The Saved And Their Sin, Sanctification And Judgment
by Elder John A. Keen, Jr.
The purpose of this article is to expose the danger in teaching that God has already forgiven all sins (present and future) of the saved and the error in concluding there is no judgment of the saved’s “deeds of the flesh” at the Judgment Day. There has been some recent discussion in our Missionary Baptist ranks regarding the sin that the saved commit and the consequences of this sin, particularly as it pertains to the Judgment Day and eternity. Significantly, this discussion comes at a time when the modern Evangelical Christian world is focused on taking away the guilt over sin that their followers experience. They tell all who will listen that because God loves them, He has already forgiven them their sins. Their spokespersons remind the guilt stricken Christian that God forgave them of all of their sins (past, present and future) when they were saved and that God now loves them unconditionally and accepts them as they are. Such advice has led them to conclude that the saved will not be judged by God at the Judgment Day and for them, the Judgment Day is only the time when God will separate them from the lost. For the saved person this means the coming of Christ and the subsequent Judgment Day is not something that should personally cause him concern and it is certainly nothing for which he needs to prepare. The purpose of this article is to expose the danger in teaching that God has already forgiven all sins (present and future) of the saved and the error in concluding there is no judgment of the saved’s “deeds of the flesh” at the Judgment Day.
It is first necessary that a Scriptural foundation be established in order to understand personal sin and its consequences to the saved person. The first priority in this foundation is to reconcile sin with the saved man’s two-fold nature. Notice I John 1:10 and I John 3:9 and you will see the need of harmonizing Scripture. The first passage makes it very clear that the saved do indeed sin and to say otherwise is to make God a liar. The second passage states just as clearly that not only do those who are born of God not sin, but in fact, they can not sin; it is impossible because God’s seed is in them. Now the only way to harmonize these Scriptures is to understand that the soul of a born again child of God has a holy nature and can not sin because that part of man is born of God’s incorruptible seed. However, the body of a saved person has a sinful nature. It has not yet undergone any transformation and it still retains its old sinful ways.
Now that we understand this truth we can apply it to other passages that relate to this subject. As an example, John 5:24 states, the person who hears God’s Word and believes on Him not only receives everlasting life but “shall not come into condemnation” because he is already passed from death to life. Clearly the application of this verse is to the soul and it harmonizes with I John 3:9 where we understand that there is nothing to condemn the soul of a saved person because it has been born anew, has passed from death to life and can no longer sin. Now it would be wrong, on the basis of a spiritual verse like this one, to conclude that the saved do not have to concern themselves over fleshly sin and that they are exempt from a Judgment Day. The subject of fleshly sin is not addressed in John 5:24, yet the “deeds of the flesh” is certainly the point of the Judgment Day (Revelation 20:11-15). John 5:24 has to be harmonized with Romans 8:1 which states that the Christian is not condemned if he walks after the Spirit and not the flesh and with Galatians 5:16 which reminds us that if we walk in the Spirit we shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. This qualifier (if he walks) reminds us that it is the deeds of the flesh that is being addressed in these verses. Simply stated, while the soul of the saved shall never come under condemnation, these verses suggest the danger of some sort of condemnation if we do not control our bodies to walk after God.
Let us examine further the sin which a saved person commits and determine if there is some accountability to God for it. Some might argue that the conclusion of the matter is simply to understand that it is not the soul of the saved person that sins but instead it is the body, and since we get new bodies at the resurrection there is nothing for God to judge. First of all, it is not the flesh being judged but instead the deeds of the flesh. Secondly, this conclusion does not harmonize all the Scriptures on this subject nor does it explain why the saved sin.
As has been stated earlier, the soul of the saved is holy and their body is corrupt. But we also recognize that much of the New Testament was written to inform the saved that their salvation has set them free from the servitude of sin (Romans 6:11-18), that we now have the ability through Christ to stop doing sinful deeds (Romans 8:9-13) and in fact we can avoid each and every sin if we desire to do so (I Corinthians 10:13). So, we who are saved do not have to sin. Though our bodies are corrupt, the soul’s holiness and power of Christ in us can enable us to overcome every sin. This is what Jude 24 tells us. It states that Jesus is able to keep us from falling and present us faultless before the presence of God. Jesus is able, but are we willing?
Why do some saved people live a more holy and dedicated life than others? It is not because their bodies are less corrupt nor because their souls are more holy. Is it because God has preordained a more holy life for them? I do not believe the Bible supports this conclusion, however, the Scriptures do support the conclusion that some live more dedicated and holy lives simply because they choose to. They choose to put on Jesus and not expose themselves to unnecessary temptations (Romans 13:14). They choose to set their affection on heavenly things and not earthly things (Colossians 3:2). And they choose to discipline their bodies and not let their flesh dictate their lives (I Corinthians 9:27). Now the process described above is mentioned throughout the New Testament and it is called sanctification. It is the process whereby the saved are enabled by God to live more godly in the flesh year by year.
Sanctification deals solely with the deeds of our flesh and it culminates at the resurrection when all of the redeemed receive new glorified bodies, like Christ’s body, which will never sin again. Sanctification is the will of God for the saved and it is the subject of I Thessalonians 5:23-24 in which the Apostle Paul declares the Lord’s desire that we be completely sanctified by God. This is the companion verse to Jude 24. In Jude we learn that Jesus is able and here in Thessalonians we learn that God wills it for us. This passage continues by stating that the process of sanctification will be completed by God. However, it should be apparent by now that it progresses faster in some of the saved than in others. The difference, again, is the saved person’s own choice to sin or to not sin and I suggest to you that this is what God will judge and for what He will hold us accountable. The only remaining issue is when are we judged and held accountable.
Can the sin of the flesh affect the saved person’s relationship to God while he is here on earth and more importantly, can his sins eternally affect him? One might argue that whether we sin or not we are the children of God if we have been saved. However, just saying, “I’m a child of God,” does not completely define our relationship to Him. I John 1:6 is very clear in reminding us that we can not walk in darkness and fellowship God. Yes, though we are still His children, the sins of our flesh can separate us from God’s fellowship in this life. God’s nature does not change simply because we have been the recipients of His grace. God still hates sin and this sin (of the flesh) separates us from God’s help and fellowship in this life (Isaiah 59:1-2). However, there is a remedy that provides for the restoration of His fellowship and that remedy does not include some soothing words of men that persuade us to quit feeling guilty about our sin. That remedy is to confront the sin (I John 1:9) and turn away from it. In doing this, God will forgive us, cleanse us and restore again the much needed fellowship with Him. So we see from Scripture that the sins of the flesh can wreak havoc on a Christian’s walk with God. Also, I Timothy 5:24-25 reminds us that both the sins and the good that some men do is judged before they die. Who could doubt this after reading the account of David’s sin regarding Bathsheba in II Samuel 11-12. However, this same passage in I Timothy 5:24-25 tells us that both the sin and the good of some men are judged after they die.
What about eternal consequences of fleshly sins? We can not ignore what Jesus says in Matthew 12:36-37, where we are told that every idle word shall be accounted for in the day of judgment. (It is interesting to note in this passage that these words serve both to justify and condemn us so obviously He is not just referring to the condemning words of the unsaved.) Also, the Lord tells the church members at Rome in Romans 14:10-12 that, “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” … and, “give account of himself to God.” Again, He tells the church members at Corinth in II Corinthians 5:10, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Now, one might ask the purpose of God in requiring Christians to do this? The answer is simply and clearly stated in I Corinthians 3:9-15, where we are reminded that God expects His people to work during this lifetime and build upon the foundation He has already laid and that He will, “try every man’s work of what sort it is” and if his work withstands this trial (judgment), “he shall receive a reward” but if his work does not abide God’s judgment, “he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved.” So we see this judgment of our works of the flesh, good and bad, will not affect our salvation but they will affect our eternal rewards and also put us in jeopardy of eternal loss. Notice the reference to the manifestation of these works, “for the day shall declare it.” This, again, is an obvious reference to the Judgment Day.
Does this mean that the second coming our Lord Jesus Christ might be a more anticipated event for some Christians than for others? Well, the Apostle John writes exactly that warning in I John 2:28 when he suggests that our walk in this life (abiding in Him) will make the difference in how we react to His coming. Some will have confidence while others experience shame.
What is the danger in the Evangelical teaching that the sins of the saved are already forgiven, that they will not face an accounting of their sins on the Judgment Day nor that they will be in danger of suffering an eternal loss for these sins? The danger is that it works against the guilt and condemnation over sin that God’s Spirit provides and undermines the Lord’s command to His people to repent of their sinful ways. Why repent if you believe that God has already forgiven you and you will not be held accountable to God for these sins? To anyone who would argue that the saved do not need to repent you only need to refer to five of the seven letters the Lord sent to the churches of Asia in Revelation 2 & 3. What havoc is wreaked upon God’s instructions to the saved in James 4:4-10 when you take away the need for repentance from the sinful child of God?
Finally, let us Missionary Baptists stay Scriptural regarding the teachings about the Judgment Day and not inadvertently lend support to the modern Evangelical deception currently underway. Let us refocus our attention on the lives we live for our Savior. We should not be ignoring the sins in our lives but confronting them and repenting of them. We do have an abundant supply of grace from above, but does this grace mean that we should continue in sin? God forbid! (Romans 5:20-21 & 6:1-23)