Monthly Archives: August, 2017

Can a Christian Not Sin?

“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)

If the question is asked “Does a Christian not sin?” then the answer is no. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. . . . If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10). Even the most godly Christian does sin occasionally—in thought if not in deed, in omission if not in commission. The God-given antidote is 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

But there is a danger if we use such verses as an excuse for sinning or for taking sin too lightly. If the question is asked “Can a Christian not sin?” then the answer is yes! God indeed, in Christ, has made every provision necessary for a believer never to commit sin, and we are without any legitimate excuse whenever we do.

This must be so for at least two reasons. In the first place, Jesus Christ in His humanity is our example, and He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He accomplished this, not because of His deity, but solely in His humanity.

Secondly, God has commanded us not to sin, and He would never command us to do the impossible. For every temptation, there is a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), and we have no excuse if we fail to take it. Our only recourse is to repent and confess the sin.

Our text commands us to sin not! But then, it also reminds us that Christ is our great advocate before the Father. He is righteous and has already taken our sins away as our propitiatory sacrifice, so “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). HMM

The Offended Brother

“It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:21)

Here is a sound biblical principle (not the only one, of course) given to Christians to help them evaluate whether or not to engage in certain practices that are neither explicitly endorsed nor prohibited in Scripture. The question is not whether the practice will hurt the strong Christian who engages in it but whether his example might offend, or mislead, or discourage a weaker brother.

This matter of giving offense is quite serious in God’s sight. “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32).

The problem of eating meat purchased from temple markets, after it had been offered in sacrifice to idols, is not an issue for many Christians today, but it was a very real problem to new believers in the first century. The principle given by Paul for deciding that issue is still valid for other issues of today (type of clothing, recreational games, smoking, etc.). As Paul expressed it, “Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. . . . when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:9, 12-13).

On the other side of the coin, the strong Christian should be careful not to take personal offense himself at something done by a fellow believer. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165). The rule for a mature, sincere, concerned Christian is to seek diligently neither to give offense nor take offense on any personal issue, by God’s grace. HMM

Unanswered Prayer

“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12)

There are many wonderful promises of answered prayer in the Bible, some of which seem both unlimited and unconditional. On the other hand, there are also many warnings of unanswered prayer. This seeming anomaly merely cautions us again that every Scripture must be interpreted in context—both the immediate context and the broader context of all the Scriptures.

For example, Jesus said, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” But in the same upper-room discourse, He also said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 14:14; 15:7). This is a very significant condition, attached to what—out of context—might have seemed an unconditional promise.

Our text indicates that overt sin in one’s life will certainly hinder God in answering our prayers. So will selfish praying: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). And so will unbelief: “When ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). Poor home relations also could be a factor. “Husbands . . . [give] honour unto the wife . . . that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

Even when we are confident that we are fully right with God, the desired answer must still be in His will. “If we ask any thing according to his will . . . we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

Finally, there is the question of timing. “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Therefore, the believing prayer of a man righteous before God surely will be answered in God’s time and way. HMM

Christians and the World

“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” (John 17:6)

In the wonderful intercessory prayer of Christ for His disciples just before His death, there are several important references dealing with the relation of the Christian believer to the world around him. In the first place, according to our text, they have been called out of the world and thus are not really a part of its system any more once they belong to Christ.

Yet, they necessarily must still live in the world. “These are in the world. . . . I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (vv. 11, 15). They are not of the world, however, for they have been separated from the world and unto Christ, whom the world continues to crucify daily. “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (v. 14). Like Christ, they are bound to be hated by the world.

Nevertheless, Christ has sent them into the world as His witnesses. “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world . . . that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. . . . I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (vv. 18, 21, 23).

And the most wonderful thing about all these relationships to the world we live in is that God planned them even before He created the world! “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (v. 24). HMM

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