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Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 1-Chapter 5-Unable to Sin or The Impeccability of the Born Again

CHAPTER 5-UNABLE TO SIN or THE IMPECCABILITY OF THE BORN AGAIN

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (#1Jo 3:9).

This verse of Scripture plainly states that the person who is born of God cannot sin. It does not say, as some teach, that such a person is able not to sin. It is one thing to be “able not to sin,” and quite another thing to be “not able to sin,” for that would deny the doctrine of apostasy, a doctrine they believe and teach. It is obvious that if a person is unable to sin, he could not lose his salvation. There are those who teach that a person may get sanctified—get the so-called second blessing—get to where he is able to live above and without sin. But they also teach that the person who is able not to sin, may also be able to sin and be lost. But our text says emphatically that the born again person— the one born of God—cannot sin, that is, he is not able to sin.

1. Our text refutes several well-known and prevalent errors in present day preaching:-

1a) It refutes the doctrine of apostasy, the teaching that one born again may sin and be lost. To quote the text in any translation is sufficient to disprove that a saved person may ever be lost again.

1b) It refutes the teaching about a second blessing—a blessing subsequent to regeneration. This text is not speaking of any second blessing by whatever name it may be called; it is speaking of the new birth and of the one born of God. The inability to sin is not because of any second work of grace, but because of the initial work of the Spirit in regeneration.

1c) It is against the idea that faith precedes and is the cause of the new birth. The new birth is the work of God; it is the birth of the Holy Spirit, Who is the sole Agent. There is no such thing as selfbirth, either in the physical or spiritual realm. In the physical realm, the mother gives birth to the child; no child is self-born. And in the spiritual kingdom—in the kingdom of God-the child is born of God. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is (Gk. has been) born of God” (#1Jo 5:1). “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth” (#Jas 1:18). Speaking of believers, John says, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (#Joh 1:13). Faith is not the cause of the new birth, but rather the effect. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (#Ga 5:22).

2. Let us try to get at the meaning of this text. Does it mean that a born again person cannot sin in any sense whatsoever? To give it such a meaning is to turn Scripture against Scripture. Moreover, it makes the apostle John contradict himself.

In #1Jo 1:9, it is written, that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But if we are not able to sin in some sense, there would be no sins to confess, and there would be sin in confessing that of which we are not guilty. In #1Jo 2:1, we are told of provision made for sinning saints: “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This must apply to the believer for no unbeliever has Christ for an advocate. In “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (#Heb 7:25), we are told that Christ makes intercession for those who come to God by Him, which means that they plead Christ as the ground of their acceptance with God. “God accepteth no man’s person.” Our salvation is “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved,” (#Eph 1:6). And again, in “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it” (#1Jo 5:16), we are specifically exhorted to pray for a sinning brother.

It would contradict every book in the Bible and the experience of every believer who has ever lived to affirm that no regenerate person ever sins in any sense whatsoever. On the other hand, our text does teach unmistakably that in some sense every regenerate person is impeccable, that is, he is unable to sin; or rather, there is some kind of sin he cannot commit. So our task is to discover what the sin is, or in what sense he cannot sin.

3. There are various interpretations of the text before us, and something can be said in favor of most of them. There is truth in these interpretations, but whether it is the particular truth of the text is another question. We will examine some of the interpretations and give our humble judgment of them.

3a) There are those who teach that the born again person—the believer in Christ—is not under law, but under grace; and where there is no law, there can be no sin. The thought is that the born again person cannot sin because he is not under law. Now it is true that the believer is not under law “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (#Ro 6:14), and it is also true that “sin is not imputed when there is no law” (#Ro 5:13). “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (#Ro 4:8). It is gloriously true that the sins of the believer are not charged to him; if they were nobody but a sinless person could be saved, which would preclude the salvation of anybody. The writer rejects this interpretation of the text before us, and this for two reasons. First, it is not a question of whether sin is charged; it is a question of whether sin is committed. There is some sense in which the regenerate person does not even commit sin. And in the text it is not because of position in Christ, but of condition by virtue of being born again. Second, the above interpretation smacks of antinomianism, which means being against the law. The believer is not under law as a way of life or means of salvation, but he loves the law as being holy, and just, and good; and is under law to Christ: “To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law” (#1Co 9:21). Sin is by whomsoever committed. As an illustration of antinomianism, a Baptist preacher once proposed a shameful piece of conduct to another preacher, and when he was rebuked for such a proposal, said, “That would be all right; you know we are not under law but under grace.”

3b) There are others who interpret “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (#1Jo 3:9) after this fashion. They remind us that the believer stands sinless in Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. This is a glorious truth, but we do not believe it is the truth of our text. Surely this explanation is foreign to the apostles whole line of thought. John is not dealing with imputed righteousness, but with human conduct.

3c) Then there is the idea that the new nature does not and cannot sin. This view of the text makes John have in mind what Paul did when he wrote of the conflict between the two natures of the born again person. “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me” (#Ro 7:17-21); “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (#Ga 5:17). But we are quite certain the apostle John did not have this truth in mind. He uses the personal pronoun: “Whosoever is born of God.” He is not talking about what the new nature cannot do, but about what the person, who has been born again, cannot do.

3d) A more likely interpretation is that the born again person cannot sin habitually—cannot practice sin as the rule or habit of his life. This was the view held by Dr. A. T. Robertson, who insisted that the tense of the verb demanded this interpretation. It is also the view of Dr. C. B. Williams, who says that the verb is the present of continuous action. Now it is true that one born of God cannot roll sin as a sweet morsel under his tongue—that he cannot cherish any sin, hug it to his bosom, and take it with him to heaven. The seed of God remains in him and he cannot live as an unregenerate. There is much that can be said in favor of this meaning of the text. It is favored by the context as well as by the tense of the verb. He that committeth (practices) sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth (practices sin) from the beginning. The devil takes no vacation in his career of sinning.

3e) Dr. B. H. Carroll gives the verse this meaning: “Whoever is born of God sinneth not unto death.” He thinks the context demands this explanation. The thought, as he sees it, is that one born of God may sin, but not unto death; his sins are pardonable. “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not unto death” (#1Jo 5:16-17). The writer cannot go along with this interpretation for this reason: the verse is applicable only to one born of God while an unregenerate person may commit sins that are not unpardonable.

3f) The writer has come to regard the interpretation given by Andrew Fuller as the most probable of any. Speaking of “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (#1Jo 1:8) and “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (#1Jo 3:9), Fuller says; “It appears that the word “sin” in these passages is of different significations. In the former it is to be taken properly, for any transgression of the law of God. If any man say, in this sense, he has no sin, he only proves himself to be deceived…But in the latter it seems from the context, that the term is intended to denote the sin of apostasy. If we were to substitute the term apostasy for sin, from the sixth to the ninth verse, the meaning would be clear. Whoso abideth in him apostatizeth not; whosoever apostatizeth hath not seen him, neither known him…He that is guilty of apostasy is of the devil; for the devil hath been an apostate from the beginning…Whosoever is born of God doth not apostatize; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot apostatize, because he is born of God.”

Fuller goes on to say that this sense of the latter verse perfectly agrees with what is said of “sin unto death” in “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not unto death” (#1Jo 5:16-18). And he says it also agrees with chapter two, verse nineteen: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (#1Jo 2:19). “Altogether,” says Fuller, “it affords what we might presume to call an incontestable proof of the certain perseverance of true believers.” The apostle is saying, that those who abandoned their former profession of faith and departed from them, had not really belonged to them as born again people. As if to say, that born again people do not apostatize from the true principles of faith. The born again person never renounces his faith in Christ, for he is “kept by the power of God through faith” (#1Pe 1:5).

“We know that any one born of God does not sin, but he who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him” (#1Jo 5:18 R.S.V.) This is a better rendering than the authorized version, which makes the man born of God keep himself. Satan would have the believer turn away from Christ and renounce faith in Him, but he is kept by the power of God and cannot lose his faith. The devil cannot make apostates from the ones who are born of God. “Christ in you,” says Paul, is “the hope of glory” (#Col 1:27). Christ does not save the sinner and then abandon him to the devil. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (#Joh 10:27-28). The man born of God perseveres in faith; if he should lose his faith, it goes without saying, he would lose his salvation. Stony ground hearers have only temporary faith and endure for a while only, because they do not have the root of the matter in themselves. But the one born of God is not like that, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (#1Jo 5:4) Glorious victory is assured for all who make their calling and election sure!

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 1

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The Wednesday Word: The Believing Believer

September 24, 2014 1 comment

It is the Holy Spirit alone who draws us to the cross and fastens us to the Saviour. He is the revealer of Christ. Just as the Son brings us to the Father so the Spirit brings us to the Son. In the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have the gift of Christ Himself (John 14:18). What a splendid gift!

To become believers, we need the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost. If we think that anyone can come alive to God without the power and action of the Spirit, we have yet to learn the extent of human sinfulness and helplessness. We were dead in trespasses and sin and, therefore, needed divine intervention to bring us to life (Ephesians 2:1). That’s why we read in Ephesians 2:8-9, “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

The Holy Spirit generates faith and it is this faith that links the sinner to the Sin-bearer. Faith, however, does not qualify us to receive God’s acquittal, for salvation is by grace alone. Faith, on the other hand, receives and understands the sufficiency of His great sacrifice for our sin. Faith makes the gospel personal. Faith sees that the Faithful Shepherd has laid down His life, not merely for the sheep (John 10:11), but for us in particular. Faith causes us to see that the Lord Jesus came to this earth for the express purpose of ransoming, not in general (Matthew 20:28), but in particular (Galatians 2:20b). Faith sees that Christ came not simply to say something about our sin, but to do something about our sin. Indeed, faith sees that Christ came, not primarily to preach the gospel but that we would have a gospel to preach. Faith recognizes that salvation is something that God has already accomplished outside of us, in the person of Jesus (Acts 13:32-33, 38-39). Faith lifts us up to heaven where our righteousness resides in a person, the Lord Jesus, and receives His righteousness as our own.

 

“The best obedience of my hands

Dares not appear before thy throne;

But faith can answer thy demands,

By pleading what the Lord has done.”

 

Faith is not something that buys us salvation; the believing believer knows this and takes God at his word. The believer gives God credit for speaking the honest truth when he declared that, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Faith recognizes that because of Christ’s death for sinners, no further payment is necessary!

But what if my faith is weak?

All of us, at times, suffer from weak faith, nevertheless our rest comes from two words–‘in Christ’ (1 Corinthians 1:30a; 1 Corinthians 15:22). We are in union with Christ, we are in Him. His destiny is our destiny. The strength of our faith, therefore, is not our security. Faith is not the purchaser of our salvation. Faith has no blood with which to pay for anything. Christ alone has bought us! Christ alone has redeemed us. A weak faith may indeed sometimes interfere with our enjoyment of salvation, but our security is in Christ alone. He is our covenant head. All that He has is ours! We may feel like the lowest and the least; we may feel that we are too weak to even grasp the promises—but no matter, the promises have grasped us. Our Saviour has already taken a hold of us and He will never lose us (Hebrews 13:5).

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles McKee, Minister of the Gospel

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Why I’m Still a Baptist

November 26, 2013 3 comments

DeanGonzales-2008-e1315504931248Why I’m Still a Baptist

by Dr. Bob Gonzales

“Some of my best friends and my most admired heroes of the Christian faith believe in the practice of baptizing infants and bringing them into the membership of the church apart from any profession of faith. My love and respect for these dear brothers and venerable men of God has on more than one occasion inclined me to reconsider whether they’ve got it right and I’ve got it wrong.

But after “revisiting” the issue several times, I’m still a Baptist. I could offer several reasons. But one reason involves the teaching of a text that’s often overlooked in the Infant Baptism (Paedobaptism) vs Believer Baptism (Credobaptism) debate. That text is John 1:12-13. I’d like to make three observations on this text and explain why I believe it doesn’t support the idea of baptizing non-professing children of believers and bringing them into the membership of a New Covenant church.

Conferral of covenant sonship status under the New Covenant is limited no longer to the Jewish nation and is predicated no longer on natural descent but on supernatural descent, the fruit and evidence of which is saving faith in Jesus the Messiah. This is the point made by the apostle John when he writes, “But to as many as received him, He granted the legal warrant to become children of God, even to the ones who believe in His name, who were born not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the decision of a husband, but of God (John 1:12-13; author’s translation). Consider the following three observations and their implication for infant baptism and church membership:”

 

Read the rest here.

Only the preaching of the cross brings gospel comfort of forgiveness

fullerI do not mean to say that all consolation which comes suddenly to the mind, or by the impression of a passage of Scripture, any more than by reading, or hearing, is delusive. It is not the manner in which we obtain relief, that is of any account, but what it is that comforts us. If it be the doctrine of the cross, or any revealed truth pertaining to it, this is Gospel consolation; but if it be a supposed revelation from heaven of something which is not taught in the Scriptures, that is a species of comfort on which no dependence can be placed. A believer may be so far misled, as to be carried away with it; but, if a man have nothing better, he is still an unbeliever.

Rev. Andrew Fuller–The Great Question Answered

John Tombes’ Catechism on Baptism Pt 3

5. Why did Paul then say, Christ sent him not to Baptize? 1 Cor. 1.16.

Not because he was not appointed at all to Baptize, for if so, he would not have Baptized those he did Baptize, 1 Cor. 1.14.16. etc. But because it was not the chief thing he was to do, as when the washing of Water is said not to save, 1 Pet. 3.21. because it is not the only, or principal means of saving.

6. What is the Baptizing appointed by Jesus Christ?

The Baptizing appointed by Jesus Christ, is the dipping of the Whole Body in water in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as is manifest from the term Baptizing, and the use of going into and coming up out of water, Mat. 3.16. Acts 8.38,39. the use of much water, John 3.23. The resembling, by the Baptism used, the burial and Resurrection of Christ, Rom. 6.4. Col. 2.12. and the testimonies of the Ancients of the first Ages.

7. May not the sprinkling or pouring water on the Face be the Baptism of Christ?

Neither the Scripture, nor any other antient author call sprinkling, or pouring water on the Face, Baptism, nor any use of it in the primitive times doth countenance it, and therefore such sprinkling or pouring water is not the Baptism which Christ appointed.

8. What is it to Baptize into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?

It is not to baptize only with the naming of those persons, but into the profession of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as our Master or Teacher, as appears by the words of Paul, 1 Cor. 1.13. Which shew that if the Corinthians had been baptized into the name of Paul, they had professed him to be their master.

A Short Catechism about Baptism by John Tombes, B.D.

Heb 6.2. Of the Doctrine of Baptisms. Luke 7.35. But Wisdom is justified of all her Children. London: 1659

John Tombes’ Catechism on Baptism Pt 1

November 23, 2012 Leave a comment

To the Christian Reader.

Many are the things at this day charged on Antipaedobaptists in their Doctrine and Practise, which have been proved to be unjustly imputed to them, by many large Treatises extant in print. For a more facile understanding of the truth than by reading larger Tracts, is this Compendium, in a manner of a catechism composed and published in this time, wherein others of different judgment, have thought fit to declare their way to the world, which is done, not because the disagreement in other things is either small, or of particular persons (whose cause is to be severed from that which is commonly held) and therefore requires not a distinct Confession or Declaration from that which is by others published.

Which I have thought necessary to be done because of the importance of restoring right baptism, the Doctrine of which is one article of the foundation of Christianity, Heb. 6.2. whereby we put on Christ, Gal. 6.27. united to his Members, Ephes. 4.5. conformed to Christ, Col. 2.12. Rom. 6.3,4,5. required with faith to salvation, Mark 16.26. with repentance to remission of sins, Acts 2.38. with express profession of the Baptized’s faith required, Acts 8.37. upon manifestation of conversion, Acts 10.47. Acts 11.17. as the duty of the Baptized, and not a meer Priviledge, Acts 22.16. most solemly administered in the Primitive times, with strict examination and greatest engagement of persons baptized, accounted the chief evidence of Christianity, of as much or more moment than the Lords Supper; insomuch that some conceived from Heb. 6.4. that falling away after it irreparable.

But the pretended Baptism of Infants, as now used slightly and profanely done, quite different from Christ’s Institution and the Apostles practise by Ministers and people in so wholy and carnal manner as that, it is upon and with gross untruths and perverting of holy Scripture, obtruded on unwary souls with a pretence of a Baptismal Vow, which is a meer fiction, and so many ill consequents both in Christian conversation and communion and church-constitution and Goverment, that were men sensible to their evil as they should be, they would tremble at such mockery of God, and abuse of so holy an Ordinance of God’s worship and men’s souls by it, and with such arrogant presumption in avowing such a manifest invention of men as God’s precept.

And to speak truth, if the History of this corruption were fully cleared, it would be found that the undue Ministration of this Ordinance was the inlet to the Antichristian darkness and tyranny which overspread and oppressed the ChristianChurches. The aim of the composer of it is the manifestation of the truth, wherein doth he rejoyce, and desires thou mayest rejoyce with him. His motion is that of the Apostle, Phil. 3.15,16. As many of us be perfect let us be thus minded, and if ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

Farewell.

A Short Catechism about Baptism by John Tombes, B.D.

Heb 6.2. Of the Doctrine of Baptisms. Luke 7.35. But Wisdom is justified of all her Children. London: 1659

The difference between backsliding and apostasy

November 21, 2012 4 comments

It is, secondly, necessary that you discriminate carefully, between backsliding, and apostasy. The former is the act of turning back from God; the latter is the forsaking, or the renouncing of the religion of Christ. Backsliding consists either in the relinquishment of evangelical doctrine; or in the loss of spirituality of mind; or in the gradual departure from correct morals. All these evils are embraced in apostasy. The backslider commits transgressions, but returns to his allegiance, and obtains forgiveness, and acceptance. The apostate continues; dies in his sins; and “so eternally perishes.” We teach that none of the true children of God―he believing, the pardoned, the regenerated, the sanctified―become apostate, but to backsliding, of every character and degree, all, it is but too evident, even the best, and most devoted, are constantly, and painfully liable.

R. B. C. Howell—Perseverance of the Saints