Do Believers Still Sin?

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


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

These verses, and others like them, are often interpreted in one of the following ways:

1) Born again believers do not sin after they are saved.  Their salvation purchases them not only eternal life but also a life of sinless perfection here on earth.  Any wrongdoings they commit after salvation are titled "mistakes" and do not count as sins.

2) Born again believers are not supposed to sin, so if a born again believer does sin, it must mean that he was never saved to begin with or he was saved and then lost it because he sinned.

And we wonder why so many Christians are miserable!  Who wouldn't be trying to live up to such expectations of sinless perfection or questioning from one minute to the next whether or not they are still saved?  Didn't Jesus say that He came to bring us life more abundantly?  This doesn't sound like abundant life.  It sounds more like abundant fear and stress.

I will be the first to admit that there are passages in the Bible that seem to contradict other passages.  But notice I said they "seem" to contradict.  They don't.  God's Word is perfect, forever settled in Heaven.  There are no errors or misprints contained within.  Just because we don't understand a particular passage doesn't mean there's something wrong with it.  That being said, the best advice when studying the Bible is to compare Scripture with Scripture.  If one verse is clear and another is more obscure, cling to the clear one and pray for God to give you wisdom regarding the other.  By applying this principle to the verses above, one can ascertain a clear, simple clarification.

Both verses tell us that "whosoever is born of God" does not sin.  That is true.  My spirit is born of God, and it does not sin.  My flesh, on the other hand, was born of man, and it does sin.  I know this because the Bible tells us that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  I also know because Jesus made a distinction between being born of water (physical birth) and being born again (spiritual birth) when He spoke with Nicodemus in John 3.  There are other passages in the New Testament that help to clarify the matter.  So, you see, the Bible doesn't contradict itself but rather it confirms its message.

Now, you may have noticed I asked, "Do believers sin?" rather than "Do Christians sin?"  My reason for that is, even though we use the terms interchangeably, the two are not the same.  A believer is one who has been saved.  A Christian is one who acts like Christ.  A believer can and will sin.  A Christian, on the other hand, will not because if he is truly acting like Christ, then He will follow Christ's sinless example.  The truth is we are only part-time Christians.  Some of the time we are following God's will and acting like Christ.  The rest of the time, we're doing our own thing in our own way.  Still believers.  Still saved.  Still bound for heaven.  But not Christ-like at all.

And that's why I John 1:8-9 is in the Bible:  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 just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Yes, believers will still mess up.  No, salvation does not equal freedom from sin.  However, God has given us the promise that if we'll confess our sins, He'll throw them away and continue to treat us just as if we'd never sinned.  He won't hold it against us, and by confessing those sins and asking for forgiveness, we will un-hinder the fellowship with our heavenly Father.

Perfection may be out of reach, but forgiveness is not.  And that, my friend, is the best news I've heard all day!