Can Believers Have a Sinless Life?

by Rayola Kelley

Q:        I recently read where a religious leader declared that believers could have a sinless life due to the fact we are new creations. This leader even went as far to say we have lost the Gospel because pastors have failed to bring people to this sinless stage. What is your take on this presentation? 

A:        I am inclined to make the same statement that Jesus did to the Sadducees, in regard to resurrection: he is in error, not knowing the scriptures (Matthew 22:29). I have no idea where this individual gets his conclusions. There is no Scripture to back up such a teaching. The only person to ever walk in a sinless state was Jesus Christ. Obviously, this leader does not understand what constitutes sin.

            There are two types of sin—the sins of commission and the sins of omission. The sin of commission is where a person transgresses the moral law of God. Such sins are obvious and will play havoc on a person’s conscience. To walk in such sins clearly puts doubts as to whether the person has ever been born again (1 John 2:29; 3:4-10)

             However, the sin of omission does not necessarily rouse the conscience. It takes the penetration of the Word and the conviction of the Spirit to bring such sins to the light. It is this type of sin that proves to be prevalent in the Church.

            Sin of omission is where faith and upright conduct are omitted in a Christian’s response. Romans 14:23 tells us what is not of faith is sin, for it is our faith that pleases God(Hebrews 1:6). In fact, it is at the point of active faith that it is accounted as righteousness to the believer. However, such righteousness is not considered a sinless state, as we are reminded by Peter that the righteous are scarcely saved, due to the fact that the essence of all righteousness found in a saint is that of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Peter 4:18). James 4:17 states that to him that knows to do good, but fails to do it, it is considered sin.

             As you consider these two forms of sins of omission, you realize that the sin of unbelief is active where faith is missing, and that love is missing where there is a lack of upright conduct. At the core of these two sins is pride. Clearly, unbelief hinders God from working, a lack of love produces disobedience, and God resists the proud (Mark 6:5-6; John 14:15; James 4:6). The problem is that the sins of omission affect the inward environment of man.  Unbelief produces a hard heart, a lack of love results in indifference to God and others, and pride will express itself in idolatry.

            Sins of omission are hard to detect unless one is testing his or her spirit, and examining his or her fruits (Matthew 7:16-20; 1 John 4:1). Obviously, outward conformity can hide the lack of inward transformation by the Spirit that must take place to renew the inner man. However, God does not consider our outward conduct, but the inward condition of our heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

             This is why Christianity has two crosses. On His cross, Jesus dealt with the sin that offended God and His Law (John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21). However, our personal cross deals with the deviance that can clearly be found in our disposition, attitude and conduct. Granted, we have been made into new creations because the life of Christ is now in us. However, His life must be worked in, through and out of our lives by faith (Galatians 2:20). This can only happen as we deny self (pride), pick up our cross (die to the old way of doing and being) and follow Jesus on a daily basis (Luke 9:23). Without such disciplines, we may walk in some spiritual euphoria about being sinless, but it won’t be anything more than delusion.

            John tells us that if we deny we have a problem with sin in the past or in the present, the truth is not in us, and we are calling God a liar (1 John 1:8, 10). In fact, the Gospel deals with the issue of sin and overcoming it through the redemptive work of Jesus. Overcoming sin is not the same as walking in a sinless state. Clearly, it is this leader who is advocating another gospel other than the one that was first received (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

             To me, the final nail in the coffin of this person’s logic is that if Christians could walk in a sinless life, then Jesus would not have to continue to serve as our defense and High Priest in the courts of heaven, making intercession on our behalf (Hebrews 7:24-26; 1 John 2:1). This man is erring because he does not know the character of God, nor has he rightly divided the Word of Truth (Romans 10:2; 2 Timothy 2:15).  If this man is advocating a false doctrine, then he must be considered a heretic and needs to be admonished. If he does not repent of his error after the second admonition, you are to reject all other instructions from him, because he is subverting the truth and will stand condemned for leading people away from it (Titus 3:10-11).