I am so often torn by my own sinfulness to the point of despair. I wonder, “How can a Christian such as myself be so sinful?” This is because I know myself. If you know yourself well enough (and are not in denial), I imagine you often say the same thing.

I am comforted by the fact that some of the greatest saints in the Bible did not have it all together. They all wrestled with their own flesh and selfish tendencies. So  much so, I am persuaded to say that a lack of sinfulness is not necessarily the primary mark of a Christian. Most of you would agree. However, many of you would be quick to point out certain sins that are so hideous that they cannot be committed by a Christian. These are the “really bad” sins. What are these sins? I wish I had a list. Is it murder? Deception? Homosexual practice? Adultery? Supporting cultural political moves which destabilize society (ahem…nationalize health care)? Which sins are so bad that  they have crossed that line?

Let me use Peter as an illustration. Poor Peter. Had he known that we were going to use him as our personal scape goat for all-time, he would have rethought his enthusiasm to be involved in Christ’s ministry! This illustration comes from his visit to Cornelius’ house along with his vision on the rooftop of Simon the tanner’s house. At this time, Peter received a vision that illustrated God’s desire that Peter extend the proclamation of the Gospel beyond the ethic boundaries in which Peter found comfort. He was to go to a Gentile named Cornelius and present the Gospel. Until this time Peter would not have made such a bold move as associating with a Gentile or bringing them what he conceived to be the “Jewish Gospel.” In fact, Peter invokes the common religious law in defense of his previous assumptions. As he put it, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile” (Acts 10:28). The word used here for “unlawful” does not describe that which went against the Mosaic Law of God, but the cultural stipulations of the Jewish religious community. This term for “unlawful” (athemitos) is used of wanton or callously lawless acts (NET; BDAG). In other words, it was not against the God’s Law for Peter to associate with Cornelius or any other Gentiles, but it was against the Jewish customs of the day. John Pohill describes it this way,

No specific law forbade Jews to associate with Gentiles, but the purity regulations rendered close social interaction virtually impossible. Robertson (WP 3:141) cites Juvenal’s Satire 14.104f. and Tacitus Hist. 5.5 as evidence from Gentile writers that such Jewish refusal to associate with Gentiles was in fact the practice. According to S. Wilson, this passage is the closest in Acts to actually abrogating the Jewish laws (Luke and the Law [Cambridge: University Press, 1983], 63-73). (Polhill, John B.: Acts. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1992 The New American Commentary, 26). 

Craig Keener describes the situation,

Devout Jews would not enter into idolaters homes lest they unwittingly participate in idolatry; they apparently extended this custom to not entering any Gentile’s home. It was considered unclean to eat Gentiles’ food or to drink their wine; although this purity regulation did not prohibit all social contact, it prevented dining together at banquets and made much of the Roman world feel that Jews were antisocial. (Keener, Craig S.; InterVarsity Press: The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993, S. Ac 10:27). 

It is important to note that Peter’s presupposed prohibition was not only absent from the Mosaic Law, but it was counter to one of its main priorities of representing God to the nations. God chose the Jews to be a holy people who were to separate themselves from the evil practices of other nations. But they were also to be a kingdom of priests that brought God’s message of hope and redemption to all the world (Ex. 19:6). This ethnic prejudice that had become so common to the Jews was not part of God’s plan. In fact, it was a prideful act of racism that was sinful in the sight of God. As Kent Hughes puts it,

God was confronting Peter’s prejudice. Peter had bound all the peoples of the world, except for his own race, into one loathsome bundle. God used a vision to bring a radical change in the attitude of the leading apostle of the early church, and it is a good thing he did (Hughes, R. Kent: Acts : The Church Afire. Wheaton, Ill. : Crossway Books, 1996 [Preaching the Word], S. 149). 

The sin of prejudice is dealt with quite frequently in the Bible as well as God’s intent to bring the message of redemption to them (Gen 6:24; Lev. 19:34, 24:22; Isa. 49:6, 66:9). There are not many sins that are as outside the Christian worldview as the sin of pride and prejudice (Prov. 6:17). God does not pronounce any special favor on anyone because of their inherent disposition or nature (Deut. 7:7-8). Yet Peter, due to cultural accommodation and pride, disrespected the clear proclamation of the Scriptures and held fast to his prejudice.

Not only this (and this is key), Peter carried this pride and arrogance for ten years of his redeemed life. The events recorded in Acts 10 occurred ten years after Pentecost. Another way to think of this is that for ten years Peter lived with the indwelling and convicting presence of the Holy Spirit, yet this major sin had yet to be confronted by God. The best comparison I can think of is if someone were to become a born again believer and live for ten years in an unashamed unconfronted life-style of fornication. This brings to light the seriousness of this blind spot.

Can you imagine what this would look like? A year after Pentecost, Peter walking down the road, intent on sharing the good news of God’s mercy, filled with God’s message of love and redemption, runs into a sticky situation. A Gentile trips and falls in front of him. Hurt from the fall, the Gentile asks for help. Peter, not wanting to pollute himself and hinder his chances at getting into the synagogue to tell of God’s mercy, passes by without making eye contact. Five years later, with much more experience and understanding of the hope he carries so boldly, Peter is presented with another difficulty that has become all too common in his life. Another Gentile, listening intently from the “court of the Gentiles” at the local synagogue where Peter is preaching, approaches Peter with great excitement and asks if he will come to his house and tell his family about what God has done. Peter turns him down, believing that it would be unlawful for him to associate that closely with those outside of the covenant community.

In addition, this was not the last battle Peter had with this prideful sin tendency. It seems the struggle went on. Not long after this account, we have another recorded in Gal. 2:11-14 where Peter has to be confronted by Paul for similar actions. So bad was Peter’s sin that Paul charged Peter with hypocrisy.

I don’t want to be too hard on Peter considering how greatly God used him, but we need to wrestle with the ramifications of this. The implications are important.

Personal: I just spoke with a man recently over the phone. I have never met this person, but he felt the need to call me. He was distraught by his own sinfulness. He wondered why God takes so long to change him. His assumption was that since he was a Christian, he should not have such a long and drawn out struggle with sin. Why is he failing so often? He has been a Christian for more than twenty years yet he continues to fall into serious sin.

I am not suggesting that all our battles with particular sins will be long and drawn out, but this passage teaches us that there can be sins that are blind spots. Peter’s blind spot was pride and prejudice. We all hope that God deals with our sins early, but don’t be too discouraged when you suddenly come to a realization that much of your Christian life has been infected by something terrible and shameful. God deals with things in his own timing and it is hard to say when He will intervene and bring to recognition that which we were foolishly blind to.

Relational: Don’t judge others too harshly. Don’t suppose that just because when you became a Christian God took care of this sin and that sin that His acts in others lives are going to mirror yours. God seemed to deal with Paul on this issue early on, but not Peter. Peter struggled with things that Paul did not and I am sure that Paul struggled with things that Peter did not. Don’t make your experience the standard to which all must conform. There may be serious sins in someone’s life for some time before God deals with it. Be patient and ready to exhort, but do not judge without wisdom.

How sinful can a Christian be? Well if you take Peter as an example, I would say that believers can have serious sin issues. I don’t know how long this can last, but in Peter’s case it went on for ten years. As hard as it is for us to realize, Peter’s example teaches us that just because someone is living a sinful lifestyle, this does not necessarily mean that they are not believers or that God is not working in their lives. Neither does it justify or alleviate the seriousness of the sin. We must keep these in balance.

In short, lets be careful. Let’s pray that God reveals our blind spots (we all have them). Let’s not get to down when we go years before discovering these blind spots. Finally, be careful how you judge other people. Don’t make them live up to your experience and standards, which, from God’s perspective, is not as great as you think.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    52 replies to "Christians Who Struggle with Serious Sins"

      • Bob Pritchard

        Please read the Life Of King David. right through. God was with Him as a shepherd Boy. And was with Him all his life. But He sinned badly but was trensparent and repentive to God. I would say your first conversion was genuine. God has been working with you to eventually show you your weaknesses. Concider Peter at the fire at night when He denied Knowing Christ. If your first conversion was not genuine you would have grown bored with the life and drifted away. unknown to you you needed a certain condition of heart before your latest sin was revealed. God knew you would repent. But at the first you may have Not. You may have had hardness and not accepted .
        As Gold is melted in the furnace the outside melts away but often there is some dross deep inside that comes out last.

    • JRoach

      Matthew 7:1 is probably the most misinterpreted scripture; even unbelievers use it. Your post is a good commentary on what Jesus meant. It is fine to point out sin, but you had better have a humble heart.

    • Butters

      I’ve wondered the same thing, Ron. It becomes tricky if one has the view of basing assurance of salvation on 1 John. It’s like ‘you can have assurance of salvation if you don’t sin and keep all the commandmandments and have perfect love’. That’s me out.

    • Dan Olinger

      Good points throughout. A more extreme example that comes to mind is David, who committed both adultery and murder. We dispensationalists are of course uncomfortable with calling David a “Christian,” but there’s no denying that he is a man of God. The key point seems to be not what kind of sin it is, but how the sinner responds. Godly people repent.

      Gal 6.1 comes to mind in reference to JRoach’s wise comment. We need to reset the brother’s bone, but we need to recognize our own needs in the process.

    • John Bailey

      You don’t realize how much I needed to hear these words today.

      God bless you.

    • 1 John can be a difficult book to interpret but I would take it in context as speaking against who felt they could live as they wanted and yet where without sin (1 John 1:8,10). I would therefore take habitually sin not as referring to having one sin or blind-spot one is struggling with but continuing habitually in the state we were saved from without evidence of God’s working in our lives. This put this in perspective with the rest of Scripture that says that Lot (2 Peter 2:7) and Samson (Hebrews 11:32) were saved individuals.

    • mbaker

      Thank God that we are saved in spite of ourselves, through Christ. I remember my days of deception in hyper-charismaticism and wondering afterward if I had died then would I have been saved? Thankfully it is about Jesus, in the end, and not about us.

      If not, we would all be lost in our sins, past and present He is about redemption.

    • Steve

      The awareness of my own sin and need for grace and mercy is a constant reminder of the need to extend grace and mercy to others.

    • Brett

      Was Peter sinning when he refused to eat with Gentiles? OR was he sinning, instead, when he stopped following God’s Old Testament dietary restrictions? To eat with Gentiles?

      1) Eating with non-Jews meant inevitably, eating non-kosher foods; laws forbidden not just in “Jewish” laws and customs, but also explicitly forbidden to God’s followers, in the Bible itself. (See the Bible itself forbidding eating shellfish, pork or food from animals with cloven hoofs, etc.). Could we or Peter, just ignore those food laws from God, in the Bible? Even Jesus himself said that he had not come to change an “iota” of God’s Old Testament “law.”

      2) Peter’s sins – against God’s dietary restrictions, etc. – were finally so severe that, right after having apparently giving the “keys” of the kingdom to Peter, Jesus effectively revoked his endorsement of Peter. Jesus calling Peter “Satan,” no less, in Mat. 16.23:

      “But turning his back, he said to Peter: ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbing block to me'” (Mat. 16.23).

      3) Therefore, are Christians wise to follow disciples like Peter?

      4) How do we resolve the contradiction between wanting to follow all of God’s laws… but then giving them up, for a wider circle of associates?

      To find a way, is not easy. Paul hinted we can just drop the rule of God’s “law.” Today many pastors follow that, and suggest we were once under God’s “laws,” but now have the new rule of Jesus’ “Grace.” Though it is hard to see the abandonment of OT law justified by anyone but Paul, in the BIble itself.

      5) Involved in this sort of contradiction, pretending to follow God’s laws and then not, perhaps many in Christianity today, feel like hypocritical sinners.

      6) And they wouldn’t be the first. Peter, the first Pope, was called “Satan” by Jesus himself; for his sins.

      7) Is there another, better path; beyond even disciples like Peter, and even the New Testament? Some kind of Second Coming…

      • Bob Pritchard

        Sorry But Peter was not the first Pope. The first Pope was the 3 rd or 4 th ruler of the church of Rome. Perhaps Peter was the first elder brother in Jeruslem. (Nothing to do with Rome.)
        ( I won’t go into further history here) Consider what it says of Peter after He denied Christ. Jesus looked at Him and Peter Knew He was wrong. He went out from that company and wept bitterly. He was so sorry. He repented of what He had said.

        Regarding the LAW. I believe what Jesus meant is that if one was to follow Him He would not be without the Law But his behavour and life would be so that No Law could ever be called against Him. Abiding in Jesus Love you automatically lead a conservative life and you love your God, your neighbours as well as your family.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP: “I am so often torn by my own sinfulness to the point of despair. I wonder, “How can a Christian such as myself be so sinful?” This is because I know myself. If you know yourself well enough (and are not in denial), I imagine you often say the same thing.”

      Yep. Me too. I often say the same thing.

      And I don’t like it.

    • Jeremy

      Is it okay to approach a brother or sister in Christ who may be living in a sin that may be a “blind-spot” and mention it lovingly? Obviously we have to consider not judging and trying to remove a speck in a brother’s eye that we may have in ours. However, it seems as though this could become “cheap grace” or an excuse for sinning if it’s not addressed.

      Believe me, I am not self-righteous here, I have sins that I am dealing with too. I lived in a sin for many years (as a Christian). I kept it very well hidden. I wanted to stop but I struggled desperately. There were some people who after my sin was revealed who said they saw signs of it and thought I was sinning. The unfortunate part was that NO ONE took me aside lovingly and tried to help. In hindsight that is exactly what I needed…to be exposed and confronted. Will this make everyone stop sinning? No. But it is a lot easier to deal with and beat a habitual sin when you have others helping you bare it. When you have others helping you stay accountable.

      I think we need to be addressing each others sins…LOVINGLY and with humble respect.

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet

      The thing about David that makes him challenging and depressing to study is that the incident with Uriah and Batsheba was merely a one-off event that David obviously repents of. The most serious failures David had through his life were apparently as a father and as a husband. David never confronted his children on their obviously wrong actions even when those actions included incest, rape, murder, and insurrection. He was often a neglectful husband and an accomodationist parent even when times were good, to say nothing of when times were bad and he was wiping out villages while ostensibly serving Achish. It’s popular to discuss David’s failure with Bathsheba as though that were the mark of his being an adulterer but wouldn’t Jesus’ teaching at some point imply that multiple wives got David there first before Bathsheba? Did David ever improve as a husband and father? It doesn’t seem like he did. As for David’s desire to build a temple God explains that David had shed so much blood he wasn’t going to get the task. This wasn’t an indication that Solomon didn’t shed blood, more an indication that David had been busy fighting the wars that needed fighting and it wasn’t his task to build the temple, but I digress.

    • Ken Pulliam


      Interesting post. Dan Olinger said: A more extreme example that comes to mind is David, who committed both adultery and murder. We dispensationalists are of course uncomfortable with calling David a “Christian,” but there’s no denying that he is a man of God. The key point seems to be not what kind of sin it is, but how the sinner responds. Godly people repent.

      Here is an even more extreme example for you–Solomon. In I Kings 11:4 it says: For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, [that] his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as [was] the heart of David his father.

      There is no indication in the Scripture that Solomon ever repented. So, what do you think about him? Was he a genuine believer or not?

    • Ed Kratz

      I don’t know. It would seem that he was a henotheist. A principle worldview that finds itself expressed in many Christians today, only we don’t have formal name for our gods. I would suspect that he was.

    • EricW

      In view of his behavior, what does it mean that David was “a man after God’s own heart”?

      Also, did Jesus accept the crowd’s identification of Him and the Messiah as “the Son of David”? Or did He instead reject that appellation and popular/traditional belief about the Messiah?

    • cherylu

      Since we are on the subject of David, how are we supposed to understand this verse?

      “because David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” I Kings 15:5

      I have always wondered about that one because it just doesn’t seem to be accurate.

    • EricW


      IIRC, scholars see editorializing work in the accounts of Kings and Chronicles that pits the priests against the monarchy and vice-versa – i.e., where and with whom does the power in Israel reside? Divergences between the accounts and portrayals of persons as told in Chronicles versus Kings (and maybe Samuel, too?) are said at times to reflect a pro-monarchy or pro-priesthood bias. I have never studied this claim or viewpoint, though.


    • Ken Pulliam


      I tend to think Solomon was more than a henotheist. I Kings 11 talks about him following after these other gods and creating places for them to be worshipped. Yahweh did not take too kindly to this behavior. I think you could make a case that Moses was a henotheist and perhaps Joshua but they never followed after the gods of the other peoples.

      I think this is a huge problem for evangelicals because if they say Solomon was not a true believer, then you have to explain how it is that part of the Scriptures were written by an unbeliever. I guess you could say that the Holy Spirit inspired the words even through an unbeliever but it does raise some significant problems. If on the other hand, you say he was a true believer, then you have to explain how it is that a true believer can turn away from Yahweh and worship another god. That seems to contradict Scripture and evangelical theology.

    • sandra

      i can truely say that i almost never commit sins, let alone really bad sins like lust or cussing. i am more worried about the general condition of my heart. i am annoyed by certain people. i don’t really like my mother-in-law. i do not feel supernatural love for people a lot.

      since jesus said those who are forgiven much love much, and since i love little, does it mean jesus hasn’t forgiven me (as in, i’m unregenerated)?

      i’m also disturbed about the absence of the fruits of the Spirit within myself.

      All these are worse, in my opinion, than the big, besetting sins Christians struggle with.

      • Bob Pritchard

        The softness and Love your are looking for is only found as a gift from God. . You start by Praying for God to help you, asking for forgiveness to your attitude of heart. Also mention Your mother’in Law and others to God to keep them , your heart will change in time. Please be patient with your self. Even the most apparently dedicated christians have people they don’t like but God gives Grace to accept them. It’s a natural human trait.
        The fruits take time to grow. You plant a seed. ? but cannot dig it up after 1 or 2 days. Your have to wait until the sun /rain has brought growth to the seed / plant eventually you see the little green shoot.

    • EricW


      This essay: http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?430 explains or discusses some of the divergences between Kings and Chronicles, their different portrayals of David, etc. It’s not the way I described/recalled it (i.e., as priesthood versus monarchy), so I’d defer to this writer’s description in place of my own brief and possible erroneous statement.

      Food for thought, for sure.

    • Jeremy

      Ken Pulliam

      I don’t think Solomon being an unbeliever (so to speak) and being the author of portions of scripture causes any alarm. It doesn’t appear that his heart was always turned away from God. If someone is a believer during the first part of their life and writes something inspired by God, does that make that work any less inspired if they turn from God later on in life? I think not.

      And if he turned from God later on in life that doesn’t mean he was never in God’s favor or influence does it? I don’t think it poses a problem for evangelicals as a whole. Maybe it does for Calvinists. I speak from the perspective of an evangelical who doesn’t follow TULIP but if I did I still don’t think its an issue.

    • Ed Kratz

      Ken, I think that Soloman was a true believer, but even if he was not, why couldn’t some of the Scripture be written by an unbeliever? Unbelievers can be inspired. Saul prophecied.

      Either way, as interesting as this is, this is certianly not the subject of this thread. Please keep on track.

    • r.herodotou

      Interesting perspective Michael, I never considered Peter as prideful or prejudice—just a coward who struggled and overcame.

    • Brett


      Lack of love, forgiveness for others who are giving us a hard time, is a hard one. But maybe you can learn to get along with your mother-in-law (?), by listening, but not taking her TOO seriously? And remembering that all of us – even me; even you yourself – make mistakes sometimes. And can be hard to live with.

      The idea that “love” and forgiveness are important, was one of the major new ideas of the New Testament. To many, it seemed to form the basis of a new religion; diverging from Judaism, to form Christianity.

      It might help you to get a broader, “super”natural perspective in part, by recognizing that all human beings are imperfect? Even we ourselves?

      The New Testament seems much more about forgiving, than the Old.

      Is Christianity a significantly different religion than Judaism? Did it even depart from the Old Testament laws? It does seem more forgiving.

    • C. Barton

      “First, take the beam out of your own eye . . .” – Jesus’ mildly humorous comparison is that of a tiny speck compared with a beam – and anyone who has seen post-and-beam construction, or seen the beams of a ship, would know that Jesus was using hyperbole!
      And my point is that I believe He was saying that without the hands-on experience of confronting and overcoming one’s errant will, sins, etc., that we are relatively blind and cannot hope to counsel another in these matters.
      Experience counts! Jesus told us to apply His words, work through life, test the Word, put action to our faith; and it is so tempting for many to think that we are more worthy, more “lovable” when we succeed at repentance, or sheer will power, but . . .
      Who was justified in the parable of the sinner and the pharisee? The one who bowed his head and humbled himself before God – which leads me to think that one of the worst sins is spiritual pride, and arrogance: that anyone could lift his head to God and say, “Look at me – look how great I am”! God chooses to love us and literally forget our sins, moment by moment, so let us be humble and joyful in Him.

    • Jim W.

      I’m not certain the Acts 10 incident is the best example to use to support the point being made.

      It’s clear from Peter’s reaction to the vision in Acts 10 that he did not realize he was sinning for not going to the Gentiles with the gospel. But he was willing to go when commanded to do so and he was also willing to extend baptism to them and include them in the community of the church. It seems like his sin up to this point was primarily the result of ignorance about the implications of the universal offer of the gospel.

      However, the incident of Peter’s hyprocrisy at Antioch occurred several years after Acts 10 and Peter knew he was in the wrong on this occasion. His own experience and actions demonstrated that he was sinning by withdrawing from fellowship with the Gentile Christians. Therefore, I think this incident is more to the point of the post.

    • steve martin

      We ought not focus on sin(s) but sin.

      It is not like so much doggy stuff that we step into from time to time…but rather it IS our condition.

      Romans 7.

      Romans 6 tells us (though) that we ought CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin.


      Because (read Romans 6) our old sinful self was drowned with Christ, and we have been also raised with Christ in our baptisms.

    • Brett


      It might be useful to try to attack Sin itself. But should we ever rest content, that we 1) fully know what sin or error is? Or 2) be sure that our present efforts are good enough to defeat it?

      To assume we can easily know our target – sin – and/or defeat it by a head-on attack, might be prideful. The ways of sin and error, are very devious. Often, just when we think we are being very, very good, we actually are doing something bad. Often we attack things as sinful, that might actually be good.

      Should we attack or follow David, or Solomon, or Peter, for example? Who might have been good sometimes … but not so good, even sinful, according to another perspective.

      • Bob Pritchard

        I have found it very true where it says God will help us in our temptation. Many times when I am tempted a distraction comes to take my mind away from the temptation even turn it off completely that time. It is amazing .
        but sometimes I have ignored this distraction to my peril. God tried to help , I ignored. That is my sin . We should never ingore that still small voice.
        Peter ignored Jesus when Jesus said “You will deny me thrice” Peter said. No . . But he did !!!! because he did not take Jesus seriously.

    • steve martin


      We can never defeat sin. The Lord already has done that for us in our baptisms (Romans 6).

      Sins we can work on. Some we might get a handle on, others not. New ones might pop up as well.

      The point is that we will always have sin with us while we are on this earth (Romans 7). We ought do what we can about it…not for righteousness sake, but fir our own and the sake of the neighbor.

      Trouble is way too many preachers connect it to our righteousness.

      The fact of the mattern is that we are never going to be better Christians than at the moment we were baptized. That is a very Lutheran idea that comes from a correct understanding of what God does for us in Baptism.

      Thanks, Brett.

    • Jerry Brown

      Serious sin, brought to light and repented of, sure does a good job of knocking pride down a notch, that’s for sure.

    • Jem

      Hey, I just wanted to respond to a few of the comments made here about how inevitable it is that Christians will always sin. Especially frustrating for me is when people use Romans 7 as the end all be all passage for stating the normative life of a Christian. In context, that passage is almost certainly talking about an unbeliever who is in an unconverted state. Almost all of the early church interpreted it this way including Augustine who certainly took the devastation of sin seriously.

      The 1 John passage that states that “those who claim to have no sin deceive themselves” is also not a good verse to claim that Christians have to sin and it is expected that they live in continuous sin… 1 John itself states that “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God”. The former verse is not referring to believing Christians but to Gnostics who claimed to have no sin because of their foolish philosophy of the body and spirit etc…

      To be frank, I think the statements made about how it is the normative Christian life to live in continuous sin or “serious” sin would strike Paul and the apostle John (and a more than a significant majority of the Fathers) as downright dangerous. Now if this is said to invoke humility and encourage us to focus on the wonderful grace of God, than that is one thing, but people congratulating one another that they can happily live in sin while accepting God’s grace just irks me to no end! And with Christian humility 🙂 I will tell them to continually ask God for deliverance instead of only giving him thanks for his forgiven! Sheesh, and if you believe that the power of Christ is not powerful enough to even shake the inevitability of sin in this life, than I say read Romans 8 with new eyes and praise God that freedom is possible but do not thank him that you can be an enslaved Christian! God bless. And love this blog by the way 🙂

    • steve martin

      “If we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

      Come on…get serious. There’s not a one of us that doesn’t sin in some way each and every day.

      Sin (by the way) is our CONDITION.

      Sinning is not just all the things that we do that oufght not be doing…but all those things that we should be doing that we are not. (probably a much longer list)

      I don’t know what kind of preaching and teaching you are hearing, but it makes me sorry for you.

      Pride (those that are doing quite a nice job of being obedient) is a very dangerous place to be.

    • Jem

      I can say Steve that maybe I can agree with you through personal experience as having been one that struggled with an addiction, but the Bible is not on your side, that is all I am saying… You are certainly using Romans 7 out of context and conveniently ignoring the verse in 1 John that says those who are born again do not continue to sin… This could turn in to a long argument that I do not necessarily want to get into… All that I am saying is that there is no evidence in the New Testament that the normative life of a Christian is to live in continuous sin, yet there is extraordinary evidence that states that Christians should live without willful disobedience toward God. I understand your experiences but to state so firmly that sin will never be defeated just does not sit well with me! God bless. Thanks for the conversation 🙂

    • cherylu


      You said you believed Romans 7 spoke about an unconverted unbeliever.

      Verse 22 says, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.”

      How can that be speaking of an unconverted unbeliever?

    • steve martin

      Do you honestly know any Christian who does not sin?

      “We are to CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin”

      Not because of our faithfulness, but because of Christ’s faithfulness and because (Romans 6) we “were baptized into a death like His.”

      Cherylu is exactly right. St. Paul was a full blown believer when the Lord used him to pen Romans 7.

    • Jem

      Yes, I believe Paul is using a rhetorical device here acting as if he is unconverted, saying that he knows the law but does not have any inner resources to do what it says and has not experienced Christ’s grace that in 8:2 he says “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Again, this was the consensus of the early church on this passage and was also Augustine’s view until he tweaked it with the Pelagius controversy (although he was the odd man out and even then he was not too outspoken about being correct). I honestly recently found out this was a debated passage in some Reformed circles but I always thought the normal exegesis was that this was not the Christian experience. But besides this passage, would you in fact affirm that continuous sinning is part of the believer’s life?

      And Steve, I do not want this to be about personal experience, but I just do not think it is biblical to say that is absolutely inevitable that Christians will sin (and I don’t mean sins of infirmity or ignorance, but deliberate transgressions). This seems a little dangerous to me. But again, that is a long debate. Thanks for the replies.

    • cherylu

      But Jem, does an unconvered unbeliever “Joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man”?

    • Jem

      I think Paul is referring to his Pharasiac delight in the law much like Luther wanted to obey the law of God but he simply could not… There is no other contextual evidence besides what you state that this is the normal Christian experience… But I certainly see where you are coming from! I just think that no other evidence points toward the normative Christian life being continual sinning…

    • steve martin

      Look at your own life…and be honest about it.

      Paul was speaking about himself at THAT time.

      We will remain sinners all throughout our lives.

      But “we are to consider ourselves dead to sin”…because of what Christ has done for us.

      We don’t LIVE IN SIN, as we did before we were called and chosen, but we still sin.

      I’m not kidding about this when I say that if you really don’t believe that you sin, then you have a very, very serious problem.

      You should really speak to a pastor about it.

    • cherylu


      You talk about the verse in I John that says that he that is born again does not continue to sin.

      What do you do with the verses earlier in I John that say this:

      “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” I John 1:8-10

      As Christians we are to be walking by the Spirit, not the flesh. That does not mean however, that we become perfect and never sin again.

    • Jem

      Ha, Steve, I am not talking about my own life and you don’t need to pity me because I think Christians should not live in continual sin… I do want to say that I should be horrified when I do sin and approach the throne of grace in utmost contempt for the sin that I committed, but I should not merely say that it was expected that I should sin because I have no hope to be delivered. So what you think Paul means in Romans 8:2 is that we should consider ourselves free from the law of death and sin, yet not really be in reality? Or would you merely say Paul is talking about the afterlife?

      And Cherlylu, I mentioned earlier what I do with that 1 John passage but you did not answer what you do with the passage that says those who are born again do not continually sin… Like I said previously, John is talking to gnostics who claimed that had never sinned and did not need forgiveness. Regardless of that, John goes on to say that he writes so that they will NOT sin, but if they do there is a mediator… I do not know what loops you can pull to get out of the fact that John does not expect Christians to sin as if it is obviously inevitable… His other verses point that he does not believe Christians should continual sin.

      Again, this is a long argument but it just irks me when people feel they are superior because they can say they are horrible sinners and therefore love God’s grace all the more… Not saying that you guys said this but this is just kind of a pet peeve. I would recommend that when a Christian sins, he is surprised and horrified and approaches the wonderful blood of Christ for forgiveness and reconciliation…

      Thanks again for the thoughts, and do not worry for my soul, I do not think you can accuse me of pride right off the hand when I argue what all the church fathers did like I am acting like I myself am somehow morally superior than other Christians…

    • steve martin

      The law is still in effect (just try running a red light!), but not for righteousness for those who believe.

      I think that when we advocate a certain doctrine, we ought look at our own lives first, and take a look at how we are doing.

      I know this much, I am chief of sinners, and in need of a Savior.

      Revisit the parble of the publican and the Pharisee and see who Jesus said “went away justified”.

      Thanks, Jem.

    • Jem

      Well agree to disagree 🙂

      As a Christian, I can say with Paul that I am “however, not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

      I do not rely on my own works but on the precious work of Christ that I can say with confidence that I am not controlled by the sinful nature. I guess you can take away the plain meaning of what Paul is saying but I see no other New Testament evidence that, stating as a regenerate believer that you are “the chief of all sinners” is not equivalent to saying that you live by the sinful nature. Maybe you were the chief of all sinners, but as a regenerate believer Christ has set you free from the works of the devil so that you do not have to obey the sinful nature! Amen! 🙂

    • Bob Pritchard

      Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin. A Jew. A Pharasee. Kept the Law and Blameless. held high positions in the Temple. Persecuting christians. etc. But When Christ revealed hinself to Saul on the plane to Demascas . Saul was told His name shall be Paul. paul felt He was the chief of sinners because he was persecuting the one who He thought He was worshipping and hoping for.
      Good for us to accept the change that Jesus wants to bring into our lives as Paul did accept the change.

    • Darryl

      My major prayer concerning sin is a hope that the sins on both sides of my family are not visited upon me- some members of my bloodline were or are alcoholics and I don’t want that to happen to me. Also, my uncle was a violent Catholic divorcee who committed suicide. So when I got baptized, I asked God to remove whatever generational curses I may have had. But I still wonder if that wasn’t enough to make sure that I don’t follow in my ancestors’ footsteps and become an alcoholic divorcee who kills himself.

      I wish my family had thought about how sin has a genetic transmission from one generation to the next. If the parents eat rotten food, the children will end up with a stomach ache. After spending a few weeks helping children from South Dallas, I have seen what generational curses can do- entire families of illiterate alcoholics who probably will never rise above what their own parents were doing. We taught them how to read, painted a basketball gym and installed an AC unit, all in an attempt to convince these children that they can rise above their environment. We even talked to their parents who told us they didn’t want their children to start drinking heavily.

      But I still worry about how much generational curses can affect us.

    • Robert

      I appreciate all the remarks made on this site… i have struggled with sin and overcome and then struggled with

      sin and overcome…..i know i need Jesus more than ever…God bless you all

    • lee

      I am struggling personally with this right now, and am quite confused. I really do not understand it when Christian people think they “only sin occasionally.” I don’t have all the answers. But I know that to suggest that you “only sin occasionally” is to suggest that you’re walking in perfection most of the time, which I don’t think is true of anyone. I would also point to the fact that in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to daily pray for forgiveness of our sins. That to me shows that he pretty much expects that we will sin, even if we don’t want to.

      I am seriously wondering whether or not I’ve ever been a Christian. I almost feel like it would be better if I hadn’t been, because I’m having this day today where I’m looking at the last fifteen years of my life, and I have to say that they have been full of struggle, and frustration, and complacency.

      I spent so many years doubting my salvation and my ability to give up certain sins. I would get this idea of grace in my head, and then I would get comfortable, and fall back into the same pit over and over. I’m so ashamed, I’m feeling like: “how can God possibly forgive me after all of this failure on my part?” Can He?

    • George

      I do believe that true Christians still might sin, however I do not believe the sin could be extremely bad. The bible mentions that if we think we have no sin we are deceiving ourself and the truth is not in us. Now what I do believe is that we might sin but we are not to sin as a lifestyle meaning we are not to keep committing sins daily, maybe once in a while but we are to try our best to stop sinning. We humans can never stop sinning but we can have a perfect life style in God’s sight. An example of this dicusion is Moses, although moses was The greatest prophet, Moses sinned once as mentioned in the bible because he was angry with God and refuse to do what God was telling him. The thing is that Sinned but Moses is Eather at heaven, or will go go heaven when the dead in Christ raise up. So that tells us that we might have a perfect life style of living, but that we might still fall into sin. Another example is King David, who was a man of faith in God, but he fell into sin although he fell into sin he was forgiven by God and continued his perfect lifestyle. To some crimes are worst then sins because any one can lie but to this people they are find with it. But we must understand that a sin is a crime in God’s sight because a sin are breaking the laws of God. But like God is a God of Love he gives us chances to repent and to space prison which is hell. Although repenting is turning to Our lord Jesus Christ that does not mean turning away from sin. God repented of creating humans at the days of Noah, and God is perfect. So if he is perfect then he wasn’t repenting about his sins because he never sinned.

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