Archive for the 'Sin' Category

Can Christians become absolutely sinless?

Monday, April 9th, 2018


Spencer D Gear PhD

 How would you, as a Christian,[1] respond to this provocative question?

Why did God / Christ call us to be Holy and Perfect when he knew we are sinners? What was He exhorting us to do / be?[2]

The Scriptures used for support were:

  • 1 Peter 1:16, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’, and
  • Matt 5:48, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.

Be perfect

This article will pursue the meaning of ‘perfect’ (Matt 5:48).

  • The KJV states, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’’
  • The NRSV translation, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.
  • International Standard Version (ISV): ‘So be perfect [or mature],[3]as your heavenly Father is perfect [or mature]’[4].
  • Revised English Bible (REB):[5] ‘There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds’.

These four translations demonstrate how ‘perfect’ as an English meaning may not be the best understanding of the koine Greek for that word. Let’s seek some further information.

If not perfection, what is it?

The problem we have[6] is with the English meaning of ‘perfect’ that communicates the idea of complete or absolute sinlessness. Even with Jesus living in me, I’m incapable of that standard – because I have a sinful nature that God does not have.

What are the alternatives?

(1) Either God is requiring something I cannot attain (perfection) – which makes God a liar (which He is not – Heb 6:18), or

(2) In the original languages, ‘perfection’ has a meaning that is difference from our English connotation.

Teleios exposes the meaning

The word for ‘perfect’ in Matt 5:48 is teleios. It refers to a goal and I don’t know one single word in English to convey its meaning. It doesn’t mean absolute sinlessness, just like God cannot sin, because if we go back to Matt 5:6, the disciples are blessed if they ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’. Verse 7 states, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’ (NIV). They are not yet completely merciful but will be shown mercy by God if they engage in merciful acts.

Therefore, I conclude that ‘perfect’ is not the meaning of teleios. In fact, it’s a misleading interpretation of the original. The statement of Matt 5:48 comes from Deut 18:13, ‘Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God’ (KJV), which modern translations render as, ‘You shall be blameless before the Lord your God’ (NKJV). Here, ‘perfect’ is the Hebrew, tham, which means ‘complete’, like a whole number (Lenski).

Westminster vs Wesley

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 35, asked: What is sanctification? ‘Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness’.

By contrast, John Wesley in ‘A Plain Account of Christian Perfection’ wrote:

“To explain myself a little farther on this head: (1.) Not only sin, properly so called, (that is, a voluntary transgression of a known law,) but sin, improperly so called, (that is, an involuntary transgression of a divine law, known or unknown,) needs the atoning blood. (2.) I believe there is no such perfection in this life as excludes these involuntary transgressions which I apprehend to be naturally consequent on the ignorance and mistakes inseparable from mortality. (3.) Therefore sinless perfection is a phrase I never use, lest I should seem to contradict myself. (4.) I believe, a person filled with the love of God is still liable to these involuntary transgressions. (5.) Such transgressions you may call sins, if you please: I do not, for the reasons above-mentioned”.

So the Westminster Calvinistic divines maintained that the Christian is renewed in the whole person and is enabled to die to sin and live for righteousness – which is progressive sanctification.

By contrast, Wesley considered that when a person voluntarily committed sins, it was possible to stop these as the person grew to Christian maturity.

However, the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia, as an example of a Wesleyan approach to sanctification, states that ‘our mission’ is to …

spread scriptural holiness throughout every land…. [This involves] guiding believers to experience entire sanctification so that they are enabled to live whole and holy lives (Wesleyan Methodist Church Australia, Our Mission).

The Church of the Nazarene adopts a similar perspective on entire sanctification.


We are called to reach the goal of maturity in Christ, to become blameless, complete, and people of integrity in his sight.

There is a divergence of interpretation among certain denominations on this topic. Some believe in progressive sanctification / holiness while others pursue cessation of deliberate voluntary sin, calling it entire sanctification.


[1] When I refer to a Christian, I mean an evangelical Christian who believes and proclaims the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone (Acts 4:12).

[2] Christian 2018. ‘Are Christians called to be holy and perfect?’ Rajesh Sahu#1, 6 April. Available at: (Accessed 8 April 2018).

[3] This was given as a footnote in the ISV text.

[4] Ibid. CFnet.

[5] This is a revised edition of The New English Bible.

[6] The following is my response as OzSpen#18 in CFnet.


Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 April 2018

Christians do not sin!

Saturday, March 25th, 2017


By Spencer D Gear PhD

Do Christians sin after they become believers in Christ? Of course they do! They commit some sinful actions. However, occasionally I meet a person – generally online – who uses the KJV to try to prove that Christians don’t sin.

I met another one of these and I tried to respond biblically to him/her.[1]

a. Christ made us sinless?

Let’s try somebody else on another Christian forum. He made the comment: ‘all theology is flawed’,[2] to which I responded, ‘That’s because you and I are flawed, imperfect, ineffective and sinful’.[3] His comeback was to cite 1 John 3:9 in the KJV and added:

We are joint heirs in the body of Christ by his Blood.

God cannot look upon sin ,therefore we through Christ have been redeemed from the flawed sin nature into the perfection of the body of Christ.
All men have sinned, but Christ has made us sinless by his Blood.[4]

This is false theology that ‘Christ has made us sinless by his Blood’, so I responded: ‘Christ has not made us sinless by his blood sacrifice. This sacrifice means I am justified by faith – declared righteous. It’s a legal position before God’.[5] Then I proceeded to provide the following exegesis for him.

1 John 3:9 in the King James Version of the Bible states: ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God’.

Some have interpreted this to mean that Christians do not sin. I was responding to this statement:

I believe the issue is now, a matter of the fear that if/when we do presently sin, then how can we claim to have Christ? Or to rephrase, the problem is how is it that we could sin if Christ is in us? Wouldn’t we then never sin? If so, then none of us would need confess our sins and be cleansed. 1 John 1:9. James 5:16.[6]

b. Christians don’t sin continuously

Image result for clipart sinThe translators of the NIV have tried to convey the meaning of the Greek tenses in this verse, 1 John 3:9 (NIV): ‘No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God’.

The issues from 1 John 3:9 (NIV) are:

  1. We are talking about those who are born again (favourite language of John), those who are ‘born of God’. We are talking about Christians who have been changed from the inside by God.
  2. These Christians will not continue to sin as a lifestyle. They cannot go on sinning in that way. The Greek present tense verb indicates continuous action, so the NIV presents a good  translation. The thought in this verse is NOT that Christians will never commit acts of sin. It is not saying that born again believers will not sin but that they will not persist in sin.
  3. So, the born again believer cannot live in habitual sin.
  4. BUT, there is the possibility of committing occasional acts of sin – as I can testify in my own life. If we commit those acts of sin, 1 John 1:9 (NIV) tells us what we are to do: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’.

That’s my understanding of 1 John 3:9 and the Greek verb used. Also, it makes practical sense. We know from the preceding verse, 1 John 3:8 (ESV) that ‘whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil’. In other words, they have not been born of God.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil (1 John 3:8).


[1] This was my reply on Christian 2015. 1 John 3:9 What does it mean? OzSpen#201, August 30. Available at: (Accessed 31 August 2015).

[2] Christian 2017. Bible translations (online), now faith#146, 23 March. Available at: (Accessed 25 March 2017).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#149.

[4] Ibid., now faith#152.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#154.

[6] Christian 2015. 1 John 3:9: What does it mean? childeye#200.


Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 January 2018.

Do Christians continue to sin?

Thursday, December 17th, 2015


Carrying Sins

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

 Do you want to get a rise out of Christians? Then, start talking about whether they sin or not after becoming believers.

How would you define sin? One fellow provided this explanation on a Christian forum on the Internet:

Sin, by definition, is “missing the mark.” Paul renders it, falling short of the glory of God. The attaining and maintaining of the Glory of God is our “mark,” our “target.” We have been given God’s glory (John 17:22) and we are to reveal that glory to the world. (Mat 5:16) When we fail to do so by acting contrary to God’s will, we fall short of our goal of revealing God glory by our obedience to God’s good and perfect will for us. That is what sin is.
When we ask someone for forgiveness we must confess our sin against him. To be sincere that request must include sorrow for our sin and repentance. Those conditions fulfill God’s requirements for forgiveness: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jo 1:9) And if we forgive, God forgives. (Mat 6:14).[1]

How would you respond if a person asked you: Do you sin and is it on purpose? Can this sinning involve breaking the rule of those over you, including speeding – as an example?[2] This person backed up this statement by applying Romans 13:2 (KJV), ‘Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation’ (emphasis in his original).

Then came the cynicism:

Oh no??? What would happen if you were speeding, had an accident and died prior to confessing? Worse yet, have you ever got angry at others when driving; maybe even your brethren in Christ without knowing them, and ended up breaking the greatest of Jesus’ commands of all; Rom 13:9 . . .it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.[3]

Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, provided this definition: ‘Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature’ (Grudem 1999:210, emphasis in original). However, this is a rather restricted definition when the diversity of NT words for sin is considered.

Many Greek New Testament words for sin

clip_image001(Richard C Trench, Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, courtesy Wikipedia) Trench was Archbishop from 1864-1884 and he died in 1886 at the age of 78.

Richard C Trench in his Synonyms of the New Testament (Trench 1880) lists 8 different words used for sin.[4] They include these meanings:


blue-arrow-small  agnoema signifies error, i.e. ignorance of what one should have known. The only incidence of this word in the NT is in Heb 9:7. However, the related word, agnoia is in Ps 25:7 and the verb, agnoein, is in Ps 25:7 and Heb 5:2. ‘Sin is designated as an agnoema when it is desired to make excuses for it, as far as there is room for such, to regard it in the mildest possible light (see Acts 3:17)’. Trench observes that ‘there is always an element of ignorance in every human transgression…. Compare the words of the Lord, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), and those of St. Paul, “I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief” (1 Tim 1:13). Thus, ‘No sin of man, except perhaps the sin against the Holy Ghost, which may for this reason be irremissible [unpardonable] (Matt 12:32), is committed with a full and perfect recognition of the evil which is chosen as evil, and of the good which is forsaken as good’ (Trench 1880:247).

blue-arrow-small anomia or paranomia and anomema mean unrighteousness or lawlessness; anomema is not in the NT but is in 1 Sam 25:28 and Ezek 16:49 in the LXX. Trench’s assessment was that

we have generally translated anomia “iniquity” (Matt 7:23; Rom  6:19; Heb 10:17); once “unrighteousness” (2 Cor 6:14), and once “transgression of the law” (1 Jn 3:4). It is set over against dikaiosune (2 Cor 6:14)[5]…; joined with anarchia … with antilogia (Ps 55:10). While anomos is once at least in the N.T. used negatively of a person without law, or to whom a law has not been given (1 Cor 9:21)…; though elsewhere of the greatest enemy of all law, the Man of Sin, the lawless one (2 Thess 2:8); anomia is never there the condition of one living without law but always the condition or deed of one who acts contrary to law: and so, of course, paranomia, found only at 2 Pet 2:16; cf. Prov 10:29, and with paranomein, Acts 23:3. It will follow that where there is no law (Rom 5:13), there may be hamartia, adikia [i.e. injustice, unrighteousness] but not anomia, being as Oecumenius defines it “the error against the adopted law”[6] or as Fritzsche stated, “the contempt for the law or the permissiveness of morals by which the law is violated.”[7] Thus the Gentiles, not having a law (Rom 2:14) might be charged with sin; but they, sinning without law (anomos = chwris nomou, Rom 2:12; 3:21), could not be charged with anomia. It is true, indeed, that, behind that law of Moses, which they never had is another law, the original law and revelation of the righteousness of God that is written on the hearts of all (Rom 2:14-15); and, as this in no human heart is obliterated quite, all sin, even that of the darkest and most ignorant savage, must still in a secondary sense remain as anomia, a violation of this older, though partially obscured, law (Trench 1880:243-244).

blue-arrow-small hamartia or hamartema, which means missing of a mark or aim, is the meaning most frequently used to describe sin. Examples of the use of hamartia include (this is not an extensive list) Jn 8:21; Rom 3:9; 5:12; 6:2, 6; 7:7; 8:2-3; 2 Cor 5:21; Jas 1:15; etc. Hamartema occurs only in Mark 3:28; 4:12; Rom 3:25; 1 Cor 6:18. This word is never used as meaning ‘sinfulness, or as the act of sinning, but only sin contemplated in its separate outcomings and deeds of disobedience to a divine law’. The difference between hamartia and hamartema is that hamartia ‘is sin in the abstract as well as the concrete’ (Trench 1880:241).

blue-arrow-small hettema refers to failure – reducing what should have been provided in full. It does not occur in Classical Greek, appears once in the LXX at Isa 31:8 and is only used twice in the NT at Rom 11:12 and 1 Cor 6:7, having ‘an ethical sense’ in the latter Scripture, meaning ‘coming short of duty, a fault’ (Trench 1880:248).

blue-arrow-small parabasis means transgressing of a line. ‘There must be something to transgress, before there can be a transgression…. With law came for the first time the possibility of the transgression of the law’ (Rom 4:15). ‘In the constant language of St. Paul this parabasis, as the transgression of a commandment distinctly given, is more serious than hamartia (Rom 2:23; 1 Tim 2:14; cf. Heb 2:2; 9:15). See also the use of both hamartia and parabasis in Rom 5:14 (Trench 1880:244-245).

blue-arrow-small parakoe refers to disobeying a voice. It appears 3 times in the NT at Rom 5:19; 2 Cor 10:6; Heb 2:2, and this noun is never in the LXX. However, the verb, parakouw (I refuse to hear) is used in Matt 18:17 and also in Esth 3:3, 8 and Isa 65:12. ‘Parakoe is in its strictest sense a failing to hear, or a hearing amiss; the notion of active disobedience, which follows on this inattentive or careless hearing, being superinduced upon the word; or, it may be, the sin being regarded as already committed in the failing to listen when God is speaking’ (Trench 1880:242-243).

blue-arrow-small paraptwma denotes trespass or fault – falling where someone should have stood upright. Paraptwma occurs only in later Greek and then rarely. Both paraptwma and hamartia are found together in Eph 2:1 which speaks of being ‘dead in the trespasses and the sins’. ‘The former are sins suggested to the mind and partially entertained and welcomed there, and the latter the same embodied in actual deeds’ (Trench 1880:245-246). However,

blue-arrow-smallparaptwma is sometimes used when it is intended to designate sins that are not of the deepest dye [of the most extreme] and the worst enormity. One may trace this very clearly in Gal 6:1, our Translators [KJV] no doubt meaning to indicate as much when they rendered it by “fault,” and not obscurely, as it seems to me in Rom 5:15, 17, 18. Paraptwma is used in the same way, as an error, a mistake in judgment, a blunder, by Polybius (9.10.6) (Trench 1880:246).

The milder form of paraptwma is not always associated with its use. It is a mortal sin (Ezek 18:26) and in Heb 6:6, the parapesein [parapiptw] has an emphasis similar to that of other words for ‘sin’ in Heb 10:26 (‘sinning deliberately’) and Heb 3:12 (‘to fall away from the living God’). ‘In the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in which he distinctly calls it paraptwma, when a man, having reached an acknowledged pitch of godliness and virtue, falls back from, and out of this; “he was lifted up to the height of heaven, and is fallen down to the deep of hell’ (Trench 1880:246-247).

blue-arrow-small plemmeleia refers to a discord in the harmonies of God’s universe. This word occurs frequently in the LXX (see Lev 5:15; Num 18:9) but it doesn’t occur in the NT. It is found in Greek church fathers such as Clement of Rome (First Clement 41). ‘It is properly a discord or disharmony’ (Trench 1880:248-249).

The born again Christians don’t sin?? came the double whammy[8] when the person said, ‘I read in 1 Jn 5:18 (KJV), “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God (Jesus) keepeth himself (Me and you), and that wicked one (Satan) toucheth him not”.[9]

Is this true or not? I have not met a Christian who affirms that he/she does not sin. How can the content of 1 John 5:18 be true when it doesn’t match the reality of Christian behaviour? What is causing a person to promote the KJV translation of 1 Jn 5:18? Does this translation convey accurately what that verse states in the Greek language?

If we confess our sins….

How do you think the person accused would respond? He countered:

And I read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1Jo 1:8) and: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jo 1:9)

Do you know someone or have you heard of someone who ever lived other than Jesus who was without sin?[10]

How would you respond to this kind of expose? It did not go down very well with the person claiming those who are born of God don’t sin.[11] His claim was that this response did not answer his question because the person had said, ‘We fall short of our goal of revealing God (sic) glory by our obedience to God’s good and perfect will for us. That is what sin is’. He posed the question: ‘Are you in fact saying you fall short of God’s will for you because you sin on purpose? Maybe my question should have been; why would you want to do that?’ Then he cherry picked two verses in the KJV:

1 Jn 3:6 (KJV), ‘Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him’. Then he had the audacity to ask: ‘Are we reading of someone besides us here?’ That’s a way of avoiding the issue. What does 1 Jn 3:6 mean? The NIV of 1 Jn 3:6 accurately translates the tenses in the Greek, ‘No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him’. The KJV is a bad translation that misses the nuance of the Greek present tense.

1Jn 5:18 (KJV) ‘We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not’. Again, the NIV accurately conveys the meaning of the Greek present tense, ‘We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them’. This person continued:

Are we not born of God? Does our Father somehow see us in Christ and His sacrifice covering our nakedness as He saw Adam after providing the blood offering for him?

Then once again, would you go to hell for unrepentant sin if you died for speeding before you confessed for doing so? Thanks, and brother I do hope you realize I’m messing with you; I sure don’t believe this for me. I believe we are kept by God, and sealed unto the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit. (Eph 4:30).[12]

Believers who continuously sin

Washing MachineI jumped in at this point.[13] Here there is a link to an Interlinear Greek-English translation of 1 John 5:18. The important thing to note is that hamartanei is present tense, singular number, indicative mood. Present tense has the meaning of continuous or continual action. So it means that all of those who are born again of God will not live a life of continual sin. It does not mean they will not commit acts of sin from time to time. If that happens, they seek forgiveness from God (1 John 1:9) and, where necessary, from the person against whom they committed the sin (Col 3:13).

The person asked a valid question: ‘Why would anyone want to sin in the first place; would you agree that one sins on purpose, and what is the consequence of a sin not confessed?’[14] My response was[15] that our sinful nature has not been eradicated. We still have it.

Rom 6:18 (ESV) states, ‘and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness’. HOWEVER, there is our continuing battle, ‘Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me’ (Rom 7:20 ESV).
Something powerful is still at work in the believer that leads to the committing of sin. It is called the sin nature or original sin. While admitting that Adam’s sin was the original sin of the human race, evangelical theologian Henry Thiessen stated that

it still does not show how the sinful disposition found a place in Adam’s nature. We can be sure that God did not put motives before man that led him to sin. That would make God responsible and absolve man from guilt. Nor did God remove from him His sustaining grace, in which case He would likewise bear the responsibility. Nor is it sufficient to say that the power of choice with which God had endowed Adam was bound to lead to this result, for as [Augustus] Strong says, ‘The mere power of choice does not explain the fact of an unholy choice’[16]…. We cannot tell how the first unholy emotion arose in the soul of a holy being, but we know the fact that it did. The only satisfactory explanation is that man fell by a free act of revolt from God (Thiessen 1949:247-248).

All sin entered the world as a result of this disobedient action by Adam and Eve.

How do you think this person would respond to some of that information?

But we are more than over-comers

This was glib Christianese.[17] His comeback was that in spite of the carnal nature, Christians are more than over comers or conquerors in Christ and in spite of what Paul stated in Romans 7, he went on to proclaim that there ‘is NO condemnation’, using these Scriptures.

Rom 8:35, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?’
Rom 8:36, ‘As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter’.
Rom 8:37, ‘Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us’.
I bring this forth at different times, and what do you think of Moses who committed a sin unto death as it were (Deut 32:50) (Num 20:12) for not believing God. Is he in hell? Not quite, but he was denied certain things he could have had. I contend that it is God keeping us, and not our faithfulness. Our purpose in this is to attain into being a joint-heir with Christ as His bride.[18]

How does one reply to moving past Romans 7 and onto the content of Romans 8? I replied:[19] Romans 8 does not negate the influence of this: ‘Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me’ (Rom 7:20 ESV) is still part of living and growing as a Christian.
As for Moses, that was for a particular time and person in the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. Christians are under a New Covenant. According to Heb 8:8-13 (ESV), we know:

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbour
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’,
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful towards their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.?

I do not know why you are harking back to Deut 32:50 (KJV ) and Num 20:12 (KJV) when that arrangement is now obsolete. It has vanished and has been replaced by the New Covenant. There is no need for continual sacrifices under the Old Covenant system: Hebrews 10 (ESV) provides the perfect exposition of Christ’s once for all sacrifice that has replaced the repeated sacrifices of the OT. So, Deut 32:50 (KJV) and Num 20:12 (KJV) do not have a place since the passion-resurrection of Christ.

His response was[20] that his view was that the old covenants were of importance, otherwise God would not have written about them:

1 Cor 10:11, ‘Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come’.
The point I attempted to make is that Moses was not condemned even though he suffered loss.

1 Cor 3:15, ‘If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire’.
This present covenant shows Jesus entering the Holy place one time and purchased us with eternal redemption in Heb 8:12. Even now we read in Rom 6:14, For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. To me this shows no condemnation

However, what is the place of the OT covenant in relation to the New Covenant?

Old Covenant shadows

I contended[21] that the Old Covenant provided shadows. The New Covenant provided the substance – Christ:
Colossians 2:16-17 (ESV) affirms this, ‘Therefore let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ’.
Heb 8:4-5 (ESV), ‘Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain”’.
Heb 8:10 (ESV) explains the fulfillment of the ‘shadow’:
‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people’.

Then there was this twist:

Christians seen as sinless


Then this brother in Christ moved to his own rhetoric:[22]

Would it be correct to say that in Christ we are seen as sinless; our new nature does not sin for we are kept by our Savior. Our carnal nature, or old man walking after the flesh instead of after the Spirit may be guilty of even a sin unto death.
1 Jn 5:18 (KJV again), ‘We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God (This is Jesus keeping us) keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not’.

It was here that I jumped in. In Christ, we are declared righteous forensically. It is a legal standing before God: ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom 5:1 ESV).[23] Of his repeated use of the KJV on 1 John 5:18, I stated: I do not know why you continue to use this bad KJV translation. I have exegeted this verse for you (see above and below) to demonstrate that the meaning is as in the NIV where ‘sinneth not’ uses the verb which means continuous or continual action, ‘We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them’ (1 Jn 5:18 NIV). That’s the meaning of the Greek, which is contrary to the KJV translation.

His rejoinder was, ‘And so you think, and/or know that you don’t continue to sin. How does that agree with 1 Jn 1:8 (KJV)? “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’. You state that you don’t commit continuous sin; is this what some call sins of commission? How does someone that is born of God not continue to sin while sinning?’[24]

Christians not engaged in continuous sin


(courtesy ChristArt)

Let’s note the difference between continuous and continual in English. According to Oxford Dictionaries, ‘continuous’ means ‘forming an unbroken whole; without interruption (2015. S v continuous) and ‘continual’ means ‘forming a sequence in which the same action or event is repeated frequently’ (2015. S v continual).

Now what does the NT Greek present tense mean? John Wenham’s introductory Greek text states that ‘the Greek Present corresponds more closely in meaning to the English Present Continuous than to the Present Simple’ (Wenham 1965:29, emphasis in original).

Advanced NT Greek text by Dana & Mantey states that ‘the important element of tense in Greek is kind of action. This is its fundamental significance’ and ‘action as continuous’ and ‘here the principal tense is the present, which in the indicative [mood] is used primarily of present time’ (Dana & Mantey 1955:178, emphasis in original). Three dimensions of the present tense are given by Dana & Mantey:

6pointblue-small  The Progressive Present that is earest the root idea of the present. It signifies action in progress, or state in persistence, and may be represented by the graph of a continuous line (without a break in it of any kind. Examples include Matt 25:8, ‘Our lamps are going out’. See also Matt 8:25 and Jn 5:7 (Dana & Mantey 1955:182)

6pointblue-small The Customary (Gnomic) Present in which the tense denotes ‘that which habitually occurs, or may be reasonably expected to occur’. An example would be Heb 3:4, ‘For every house is built by someone’ (ESV). See also Matt 7:17; 2 Cor 9:7 (Dana & Mantey 1955:183).

6pointblue-small The Iterative Present which describes ‘that which recurs at successive intervals, or is conceived of in successive periods. It is sometimes called the present of repeated action’. Such an example is 1 Cor 15:31, ‘I die every day’. Other examples include Rom 8:36 and 1 Cor 11:21.

Therefore, the Greek present tense[25] means continuous or continual action. First John 5:18 (NIV) deals with the fact that Christians do not live a lifestyle of sin.
So what does 1 John 1:8 (ESV) mean? ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ (1 Jn 1:8 ESV).

  • ‘If we say’. In Greek this is a third class condition with ean. ‘Say’ is aorist tense, referring to point action; it happened.
  • ‘We have no sin’ = hamartian ouk echomen, i.e. sin not have. ‘That is, we have no personal guilt, no principle of sin. This some of the Gnostics held, since matter was evil and the soul was not contaminated by the sinful flesh, a thin delusion with which so-called Christian scientists delude themselves today’ (Robertson 1933:208).
  • ‘We deceive ourselves’. Deceive is present tense active voice, meaning ‘to lead astray’ as continual action.
  • If this happens, ‘the truth is not in us’. Again continual action of the present tense.

R C H Lenski, in his commentary, wrote of this verse:

Verse 8 speaks of sin. The claim that we do not have “sin” means “such a thing as sin,” and not having such a thing means that nothing of the nature of sin clings to us to stain us as filth or to blacken us as guilt so that we need cleansing or removal. It is debated as to whether John includes original sin or speaks only of actual sin as though actual sins were ever committed by us except as outgrowths of the depravity that is inherent in us (Lenski 1966:391)

Therefore, this verse is not teaching what this fellow was saying. It is providing this practical instruction: If we say (once for all action) that we do not have a sinful nature (a sin principle), as the Gnostics were teaching (John’s epistles are especially addressed to correct the errors of Gnosticism), then we are continually deceiving ourselves – leading ourselves astray. If that kind of denial of the sinful nature takes place, the truth of the nature of human beings cannot be in us continually.


To answer the question posed as the title of this article, ‘Do Christians continue to sin?’ the reply, based on Scripture, is that Christians will sin because their sinful nature has not been eradicated. However, they will not keep on sinning as a lifestyle.

They have the power of God by his Holy Spirit within them to be able to control the actions of sinful behaviour. If they sin, they confess their sins to God and he forgives (1 John 1:9). Jesus said we ought to pray, ‘Forgive us our sins [or debts], as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us’ (Matt 6:12 ISV). There is a need to confess to those we have sinned against: ‘Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ (James 5:16 ISV).

Do you remember the one who said, ‘Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly’ (source)?

See my other articles:

Flower18 How could very good human beings commit the first sin?

Flower18 Sinful nature or sinful environment?

Flower18  What is the nature of death according to the Bible?


Works consulted

Dana, H E & Mantey, J R 1927/1955, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Toronto, Canada: The Macmillan Company.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. J Purswell (ed). Leister, England: Inter-Varsity Press (published by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers.[26]

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press. Also available online HERE.

Strong, A 1907. Systematic theology, 3 vols in 1. Philadelphia: The Judson Press.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Trench, R C 1880. Synonyms of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.[27] Trench’s Synonyms(1880. S v Sin), is available at, (Accessed 15 March 2015).

Wenham, J W 1965. The Elements of New Testament Greek (based on the earlier work by H P V Nunn). London / New York NY: Cambridge University Press.


[1] Christian, ‘Is God a “TRINITY”? Jim Parker#96. 12 December 2015. Available at: (Accessed 15 December 2015).

[2] Ibid., Eugene#105.

[3] Ibid., his emphasis.

[4] This entire section of various words, meanings and references to sin is based on Trench (1880:239-249). This publication is now in the public domain.

[5] The Greek dikaiosune means righteousness.

[6] This is a translation of the Greek by

[7] This is a translation of the Latin by

[8] A double whammy is ‘a situation that is bad in two different ways: a situation in which two bad conditions exist at the same time or two bad things happen one after the other’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2015. S v double whammy).

[9] Christian, ibid., Eugene#105.

[10] Ibid., Jim Parker#106.

[11] Ibid., Eugene#107.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#108.

[14] Ibid., Eugene#110.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#111.

[16] This citation is from Strong (1907:585).

[17] Wikipedia defines Christianese (or Christianeze) as referring, ‘to the contained terms and jargon used within many of the branches and denominations of Christianity as a functional system of religious terminology’ (Wikipedia 2015. S v Christianese). Take a read of a more detailed definition of Christianese by Tim at Dictionary of Christianese (2012. S v Definition of Christianese).

[18] Christian ibid., Eugene#112.

[19] Ibid., OzSpen#114.

[20] Ibid., Eugene#115.

[21] Ibid., OzSpen#116.

[22] Ibid., Eugene#123.

[23] Ibid., OzSpen#124.

[24] Ibid., Eugene#126.

[25] This section is based on ibid., OzSpen#127.

[26] This is a limited edition printing in 2001, licensed by special permission from Augsburg Fortress of the 1966 edition by Augsburg Publishing House.

[27] This is the eighth printing in May 1975 and is a reproduction of the ninth edition published in London in 1880.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 December 2015.

When does a person become a Christian?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Unwanted Truth

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

A person wrote: ‘Only faith “full belief” in Jesus Christ can provide salvation. Ask in your own way this is just a guide. “Dear heavenly Father I am sorry Christ had to take the punishment that I deserve.” “I ask you Christ that you please forgive me of all my sins. I thank you Lord for your wonderful grace and forgiveness’.[1]

That seemed a reasonable response from a Christian, but for for this one: It generated this provocative response : ‘At what point in this process does a person go from being a non-Christian to a Christian?’[2] I don’t quite know why this kind of response was necessary as the first person’s response was indicative of what happens when many come to Christ for salvation.

Believe, put complete trust in clip_image002

[3]Surely it is not difficult to determine this issue of when salvation begins. Acts 16:31 (ESV) states: ‘And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”’ ‘Believe’ is an aorist tense imperative (command) in the Greek. The aorist means instant point action so ‘believe’ here means that the moment a person believes in the Lord Jesus salvation is his or hers. To believe means to put one’s trust and confidence in Jesus Christ.

R C H Lenski in his commentary on Acts 16:31 states,

‘”To believe” always means to put all trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus, in other words, by such trust of the heart to throw the personality entirely into his arms for deliverance from sin, death and hell. Here epi [a preposition] is used; this trust is to rest on Jesus. This the jailor is to “do.” He must do the believing, every individual in his household likewise, for no one can do the believing for others. But faith is not our own production. Even in ordinary life confidence is awakened and produced in us by the one in whom we believe. The same holds true with reference to Jesus who is most worthy of our confidence and trust. To come in contact with him is to be moved to trust him and him alone for salvation. For this reason unbelief is such a crime. It is the refusal to trust him who is supremely worthy of trust’ (Lenski 2001:680-681, emphasis added).?

Remember what the other fellow stated: ‘I ask you Christ that you please forgive me of all my sins. I thank you Lord for your wonderful grace and forgiveness’. I gather from that kind of statement that he is affirming, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus’.

So to answer your question: ‘At what point in this process does a person go from being a non-Christian to a Christian?’ On the basis of Acts 16:31 and the Philippian jailor, a person goes from being non-Christian to being Christian the moment that person believes and puts absolute trust and confidence in Jesus Christ for salvation.

But elsewhere there are some conditions placed on this believing. Take John 3:16 (NIV) as an example: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. Here, ‘whosoever believeth’ (KJV) or ‘whoever believes’ (NIV) uses the present tense of the verb ‘believe’, meaning ‘continues to believe’. So, on the basis of this verse, a person who continues to believe ‘may continue to have eternal life’.

To answer the question: a person becomes a Christian the instant he or she places faith/trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation but we know that genuine faith by that person continuing to believe. And the inference will be that that person will continue to bear fruit that demonstrates genuine belief. Jesus said, ‘You will recognize them by their fruits’ (Matt 7:16 ESV).


Therefore, we can conclude that any person who puts complete trust or confidence in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, will be saved from that moment. That faith will be demonstrated by: (1) Continuing to believe (and follow Christ), and (2) bearing fruits that demonstrate a person is a Christian.

Works consulted

Lenski, R C H 2001. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (based on the original published in 1934 by Lutheran Book Concern and assigned in 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House).


[1] Christian Forums, ‘Please understand’, January 8 2015, ddrgkd#1. Available at: (Accessed 16 June 2015).

[2] Ibid., 98cwtr#20.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#22.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

Why does God allow pain and suffering?

Monday, December 29th, 2014

File:Ebola virus virion.jpg

Ebola virus virion (image courtesy commons.wikimedia)

By Spencer D Gear

If you are suffering from heart disease, cancer, epilepsy, or the beginning stages of dementia, perhaps you have questions like I have. Why is there so much suffering and evil in the world? During 2014 we have seen around the world some horrific evil and suffering. I’m thinking of:

clip_image001The Peshawar school slaughter in Pakistan

In this slaughter by the Taliban, 145 people were killed in this military-run school on 16 December 2014. NBC News in the USA reported in ‘Death “All Around Me”: Victims Relive Pakistan School Massacre’:

Pakistan was plunged into mourning Tuesday after Taliban militants in suicide vests laid siege to a school, massacring 132 children and 10 teachers during eight hours of sheer terror. In total, 145 people were killed, including three soldiers, officials said.

Peshawar government high school (photo courtesy Commons.wikimedia)

clip_image001[1] The Ebola outbreak in West Africa

BBC News Africa reported on 23 December 2014, ‘Ebola: Mapping the outbreak’:

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in March 2014, and has rapidly become the deadliest occurrence of the disease since its discovery in 1976.

In fact, the current epidemic sweeping across the region has now killed more than all other known Ebola outbreaks combined.

Up to 21 December, 7,580 people had been reported as having died from the disease in six countries; Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali.

(image courtesy commons.wikimedia)

clip_image001[2] Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared off the face of the earth on 8 March 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. BBC News reported on ‘Missing Malaysia plane MH370: What we know’.

File:Malaysia Airlines MH370 origin destination atc radar water bodies.png

Malaysia Airlines MH370 original destination (image courtesy commons.wikimedia)

clip_image001[3] Then terrorism came to my home country of Australia with the siege and deaths at the Lindt Chocolatw Café, Martin Place, Sydney. See: ‘As it happened: Tributes flow for Sydney siege victims killed in Martin Place Lindt cafe shootout’ (ABC News, 16 December 2014).

File:(1)Lindt Cafe siege two days later 008a.jpg

Lindt Cafe siege two days later (photo courtesy commons.wikimedia)

But we could tell of much more evil and suffering in our world.

Does suffering have a purpose?

A Christian medical doctor wrote this on a Christian forum in the UK to which I once was contributing:

Suffering teaches us what it feels like to suffer so that we are better able to understand and help others when they are suffering (II Corinthians 1:3,4).

As a doctor, I have theoretical knowledge about many illnesses; but actually being ill gives you a completely different kind of knowledge. Instead of being a spectator, you become a patient and suddenly you can see and understand things that were previously invisible or incomprehensible to the professionals trying to help you. And so for almost every significant medical condition there exists a patient support group, through which people can share their experiences and give each other practical and emotional help.

In the UK, many charities have been started as the result of an individual going through a period of suffering, and thus becoming aware of a need. When it comes to motivation, there is nothing like personal experience!

Dr Mary Verghese (1925-1986) was training to be an obstetrician in India when a road accident left her paralysed from the waist down. As a result of this, she became acutely aware of the lack of help for the many disabled people in India, and she went on to become one of the country’s first specialists in disability and rehabilitation. (You can read her story in the book Take my hands by Dorothy Clarke Wilson).[1]

My personal encounter with pain

My response was:[2]

Sometimes the reason for pain and suffering is not always readily discernible. I suffered 3 bouts of rheumatic fever when I was aged 6, 10 and 12 – the most excruciating pain of the knees and ankle joints I have ever encountered. The memory remains today and I’m approaching older age. It was so severe that the hospital had to put a metal hoop over my legs so that not even a sheet could touch my legs as that would exacerbate the pain. I was not allowed to sit up. Now that was a challenge for a child.

As a result I have had leaking mitral and aortic valves of my heart all my life. I now have had 5 open heart surgeries since 1983 (the last in March 2013) to insert mechanical mitral and aortic valves, and repair the tricuspid valve. I’ve had to deal with multiple medications, including warfarin, and regular INR blood tests since 1983.

The primary biblical help I can get for this suffering is in James 1:2-4,

Count it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (ESV).

It is designed to bring me as a Christian to maturity and faithfulness in my Christian faith. It is not designed to make me angry with God, but I sure understand the consequences of original sin. Oh, how I long for that sweet relief that ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ will bring.

I know the purpose is maturity. But I do have moments when the going gets so tough with breathlessness as I walk.

File:Mitral Karboniks-1 bileafter prosthetic heart valve.jpg

Mitral artificial (prosthetic) heart valve

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

It’s a tough call

What is the origin of evil? If God is sovereign, does He cause it or allow it? You may have a loved one who suffered or is suffering. You may be suffering personally. These are important questions to you and to me. I don’t find a lot of churches addressing them as there are some tough issues here.

God did not create the world the way it is today. His original world was perfect (Gen. 1:31; Eccl. 7:29). The repulsive evil in our world came about by the fall of Adam into sin (Gen. 3). We cannot blame God for the ugly sin in our world. God gave Adam the free will to choose: ‘You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’ (Gen 2:17 NIV). He chose evil. See Genesis 3:4-7:

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves (NIV).

I’ve written elsewhere on the issue of pain and suffering. Why don’t you take a read?

clip_image003 God sovereign but not author of evil

clip_image003[1] Did God create evil?

clip_image003[2] Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

clip_image003[3] Isaiah 45:7: Who or what is the origin of evil?

clip_image003[4] September 11 & other tragedies: Why doesn’t God stop it?

clip_image003[5] Can God do anything and everything?

clip_image003[6] Turning trash into treasure (James 1:2-4)

Ukraine 1922 (image ‘Human suffering’,courtesy  commons.wikimedia)


[1] Deborah#15, September 23, 2014, UK Christian Web, ‘Reasons why Christians suffer’. Available at: (Accessed 2 October 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#17, 2 October 2014.


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 May 2016.

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Out of Heart

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

It is not unusual to meet concerned Christian people who worry about whether they have committed the unpardonable sin. These verses from Jesus bother some folks:

‘Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ (Mark 3:28-29 ESV).

So they should bother them if they have committed this unpardonable sin. However, what is the nature of such a sin that God will never forgive?

What is blasphemy?

Barnard Franklin summarised the New Testament material:

The word “blasphemy” in its various forms (as verb, noun, adjective, etc.) appears some fifty-nine times in the New Testament. It has a variety of renderings, such as, “blasphemy,” “reviled,” “railed,” “evil spoken of,” “to speak evil of,” etc. Examples of these various renderings are: “They that passed by reviled him” (Matthew 27:39). “He that shall blaspheme” (Mark 3:29). “They that passed by railed on him” (Mark 15:29). “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:2). “These speak evil of those things” (Jude 10). It is evident from these that blasphemy is a sin of the mouth, a “tongue-sin.” All New Testament writers except the author of Hebrews use the word (Franklin 1936:224-225, in Butt 2003).

I met one such person on the Internet whose issue was,

Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was put this way from a Christian write up I just found.
The man said,

“The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws for ever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.”
So for me to put it in my head that I was never forgiven was wrong.
To catch up really quick with my story is 10 years ago I thought I made the unforgivable sin and gave up since why would i continue if in my head I was never going to be forgiven. Here I am 10 years later with a burning desire to really follow Christ but once again having to come to some conclusion did I wait too long and grieve the Holy Spirit? Or is the fact that I still have a desire to follow good enough to prove I have hope?
I do know some Christians follow maybe as a child or a teen and then have a falling away only to be brought back at a later time in life.
I surely hope that is me.[1]

My reply to this person was as follows:[2] It seems to me that, based on the sins you have done, you are battling whether or not you have committed a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for which there is no forgiveness. Why is this happening for you? The Scriptures state that such a person is guilty of an eternal sin.

Blasphemy and damnation

What is the nature of this sin that has no forgiveness? If this sin cannot be pardoned, it means the person is damned forever. At the final judgment (Matt 25:31-46), Jesus describes what will happen to the unrighteous who are cursed by God: ‘These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’ (Matt 25:46).

The nature of this blasphemy

Many theologians and exegetes have battled over the nature of this sin.

Henry Thiessen wrote:

The degree to which the soul has hardened itself and become unreceptive to multiplied offers of the grace of God here determines the degree of guilt. Final obduracy is the sin against the Holy Spirit and is unpardonable, because the soul through it has ceased to be receptive to the divine influence (Matt. 12:31, 32; Mark 3:29; 1 John 5:16, 17; Heb. 10:26) (Thiessen 1949:270).

I consider that William Hendriksen’s commentary on these 2 verses explains this blasphemous sin with no forgiveness as well as any I have read. He expounds:

The question is, “How is it to be understood that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable?” As to other sins, no matter how grievous or gruesome, there is pardon for them. There is forgiveness for David’s sin of adultery, dishonesty, and murder (II Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51; cf. Psalm 32); for the “many” sins of the woman of Luke 7; for the prodigal son’s “riotous living” (Luke 15:13, 21-24); for Simon Peter’s triple denial accompanied by profanity (Matt. 26:74, 75; Luke 22:31, 32; John 18:15-18, 25-27; 21:15-17); and for Paul’s preconversion merciless persecution of Christians (Acts 9:1; 22:4; 26:9-11; I Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; Phil. 3:6). But for the man who “speaks against the Holy Spirit” there is no pardon.

Why not? Here, as always when the text itself is not immediately clear, the historical context must be our guide. See Luke 11:15, 18; Mark 3:22; cf. John 7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20. From it we learn that the bitter opponents of Jesus have been ascribing to Satan what the Holy Spirit, through Christ, was achieving. Moreover, they were doing this willfully, deliberately. In spite of all the evidences to the contrary they were still affirming that Jesus was expelling demons by the power of Beelzebul. Now to be forgiven implies that the sinner be truly penitent. Among the opponents such genuine sorrow for sin was totally lacking. For penitence they substituted hardening; for confession, plotting. Thus, by means of their own criminal and completely inexcusable callousness, they were dooming themselves. Their sin was unpardonable because they were unwilling to tread the path that leads to pardon. For a thief, an adulterer, and a murderer there is hope. The message of the gospel may cause him to cry out, “O God be merciful to me, the sinner.” But when a man has become hardened, so that he has made up his mind not to pay any attention to the promptings of the Spirit, not even to listen to his pleading and warning voice, he has placed himself on the road that leads to perdition. He has sinned the sin “unto death” (I John 5:16; see also Heb. 6:4-8).

For anyone who is truly penitent, no matter how shameful his transgressions may have been, there is no reason to despair (Psalm 103:12; Isa. 1:18; 44:22; 55:6, 7; Mic. 7:18-20; I John 1:9) (Hendriksen 1975:138-139).

Wayne Grudem takes a similar line:


There are several passages of scripture that speak about a sin that will not be forgiven.  It is described as blasphemy against the Spirit. (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:29-30; Luke 12:10; Hebrews 6:4-6)

Possible interpretations:

(1) Some have thought that it was a sin that could only be committed while Christ was on earth, but Jesus statement in Matthew 12:31 is too general to mean this and Hebrews 6:4-6 is speaking of apostasy that occurred after Jesus.

(2) Some hold that it is describing unbelief that continues until the time of death.  While it is true that unbelief until death will not be forgiven, these verses are not speaking about unbelief in general, but a specific sin of speaking against the Holy Spirit.

(3) Some hold that this sin is serious apostasy by genuine believers.  While there is a case based upon Hebrews 6:4-6, the argument loses strength when considering the context of the gospel passages where Jesus is responding to the Pharisees denial of the work of the Holy Spirit through him.

(4) The most likely interpretation of the unpardonable sin in these verses is that it is an unusually malicious, willful rejection and slander against the Holy Spirit’s work attesting to Christ, and attributing that work to Satan.  In the context of these verses, Jesus is responding to the Pharisees accusation that he was casting out demons by the power of Satan.  This despite of the fact that they were aware of Jesus’ miraculous works and authoritative teaching that was consistent with scripture.  This made their lies especially malicious in nature.  This sin is speaking of one that includes (a) a clear knowledge of who Christ is and the power of the Holy Spirit working through him, (b) a willful rejection of the facts about Christ they knew to be true, and (c) slanderously attributing the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ to Satan.  This explanation fits with the passage in Hebrews 6:4-6 as well because it describes someone who has knowledge and conviction of the truth, but willingly turns away from Christ and holds him in contempt.

These verses speak more to the condition of the human heart than the willingness or ability of God to forgive them.  These people have hardened their heart so much toward God that normal means of bringing them to salvation would not work.  Believers who fear they have committed such a sin should not really worry because the fact that there is still sorrow for sin and a desire to return to God is evidence in itself that they do not fall into this category.[3]

What about purgatory?

Mark 3:29 stated that the person who blasphemed against the Holy Spirit ‘is guilty of an eternal sin’. However, in Matthew 12:31-32, Jesus stated the Mark 3:28-29 theme but with a slight variation:

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matt 12:31-32 ESV).

This different emphasis here is not in Mark 3:29. The person who commits this blasphemy ‘will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come’ (Matt 12:32). Some have used this nuance to promote the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. What is purgatory? The Roman Catholic Church teaches that

Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions (Hanna 1911).

Edward Hanna, in articulating the Roman Catholic position, cited the Council of Trent’s position:

“Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in Councils and very recently in this Ecumenical synod (Sess. VI, cap. XXX; Sess. XXII cap.ii, iii) that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar; the Holy Synod enjoins on the Bishops that they diligently endeavor to have the sound doctrine of the Fathers in Councils regarding purgatory everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful” (Denzinger, “Enchiridon”, 983) (in Hanna 1911).

When confronted with the Scriptures, interpreted in a contextual way, purgatory fails the test. For a refutation of the doctrine of purgatory, see ‘What does the Bible say about Purgatory?’ (Got Questions Ministries 2014) This article provides some reasons why purgatory is a non-biblical teaching:

Purgatory, like many other Catholic dogmas, is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Catholics view the Mass / Eucharist as a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice because they fail to understand that Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice was absolutely and perfectly sufficient (Hebrews 7:27). Catholics view meritorious works as contributing to salvation due to a failure to recognize that Jesus’ sacrificial payment has no need of additional “contribution” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Similarly, Purgatory is understood by Catholics as a place of cleansing in preparation for heaven because they do not recognize that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are already cleansed, declared righteous, forgiven, redeemed, reconciled, and sanctified.

The very idea of Purgatory and the doctrines that are often attached to it (prayer for the dead, indulgences, meritorious works on behalf of the dead, etc.) all fail to recognize that Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay the penalty for ALL of our sins. Jesus, who was God incarnate (John 1:1,14), paid an infinite price for our sin. Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2). To limit Jesus’ sacrifice to atoning for original sin, or sins committed before salvation, is an attack on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. If we must in any sense pay for, atone for, or suffer because of our sins – that indicates Jesus’ death was not a perfect, complete, and sufficient sacrifice.

For believers, after death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). Notice that this does not say “away from the body, in Purgatory with the cleansing fire.” No, because of the perfection, completion, and sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are immediately in the Lord’s presence after death, fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified.

In his exposition of Matthew 12:31-32, William Hendriksen demonstrates why the phrase, ‘will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come’, does not refer to purgatory:

These words by no stretch of the imagination imply that for certain sins there will be forgiveness in the life hereafter. They do not in any sense whatever support the doctrine of purgatory. The expression simply means that the indicated sin will never be forgiven. As to the doctrine of purgatory, supposedly the place where the souls of those who are not eternally lost pay off the remainder of their debt by suffering punishment for the sins which they committed while still on earth, it is clearly contradicted by Scripture, which teaches that ‘Jesus paid it all’ (Heb. 5:9; 9:12, 26; 10:14; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5; 7:14) (Hendriksen 1973:528).

Personal application

For you personally, are you presently and continuously ascribing to Satan what the Holy Spirit, through Christ, is doing in you or others’ lives? In addition, are you continuing to do this wilfully and deliberately?

Or, have you been so convicted of what you have been doing that you have come to Jesus in repentance to seek forgiveness for your sins? Do you have utter contrition for what you have been doing?

The fact that you are here on this forum discussing your sins and concern about the unpardonable sin indicates that you have not turned off the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Please remember what Mark stated: ‘All sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter’ (Mk 3:28) EXCEPT one. That one thing for which there is no forgiveness is if you currently are wilfully accusing Jesus of expelling demons and linking that to the work of Satan (Beelzebul).


When the Pharisees were faced with Jesus’ miracles and the working of the Holy Spirit through him, they credited that power to Beelzebul (the devil). Franklin rightly stated that the Pharisees claimed that Jesus was ‘Satan incarnate instead of God incarnate. It is this, and nothing else, that our Lord calls the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost’ (Franklin 1936:227, emphasis added). By attributing Jesus’ miraculous powers to Satan, the Pharisees were committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Thus, this was a particular sin addressed to the Pharisees in the time of Jesus for which there was no forgiveness .

However, a person can commit another sin for which there is no further repentance. That is described in Hebrews 6:4-6 as apostasy (‘fall away’ from the faith and renounce it). For my exposition of this passage, see the article, ‘Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

Works consulted

Butt, K 2003. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – the ‘unpardonable sin’. Apologetics Press. Available at: (Accessed 25 October 2014).

Franklin, B 1936. The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost: An Inquiry into the scriptural teaching regarding the unpardonable sin. Bibliotheca Sacra, 93:220-233, April-June.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Hanna, E. 1911. Purgatory. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. New Advent, available at: (Accessed 25 October 2014).

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Hendriksen, W 1975. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Mark. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[1] Jayblue1#1. Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Hi there, I have some questions’, available at: (Accessed 25 October 2014). Because Jayblue1 made and error and deleted his original post, the content of what is said is gained from its being quoted by ibid., 98cwitr#7. Jayblue1#5 said the Bible passage was from Matt 3:28-29, but it is Mark 3:28-29.

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#37.

[3] Grudem, W 1994 (Systematic theology), ch 24, available at: (Accessed 25 October 2014).


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah not being hospitable?

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

John Martin’s rendering of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction (Courtesy Creationwiki)

By Spencer D Gear

I find it disconcerting how wide of the mark some secular journalists can become in their understanding of Scripture. A recent example was that of Elizabeth Farrelly in The Age, a Melbourne newspaper (also online). The article was titled, ‘Tenets of democracy get lost in hate storm’.[1]

The first line was, ‘The sin of sodomy, say biblical scholars, was not homosexual sex but a failure of hospitality’. Really?

Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe give this reason behind the ‘hospitality’ interpretation of Gen 19 rather than sexual sodomy:

Some have argued that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality, not homosexuality. They base this claim on the Canaanite custom that guarantees protection for those coming under one’s roof. Lot is alleged to have referred to it when he said, “Don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof” (Gen. 19:8 NIV). So Lot offered his daughters to satisfy the angry crowd in order to protect the lives of the visitors who had come under his roof. Some also claim that the request of the men of the city to “know” (Gen. 19:5 ) simply means “to get acquainted,” since the Hebrew word “know” (yada) generally has no sexual connotations whatsoever (cf. Psalm 139:1 ) (Geisler & Howe 1992:48).

Farrelly’s view is that biblical scholars claim that the issue for Sodom & Gomorrah is not the sin of male homosexuality but of being inhospitable.

That is not how the Hebrew scholars who translated the New International Version of the Bible saw it. Their translation of Genesis 19:5 is that the men from every part of Sodom who ‘called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them”‘. That’s not hospitality but sexual perversion.

While the Hebrew word, yada (know),[2] is not mandatory to be translated as ‘to have sex with’, in 10 of its 12 times in Genesis (see Gen 4:1, 25), it does mean that. We know from Gen 19:8 that it means sexual intercourse as Lot refers to his virgin daughters who had not ‘known’ a man, obviously meaning sexual intercourse.

‘Know’ cannot mean a hospitable person getting acquainted with someone else because it is associated with ‘a wicked thing’ in Gen 19:7. In addition, God said he would be destroying Sodom & Gomorrah in Gen 18:16-33, before the evidence of Gen 19:5, 8.

Elizabeth Farrelly, as a journalist, has violated a fundamental of interpretation in her statement that the sin of Sodom was not homosexual sex but failure to be hospitable. That fundamental of hermeneutics is that the meaning of any text, including Farrelly’s writing in The Age, is determined by the context in which it is used. To determine the context for the Sodom situation, one has to go to Genesis 18 and 19. There one finds evidence that the sin of sodomy definitely refers to sexual intercourse between men (homosexuality) and not to inhospitality.

Farrelly concludes her article with these words:

When the men of Sodom demanded that Lot relinquish his angel visitors, his asylum seekers, God punished Sodom for this breach of the sacred duty of welcome. A sodomite was a hard-heart, a jackboot, a repeller of blow-ins.

So I ask again, is Scott Morrison a sodomite? Is Tony Abbott? Are we okay with this?

Farrelly is right off track because she can’t be on track with her interpretation of Sodom and the sodomites in Genesis 19. If she gets that context wrong, how can she be correct with her application to Scott Morrison or Tony Abbott?

Am I okay with Farrelly’s interpretation of sodomites and application to Morrison and Abbott? Absolutely not! She is pushing her politically correct agenda and it has nothing to do with an accurate, contextual interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrah events of Genesis 19.

Therefore, based on the above exposition, it is reasonable to interpret the Genesis 19 passages as referring to something other than Farrelly’s view of not being hospitable. It definitely refers to the sin of sexual sodomy, i.e. homosexuality.

Works consulted

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When critics ask: A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.


[1] The Age, 25 September 2014. Available at: (Accessed 25 September 2014).

[2] Some of the following information is based on Geisler & Howe (1992:48-49).


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 November 2015.

How could very good human beings commit the first sin?

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Sticky Sin

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

In a moment of contemplation, have you ever thought on how the first human beings made by God could possibly fall into sin? Where did human wickedness start and how was it caused?

What was the condition of the first human beings whom God created? Genesis 1:31 could not be clearer: ‘And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day’ (ESV).

I got to thinking more deeply of this as a result of what a person online asked:

I’m having trouble understanding how sin and evil can exist in the first place since we know from God’s word that He did not create any of this (or am I understanding that in the wrong way). If that is the correct understanding then, and that God created everything, then how can it be that sin and evil can exist if they are not from God?[1]

Free choice not good enough

Sin Stain

(courtesy ChristArt)

My response[2] was that I find the simplest explanation is in what God did with the first human beings according to Genesis 2:17, ‘but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’ (ESV).

God gave human beings choice (free will). Where would we be without it? The choice of spouse, chocolate or that Toyota?

In that choice, he gave human beings the free will to obey of disobey God. They chose to disobey with the sinful consequences that followed for the whole human race. And it infected our world.

Thus, God did not create the first sin but he created human beings with the free will to obey or disobey. The consequences of disobedience were that sin entered the world.

Yes, there are times when God intervenes with judgment (e.g. Noah’s Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, etc).

God is absolutely good and his best plan for the world was to make human beings with free will to agree or disagree with Him and to give the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.

But have a guess what? Judgment day is coming:

I’m looking forward to God’s Parousia. I think many in Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, North Korea, China, etc are also looking for the same.
God is the ultimate ‘winner’? Are you saved and do you love Him with all your being?

How would this woman respond to such a view? She wrote:

I understand that part very clearly, yet where did the sin come from? Where did the consequences of disobedience come from? Is there something outside of God then? I think there might almost have to be if unbelievers are in eternity cut off from Christ. Or is that annihilationism? (Which I think is probably not biblical).

I know our disobedience to God’s revealed will is what caused the entrance of sin into the world for we had the free will to obey God or to disobey Him. Yet that the consequence happened sounds like there is some force outside of God–which He has control over of course–yet that there is still some thing which exists outside of God, which He did not create. That is the part that I can’t understand.

(Rationalizing it further makes it sounds as though free will in itself is a power separate from God–almost that this is the source of the sin, though now there is this force which is not from God existing of itself somehow. Yet obviously free will can’t entirely be sinful all the time since when God condescends with the gift of faith to His chosen they come to Him of their own free will).[3]

An internal free act of revolt [4]

Sinful Behaviour

(courtesy ChristArt)

I have to admit that this person posed what is a legitimate and penetrating question. I consider it one of the substantive difficulties in understanding the Fall into sin by two ‘very good’ human beings. How could a ‘very good’ human being Fall and commit the first sin?

I’ve discussed free will, but how did it happen? God placed something in the constitution of the good first human beings that, in the purposes of God, would be used by human beings to trigger this first sin.

Theologian W G T Shedd put it this way:

The first sin of Adam was twofold: (a) Internal ; (b) External. The internal part of it was the originating and starting of a wrong inclination. The external part of it was the exertion of a wrong volition prompted by the wrong inclination. Adam first inclined to self instead of God, as
the ultimate end. He became an idolater, and ” worshipped and served the creature more than the creator,” Rom. 1 : 25. Then, in order to gratify this new inclination, he reached forth his hand and ate of the forbidden fruit. ” Our first parents fell into open disobedience, because already they were secretly corrupted ; for the evil act had never been done had not an evil inclination (voluntas) preceded it. And what is the origin of our evil inclination but pride? And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end.

Shedd then added,

The internal part of Adam’s first sin was the principal part of it. It was the real commencement of sin in man. It was the origination from nothing, of a sinful disposition in the human will. There was no previous sinful disposition to prompt it, or to produce it. When Adam inclined

away from God to the creature, he exercised an act of pure self-determination. He began sinning by a real beginning, analogous to that by which matter begins to be from nothing. In endowing Adam with a mutable holiness, God made it possible, but not necessary, for Adam to originate a sinful inclination, and thereby expel a holy one. The

finite will can fall from holiness to sin, if it is not ” kept from falling ” (Jude 24) by God’s special grace, because it is finite. The finite is the mutable, by the very definition (Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, vol 2, pp. 169, 171).

But how did this sinful disposition become a part of Adam’s nature? I do not believe that God put the motives into the first human beings to lead them to sin because that would make God responsible for sin and, therefore, human beings would be exempt from guilt. We need to understand that God’s grace was not removed from Adam in the fall into sin.

I don’t think this first sin was based on the power of choice as that would not explain how a good human being would make an ungodly choice.

I do not have a definitive explanation of how a depraved condition arose, but we know it did happen and the only explanation that is satisfactory for me is that the first human beings were given an internal mechanism that enabled them by free action to revolt against God.

Augustus Strong points in this direction:

Reason therefore, has no other recourse than to accept the Scripture doctrine that sin originated in man’s free act of revolt from God — the act of a will which, though inclined toward God, was not yet confirmed in virtue and was still capable of a contrary choice. The original possession of such power to the contrary seems to be the necessary condition of probation and moral development. Yet the exercise of this power in a sinful direction can never be explained upon grounds of reason, since sin is essentially unreason. It is an act of wicked arbitrariness, the only motive is the desire to depart from God and to render self-supreme (Systematic theology, Part 5, ch 1).


I am grateful for this provocative and challenging question that has caused me to think more deeply of how the first sin originated. Reason cannot explain it. But it seems to have originated in the God-given freedom to human beings by which a person could – in the purposes of God – choose to continue with obedience to God or be in revolt against God.

It originated in the unseen human heart – the inner part of human beings – but it was autonomous with the human individual. As a result it was communicated to all human beings.


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Hamartiology, ‘God did not create sin’, dhh712 #61, available at: (Accessed 2 March 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #62.

[3] Ibid., dhh712 #63.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #64.


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Sinful nature or sinful environment?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011


By Spencer D Gear

From where did my sinful actions come? With my parents? The evil environment around me whether at school, work, TV, radio, Internet or anywhere else in our sin-soaked society?

The Bible’s teaching on original sin (a misunderstood term) and the sinful human nature being the cause of sin, has caused much controversy down through the centuries. Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, prefers to use the phrase “inherited sin” instead of “original sin” because ‘the phrase “original sin” seems so easily to be misunderstood to refer to Adam’s first sin, rather than to the sin that is ours as a result of Adam’s fall’.[1]

One of church history’s early rejections of the teaching on inherited sinful nature or original sin came from the Pelagians (followers of Pelagius, ca. AD 360-420[2]), Pelagius being engaged in controversy on the topic with St. Augustine. What did the Pelagians believe? The late Yale University church historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette, summarised:

“In general Pelagians differed from Augustine in denying In general Pelagians differed from Augustine in denying that the taint of Adam’s sin and the impairment of the will brought by it have been transmitted to all Adam’s de- scendants, but, in contrast, declared that each man at birth at, has the ability to choose the good. In other words, they denounced “original sin.” Some seem to have held that Adam was created mortal and that his His death was not due to his sin, that new-born children need not be baptized, for they have no original sin inherited from Adam which needs to be washed away, and that some men before and after Christ have so used their free will that they have been sinless. God’s grace, so at least some Pelagians held, is seen in giving man free will at his creation, in giving man the law as a guide to his choice, and in send- ing Jesus Christ who by his teaching and good example assists men to do good. From Augustine’s standpoint, this view made grace unnecessary and differed little from Stoic morality”.[3]

R. C. Sproul leaves no doubt about how much of the Christian church is practising Pelagian theology, in his view. He states:

“Modern Evangelicalism almost uniformly and universally teaches that in order for a person to be born again, he must first exercise faith. You have to choose to be born again. Isn’t that what you hear? In a George Barna poll, more than seventy percent of “professing evangelical Christians” in America expressed the belief that man is basically good. And more than eighty percent articulated the view that God helps those who help themselves. These positions — or let me say it negatively — neither of these positions is semi-Pelagian. They’re both Pelagian. To say that we’re basically good is the Pelagian view. I would be willing to assume that in at least thirty percent of the people who are reading this issue, and probably more, if we really examine their thinking in depth, we would find hearts that are beating Pelagianism. We’re overwhelmed with it. We’re surrounded by it. We’re immersed in it. We hear it every day. We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio.

“In the nineteenth century, there was a preacher who became very popular in America, who wrote a book on theology, coming out of his own training in law, in which he made no bones about his Pelagianism. He rejected not only Augustinianism, but he also rejected semi-Pelagianism and stood clearly on the subject of unvarnished Pelagianism, saying in no uncertain terms, without any ambiguity, that there was no Fall and that there is no such thing as original sin. This man went on to attack viciously the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and in addition to that, to repudiate as clearly and as loudly as he could the doctrine of justification by faith alone by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This man’s basic thesis was, we don’t need the imputation of the righteousness of Christ because we have the capacity in and of ourselves to become righteous. His name: Charles Finney, one of America’s most revered evangelists. Now, if Luther was correct in saying that sola fide is the article upon which the Church stands or falls, if what the reformers were saying is that justification by faith alone is an essential truth of Christianity, who also argued that the substitutionary atonement is an essential truth of Christianity; if they’re correct in their assessment that those doctrines are essential truths of Christianity, the only conclusion we can come to is that Charles Finney was not a Christian. I read his writings and I say, “I don’t see how any Christian person could write this.” And yet, he is in the Hall of Fame of Evangelical Christianity in America. He is the patron saint of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. And he is not semi-Pelagian; he is unvarnished in his Pelagianism”.[4]

Elsewhere, Sproul wrote: “Pelagianism has a death grip on the modern church”.[5]

Pelagianism is alive and well today. A contemporary Pelagian, Verticordious, wrote on Christian Forums:

“People are not born with a sinful nature, they are taught a sinful nature by other sinful people. That’s why the Bible places such an importance on parents and marriage, as they are responsible for teaching their children. If you don’t teach your children right from wrong then they’re just going to get their behavior from society. Everyone has a choice, to obey God or to not obey God. Why would be a good parent matter if you child was inherently sinful from birth? People are responsible for their own choices, which is why they are punished when they wrong choices”.[6]

Is this a biblical perspective?[7]

The Bible says through Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (ESV). The NIV translates as, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me“.

Again from the Psalms, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies” (Psalm 58:3 NIV)

Isaiah wrote, “Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth” (48:8 NIV)

Then we have the NT. Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (2:1-3 NIV).

Two important points come out of this passage:

1. Considering the Ephesian readers life before coming to Christ (which can be applied to all people before they experience salvation), Paul insists that these unsaved folks were dead in transgressions and sins and followed the world’s ways in disobedience, gratifying the cravings of the sinful nature with desires and thoughts. Surely most of us can recognise this before coming to Christ! I can!

2. From where did this sinful condition come? Paul does not say that this sinful condition was taught by other people, including parents. Paul deliberately says that we were “by nature” objects of God’s wrath. The problem did not have its initiation through sinful actions in our environment. The core cause of our sinful problems is that it is “by nature” – sinful nature.

And where did it originate? The Psalms and Isaiah are clear that it comes from conception/birth. We are rebels from birth – before any sinful environment had an influence on us.

How did we come to be rebels from conception? Some of the clearest biblical statements are in Romans 5:12, 18-19:

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (ESV)

These verses provide not only the cause of inherited sin, one man’s [Adam’s ] transgression, but also the solution, justification and life for people “by one man’s [Jesus Christ’s] obedience” through his death on the cross.

People may object: “God is unjust for making all people sinners through Adam’s original sin”. Are you also going to object, “God is unfair in providing the God-man, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for sin”. Remember Romans 5:19, “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (ESV).

That’s my clearest, but brief, understanding of the issue from the Scriptures.



[1] Wayne Grudem 1994. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 494, note 8.

[2] E. E. Cairns 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 137.

[3] K.S. Latourette 1975. A history of Christianity: To A.D. 1500, vol 1, rev ed.

New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, p. 181. Also available at: (Accessed 25 May 2011).

[4] R. C. Sproul 2001. ‘The Pelagian captivity of the church’, Modern Reformation, Vol 10, Number 3 (May/June 2001), pp. 22-29, available at: (Accessed 25 May 2011).

[5] Available at: (Accessed 25 May 2011).

[6] Verticordious #14, 24 May 2011. Christian Forums, Theology (Christian only), Christian Apologetics, “But what about those who never hear about Christ?”, available at: (Accessed 25 May 2011).

[7] The following was my response to Verticordious at OzSpen #22, 25 May 2011, available at: (Accessed 25 May 2011).


Copyright © 2011 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.