It is said, that we are all born into a fallen world as sinners. So, is it possible for a person not to sin, of their own volition?
Christ, at the pool of Bethesda, cured a man by telling him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!”. And then “Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” – John 5:14
Or later a woman caught in adultery was brought to him & after they had left. Jesus then said to her… “Then neither do I condemn you.” “Go now and leave your life of sin.” – John 8:11
No, it is not possible for us not to sin. To clarify also, there are actually two classes of sin:
- Inherited sin (the sin we are born with, due to Adam and Eve’s introduction of it into God’s creation)
- Actual sin (the sins we commit ourselves)
Christ died for all our sins, both our inherited sin as well as the actual sins we have and will commit. We are unable to be perfect (i.e. to not sin). Even St. Paul himself struggled with this:
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7: 18 – 25)
So, what about Jesus’ statements to no longer sin? Actually, the epistles in the New Testament make similar exhorations as well; in fact, many (I’m thinking particularly of the two to the congregation in Corinth) were written precisely because people were continuing to engage in unrepentant sin. The point is that, though faith, we are no longer the people we used to be and no longer held captive by sin (cf. Romans 6), yet we still struggle with sin and fall into it at times (cf. Romans 7). However, we ought never to dispair of Christ’s forgiveness.
So, we are forgiven freely by Christ, called into new life with him, then exhorted to live as his people (to "sin no more"). Through faith, good works flow and we are enabled through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit to live as Christ’s people. However, we still live in a fallen world and therefore still sin. We are also still called to repent of our sins so that we recognize our sin and do not fall back into our former lives and away from faith. We will not be made perfect until Christ returns and resurrects our bodies and restores us and all creation to perfection.
This is why Martin Luther viewed the life of the baptized Christian one of daily repentance and forgiveness. We daily live out our baptisms, dying to the old and rising to the new (similar to Paul’s point in Romans 6).
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