Can a Christian not sin?
Jesus did not sin. John writes, “ And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” (1 Jn. 3:5) Peter is more specific,
- 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
- 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; (1 Pet 2:21-22)
The Lord Jesus Christ did not sin in His humanity, or any other time, but what about you and me? Can a Christian not sin?
An interesting passage is the second account of sin. Abel and Cain made offerings to God and God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. The purpose of this article is not to analyze why God did not accept Cain’s offering, but to note that He did not accept it and to look at the Lord’s counsel to Cain.
- 6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
- 7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Gen. 4:6-7)
Notice that God does not rebuke Cain on the specifics of the offering, but challenges him to reflect on what he should now do.
Cain had not repented or realized he was thinking independently from God. So God asks Cain the questions, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?” not because God does not know the answers, but to help Cain consider his actions. God did not accept his offering, but Cain also did not approach God and ask God why he did not accept the offering. Cain was acting independently from God and God’s questions were designed to reveal to Cain his failure to humble himself and submit to the Lord.
Then God changes the course of the questions. God asks, “If you do well…” That is the key in life – to do well. To do well is to please God. It doesn’t matter what we do or not in our own eyes, but doing well in God’s eyes does matter. Then God explains what must happen for Cain to do well – to be accepted by God. In order to do well, you must recognize there is an enemy. God says, “Sin lies at the door.” The door is Cain’s heart. Sin is personified as having a desire to control Cain. That is always the desire of sin. It wants to control and not just a little or in just a few areas, but all the time and in every area.
Sin has one focus – it wants to control you. It will look for your weaknesses and start out small. It will often gain a foothold in your life in small things, for example in doubt or worry, or about whether you will be accepted or rejected. It may start in small secret areas of life like pornography or material lusts in desiring more clothes or maybe in seeking the status of having a boyfriend. It starts small and then seeks to gain ground. Sin is like a fire, it is never satisfied, until it controls every area. Sin is like a grave that is always looking for its next victim. Sin is like a parched desert that never gets enough water. It’s stated best in Proverbs,
- 15 The leech has two daughters– Give and Give! There are three things that are never satisfied, Four never say, “Enough!”:
- 16 The grave, The barren womb, The earth that is not satisfied with water– And the fire never says, “Enough!” (Pro. 30:15-16)
Sin desires to control, so God clarifies to Cain, “…but you must rule over it.” With that admonishment and challenge, Cain leaves the presence of the Lord. The question is, “Will he rule over his sin, so that sin does not control him?” What does the next verse say? “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” (Gen. 4:8) Can you believe it? In the very next verse, God shows that Cain does not control sin. In the very next verse, Cain is not just tempted, but he falls headlong into sin and murders his brother. Maybe Cain thinks he needs to remove the competition, so that God would “have” to accept what Cain did.
Cain cannot control sin, because he was not completely dependent on the Lord. Cain does not control sin, because God never intended that we could control sin apart from His presence in our lives. Cain does not control sin, because only God’s work in our lives through His power, the Holy Spirit, can a believer successfully rule over sin.
Can a believer not sin? NO and YES. A believer cannot control sin in his own power. He will succumb to temptation every time and reveal the ineptness of his flesh to function in dependency upon the Lord. He will fail just as Cain failed. Yet, the believer can control sin, when he is dependent on the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Is that important to understand? Absolutely, because it reveals that a believer will be fleshly, except when he is dependent on the Lord.