SIN NOT - What Does It Mean?
John wrote saying, "These things I write to you that you sin not." (1 John 2:1). Likewise, the apostle Paul wrote, "awake to righteousness and sin not." (1 Corinthains 15:34). Since all have sinned and come short of God's glory this is a difficult proposition to accept. Yet, our acceptance of God's grace directs us in that "sinless" pathway. (Titius 2:11,12). However, some are attempting to turn the way of truth into laciviousness.
Excusing sin while one continues in ignorant transgression place's man's knowledge of sin as the verdict of man's guilt or innocence. However, we know that it is God's word will judge in the last day. (John 12:48). A lack of knowledge does not excuse one from conforming to God's will. In light of this we must ask, can we keep all those commandments? What about growth as a babe in Christ? Is it sinful to be immature Christian?
Certainly ones level of responsibility for growth and discernment is commensurate to their ability. (Mentally disabled, etc.) Additionally, some doctrinal matters are guided by principles which establish divine law and require us to grow and develop. ("I press toward the mark.") Do I love my enemies like I should? Do I love the Lord to the degree that he has instructed - with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength? Should I be more attentive to my wife, children, the sick, my studies, seeking the lost etc? These are subjective offenses that are difficult to address. Yet, I believe God's word does provide insight even to these difficult areas.
High principles and precepts are what constitute divine law, which is the basis for righteousness. No accountable man is subjectively made righteous. When one comprehends the opposing natures of error (ignorance) and the nature of truth (knowledge), we learn of the nature of man is free moral agency. And, we learn the destructive nature of ignorance is the primary opponent of truth. Justification (acquittal from guilt - sinlessness [not sinless perfection]) is not obtained on the basis of personal merit, character, or intention. Justification comes by faith in Christ 'as' we humbly yield in obedience to His Divine Will. In this justified state we must walk circumspectly. This walk is produced, governed, and enlightened by His Word. (Eph. 5:15-17, 2 Peter 1:5-11, Heb. 5:12-14).
Some have erred in perceiving man's nature is hopelessly ignorant. But in Christ, "those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life..." (Rom. 5:18) "So... grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life." (Rom. 5:21). His grace teaches us not only how to live objectively, but subjectively. (Titus 2:11,12). In contrast to the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, the fruit of the Spirit (v. 22-23) does not pertain only to refraining from doing certain things (i.e. self-control), but those things we obey in degrees.(love, longsuffering, kindness, etc...) Certainly, there is room for continued growth in all of these areas. Yet, to whatever degree you possess them, against such there is no law. The violation comes when we begin to sow to the flesh. (6:8) .
Conclusion: Christians can commit sin, both deliberate and unintentional, and be in need of forgiveness. Unless we embrace a depraved nature for man and irresistible grace from God, I do not believe we can profess forgiveness on the subjective basis of ignorance in the presence of declared truth. (Rom. 3:23-26; Acts 17:26-31). Only through yielding obedience to the high principles and precepts in God's word is one made righteous. (Rom. 6:16)
The process of growth and discernment are subjective. Our senses are exercised to determine good and evil. The process of making righteous judgements are not wrong. Error comes when we violate God' will. This is done when we fail to look to God for guidance and direction.
Confession and repentance are to be commensurate with the degree of the transgression. The nature of those possible offenses; love enough, attentive enough, etc., are subjective, and must be antithetically addressed in the same manner in which they were committed.
We do sin, and we must obtain forgiveness. Whether it be in the initial obedience to the gospel through repentance and baptism or after entering into that state repenting and confessing. (1 John 1:9). By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil. (Proverbs 16:6).
Though all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, we need not remain in sin. Thanks be to God that gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 John 2:1-4). Contrary to those who espouse the abiding presence of a sin in one's life - God declares, "He is able to deliver thee!"
Indeed, His commandments are not burdensome!
By Dennis Carrow
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