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Refraining from sin: is it possible?

This is to answer a question posted on the facebook fan page by Mario. If your name isn’t Mario, please still feel free to read it anyway.

The question was in regards to one of Greg’s videos titled “What does it mean to be morally free?” and the specific question was, “If we are morally free, shouldn’t we be able to resist sin?” Please be advised that this is no small question, and though I will try to be as concise yet thorough as possible, my answer will probably still be incomplete.

According to Genesis 1 and 2, God did indeed create the human race morally free: able to choose between good and evil. In chapter 3 of Genesis, our first parents made their choice loud and clear, and the consequences have plagued humanity ever since.

They chose evil and because of their choice something inside the heart of every man, woman and child who has ever lived was and still is deeply corrupted. The apostle Paul said it this way in the book of Romans: “through one man sin entered the world and death through sin and thus death spread to all men because all sinned…” (5:12 NKJV). Because of Adam and Eve’s choice, humanity has become so twisted that we are no longer truly free to choose to do good in and of ourselves.

However there is good news, for in the same chapter of Romans Paul states: “For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” The second man Paul is referring to is Jesus Christ and in chapters 6-8 of Romans Paul goes into great detail about how it is that Christ has paved the way so that we could become righteous through Him. I don’t have the time or the space to go into all of those details here, so I would encourage my readers to read those chapters of the Bible for yourself.

However, to give you a glimpse, we are freed from the penalty of sin through Christ’s cross (Justification) , and we are through out our lives freed from the power of sin through the work of Christ’s Holy Spirit, who is given to those who accept Christ’s work for them through his death and resurrection.

So, to sum up the answer the answer to your question, yes it is possible to refrain from sin, but only by accepting what Christ did for us in the cross and resurrection. Without this work, we are as Paul wrote to the Ephesians still “dead in trespasses and sins.”

If anyone has any more questions on this, please say so.

  • Thank you, Warren, for your reply.

    My challenge has been to reconcile the choice made by Eve prior to taking from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why was her propensity to sin stronger than not to sin? If Eve had no prior knowledge of good and evil, then why did she “freely” choose to believe the serpent in Gen 3:4, instead of God in Gen 2:17? Her inclination to disobey is troubling, since God created both Adam and Eve “good,” sin must have originated in Eve’s thought process prior to her action (i.e, disobedience). Moreover, Lucifer had sinned prior to creation (Isa 14:12), so the question goes even further back than the Genesis account. Why did Lucifer “freely” choose to sin?

    My only thought on this is that the word used in Hebrew (chata) for sin simply denotes an imperfect essence to “miss the mark”, while the term “evil” (rah), on the other hand, denotes an intentional act of will. In other words, sin is a condition, while evil is its projection. This would mean that we had the “potential” to sin, but not the inclination to sin. So disobedience was the result of “missing the mark” instead of an inclination of the heart to intetionally act out evil. I know that this is a very tough topic, but I am really struck by this question because it ultimately leads to some really bad theology.

    Also, in your response you have said that it is possible to refrain from sin, but 1 John 2 refutes that. Sorry, couldn’t agree. 🙁

  • Hi Mario, would you mind enlightening me as to which verses 1 John 2 refute what I said about Christians being able to resist sin? I said that it is only those who have accepted Christ and therefore have the Holy Spirit living in them that are able to resist sin, which is the lifelong process of sanctification. The people of the world are not able to resist sin, since Because of the fall, we are only truly morally free after we come to Christ. John opens this second of his epistle with the statement, “Little
    children, these things I write to you SO THAT YOU MAY NOT SIN.” He goes on to say that this is
    how we know that we are in Christ- that is, by having our desires changed so that we desire to please our selves less and please Christ more . What you’re saying almost sounds like a form of Gnosticism, which, ironically, John is refuting in his epistle. Gnosticism is the belief that all flesh is evil and only the spiritual realm is good, therefore it doesn’t matter if we sin or not, since- like you’re saying- we can’t be delivered from it anyway. The New Testament is filled with exhortations to resist and turn from sin;holiness should be one of the hallmarks of the Christian life. God doesn’t leave us on our own in this battle, but has instead given us “everything we need for life and godliness”(2 Peter 1:3).

  • Hi Warren,

    I do not mean to turn this into a debate, but some clarification is in order. I do NOT disagree with most of what you are saying above; however, for the sake of lucidity, are you saying that Christians don’t sin?

    Also, I am not sure how you got Gnosticism from my statements. I am simply pointing out that, though we continue to resist the temptation to sin, we, as Paul did (Rom 7:17-18), will continue to sin at some point or another (consciously or not).

    I am a Christian, and as such, I am devoted to serving Christ to the best of my ability in Christ who strengthens me. However, I recognize that I am not Christ and cannot not sin. This is the reason why I need Christ in my life!

    I made a distinction between sin and evil because, though they are often used synonymously in scripture, they are not one and the same thing. Evil is to sin intentionally, but sin is a part of our nature and inherited through Adam’s fall.

    My thoughts are that if we only understood the holiness of God, we would see how corrupt we truly are. Our goodness is but filthy rags.

    In Christ,
    –Mario