Living Above Sin

by | Nov 21, 2003

Dear Phil,

I’m wondering if you could help me out with scriptures and an explanation on how we as Christian can live a life above willful sin. I’m unsure how to witness to people who feel they have to sin.

Dear Lisa,

You have raised a very important question. I¹m glad you asked! Let me divide my answer into sections:

  1. What do we mean by willful sin?
  2. Do people have to sin?
  3. What does it mean to live above willful sin?
  4. How does one live above willful sin?

Willful sin is any consciously chosen attitude, word, or action that violates either the word of God (Jam. 4:17; 1 John 3:4; 5:17) or our conscience (Rom. 14:23).

Do People Have to Sin? The Bible answers this question plainly. All unsaved men are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:20-22; Eph. 2:1) and cannot stop sinning (Rom. 7:15-23).  In stark contrast to the bondage of the sinner, all men who trust in Christ are free from sin¹s control over them (Rom. 6:6-10). As Paul says, “being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom. 6:22).

In addition to freedom from sin¹s control, 1 Cor. 10:13 promises that God never allows a Christian to be tempted beyond his capacity to resist the temptation through God¹s grace. Therefore, no Christian ever has to sin willfully.

What Does It Mean to Live above Willful Sin?  First, it does not mean that a Christian cannot be tempted. There is no level of spiritual maturity that frees us from temptation, for Christ himself was tempted (Mat. 4). Nor does not mean that a Christian cannot choose to sin willfully. No orthodox theologian, Wesleyan or otherwise, has ever claimed that we can reach a level where we are unable to sin willfully.

Second, it does mean Christians do not have to sin willfully. Stated positively, it means that at every decision point in life a Christian can, because of God¹s grace, choose to do right. It means that Christians can live lives characterized by obedience to all the truth of God¹s word that they know. We can walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). We can live lives that are holy, just, and blameless (1 Thess. 2:10). The Bible directly affirms that Zacharias and Elizabeth lived this way (Luke 1:6). Paul testifies that this is the way he lived his life: (2 Cor. 1:12, NASB).

How Does A Christian Live Above Willful Sin?  A Christian can live above willful sin only by total dependence upon God¹s grace. This kind of life is the product of:

  1. loving God totally, for love keeps His commands
  2. walking in the Spirit, for “If you are walking in the Spirit, you will never fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). (Logically, that means if you ever fulfill the lusts of the flesh, it must have been because you were not walking in the Spirit)
  3. not making provision for the lusts of the flesh (Rom. 13:14)
  4. resisting the devil¹s temptations (James 4:7; Jude 1:9)
  5. fleeing youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22a)
  6. pursuing “righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22b)

A life free from willful sin is the blood-bought privilege of every child of God. Praise the Lord! Let¹s be diligent to live up to our privileges in grace!

Philip Brown