If my title has given you hope that this might be a welcome diversion from the many troubles of the day, I am pleased to tell you that this is much more than that. This is about a transition that ultimately is God’s answer to all the troubles of the day, which spiritual detective work uncovers to be the doing of that one little three-letter culprit sin.
Multitudes in our world about us have dismissed the very concept of sin. Christians on the other hand acknowledge sin and are thankful that God in Christ has forgiven them their sins. Yet sin is so much with us that they are sure we can never really be rid of it till we die. I don’t think I could count the number of times I’ve heard Bible believing Christians confidently assuring me (and themselves at the same time, I suspect) that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will always sin. In the minds of so many it’s incredulous, presumptuous, even blasphemous, to maintain otherwise.
But what does our Bible actually say, fellow Bible believer? To insist on this completely misses the fundamental difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant, which God did away with because there was something it could not do.
Let’s look first at a verse from the Old Testament, which, with additions over the centuries, was the Bible of the Old Covenant people of God. This verse is part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple he built when the Old Covenant was still in effect.
When they sin…
When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 NKJV)
That’s all we need to read for what we are considering. Here is that same fragment from Young’s Literal Translation:
When they sin against Thee–for there is not a man who sinneth not—and Thou hast been angry with them, and hast given them before an enemy, and taken them captive have their captors, unto a land far off or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 YLT)
Do you see what this is saying? “When they sin against You…” Some of our English versions (including the old King James Version) have if here, but a check into the Hebrew original reveals that when is the correct translation. The context itself requires when, because Solomon immediately adds, “for there is no one who does not sin.” In other words, it’s inevitable that the people under that covenant would at some point sin against God. It’s because the Old Covenant had no provision to do away with indwelling sin.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. (Heb. 10:3)
That stands to reason, doesn’t it. To actually take away sins would require a better sacrifice than the blood of an animal.
Now this from the New Testament, and you will see immediately the significance of the title.
If anyone sins…
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 Jn. 2:1,2 NKJV)
Again, the same passage from Young’s Literal Translation.
My little children, these things I write to you, that ye may not sin: and if any one may sin, an advocate we have with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one, and he–he is a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world… (1 Jn. 2:1,2 YLT)
“If anyone sins…” So we are not in the days of when anymore. Solomon if he were with us today could not say “there is no one who does not sin” for there is provision in the New Covenant that was not there in the Old. Now it is not when. If. And here the context itself requires if. John has just said that what he has written is “so that you may not sin.” What a marvel, how can this be? What is it that John has written? He has written of God’s provision for the walk free of sin—walking in fellowship with Him in the light in which is the continual cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:5). What marvellous light. That’s what Peter calls it. “Marvellous light” (1 Pt. 2:9). It is new-covenant light. Under the New Covenant it is not a matter of when one will sin; those who are in covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ are able to walk free of sin all their days, though yet in mortal flesh.
In addition to the Scriptures in 1 John, many other New Testament passages bear witness to this provision—that because of what Christ accomplished on the cross in putting away sin “by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26), and making that accomplishment ours by baptizing us into Himself, sinning is no longer inevitable.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:1-4 NKJV)
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:10,11 NKJV)
And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:18 NKJV)
I’ve just quoted excerpts here; please read that whole chapter carefully and prayerfully—and believingly—as well as the following one and the chapter between them (Romans 7).
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1-4 NKJV)
Walking according to the Spirit—this is just what John is thinking of with his words about walking in the light. This is God’s new-covenant provision to walk the sin-free walk.
There are many other passages as well. Yet, as I said, I don’t know how many times I have heard Christians who love their Bibles say that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will surely sin, we’ll only be free of sin when we die and go to Heaven. If that is so, the death of Adam is more powerful than the death of Christ. And if that is so, the New Covenant is no better than the Old, and Christ died in vain.
He did not die in vain. The New Covenant is better than the Old.
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… (Heb. 8:6-8 KJV)
Please read that whole chapter as well. Oh, read, read your Bible, and the Holy Spirit helping you, believe what you are reading. God has done away with the Old Covenant, and brought in a New Covenant with provision—the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus—enabling one to live without sinning. What a wonder. It is not necessary to sin. It is not inevitable.
But it is possible to sin, for we continue to be moral beings with the ability to choose, and we live in a world that is arrayed against the righteous. This means temptation, and therefore the possibility of sinning. But if one does happen to sin, God also has provision for this. We have an Advocate before Him who is Himself the propitiation—very, very briefly, the penalty payer—for our sins; therefore God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Note this, not only faithful, but faithful and just because of that propitiation—He would actually be (perish the thought) unrighteous not to do so—to forgive and to cleanse so that we may be restored to fellowship with Him and continue our course in His new-covenant light.
Wonderful provision… if it is necessary. How tragic, then, how worthy of great lamentation, that the greatest transition that has ever taken place in the history of man continues to be questioned, even denied, by so many believers. Let it no longer be so with us, beloved. Let us be stirred, awakened, to a fuller faith that is grounded upon the word of God. Let us become more fully believers in Jesus, believers who know that the weakness of mortal flesh is not too strong a hindrance for those in new-covenant relationship with God, those who, abiding in Christ, walk in the Spirit, walk in the light, walk free of sin, “walk even as He walked” (1 Jn. 1:6).
A note anticipating a question about 1 Jn. 3:9, which in the King James Version is, “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.” This cannot be saying that it is morally impossible for a born again person to sin, for this would put the born again beyond the Son of God Himself, who certainly could have sinned. For we are told that He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If Jesus was not beyond temptation, He was certainly not beyond being able to sin. Yet He did not sin. Thank you, Jesus. Further to that, the Greek tenses in 1 Jn. 3:9 make clear that this is not stating that it is impossible for a born again person to commit a sin. The sense of the verbs is that sinning is not a continual practice, is not “hard wired” in them, as it was before they were born again. Here is 1 Jn. 3:9 in the English Standard Version: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” And so the born again are by the grace of God put on the same footing as the Son of God. They are free of sin. Yet they may be tempted. And since they may be tempted, they may sin. But if they sin…