they entered the tabernacle (Leviticus 8:30). If garments can be fully sanctified then aren’t the people wearing the garments able to be fully sanctified also? So we see that sanctification is an event that instantly takes place, not a transitory spiritual state. The same is true with Jesus Christ. He makes you pure and holy only by believing in His sacrifice through faith. Where there is faith, there is justification for sin, but where there is no faith, there is only iniquity and judgment. Thus we become sanctified through our faith in Christ. We are not in the process of being sanctified by Christ, we are sanctified by Christ.
Sanctification requires a blood sacrifice, which was why the Hebrews had to maintain the sacrificial ritual so fervently. The life of the flesh is in the blood, and sin requires a life for a life in order for us to be washed clean (Leviticus 17:11) because the punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Since blood cleanses us from sin and makes us holy before God, then it shouldn’t be a surprise that the original Greek word for sanctification (i.e. hagiazo) comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “holy.” The translated words sanctify, sanctified, and sanctification appear approximately twenty-seven times in the KJV of the New Testament, and we can see that in these verses, it is used to described several different things: offerings are sanctified (Matt. 23:17, 19), food is sanctified (1 Tim. 4:4–5), men are sanctified (2 Tim. 2:21), spouses are sanctified (1 Cor. 7:14), believers are sanctified (1 Cor. 6:11), and even Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself, was sanctified (John 10:36, John 17:19). So all these things are made holy according to scripture. But here is something that most Christians do not know: the Greek word hagios (which is the root word of the word for sanctified, or holy) is the same, exact word used to describe the Holy Spirit, the Holy One of God (Jesus), the Holy Father, and even the Holy of Holies where God’s throne dwells.
Want to know where else we see the Greek word hagios? It is also the same, exact word that is used to describe the word saint all over the New Testament! So every time you see the word saint in the New Testament (it occurs approximately sixty times, and the word is regularly used to identify a believer in Jesus Christ), you are seeing the very same word as God’s name itself! The magnitude of this fact shows God’s unfathomable love for us in such a powerful way that it is impossible to describe! This brings 1 Peter 1:15–16 into a whole new light and should create a somewhat fearful expectation in us: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”
Just to further prove to you that being sanctified and being holy are the same thing, check out 1 Corinthians 1:2 where it says, “To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified [hagiazo] in Christ Jesus, called saints [hagios], with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” It cannot get clearer than this. Those who are sanctified are saints, and those who are saints are all believers everywhere. And we all share the same name as our Father in heaven, which is literally “Holy”—I say amen to that!
This is what it means to be sanctified. It means to be made holy just as God is holy. This is His expectation for us, and it is made clear in His word. The beginning of 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says this: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” Hebrews 9:13–15 says, “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” You see that 1 Thessalonians 4:3 openly tells us the will of God—our sanctification [i.e., our holiness], and Hebrews 9:13–15 says that our sanctification is the reason Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant [i.e. the New Testament]. In other words, the reason Jesus died was to fully sanctify us. If the blood of bulls and goats was able to sanctify the people before God in the olden days, how much more do you think the blood of Christ sanctifies us? We can only conclude that His blood sanctifies us wholly and completely, which aligns perfectly with 1 Thessalonians 5:23, which says, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Another strong verse that points toward our complete and total sanctification by Christ is 1 Timothy 4:4–5, which talks about food. It says, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified [hagiazo] by the word of God and prayer.” My question to you is this: if the food that we eat is able to be completely sanctified, then how much more are those who eat the food sanctified by the Word of God and prayer? Which is more valuable to God: food, or the people made in the image of God who eat the food?
“Okay… But I’m reading in the Bible that I am being sanctified, what do I do with this??”
Let’s examine the verses that claim we are becoming sanctified further. If you look into the “becoming sanctified” verses that you were talking about, you’ll discover that there are really only two verses that cause people to believe that we are becoming sanctified rather than believing we are fully sanctified in Christ when we accept His sacrifice for our lives—these are Hebrews 2:11 and Hebrews 10:14.
- NKJV, Hebrews 2:11— “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
- NKJV, Hebrews 10:14— “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
Now at first glance, those verses seem to refute what I have been saying. Apparently, there is a place for followers of Christ to become sanctified as well as be fully sanctified…? However, if you go to the original Greek in these verses and search for the word sanctified, you’ll notice that the same Greek word (hagiazo) that is used for the translations of “fully sanctified” in other places in scripture is the same, exact word used in the translations in the verses above (Hebrews 2:11 & 10:14) that were translated “being sanctified.” This is incredibly important because verses such as Hebrews 10:10 (“By that will we have been sanctified [hagiazo] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”), where it plainly and irrefutably claims that we are sanctified once and for all, or 1 Corinthians 6:11 (“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified [hagiazo], but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God”), where the verse explicitly says we were washed, sanctified, and justified by God altogether and all in the past tense, show us that the translation should be rendered exactly the same in Hebrews 2:11 and Hebrews 10:14, because the same, exact tense of the Greek word for sanctify was used in these two verses: hagiazo. To put it plainly, the two verses that cause us error should not have been translated to say “being sanctified”; they should say “are sanctified.”
Just to be sure that I was on the right track with this, I looked up Hebrews 2:11 and Hebrews 10:14 in a few different Bible translations just to see what they said. Here they are:
- King James Version, Hebrews 2:11— “For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
- King James Version, Hebrews 10:14— “For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
- New American Standard Bible, Hebrews 2:11— “For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
- New American Standard Bible, Hebrews 10:14— “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
- Amplified Bible, Hebrews 2:11— “For both He Who sanctifies [making men holy] and those who are sanctified all have one [Father]. For this reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
- Amplified Bible, Hebrews 10:14— “For by a single offering He has forever completely cleansed and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy [i.e., sanctified].”
- Young’s Literal Translation, Hebrews 2:11— “For both he who is sanctifying and those sanctified [are] all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
- Young’s Literal Translation, Hebrews 10:14— “For by one offering he hath perfected to the end those sanctified.”
- Geneva Bible— “For he that sanctifieth, and they which are sanctified, are all of one: wherefore he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
- Geneva Bible— “For with one offering hath he consecrated for euer them that are sanctified.”
It is amazing to me how such small translation differences in God’s word can have such large impacts on the beliefs of the church! All in all, the truth boils down to this: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). If we can keep our minds focused on verses like these (verses that speak hope, faith, renewed, and empowered identity into our lives), we will go a long way in our faith. Anytime someone tries to convince me that I’m less than what God said I am, I have to commit myself to remembering that He has made me completely new, completely whole and that He has given me all things that I need for full righteousness and godliness. This can become difficult when our own brothers and sisters in Christ try to teach us that we are less than what God said we are, but I never forget that I follow Jesus, who is the head of the church. I don’t follow the rest of the body, or my friends, or my family, and I especially do not follow some of the false teachings that are crippling the church. I follow Jesus alone.
“So where do we go from here? We are fully sanctified, yet I still find that I sin! Why is this??? Help!!”
Let us never forget that our freedom lies in our faith. This is why Jesus spoke so thoroughly about belief and faith, because it is incredibly important. We call ourselves believers in the church, but we don’t even know what that means. We are like Peter, who professed that he would never betray Jesus and then verbally disowned Him three times before morning!
If we want to experience a sinless life in Christ, the very first step we have to take is to repent from our old mindsets and believe that He made anything possible for us. Over and over again, Jesus told those who were healed by Him, “Your faith has made you well.” God is promising us that if we start with faith, THEN we will be healed, saved, set free, protected, preserved, and kept safe and sound. The old adage goes, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but with God, we should understand that He declares the opposite: “You’ll see it when you believe it.”
Do you want to be sinless? Do you want to be fully sanctified? Do you want to be healed? The first step has always been simple: believe.
My friend, I hope that my words help encourage you in your faith as you continue on your journey with God.
Run to Obtain the Crown
For the final chapter of the book, I would like to describe one passage of scripture that has been regularly used to argue against the idea of perfectionism and unpack it. However, another reason I chose this particular scripture to complete the book is because of its remarkable ability to refocus and direct the church for a lifelong journey of colaboring with Christ. It also encourages believers not to ever be held back by anything but to always push onward, because we will not reach our ultimate final goal until we meet Jesus face-to-face. This section of scripture tells us our true end goal for this life very clearly, and it is not likely the end goal that you would hope for.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected [finished, completed]; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have laid hold of it; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature [perfect], have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”Philippians 3:12-15
With the verse 12 by itself, it is easy to presume that Paul is admitting he is still imperfect. It would seem that this goes against everything that I have written about perfection because the thought that comes to us is this: “If Paul can’t reach perfection, then how is anyone else in the church expected to reach perfection?” The biggest dilemma with this line of thinking is that this option is immediately refuted within the recorded verses. Notice that Paul says in verse 12 that he has not obtained perfection, but then in verse 15, he says, “Therefore, let us, as many as are perfect, have this mind.” Is Paul saying that he has not obtained perfection and then, two sentences later, including himself with others who have obtained perfection? Obviously not because that wouldn’t make any sense. Again, as before, the truth about the meaning behind this passage lies in the context. It is always helpful to go back many verses to obtain full context for any passage of scripture, but in this case, the key verses for this contextual explanation are simply the two verses prior in Philippians 3:10–11.
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.”Philippians 3:10-11
Therefore, when Paul immediately follows these verses with “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected,” he is not talking about maturity and full growth in Christ with the word perfection here. In this case, the word perfection is referring to what we read two verses prior in the context: the fellowship of Jesus Christ’s sufferings, the conformation of His death, and the resurrection of the dead. Attaining the resurrection of the dead is what Paul is describing with the word perfection here because that is the ultimate goal and prize we are to press toward that Christ Jesus laid hold of for us. Do you see that Paul has a wonderful and focused view on life’s journey in this section, because he says that he forgets the things that are behind and always reaches forward to the things that are ahead? So even when you do reach a full age of spiritual maturity in Christ, that doesn’t mean that you are have finished your job. The end goal in Christ is what was laid hold of for us by Him: the fellowship of His sufferings (i.e., extreme persecution), the conformation to His death (i.e. martyrdom), and the resurrection of the dead. Did you know that all twelve apostles died a martyr’s death? (Yes, I am including John, who was executed by the Jews just before the turn of the century.)
Is the fact that the apostles were martyred mean we ought to have pity for them because of that? Not at all! They pressed toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus and succeeded! They knew that being martyred was a real, and probable, outcome of their faith, and I believe they viewed it as an honor to be conformed to Christ’s suffering and death in that way. How many believers do you know who have been martyred for their faith? Any at all? Do you know how rare that reward is? Do you realize there is a crown in heaven given to those martyred such as the apostles who received that prize (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10)? That crown must be glorious!
In verse 15, Paul states, “Therefore, let us, as many as are mature [perfect, full-grown, fully aged], have this mind,” and the reason that Paul says this is because mature believers understand that fellowshipping with Christ’s sufferings, being conformed to His death, and attaining the resurrection of the dead are truly some of the greatest prizes we can receive in this life, because these things are exactly what Jesus Christ went through on earth. This is a very mature position to take in Christ, because the last thing that most of us want is to fellowship in Christ’s suffering and death, which was an unimaginably horrible experience.
I know that this feels like a big pill to swallow, but let me show you how Paul makes this clearer just a couple of verses later. In verse 17, Paul says, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” The example that Paul wants his brethren to follow is pressing toward the goal of fellowshipping in all that Christ went through on earth, even to the point of suffering, death, and then resurrection. Let me make sure to be totally clear about this: Paul is not saying that our primary goal is to experience suffering and be martyred, but the goal is to imitate Christ as much as possible, even to the ultimate point of death. Christlikeness is what we always press into, and if you do a really, really good job of being like Christ, then it is very likely you will be persecuted and martyred and receive the crown of life on resurrection day. Remember, the world hated Jesus and if you look like Him then you should expect the world to hate you too (John 15:18)! Then Paul goes on to explain the glory of our new bodies that will accompany us with our citizenship in heaven.
What a powerful section of scripture! When fully understood, this passage certainly gives believers laser-focused direction in life. Never forget that to fellowship in Christ’s sufferings and death is a glorious thing and should be viewed as a wonderful, heavenly reward! I pray that you follow Paul’s example and do exactly that for the sake of the kingdom of heaven!
- “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” 1 Corinthians 9:24–25.
- “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” 2 Timothy 4:6–8.
I will conclude with one last verse, but I would like to explain it first. Who we are in this life is wholly made up of what we believe we are. If we believe we are sinners, then we will sin by faith. If we believe we are saved and that we have been fully transformed by Jesus, then that’s what we’ll be. God designed belief to be a major aspect of this life, and it definitely is. Do not underestimate the power of what you believe. I plead with you to always strive to get closer to God and to never attempt to put a ceiling on what He can do in and through your life, no matter how far-fetched it may seem. Belief is the center and foundation of our sinlessness in Christ, our growth to perfection when we produce fruit, our power to shake this world as we witness for the kingdom of heaven, and the glory in conforming to Christ’s sufferings, death, and resurrection. Above all, believe Him, have faith, and you will never fail or falter.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
I hope that you enjoyed the book and that this message increases your faith and elevates your spiritual maturity to a place that you never thought possible before. You are an incredibly valuable person in the Kingdom of God and God’s deepest desire is that you believe it and experience the fullness of what He purchased for you through the precious blood of His Son.
Here is another post that I wrote recently packed full of incredible information. If you liked my book then I think that you’ll like this too: The Greatest Sentence Ever Written.
God bless you!