Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (July-September 1993): 259-72

The Specific Character of the Christian’s Sin
--
Lewis Sperry Chafer

No division of the Biblical Doctrine of Sin is more extensive or vitally important than that which contemplates the Christian’s sin; yet, it will be observed, Systematic Theology, as set forth in its written standard works and as taught in seminaries generally, does not recognize this feature of the doctrine. The loss to the theological student is beyond calculation, for when graduated and ordained to the ministry of God’s Word he is at once constituted a doctor of souls and the majority of those to whom he ministers will be Christians who are suffering from some spiritual injury which sin has inflicted upon them. Indeed, what Christian, waging, as all Christians do, a simultaneous battle on three fronts—the world, the flesh, and the devil—is not often, if not almost constantly, in a state of spiritual injury? The soul doctor himself does not escape this conflict and sad indeed is his plight if he is so ignorant of the essential truths regarding the Christian’s sin and its divinely provided cure that he cannot diagnose even his own case or apply the healing to his own stricken heart! Though the pastor is a doctor of souls, his first responsibility to others is so to teach the members of his flock with regard to the whole subject of sin as related to the Christian that they may themselves be able to diagnose their own troubles and apply intelligently to their own hearts the divine cure. The Bible proposes no intermeddling human priest or Romish confessional for the child of God. It does propose an instructed pastor and teacher and a worthy ministry on his part in that field of truth which concerns the spiritual progress, power, prayer, and potency of those of God’s redeemed ones who are committed to his spiritual care. The blight

Page 260

of sin upon Christian experience and service is tragic indeed; but how much more so when pastor and people alike are ignorant as to the most elementary features of the well-defined and divinely revealed steps to be taken in its cure by the Christians who are injured by sin.

1. The Christian’s Sin.

Because of its unlikeness to God, sin is always equally sinful and condemnable whether it be committed by the saved or the unsaved; nor is there aught provided in either case for its cure other than the efficacy of the all-sufficient blood of Christ. Unregenerate men “have redemption” through the blood of Christ; that is, the blood has been shed and its saving, transforming application awaits faith’s appropriation. Over against this it is written of the Christian that “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). Most significant indeed is the use here of the present tense. It is while the Christian is walking in the light that he has both fellowship (fellowship which is with the Father and His Son, cf. vs. 3), and perpetual cleansing by the blood of Christ. The cleansing, it is evident, is dependent upon the fellowship rather than upon the holy walk, being wrought by the blood itself as the actual objective cause, once for all, of our purification. It must be observed, however, that while sin is always exceedingly sinful and its cure is by the blood of Christ alone, the divine reckoning and consequent method of remedial dealing with the Christian’s sin, because of his background relationship to God, is far removed from the divine reckoning and remedial dealing with the sin of unregenerate persons who sustain no such relationship to God.

The divine forgiveness of sin for unregenerate men is available only as it is included in the sum-total of all that enters into their salvation. As has been pointed out before, at least thirty-three divine undertakings are wrought simultaneously and instantaneously at the moment the individual is saved and this marvelous achievement represents the measureless difference between those who are saved and those who are not saved. Deeply in error, indeed, and dishonoring to God are those current definitions which represent the Christian to be different merely in his ideals, his manner or life, or his outward relationships; when, in reality, he is a new creation in Christ Jesus. His new headship-standing being in Christ, every change which is needed has been wrought to conform him to his new positions and possessions. Forgiveness, then, in its positional aspect (Col. 2:13), is final and

Page 261

complete, and of the Christian thus forgiven it may be said, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1); however, this is but a part of all that God accomplished in his salvation. Unregenerate men are not encouraged to seek the forgiveness of sin alone, or any other individual feature of saving grace. If they secure forgiveness it must come to them as a part of, and included in, the whole divine undertaking. Forgiveness of sin and salvation are not synonymous terms. On the other hand, when sin has entered into the life of a Christian it becomes the sin question alone which is involved. The remaining features of his salvation are unchanged. Thus, the terms of cure which are divinely imposed respectively upon these two groups must be different, as indeed they are.

The difference between the divine method of dealing with the sins of regenerate men as in contrast to the divine method of dealing with the sins of unsaved members of the human family is a major distinction in doctrine which if confused cannot result in anything short of spiritual tragedy for all concerned. The preaching of the Arminian notion that, having sinned, the Christian must be saved again, has wrought untold injury to uncounted millions; but even a greater disaster has been wrought by the careless and misguided preaching to unregenerate people of repentance as a divine requirement separate from believing, confession of sin as an essential to salvation, and reformation of the daily life as the ground upon which a right relation to God may be secured.

The Scriptures distinguish with great clarity the divine method of dealing with the sins of these two classes. In I John 2:2 we read “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” No consideration can be given here to the interpretation of this passage which is offered by the advocates of a limited redemption theory. Without question, the passage sets up a vital contrast between “our sins,” which could not refer to those of the mass of unregenerate human beings, and “the sins of the whole world,” which classification as certainly includes more than the sins of the regenerate portion of humanity, unless language is strained beyond measure in the interests of a theory. This passage is a great revelation to unregenerate men. Because of Christ’s death, God is now propitious toward them. But who can measure the comfort to the crushed and bleeding heart of a Christian when it is discovered to that heart that already the very sin so much deplored has been borne by Christ, and that, on the most righteous basis, the Father is now propitious toward the suffering saint—a propitiation so real and true that the Father’s arms are outstretched to welcome the return-

Page 262

ing Christian who, like the Prodigal, makes unreserved confession of his sin? It will be remembered that, according to the infinite accuracy of the Scriptures, the Prodigal is kissed by the father even before any confession is made. Thus it is disclosed that the Father is propitious toward His sinning child even before that child can be supposed to have merited anything, either by repentance, restitution, or confession. How persistent is the thought that God’s heart must be softened by our tears! And, yet, how marvelous is the assurance that He is already the propitiation for our sins!

Again, the first five chapters of the letter to the Romans present the fact of the unregenerate world’s position before God and set forth the ground of the gospel of God’s saving grace; but Chapters six to eight are addressed to regenerate men and have to do with the problem of a holy walk and the divine provisions thereunto. The sin problem as it concerns the believer is not in view in the first five chapters of Romans, nor is any phase of salvation as it concerns unbelievers to be found in Romans, Chapters six to eight. Similarly, the hortatory portions of all the Epistles are addressed to those who are saved. They could not be addressed to unsaved men since the issue between God and them is not one of an improved manner of life; it is rather the reception of the gift of eternal life, which gift is conditioned not upon any manner of works or human merit but upon saving faith in Christ alone.

In like manner, the deeper meaning of I John 3:4-10 will be understood only when a distinction between the sins of regenerate men and unregenerate men is kept in mind. Possibly no other passage of Scripture contributes more to the present theme than this. It is certain that few portions of Scripture have been subject to more varied interpretations. The passage sets up a distinction between sin with its source in Satan, and righteousness (in conduct—not conduct which generates righteousness as a ground of standing before God, but conduct which is prompted to deeds of rectitude because of the perfect standing in the divine righteousness imputed to all who believe) with its source in God. Though allusion has been made before in this general discussion to this passage, a more extended consideration of it is essential at this point.

Probably the key phrase in this context is, “sin is the transgression of the law” (vs. 4) where the force of is amounts to is equivalent to. In the foregoing articles of this series, evidence has been adduced to demonstrate that sin began with Satan in heaven; he thus becoming the father or originator of it, and that sin is, in its essential character, a lawless departure from the purpose and will of God. The passage under present consideration is in accord

Page 263

with the most distinctive characteristic of sin, namely, lawlessness. The Apostle includes here all sin, not some sin. If the interpretation were permitted that some sins only were in view, there would be provided a supposed explanation of the strong statements which follow in the context. Roman Catholic theology distinguishes here between mortal and venial sins. Augustine, Luther, and Bede, in harmony with the tenor of the Epistle, sought to restrict this form of sin to sin against brotherly love. Others have restricted it to deadly sin. However, the passage is clear in its declaration. It most evidently refers to all sin and not merely to bad sins as in contradistinction to good sins, and the passage as certainly asserts that the essential character of sin (as the Greek aJmartiva implies) is lawlessness—lawlessness, indeed, which is foreign to the Christian’s redemption, new birth by the Spirit, and present position in Christ. In verse 5, “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin,” the Apostle refers parenthetically to the ground of all saving grace. The unqualified declaration of verse 6, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him,” need not be softened by any modifications whatever. When abiding in Him, lawless sinning is excluded. Over against this, the lawless sinner neither seeth Christ nor knoweth Christ. Some have introduced here the notion that the Christian’s vision and understanding is dulled by the practice of sin, which truth could not be denied by any believer who knows from personal experience the effect of sin upon his own heart. To be observed, however, is the fact that the contrast in this passage is not between spiritual and unspiritual Christians, but is between the children of God and the children of Satan. The statement of verse 7, addressed to the “little children” of God, is exceedingly forceful and vital. We read: “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” It declares that the only one who practices righteousness is by his new birth a partaker of the imputed righteousness of God. He not only does righteousness, but is righteous according to his eternal standing in Christ. Similarly, (vs. 8) he that practiceth lawlessness is of the devil.

At this point it may clarify that which follows in this context if citation first be made of the culminative statement in verse 10: “In this [the freedom to practice sin lawlessly] the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” Verse 9 reads as follows: “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.” Whatever specific qualities are in view under the phrase “doth not commit sin” (Lit. doeth no sin), are predicated of all who are

Page 264

“born of God.” No portion of this context has been more distorted by torturing exposition than verse 9, yet the truth here disclosed is only the logical conclusion of that which has gone before concerning lawless sinning. There is no basis in this passage for the doctrine of sinless perfection. It will be remembered that the Apostle has warned against all such conclusions (1:8, 10). Nor does the Bible teach here, or elsewhere, that Christians do not sin. It does teach, however, that the Christian retains his Adamic, carnal nature until the day of his death, and, apart from the enabling power of the Spirit, there will be sin in the Christian’s life. There is a very important difference to be observed between the two phrases not able to sin and able not to sin. The latter alone is within the divine provisions. The Bible also teaches that the Christian, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is possessed with a new standard as to what is good or bad. His conduct either grieves, or does not grieve, the Holy Spirit. There is limitless suffering of heart in the path of the child of God who sins lawlessly. The Scriptures abound with illustrations of this suffering in the lives of saints whose history it records. David likened this heart suffering at the time of his lawless sinning to the waxing old of his bones through his roaring all day long, asserting that the heavy hand of God was upon him and that his moisture was turned into the drought of summer (Ps. 32:3, 4). Paul, because of his failure to reach his spiritual ideals, testified that he was a “wretched man.” It is to be concluded, then, that the true child of God cannot sin lawlessly without great suffering and that suffering is due to the presence of the divine seed or nature in him. This reaction of the divine nature against sin in the Christian, which could never be experienced by unregenerate men who have not the Spirit (Jude 1:19), constitutes a ground for distinction between those who are the children of God and those who are not. There are manifold other disclosures found in the Word of God which serve to emphasize the specific character of the Christian’s sin. Some of these will yet appear in that which follows.

2. The Nature of the Conflict.

It is generally and properly taught that the Christian’s conflict is three-fold, namely, (a) against the world, (b) against the flesh, and (c) against the devil. By this it is asserted that the Christian’s solicitation to evil will arise from any or all of these three sources. It is of supreme importance, then, that the child of God be intelligently aware of the scope and power of each of these mighty influences. Only the most restricted treatment of these forces can be undertaken here.

Page 265

a. The World. Of the three Greek words which in the Authorized Version are translated by the English word world, but one—covsmo"—presents the thought of a sphere of conflict, and though this word occurs upwards of two hundred times in the New Testament, only a limited portion of these occurrences are related to the sphere of conflict. The scope of the meaning of this word may be seen by comparing its use in John 3:16, where the Father is said to love the world, with I John 2:15, where it is stated that to love the world is to be unlike God (cf. James 4:4). The context alone must guide as to when covsmo" refers to order and arrangement and when it refers to a world system—orderly indeed, but not of God, being under the authority of “the god of this world.” By the evident permission and authority of Jehovah (Rom. 13:1), the word covsmo", when referring to a sphere of conflict, might be translated the satanic system and for the following reasons:

(1) Satan is its governing head (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; II Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12. Cf. Luke 4:5-17; Eph. 2:2; I John 4:4; 5:19).

(2) Satan’s system, or order, is wholly evil in its character (John 14:30; James 1:27; 4:4; I John 4:3; 5:4. Cf. Rom. 12:2; Gal. 1:4; Col. 1:13).

(3) Satan is permitted the exercise of great power in the satanic system (Job 1:9-12; Isa. 14:12-17; Luke 13:16; 22:31, 32; Acts 10:38; II Cor. 12:7).

(4) Satan’s works are defined (John 18:36; I John 2:16).

(5) Earthly goods are of the satanic system, and these the Christian may use, but must not abuse (1 Cor. 7:29-31; I John 3:17. Cf. Mark 4:19).

(6) The satanic system is opposed to Christ and its members will hate Christ and His witnesses (John 15:18, 19; 17:14-16; I John 3:13; 4:5).

(7) The satanic system is limited (I John 2:17; 3:1; 4:4. Cf. I Cor. 2:14, 15; II Pet. 3:10).

The world system is based upon greed and is defended by armament. It offers its entertainment, culture, and attraction with surpassing allurement to the children of God. It is indeed true that the believer is in the world, but not of it. Taken out of the world system by the New-Creation relationship, they are no longer any more a part of the world than is Christ; but Christ has sent them into the world even as the Father sent Him into the world, not to be conformed to it, but to be witnesses in it (John 17:18).

One, and only one, plan is provided for a victory over the world. It is stated in I John 5:4, “And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Reference here is not to a present vacillating faith; the past tense is used looking back to that

Page 266

faith which identified the believer with Christ. Thus the Apostle goes on to say, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” Though there is a need that it shall be claimed as a present experience, the victory is Christ, and all in Christ are already equipped to be more than conquerors.

b. The Flesh. Under this division of our theme, the savrx, as the fallen nature, is again in view. In this connection, attention is called to the three-fold division of the human family as disclosed by the Spirit through the Apostle Paul. While the distinctions between these classes are far-reaching, involving almost every phase of human life and experience, the central passage (I Cor. 2:9 to 3:4) distinguishes these groups on the basis of their attitude toward the written Word of God. The yucikov", or unregenerate man, cannot receive the things of God, they are foolishness unto him (2:14); the pneumatikov", or spiritual man, discerns all things (2:15); while the sarkikov" man, though a “babe in Christ” and addressed as a brother in the Lord, is, because of carnality, able to receive only the milk of the Word. As has been seen, there is a wide difference between unregenerate men and regenerate men; but the present point of discussion is of the difference which exists between the carnal Christian and the spiritual Christian. Too much emphasis could not be given to the fact that they are both perfectly saved and safe for all eternity, being in Christ Jesus. The issue is one of daily life, which issue is never related to salvation by grace, but does look on to the judgment seat of Christ where and when the children of God must appear and their works be judged. There is divine acknowledgment and reward promised at that judgment seat, quite apart from the issues of saving grace, to all who have been well-pleasing to the One who sits upon that throne.

The word savrx, translated flesh, is frequently used to indicate the human body (cf. I John 4:2), and thus becomes, to a limited extent, a synonym for sw'ma; but in the majority of instances the word flesh is a reference to the fallen, degenerate nature which is the only possession of unregenerate men and which regenerate persons continue to possess along with the divine nature throughout their earthly life. The New Testament presents the Christian as in a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, which conflict is still experienced by those who reach the most advanced spiritual state. No experience in true spirituality could ever surpass that described in Galatians 5:16-24; yet that experience is there declared to be due to a domination which the Spirit of God exercises over the flesh, and not to any supposed eradication of the flesh.

Page 267

That the flesh is incurably and hopelessly bad, and only bad, is the testimony of the Scriptures. Of the flesh the Apostle declares, “that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18); and again “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal. 5:17). Then follows in the context of Galatians 5:16-24 a list of the “works of the flesh,” which works are only evil. But over against this is the “fruit of the Spirit” tabulated under nine divine graces, indivisible as to the total they form, which appear in the believer’s life only as they are wrought by the Spirit who indwells him.

Two extended passages bear upon the conflict which continues in every believer between the flesh and the Spirit, and therein is presented the only way of deliverance. In the first of these passages (Rom. 7:15 to 8:4), the Apostle testifies, first, of his own complete failure and, second, of his victory. The failure is complete in spite of the fact that he has made his greatest possible effort to succeed. In Romans 7:15-25 the conflict is between the regenerate man (hypothetically contemplated as acting independently, or apart from the indwelling Spirit) and his flesh. It is not between the Holy Spirit and the flesh. Probably there is no more subtle delusion common among believers than the supposition that the saved man, if he tries hard enough, can, on the basis of the fact that he is regenerate, overcome the flesh. The result of this struggle on the part of the Apostle was defeat to the extent that he became a “wretched man”; but, out of this experience, he learned a most vital and important lesson, namely, that there are two mighty tendencies always in the child of God, one aspiring to that which is good, and the other demanding that which is evil. This is the meaning of the new conflict between “I,” the old nature, and “I,” the new nature, as recorded in Romans 7:15-25, and there could be no more conclusive verdict rendered at the end of this impotent effort than the Apostle sets forth in verse 25: “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh [I serve] the law of sin.”

The Apostle’s testimony is not closed thus. He goes on to report the discovery of a new principle of procedure, and a new and sufficient power available. The “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” quite apart from his own regenerate self which had so ignominiously failed, makes him free from the law or power of sin and death (8:2). He testifies further that “the righteousness of the law,”—meaning here vastly more than any written code, including, as it does, all the will of God as to every detail in every moment of the believer’s life—is fulfilled in him, but never fulfilled by him. This marvelous experience, the Apostle goes on to state, is

Page 267

granted to those only “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (8:4). Thus the Apostle prepares for the truth set forth in the second major passage (Gal. 5:16-24) where the conflict is not between the regenerate man and his flesh with its inevitable defeat, but between the indwelling Holy Spirit and the flesh. We read: “This I say then, Walk in [or by dependence on] the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). No greater promise of victory over the flesh could be extended to the child of God than this. Not, indeed, by self-crucifixion of the flesh, nor by a supposed second work of grace by which the flesh is eradicated, but by the immediate and unceasing, overcoming power of the Spirit. The believer must learn the life of faith in which he depends upon the provided power of God. Apart from this faith there is only defeat; but with this faith there is blessed deliverance from the flesh and its lusts or desires.

c. The Devil. Closely related, indeed, are the Christian’s three enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil. Especially related are the world, or the satanic system, and Satan who is the “god” and “prince” of that system. However, the world and the flesh are impersonal influences, while Satan, the wisest of all created beings, is personal. He it is who exercises meqodeiva—circumvention of deceits, wiles, or artifices—against the children of God. There is no conflict between unregenerate men and Satan; they are energized by him (Eph. 2:2). On the other hand, the Christian is in the center of the most terrible, supernatural warfare. It is described in Ephesians as a wrestling. The word implies the closest life and death struggle, hand to hand and foot to foot of a tug of war. Nor is the uttermost device and power of Satan inspired by any enmity against regenerate men as such. His enmity is against God as it has been since his fall in the unknown ages past, and against the believer only on the ground that he has partaken of the divine nature. The “fiery darts” of the wicked one are aimed at God alone. To possess the priceless indwelling presence of the divine nature is to become so identified with God that His enemy becomes ours.

Solemn, indeed, is the divine revelation that the wisest of all created beings, and the most powerful, is ceasing not to study the strategy by which he may snare the child of God, and, were it in his power, to bring that one to destruction. How unconcerned, unconscious, and ignorant Christians are! How ungrateful they are, because of their limited understanding, for the divine deliverance wrought in their behalf every hour of every day! Yet, how much of defeat, especially in the spiritual realm, is suffered by all who are saved because of their failure to war their warfare in “the power of his might,” who alone can give victory, and to “put

Page 269

on the whole armour of God”! No more vital injunction was ever addressed to the Christian than that he must “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” He must put on the whole armor of God that he may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:10, 11—on the meaning of wiles cf. Eph. 4:14). Faith, it has been seen, is the only way of victory over the world and the flesh; but it is equally certain and according to the Word of God that faith is the only way of victory over the power of Satan. How assuring is the word, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4)! Even Michael the Archangel, when contending with Satan did not in his own strength bring a “railing accusation” against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 1:9). True, James states, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”; but that is a word of admonition to those who have first submitted themselves unto God (James 4:7). Likewise, Peter declares in reference to Satan, “Whom resist stedfast in the faith” (I Pet. 5:8, 9. Cf. II Cor. 10:3-5; Phil. 2:13; 4:13; John 15:5).

Quite apart from human opinion or experience which is of a contrary nature, it must be concluded that, in his three-fold conflict, there is nothing but defeat and failure in the path of the Christian should he not pursue the way of faith or dependence upon the Spirit of God. The child of God must “fight the good fight of faith.” His responsibility is not to war with his enemies in his own strength, but rather to maintain the ever-triumphant attitude of faith.

3. The Three-fold Provision.

In recognition of the believer’s conflict while in the world, God has, in marvelous grace, provided a three-fold prevention against the Christian’s sin. If the Christian sins, it will be in spite of these provisions. These great requisites are a revelation found in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament.

a. The Word of God.

The Psalmist states, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Ps. 119:11), and in II Timothy 3:16, 17 it is declared, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” It is as His Word abides in us that we are in the place of spiritual achievement (John 15:7). There is little hope for victory in daily life on the part of those believers who, being ignorant of the Word of God, do not

Page 270

know the nature of their conflict or the deliverance God has provided. Over against this, there is no estimating the sanctifying power of the Word of God. Our Savior prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

b. The Interceding Christ.

Again, the Psalmist records, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1), and the New Testament revelation of the interceding Christ is also broad enough to include His shepherd care. Little did Peter know of the testing that was before him or of his own pitiful weakness, but Christ had anticipated it all. He could say in assurance to Peter, “I have prayed for thee” (Luke 22:32), as in fact, He prays for all whom He has saved. It is probable that His High Priestly prayer recorded in John, Chapter 17, is but the beginning of His prayer for “those whom thou hast given me,” which prayer is now continued without ceasing by Him in heaven. On the ground of this unceasing intercession, the believer is assured of his security forever. In Romans 8:34 it is written that there is none to condemn since, among other efficacious forces, Christ “maketh intercession for us.” In like manner, the writer to the Hebrews discloses the truth that Christ as Priest, in contrast to the death-doomed priests of the old order, will never again be subject to death. He therefore has an unchangeable or unending priesthood; and, because He abideth forever as a sufficient priest, He is able to save eternally (or as long as He remains a priest) those who come unto God by Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:23-25). This guarantee of abiding endurance, based, as it is, upon the absolute efficacy of the interceding Christ, is final and complete. But, as has been seen, the intercession of Christ is ever a preventative against failure as well as a security for the children of God.

c. The Indwelling Spirit.

The saints of the old order were reminded that it is “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). So, as has been indicated before, every defence and protection as well as every victory for the Christian is dependent upon the power of the indwelling Spirit.

4. The Two Spheres of Effect of the Christian’s Sin.

As to its effect, the Christian’s sin reaches into two spheres, namely, (a) the effect upon himself, and (b) the effect upon God.

Page 271

There could be no question as to the relative importance of these two results of the Christian’s sin. That which is so evidently of least import will be considered first.

a. The Effect of the Christian’s Sin upon Himself.

Because of his new birth by the Spirit, his new positions and possessions, and his heaven-high responsibility in daily life and service, the Christian is a supernatural person. Normally he should experience unceasing miracles in every department of his life: his victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil; his empowerment unto God-honoring character and service—which is nothing short of the showing forth of the virtues of Him who called him from darkness into His marvelous light and the realization of the Apostle’s ideal expressed in the phrase, “for to me to live is Christ”—; his knowledge of God’s Word; and his prevailing power in prayer. All of these realities, and very much more, are not only supernatural, but are wrought in and through the child of God by the energizing power of the indwelling Spirit. God is reasonable in calling upon every regenerate person for this holy, heavenly manner of life on the ground of the fact that the sufficient resource—the indwelling Spirit—is given to all who are saved. Of surpassing importance, however, is the added revelation which directs the Christian in the divinely arranged plan whereby he may, with unabated power, experience these supernatural realities.

Sin in the Christian’s life causes the grieving of the indwelling Spirit, and, when He is grieved, He turns from His normal ministry through the Christian to a ministry of pleading with the Christian. When the Christian sins, the manifestation of those things in his life which are supernaturally wrought of God either become greatly lessened or cease altogether until the required adjustment is made and he is again restored to right relations with God.

The effect then of the Christian’s sin upon himself is the loss of all supernatural realities in the sphere of his daily life and experience. He ceases to manifest the divine virtues, he no longer knows the surpassing blessedness of fellowship with the Father and His Son, his witness for Christ becomes ineffective, and the measureless ministry of prayer is paralyzed. It is tragic indeed that any regenerate person should enter into the realm of darkness for one hour; but even more tragic when multitudes abide in this darkness (cf. I John 1:6) because of their ignorance of the divinely provided and revealed way of escape and cure!

Page 272

b. The Effect of the Christian’s Sin upon God.

This, the last division of the theme being considered in this article, reaches out in its scope to infinity. It is far beyond the range of the finite mind to comprehend what sin means to God; and, as has been stated, sin is as sinful when committed by the saved as it is when committed by the unsaved. God could never deal with any aspect of sin upon a basis of mere generosity, big-heartedness, or mercy. Could this have been possible, there would have been no need for Christ to die that death by which He bore in our room and stead the unavoidable penalty which a holy God must impose on every creature that departs from conformity to His holiness. The gospel message to the unsaved is not one which implies that God will be good and gracious if only they persuade Him to be thus. God has been good and He is gracious to the extent that He has provided in Christ all a sinner will ever need, and this is available upon no condition other than that the sinner believe. Likewise, the child of God is not now a favorite with God and free to indulge in sin without thought of divine holiness being thereby outraged. In itself, the least sin committed by the Christian, because of its unlikeness to the character of God, would have power to hurl that one from the presence of God forever and to dissolve every relationship that grace has formed. And, indeed, the Christian’s sin would thus work the Christian’s eternal ruin were it not for the efficacious blood of Christ which is at once both the ground of salvation and of security—salvation through the application of that blood when the sinner believes, and security through the present advocacy of Christ in heaven.