The Study of Salvation
by James T. Bartsch

"Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of tgentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted."  Galatians 6:1

What Does God Do with Christians Who Sin?

by WordExplain

A.     A True Christian Does Not Continually Live a Life-Style of Sin. Rather, He Confesses the Sin That Inevitably Crops Up. 1 John 1:5 - 2:6

             1.           God is holy. God’s character is one of complete light – all good – and no darkness – an absence of evil. 1 John 1:5.

             2.          If we say we are having fellowship with God, yet we continually walk in the darkness, practicing sin, we are liars. 1 John 1:6.

             3.          If we Christians continually walk in obedience in the light of truth ... 1 John 1:7

                           a.          ... we and God continue to have fellowship with each other...

                           b.          ... and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from the sin nature with which we are contaminated.

             4.          If we maintain we have no sin nature, we are completely deluded. 1 John 1:8

             5.          If we Christians continue to confess (acknowledge) to God the sins (which, upon occasion, erupt from our sin nature) ... 1 John 1:9.

                           a.          ... God remains faithful and completely justified in forgiving us those sins.

                           b.          ... and God cleans us up from the contamination of all unrighteousness!

             6.          If, instead of confessing our sins, we maintain that we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar, and his truth is not within us! 1 John 1:10

             7.          These instructions are given to us Christians so that we will not continue to sin. 1 John 2:1a.

             8.          If we commit an act of sin, we have a righteous attorney for our defense with God the Father. Our attorney is totally honest and righteous – Jesus the Messiah. 1 John 2:1b

             9.          Jesus (because of his holiness and his death for sin and resurrection) is the perfect legal satisfaction appeasing God’s wrath against sin ... 1 John 2:2.

                           a.          ... for the sins of us Christians.

                           b.          ... and for the sins of the entire world!

             10.        Here’s how we know we have already come to know Jesus – if we keep obeying his commands. 1 John 2:3.

             11.         The person who says he has come to know Jesus but is not continuing to keep his commands is a truthless liar! 1 John 2:4.

             12.        The person who continues to observe the command of Jesus, – in him the love of God has been completed! 1 John 2:5a.

             13.        This is how we know we are in Jesus – the one claiming to remain in Jesus ought to be living the same lifestyle Jesus lived! 1 John 2:5b-6.

B.     It is Our Duty as Godly Christians to Hold One Another Accountable in a Loving Way.

             1.           Restoration. Galatians 6:1

                           a.          Spiritual Christians should gently restore another brother “caught in any trespass.”

                           b.          The restoring Christian should beware lest he himself be tempted to do the same thing.

             2.          Stages of Accountability. Matthew 18:15-20.

                           a.          Go to a Christian brother who sins privately.

                           b.          If he won’t listen, take one or two others with you as witnesses.

                           c.          If he still won’t listen, tell the entire assembly, still working for reconciliation.

                           d.          If he still won’t listen, treat him as the Jewish people of that day would have treated a tax collector for the Roman government or a Gentile. That means to cut off fellowship with him.

                           e.          If you must reach this final step, you have the backing of heaven...

                                         1)          Because, if two or three here on earth agree, they have the request from God the Father.

                                         2)          And, furthermore, Jesus is among them to lend credibility to their request.

             3.          Rebuke, Repent, Forgive. Luke 17:3-4.

                           a.          Believers are to rebuke a sinning brother.

                           b.          If he repents, they are to forgive him.

                           c.          Repeated repentance is worthy of repeated forgiveness.

             4.          Upbuild, Be Gentle, and Forgive! Ephesians 4:29-32.

                           a.          Christians are required never to utter unwholesome words.

                           b.          Christians rather are required to use only words that graciously build up those within earshot. (Gracious speech is speech that dispenses good gifts to hearers who don’t deserve them.)

                           c.          By our speech and our deportment, we Christians are forbidden to grieve God’s Spirit who has guaranteed our redemption. This precludes our harboring any bitterness, thoughts of revenge, or any ill will toward others.

                           d.          To the contrary, we are urged to exhibit kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness to one another in the same way that God has forgiven us on account of Jesus’ sacrificial death to pay for our sins!

C.     God Has Ways of Disciplining Wayward Christians in This Life.

             1.           The Case of the Crooked, Compliment-Seeking Couple. Acts 4:34 - 5:11

                           a.          The Generosity of Barnabas and Others. Acts 4:34-37

                                         1)          In the early days of the infant church, owners of real estate were selling land or houses to distribute funds to needy believers.

                                         2)          Barnabas sold some land and gave the proceeds to the apostles to distribute.

                           b.          Ananias and Saphira Jump (Part Way) on the Bandwagon. Acts 5:1-2

                                         1)          Ananias and Saphira sold some property.

                                         2)          They gave money to the apostles, but withheld a portion of the sale for themselves. (Evidently they acted as though they were donating the entire amount.)

                           c.          The Premature Demise of Ananias. Acts 5:3-6.

                                         1)          Peter, accused Ananias of lying to God about his deed.

                                         2)          Ananias fell over dead, and was buried.

                           d.          The Premature Demise of Saphira. Acts 5:7-10.

                                         1)          Later, Peter asked Saphira for the amount of their land sale. She agreed with his suggested amount.

                                         2)          Peter predicted her instant demise.

                                         3)         Saphira fell over dead, and was likewise buried.

                           e.          The Collective Gasp of the Church. Acts 5:11.

                                         1)          Great fear came upon the church and upon all who heard!

                                         2)          The lesson the early church learned was that sin, in this case insincerity, could lead to physical death! There is no indication here that Ananias and Saphira lost their salvation. They did lose their physical lives in Divine discipline, however, much as some of the fleshly Christians in the church at Corinth lose their lives years later (1 Cor. 11:30-32).

             2.          The Case of the Incestuous Comrade. 1 Corinthians 5:1-8

                           a.          The Pernicious Porneia (Immorality). 1 Cor. 5:1.

                                         1)          There existed in the church at Corinth a situation utterly repugnant among Christians. A man among there number was living in immorality. (The Greek word is porneia, a general term for sexual immorality. A female prostitute was called a porne, and a male prostitute a pornos. We derive our English word pornography from this Greek word.)

                                         2)          The particular kind of porneia this Christian was participating in was incest. He was cohabiting with his father’s wife. Presumably she was a younger wife and not the mother of this man.

                                         3)         This porneia was so sick that even raw pagans did not indulge in it!

                           b.          The Too-Tolerant Corinthians. 1 Cor. 5:2.

                                         1)          The Corinthian church exhibited a kind of arrogant, permissive liberalism or progressivism toward this man.

                                         2)          They did not mournfully ostracize him.

                           c.          Paul’s Apostolic Solution. 1 Cor. 5:3-5.

                                         1)          Paul writes that if the Corinthians won’t address the evil, he will! 1 Cor. 5:3-4.

                                         2)          Paul has determined to deliver this sinning brother over to Satan for the destruction of his body! 1 Cor. 5:5a.

                                         3)         Paul has determined to do so in order that the sinning brother’s spirit may be preserved alive in the day of Jesus’ judgment. 1 Cor. 5:5b

                           d.          Paul Urges the Corinthians to Purge Out the Leaven of Sin in Their Midst. 1 Cor. 5:6-8.

                                         1)          Their arrogance is not good. They should know that a little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough, meaning a little sin tolerated degrades the whole church. 1 Cor. 5:6.

                                         2)          They are to clean out the old yeast in the church and be unleavened, truly celebrating without sin the Ultimate Passover – Christ, the unblemished Passover Lamb, sacrificed for our sin. 1Cor. 5:7-8; cf. Exod. 12.

             3.          The Case of the Sinning, Disunified Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

                           a.          The Corinthian Church was Guilty of Worshiping Together in Fractious Disunity. 1 Cor. 11:17-19.

                                         1)          Their meeting together was for worse, not better.

                                         2)          There were partially credible reports that schisms existed among them.

                                         3)         God has even a purpose for schisms in a church – the exoneration of those who are approved by God.

                           b.          The Wrong Way to Observe the Lord’s Supper. 1 Cor. 11:20-22.

                                         1)          The Lord’s Supper was not meant to foster disunified socioeconomic strata and excessive appetites.

                                         2)          The well-to-do Corinthians were shaming those poorer members who had little or nothing to bring to the meal.

                           c.          The Rite of the Lord’s Supper. 1 Cor. 11:23-26.

                                         1)          The bread reminds us of the body of Christ, crucified for us.

                                         2)          The cup reminds us of the blood of Christ, shed for us.

                                         3)         The observance of the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of his death until he returns.

                           d.          The Wrong Way to Observe the Rite. 1 Cor. 11:27

                                         1)          Participating in an unworthy manner is the wrong way to observe the rite.

                                         2)          He who does so makes himself guilty of Christ’s body and blood.

                                         3)         In other words, to be engaging in the sins of partisan selfishness and excessive indulgence while observing the Supper of the Lord who died to pay for the penalty of sin, makes one guilty of His death.

                           e.          Self-Examination. The Right Way to Observe the Rite. 1 Cor. 11:28-29.

                                         1)          We must examine ourselves and confess and forsake our sin before participating in the Lord’s Supper.

                                         2)          If we participate unworthily in the Lord’s Supper, we call down judgment on ourselves!

                           f.           The Discipline of God! 1 Cor. 11:30-32.

                                         1)          Sickness and Sleep (Euphemism for Physical Death)! 1 Cor. 11:30. Unworthy participation by the Corinthians had led to the sickness of some and the premature death of others as a judgment.

                                         2)          The Preferability of Self-Judgment! 1 Cor. 11:31. If we Christians would judge the sin in our own lives, God would not have to do it for us!

                                         3)         Divine Discipline to Avoid Condemnation along with the World. 1 Cor. 11:32. Even so, this judgment from God is really a Father disciplining His children, not the eternal damnation to befall the world.

                           g.          The Recommended Observance. 1 Cor. 11:33-34.

                                         1)          The believers are told to eat their Lord’s Supper meal together. The point almost seems to mean a sharing of the meal.

                                         2)          If sharing means they don’t have enough to eat, then they are to satisfy their greater at hunger at home so there will be no embarrassment for the poorer members of the church gathered.

                                         3)         If they don’t cooperate in this matter, the result will be a gathering for judgment!

             4.          The Case of Sin Unto (Physical) Death. 1 John 5:14-21

                           a.          Prayer Prayed in Accordance with God’s Will Gets Answered! 1 John 5:14-15

                                         1)          God hears prayers prayed according to His will.

                                         2)          Since God hears prayers thus prayed, He will grant the petitions.

                           b.          Praying for Sin Not Leading to (Physical) Death. 1 John 5:16a.

                                         1)          If a someone views a Christian brother committing sin that does not lead to physical death,

                                         2)          he is to pray to God on behalf of that brother.

                                         3)         God will grant that brother physical life – the brother not committing sin leading to physical death.

                           c.          Not Required to Pray for Sin Leading to (Physical) Death. 1 John 5:16b.

                                         1)          There clearly is such a thing as sin leading to physical death.

                                         2)          John the Apostle issues no command whatever that believers should pray for that situation – the case of a brother committing sin that leads to physical death.

                           d.          There Is Sin Not Leading to (Physical) Death. 1 John 5:17.

                                         1)          All unrighteousness is sin.

                                         2)          There is such a thing as sin not leading to physical death.

                           e.          Born-of-God Christians Do Not Keep Sinning. 1 John 5:18-20

                                         1)          The one having been born of God does not persistently sin (1 John 5:18).

                                         2)          Jesus, the One uniquely born of God, keeps the believer.

                                         3)         Consequently Satan cannot touch the believer.

                                         4)         We Christians know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies under the jurisdiction of Satan (1 John 5:19).

                                         5)         We Christians know that Jesus, the Son of God, has come and enabled us to know God, the True One. Furthermore we are in the True One and in His Son, Jesus Christ. We have a connection, therefore, with the True God and with eternal life (1 John 5:20)!

                           f.           We Christians are Commanded to Guard Ourselves from Idols! 1 John 5:21.

             5.          A Question Without an Answer ...

                           a.          What is sin that leads to physical death? Let us first clarify what it is NOT. Sin that leads to physical death is not the “Unpardonable Sin” – blasphemy against the Spirit (Matt. 12:31). The broader context of the “Unpardonable Sin” is Matt. 12:22-37.

                                         1)          Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute (Matt. 12:22).

                                         2)          The amazed crowds rightly concluded that this miracle might well mean that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah (Matt. 12:23).

                                         3)         The Pharisees quickly countered that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Satan (Matt. 12:24).

                                         4)         Jesus’ pointed out the absurdity of their conclusion (Matt. 12:25-29).

                                         5)         Then Jesus warned against committing the unpardonable sin, something the Pharisees had just done (Matt. 12:30-32).

                                                       a)         Those who commit the unpardonable sin are those who are not with Jesus, but against him – those who do not harvest lost souls with him, but instead repel them. The Pharisees qualified on that count (Matt. 12:30).

                                                       b)         The unpardonable sin consists of speaking against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32).

                                                       c)          The Pharisees had just done that. The Unpardonable Sin is stating that Jesus source of power to perform miracles is not the Holy Spirit, but the Devil himself.

                                                       d)         This is a deliberate sin committed by unbelievers who are so antagonistic against Jesus that they will jump even to that absurd conclusion – that Jesus performed miracles by the power of Satan – to discredit him.

                                                       e)         No believer in Jesus would ever conclude that Jesus performed his miracles by the power of Satan.

                                                       f)          So the Unpardonable Sin is an irreversible conclusion that Jesus performed miracles by Satan’s power. It is a deadly conclusion.

                                                       g)         The Pharisees who said that about Jesus would never change their minds. They would be unable to do so and would not want to.

                                         6)         In Matthew 12:33-37 Jesus warned that everyone, including the Pharisees, would one day be judged by the words they had spoken earlier in life. By our words will be justified or condemned.

                                                       a)         The Pharisees who made this absurd charge about Jesus – that he cast out demons by the power of Satan – will one day experience the terrifying sensation of having their words repeated back to them when they stand at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).

                                                       b)         They will be cast forever into the lake of fire. They had blasphemed the Spirit as an excuse for disbelieving in Jesus. They will forever be tormented by their own words.

                           b.          What IS sin that leads to physical death? My own answer – I do not know. I believe that there is no one particular sin. From the evidence in Scripture, sin that leads to physical death can be different sins for different Christians.

                                         1)          In the case of Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-11) it was insincerity.

                                         2)          In the case of the “Incestuous Comrade” it would have been incestuous immorality – had he not repented (1 Cor. 5:1-8).

                                         3)         In the case of the fleshly Corinthians, it was partaking of the Lord’s Table unworthily, beset by selfish disunity and drunken excess (1 Cor. 11:17-34).

                                         4)         So there is no one particular sin. We are all at different stages of development in our Christian life. Some of us have had greater privilege and advantage. For us, sin to death might be a lesser sin than for another brother who has had less advantage in his Christian walk. To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48).

                                         5)         It will take much prayer and spiritual wisdom to discern when a Christian brother has committed sin leading to the punishment of physical death. Be very careful in concluding thus. When the time comes, you will know it, if you are closely walking with God and seeking Him for wisdom (James 1:5-6).

                                         6)         Many years ago there were two brothers. One of them fell ill with cancer and died. On the day of the funeral the surviving brother had his deceased brother’s wife evicted from her home, which the surviving brother apparently owned. God is very protective about vulnerable people – widows, orphans, and aliens. In less than two years, I sat in that surviving brother’s home as he wept because his own son had been killed in an automobile accident. As I sat there and watched him weep, I shuddered within myself. I do not know if he was a believer, or if he had committed sin leading to death when he evicted his brother’s wife. But I was convinced his own son’s death was payback from God, and I remain convinced to this day.

D.     Jesus Will Ultimately Evaluate Christians and Strip Away All Their Impurities at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

             1.           The Corinthian Christians were Fleshly Christians with Stunted Spiritual Growth. They were to be careful how they built on the foundation Paul had laid, for they would ultimately face the fire of judgment, which would consume their impurities. They had best live to have something to show for their lives upon earth! 1 Cor. 3:1-15

                           a.          Paul laid the foundation of Christ among the Corinthians, and each of us must be careful how we build thereon! 1 Cor. 3:10-11.

                           b.          There is a day of evaluation coming for the work of each and every Christian. 1 Cor. 3:12-15.

                                         1)          Our works may be of value or relatively worthless. 1 Cor. 3:12.

                                         2)          The fire of Christ’s gaze will test the quality of the work of each of us Christians. 1 Cor. 3:13.

                                         3)         If our work survives the fire, we will be rewarded. 1 Cor. 3:14.

                                         4)         If our work as Christians is consumed, we will suffer loss, yet we ourselves will survive eternally (salvation) as though escaping through a fire! 1 Cor. 3:15.

             2.          We Christians Should Live to Be Ready for The Judgment Seat of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.

                           a.          It ought to be our desire as Christians to please Christ. 2 Cor. 5:9.

                           b.          All Christians will experience an evaluation by Christ at some point after we die. 2 Cor. 5:10.

E.     Conclusion

             1.           Genuine Christians do not live a lifestyle of sin. We do have sin natures which inevitably erupt in acts of sin. Christians are to confess their sins to their Father, who faithfully forgives them, cleansing them and restoring them to fellowship in the family of God.

             2.          We are not to sin. But when we do, Jesus is the Attorney for our Defense before the Father. He is the Legal Satisfaction for the sins of us believers. He remains available as a Legal Satisfaction for the sins of the whole world! (If you want Jesus to be your lawyer, trust Him and ask Him! He takes every client who wants Him!)

             3.          Christians are gently to hold each other accountable for a holy lifestyle.

             4.          God reserves the right to discipline believers through physical illness and physical death. It is possible for a Christian to be so fleshly and unChristlike, and his advertisement for the cause of Christ so detrimental, that God removes him from the scene in physical sickness or even physical death.

             5.          There is such a thing as a Christian sinning in such a way that it could lead to his physical death. There is no particular sin that leads to death. For Ananias and Saphira it was misrepresentation and pride. For some of the Corinthians it was disunity and factionalism over leadership. Sin leading to death is apparently different for different Christians.

             6.          Divine discipline and church discipline are designed to be redemptive. The purpose of disciplining the incestuous Corinthian was so that even though Satan might destroy his flesh (body), his spirit would be salvaged eternally.

             7.          All born again Christians will appear at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It behooves us to live so that our life’s work will survive the fiery scrutiny of Christ’s evaluation so that we make eternally valuable contributions to the Eternal Kingdom of God and Christ!

What Does God Do With Christians Who Sin?

Prepared by James T. Bartsch

September, 2007, updated February 28, 2022

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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE 1995 , Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

WordExplain by James T. Bartsch

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB 1995.  Used by Permission.)

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Updated February 28, 2022