By Mike Willis
More and more I read articles on how a Christian’s sins are forgiven. Some brethren affirm that a Christian commits sins without leaving the light. Below are several statements which take that position. The names and sources are omitted to focus our attention on the issue rather than the persons involved.
But there are many incidental sins: (1) I unintentionally offend a brother but never know of it. (2) I unintentionally cause a brother to offend but never know of it. (3) I repeat a falsehood but never learn of it or if I do it is impossible to make correction. (4) In extreme circumstances and in momentary weakness I use God’s name in vain and die with the words on my lip . . . . (5) Because of distraction, I “eat and drink unworthily” at the Lord’s table . . . . Well, those are merely examples. The fist could be almost endless. And I believe that the truly faithful child of God may have the faults above (and others like them) and still be always walking in the light and always forgiven, conditionally, because he does walk in the light – because he is faithful and has a real friend at God’s throne mediating for him.
Another brother wrote as follows:
I do not believe that a child of God becomes an apostate each and every time he sins . . . . Any sin may separate one from God, but it does not necessarily follow that every sin does . . . .
Someone else argued:
Certainly one must admit that it is hard to conceive of defining a person who would commit adultery or murder while he was sincerely seeking to obey God’s will. (A possible exception might be where one innocently married someone who had lied about a prior marriage.) (Could we not also add such things as having an abortion thinking that nothing was wrong with it, divorce and remarriage in cases where one believes that the guilty party has the right to remarriage, and any other sin committed in ignorance?-mw) If one could define a situation where the sin was committed inadvertently and with a heart subject to God, consistency would demand that we conclude that such a one receive the continual cleansing of Christ’s blood.
A fourth brother wrote:
I am not saying that we can continue in sin that grace may abound. God forbid! But I am saying that the godly life of the righteous man counts for something before Heaven. This humble individual who lives before God with a penitent attitude benefits from the blood of Christ even as he sins (his ernphasis-mw); for if he walks in the fight the blood of Jesus cleanses him from all iniquity . . . .
Similar statements from other gospel preachers could be reproduced to demonstrate that several brethren are teaching that some sins which a Christian commits do not separate him from God. Not everyone who made such arguments and claims in the past has drifted away into sectarianism, but a number have. Those who have drifted off have quoted the brethren who have not gone off, in search of aid and comfort. That is what brought this discussion we are presently having out into the open. Not everyone who today is making statements like those quoted above win finally depart from the faith, but others among us are headed for final departure. That is why these studies have not stopped and shall not stop. More study is needed in a spirit of helping each other.
Nearly every brother who takes the position that some kind of constant or continuous cleansing occurs for a Christian engaged in the practice of sin is quick to point out that they do not mean all kinds of sins. Some writers limit the sin covered to a few sins of ignorance and inadvertence, others limit it only to sins of ignorance but not to inadvertence, while still others say that it covers all sins of ignorance and inadvertence. Ibis raises several questions.
1. How does one determine which sins do not separate from God? What is the criterion to be used to determine which group of sins separate from God and which do not? I want to see how one is going to avoid a category of “mortal” and “venial” sins.
2. If the important criterion is the heart, does this mean that any and every sin can be committed without being separatedfrom God? Those who want the criterion to be whether the act was committed from a “pure” or “impure,” sincere or insincere, heart must face up to the conclusion that every sin mentioned in suc)i texts of the Bible as Galatians 5:19-21, Romans 1:28-32, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 can be committed with a sincere heartl Are they ready to admit that when adultery, murder, idolatry, homosexuality, and such like things are committed from an honeit heart that the Christian who commits, the sin is not separated from God thereby? Let’s just walk right up to the “lick log” and accept the consequences of our position. Is this the correct conclusion? If not, why not? We already know of brethren who have avowed these full consequences of their argument. There are brethren who will back up and restudy these matters if only they can see where the logic of their argument leads.
How Many Times?
When brethren take the position that one sin of ignorance or inadvertence does not separate a person from God, they need to tell us how many a person must commit to be separated from God. If one sin does not separate us from God, does one more – two? If not two, does three separate a person from God? Four? Five? Six? The truth is that every individual is going to have to say that after a certain number, one more sin separates from God. If a person picks the number ” 15″ as the number of sins that separate a person from God, fourteen did not. But one more did.
There is something wrong with the arguments our brethren are making when they are embarrassed to face up to this question. They will not tell us just how many sins a person must commit before he is separated from God.
Some among us are willing to say that the sin can be committed repeatedly and indefinitely without ever separating a person from God – so long as it is committed in ignorance or inadvertence. For example, they affirm that a Christian could worship ignorantly in the Christian Church with mechanical instruments of music for a lifetime without ever recognizing that sin was committed and yet maintain his fellowship with God and have the hope of eternal life at death. If that will work with a person worshiping with mechanical instruments of music in violation of the Scriptures, why won’t it also work for the man committing fornication and adultery as well? A few have admitted that it will so work. When some others among us see that consistency demands that they admit the same thing, they must either back up or consciously maintain an inconsistent and incoherent argument.
Sinning While In The Light
This idea that 1 John indicates that a man is still walking in the light even while he is sinning is an interesting position. What is said is that “walking in the light” refers to a man’s general demeanor and that it includes those times when he is guilty of sin. Consequently, they argue, the blood of Jesus is continuously cleansing a person from sin (before and without repentance and confession) so long as he is walking in the light. For instance, one of the quotations we gave above claims that the blood of Christ cleanses the Christian constantly “even as he sins.”
What kind of sins is the blood cleansing? What kind of sins are committed by one who is “walking in the light”? There is absolutely nothing in the text of 1 John to limit the discussion to sins of ignorance and inadvertence! If this text teaches that one who is “walking in the light” is guilty of sins, it also includes sins of willful rebellion. If not, why not? You and I both know faithful Christians whose general demeanor might be described as “walking in the light” who have, on occasion, committed sins of willful rebellion. (If you have any trouble thinking of any one like that, go look in the mirror and I think someone’s name will come to mind.) If his general character of “walking in the light” takes care of sins of ignorance and inadvertence, it also takes care of those moments of willful rebellion. If you disagree, show me what there is in the text of 1 John to limit its application to ignorance and inadvertence. Neither the word “ignorance” nor “inadvertence” appear in the text. Whatever this passage teaches about one kind of sin it teaches about all kinds of sin!
Revise Our Bibles
If what has been written by some of our brethren is true, we need to revise our Bibles. Paul wrote, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which-do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). This passage needs to be revised to read:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft. hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God, except in cases of ignorance and inadvertence.
Again, Paul wrote, “know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). But, this cannot be true inasmuch as a person can commit any and all of these sins out of a sincere heart. Consequently, this text needs to be revised as well to say:
Know ye not that the willfully unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God, except in those cases in which they commit these sins in ignorance and inadvertence.
The words of Jesus need to be revised as well. Jesus revealed that one could determine the heart of a man by his deeds. He said, “. . . for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies . . .” (Matt. 15:19). Some of our brethren are saying that these things can come out of a clean and pure heart. Revise the text to read for out of the insincere heart . . . “
Again Jesus said, “. . . if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:14). This must be revised to say, “. . . if the blind leader is intentionally blind, he will fall into the ditch; if the blind follower is intentionally following one who he knows is a blind leader, he will also fall into the ditch; however, if a man does not know that he is a blind leader, he will not fall into the ditch; if the blind follower knows that the unintentional blind leader is a blind leader and yet chooses to follow him, he will fall into the ditch; if the blind person unintentionally follows a blind leader, whether that leader be intentionally blind or not, he will not fall into the ditch.”
Consequently, brethren, we can no longer know for sure what is the condition of those who use mechanical instruments of music in worship, support human institutions from the church treasury, support recreational activities from the church treasury, participate in the sponsoring church arrangement, and other sinful activities, inasmuch as we do not know whether or not they are intentionally blind leaders or intentionally following a blind leader! Try to apply this amended text to the Jim Jones mess and to other cults which involve every form of immorality and ungodliness known to man. Brethren, if you are embarrassed and unwilling to consistently apply your argument, you need to quit making the argument at all. It is time to back up and restudy.
While these things are being publicly preached, all of these men assure us that they are not teaching or influenced by Calvinism’s doctrine of “once in grace, always in grace.” They could have fooled me! The old statement of Sam Morris, the Baptist preacher, needs only slight editing to represent what our brethren are teaching. Sam Morris wrote,
We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul . . . .
. . . All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger (Rev. Sam Morris, “Do A Christian’s Sins Damn His Soul?”).
The only changes which need to be made are as follows:
We take the position that a Christian’s sins of ignorance and inadvertence do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatsoever to do with the salvation of his soul.
. . . All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins of ignorance and inadvertence from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 18, pp. 578, 582-584
October 6, 1983