Brother Light—Good morning, Brother Foggy; how do you do today?
Brother Foggy—I am well, as usual; how are you?
Bro. L.—Thank the Lord, I can say I am well and saved. I came over to see what success you had in finding that Scripture.
Bro. F.—Well, I must confess I could not find just what I looked for; but this text is very much like it: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
Bro. L.—There is quite a difference between this and your supposed scripture. Notice that John does not say, “If any man says he sinneth not, he is a liar,” but, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” etc.
One special object of this Epistle is thus announced: “That ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:3-4) “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” (1 John 2:1) We see the apostle purposed to teach them the glorious fullness of joy he enjoyed, so that they also would have fellowship with him. And one object of this higher grace was that each of them “should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour,” (1 Thessalonians 4:4) and “sin not.” Surely the “beloved apostle” would not write a letter for the purpose of advancing young disciples to a plane where they would not sin, and in the same letter tell them no one ever attains to such a plane. He says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) He also says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
The meaning is plain. The seventh and ninth verses positively teach that the blood of Jesus Christ “cleanseth us from all sin,” and from “all unrighteousness,” if we but confess our need of it; while the intervening verse simply guards us from saying that we “have no sin” prior to this all-cleansing work of grace.
Bro. F.—Indeed! I am compelled to think that John did not mean to say in that eighth verse that nobody can be free from sin, when in the verses just before and after he says that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin and from all unrighteousness.
Bro. L.—You are right in that conclusion; besides, let us read farther on in the same Epistle. In the second chapter and sixth verse he says, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:6)
In the second and the third verses of the third chapter he says: “Behold, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)
Surely, the inspired apostle is very far from teaching that we must all be sinners in this life after conversion, when he commands us to walk even as Christ did and declares that we shall be like Him when He comes, even pure “as he is.” But he does not stop here.
“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 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. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” (1 John 3:5-10) This does not sound much like the false saying, “If any man says he lives without sin, he is a liar,” does it Brother Foggy?
Bro. F.—Well, I must say it makes out quite a different case.
Bro. L.—It is truly strong language, but it is the very Word of God. The man of God is righteous, even as He is righteous who was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin at all. It tells us that “whosoever abideth in Christ sinneth not”; and that “whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” This is an awful fact when we remember that it is written that Christ will come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on all that know Him not. That surely includes all who practice sin.
And in this very thing, we are told, “the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil”—that is, in the fact that the first class do not sin and the latter do. And the apostle is very sure he is not mistaken in this matter; for in chapter 5, verse 18, he emphatically reaffirms it: “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” Also, in 4:17 he says, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” So unless we are like Christ in love, purity, and sinlessness, we shall not have boldness to stand in the day of judgment.
Bro. F.—I do say it seems awful. I never saw it in that light before. But while I was hunting the Bible through, I found some other texts that seem to teach that no one can live without sin in this world.
Bro. L.—Well, let us consider them.
Bro. F.—This is one: “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9)
Bro. L.—Certainly no person can say he has made his own heart clean; for it takes the blood of Christ to cleanse our hearts. Only Christ can save from sin.
Bro. F.—Another is 1 Kings 8:46, which reads, “For there is no man that sinneth not.” And here is one more, one that is very strong: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) What can you say to these, I should like to know?
Bro. L.—These certainly make a sweeping assertion; but they must be understood as simply teaching the universal fall and depravity of the human family, and the fact that all men have committed more or less sin in their lifetime. They only show us where the fall has left the whole race of mankind, but make no allusion to the grace of God that lifts and preserves the humble, trusting soul above this low plane. Any other interpretation would ignore and conflict with the rest of the Bible.
But, to give you all the advantages these texts can afford, let us suppose that in Solomon’s time there was no man but that sinned—“not a just person on earth, that [did] good, and [sinned] not.” We could allow all that and still sustain our position of freedom from all sin very easily.
Bro. F.—How could you do that?
Bro. L.—Why, brother, we have but to open the Bible and read what God has done for the human family since Solomon’s day. We live in a far more favored dispensation and age of the world than he did. Since his time the angels came down from heaven and proclaimed “on earth peace, good will toward men,” (Luke 2:14) and announced “good tidings of great joy… to all people,” (Luke 2:10) because a Savior, Christ the Lord, was born into the world.
Christ says, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46) “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12) He “is the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9) Can we not avoid running into sloughs and pits of sin now since light has come, far better than when “darkness [covered] the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isaiah 60:2)?
Bro. F.—It would seem so.
Bro. L.—We certainly can. All through the Old Testament times the present dispensation was looked forward to as a period of grace, mercy, and freedom; of holiness, and victory over sin; and surely we should not now fall short of holy men who walked with God in the dim ages of the past. The Jewish types but faintly pointed forward to the great sacrifice for sin on the cross. But now “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” (1 Corinthians 5:7) and “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14) “The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did.” (Hebrews 7:19)
Let us read a few verses on this point from Hebrews: “By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.” (Hebrews 7:22) “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.” (Hebrews 8:6) “Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26) “And these all [ancient holy men], having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40)
All these Scriptures show that God has provided infinitely better things for us than Solomon or anyone else in his day ever knew; hence we can live holier lives than they. The great kindness and love of God toward man hath appeared in these last days, yea, the “grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11)
The great salvation we now enjoy, the prophets never received, could not comprehend, and even the angels desire to look into (1 Peter 1:8-12). Jesus declares that John the Baptist was greater than the prophets; that is, in point of privilege, or advancement in light; and yet “he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28); that is, he has a more perfect experience of salvation.
All these and many other Scriptures teach us that we are living in the great day of heaven’s highest blessings, the glorious time of redemption from all sin and the revelation of God’s love and power to constantly keep us pure and holy and triumphant over all sin and the power of Satan. Hence we have no excuse for sin at all. Thus saith the Lord: “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.” (John 15:22) The margin reads, “no excuse.” A salvation that is perfect in all respects is offered us now; therefore we cannot weave a cloak of the dark sayings of the Old Testament and cover ourselves with it. Jesus is “able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him,” (Hebrews 7:25) and we are “kept by the power of God through faith,” (1 Peter 1:5) free from all sin. So there is no cloak for sin now, no excuse for any man to commit the least sin. Even “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20)
Jesus said to the man that was healed at the pool, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14) To the woman He forgave He said, “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Hear this call from heaven: “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:34) Jesus says that just persons need no repentance (Luke 15:7). If you ask why, the Psalmist will tell you; he says, “They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.” (Psalm 119:3)
So you see, Brother Foggy, Jesus did not come into the world to gather a church of sinners, but to “redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people,” (Titus 2:14) “without spot, and blameless,” (2 Peter 3:14) and He is able thus to save and keep us holy in His sight, right in this sinful world.
Bro. F.—Yes, Brother Light, I confess I see it as I never have seen it before. I must confess that my poor, weary soul is hungering after righteousness. But it seems impossible to me that man can be perfectly holy in this wicked world. Do you really think we can live perfectly free from sin and enjoy constant peace in spite of all our surroundings?
Bro. L.—If we were to take our eyes off Christ and look at the works of the devil, we should certainly stumble; but, thank God, full salvation enables us to “[look] unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) Being “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” (1 Peter 1:5) we do not need to commit sin. Surely, the power of the almighty God is sufficient to keep us free from sin, “and that wicked one toucheth [us] not.” (1 John 5:18) Backed up by this fact: “The foundation of God standeth sure,” (2 Timothy 2:19) and with this assurance: “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,” (Jude 24) we can stand firm in spite of all devils, even “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God,” (Colossians 4:12) as the Word commands us.
As the prophets foretold, God now dwells in us and walks in us, and He enables us to keep His temple undefiled. Read 2 Corinthians 6:16 and look up the references. Certainly, we can be kept in perfect peace at all times and under all circumstances; because God says, I will “keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on [me]: because he trusteth in [me].” (Isaiah 26:3) And it is just natural with a sanctified heart to have our mind stayed on God. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) You see, we have the very peace of God ruling and keeping our hearts.
Bro. F.—Does nothing stir up anger in your heart?
Bro. L.—God bless you, dear brother! After the heart is perfectly cleansed in the blood of Christ, there is no sinful element left there to stir up. Love and praise to God, and love to friend and foe, naturally flow from a pure heart and no elements contrary to these have any existence there.
Bro. F.—Well, well! That must be a very happy state. But, after all, do you not have evil thoughts?
Bro. L.—We think of evil things, for wickedness presents itself to our mind wherever we look, or in whatever paper or book we may read. But there is a great difference between thinking of that which is evil and indulging in evil thoughts. A pure heart abhors all evil that is forced upon the attention; but evil thoughts proceed from evil that is in the heart, and they follow the leadings of some unholy desire or lust. No, thank God! We have no evil thoughts, but we have “the mind of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 2:16) which is a pure mind (1 Peter 3:1), “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) You see, the Lord captures all our will, all our heart; and even every thought is brought into obedience to His own sweet will. Oh, praise His name!
Bro. F.—Well, that is wonderful indeed. I never noticed that text before in my life. But does not the Bible say that the devil is mighty? I cannot see how we poor, weak creatures can always withstand his great power.
Bro. L.—Why, it is not we that do it but Christ in us. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) He bruises Satan under our feet and always causes us to triumph. We are even “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Four great facts are an all-sufficient guarantee against all sin and the power of the devil: First, the holiness of God, which sets Him against all sin. Second, the omnipotence of God, which reigns supreme over all the power of sin and Satan. Third, the actual indwelling of Christ, which gives the enemy of our soul no chance to attack us when unprepared. Fourth, the perfect sacrifice of Christ, and the power of His blood to cleanse and keep us constantly free from all sin.
Bro. F.—Well, Brother Light, since my mind is carried up to the omnipotence of God our Savior, I must confess that I am convinced not only that the Bible teaches perfect holiness, but also that through God it must be practicable. Thank God! I have received much light, and by the grace of God I will seek this perfect salvation from all sin and all unrighteousness.
Bro. L.—Amen! God help you, brother. It is the only perfectly satisfactory life, and it is for you. Goodbye, brother.
Bro. F.—Goodbye, Brother Light. Call again.