What Does Being “Free From Sin” Mean?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

How can we ever be free from sin in this world? Is it even possible?

No Sinless People

A couple of years ago, a man who came to our church told our elder he was leaving the church. The elder asked him why, and he said, “I don’t like your prayers which ask God to forgive us of our sins and admitting that we are sinners.” The man never came back. That’s sad because everyone in our church still sins. How many times do you have to steal to be called a thief? One time, right? So if we still sin (and I do), we are still sinners, but we might (and in fact should) be sinning less over our time as we grow in holiness and Christ-likeness. No one will ever reach sinless-ness in this life because it can’t be done, but only in the life to come will we be saved to sin no more. In the meantime, we must admit we’re sinners. The Apostle John wrote, “ If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1st John 1:8), and “ If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1st John 1:10), so I felt sad for this man who said he wasn’t a sinner, because Jesus came and died for sinners, not sinless people (of which, by the way, there are none!). I remember asking the church once, “Everyone who has lied since they’ve been born again, raise your hand (mine went up too). Everyone who’s ever coveted anything since you’ve been saved, raise your hand.” All hands, including mine, went up into the air. I told them, “Well, our church is just a bunch of covetous liars!” And we are. They laughed because it was true. The point is we are all sinners, and the man who left thinking he wasn’t, I felt sorry for because if you don’t believe you’re a sinner, you don’t realize that Jesus came and died for sinners, of whom I am one. Pride can do that, but God will resist that pride (James 4:6), so we must all admit that we are sinners, and not one of us in and of ourselves are good (Rom 3:10-11). This means we have the wrath of God abiding on us (John 3:36b) and must look outside of ourselves for God’s mercy.

We can live a life, not free from sin, but a life where we’re free not to sin.

The Sinless One

What a blessed thing was Jesus’ life. He lived a life of 30 + years in total perfection and He never sinned once, He never lied, He never stole, and He never coveted. Jesus was perfect in every way, and that’s why He, as the Sinless One, could satisfy the wrath of God. If Jesus was not sinless and Jesus was not God (which of course, He is), we would still be in our sins, because it takes a perfect sacrifice to be able to forgive the most imperfect of creatures (us!). John the Baptist understood this fact and when “he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Zechariah the Prophet wrote, “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zech 13:1), and that fountain flowed from Immanuel’s vein, or Jesus’ shed blood. Jesus’ step father, Joseph knew this too after the angel of the Lord (Matt 1:20) came to him in a dream and said Mary “will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Jesus Himself said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Free from Sin?

How can we possibly be free from sin while still being sinners? Here’s how: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1st John 1:9). Isn’t that crystal clear? That means all sins…all unrighteousness is gone…almost as if it never happened. That’s very much what the Apostle Paul said in 2nd Cor 5:21, where he wrote that it was “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” and it is “with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Rom 10:9), not about doing this or doing that (Eph 2:8-9). The great error when people say, “I’ll come to God when I clean my life up” is that they just can’t do that….so they might never come to Him. Others declare they have too many sins to have God forgive them, but the blood of the Lamb is sufficient for all sins, no matter how heinous. I usually ask them, “How many of your and my sins were still ahead of us at the cross? All of them!” That means when Jesus died for our sins, we hadn’t even been born yet and every single sin we’d ever commit had yet to occur, so Jesus died for our sins before we were even born, and even though we were “conceived in sin” (Psalm 51:5), He came to die for sinners. If we don’t believe Jesus died for our future sins, then that means we’d still be in our sins right now, because our sins came 2,000 years later. Paul asks, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness” (Rom 6:16), and although we “were once slaves of sin” (Rom 6:18), the person who’s trusted in Christ has “been set free from sin [and] have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:18), so we are set free from sin, even though we still do sin. The difference is, we obey our Master (Christ) more than our former master (sin), and so to sin, we are no longer enslaved.

Conclusion

We are still in the battle. We are free from sin in the sense that we’re freed from the penalty of death and the consequences, but we are still entangled by the desires of the flesh and still do what we know we shouldn’t do and don’t always do what we know we should (Rom 7:19). Welcome to the club Paul. He’s in good company, isn’t he? We will never quite be free from sin in this life, although we should be sinning less over time, but until the time we enter the kingdom, we remain sinners. Even so, God now sees us as having Jesus’ own righteousness. We are declared righteous in Him and only in Christ can we stand before God. It’s almost as if God cannot see my sins after I’ve been saved because Christ’s righteousness covers them, or actually, took them away. We can live a life, not free from sin, but a life where we’re free not to sin. Not being a slave to sin means God has changed our nature and now we are slaves of Christ. Even though we still are sinners, we are saints at the same time, declared to be the children of God through the Son of God, and all, for the glory of God.

Take a look at this interesting article: Three Sinful Views of Sin

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank boateng Agyarkwa June 28, 2017 at 6:55 pm

This is the most defeatist article on Christian depravity that I have ever read and it’s absolutely INACCURATE. it’s a lame excuse for the worldly and the most carnal ‘christian’ to continue in his/her original depraved nature of sin. I mean willful, presumptuous. premeditated sin. Christianity is not a bus full of of lame, defeated and struggling sinners. NO. ANY BORN AGAIN, HOLY GHOST FILLED CHILD OF GOD MUST BE SANCTIFIED. There is NO WAY that an empowered child of God who is filled with Holy Spirit and in ACTIVE relationship with the Holy Spirit and empowered with fire of the Holy Spirit will CONTINUE SINNING AND THEN MAKE LAME AND FEEBLE EXCUSES that he or she is liable to sin. IF ANY MAN IS IN CHRIST HE IS A NEW CREATURE. THE OLD THINGS HAVE PASSED AWAY!!!! Brother Wells, once we come to Christ and accept His redemption the one who used to steal STOPS stealing. The prostitute stops prostitution and the liar stops lying. We don’t go back to the beggarly things but we aspire for the higher calling of God WHICH IS HOLINESS without which no man can see God

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Jack Wellman June 28, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Hello sir. THank you for your comment, but please tell me or quote to me where I said we can live in willful, presumptuous, premeditate sin? I read my article and couldn’t find anything even close to that. Do you sin? Have you ever sinned since you were saved? Most people honestly say yes, but we’re still saved, but not from striving but by God’s grace, and yes, we should strive to live holy lives, but Jesus is the way to holiness. Please tell me why this is defeatist. Please explain yourself sir.

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david June 29, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Dear brother Jack. May I commend you on your article?
I have been unable to post comments for quite a while.
David from Prague

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Jack Wellman June 29, 2017 at 6:25 pm

Hello David. Hope you are well. Good to hear from you.

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david June 30, 2017 at 3:05 am

Thank you.
It makes me quite sad that so few people seem to visit this site nowadays. I have found the articles inspiring and challenging. Will keep you all in my prayers.
Blessings

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John Vos July 4, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Hi Jack
Thanks, I agree with your article as the truth according to scripture taken as a whole. The truth is in me and I strive out of a pure heart towards sanctification for what Jesus has done for us. What about willful sins in our lives not yet overcome, like getting intoxicated by drinking to much occasionally, and what if this is a battle as a result of mental illness?
Secondly, what does Paul mean in : Rom 14:11  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, And every tongue shall confess to God. 
Rom 14:12  So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. 
If all our sins are forgiven, as true children of God with an ongoing relationship with him, and God thinks of them no more, when we truly confess and ask forgiveness, as God can see the meaning of our hearts, Why shall we have to give account of the life we have lived? Thus I presume for all good and bad done and wrongful decisions?

Regards
John

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Jack Wellman July 4, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Hello Mr. Voss. In many of Jesus’ parables, like in the Parable of the Talents, each is given talents and are to multiply them, but one servant didn’t, showing he was never saved in the first place, but Jesus will say well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord…some are given greater rewards in the kingdom and some less, all according to what each one did in the body, says Paul. Some works done for show or self will be burned up but those done for Christ will pass thru the fire. That is the judgment of believers; not judged for their sins, which were atoned for at the cross, but for what they did for Christ here on earth as doing it unto Him (Matt 25:40). By the way, who doesn’t sin and do so willfully? If the battle is a mental illness, then they can seek help from the doctor and from biblical counseling and from fasting and praying and study of the Word…but no one this side of the veil will be sinless (Rom 3:10-12, 23; 1st John 1:8, 10), but we should be sinning less over time (as you call it, sanctification). For now, believers know “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Eccl 7:20). Does this make sense Mr. Voss?

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John Vos July 9, 2017 at 6:10 am

Thanks, Pastor Wellman.

Yes, it does make sense now, and I do have spiritual growth and are definitely sinning less and overcoming battles, if I look back over the last 5 years of my Life.
Buy The way, Jesus has given me outcome over my Bi-Polar since my last email and I can truly say that I am on the way to being fully healed. I feel like a new person, and that without new prescription medication. My life has completely changed in the last week, such a short time after suffering from this for about 20 years. God is great, and has created plants and herbs for use as medicine to heal and restore our body, of course the healing and grace are still his work.

Regards
John

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Jasmine Cannon August 23, 2017 at 2:43 pm

I am a wheelchair-bound 26-year-old woman in the last year of my Master of Science in Biotechnology. I just wanted to say what an honor it is to read your thoughts every day; I frequently find myself scrolling through your archive to find inspiration. I have a rare neurological disorder called CRPS1 that causes some of the highest pain levels known to modern medicine, and every day is a struggle even without my schooling and upcoming marriage. When I am up late at night doing nothing but hurting, you often help me use that time to draw closer to Christ, and I am so grateful.

I am the only Christian in my family and I am the only faithful, practicing Christian many of my friends know, so I feel extra pressure to try to be the embodiment of Christ and set a good example. Your writings help me to accomplish that and always teach me something new about myself and my relationship to God, and I thank you so much for that blessing.

Sincerely,
Jasmine Fuller (it will be Jasmine Cannon when I get married in 2 weeks!)

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