First of all let us establish that we were created and born for God’s good pleasure (Revelation 4:11). We were created and born to do that which God wants us to do. To love him, worship him, love one another, and keep his commandments. That is, God wants us here to do right and not do wrong.
Because we as the human race have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, he has sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to reconcile us to God. This reconciliation makes us a new creation. In Christ we have the new birth which makes us a new creature/creation. This new birth is of the Spirit not of the flesh.
Salvation is to not be condemned for sin (John 3:16-17; Romans 8:1). Salvation arises out of repentant faith in Jesus Christ as the sacrificial lamb for our sins. Repentance has to do with one’s attitude and heart toward God and his Word, Will, and Way (Acts 8:21-23). Regeneration is rebirth into the body of Christ; it is not by works but of mercy and grace (Titus 3:5). Righteousness is having always done the right thing. But since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God only Jesus can definitively be said to have always done the right thing. Thus, our righteousness comes through our faith in his finished work on the cross (2 Cor 5:21). That is, we are counted as righteous because of Jesus; hence, we speak of positional righteousness.
Holiness is to do the right thing. Sanctification is transformative. It empowers and trains one to do the right thing more and more. God’s truth/word sanctifies (John 17:17).
Righteousness is only positional (2 Corinthians 5:21). However, holiness is both positional (Colossian 1:22) and progressive (1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Corinthians 7:1).
Jesus came here holy from the womb and always walked in holiness here on earth (Leviticus 20:26; Ephesians 4:17-24; 1 Peter 1:14-16). Having biblical faith in Jesus Christ clothes us with his righteousness. It is through justification that we receive right standing, a right position with God. Because of Jesus, God imputes righteousness to us.
The Holy Spirit helps us to walk in holiness for we are called and saved to walk in holiness (Hebrews 12:14; Matthew 7:19; James 2:17; 1 John 2:4) , to do the right thing. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us as he improves our minds and hearts so that we discipline our flesh for God’s glory.
One can define sin in a number of ways. The Bible gives a number of definitions of sin. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). All unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:7). Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
The word sin does not occur in Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve disobeyed God. In fact, neither the word disobey nor any of its variants appear in the account of Genesis 3. Yet, we infer from the account that they disobeyed and this disobedience is sin.
The first mention of the word sin is in Genesis 4:7. In Genesis 4:7 God speaks to Cain about his anger concerning God’s acceptance of Abel’s offerings and God’s rejection of Cain’s offering. God says to Cain “If thou doest well shall thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shall rule over him.”
Generally speaking, what is sin? It is not to do well. Now then what is not to do well? To do other than that which is right to do is not to do well. God tells us what is not to do well. God tells us this in various ways. He has written his laws on our heart (Romans 2:14-15). He has given us his laws and his Word through the scriptures. He sometimes speaks directly to men and women. He sometimes speaks to us through others. No matter the way, it is God who tells us what it means to do well. He told Adam in the Garden of Eden when he commanded Adam not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The primary way he tells us today is by his Son Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (Hebrews 1:2, John 1:14). The primary way Jesus speaks to us today is through the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit reminds us of what the Word of God says as well as teaches us and gives us understanding (John 14:24-26).
Note that God did not issue a commandment to Cain saying Thou shall not kill your brother. Yet when Cain killed his brother Abel God let him know he had not done well. Note that sin occurred even in the absence of the written law both in the case of Adam and Eve as well as Cain not doing well. So then the absence of the law does not mean the absence of sin. In other words, to not be under the law does not mean the absence of sin.
Simply put, sin is any violation of God’s standard as written in the Holy Scriptures or as written on our hearts or as otherwise shown by the Holy Spirit. Is there something good lately that you know you should have done but you did not do it? Well if so, James says to you it is sin. Sin is to miss the mark or not measure up to God’s holy standard of behavior. It is to step across or go beyond a boundary or limit. It is disobedience and rebellion. It is simply wrongdoing.
Note also that conformance to the law is not the standard for righteousness. Indeed if it was, none of us would ever be righteous (Romans 3). Indeed, Jesus and Jesus only is the standard for righteousness (II Corinthians 5:11). Jesus life, death, and resurrection meet and met the standard for righteousness. We are clothed in that righteousness when we properly receive him as the sacrificial Lamb of God who shed his blood for the remission of our sins.
The scriptures speak of God forgetting and not remembering our sin. Scriptures of interest regarding God forgetting and having no record of our sins include: Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:18-19; Heb 8:12; Heb 10:17. The above scriptures have to do with God not remembering our sins for purposes of condemnation. He does remember them for some purposes, e.g., to remind us of the need to repent as he did regarding the churches of Revelations 2 (e.g., Rev 2:5, 16).
Now as final note on sin in particular, let me briefly discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer as it pertains to post-conversion sin. Scripture of interest include: Gal 5:16-18. For some purposes one can describe man as a tripart-being: flesh/body, spirit, soul (Genesis 2:7). So then we are yet flesh, spirit, and soul as Adam was. That which is born of Spirit is spirit but that which is born of flesh is flesh (John 3:6). Clearly, we are yet flesh and spirit. Galatians 5:16 clearly shows we are to focus on submitting to the Spirit less we submit to the flesh. Galatians 5:18 means we are not under the law for condemnation. Yet, the biblical principles clearly show that we are under the law for obedience (Romans 3:31), that is to say the moral law but not the ceremonial law.
Salvation occurs in three primary forms: We are saved from the penalty of sin (Justification). We are saved from the power of sin (Sanctification). We are saved from the presence of sin (Glorification). Justification and Sanctification take place while here on earth. Glorification only takes place in the next life. Paul in Romans 6 speaks of us being saved from the power of sin but not the presence of sin.
Salvation is to be saved from the condemnation of the law and the penalty of sin. Salvation is by grace through repentant faith and not of our own works. Salvation is of the works of righteousness by Jesus Christ who fulfilled the law on our behalf and who on the cross paid the penalty for our sins.
Repentant means change of mind, heart, and spirit, It is a turning to God and away from Satan. Repentance is a life long commitment unto holiness and spiritual maturity. Repentance is to recognize one’s wrong and be truly sorry for one’s wrong to the point where contrition affects what one does in the future.
Jesus speaks of repentance in Matthew 4:17. Paul speak of repentance in Romans 6 and 7 when he says we are not to continue in sin that grace may abound.
For grace are we saved through faith in the Son Jesus given that we not be condemned (John 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 1:6). Jesus gives a precursor/foreshadow example of the difference between being under the Mosaic law and under grace. Jesus gives this in the account of the women caught in adultery in John 8. In John 8 people brought an adulterous woman to Jesus who they wanted to condemn and stone to death according to the law. But Jesus showed them all that they too was guilty of sin. Jesus told her he was not going to condemn her (grace) but she was to go and sin no more. This sinning no more is to be the goal of every Christian or disciple of Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:13-16; John 8:31-32; Romans 6:1-2; James 2:23-26). This goal is rooted in a repentant faith. Yet, if we sin we have Jesus as our advocate. The scriptures says if we confess our sins God is ready willing and able to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). God knows who is being sincere and real about repentance and who is not being sincere and real. So I leave it up to the Son Jesus as authorized by the Father (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Cor 5:9-11; Phil 2:9-11; Hebrews 9:27-28) to judge unto condemnation if he so pleases to do so. I simply try to live by faith (Hebrews 11:6) one day at a time and respond each day in a righteous way to everything and everybody that I encounter.
Regeneration refers to a person’s new beginning, a new genesis, (Titus 3:5) because of his faith and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. This is the new birth (John 3:1-8), the becoming of a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This rebirth or regeneration occurs because of the beckoning/call of the Holy Spirit and one’s affirmative response to that call. One receives the Holy Spirit according to God’s Word, Will, and Way. The receipt of the Holy Spirit is as if God breathed again into a person and he/she became a new living soul. Regeneration is not of water baptism but of the living water of the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is an outward physical expression of one’s inner spiritual acceptance and commitment to Jesus Christ.
In Christ we have the new birth which makes us a new creature/creation. This new birth is by the Holy Spirit; it is rebirth of man’s spirit but not of man’s flesh (John 3:1-8; Romans 7:15-18; Galatians 5:13-26; Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:44). Rebirth is as if a new nature is placed on top of the old nature; yet, the old nature remains underneath for now and constantly tries to unseat the new nature.
Now some say we don’t have an old nature but rather “a garment of sinful flesh”. Well whatever you call it there is an A and there is a B. There is an old and there is a new. There is a remnant of what we once were. The old man was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). This means our sins were crucified in Christ so that at the end time we not be condemned unto eternal death. Yet, the old man himself yet live for we were not crucified but Christ was crucified taking our old man into his crucifixion. Jesus died physically. We did not die physically.
Some refer to the old nature as the sin nature. God created Adam with a natural part. The sin nature is a defect in that natural part. Therefore the sin nature is unnatural and therefore sin is unnatural. Therefore, the Bible is right to say, for example, homosexual sin is unnatural as says in Romans 1. The natural man is now defective. So then it is understandable for one to say sin is natural in the natural man in which case there is reference to the defective natural man. So then to say sin is natural would be correct only if it is meant sin is natural to the old man (the defective natural man) but not to the new man (the born again man).
Righteousness means to not be tainted by sin. Righteousness is a gift from God and refers to our position in Christ Jesus. Righteousness is right standing with God. It is totally of God. It is imputed not earned. It is imputed by atonement that flows from Jesus sacrificial death. For without him our righteousness is as filthy rags per Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:19-23; 4:3; Genesis 15:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8-10. We don’t do right to become righteous; we do right because we are righteous through Christ Jesus. Holiness on the other hand is a combined effort of the Holy Spirit and our obedience to his beckoning in spirit and in truth. Righteousness is the total responsibility of God. Since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, none can produce his own righteousness.
Holiness is a shared responsibility between the God and man per 2 Corinthians 7:1. Romans 6 also speaks of this personal responsibility.
Holiness is doing right, that is to say, to not sin. It is to live separate from the world. We are in the world but not of the world. This separation is not physical but spiritual. It is to live a life that distinguishes one from the evil things of the world.
Jesus came here holy from the womb and lived holy from birth to death. Thus he is qualified to present us holy (Colossians 1:22; Ephesians 5:26-27)
Sanctification is to be made more like Christ in every way. We are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 4:21). Sanctification is transformational.
Sanctification is positional (1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11; Hebrews 2:11; 9:11-15; 10:10; 10:29; 11:40; 12:23; 13:12; Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 1:2) and progressive (2 Corinthians 3:18; 7:1; Philippians 1:6; 2:12-13; 3:12-15; Colossians 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 10:14; 1 John 3:1-3; Romans 12:1-2).
Sanctification is to make sacred. It is to set aside or set apart a person, place, or thing for a particular purpose.
Justification is to be declared righteous. It is by God (Romans 3:26; 8:30, 33), by grace (Romans 3:24), by blood (Romans 5:9), by faith (Romans 5:1; 3:28; 4:5), by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:11), by works (James 2:14-26).
Is there a contradiction between James in James 2 and Paul in Romans and 1 Corinthians? No, there is not! Together they show that it is God who justifies but God expects he that is justified to do just works.
Paul and James were in agreement with this viewpoint as demonstrated at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1-25 where both Paul (Acts 15:2) and James were present (Act 15:13).
We are saved through justification. Justification is to be made just or made righteous in the eyes of God. It is the act of making one guiltless and therefore no longer subject to penalty of sin. This comes through our faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Justification comes by faith and by works. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:24). This work is not works of perfection regarding the law, given by Moses and the prophets or written in our hearts; for none has perfectly kept the law except for Jesus Christ. This work is works of repentant faith from the heart rooted in love and hope. All are to continually reach for works of perfection rooted in love and hope not only love for oneself but also for God and other humans. Yet, when one falls short, he is to by true faith confess and repent and accept God’s unconditional forgiveness and cleansing of unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). So let us not despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; and let us know that the goodness of God leads use to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
Paul speaks to justification also in Romans 3:23-31; 4:1-8, 16-25.
Paul says we are justified not by the keeping of the law; here he has to mean the whole law since if one could keep the whole law then he would be justified. This is what he means in Romans 2:13 where he says the doers of the law shall be justified. But of course none do such regarding the whole law. Paul is emphasizing that we are not justified by our own works but by the works of Jesus Christ. Justification is positional; it is not progressive. Justification is rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross not his continual work after resurrection.
James explicitly says if we break any part of the law we have broken the whole law. So both Paul and James tell why we are not justified by the law. The reason is that none keep the whole law though he may at times keep part of the law.
But both Paul and James confirm the importance/value but not necessity of keeping the moral law brought forward under the New Covenant, which of course excludes the ceremonial law.
Now then there are two methods of justification. This shows the largeness of God in that there is not one way of doing a thing. (1) Paul speaks of justification by faith only concerning Abraham. (2) But James speaks of justification by faith and works concerning Abraham. But neither by works of the law only! For Paul’s example has to do with the birth of Isaac; this required no work of faith just faith. That is, though he and Sarah were of old age Abraham believed that God would give him a son from whom would spring many nations. But then James speaks of the offering of Isaac. That is, Abraham not only believed God but was willing to do what God told him to do so that he worked the works of obedient action in faith. In both cases, Abraham followed God’s Will for his life as led by the Spirit of God. So then faith and when led by the Spirit works of obedience pleases God.
Paul gives an extensive dissertation on faith and works. James sums it up when he says faith without works is dead. By that James says if a person truly has a repentant faith then the proper works will be present. God and only God can determine whether the proper works is present. We may see some indicators that we think are indicators but we may be knowing in part and seeing through the glass darkly so we must be careful about passing judgment.
Our task is not to judge unto condemnation but to exhort unto righteousness. This exhortation involves commending as well as rebuking, teaching, and correcting as appropriate.
Justification is the opposite of condemnation; it is not the opposite of sinlessness. For the scripture says: And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. (Romans 5:16)
Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS)?
There are some who promote the doctrine of once saved, always saved. There are others who say that doctrine is not biblical. Each point to scriptures that support their position. My hope is certainly that the doctrine of once saved, always saved is true and biblically sound. Yet, I am reminded of numerous biblical warnings concerning those who profess to be saved yet are not. Furthermore, I am mindful of James who says faith without works is dead (James 2:20) and Jesus who speaks of our works glorifying the Father (Matthew 5:16). In the final analysis it is not about what I say or you say, it is about what Jesus says in the end time to each of us individually. The decision is ultimately in his hand. So it is important that I continually self-examine my faith (1 Cor 11:28; 2 Cor 13:5). It is valuable to ask the following question of ourselves continually:
“Are you sure your faith is faithful enough to enter Heaven thus avoiding Hell? How about your spouse, children, friends, etc.?”
Scriptures some use to support OSAS include John 3:15-18; 10:28-30; and 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Scriptures some use in opposition to OSAS include Rev 2:5; Hebrews 3:12; 12:15; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 1 Cor 9:27; 1 John 2:24; Matt 7:23; and John 15:6.
References that support it include:
References that oppose it include:
To God Be the Glory!