Is it OK for the believer to sin?

 

The straightforward answer to this question is No!  It is never “OK” to sin, and it never will be!  Sin is not a trivial thing with a Holy God. God does not ‘wink’ at sin in our lives because we lay claim to being ‘believers’. Nevertheless, we do sin, even as believers. So, what does this mean for the believer?

It is helpful to make the distinction here between one who sins (yes, we all still do, and often!) and one who maintains an unrepentant attitude towards sin.- that is, the difference between the act and the attitude, if we are to properly deal with continuing sin in our lives.

In Romans 6, the apostle Paul deals with the issue of continuing to sin. In the previous chapter he had spoken about justification based solely on grace, apart from the righteous works demanded by the law. He had also said that no matter how much sin abounded, God’s grace was more than sufficient to cover it. Lest this last comment might be misunderstood to be an encouragement to sin, he then says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? By no means! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”(Rom.6:1,2). In other words, “Certainly not! That’s a preposterous idea! Don’t even entertain the thought that it’s okay to sin because we are under grace”. I believe this repudiation is a serious warning to those who would use the ‘grace defence’ to feel comfortable whilst maintaining an unrepentant attitude towards sin. I believe it was for this reason that Paul went to great length in his epistles to remind his readers of their position ‘before’ and ‘after’ accepting Christ, exhorting them not to revert to sinful life styles.  Keep in mind that Paul was writing to the church, not to pagans!

If we maintain an attitude of complacency in a sinful, unrepentant lifestyle, under the cloak of grace, we are in a dangerous position. We must not convert ‘grace’ into ‘a licence to sin’. We must not become comfortable with ‘calling evil good’. We must realise that whilst grace is indeed ‘unmerited favour granted to the sinner’, it is also the means that God places at our disposal for our sanctification! If we refuse to, we are in effect denying it of its efficacy to change us! In this context, it is important to keep in mind that God does not sanctify anyone against his will; however, he gives every enablement and encouragement towards it.

 This means of course that along with the desire to be saved we also desire to become more like Christ. If we insist that we are ‘born again’ but have no desire whatsoever to turn away from sin and no inclination towards holiness, then we must question the legitimacy of our ‘conversion’. How did we come to Christ? Did emotions, the music, or the throng surging forward at the altar call sway us? Perhaps the promise of health, wealth and happiness was too compelling to resist ‘becoming a Christian’. On the other hand, did we come under a deep conviction of sin when we heard the gospel message, and respond to God's calling us to himself as holy people?

The increasingly popular idea that we can be ‘spiritual’ people, yet surrendered wholeheartedly to sin, belies the truth of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in the life of the believer. This is the very danger that Paul feared – the misunderstanding about grace! The only real conversion is one that comes through true repentance (i.e. a turning around, a decision to change, a turning back towards God). The very word ‘conversion’ implies change! The true believer may struggle with sin, but his heart attitude is directed towards overcoming sin, as the Holy Spirit works in him. This obvious struggle in the believer’s life is true evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration.  If we desire holiness we must cooperate with God towards it! The New Testament is replete with exhortations to purify our hearts.

Keep in mind that we are not to stop sinning because we want to merit our salvation, but because we now, in a sinless Christ, belong to a Holy God! The first epistle of John is particularly helpful for a good understanding of the relationship of sin to the child of God.

When you think about it, if one’s desire is towards holiness, the question ‘is it okay to sin?’ should not even arise

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