Question: If someone is proud, what is the “put off” and “put on”?

God created the most beautiful world when He created the Garden of Eden. It remained incredible, until Adam sinned and God thrust him out of the Garden into a creation that now groans because of Adam’s sin, “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Rom. 8:22)

The basis of Adam’s sin was pride. He chose to choose independently of God’s will. He chose to act without asking God what he should do. He chose to rely upon his own sense rather than depend solely on the Lord. That is what pride is. It is the fundamental cause of all sins in life. Continue reading

Question: Why does a loving God allow suffering?

Why does a loving God allow suffering? I looked at one aspect of the question on an earlier post, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” which looked at one element of the question, namely, people don’t understand the character of God’s holiness and the offense of sin against holiness, which results in personal and corporate suffering. This article will focus on another aspect, Continue reading

Why do I still sin?

            When a person genuinely trusts in Jesus Christ as his Savior, he becomes a child of God (John 1:12).  The Holy Spirit regenerates his life and he becomes  a new spiritual creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  He is baptized (identified) into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). If that is true, then why does he still sin?  Why can’t he just do things right? Continue reading

Question: Will I sin as a new believer?

Will I sin as a new believer?
            John the Baptist declared Jesus Christ as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJ) If Jesus came to take away the sin of the world, then will I sin as a new believer?  Some believe that you will sin, but if you sin too many times, you really weren’t saved in the first place.  Or, if you sin consistently, then you really weren’t saved.  Continue reading

Question: Does John say a Christian can enter the Sin unto Death?

Does John say a Christian can enter the Sin unto Death?

A previous article looked at how James wrote how a Christian could be in the Sin unto Death.1 This article addresses John’s first epistle and how John clearly demonstrates that a believer can be in the Sin unto Death. 

The Gospel of John was written to the world to explain how a person would believe in Jesus and have life in His name (John 20:30-31).  Each of the three epistles of John have a separate purpose.  The first epistle was written to believers regarding the credibility of Jesus as the Christ.  It was written in a time when Gnosticism had taken hold and was drastically influencing the church.  Consequently, John wrote how Jesus was seen, looked upon and touched (1 John 1:1).  The Gnostics believed that Jesus just seemed to be a man, but was really just an aeon as a lower level being from God.  Gnostics taught that He was neither God, nor fully man, but was some kind of spirit being. If that were the case, He could not be the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29), He could not satisfy the righteous requirements of God (1 John 2:2), nor could He be the mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).

Because some people approach 1 John with their theology fixed, they do mental gymnastics to make sense of the letter.  IF people would take the natural, literal, historical and grammatical approach to understanding the meaning of the epistle, the interpretation becomes quite easy.  A key verse in the letter is found in 1 John 2:29.  John writes, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.”(1 John 2:29)  If the person knows that Jesus is righteous and believers do, because that is part of what makes a person a believer – Jesus is the righteous One- then the one who practices righteousness is born of Him. What about the person who does not practice righteousness, i.e. the one who sins.  Whether the sin is one time or lasts for a few days or weeks, at that point the person is not practicing righteousness. When a person is not practicing righteousness, he is not “born of Him.” In other words, he reveals he is not acting like he is a believer.  When a person is living a spirit-controlled life, then he reveals He has the spirit living through himself and reveals he is “born of Jesus.”

First John is a book of fellowship, not declaring the difference between a believer and an unbeliever.  John makes this clear in the beginning, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) The key is fellowship, not salvation. 

So when John writes in 1 John 5:16, he is writing about a Christian who is out of fellowship with God. In fact, he is in the last stage of the Downward Spiral called the Sin unto Death.  John writes,

  • 16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (1 John 5:16)
People stumble over this verse for two reasons. First, they cannot comprehend how a believer could continue in sin, but that is primarily because they have been taught a theology that does not allow continuous sin in a believer, so they impose that theology on the text.  Secondly, they do not understand the difference between the two words for “ask” and “pray” in the verse.

John writes, like Paul (Gal. 6:1), that if anyone sees a brother sinning a sin, he has some responsibility.  First, note that John calls this person a brother.  He’s not talking about a physical blood brother or a person from the neighborhood. He is talking about a spiritual believer and is called a brother. Secondly, note that brother is “sinning a sin.”  This is not a one time sin, he is “sinning a sin” (present active participle).  In other words it is on-going.  It may be several days, or weeks, or months.  It has to be quite some time, because you observe this is the behavior, not just a one time action. Thirdly, he is sinning a sin, “which does not lead to death.” In this case, he is sinning, but he is not in the final stage of the Downward Spiral.  He could be in the first or second step.  Or he could be in the fourth or fifth step of the Downward Spiral.  The fact is he is not in the stage called the Sin unto Death.2 He may be worried about not paying his bills and is struggling because he wants to provide for his children.  He may have “borrowed” some time from his work, because he was late.  In either case, even though they are both sins, he is still going to church and is somewhat open to the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.

If a person is in this case, the observing believer should ask God on behalf of this brother.  The word for “ask” (aiteo-) is a Greek word that denotes asking with a humble awareness of authority.  The believer is to humbly ask God for mercy for his brother, recognizing that God may or may not grant his petition.  The Apostle Paul describes this in his letter to Timothy,

  • 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,
  • 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,
  • 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
God may or may not grant repentance, but John directs the observing believer humbly to approach God and ask. John says that God will give life to the brother.  This is not eternal life, this is operational Christian way of life, for fellowship with God.  When the person repents, confesses his sin and depends once again on the power of the Holy Spirit, then the sinning brother is restored to fellowship life and can serve the Lord. Again, John clarifies that this is for sin, not leading to death or the Sin unto Death.

However, as John says, “There is a sin leading to death.”  This is the Sin unto Death.  John is not talking about unbelievers here.  John wrote the gospel of John so that the sinning world would respond to the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit and believe in the name of Jesus (John 16:8-11; 20:30-31). John is writing about believers who have descended the Downward Spiral and are in the holding stage called the Sin unto Death. John says, “I do not say that he should pray about that.”  The word for “pray” here is the Greek word ero-tao-, which means “to pray or ask between two equals.”  This is similar to the first word for pray, but that word aiteo- was pray or ask someone on a different authority level.  This word ero-tao- refers to praying or asking a person who is a peer.  John says, “DO NOT approach God as a peer.”  God may or may not grant the request (2 Tim. 2:24-26). When you approach God, do it with fear and intrepidation on behalf of the sinning brother.  Do not add insult to injury by approaching God like He is your buddy.  He is holy, righteous and just.  He deserves all the honor, respect, reverence and fear a person can muster.  Do not approach God casually when you observe a brother who is in the Sin unto Death.

Does John say a Christian can enter the Sin unto Death? Yes.  He teaches a believer can be in the Sin unto Death and he should be helped or turned back to the truth, just as James said should happen,

  • 19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,
  • 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (Jam. 5:19-20)

What does Paul say about a believer in the Sin unto Death?  That is for the next article.

 

1See the previously posted article on the Downward Spiral: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/question-what-is-downward-spiral.html

2See the following link for a description of the believer’s Downward Spiral: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/question-how-sinful-can-believer-get.html 

Question: Did James say a believer could be in the Sin unto Death?

Did James say a believer could be in the Sin unto Death?

It seems incredible that a believer could even be considered in the Sin unto Death,1because a believer should be pursuing God’s righteousness and seeking to please the Lord in thought, words and actions.  Yet, as seen in the Downward Spiral articles, a believer can continue in sin, even though he is still God’s child and going to heaven.  James is one author that supports the view that a believer can enter the Sin unto Death.

The book of James is written to Jewish believers, who are in the dispersion (Jam. 1:1).  Fifteen times, he calls his audience, “brethren.”  James was written at a time when there were no church buildings. Christians were not kindly treated or respected.  They were considered part of a new cult and ostracized by the mainstream population.

James gives a very practical letter on how to live with a divine perspective. At the end of the letter, James gave a call of hope for those who might stray from the truth of godly living.  James exhorted believers not to trust in their riches (Jam. 5:1-6), to have patience with each other as they waited for the return of the Lord (Jam. 5:7-11), if they were suffering or struggling, to come together for support (Jam. 5:12-15) and to pray together as they worked through conflict (Jam. 5:16-18).  Finally, at the end of his letter he gave these words,

  • 19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,
  • 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (Jam. 5:19-20)
Let us look at these verses.

            This is a passage regarding believers who have strayed from the truth and have entered the Sin unto Death. First, he is talking to “brethren.”  They are again affirmed as believers. Secondly, James highlights a believer who has strayed from the truth, “…if anyone among you wanders from the truth…”He is referring to a believer from among them and that believer has strayed from the truth of the faith they have believed. The word “strayed” comes from a word (planao-) from which we get planet, because the ancient people thought the planets wandered across the sky. Thirdly, “someone” refers to another believer who cares and is willing to risk rejection by being a part of the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 6:1).  That person comes alongside and guides him to repent (turn him back). At this point confession of sin and restoration of fellowship is assumed.

            Now in verse twenty, James summarizes the blessing the spirit-controlled believer is to the wandering, but now repentant believer, who has been delivered from the Sin unto Death.  James highlights these godly actions.  First, James exhorts believers to affirm the godly actions of the believer who was willing to restore the wandering, “let him know.”  It’s a big deal to restore a believer to the truth, but it is a believer’s responsibility. Secondly, the believer is called “a sinner,” because that is the description of his life at that point.  He is living according to sin, rather than according to the Spirit. It is a similar exhortation that Paul gives to those who are spirit-controlled in their godly actions toward a brother who has crossed the obvious line of sin, but is being restored.  This is not referring to an unbeliever in this case for the reasons stated above (words gain their meaning from context more than their simple definition). Thirdly, the godly believer has “saved his soul from death,” which phrase must be examined.

            Words have basic meanings.  The word “saved” has a basic meaning of “deliverance.”  When a person is saved, he is delivered from condemnation.  When it refers to the believer who is “saved” from worldly viewpoint and living, it refers to the sanctification process and deliverance from self-control to spirit-control in life. Paul states, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18; cf. 2 Cor. 2:15).  Paul said he was “being saved” (present passive participle) as an on going process which God was working in his life. Paul was talking about sanctification, not positional salvation.

In the same way, the word “death” has a basic meaning of “separation.” There are actually nine different meanings of death in Scripture, depending on the context.  For example, it can refer to physical death (Gen. 24:67), or spiritual death (Gen. 2:17), or divinely operational death (Jam. 2:17). The context determines the meaning of the word.

            When James says that the spiritual believer “will save a soul from death,” he is referring to deliverance from the Sin unto Death.  The believer is already saved and so cannot be spiritually saved again.  That wandering believer is also in the Sin unto Death, the condition where he is facing the misery of a life of sin before he is taken out of earthly living and enters into the heavenly realm.  The godly believer will deliver that person from the final stage of the Sin unto Death. The godly believer also “covers a multitude of sins.”

            When a person is in the Sin unto Death, he is living a life of sin in carnality.  When that person is delivered from carnality, the person is restored to fellowship with God and spirit-controlled living, rather than sin-controlled living.  Hence, the multitude of sins is discontinued (covered).

            Does James teach a believer can enter the Sin unto Death? Yes.  James not only teaches a believer can enter that stage, but can be delivered from that by a godly believer who is willing to risk coming alongside the scoffer.  May God grant us mercy and love as we might be willing to help a believer return to the truth of God’s word in one area of life or in many areas of life.

 

1There are three articles posted on the Downward Spiral.  One summarizes the Downward Spiral: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/question-what-is-downward-spiral.html

The second records the Downward Spiral for the unbeliever: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/question-how-sinful-can-unbeliever-get.html

And the third records the Downward Spiral of the believer: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/question-how-sinful-can-believer-get.html

Question: What is the Downward Spiral of the unbeliever?

            Everyone knows an unbeliever can be sinful.  There are unbelievers like Hitler who are responsible for the murders of millions.  There are far more civilized unbelievers like Madalyn Murray O’hare, who may have not hurt anyone physically, but have spiritually deceived thousands with the American Atheists organization she founded.  Why is this even important?  It’s important to understand the downward spiral of an unbeliever and understand the spiritual bridge that needs to be built in order to share the gospel.  Continue reading