[CF Devotionals] 2006-08-30 - Summer Questions

2006 #15 ~ Am I a Christian?

John 1:16, "For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace."

Today's Question: "many of my christian bros. tell me that we are going to sin and that nobody's perfect. there was only one person who was perfect and that was Jesus. then if Jesus is in our heart, shouldn't He help and teach us to be perfect and holy? so my question is, if we sin does that mean we are not born of God? thanks a former once saved always saved christian, now i believe i can fall from grace."

This is a question many wonder about: How can I know I am a Christian, if I still sin? It is an issue of Assurance of Faith and Perseverance of the Saints all rolled up together. In addition to your question, you also gave two verses in the title to you question: 1 John 3:9, and 5:18. Both these verses tell us that one who is born again of God does not sin. To some extent, your conclusion makes sense. A Christian should not consider himself/herself a Christian, if they are living in unrepentant bondage to sin. It is a contradiction in terms: A sinful Christian. We should also say that there is not such thing as an ignorant scholar, a charitable miser, or an honest thief. The mindset is that if you will not renounce sin, then you should renounce the name Christian, because you cannot consistently maintain both.

In this Epistle, we see John trying to maintain the balance between telling believers that sin is serious and that they must avoid falling into sin, but also giving relief to those who are overwhelmed with the seriousness of their sin. In this Epistle we see John moving from one to the other. The letter is a unit, and the verses you have picked out are a warning to us that we should not shrink from or pass over.

The Christian is to strive toward holiness, but John himself in Chapter 1 of this Epistle tell us of the need to confess our sin (1:9). He tells us the we can't have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness (1:6). If you take your question to the logical level, then no one could be a Christian, for John says himself in this Epistle (1:10), that if you say that we have no sin, we make God a liar - and His word is not in us.

These two verses cannot be torn from the context of the entire argument of the Epistle, nor from the overall teaching of Scripture. However, I want to warn you to be very careful in looking at these verses. Who is the "one born of God" in the passage? I. Howard Mashall, in his commentary on 1 John in the NICNT series, which is a largely conservative/evangelical series says: "But how is this sinlessness possible? The answer given is that the One who was born of God keeps him safe, and so the evil one cannot lay hold of him and overpower him. He will face satanic attacks and temptations, but he is defended by One who is stronger than Satan."

The translation adopted by the NIV takes "the one who was born of God," to be Jesus, and this is very probably the correct rendering." I don't know if you are taking the phrase "One born of God," to be the Christian, but if you are, I think this understanding might radically change the interpretation you have taken respecting these verses.

I would like to simply end with some thoughts that I will not have the time to expound upon, but I do believe are true and related:

  • To maintain that we are sinless is to fall into the sin of pride.

  • To say that we can lose our salvation, is to say that the work of Christ in paying the penalty for our sin is not truly applied to us in the work of redemption. It means that in coming to Christ, we do not have the assurance of perseverance to the end.

  • To say that we can fall from grace is to make ourselves the fulfillers of our own salvation, its effectual nature dependent upon us, and ultimately ends up in a works righteousness, which only leads to arrogance or despair in the Christian life.

Let us never lose the mindset that salvation is begun and finished in the grace and mercy of Christ. It is an act of grace alone, and while we can evidence the effects of that grace in our lives through works and by subduing sin, our salvation in Christ is All of Grace and Only Grace, from start to finish.

"Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in the time of need." Hebrews 4:16

Soli Deo Gloria,
T-

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