Common Objections to Victory
or whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the Victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (1John 5:4)
This is a brief essay I wrote for someone who was newly interested in Victory over sin. Naturally, having been subject to the leaven of supposedly Christian teaching, it was all very new to her. In order to provide our response to the most common verses people use to oppose this wonderful promise of our Savior, I compiled the following brief list.
1) “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom 7:14,15,18, 19)
Response: Paul says in verse 24, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He then answers it in verse 25 – “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In part b of that verse he says, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
Through Christ there is a “law of God” placed in the mind/heart (Rom 2:15) and it is in opposition to the “natural man” of the flesh. With the flesh, we still serve the law of sin, and those who walk in the flesh will sin naturally. However, this is not Paul’s present state, but his state when he was married to the Law (he sets up the time element in verse 7:1-6) and says, “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (verse 6) The rest of Chapter 7 is his pre-converted state, and not how he is now. He begins with “now” in Chapter 8:1 saying, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
This completes the thought begun in chapter 6. Romans was written as a unit, and never meant to be fragmented, stopping the day’s study at 7:25. It must be read at least from chapter 6 to chapter 8, where Paul says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom 6:1-2) up till he says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom 8:14) This is all the treatment of one principle: In the flesh, we cannot please God (8:8) and of ourselves, apart from Christ we can only desire to walk in righteousness (7:15), BUT continuing that thought, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom 8:9)
A full reading of that passage sets forth the promise that those in Christ walk in the Spirit, and do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Here is what Paul says of the conversion experience, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Cor 5:17)
2) “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1John 1:9,10)
Response: John often speaks repetitively for emphasis, and this verse is an exact double for those which come before and after it. Here are those verses:
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: “ (1John 1:6)
“He that saith, ‘I know Him,’ and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1John 2:4)
In each of these cases, 1:8 included, John is speaking to those Christians who are influenced by a heresy known as Gnosticism. The Gnostics taught that once you were converted, nothing you did was bad or evil... that is to say, even if you did bad things, they were not “sin.” The human flesh is by nature evil, even with the experience of being born again, and would do evil on its own. Once your spirit was saved, however, you were fine. Remnants of this theology are found in the commonly taught “once saved always saved” view of salvation. John’s entire letter is address to those who were sinning, but saying they were not. And so to THESE people he writes, if we are IN sin (as they were) and “if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us.” In other words, call sin by its right name.
Those who were able to admit to being in sin were to confess, be converted, and then Christ’s blood would be accepted “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Accepting the blood cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness, not just some; and never more do we willfully (deliberately) commit acts of transgression. It should be pointed out that people still make errors in judgment (Peter in Galatians 2) but they do not deliberately sin. As John says there is a “sin unto death” which is deliberate, and a “a sin which is not unto death” (1John 5:15) for which the Sacrifice (Christ) could be used to atone for (Leviticus 5:5) For SDAs, there is even less of a reason to misread this verse. Ellen White says in her writings that John’s letter was written to those who were in great deception, believing that their actions were above what could be called “sin,” no matter how depraved their practices actually were.
3) “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” (1John 2:1)
Response: Although this is also in 1John, it is so often used it gets a section of its own. People use this as an “obvious” verse to say that people who are converted still sin – “but if any man sin” they just repent and Christ picks them up again to fall off the cliff another time.
In doing so, they change the word “and” to a “but” and make John contradict himself. Here is what John writes about converts and sin in that very same letter, two chapters away:
“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.” (1John 3:9)
There is no way to misapply this, except that some Christians will teach that John means a Christian will not “continue” in sin. This is not true to the text as it is written or translated. The Greek is even clearer, and a literal translation would be, “Whosoever is born of God misses not the mark. (hamartian ou)” It’s not about continuing in known sin, that part is obvious, but if a person KNOWS a thing is sin, he will not even give in to the temptation at all. Changing that word to mean “continuing in sin” is adding to the Scripture a doctrine that is alien to its consistency and the message of true freedom in Christ.
Further, that phrase “if any man sin” is in the aorist tense in Greek, and is the exact same expression Paul uses when he says, “for all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) This is translated in the English as the past-perfect tense (it is NOT, “for all sin”), and so what John actually wrote in the original manuscript is, “if any man have sinned.” If we realize we have been in sin, we repent, and this is what the Advocate, Christ, does in us. He does not pick us up from every fall, He comes into us when we realize we are in need of a Savior, and we can walk with confidence, “For Yahweh shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.” (Pro 3:26) There is no contradiction by the same author in the same book of Scripture; John says those who are born of God “cannot sin,” and he maintains this teaching firmly in every verse of his letters. “Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” (2Peter 1:10)
4) Speaking of Peter: Peter was with Christ for 3.5 years and he still denied Him during His trial. (John 18:27)
Response: Strange as it may seem at first, Peter was NOT converted until after Pentecost. Most Christians are where Peter was, walking WITH Christ, but not yet having Him dwelling in their hearts. Just before He died, this dialogue took place: “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’” (Luke 22:31,32) Yes, Peter denied Christ during times of severe trial, and so will any who are only walking with Him. But the ones who come unto the full salvation experience can testify like Paul, who is much different than his Romans 7 past, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
Peter himself writes (after actually being converted), “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” (1Peter 4:1) If we are “crucified with Christ” as Paul puts it, we “hath ceased from sin.” True Sabbath rest; “But we have the mind of Christ.” (1Cor 2:16)
5) David sinned, and yet God calls him a “man after his own heart.”
Response: David also walked with Christ, but as Ellen White states, he needed to be converted after his sin. For non-Adventists, we need only turn to the Psalm he writes thereafter: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psa 51:10,12) Creation and restoration are exactly the things that turn the old, sinful man – into the new, spiritual man.
Before this point, although David was faithful inasmuch as he knew, he lied, killed unnecessarily, pretended to be crazy to avoid being killed, and deceived the high priest in order to evade capture by Saul (this later got the high priest and his entire family killed). After this point of conversion, we do NOT see this behavior again. David was a changed man after Nathan pointed out the sin that was in the monarch’s heart.
Christ of course is our example. David died; the 144,000 do not. Even Paul, Peter and John died – they were not as responsible for the light as we, the Remnant, are. We reflect His character more surely than David ever did, and it is written, “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. “ (1Cor 10:6) We have more light, and a more perfect Example to follow.
6) “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:12)
Response: This is one of those many cases where you just have to look at the next verse and the few that follow. This reads: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” (Phil 3:13-15)
Commentaries will add in footnotes “apprehended [to the resurrection of the dead.]” Paul is not yet in his new body, and has not yet become all that he can be in Christ. This brings to light the two words translated as “perfect” in the new testament. Paul says he is not yet “perfect” (teleioo – verse 12) but three verses later says, “let us, therefore, as many as be perfect” (teleios – verse 15). Another apparent contradiction that can be cleared up by the Greek original. The first word means perfect in the sense of completed, finished. For example Christ fulfilled (completed) the Law. The second word means “lacking nothing,” and morally excellent. THIS is the word Christ uses when He says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.” (Mat 5:48) That Voice gives us the power to DO it, if we have faith in Him as the Creator.
Paul’s statement in Philippians is that he is not yet finished; and if there was more, God would “reveal even this” to him. He had more to learn, as do we all. Yet for all that he knows he grasps, “forgetting those things which are behind,” and is lacking nothing, for as he testifies, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” (Acts 23:1) Every single one of us can say that, if the “Seed of God” is in us, and it has nothing to do with spiritual pride, because we do not glory in self, but in the Cross by which it is possible. (Gal 6:14)
A couple more things to remember: The New Testament never calls converts “sinners” in the present tense. Paul considers himself a “chief of sinners” (1Tim 1:5) only by virtue of his sinful past (verse 13), obtaining mercy because he did those things “ignorantly in unbelief.” What he does teach is that “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. “ (Rom 5:8) And “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place.” (2Cor 2:14)
There is not a place that gives place to deliberate, willful sin after Christ died. I’ve shown strong statements from Paul, Peter and John (there are also ones from James and Jude) which describe conversion as a life completely free from sin. This is the Gospel of Christ. We do not say that God would not forgive the repentant, but that one who is born again – and more, one who will be “without fault before the Throne” as the 144,000 are – will not need to ask! This is a scary, and even blasphemous thought to those who see Christ as He who will pick them up every time they fall; however this “new theology” has no foundation in Scripture, and the true Christ is He who lives in us as the Advocate, Comforter and Savior, eternally and flawlessly (for He is without flaw) keeping us from falling.
This is the invitation He has open to all, in the Church age of Laodicea – in which we are living now – “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20) For Adventists, who consider themselves the Remnant, we are to be a part of the true Body of Christ, separate from sin, unions with the world, and false teachings about the nature of the very One who saved us.
Mrs. White puts it this way, “The principles of righteousness must be implanted in the soul. The faith must grasp the power of Jesus Christ, else there is no safety. Licentious practices are getting to be as common as in the days before the flood. Not one should be buried with Christ by baptism unless they are critically examined whether they have ceased to sin, whether they have fixed moral principles, whether they know what sin is, whether they have moral defilement which God abhors. Find out by close questioning if these persons are really ceasing to sin, if with David they can say, ‘I hate sin with a perfect hatred.’” [Manuscript Releases Volume Six, page 165, paragraph 3; Chapter Title: Preparation for Baptism]
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil 4:13)
“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, ‘With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.’ Jesus said unto him, ‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.’” (Mat 19:26; Mark 9:23)
For a more full treatment of these see the Binary Angel website (under the Articles section).