What Happens When a Christian Sins?
By Pete Rose
What happens to Christians who sin?
The first thing we need to consider in this
discussion is our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Only those who have trusted Jesus as their
Lord and Savior and experienced the second birth by faith in Him are
truly Christians. There are many who claim to be Christians, but their
only claim to Christianity may be church membership, giving money to a
church or charitable organization, doing good works or just being a
“good” person. Without Jesus they are lost.
Also, true Christianity requires more than
just an intellectual assent to the fact of a Man named Jesus walking the
earth doing miracles and the like. It involves a personal relationship
with Jesus as your Lord and Savior and with God as your heavenly Father.
You can’t buy or earn your way into this
relationship by giving money, doing good works, being a church member or
anything else apart from Jesus. You must, by an act of your will,
acknowledge that Jesus is Who He said He is, the Son of the living God
and invite him to be a part of your life, to take up residence in your
heart, your inner-man.
That being said, God deals with us in much
the same manner as an earthly father deals with his children. When we
obey, He rewards us. When we disobey, He chastises or disciplines us
with the objective of correcting us and teaching us to obey. In a sense
of the word, He gives us a spanking. See Hebrews 10. But we are still
His children and He will never disown us.
Also we are to Jesus as sheep are to a
shepherd. A shepherd’s job is to watch over his sheep, to protect them,
to take them to pasture and bring them back safely to the sheepfold. If
a particular sheep keeps running away, the shepherd may break its leg as
a warning, but he does not abandon or disown it, but bandages the leg
and nurses that sheep back to health. And so it is with us.
Jesus goes into this in considerable detail
about this in John chapter 10, and gives us this promise:
“My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me,
and I give to them eternal life and they shall never perish;
neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father who gave them
to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them from His
hand. I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27-30, emphasis mine).
It would be good to read that entire
In view of the foregoing, what does happen
when a Christian sins? Some believe he loses his salvation. Some believe
if one sins willfully he forfeits his salvation. Some believe if you
backslide you become lost. And there are various shades of belief in
between. But what does God the Father say? That’s what matters.
We just looked at what Jesus said. “They
shall never perish...” That sounds pretty unconditional to me. Some will
dispute this, using passages from the Old Testament or passages from the
New Testament that could be taken as meaning you can lose your
One of the cardinal rules of Bible
interpretation is that you never use a passage of weak or uncertain
meaning to overrule or contradict another on the same topic whose
meaning is obvious. Another is we take everything in its context, that
is, read what goes before and what follows the passage you are using.
Much false doctrine comes from taking Scripture out of context and
mixing it with human logic.
Another mistake is failing to separate the
old and new covenants. Under the old covenant, the Jews lived under the
law given by Moses, which required strict obedience and had strict
penalties including being stoned to death for disobedience. But keeping
the law today will not save you, the apostle Paul makes that
amply clear all through his writings.
“By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be
justified in His [God’s] sight” (Romans 3:20a).
The law only shows us we are sinners; it
does nothing to save us.
“Those who depend on the works of the law
are under the curse, as it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not
continue to practice everything written in the book of the law.' But
that no man is justified by the law is evident, for it is written, ‘the
just shall live by faith’” (Galatians 3:10-11).
Today we’re under a new covenant
with better promises. Jesus perfectly fulfilled all the law on our
behalf, then gave himself as the ultimate Sacrifice, bearing God’s just
wrath for our sins. When we receive Him as our Lord and Savior,
He sees all our sins already punished and paid for in Him, thus we are
eligible for eternal life on that basis and that basis alone.
Some use passages from Hebrews chapter 6
and chapter 10 to “prove” you can forfeit your salvation, but if you
examine these passages with an open mind, in its context, you will see
this is not the case. This was written to Jews still trying to live
under the old covenant, under the law, which has no provision for
salvation. Further if you read it carefully, it indicates that if they
fall away from God’s offer of unconditional grace and go back to keeping
the law, Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins no longer is effective for
But for Christians, Jesus has already done
everything necessary for our salvation, and when we receive Jesus into
our life God sees all our sins, past, present and future, already
punished in Jesus. Thus we are released from the penalty for our sin
which is eternity in the lake of fire.
But does this give us a license to sin?
Absolutely not! First of all, 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 tells us:
“If any man be in Christ, he has become a
new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have
We become new creatures with new interests,
new tastes, new loyalties, and a new desire to follow Jesus and not the
world. God gives us the Holy Spirit to live in us and abide with us and
guide our lives, if only we will listen to Him and follow His leading.
Paul asks the rhetorical question in Romans
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue
in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! [May it never be!] How shall
we who are dead to sin live any longer in it?”
It is not God’s will for us to sin, but we
do sin because we still have that Adamic sin nature in our bodies. In
the natural it’s still in our nature to sin. But we don’t live in sin;
we don’t intentionally make a practice of sinning. And it is never God’s
will for us to sin.
If we could lose our salvation by sinning,
how much sin would it take for us to lose our salvation? James 2:10 says
if we keep the whole law and yet offend in only one point, we are guilty
of all. One sin would be all it would take to cancel our salvation. But
Jesus has already kept the law perfectly for us, and has already paid
God’s just penalty for all our sins by His sacrifice of Himself on the
When we are saved, God imputes His
righteousness to us. We are saved by His righteousness, not our own,
once we have received Him as our Lord and Savior, and our human
unrighteousness has no effect on Jesus' righteousness in us.
Nevertheless, there are consequences for us in this life and the next
when we do sin.
When we sin...
We break fellowship with God, but not the
relationship we have with Him. We can lose out on the earthly benefits
of salvation, love, joy, peace, God’s protection, and the comfort of
knowing we can take all our problems to our Heavenly Father. Like as
Adam did and hid himself from God when he ate the forbidden fruit, so we
do when we sin.
We open ourselves up to Satan’s deception,
and can end up walking into his trap. We walk out from under the
umbrella of God’s protection, and things happen to us that we might
otherwise have been protected from.
We grieve the Holy Spirit. Whatever we do
in our body, we are subjecting the Holy Spirit to.
If we continue in sin, we can quench the
Holy Spirit and we will no longer have His guidance and protection. God
gives us free will, we can choose to obey Him and reap the benefits of
that obedience, or we can choose to disobey God and go our own way, and
suffer the consequences.
We risk God's discipline, which can become
quite severe if we refuse to heed.
We bring reproach on the name of God, turn
others away from Him and become useless to Him.
If we continue living in sin after God has
given us warning after warning and we refuse to heed His warnings and
discipline He may bring us to an early grave. The apostle John speaks of
a sin unto death, and says we need not to pray for such.
We may lose our rewards in heaven. Paul in
1 Corinthians 3 uses the illustration of our works being tested by fire.
Our works on earth are building either gold, silver and precious stones
(won't burn), or wood, hay and stubble (will be burned up). Works done
to glorify God and done with the right motive are building gold silver
and precious stones.
Works done for one self or done for the
wrong motive (to glorify self among other things) and sinning are
building wood hay and stubble. Fire is put to the stack, the wood hay
and stubble are burned up, and what is left determines our reward. If a
Christian has lived all his life for self, there will be nothing left
and he will suffer loss of his reward, but Paul says nevertheless he
will be saved, but as if he had escaped from a burning house with
nothing but his life. I recommend you read the whole chapter.
So we conclude that there can be severe
consequences for those Christians who choose to sin and don't repent.
But these consequences lie mostly in this earthly life and do not break
our relationship with God. We are His adopted children and He will never
disown us. But He will not tolerate continued sin and we will end up
living a miserable, useless life on earth and have no reward waiting for
us in heaven if we do.
What should you do if you fall into sin?
Try to hide it from God? You can’t. Adam tried it in the garden and
failed. So will you.
How do you get out of this? Confess your
sin to God. Do it quickly and you may avoid His discipline. In 1 John
1:9 it says if we confess our sin He (Jesus) is faithful to forgive us
of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Confess your sin,
stop sinning, turn away from it and don't do it anymore. That’s what
repentance is, a change of mind and a change of direction. If you're
having a battle with a particular sin, confess it, ask God’s help to
deliver you from it, and don't do it anymore.
Obey God, let the Holy Spirit guide you,
stay away from sin and you will enjoy the many benefits of your
salvation here on earth, and have a good reward when you get to heaven.
Choose to live in sin, and you will live a miserable, unproductive life
here and have no reward when you get to heaven
Now as I said in starting out this
discussion assumes you are a born-again Christian. If you can live in
sin and it doesn’t bother you, and you don't experience God’s
Hebrews 12:8 warns: “But if you are without
discipline of which all [Christians] have become partakers, then you are
illegitimate children and not sons” (NAS).
God disciplines those He loves. If you can
live in sin and God doesn’t discipline you, you are lost, and if you die
in that state you will go to hell and burn in the lake of fire forever.
If you don’t want that, get on your knees, confess your sin to God,
invite Jesus into your life to be your Lord and Savior, and you will
become a new creature in Christ, and He will give you eternal life that
will never be taken away from you.
Don’t worry about having to clean yourself
up to make you worthy of salvation. Just come to Jesus, He has already
done everything necessary for your salvation. Just invite Him into your
life to be your Lord and Savior, and He will take care of the cleaning
Go with God.