When we are converted to Christ every sin we have committed from the age of accountability forward is forgiven. We are justified or acquitted of these sins by faith in Christ who paid our sin debt on Calvary (Romans 3:24);
At the same time, a new life is established within us. That is, we are “regenerated” or born again (John 3:5-8), and we are adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:15). We are created anew in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10), and our body becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
At the moment of our rebirth, this glorious reality often enraptures our souls as we experience a keen sense of reconciliation with God and deliverance from a life of sinning as well. The bondage to our “unregenerate” life is in a broad sense clearly broken.
But in addition to reference to our sins committed, the Christian Scriptures also refer to sin in the singular to describe sin as a state of being in this fallen world — imprinted upon and woven into us from birth. This explains a universal corruption of the heart, a carnal mind, a bent to wrongdoing. Romans 6 refers to sin in this singular sense 17 times.
However, at the outset of the new life we discover conflict between our fallenness and the energy of the Spirit of God. This represents a kind of civil war in the Christian heart.
The fallen nature can manifest itself in unpleasant temperaments, dispositions or traits, the bondage to such addictions as pornography or substance addiction, or habits of deceptiveness or grudge-bearing. These vie to persist or return the believer to the old life.
In fact, new Christians might for a time rest in this kind of double-mindedness, leaving them too near the entry point to the new life. That was apparently the Corinthian Christians’ situation. Yet Paul refers to them as “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1Corinthians 1:2).
This means that in a primary way they were set apart to God and, through Christ, had good standing before him. Yet he writes to them as “carnal” or “fleshly” for there is “envying and strife” among them (1Corinthians 3:1-3).
To believers who have been forgiven yet still struggle with their sinful nature and habits the Apostle Paul asks: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1,2).
For the serious Christian, then, it appears that it is never necessary to sin. There is always divine grace (1 Corinthians 10:13). If sin were “necessary” we could not be held accountable for it.
But, at the same time, it is always possible to sin. So we are quick to deal with our omissions, sins of surprise, slips, or failures to do what is right in the Bible’s ordained way: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9). This is instruction for believers.
To live as a victorious Christian means to live in obedience to the indwelling Holy Spirit as he deals with us in accordance with God’s holy word, and at the same time to be alert to the need for the constant covering of the substitutionary death of Christ.
Jesus taught us always to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Photo Credit: Milos Milosevic (via flicker.com)