The Effects of Sin on Salvation

Regular confession of sins is necessary for salvation.

1 Jn 1:5­9 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

Verse 9 says that if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. Does that mean that any sin which is unconfessed will put us in danger of hell? The Bible teaches that when we believe in Jesus, our sins are forgiven.

Acts 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (NIV)

Through Jesus’ death, we have been cleansed of all our sins–past, present and future.

Heb 10:12,14 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins… 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (NIV)

It is therefore clear that 1 Jn 1:9 does not refer to confessing our sins to avoid judgement, but confessing our sins so that we can have fellowship with Him as evident from verses 6 and 7. Verse 7 is not teaching that we have to walk in the light before we will be cleansed of our sins and escape hell. The word “cleanses” in 1 Jn 1:7 is in the present tense meaning that the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us daily so that we can have fellowship with Him. Therefore, it is talking about our daily life, not our spiritual position. Our spiritual position is perfect because Christ has perfected us forever.

Mt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)

According to Lordship advocates, being sorrowful for sin is meant by the words “poor in spirit” showing that sorrowful repentance from sin is necessary for salvation. Likewise, it is the tax collector’s repentance from sin that brought about his salvation.

Lk 8:13-14 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (NIV)

Rather than the turning from sin that saves, I believe that it is the acknowledgement of sin that saves in these two instances. Being “poor in spirit” could certainly be interpreted as the recognition that we have nothing whatsoever to merit God’s favour and rely totally on Him to save. In Lk 8:13, the tax collector was saved because He humbled himself (verse 14) and acknowledged his sin unlike the Pharisee we read of in verses 11 and 12.

Sin can lead to death even for the Christian

1 Jn 5:16 If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. (NIV)

According to this verse, there is a sin that leads to death. Although there is no way to identify this sin, we can conclude that it does not refer to eternal death in hell because John declared earlier that a believer has passed from death (ie eternal death) to life (ie eternal life).

John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (NIV)

It is therefore possible for John to be referring to those sins committed by a Christian that can lead to chastisement of premature, physical death. Like this sin for example.

1 Cor 11:27­30 27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. (NIV)

In these verses, it is clear that those who treat the holy communion with contempt will be guilty of severe physical chastisement. Some will be weak and sick, some even fall asleep (ie experience physical death, see Jn 11:11­14). But there is no mention of them losing their salvation.

In conclusion, sin has many serious consequences, even physical death but the Bible assures us that we will not lose our salvation. When talking about the church member who had committed adultery, Paul said,

1 Cor 5:5 hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

Romans 6:15-18 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! {16} Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? {17} But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. {18} You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

In these verses, Paul is talking about sin leading to eternal death but Paul was referring to non-Christians in verse 16 and not Christians. Notice in verse 17 that Paul says those people used to be slaves of sin but not any more. Now they are slaves of righteousness. Obedience in verse 16 refers to obedience of faith.

James 1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (KJV, save your souls)

The verse does not teach that obeying the Word can save our souls but rather our life. The Greek word for “souls” is “psuche” which can as well be translated “life” as in the following verse.

Matthew 2:20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life (Greek, psuche) are dead.”

Even Christians are judged by their works

2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (NIV)

Paul, the man who more than any writer in the New Testament carefully demonstrated that we are eternally saved by the imputed righteousness of Christ, also said that every one of us shall receive the things in his body whether good or bad. What does he mean by that? Firstly, we can conclude that the judgment here does not refer to the final judgment that condemns unbelievers to hell.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (NIV)

Romans 5:9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (NIV)

Rom 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation (literally “adverse sentence”) for those who are in Christ Jesus (NIV)

Jn 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned (NIV)

Jn 5:24 I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned (NIV)

Whatever the judgement is as described in 2 Cor 5:10, one thing is for sure–it is not meant to condemn the believer as shown by the verses above. I believe that the judgment seat of Christ Paul talks about in 2 Cor 5:10, is the same one referred to in 1 Cor 3:10-15. Paul says that the Christian will receive the things done in his body, whether good or bad. If he has led a life not pleasing to God, he will receive what is due him–total loss. All that he has lived for will come to nothing and he will suffer great loss, even though he will be saved. If he has served God well, he will receive his reward.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. {11} For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. {12} If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, {13} his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. {14} If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. {15} If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Notice that this passage is talking about Christians. Even the man who built on gold, silver, etc had his foundation on Jesus (see verses 11 & 12). Also it says in verse 15 that this person will be saved. Therefore we see that a Christian can be judged but his salvation will not be affected.

I Pet 1:17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

This verse can be interpreted the same way. Peter is referring to God judging our works, not our sin.

Rom 2:6-8,13 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (NIV)

In these verses, Paul is rebuking the Jews for thinking that since they have God’s laws, they are better off than the Gentiles (verse 7). They brag about having the law, yet they are the ones who break it (verse 23). Paul argues that having the law means absolutely nothing because it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous but the doers (verse 13). Here Paul is stating from a legalistic standpoint that we can be saved by obeying the law. Of course to be saved in this way we must not even fail in a single point of the law. Notice the words ” persistence in doing good” are used. He later goes on to say that no one is capable of achieving salvation this way since no one is righteous. He then goes on to say that it is because even the Jews cannot obey the law completely that they are no better than the Gentiles.

Rom 3:9-12 9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Some people will not be forgiven

Mt 6:12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (NIV)

Mt 18:23-35 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. `Be patient with me,’ he begged, `and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. `Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, `Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. `You wicked servant,’ he said, `I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (NIV)

It seems from the above passages that our salvation contingent on our ability to forgive others. However, I personally believe that forgiveness is not a condition but a natural consequence to salvation. A person who truly believes in Jesus will be able to forgive, although it might require a lot of effort. A Christian who comes to God must first acknowledge that he is a sinner and Christ has forgiven all his sins. A person who grasp this concept will have a new found love for God and a renewed ability to forgive. A Christian who cannot forgive has not grasp the magnitude of his sin and God’s forgiveness. Such a person might not have been saved in the first place.

Mt 12:31-32 31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

People disagree on what this sin called “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is. However, I personally believe that it refers to the attribution of the work of the Holy Spirit to the work of the devil. In other words, you are equating the Holy Spirit to the devil. No wonder Jesus uses such strong words against this sin. The context of the verse gives us a clue as to what this terrible sin is. Jesus had just performed a miracle to heal a blind and dumb man. The Pharisees refused to admit that Jesus could do such things because He is God. Instead, they thought of a way out and accused Jesus of using the power of the devil to perform the healing. It is such a circumstance that prompted Jesus to talk about the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Mt 12:22-24 22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”(NIV)

The next question is of course: Can a Christian commit this sin and lose his salvation? I do not think so.

1 Cor 12:3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

This verse implies that a genuine Christian who has the Holy Spirit in him cannot utter such curses against God deliberately. Christians may be capable of thinking that some of the Holy Spirit’s gifts e.g. tongues are from the devil but they do so with ignorance and without any intention to curse God. I believe the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was talking about refers to a deliberate effort to curse God.