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Fulton County Gospel News

a work of the mammoth spring church of christ

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Unnecessary Baggage

By Roelf L. Ruffner

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, lie any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2).

Christians often carry around with them unnecessary intellectual, emotional and even religious baggage. We should not be shocked by this because we live in a messed up, sinful world. False doctrine, denominational dogma and prejudices can rub off on us. The Christian should seek to rid himself of all this baggage and return to the Bible.

One common refrain you hear from religious people in this world is, “Well, you know that we are all just sinners.” But are we?

The term “sin” in the New Testament literally means “to miss the mark” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary) of God’s law (compare with 1 John 3:4), like an arrow missing its target. “Sinner” does refer to the one who has sinned. But often the term is used to describe one with a habit or life of sinning. He continues to miss the mark over and over again. Consider the following passages:

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness(Rom. 6:17-18).

Notice the phrases I have underlined in the preceding passages. All denote that sinning is not the current condition of the Christian. They “were servants of sin” but now, after obeying the gospel of Christ, they have been “made free from sin;” no longer habitual practitioners of sin because they “BECAME servants of righteousness.”

Does this mean that a Christian is incapable of sinning or being a sinner? No! Christians can find themselves “sinners” in the sense of falling into the old rut of sinning. James wrote these words to Christians: Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19,20).  Thankfully, the Christian can repent, pray to the Father through the Son (our “advocate” – 1 John 2:1) and ask forgiveness of their sins. What a great blessing!

Where did this unscriptural view of sin and sinning come from? It originated with the pagan Greek philosophy of Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed that material things, like the human body, were inherently evil. The theologian Augustine used this idea to come up with his doctrine of Original Sin.  He said that all people are sinners because of Adam’s sin which we inherited, along with the sins of our ancestors. The reformer John Calvin used this false concept to come up with his doctrine of Total Hereditary Depravity. He taught that we are all born depraved and so sinners. This means that that precious newborn baby is a sinner! Can you imagine a more pernicious false doctrine? Yet multiplied millions of people accept this as a fact. So was born the idea that “we are all just sinners,” which has become embedded in popular religious discourse.

The Bible teaches no such doctrine. Neither you nor I was born a sinner (Ezekiel 18:20). We are free moral agents and must choose to sin or not to sin. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15-16). Obedience to the gospel of God’s grace frees us from the bondage of sin so we might become free in Christ to do God’s will.

But some object and say, “Didn’t Paul describe himself as chief of sinners?” (compare with 1 Timothy 1:15). Yes he did. But Paul was describing his former life as a persecutor of the church of Christ, in rebellion against God’s will, not his current spiritual state as a servant of Christ. He was no longer a sinner in the sense of one who was in a life of sin. He had been forgiven of all that. He was now a “new man” in Christ (Colossians 3:10); cleansed by the blood of Christ of his past habit of sin.

Dear reader, are you a sinner? If you have not obeyed the gospel you are one, however “good” or “spiritual” you think you are (compare with Matthew 7:21). If you have become a Christian and have since gotten out of fellowship with Jesus and His brethren, back into the rut of sin; you are a sinner. You need to repent and ask God and your brethren’s forgiveness. But if you are a faithful Christian, still striving to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7); the Bible says that you are NOT a sinner.

My friends, let us give up any misconceptions, false doctrine and misunderstandings we have and replace them with the pure, unadulterated Truth from the Bible “which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

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Cheyenne, WY  82009

 

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