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Aren't the born-again free from sin?

Submitted: 1/19/2009
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Question: If sin is the reason Adam fell and our own sin is the reason we need salvation, then isn't the life lived free from sin the evidence of a true born again experience?

Answer: This all depends on what you mean by a 'life lived free from sin.' 1 John 3:9 says, 'Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.' This passage seems to be saying that it is impossible for anyone who is born again to comment even one sin. The NIV provides a slightly different perspective by using the correct present participles. It says, 'No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.' This version suggests that continually diminishing sin is what is in view.

To understand this passage fully, we must also look at what other passages in this same book say. For example, 1 John 2:1 says, 'My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.' This passage acknowledges that even though it is God's will that those who are born again do not sin, there is a provision for when it happens. This provision is elaborated on in 1 John 1:9, which says, 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'

To summarize, the born again person will not be tolerant of sin. He will strive to overcome it and walk in newness of life. When he falls short, he will immediately admit it and look to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing. Over time, he will gain victory over sin and live a life that is fully pleasing to God. In contrast, when a person is baptized and receives the Spirit, yet no real change takes place and he continues to stumble in the same old sins, this is evidence that his new birth experience may be in some way deficient. We encourage you to read through our series titled 'Are You Really Born Again?,' which can be found on Shelf 12 of the Apostolic Free Library on this website.