Chapter 8 - A Holy Life

In the preceding chapter we showed what constitutes real Bible conversion—what it means to be born of God. In this chapter we desire to show what the Bible teaches concerning the life of those who have been born of God. “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (I John 5:18).

What Is Sin?

The Apostle John defines sin in these words: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). As we can more appropriately treat the subject of God’s law in a subsequent chapter, it will not be necessary to enter into it in this place. Suffice it to say that the law by which our conduct will be judged, the transgression of which constitutes sin, is “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Jesus himself said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
Since we shall be judged in the last day by the law of Christ, it is evident that it is the law of Christ that we are now held responsible to obey. But God is just; therefore our responsibility is limited to our available degree of enlightenment, there being in the New Testament no such thing as sin in total ignorance of God’s requirements. “If ye were blind spiritually, ye should have no sin” (John 9:41). “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin” (15:22). “Sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Rom. 5:13). “For where no law is, there is no transgression” (4:15). We must possess some knowledge of our obligations, so that the will is involved; otherwise we are not reckoned transgressors. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). On this principle, to him that knows that he should not do evil, and then does it, to him it is sin.

All Men Are Sinners

It is a fact that in all places and in all ages of the world men have acknowledged that they were under sin; for all realize that their wills have been involved in acts which they recognize to be in their very nature wrong. The Bible recognizes this universality of sin, “There is no man that sinneth not” (I Kings 8:46). (See also Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:22.)
But while the Old Testament recognizes the universal prevalence of sin, it also contains predictions of a divine provision for its removal. Isaiah, speaking of Christ, said, “He will come and save you” (35:4). (See also Dan. 9:24; Matt. 1:21.)

Christians Are Saved from Sin

“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him” (I John 3:5-6). This is the uniform gospel standard, as we shall see.
Christ taught that Christians are saved from sin. “Verily, verily I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.… If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:34-36). Here is promised a perfect freedom from the bondage of sin.
In the fifth chapter of John we read of a certain impotent man lying at the pool of Bethesda, whose infirmity was of thirty-eight years’ duration. Jesus came along and healed him. “Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (vs. 14). Now it is preposterous to suppose that Christ was unjust and that he would give a commandment that could not be obeyed—a commandment whose violation would bring upon the poor man a sorer affliction than he had endured during those thirty-eight long years. Christ’s command could be obeyed. This man received power from the Lord to go and live free from sin. (See also John 8:3-11.)
Peter taught the same. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Pet. 2:21-22).
The teaching of Paul is the same. “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (I Cor. 15:34). Almost the whole of Romans 6 is devoted to the subject of the Christian’s deliverance from sin. I will quote just a few verses wherein it is stated. “What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (vss. 1-2). “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (vss. 11-12). “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (vs. 14). (See also vss. 17-18, 22.)
Some people attempt to prove that Paul himself was a sinner and a defender of sin; but this chapter alone is sufficient to forever settle his attitude as a Christian toward the subject of sin. This point we shall refer to again in the present chapter.
John also says the same. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin [to be cleansed from], we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:7-9). Here a perfect cleansing from sin is taught, upon condition that we do not cover our sins up and deny them, but “walk in the light” and “confess our sins.” The same writer also shows that we must live before Christ in this holy state. (See also 2:6.) How did Christ walk? Peter tells us that he “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Pet. 2:22). Hence we must do no sin. This is the Christian standard.
John writes again, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (I John 2:1). In the same verse he goes on to show that “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This, however, does not in the least weaken the standard here set forth in verse 6. The Apostle goes a step further; he shows that Christians not only “ought” to walk this way, but that they really do. “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever hath not seen him, neither known him” (3:6). “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (5:18).
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.… 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” (I John 3:7-9). Reader, mark this fact: John does not say that God’s people confess their sins every day or repent of them frequently; he says that they “do not commit sin.” Thousands of professed Christians have asked the question, “Who are those ‘just persons, which need no repentance,’ of whom Christ speaks?” (Luke 15:7). The answer is very clear: They are the Christians, those who have been born of God; for “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” They need not, and hence could not, repent.
God draws a distinct line of demarcation between sinners and Christians. We have already shown by many texts that God’s people are saved from their sins.
Now we shall notice what the New Testament has to say, by way of contrast, concerning the other class.
Jesus: “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34).
Paul: “When ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness” (Rom. 6:20).
Peter: “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin.… To whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever” (II Pet. 2:14-17).
James: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).
Jude: “Ungodly sinners … walking after their own lusts … having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.… These be they who separate themselves [from the truth and from the doctrine of a sinless life], sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 15-16, 19).
John: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (I John 5:19). “Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him 1 John 3:5-6Christ, neither known him” (3:6). Mark this contrast: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.… Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; … In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God” (vss. 8-10), and “he that doeth righteousness, is righteous, even as he [Christ] is righteous” (vs. 7). The line of distinction which God has made is drawn between those who commit sin and those who do not commit sin. Those who do not sin are born of God, and know God, and have his righteousness; on the other hand, those who commit sin are the servants of sin and are doing the devil’s work, hence they belong to him—are “of the devil”—and are not the children of God at all.

Some Objections Answered

Objection 1. “There is no man that sinneth not” (I Kings 8:46). “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Eccles. 7:20).
Answer. These words were uttered by King Solomon, who lived about one thousand years before Christ, in the dispensation when it was “not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). Many men of that dispensation possessed great faith in God and, considering the general standards of those times, lived very good lives; hence they were accepted by God on the ground of their faith when they conformed to the highest standard of his revealed will.
But the experience of the new birth, the regeneration of the soul which makes men “new creatures,” was not realized in those days, and people then did not claim to live without committing sin. The plan of salvation from all sin through Christ was from the foundation of the world a “mystery” which was “hid in God” (Eph. 3:9). Jesus said to his disciples: “Many prophets and righteous men of the old dispensation have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matt. 13:17, 16).
These prophets, however, caught a glimpse of this coming redemption, and wrote of it, though they did not themselves experience it. This is clearly stated in I Peter 1:9-12. This makes it clear that the experience of salvation which we now receive through Christ was not experienced before his coming, even by the prophets who wrote of it. The same argument explains Ecclesiastes 7:20, which was written under the old dispensation.
Objection 2. Paul’s experience in Romans 7, where he says: “I know that in me … 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 .… O wretched man that I am!” (vss. 18-21, 24).
Answer. A study of the entire chapter shows clearly that the Apostle was describing his experience under the Law of Moses, before he found Christ. He first speaks of his infantile state when he was “alive without the law”—did not even know that the Law said, “Thou shalt not covet.” Afterward “when the commandment came” to him, he says, “sin revived, and I died.” (7:7, 9.)
This sin experience was the experience of Saul, the man who zealously defended the Law and persecuted the church of God. Immediately following we have, in his own words, the experience of Paul the Christian: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law of Moses could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1-4).
Reader, which do you desire, the experience of Saul or the experience of Paul? After he found deliverance from sin through Christ, he taught that Christians are to live without sin. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2). “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (vs. 14). This last text clears up the entire matter. Under the Law, sin had dominion over the people; under grace, God’s people have dominion over sin. Under the Law, it might be said, “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not”; but under grace “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.”
That the sin experience described in Romans 7 was not the experience of Paul the Christian at the time when he was writing this chapter is shown also by other testimonies of Paul. (See I Thess. 2:10; Acts 23:1; 24:16; II Tim. 4:7.)
Objections based on certain other texts of Scripture (for example, Romans 3:10) are of this same general character; for almost without exception they relate to Old Testament conditions, not to the New Testament standard of salvation.
The doctrine of sinning Christians originates in a perverse state of the soul, in an incorrect definition of sin, or else in a failure to understand dispensational truth. A proper understanding of the difference between the old covenant and the new will forever settle the question of the present relation of God’s people to sin.

Freedom from Worldliness

Worldliness is simply another division of the subject of sin, for worldliness is sin. However, there are some special thoughts that I wish to present under this heading.
Since sin in its various forms has become universal, surrounding us on all sides as really as nature itself, the Bible writers often refer to it as “the world.” This expression includes not only the grosser forms of sin but all manner of disobedience to God of whatever nature or extent. God’s people must be free from all these things. Paul wrote to the brethren who had been quickened in Christ, “In time past ye walked according to the course of this world” (Eph. 2:2). But Christ “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4).
That our separation from the world in this sense is to be real is shown by the words of Christ, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). Reader, bear in mind that if you take your stand for God and for the whole truth of his Word, determined to be free from all worldliness, there will be real separation in spirit and in life between you and the world. You will even have opposition. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12).
We have the testimony of Jesus himself that the first disciples were free from the world. To us this certainly means that everything that partakes of the spirit and nature of the sinful world must be forsaken—worldly amusements, worldly associates, worldly ambitions, worldly sentiments, and worldly attire—everything that is not in strict harmony with the teaching of God’s Word. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (I John 2:15-17).
According to the principles of truth already shown, it is evident that the holy people of God cannot go to and participate in those amusements whose direct object is to cater to foolishness, vanity, and sin. At the present day Satan is seeking by this means to draw the hearts of the people away from righteousness and into questionable ways of pleasure and sin, thus causing them to forget and forsake God. Especially is this true respecting the young. How many forms of worldly amusement have been devised to serve this purpose! These things “are not of the Father, but are of the world”; and no true child of God can indulge in such things without loss to his spirituality, injury to his influence as a Christian, and, if the indulgence is continued, the final loss of his soul. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (II Tim. 2:22).
The true and faithful Christian must live a life of prayer and devotion to God. By this means he is refreshed from day to day and he obtains conquering grace for trials and temptations. This life of devotion cannot exist where the spirit of worldliness is allowed sway. Those who attend or participate in sinful amusements soon feel no burden for secret prayer and devotion, and they have little or no active interest in the salvation of souls; on the other hand, those who seek to be spiritual and to live in prayer before God have no desire for such amusements. They are dead to the world and its pleasures. Of them Jesus can say, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
If we as the people of God have holy, humble hearts, hearts free from vanity and pride, then even our outward lives should in every way be consistent with the inward condition. The Word of God says, “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20). We must “be holy both in body and in spirit” (7:34). When people’s hearts are full of the “pride of life” they manifest it outwardly by proud actions, extravagances in personal attire, and in worldly adornments. Does the Scripture have any pronouncement on this subject?
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (I Pet. 3:3-4).
To some sincere Christian people the first part of the foregoing is regarded as the language of absolute prohibition. Such an interpretation can apparently be maintained so far as the “wearing of gold” for adornment is concerned, but it becomes rather difficult with respect to “plaiting the hair” and the “putting on of apparel”; for a woman who has “long hair,” which Paul in another place says “is a glory to her” (I Cor. 11:15), must of necessity do something to care for her hair properly, and everyone must necessarily put on personal wearing apparel of some kind. Is the language of this text intended to signify absolute prohibition, or is it not, rather, simply the language of comparison, with a view to proper emphasis?
It is our desire to present what the Bible actually means to teach, not to see if it can be made to sanction what may be extreme or unwarranted views. We do know that the Bible frequently employs language that is apparently prohibitive in character even when the context itself or other plain passages show that it is only meant to be comparative—used in order to place proper emphasis on the greater of the two things contrasted. For example, in Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Is that text designed to prohibit all ownership of material things? The Corinthian brethren had “houses to eat and to drink in” (I Cor. 11:22), and Paul evidently admits that some Christians in his day were even rich; for he says, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God” (I Tim. 6:17).
Even if we concede that the language of I Peter 3:3-4 is comparative only, designed to throw particular emphasis on the inner “ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,” we must acknowledge that in I Timothy 2:9-10 Paul makes a strong, direct reference to outward adornment: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” This text certainly implies that the extreme type of outward personal adornment to which Paul refers and names outright does not constitute “modest apparel,” and that it does not become “women professing godliness.” The actual standard of the Christian’s dress given here is “modest apparel.” This is rather a relative term, it is true, but whatever its adaptation to the established customs of society may be, it is evident that it excludes and prohibits whatever ranks as immodest styles, flippant fashions, and the lavish personal ornamentations of proud and worldly-minded people. “Modest apparel” may be defined as the middle ground between two extremes. To those of careless, slovenly habits it would mean to clean up and dress up; to those of the fashionable, gaudy type, decorated with useless, showy ornaments, such as the “gold, pearls, and costly array” mentioned in this text, it could mean nothing less than a trimming down, a discarding of that which naturally ministers to and suggests pride and worldly-mindedness. Then both these classes, and all classes, may walk on the highway of holiness together as exemplary Christians, exhibiting consistently the meekness and humility of Christ.
“Modest apparel” is the ordinary, regular standard of dress fixed by common custom and expected of everyone by right-thinking people. This is such a standard as holy, humble, Spirit-led people of God would naturally accept even if there were no texts in the Bible bearing on the subject. Real Christians, who are eager to please God and to show forth his praises, wish to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (I Thess. 5:22). Such a Christian does not seek to behave or to dress in such an extreme way as to be easily mistaken for one of that proud, haughty, graceless class of superficially adorned worldlings who are strangers to God and to his blessed Word. Real Christians belong to another class—they desire to be “an example of the believers” (I Tim. 4:12).
Nor is holy life to be judged solely by a negative standard—by what of sin and worldliness we put off. There is a positive side. When we die to the world, we “put on Christ.” Then we can say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Our whole desire is to manifest Christ to the world. Being “risen with Christ,” we “seek those things which are above” (Col. 3:1). We “put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering” (vs. 12). The graces of the Spirit implanted within find outward expression in “the fruit of the Spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23). Our aim in life is to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man. However, we do not allow the voice of conscience alone to dictate in matters of religious faith, but we render loving and willing obedience to all the commandments of our Lord and require our conscience to come into line with what he plainly says. Thus, our lives are free and happy and are made a blessing to all around us. This phase of the subject will be treated more fully later.
Oh, how much it means to serve God “without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life”! (Luke 1:74-75).

Christian Stewardship

The personal experience of freedom from sin and true holiness of heart really implies, as a fundamental concept, the idea of an actual stewardship of life. Since we are bought with a great price, we are no longer our own. And if it is really true that we are not our own we should easily recognize and accept the standard of the apostolic church as expressed in the words, “Neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own” (Acts 4:32).
The stewardship obligation is based on the sovereign ownership of God. He created all things, hence all things rightfully belong to him for his own use and purpose. Man, the creature, may be entrusted by God with certain rights and possessions, but man is not sovereign owner of anything. The general teaching of the Bible throughout shows that man is under constant obligation to God and that God expects man to acknowledge this stewardship relation. This obligation is not merely an arbitrary arrangement or requirement, but it exists in the nature of things, prior to all enacted legislation pertaining thereto.
The earliest historic example of man’s voluntary response to this basic principle of right is found in the family of Adam, when, as a definite part of their worship and service to God, Cain and Abel brought material offerings to the Lord (Gen. 4:3-5). The first time the material phase of that natural obligation is expressed in terms of one-tenth is found in Genesis 14:18-20, when Abraham gave “tithes of all” to Melchizedek, king of Salem, “priest of the most high God.” In the New Testament dispensation we find this particular tithing example given prominent consideration and sanction by apostolic authority in the Book of Hebrews (7:1-9).
The tithe was regarded as due to the Lord. Jacob, following the example of Abraham, vowed to the Lord, “Of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (Gen. 28:22).
Later, when the Law of Moses was given, tithing, supplemented from time to time by freewill offerings, was incorporated into the legal system with considerable detail as to the manner in which it was to be carried out. But it was clearly shown to be the Lord’s due. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord” (Lev. 27:30).
Stewardship as exemplified in the Old Testament included not only offerings of material possessions, but time also. Every seventh day was a Sabbath of rest, and there were also other solemn festivals and holy days. God made a very real claim upon the time of the Israelites.
In the New Testament the old-time Sabbath appears to be regarded as typical in its nature. (See chapter 22, under subhead “New Testament Ceremonies.” )
As to stewardship in its relation to material possessions, Christ evidently sanctioned the tithing system, even while condemning certain scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites because they had exalted it above moral and spiritual duties and obligations. “Ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matt. 23:23).
The Apostle Paul says, “As I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” (I Cor. 16:1-2). While this particular text does not specify tithing as such, it does imply the same basic idea of stewardship, because it expects of “every one of you” a proportionate surrender of earned income—“as God hath prospered him”—on the first day of the week, the time of the regularly recurring religious services.
While tithing was incorporated into the Mosaic law system, as we have noted, it did not originate with that system; hence it did not necessarily cease with it. The fundamental law of stewardship relations existing between the creature and the Creator—the principle of honoring God with our substance—knows no dispensational change. That tithing, divinely approved from the earliest ages, automatically carries over into the new dispensation may at least be inferred from the fact that the New Testament provides no other regular system of financial support for God’s work.
In practical experience in our own day those congregations which have voluntarily accepted the tithing plan, supplemented at times by freewill offerings for various special projects or causes, have prospered. On the other hand, congregations that have shunned the tithing system on account of its former association with the Mosaic law have been forced by their own program to resort to frequent financial drives and to various sorts of schemes and devices for raising money, much to the detriment of the church itself and to its influence in the community. It is certain that God did approve tithing at one time: but where has he ever put his sanction on this complicated modern technique created by men for the purpose of getting money?
If we will but recognize the principle of stewardship of possessions—that we owe something to God regularly, according to our earned income—we shall experience in our individual lives today the fulfillment of the promise of old: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse … and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).

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