I’ve had interesting, sometimes frustrating discussions with two or three Christians over the past several years about whether or not Christians continue to commit sins after being reborn into the faith. One of these persons I consider a dear friend, although we have alarmingly different views of what God does in our lives. Another I gave up as an acquaintance on Facebook – something I’d never done before or since – because of constant insults – and the last is someone who apparently gave up on me. The only one of the three with whom I made a huge mistake is the second. Never turn away from a fellow believer, says our Lord. Well, that’s not entirely true, is it? Paul and Jesus command us to avoid the person who refuses to repent when confronted first privately and only later, publicly.
So, the question becomes: do we always obey God? Are we perfected immediately upon being sealed with God, the Holy Spirit?
Yes, it is true God gives us a new life, and He provides power. And if we avail ourselves of that power consistently, then it does follow logically that we would stop sinning completely. However, I believe scripture teaches us that we do not always allow God’s power to fully work in our day to day existence. Sometimes, we cater to our own desires. Sometimes we do not flee our adversary who entangles us so easily in sin, if you believe the Word of God anyway.
If this is not true, then why does James tell us to “confess [our] sins to each other and pray for each other so that [we] may be healed?” (James 5:16, NIV)
Why does James tell us not to “grumble against each other, brothers” if we do not at times deliberately step into sin? Why does he speak at length about the fire our tongues unleash if our tongues are not used to sin against each other? Why does he tells us “not to slander one another?” (James 4:11) Why does he warn us not to “speak against [our] brother or judge him?” (James 4:11) Why does he warn us not to boast about our plans to “carry on business and make money?” (James 4:13) Why does Paul rebuke the church at Corinth in regards to sins even pagans do not commit? Why does he rebuke those who call for circumcision? Why does he rebuke those who treat the communion table as a buffet? Remember, Paul is speaking to Christians, not to unbelievers.
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
“Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)
Peter asks Jesus how many times must he forgive his brother who sins against him, “Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21) Of course, Jesus responds, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22)