To those who believe even as Christians, we will always fall prey to sin, no matter what, until we are resurrected, I soberly ask if you know of even just one Scripture that affirms this belief? Because there are several that teach the exact opposite (see this blog post).
I wonder if this belief is based merely on personal experience, and thus, since all they’ve known is they’ve sinned after claiming surrender to Christ, and that others they know have sinned after claiming surrender to Christ, and since they both continue to do so, it must be impossible to always defeat sin until we are out of these fleshly bodies. It may also be that they’ve been taught this by pastors and leaders so they accept it as truth, without really having Scriptural support.
I know it is highly difficult to find people who profess Christ as Lord living such continually blameless lives, but it’s not because they aren’t out there, but rather, because they are indeed rare. Since the belief of sinning until after death is so prevalent and convenient, and taught by many a famous pastor, the teaching is widely accepted. But even Christ said the path to destruction is very broad and there are many who go down it, but the path to life is narrow and difficult, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
But many early church fathers believed and walked in the liberty of following the Spirit and thus, not continuing to sin. I definitely believe for some of them it was a process, like for Peter who was hypocritical and cowardly among the circumcision party, so that Paul called him out, but given Peter’s letters, it is apparent he repented and taught and believed that we can and are expected to cease sinning as children of God, born again, dead to the old self, and alive to God.
But there is this doctrine that teaches we are not dead to sin and the old self, and we only will be once we are in our resurrected bodies. What’s interesting is that, at the end of Paul’s long teaching on the resurrected body, he actually concludes with this:
“Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” (I Corinthians 15:12-34 NKJV)
I think of how in the Old Testament it was God’s mission to destroy sin and bring us back to a godly fellowship with Him. How He destroyed the whole world, sparing only 8, because of sin. How He would slay His people for sin and how agonizing it was for Him that they continued to go back and forth between obeying Him and sinning. First, He reveals Himself to man in the garden, but that wasn’t enough, then He reveals Himself mightily to the Jews in Egypt, but that doesn’t work either, then He gives them laws to follow, that still doesn’t work, then finally, He sends His Son to once for all deal with the issue of sin: to remove it completely, to kill it in the flesh so we no longer walk in it so we can have unbroken fellowship with Him. God’s grace is not, “I forgave all your sin and when you keep on sinning it’s okay because Jesus died for those future sins too.” He forgave people in the past as well for their sin. Forgiveness was previously attainable, but God wanted to destroy sin entirely, no longer having to continue forgiving it. So He does something radical: sends His own Son to live a morally perfect life in the flesh, conquering sin by the Spirit, and then dying on the cross to give us a brand new start. With that clean slate, we receive the Holy Spirit to now indwell us forever—a gift that was not previously poured out on/into those from the past—in order for us to have no excuse for sinning, because Christ Himself—the conqueror of sin—now lives inside of us. God’s promise has finally been fulfilled:
And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you.
“Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this, ” says the Lord GOD, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!” ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt.”(Ezekiel 36:23, 25-29, 31-33 NKJV)
“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 11:19-21 NKJV)
I don’t wrestle with the desire to sin or not sin. I hate sin. I want nothing to do with it because of the new nature Christ has given me, because my body is now a temple for His Holy Spirit. I do not thirst for sin, I do not crave it, I have died to it. So it’s really not a wrestling. I think if it’s a wrestling for some, it is because that person may not have truly surrendered his whole heart and desires to Christ, which is a must if we are to try and follow Him. Remember the outwardly righteous young rich ruler who only had one sin in his life that Jesus addressed—his love for money—and although he was obedient in all other matters of following God, because of this one sin he didn’t want to surrender and then choose to follow Jesus, Jesus implied he wouldn’t go to heaven.
See, Jesus wants us to forsake all of our desires, and when we really do that in genuine sincerity, He gives us a heart of flesh and removes the heart of stone, that we can now, through His Holy Spirit abiding in us, and by choosing to listen to Him, walk blameless before Him.
Now, no doubt there are many who profess Christ as Lord but continue in sin, but to generalize and say that all do this because Paul had to rebuke and correct many is not a fair judgement. Even Jesus, in speaking to the seven churches in Revelation, had to address sin in all but two: The church of Philadelphia and the church of Smyrna. The majority were accepting some form of immorality in their midst, and thus they were rebuked, but these two churches were not rebuked for any immorality. Jesus even used the word perfect in correcting one church found to have sin:
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. (Revelation 3:2 NKJV)
Perfect means perfect. Why would Christ expect perfection in morality if we aren’t able to give it?
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence. For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. (1 Peter 1:14-19 HCSB)
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds. (1 Peter 2:24 HCSB)
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. (I Peter 4:1-4 NKJV)
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14 NKJV)
Although not a popularly taught doctrine, it is indeed possible and expected for us as children of God to walk blamelessly, in complete holiness before Him during our time here on earth. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, including always reject sin whenever Satan tries to trip us up. I pray you come to believe this truth, and surrender your whole heart to Christ so you may walk in it, fully pleasing to Him, receiving the reward for your faithfulness.