We can’t help sinning, even after becoming a Christian!

If that statement were true, what kind of Christianity are we offering the world? If sin and the devil are dragging us along against our will, then being “filled with the Spirit” has absolutely no meaning.

There are (essentially) three types of sin. Willing or deliberate sins, contingent sins (missing the mark), and sins of ignorance. Let’s look at the source text Christians use to support the idea that we are hopelessly stuck with committing sin until death do us part:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Emphasis mine) Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Rom 7:15-20) NIV

Is this speaking of Christians? Or is Paul referring to the unconverted person? Since he is using the present tense and is speaking in the first person, people automatically assume he’s speaking of the Christian, using himself as an example. If so, then it appears our regenerate state is no different than our unregenerate one. To “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) involves doing something other than being helplessly dragged along into sin.

This is not to say that once a person becomes a Christian they never sin again. Romans 7 is dealing with the carnal (fleshly) person, the one who is hostile towards God, not a child of God. If we look at the chapter within the context of the preceding one, Paul asks, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom 6:1-2) Other verses in the same chapter follow this same line:

  • We should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (vss. 6-7)
  • Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (vs. 12)
  • Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (vs. 16)
One section of scripture many forget is found in Genesis. It contains a dialogue between God and Cain, before the latter murdered Abel. In it, God tells him, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Gen 4:6-7) NIV

This tells us that people can resist sin if they want to. The problem is, they don't want to; they have a hostile nature that is naturally opposed to God's righteousness. As a wise man once told me, "Sin always involves a decision." How true. You either decide to do it or you don't. The idea that a child of God is helplessly pulled along, without any power to stop doing wrong, makes for good sermon material, but it's just not true. Worst of all, it makes the Holy Spirit appear impotent.

This subject is addressed more thoroughly in this article.