Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 8, 1952
NUMBER 2, PAGE 2,15b

Can A Sanctified Person Commit Sin?

Murray Marshall. Frederick. Oklahoma

Several things are involved in this question:

(1) It asks "CAN" he? Not "should" he? The question deals with the possibility of sinning. It is closely tied with the question whether a child of God can fall from grace or not.

(2) It involves "sanctification" and the meaning, according to the scriptures, of what it is to be sanctified.

(3) Too, it involves the important question as to

"HOW" and "WHEN" a person is sanctified.

There is a doctrine taught in our day (though it was not taught in the Bible, nor by the apostles) that there is a "second blessing" offered to man which will destroy or end all sin in one's life, raise him above the possibility of sinning, which would mean he could not even be tempted.

BUT, this would make the one who gets this "second work of grace" above Christ, who was TEMPTED (although he never sinned), and above the apostles who did not claim to be sinless (see 1 Cor. 9:27; Phil. 8:12,13; 1 John 1:8,9)

But this doctrine is not taught in the scriptures. In the days of the apostles, men did not get this "second work of grace" to make them "perfect and sinless." The doctrine is based on a misunderstanding of 1 John 3:9 and other passages which do not teach that a child of God NEVER sins, but rather that he does 'not continually sin (Greek scholars state that the tense shows continuance; Rotherham's Emphasized translation of the New Testament renders 1 John 3:9: "Whosoever hath been born of God is not committing sin, Because a seed of him within him abideth; And he cannot be committing sin, Because of God hath he been born.")

Now, to answer the question, we note:

(1) The Bible teaches that all men sin, that even Christians DO (it is not a question of "should" or "ought" but CAN?). 1 John 1:8-10 and 2:1-8 declare the possibility of sanctified persons sinning. (John, the apostle, was certainly sanctified; and he includes HIMSELF when he says: "If WE say that WE HAVE no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in US." (1 John 1:8) John declares that any Christian who claims to have (notice the present tense) NO SIN — or to live ABOVE SIN — is a liar! He even says if he, JOHN, should say such a thing, he would be a liar! But then he goes ahead in the verse that follows to show that we OUGHT NOT to sin, but IF we do, we (who are Christians) have an Advocate with the Father. (1 John 2:1)

(2) Christians in the first century had no "second work of grace." But they needed WARNINGS against sinning.

Notice that the Hebrews (to whom the Hebrew letter in the New Testament was written) were HOLY or sanctified brethren. (Heb 3:1), BUT Paul had to warn them against sinning, and against falling from grace by sinning: Heb. 2:2: "How shall WE escape, if WE neglect ..." Heb. 3:12: "Take heed, BRETHREN, lest there be in ANY of YOU an evil heart of UNBELIEF, in departing from the living God."(Note, sanctified brethren could neglect and NOT escape; they could get an evil heart of unbelief and DEPART.)

Heb. 4:1: "Let US therefore fear, lest, a promise being left US of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (Revised Standard Version says, "... lest any of you be JUDGED to have FAILED to reach it.")

(Note, sanctified brethren, including the inspired writer of the Hebrew letter, were urged to FEAR, for it was possible for them to FAIL to reach heaven.)

Heb. 10:26: "For IF WE SIN WILFULLY..." (Note, the possibility of HOLY, SANCTIFIED brethren sinning willfully!)

James 4:17: See.

(3) Sanctification does not mean "getting fixed so one cannot sin" or "so one can live above sin." This involves, in answer to it, what is sanctification. Let us examine some passages which talk about this subject, sanctification, and being sanctified, and persons sanctified.

(a) The Corinthians, SANCTIFIED (1 Cor. 1:2) (Note, they weren't "fixed up to be sinless".) were CARNAL — or SINFUL (1 Cor. 8:8)

(b) The temple vessels, temple itself, animal sacrifices and Sabbath day were sanctified or were to be sanctified in the Old Testament times:

(2 Chronicles 7:16)

(Exodus 18:2)

(Deuteronomy 5:12)

Question: Was the temple, animals, etc., "fixed up so they couldn't sin"???

(c) Christ sanctified himself to be our Savior that he might sanctify us. (John 17:19) Now, what did Christ do to himself? (He was already perfect!)

(d) We are to sanctify him in our hearts (1 Pet. 3:15, see both King James and Revised Versions).

What does this mean? If, as the theory says sanctification means to "make sinlessly perfect," then to obey the Lord here, we would have to be making HIM sinlessly perfect. Absurd!

THE TRUTH IS, SANCTIFICATION does NOT mean getting fixed up to live above sin, it does not mean being made sinlessly perfect.

But, what does it mean? Its meaning is obvious from the above passages. To SANCTIFY is to set apart. To be sanctified is to be SET APART.

Note again the above passages:

(a) The Corinthians, SANCTIFIED or set apart to serve God (1 Cor. 1:2) were not living as they OUGHT TO. (8:8).

(b) The vessels, animals, etc., were SET APART to be used for the service and glory of God.

(c) Christ SET HIMSELF APART to be our Savior. (John 17:19)

(d) We are to SET HIM APART in our lives and (See SIN, page 15)

hearts and make him king in our lives. (1 Peter 3:15).

But, we have answered questions (1) and (2). The Bible teaches that a sanctified person CAN commit sin, and sanctification means to be set apart for divine service.

Now, HOW and WHEN is one sanctified? To the Bible, again:


Through The Word Of God.

1 Corinthians 6:11: The Corinthians before their conversion were in the world, but had made a change:

"ye are (Revised says WERE) washed,

"ye are (WERE) sanctified,

"ye are (were) justified in the NAME of the Lord Jesus, and by the SPIRIT OF GOD."

Notice the order here: WASHED, SANCTIFIED, JUSTIFIED.

Now where and HOW did this take place? In the NAME of Christ, by the SPIRIT and through the WORD of God. (John 17:17)

But when do we, led by the SPIRIT through the WORD of God, enter the NAME of Christ? The Bible says, WE ARE BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST and into HIS NAME. (Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 8:26,27; Matt. 28:19, Revised Version; Acts 19:5, Revised Version).

And Eph. 5:26 says SANCTIFIED and CLEANSED

"with the WASHING OF WATER by the WORD."

Now, when we believe, repent of our sins, and are baptized into Christ, buried and raised in the watery grave (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:88; Rom. 6:3,4) we are SANCTIFIED and CLEANSED with the WASHING OF WATER by the WORD.

Led by the Spirit of God to thus obey the gospel of Christ, we are washed, sanctified, justified (saved).

Having heard the word of the Lord, let us obey the gospel, thereby be SCRIPTURALLY SANCTIFIED, and then live as sanctified (set apart) people should, telling the truth (1 John 1:8) and walking in the light (teaching of the word of God) that we may be forgiven when we sin. (1 John 1:7; 2:1) Then we shall be faithful (Rev. 2:10) and be given an entrance into the Eternal Home where we WILL BE PERFECT and SINLESS.