In John 8:36, Jesus said, “If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Christ has set us free! But what has He set us free from? Realizing the freedoms Jesus has given us helps us keep our focus on Jesus Christ and rejoice at what He has done for us.
In “Did Paul Teach That Believers Still Sin?” I show from Paul’s own writing that he taught that believers don’t still sin. Yet, in referring to himself, Paul called himself the chief of sinners. Did Paul consider himself an exception to the rule? Did he have a psychological problem with self-esteem? Why did Paul call himself the chief of sinners?
When was the last time you referred to yourself as a sinner, thought of something you did as a sin, or confessed a sin? Chances are, it wasn’t too long ago. That’s because it’s commonplace for believers to think of themselves as both saints and sinners. But is this biblical? Are believers sinners? It’s a question that relates to the heart of the very Gospel itself. Let’s try to answer the question from the letters of Paul. Did Paul teach that believers still sin?
In Part 1, we saw how some preachers promote the idea that finding the kingdom and living the Christian life are hard work and use derogatory terms such as “cheap grace” and “easy believism” against their opponents. Yet, the Bible teaches, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). If it’s works, it’s not grace!
Something I’ve learned over the years is that many people profess to believe in salvation by grace alone received by faith alone. Yet, a good number of those same people throw works into the formula, often without even knowing it. You might be one of them. The Bible clearly teaches, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6). Like oil and water, grace and works don’t mix. Our salvation either stands on grace or it falls on works. Let’s look at some commonly held beliefs and see what they’re really based on.
One of the most common maxims in Christianity is, “God hates the sin but He loves the sinner.” Advocates often back this up with the fact that Jesus tells us to love our enemies and says God “makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). On the other hand, Jesus also said, “Depart from me, you who work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23b). Is this a contradiction? No, the Bible does not contradict itself. So, let’s do a fact check: Is it true that God hates the sin but loves the sinner?
The Bible records that Jesus many times used the words, “But I tell you,” or, as the King James Version puts it, “But I say unto you.” He did this after first either quoting the Old Testament or stating a principle from the Old Testament. Then He used what He said from the Old Testament as a springboard to teach a moral principle that sounded even stricter than the Old Testament.
We sometimes hear both Christians and non-Christians use the expression, “fallen from grace.” Occasionally, they use it to refer to Adam and Eve’s Fall in the Garden of Eden. At times, the media use the term to refer to someone—often a prominent Christian—who has had some secret sin, such as adultery, publicly exposed. Certain denominations frequently use the idiom to describe Christians who have so sinned that they have, according to their theology, lost their salvation (at least until they respond to another altar call). “Fallen from grace” is a biblical term with a specific meaning that matches none of the ways it is commonly used. Unfortunately, this confusion obscures the Gospel. In this article, I’d like to explain what the Bible really means by “fallen from grace.”
As part of what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, and in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Again, in Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus taught, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” These passages have caused theologians some consternation. They seem to pin our receiving God’s forgiveness upon a human work—the work of our first forgiving others. Will God not forgive us unless we forgive others first?
In 1 Corinthians 9:21, Paul writes that he is not “outside the law of God but under the law of Christ” (English Standard Version). Yet elsewhere, he writes, “For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14); and, “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). Surely, Paul was under grace and led by the Spirit, so why does he describe himself in 1 Corinthians 9:21 as “under the law?” Is it the fact that Paul is speaking of the law of Christ in 1 Corinthians 9:21 that makes the difference? Does grace take us out from under the law of Moses and put us under the law of Christ? Or, does Paul mean something else entirely?