The doctrine was first taught in our congregation by a man who, I believe, was a preacher in another congregation before several congregations melded into one. He taught some other doctrines that weren't entirely biblical but were relatively innocuous. I suspect he was attempting to make his sermons interesting and tantalizing by "tweaking" scripture a bit. I also suspect he was corrected a few times by an older member of the original congregation. He "repented" a couple of times although it was later obvious from his words and behavior that he was resentful. That man eventually didn't return to our congregation. Now, another man has begun teaching the same doctrine.
I attended a different congregation (not affiliated with the churches of Christ or any denomination) for many years, but left after years of struggling because the same doctrine was being taught by some of its members. I know there are scripture passages which contradict that particular doctrine, but those who insist on it do find scriptures that seem to support their view. I would like to know what others here think about the idea that we, even as Christians, sin all of the time and don't always realize it.
There are 2 parts to this: First, I think the doctrine's question is extremely misleading. It is a red herring, if you will:
I emphasized the misleading part. What can we do in response to what we do not know? Nothing! So, what is the real thrust and agenda of the question? I think people are really trying to justify at least one of two different propositions:churchmouse wrote:I'm greatly disturbed because of a new doctrine being taught in the congregation I attend. ... It contends that we all sin all of the time without knowing it.
- We are not responsible for what we do not know, also known as "sins of ignorance". Conclusion: Let all the preachers argue the finer points. If it's all too technical for you, don't sweat it. God doesn't really care about those details anyway. As long as you judge yourself or even someone else to be sincere, it does not matter if there are any contradictions between their teaching and Scripture. Confidence in salvation and fellowship should be enjoyed regardless of differences.
- We are not responsible for repeatedly committed sins, even those we know. This concept is also known as "sins of weakness". Conclusion: If you are struggling with some sin, don't sweat it. God knows we are not perfect, and He does not really expect us to be. Everybody has their struggles and vices. God will save you, even if you can't ever muster the conviction to overcome.
The fundamental problem with this "continual cleansing" or "walking in the light" doctrine is that it is presumptuous. As Robert Turner used to say, it's "whittling on God's end of the stick":Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote:Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God. (I Corinthians 4:2-5 NKJ)
Paul was unwilling to justify himself based on his own conscience. (His past history makes it obvious why that is broken, Acts 22:3-5; 23:1.) If an inspired Paul was unwilling to justify himself based on his own examination of his sincerity, integrity, sacrifices, etc., then how can anyone else claim that same standard will somehow justify us today? Furthermore, if we cannot use that as a standard to judge our own hearts, which we see and know intimately, how can we use it as a standard to judge other's hearts, who we see even less clearly (I Corinthians 2:11)? It is no wonder such judgments are considered as a "very small thing"! They have very little credibility and accuracy.
In regards to overlooking "sins of weakness" and not condemning those sins in ourselves or others, please consider this NT example:
If ever there was a sin committed by a godly man that was uncharacteristic of his life, would it not be this sin of Peter? He caved to peer pressure. Can we not all sympathize with that? Is that not a struggle for all of us? Yet, Paul openly condemned him, "because he was to be blamed"! If sins of weakness are automatically forgiven, then why did Paul judge Peter?Paul, an inspired apostle, wrote:Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? (Galatians 2:11-14)
Examining all of John's first epistle reveals some helpful, clarifying words:
This not only refutes the ongoing sins of weakness, but at last, it answers your original question. Christians do not just keep on sinning, whether they are aware of it or otherwise. If they do, then something is broken in them or God's Word ("for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God"), because God here implies that His Word is sufficient to correct us.John, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote:... And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God ... (I John 3:3-10 ESV)
This is the blasphemous fallacy of these doctrines. In essence, the doctrine ultimately accuses God and His Word of not being sufficient to do what He promised it could and would do:
God has promised that we can read His Word, understand it, obey it, and have confidence in our own salvation based in some measure thereby. Do we believe His promise or not? This is a matter of faith.... by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets ... (Ephesians 3:3-5 NKJ)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17 NKJ)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer (II Timothy 2:15-17 NKJ)
Yes, self-judgment is one part of our standard for confidence, but it is not the only part. Again, if one knows he is continuing in sin, then his condemnation is already known to him (I John 3:3-10). However, there is more to having a Scriptural basis for confidence and fellowship than affirmation of one's character or sincerity. We must compare the actions and words of ourselves and others to the final standard, God's Word. For more info, please see the following article:
http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... saved.html
Are there difficult questions and hypothetical scenarios to be explained, even by both sides? Maybe so. I think every hypothetical situation can be matched with another one of equal and opposite persuasiveness. Why? It's hard to be the Judge! And, none of us want to draw a line that will exclude any of our family, friends, loved ones, or other "good" people in our eyes. Let us not "whittle on God's end of the stick" by lowering the standard, when God may have a completely different solution in mind and practice. We are out of our league here, folks! Otherwise, we will surely make the same mistake as the Sadducees, who "greatly erred", "not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God" (Mark 12:27; Matthew 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-40)! Let us not doubt God's power or ability to keep His promises (Jude 1:24; I Thessalonians 5:23-24; II Peter 3:14-18; I Corinthians 15:57-58). Neither let us feel compelled to invent a way for Him keep His promise, just because we cannot conceive of any other way.
Lastly, no doctrine can be established just because its advocate is able to take a few potshots at his opponent. A doctrine must also be able to sustain itself in addition to answering the opposing doctrine's questions. I know you said the advocates of this doctrine have their passages, and I mentioned a couple at the beginning, but they must also stand up to scrutiny before they should ever be considered for acceptance.
I pray you find this helpful. If you disagree or if you have other questions, I would love to hear them. Much more could be said on the topic, and certainly I could stand to do some more studying, praying, and meditating upon the subject. So, I look forward to hearing your thoughts from Scripture and your experiences with its opponents.
Recently, a young visitor also taught in our congregation and his messages on bearing our cross and on the deceitfulness of sin were very powerful because his words were consistent with the Word of Truth. The scriptures he read and discussed again refuted any idea of a "continual cleansing" doctrine, of course. I started feeling encouraged and positive about the congregation I attend. While in my mind I expected that to be the end of the matter, I was anxious about hearing the false teacher give his next lesson. Last week, he began speaking about suffering and I was relieved at his words .... until he decided to briefly reiterate the pop theology. Really, it was irrelevant to his lesson but he was trying to make it seem compatible with the truthful teaching of the young visitor the previous week.
One passage the false teacher has used to support his doctrine is Psalm 19:12-13 where David asks God to cleanse him from secret faults and to keep him from presumptious sins. While some versions translate "faults" as "sins" with the assumption David is talking about the same thing, different words are used in the original text and likely for a reason. There is a difference between faults/flaws and sins. David wasn't asking God to absolve him of sins he wasn't aware of; he was asking for correction before his faults ballooned into sin. If he was committing other sins without knowledge, would God not have corrected David as He did when David committed adultery and, later, when he numbered the people of Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 24)?
Paul admonished the Galatians, "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor" (Galatians 2:17-18). And Hebrews 6:1 says, "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works...." To the Colossians, Paul exhorted, "But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him...." (Colossians 3:8-10). There are numerous Biblical passages that emphasize the need of repenting, leaving our sins behind and going on to perfection. God hasn't hidden anything from us to prevent us from doing what we are commanded to do. Paul proclaimed, "if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 4:3).
The passage that the man who is no longer attending services cited to support the same doctrine is 1 John 1:5-10:
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
I have heard people in other churches cite this passage, too, in promulgating the idea that we are all perpetual sinners, so we are not qualified to "judge" each other. To them, judging means saying anything that might be convicting to them or other members of the congregation. They want to avoid altogether scripture that addresses sin and repentance. However, 1 John 3:20 says, "For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." The purpose of repeatedly hearing and studying God's word is to inscribe His word upon our hearts so that we will know how to please Him. It is His word that judges us and we must either be convicted by His word now and allow it to edify us, or we will be judged by His word in the end and be sentenced to eternal damnation. Jesus said, "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (John 3:19 - 21).
I am reasonably certain that verses 8 & 10 of 1 John 1 refer back to the hypothetical situation in verse 6 in which John supposes "we walk in darkness." If someone claims to have fellowship with God while walking in darkness (committing sin), that person is denying their sin and thereby implying that God is a liar in challenging the validity of His word. I believe verse 7 is a parenthetical statement contrasting walking in the light with walking in darkness. John obviously isn't saying that people who walk in the light are still sinning, because he would be contradicting what he said in verse 5 and in verses 3 & 4 of the 2nd chapter. We cannot walk in the light as God is in the light if we are walking in darkness. To walk in the light, we must first repent of our sins and then are we cleansed. Jesus taught repentance and never suggested we could be forgiven without repentance.
John states in the next chapter that he wrote about walking in the light vs. walking in darkness so that his readers wouldn't sin. So, his expectation was that the followers of Christ's teachings would NOT sin. He then begins, "IF anyone sins ..." While giving assurance to anyone who sins (and he clarifies in verse 2 that this includes the whole world, e.g., non-Christians) of reconciliation through Jesus Christ, John infers that sin is altogether avoidable for a disciple of Christ. Paul rebuked the Jewish Christians at Rome for accepting fellow Jews who were engaging in sin as brethren, while rejecting fellowship with Gentile Christians who were doing the will of God because they weren't "of the circumcision" (Romans 1 & 2). Those Jewish Christians were guilty of judging, by labeling all Gentiles as sinners and all Jews as righteous, because they were applying their own standard of righteousness apart from God's.
It's astonishing how people can take a verse or two out of context, build a doctrine around those verses, and then conveniently ignore all scripture that plainly contradicts their pop theology. I'm grateful for you, m273p15c, and others here who understand my distress over certain doctrines. I'm experiencing the same feelings of despair and anxiety I felt while attending other churches where the same doctrine eventually dominated. I feel very spiritually weak when I have to take something to calm my nerves just to meet with the local church. I've had to take something for my nerves just thinking about the controversial doctrine.
Sorry for the delayed response. I think you are on the right track, and I'm relieved that some things are improving. May I offer a few thoughts on some of your questions and observations?
What you described could be a possible way to understand the passage. However, I tend to think that David is indeed discussing secrets that are already sins, not potential sins. Here's the verse for easy reference:churchmouse wrote:One passage the false teacher has used to support his doctrine is Psalm 19:12-13 where David asks God to cleanse him from secret faults and to keep him from presumptious sins. While some versions translate "faults" as "sins" with the assumption David is talking about the same thing, different words are used in the original text and likely for a reason. There is a difference between faults/flaws and sins. David wasn't asking God to absolve him of sins he wasn't aware of; he was asking for correction before his faults ballooned into sin. If he was committing other sins without knowledge, would God not have corrected David as He did when David committed adultery and, later, when he numbered the people of Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 24)?
There often is a sort of parallelism in Hebrew poetry, an aligning of adjacent thoughts. Often one thought repeats and elaborates or maybe contrasts a preceding thought. (This is why you may have 2 different words used to refer to essentially the same thing. It is a form of elaboration and emphasis.) Given that the following verse is clearly speaking of sins, I tend to think the preceding verse is also referring to sins. Since David wishes to "also" be kept from "presumptuous sins" in addition to being cleared of "secret sins", I think the contrast is willful sins versus accidental sins. I think this is the most consistent interpretation with the context. However, there is still a giant leap of assumption being made. How are these secret sins being cleared? It is a humongous assumption to conclude they are cleared without any further effort or diligence on David's part. Please keep in mind that the context of Psalm 19 is the power of God's revelation. Since the manner of clearing is not explained in this passage, it proves nothing about the manner. Therefore, we must look to other passages, such as:David, a prophet and psalmist of the Lord, wrote:Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:12-13 NKJV)
Often God's testing of our hearts reveals our inner thoughts. Trials often reveal our errors to which we are entirely blind (for example, Peter's affirmation and denial of Christ, Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75). Although the Psalmist was confident of his integrity, he still sought the Lord's testing and approval. As you noted, he wanted all wickedness plucked from his heart, even that to which he was blind. Based on the context of Psalm 19, I believe the secret sins were potentially already present, but he wanted to be clear of them. Based on the context, I think he is alluding to Scripture serving as the tool of revelation and correction; however, I think based on other Psalms, he could be referring to providential testing that might further expose his inner thoughts to his own consciousness and the light of Scriptural correction. This outlines at least 2 possible Scriptural ways that God could seek to clear David of secret sins, sins already accounted against him. However, there is no other verse or contextual basis for assuming that the sins were absolved immediately by David's prayer.Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart. (Psalm 26:2 NKJ)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 NKJ)
Another possible question, which highlights another assumption, is, "To whom were the sins secret?" Please keep in mind that David's sin with Bathsheba was also labeled by the Holy Spirit as "secret" (II Samuel 12:12). Could it be for secret scandalous sins that David wanted help? It's the same root word in both verses, but I tend to think the context of Psalm 19 references sins that were unknown to David, based on the contrast with "presumptuous sins". However, that might be worth further exploration.
I agree that the Scriptures can be understood, and it is sufficient for all we need (Ephesians 3:3-5; II Timothy 3:16-17). I do not think there is any sustainable position claiming that some part of Scriptures are hidden from us or that cannot be understood. Even if the "difficult to understand" passages, which may require more "diligence", are still subject to our understanding, and we are accountable for them, lest we be destroyed by twisting them (II Timothy 2:15; II Peter 3:15-18). I think the only substantial question is our understanding of ourselves. Have we deceived ourselves? I think, and I could be very wrong, that is the harder problem. And, to that, I lean on God's merciful nature, promise to be longsuffering, and desire for us to come to the knowledge of the truth - not be absolved in our ignorance (II Peter 3:9; I Timothy 2:3-4; Philippians 3:14-15).churchmouse wrote:Paul admonished the Galatians, "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor" (Galatians 2:17-18). And Hebrews 6:1 says, "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works...." To the Colossians, Paul exhorted, "But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him...." (Colossians 3:8-10). There are numerous Biblical passages that emphasize the need of repenting, leaving our sins behind and going on to perfection. God hasn't hidden anything from us to prevent us from doing what we are commanded to do. Paul proclaimed, "if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 4:3).
I think your analysis is good. May I add a few other points from the context to support what you have said? I think I John 1 is dealing with 3 variations of false doctrines that each promised liberty to sin, marked by the condition, "if we say ..." (I John 1:6, 8, 10). Each receives its own targeted rebuttal from John in that context. It's critical to notice that our "walking in the light" is explained "as He is in the light". Any doctrine that teaches that ongoing sin, whether committed in weakness or ignorance, coexists with our "walking in the light" is not being consistent with the immediate context of I John 1. As you mentioned, I John 2:1-5 is clear that obedience is required and disobedience disqualifies. I John 3:2-10 is another vital passage that eliminates any confidence of salvation while sin persists.churchmouse wrote:The passage that the man who is no longer attending services cited to support the same doctrine is 1 John 1:5-10. ... It's astonishing how people can take a verse or two out of context, build a doctrine around those verses, and then conveniently ignore all scripture that plainly contradicts their pop theology.
I'm so sorry to hear that is having such a negative effect on you. If it helps, I have a few sermons and articles posted on the topics of discouragement and confidence, which may be helpful:churchmouse wrote: I'm grateful for you, m273p15c, and others here who understand my distress over certain doctrines. I'm experiencing the same feelings of despair and anxiety I felt while attending other churches where the same doctrine eventually dominated. I feel very spiritually weak when I have to take something to calm my nerves just to meet with the local church. I've had to take something for my nerves just thinking about the controversial doctrine.
- http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... saved.html
- http://www.insearchoftruth.org/download ... ement.pptx
I am convinced that there is a state of mind that is able to rest peacefully, even in the most torrential storms of life (Matthew 8:24-27). I also realize that achieving this state of mind is much easier said than done, but I think it is a critical and essential goal none the less. Let us seek it as best we can!Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2 NKJ)
I pray this will be helpful and encouraging to you, as your evident desire and thoughtful study has been to me.