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The Vain Pursuit of Sinless Perfection

Very early on in my Christian life I reasoned (along with other brothers) that since God has called us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) that this must mean that we are able to not sin (1 John 2:1).  I reasoned that if we sin, we are not truly following Christ as the Bible says that we are not to sin if we know Him (1 John 3:6-9).  I read where Paul the Apostle said to stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34) and where Paul said that we are to not be mastered by sin (Romans 6:11-23).

All of this lead me to conclude that we are to pursue sinless perfection.  While I had never met anyone who was sinless, I reasoned that it was possible.  I read John Wesley’s book, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection and I reasoned that one could have an experience with God that would take you to a place of absolute holiness.  I pleaded with God to give me this experience of “entire sanctification” and I earnestly wanted to be holy.

All to no avail.  I have always struggled with sin.  Alwasys will.

I reasoned that there were categories of sin and that some sins were worst than others.  For example, Jesus said that Judas had committed the greater sin (John 19:11) since he had betrayed the Lord of glory.  I reasoned from the law of Moses that since God required different sacrifices for sins of omission and sins of commission then God must view our sins as different if we commit them willfully versus by mistakes or lack.  For instance, none of us pray enough since the Bible calls us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and thus while prayerlessness is a sin (1 Samuel 12:23), prayerlessness is not the same sin as sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) and while prayerlessness is horrible, prayerlessness is not listed among the sins that keep us from the kingdom in passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 21:8.

In this way, I was able to tell someone that I had not sinned that day.  I could say that while I didn’t love God perfectly or pray enough or share the gospel or give to the poor, nonetheless I hadn’t committed any willful sins.  In this way, I thought of myself as holy and pure.  I though very highly of myself.

I now see it all as nothing but vanity.  I now sit here a broken man.  I see that my pride was horrible.  I see that God opposes the proud.  Oh I would have gladly claimed the grace of God for my salvation and I would have boasted that it was the grace of God that enabled me to holiness (Titus 2:11-12) but the reality is that I was proud.  I was arrogant.  I was not holy.  I was full of flesh.

I have never ceased to need Jesus.  I never have and I never will.  My good days are still nothing before a holy God.  He is not pleased with my self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).  My works play no part in my salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Salvation is the gracious work of God by His grace and by His Spirit through His Word.  I lay aside all boasting right now and I confess that Jesus is my salvation and He alone is my hope before a holy God (Hebrews 7:25).  My salvation is complete in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  I am saved not by what I do but through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:29).

While it is true that we are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14) the reality is that we will always need Jesus and His grace.  Thankfully through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are holy in Him (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  Jesus and His blood makes us holy (Ephesians 1:4-7).  We are called to forsake sin and turn from sin but the promise of God is that while we are not called to sin, we have One who prays for us before the holy Father (1 John 2:1-2).  Through the Lord Jesus I am able to approach the throne of a holy God (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The entire focus of the New Testament is upon the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).  He is my salvation and my hope.  Not my works (Titus 3:5-7).

I don’t want to wonder into sloppy grace (Romans 6:1-4).  Having been set free by the grace of God, why would I want to go back to a life of sin?  Yet I do struggle with sin.  I hate my sins.  I really do.  I want to be holy and pure and praise God, in Christ, I am holy.  The Spirit of God is working in me to help me to hate sin and to turn from sin.  I admit that I struggle with sin and I always will but the promise of God is to complete this work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6).

If you struggle with sin, I assure you that you are loved by God.  I need to hear that too.  God gave His Son for our sins (John 3:16) and He demonstrates His love (Romans 5:8-9).  This love from God is not mere words but actions.  The Father has sent His holy Son to die for our wicked sins.  God has reconciled us through Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  My favorite verse in the Bible is 1 Timothy 1:15.  It reads beautifully in the KJV:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

Christ Jesus came to save sinners.  Luke 19:10 says:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Jesus came to save us (Matthew 1:21).  He came as the suffering servant from Isaiah 53 who would die for our sins.  He came to bring us peace with God (Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20).  Jesus shed His blood on the cross for our sins and it by His grace, through His blood that we are saved from the wrath of God against our sins.

Romans 3:23-25 (KJV) reads wonderfully:

23 for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.

This salvation is freely given in Christ (Acts 16:30-31) and He is our propitiation through faith in His blood.  This is the goodness of our God.  Our God reaches down to us and save us by His grace.

Now in conclusion I don’t want to sound like an antinomian.  I am not advocating sinning. I hate my sins.  I want to be holy.  Yet I believe there is balance.  The balance is not to see Jesus as our means unto holiness but He is our holiness.  The focus of salvation from beginning to end is Jesus Christ.  It is not Jesus plus our works that saves us.  It is not Jesus plus our works that makes us holy.  It is Jesus and His work alone that saves us.  Our eyes must be on Jesus.  Hebrews 12:1-2 is powerful in that regard:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Looking unto Jesus is the key.  Jesus has sat down at the Father’s side.  Sitting represents completion.  Jesus has sat down because He has completed  the work of atonement.  Jesus is now our faithful high priest before the Father (Hebrews 2:17-18).

No doubt I will sin.  I hate my sins even now.  Yet I know that before the Father is One who prays for me.  He is my defense.  I use to believe that when I sinned, I need to compensate God and His wrath somehow.  I would pray more.  I would read my Bible a little more.  I would go out and witness to someone.  I wanted to make up for my sins.  The reality is that God sees my wicked heart at all times.  He knows me perfectly.  The beauty of the cross is that it demonstrates God’s love toward sinners still in their sins (Romans 5:8).  God loved me while I was a sinner even under His wrath but now He loves me as His child through faith in His Son (Galatians 3:26; 4:6).  If God loved me while a wicked sinner who sinned without thinking of God, how much does He still love this sinner now?

I am tired of sinless perfection seeking.  I only want to know that I have peace with God through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1).  Jesus is my salvation both now and forevermore.

“Lord help me to not sin this day but forgive me of my sins as I forgive those who trespass against me.”

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Short Update

Having not written in a while, I just wanted to post a quick update.  The devil has been beating me up pretty good for many months.  I have been struggling in many areas of my life.  That said, I still love the Lord Jesus.  His grace toward me is amazing.  I know that I am saved by God’s grace and not by my works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  I know that my salvation is based on the work of the Lord Jesus and not my works (Romans 4:5).  I know that I have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1) and He is my peace (Ephesians 2:14).

I ask for prayer.  I ask for forgiveness from anyone I have hurt.  I do long to please the Lord despite seeing my faults on a daily basis.  Each day I pray Martin Luther’s daily prayer: “Lord help me to not sin this day” and then I pray with Luther during the evening when I go to bed, “Lord forgive me of my sins this day.”  I am thankful that God does forgive me of my sins (1 John 1:9).  I long for holiness (Hebrews 12:14) despite seeing my sins in the light of the gospel.  Thank God for the good news of His grace.

So I am okay.  I find each new day the truths of God’s grace and His mercy while finding my sins in the light of the perfection of the Lord Jesus.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/13/2017 at 7:52 PM

And That’s Why I Need Jesus

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15

I find comfort in reading in the Bible that I am a sinner and that Christ came to die for me and my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I know many people read the Bible looking for “keys” to a deeper life, keys to victory, keys to a happier marriage, keys to a stronger prayer life, etc. but I read the Bible looking for my sins.  I want the mirror of God’s law to show me my ugliness and my sins so that I can repent and be refreshed (Acts 3:19-20; 1 John 1:9).  There is something wonderful about seeing God’s holiness in the light of my sins.  There is something beautiful that comes from confessing my sins.

Psalm 32:15-18 reads:

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.

16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

When the Spirit of God confronts me about my sins, I love it!  I really do!  It shows me His great love for me, that He would not leave me as I am.  Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Notice verse 10.  The Lord disciplines us so that we might share in His holiness.  Amazing!

Tonight I could sit here and write all about my sins.  I don’t need to.  The point is not about me.  The point is about why I need Jesus and you do as well.  If Jesus came to save only the righteous, none of us would be saved (Romans 3:10-18).  I have met people who think they never sin after getting saved but I have found that they were mostly prideful, arrogant, condescending, and full of their own flesh.  They focused so much on themselves “not sinning” that they lost sight of their sins.  I am not advocating living in blatant sin but I am calling us to recognize the truth that Jesus came to save sinners.  Of course there is truth that those whom He saves become saints in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Jesus saves us out of a life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  That I know but He is also still saving me out of a life of sin.  Sin is not out of me yet completely nor is it out of you.  Let’s face it, we like sinning.  No, we love sinning.  That is why Jesus had to die for us.  Because we enjoy sin.

And that is why I need Jesus.  I like sinning.  I don’t want to like it.  In fact, I want to hate it.  Yet I find that I enjoy sinning.  I have sinned in many ways.  I have let many people down over the years.  Those who know me best know I am not perfect.  I never confess to be.  Oh there was a time I thought I was all that.  Not anymore.  I see my sins.  I know my sins.  I hate my sins.

It’s funny how people think that we Christians are suppose to be perfect.  I have yet to meet a perfect Christian.  I have met arrogant Christians.  I have met prideful Christians.  I have been those myself.  Yet I have never met a perfect saint.  Every person I have known who truly loved Jesus needed Him.  They knew it.  I knew it.  Jesus knows it.  Even the godliest people I have known, once you get close to them you can just smell the flesh.  They hate it.  I hate it.  Jesus still saves them.

So here I sit writing at nearly 2 AM in the morning.  I can’t sleep.  I am pondering the truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sins.  Yet I still struggle with sin.  I recently had lunch with a godly man and I asked him how about sanctification.  I want to be holy, I told him, but I struggle to be holy.  I see my sins and I see how far I am from being like Jesus.  Yet I still want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  So how can I be holy?  His reply:  look to Jesus and love Him and obey Him.  He died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  His love hasn’t changed since the day I first believed the gospel and He saved me.

So tonight I issue this call to all who know me: you know I am a sinner.  You know that I sin.  Yet that is why I need Jesus.  I am not perfect.  I am not a perfect father.  I am not a perfect worker.  I am not a perfect saint.  I am not a perfect “deacon” (as a guy at work calls me).  I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  I thank God for sending such a Savior.  I cannot earn His forgiveness (Titus 3:5).  My salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and He alone is my salvation and assurance before a holy and just G0d (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  That is me.

The True Security of the Believer

In my previous post I wrote on the issue related to the security of the believer.  Many who hold to unconditional eternal security believe that a person is not truly saved if they continue for a time in unconfessed, unrepentive sin.  They believe that a person living in sin proves that they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19 as their basis).  They also, at the same time, hold that a person can dwell in a season of sin but remain a child of God and will come under the discipline of the Lord to bring them back to faith (Hebrews 12:3-11).  Sometimes the Lord might even allow a person in sin to die (1 Corinthians 5:5; 11:29-30) to keep them from completely falling away.

Within all this, I see no true assurance of salvation.  I know unconditional eternal security advocates teach that they have the assurance of their salvation above those of us who hold to individual apostasy but I don’t see it.  Allow me to explain.  The unconditional eternal security view is that a person is “once saved, always saved” so long as they don’t go back to living in sin less they prove they were never saved to begin with.  A person living under this, when confronted with temptation to sin, has two choices.  First, a person can choose to sin but this might mean that they are not truly saved.  Or secondly, they can choose not to sin but if they are a true child of God, the sin would not matter in the first place.  So the unconditional security believer is faced with a choice here and its not biblical.  They can either embrace the idea that a person sinning (even for a season) is not truly saved or they can embrace the idea that sin has no power over the child of God no matter what.  I have seen both played out.  Both lead to lack of assurance.

The reason that sinning leads to a lack of assurance is simple: sin destroys and kills (Romans 6:23; James 1:12-15).  Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2).  Sin is to be avoided at all cost (Matthew 5:29-30).  We are told to not sin (1 John 2:1).  We are told to stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34).  The grace of God doesn’t allow for us to live in sin anymore (Titus 2:11-12) and the grace of God allows us to flee from sin now that we are baptized into Christ (Romans 6).  Nowhere in the New Testament is assurance given to anyone living in sin.  In fact, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to leave her life of sin (John 8:11).  Jesus told the man healed in John 5:7-9 to not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to him (John 5:14).  That is pretty strong words.

Yet the true security of the believer is found in one place: in following Jesus.  Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-39 that we are to love God with all our hearts, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  I suppose none of us would say that we do that perfectly.  I don’t.  Yet Jesus still loves me.  He proved His love on the cross when He suffered and died for my sins (Romans 5:8-9).  Jesus gave His life for my sins (John 3:16) so that I could have peace with God through His blood (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 1:7; 2:14).  The blood of Jesus is what washes my sins away by the grace of God and as I abide in Christ though faith, the blood of Jesus continues to wash me (1 John 1:7).  True security is not found in me simply not sinning.  True security is found in Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).  True security is found in abiding in Jesus and not merely me trying not to sin anymore (John 8:31-32).  True security is found when I keep my eyes on Jesus as my great high priest and not on my works (Hebrews 7:25).  True security is found by loving Jesus and abiding in Him through faith (Romans 8:37-39).

My obligation is to stay focused on Jesus, keep Him as my faithful and beloved priest who prays for me before the Father.  Paul the Apostle taught in Romans 8:12-13 that those who live according to the flesh will die but those who live by the Spirit will live.  The Spirit of God helps the child of God to overcome sin (Galatians 5:16-17).  Yet when we fall into sin, the Spirit convicts us and points us to the Savior who died for our sins (John 16:8-11).  The Spirit doesn’t give us assurance while dwelling in sin but He does give us assurance as we abide in Christ through faith (Romans 8:14-17).

I want true security but it doesn’t come by dwelling in sin.  It doesn’t come by my own good works (Titus 3:5).  Assurance comes in Jesus (2 Peter 1:10-11).  True assurance is found when we remain in Christ through faith trusting in His grace and mercy to help us overcome sin and when we fall into sin that His grace would help us get up and keep going.  Over the years I have seen many, many, many people turn away from Christ.  Some of them perhaps were never saved to begin with.  Many others seemed totally committed.  I know that God saves us by His grace and not by our works (Ephesians 2:8-9) so I know that just because I saw good works doesn’t mean that they were saved (Matthew 7:21-23).  Yet many of these people were earnest for the faith, defended the faith, preached, evangelized, studied and memorized Scripture, etc. but in the end, their love for a sin was their downfall.  Some of them fell into sexual sins and chased a man or woman instead of Christ.  Some of them made idolatry their focus often loving money above Christ.  Some of them simply grew weary of fighting against their temptations and gave in.  The only reason that I am still here today serving Christ is not because I was better than they (some of them were often better Christians than I have been over the years) but I am here only because of grace.  I don’t make a claim to my works or to eternal security.  I only make a claim that the grace of God has kept me all these years and I pray that God’s grace will keep me for many to come.

In Psalm 32 David recounts his own conviction of sin.  David acknowledges the blessing of forgiveness (vv 1-2) and then he recounts his own conviction of sin (vv. 3-4) that led to his confession and repentance (v. 5).  David acknowledged that the Lord was his hiding place (vv. 6-7).  The focus for the believer should be on God (vv. 8-11).  That, my friends, is true security!

One final thought.  By no means am I perfect.  I often look in the mirror and wonder why God loves me.  Yet He does!  The cross reminds me of God’s love over and over again.  I have fallen into sins many times in the past and will continue to fall.  While sin is not my goal nor my desire, I know that I am a human and I sin (1 John 1:10).  Sinning always destroys ones assurance of your salvation.  Only those who are foolish enough to believe that sinning has no power and who have a conscience seared by a hot iron will not feel guilty for sinning but woe be unto them (1 Timothy 4:1-2).  Sin produces death (James 1:15). Sin may be enjoyable for a season but it always produces heartache, loss, and woe.

When Do We Know They Are Not One of Us?

1 John 2:19 is a cornerstone passage for those who hold to unconditional eternal security and even those who hold to perseverance of the saints.  This verse is said to teach that those who go out from us (from Christians) proves they were never said to begin with.  I differ with this view in that I see 1 John 2:19 in context speaking about false apostles or in this case antichrists who claimed to be apostles like John but their teachings proved they were not apostles.  They went out from among us (apostles) but they were not of us (apostles); for if they had been of us (apostles), they would have continued with us (apostles).  But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (apostles).

My question here is when do we know they are not one of us from the eternal security view?  At what point can we declare, “Never saved to begin with?”  I have even heard many exponents of eternal security teach that a person might be living in sin and the Lord will either discipline them to bring them back to Christ (Hebrews 12:3-11) or He will even allow them to die before they completely apostatize (1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 11:29-31).  I have heard eternal security teachers teach that a person living in sin can still be saved and so we are not to judge someone harshly.  They point to the examples of David or Samson as proof that a saint can live in gross sin and still be a child of God.

I have often said that eternal security leads to antinomianism.  How can it not?  The idea that we must be holy is not a true teaching among eternal security teachers.  Yes they preach holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) but they often make statements contrary to holiness teaching such as “we all sin every day” and they view Romans 7 as the highest form of Christian living.  Further, they teach that sin has no effect on the believer so they ignore the Bible’s call to forsake sin (1 John 2:1-2).  They instead teach that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus even though we are warned over and over again not to get a hard heart, not to go back to living in sin, not to forsake Christ.  We are called to perseverance but these teachers teach preservation of the sinner.

This is not a perfection teaching.  I am not advocating that Christians are sinless or that we can obtain sinless perfection though some in the past have advocated such a position.  The Trinitarian hero Athanasius of Alexandria held to perfection.  He taught that saints of God in the Bible had obtained such a state such as Job or Noah.  While I am not advocating that position, I simply point out that Athanasius is viewed as a hero today despite his teaching on perfectionism.  I believe that Christians do sin.  I know.  I sin.  I don’t wake up and seek sinning.  I don’t want to sin.  I don’t try to sin.  But I have sinned.  I am thankful for 1 John 1:9 (which would be pointless if sin has no power over the disciple of Christ).

My point here is not to rail on eternal security.  I know godly people who believe in this doctrine.  I have also known people who used the doctrine for their own flesh.  I have known men who justified pornography by claiming eternal security.  I have known men who committed adultery by claiming eternal security.  I have seen churches ignore church discipline because its possible that the sinning person is truly saved and just needs the Lord’s discipline to come back to faith.  I have seen people “walk the isle” and say “the sinner’s prayer” and be told that they are saved and bound for heaven and are now eternally secure no matter what.  I have heard preachers tell people that they can even become an atheist and God will drag them into heaven kicking and screaming that they don’t want to go.

My point here is to simply ask the probing question, “When is someone deemed never saved to begin with?”  The lines seem blurred.  You could read Revelation 21:7-8 and ask a person who holds to eternal security if these people are not going to heaven and they will likely say, “No they are not.”  “But what about saints who do these things?  Are they still saved or are they never saved to begin with?”  “Well that is tough.  Only God knows a persons heart.  We can’t judge them.  We must leave that to God.”  “So are these people who do the things in Revelation 21:8 saved?”  “No.”  “But you just said that people who do these things might be saved?”  “Well yes we can but we shouldn’t and if we do, it might show that we are not saved to begin with.”  “Can you do these things if you wanted to?” “Yes I could I suppose.”  “Would that make you lost?”  “No because I am eternally secure!”  “Well would that prove you are not saved to begin with?”  “No I am eternally secure!”  “But what about others who do these things, why are they not eternally secure?”  “They possibly are!  God knows!”  “But you said that Revelation 21:8 are lost since they go to hell.”  “Yes they are but Christians can do these things too.”  “Should Christians do them?”  “No” “Why does it matter if they are eternally secure as you claim?”  “Because if a person does them they might not be truly saved.”  “But what about their eternal security? It doesn’t sound very eternal nor secure?”  “Those who are saved will persevere until the end for God keeps them but if they don’t persevere, they were never saved to begin with.” “And if a person does the things in Revelation 21:8 are they proving they are not saved to begin with if they claim to be a disciple?”  “Well only God knows.”

Do you see the circle of eternal security?  It doesn’t produce the assurance of one’s salvation.  I have often argued that if a person is seeking Christ, we have no fear (1 John 4:18).  Jesus said that if we abide in His teachings, we are His disciples (John 8:31-32).  As disciples, we have no fear (Romans 8:38-39).  Those who abide in Christ know that He is their high priest, their salvation, their security (2 Peter 1:10-11).  I fear the Lord because He is holy God (Romans 11:20-22).  I stand in awe of His grace toward me (Romans 6:1-4).  His grace teaches me to hate my sin (Titus 2:11-12).  God’s grace doesn’t give me a license for sinning (Jude 4).

True security is found in persevering in Christ.  True security is not found in teaching people that sin has no power over them.  We must teach the people of God to hate their sins, forsake their sins, confess their sins, and examine themselves (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  Holiness is the heart of God (Hebrews 12:14).  We are holy in Christ and being made holy though Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14).

May the Lord help us all to hate our sins, forsake our sins, kill our sins, and confess our sins.  Our sovereign Father is faithful to help us (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He is faithful to forgive us when we sin (1 John 1:9).  May we run daily to the Lord Jesus and remain faithful to Him always.

Interesting Take on Ephesians 2:3

The following is a different view of Ephesians 2:3 than the Calvinist and Arminian views.  For example, John MacArthur writes about Ephesians 2:1 that we are all born dead not because of our sinful acts that have been committed but because of our sinful natures that we are born with.  He cross references Matthew 12:35 and 15:18-19 (pointing to our hearts as sinful).

Yet the following writer wrote:

1.  The word “nature” (Ephesians 2:3) can at times describe a man’s God-given constitution (Romans 1:26, 31; 2:14, 27; 2 Timothy 3:3).  It must  be kept in mind that our constitution is just dirt and is created by God; and therefore, our constitution cannot be sinful in of itself.

2.  The phrase “by nature” (Ephesians 2:3) does not always mean “by birth” but can at times mean “by custom or habit.”  Otherwise, Paul would have taught that the Gentiles were born sinners but the Jews were not.  Paul said, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners” (Galatians 2:16; some translate birth as nature is his point).  The word nature can describe a man’s self chosen character, custom, habit, or manner of life (Jeremiah 13:23; Acts 26:4; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Galatians 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:2-3; 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Peter 1:4).  This is voluntary and has to do with the heart.  Therefore, moral character or sinfulness can belong to this type of voluntary and chosen nature.

3.  The context of this particular passage is talking about a former manner of life.  Paul is addressing a previous lifestyle.  He said “in which you once walked” (v.2) and “once lived” (v.3).  The natural man is the same as the carnally minded (Romans 8:6-7).  It is someone who lives for the gratification of their flesh.  To say that a person is by nature a child of wrath is the same as saying that they are under the wrath of God because they are living for the gratification of their flesh. Through free choice, men create a habit of self-indulgence.

4.  To say that they are “sons of disobedience” (v. 2; 5:6) and to say they are “by nature children of wrath” is essentially the same thing.  Disobedience is a choice of the will.  Those who choose to disobey God are misusing and abusing their natures.  Those who choose to disobey God are rightfully under His wrath.

5.  That which brings the “wrath” (v. 3) of God is voluntary moral character, not involuntary constitutions.  God is not angry with men for possessing the nature which He Himself created with them.  God is angry with sinners because of how they have chosen to use their nature that He has given them by transgressing His just laws (1 John 3:4).  God is angry with the wicked (Psalm 7:11) because the wicked do wicked deeds (Psalm 7:14).  God is angry with sinners because of their sinful choices and sinful habits.

6.  A sinful nature is moral not physical.  Jesus had a nature like ours (Hebrews 2:14; 5:7-10) yet Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  A sinful nature is a person’s self-chosen character and not his God-given constitution.  A man’s heart or will can be sinful, a man’s constitution or body can only be an occasion of temptation.  Through continual choices of self-gratification, man has developed a habit of sin.  Jesus was born with flesh just like we have and He was tempted in His flesh but He never sinned by giving in to temptation.  If we choose to sin, we are choosing to use our God-given nature to rebel against God.  This is what meant by sinful nature  and not that merely being a human means that we are guilty of sin just by our constitutional makeup.

Don’t Be Holy In Theory Only

I think that most disciples of Christ acknowledge that God calls His people to holiness.  1 Peter 1:15-16 is clear enough that we understand that God calls me to holiness.  Psalm 24:3-4 is also clear that the only one that can approach the holy throne of God is those who have clean hands and a pure heart.  Jesus blessed those who are pure in heart by saying that they would see God (Matthew 5:8).  The Bible also calls us to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and His example was one of perfection (1 Peter 2:21-22).  Paul said wrote that the Corinthians were to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

So in theory we know that God calls to holiness.  We know that the people of God are to flee from sin (Romans 6).  We know that we are to set our affections on Christ above (Colossians 3:1-4).  We are to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).  We read passages such as 1 Peter 2:11-12 and agree that they are good and right.

Yet theory is not practice.  To simply hold to a theory of holiness is not enough.  Strange how I have met “holiness” people who are not holy.  I have met people who ascribed to a theology of holiness yet were not living holy lives.  They looked, acted, loved, adored, and were striving for the same things as the worldly-minded church.  They wanted to sip their latte and shake their head to some “worship” music but they didn’t want to be holy.  They wanted to read their study Bible but never practice what the Bible says.  They wanted to “share their testimony” with the lost but didn’t even have the strength to exhort sinners to flee the wrath to come.  They want to have a theory of holiness in which they say that Christ is their holiness and He is their salvation without actually repenting of their sins and being holy themselves.  They talk about holiness in some circles but then they sit at their computer screen or movie screen and fill their minds with filth, compromise, and worldliness.

Oh to be holy!  Oh for a people of holiness to rise up and preach the gospel!  Oh for saints to truly be saints (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  I am so thankful for Jesus shedding His blood for my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I rejoice in Isaiah 53:11, that I am justified before God because of the work of the Lord Jesus.  Nothing can take from His work and nothing can add to His work (Galatians 1:6-9).  Truly Jesus is my salvation (John 19:30; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

However, this doesn’t negate holiness.  Holiness is still required.  Just as God called His people to holiness in the Old Testament (Leviticus 11:44-45), so He calls His people to holiness in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The blessing of the gospel is that holiness is now accomplished not by my keeping the laws of the Old Testament but by keeping the law of Christ (Galatians 5:24-25).  We now are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:16-17) to be holy.  We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20; 6:14).  We are to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).  The wages of sin remains death (Romans 6:23) and we are to flee from sin (Galatians 6:7-8).  The one who lives for their flesh will die (Romans 8:12-13).

The call then must be repent of our sins!  We must bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).  We must turn from our wicked ways (Ezekiel 18:30-31).  We must call sinners to repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31).  We must reveal to sinners the greatness of God in His giving of His Son for our sins (Romans 2:4).  We must call sinners to repent and take up their cross and follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-35).  We must call the people of God back to holiness not just in theory but in practice.  Theory is useless with the practice of holiness (1 John 2:3-6).  We must warn the saints of God to flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and to be holy (1 John 3:6-10).

I pray to God that He would empower us to holiness (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Oh for holiness to be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit!

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