The GOSPEL TRUTH
Are Men Born Sinners?

by A. T. Overstreet  

Chapter 11

CAN CHRISTIANS LIVE WITHOUT SIN?

 

It is hard to understand how a thinking person can read the Bible and still believe in original sin. The Bible commands men to depart from all sin, to keep God's commandments, to be holy because God is holy, and to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. The Bible teaches that all men ought to live without sin and that they can live without sin by God's grace and the power of his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Bible also teaches that Christians do live without sin and overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.

But the doctrine of original sin contradicts the Bible and teaches that no man, not even the Christian, can live without committing sin:

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions. Westminster Confession.

This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated. Westminster Confession.

They deplore their inability to love their Redeemer, to keep themselves from sin, to live a holy life in any degree adequate to their own convictions of their obligations...They recognize it as the fruit and evidence of the corruption of their nature derived as a sad inheritance from their first parents. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. II, p. 273

...whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually, which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions. Larger Catechism.

No man is able...by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed. Larger Catechism

Anyone who has read much of God's Word knows that the above declarations are altogether foreign to the Bible. The Bible teaches that the believer can live without sin. Its pages are filled with promises to the believer that he can live a holy life and have victory over sin, temptation, the world, the flesh, and the devil:

Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Matt. 1:21

Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin...If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:34, 36

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. I John 5:4

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. I John 3:6.

And 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. I John 5:18

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. I John 3:9

Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Rom. 6:14

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jude 24, 25

Now, who are we going to believe? Will we accept the uncertain declarations of mere men or will we accept the sure Word of God? If, after all that God has said and promised in his Holy Book, it is still impossible to live without sin, then God is a liar, deceitful, and insincere. Surely, if it is impossible to live without sin, God knows it! Yet he promises victory over sin. He commands holiness and Christian perfection. "Be ye holy, for I am holy." I Peter 1:15. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as you father which is in heaven is perfect." Matt. 5:48. Would God command us to walk in Christian holiness and Christian perfection if he knew it was impossible for us? I cannot believe it! Do those who propagate the evil doctrine of original sin know its implications on the character of God? If God knows that we can't obey him, if he knows that we are born with a corrupt sinful nature which makes obedience impossible, then he is insincere and deceitful in commanding us to do what he knows is impossible. And if God knows that we are born with a sinful nature that makes sin necessary, then all his promises of grace and power to keep us from sin are lies.

God cannot lie. It is the doctrine of original sin which is a lie! For the Word of God reveals that God has always had his saints. He has always had a people that feared him, loved him, and kept his commandments. He has always had a people that did not break his commandments daily in thought, word, and deed: There was Job, of whom God said, "A perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil." There was Enoch who "walked with God" and "was not, for God took him." There was Zacharias and Elizabeth who "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." There was John the Baptist who was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb. There was Joseph who was sold into Egypt, but who loved his brethren who sold him into Egypt, and kept himself pure in the matter of Potiphar's wife. There was Daniel who was taken captive to Babylon, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and all the holy prophets and holy apostles, and all the saints of both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible clearly teaches that God's people can and do live without sin. Therefore, the doctrine of original sin, which teaches otherwise, is a myth and a lie.

The four Scripture verses quoted earlier in this chapter (I John 3:6, I John 3:9, I John 5:4, I John 5:18) clearly teach that Christians do not have to commit sin. They show that there is no original sin, no corrupt sinful nature that makes sin necessary in the life of the Christian. Two of these verses have been very difficult for Christians to understand. They are I John 3:6 and I John 3:9. I John 3:6 seems to teach that anyone who commits sin never really knew God in the first place, and I John 3:9 seems to teach that it is absolutely impossible for the Christian to commit sin. An understanding of the tenses of the Greek verb does away with this misunderstanding.

In I John 3:6 the verb form menon is a present participle which emphasizes continuing action. It means is abiding or is remaining. The verb form hamartanei is the present active. It can denote either continuous or simple action. It means sins or is sinning. Next, the verb form hamartanon is used. It is a present participle which denotes continuous action. It means is sinning. The last two verb forms in I John 3:6 are heoraken and egnoken. They are both perfect active. The perfect denotes completed action in the past with results that continue into the present. So that heoraken means seen and continued to see and egnoken means known and continued to know. I John 3:6, then, has the following meaning:

"Whosoever is remaining in him sins not; whosoever is sinning has not seen him and continued to see him, neither known him and continued to know him."

So the fact that a Christian may commit sin does not mean that he never really knew God. What it does mean is that by committing sin, he is not continuing to abide in Christ, and by committing sin, he does not continue to see and know Christ, whom he once saw and knew. You cannot sin against God and remain in him at the same time. You cannot sin against God and continue to see and know him at the same time.

In I John 3:9 the verb form gegennemenos is a perfect passive participle which emphasizes completed action in the past with results that continue into the present. It means has been born and continues to be born. The verb forms poiei, menei, and dunatai are all present active which denotes continuous or simple action in the present. The meaning of each one, respectively, is: do or is doing, remain or is remaining, and can or is able. The verb form hamartanein is a present infinitive which emphasizes continuous action. It means to continue to sin or to go on sinning. The verb form gegennetai is the perfect passive. It denotes completed action in the past with results that continue into the present. It means has been born and continues to be born. I John 3:9, then has the following meaning:

"Whosoever has been born of God and continues to be born of God does not do sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot continue to sin, because he has been born of God and continues to be born of God."

This verse does not teach that it is impossible for the Christian to sin. What it does teach is that it is impossible to stand begotten of God and go on sinning. The born-again experience and the committing of sin are self-excluding. One cannot exist where the other exists. If you have the seed of God in you and if you stand begotten of God, you cannot commit sin. If you commit sin, you cannot stand begotten of God.

These two verses militate mightily against the doctrine of original sin. They teach that the Christian who remains in Christ and continues to see and know Christ and continues to stand begotten of God both does not and cannot sin. Surely if it is true that "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not," then there is no original sin, no corrupt Adamic sin nature in the Christian that makes it necessary for the Christian to commit sin. If it is true that "Whatsoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God," then surely there is no indwelling sin in the Christian that makes sin necessary and obedience to God's commandments impossible.

God testifies that "His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." I John 5:3, 4. If "The commandments of God are not grievous..." and if "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world..." then there can be no original sin that makes God's commandments grievous and that makes them so impossible to keep that believers cannot overcome the world. The commandments of God are not grievous. They are not more than we can bear. They do not require what is impossible for us to do.

No, God is not a hard taskmaster. He requires of us only what we are able to do. If we had a sin nature which made it impossible for us to serve and obey him, he would not command: "Be ye holy, for I am holy." He would not say, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." But God does command us to be holy. He does require us to be perfect. So either God is requiring impossibilities and he has commandments that are grievous, or there is no original sin.

I John 3:6 and 3:9 also militate mightily against the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" and "once a child of God, always a child of God." Those who believe that once you are saved, you can never be lost equate physical birth and spiritual birth, and say, "I may be a disobedient child of my father, but I will forever remain my father's child." They seem not to realize that everything that is true about physical birth is not true about spiritual birth. There is an analogy between physical and spiritual birth, but no equation. If there is an equation between physical and spiritual birth, then we must forever remain the children of the devil. Isn't that true? Doesn't the Bible teach that all sinners are children of the devil? We should realize that we were all children of the devil before we ever knew God and became his children. John 8:44, I John 3:8, 10, 12. Must we, therefore, forever remain the children of the devil because we were once his children? There is no equation between physical and spiritual birth. One cannot continue in sin and remain a child of God. "He that committeth sin is of the devil" and not of God. I John 3:8.

I John 3:6 and 3:9 show that the Christian who remains in Christ and stands begotten of God does not and cannot commit sin. This shows that it is a myth that there is a corrupt sinful nature inherited from Adam in Christians that makes sin in their lives a necessity as long as they are in this life. Nevertheless, men still plead a sinful nature as an excuse for their sins. They plead a sinful nature as an excuse for lukewarm and partial service to God. Then, even though they know they are defrauding God, they will say, "I may be a disobedient child of my Father, but I will always remain my Father's child." Oh, how men deceive themselves who think they can disobey God in some things and still remain the children of God for their obedience in other things! Such a religion is motivated by selfishness and is the religion of devils.

The doctrine of original sin is an evil doctrine and a doctrine of lies. It makes men deny that they are able to obey God and makes them excuse themselves while they commit sin. But there is no excuse for sin. If there were, God could not and would not command men to turn from all sin. But God does command men to turn from all sin and because God commands men to turn from sin we know that men can live without sin and that the doctrine of original sin is a lie.

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. I John 3:6

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. I John 3:9

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. I John 5:4

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. I John 5:18

But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Rev. 2:6

So has thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Rev. 2:15

Return to Original Sin Index Page
 

HOME | FINNEY LIFE | FINNEY WORKS | TEXT INDEX | SUBJECT INDEX | GLOSSARY | BOOK STORE