DOES JESSE MORRELL CLAIM SINLESS PERFECTION?
CAN HOMOSEXUALS BE CHRISTIANS?
I recently got an email from a woman who wanted to know if I am basically claiming sinless perfection since my conversion or am I just refuting the notion that you can live however you want to live, like in homosexuality, and still be right with God. This was her email with my response:
I have been searching for material to help me when I study the Bible with agnostics when I ran across your site.
I admire you for what you do and think it takes guts and conviction.
I have a question though. I totally agree that we need to repent of our sins and stop sinning overall, but we still continue to sin even though we try not to. Are you saying that you never sin, ever? Or are you just trying to refute this idea that you can do whatever you want and get away with it – like homosexuality?
Thank you for your email. I believe that repentance is necessary for salvation and that repentance is a change of mind about sinning that will result in a change of life or the fruit of repentance. However, a person is always capable of returning to their sins even after they repent. Every day we are tempted and every day we need to make choices, and by the grace of God we can overcome. If we sin, it is our own choice. If we overcome, it is by the help of God’s grace.
I wish I could say that I haven’t sinned since my conversion but I cannot say that. I have sinned in the past, I know I could sin in the future, but I am living in obedience to God right now. Since my conversion, holiness has been the general rule. That is the fruit of God’s grace in my life. Sin has been the exception. The times that I have sinned I freely confess that I didn’t have to do it. Nothing made me do it. I freely choose it and it was a selfish and foolish choice. However, the Lord convicted me and I repented and asked for His gracious forgiveness.
So I believe that it is possible for us to sin and also that it is possible for us not to sin. The Bible says, “if anyone sins” indicating both that sin is possible and that sin is avoidable for believers. God never allows us to be tempted above our ability the scripture says, so we are without excuse. We will never be in the position where it is impossible for us to sin, but we are in the position where it is possible for us not to sin. As believers, obedience should be the rule of our life and disobedience should be the exception, if it occurs at all. And if we sin, we must repent or perish. We cannot presume to be right with God while we are sinning, turning His grace and atonement into a license to sin.
King Saul and king David were both believers and both sinned, but one was restored through repentance and forgiven while the other was not. The Apostle Judas and the Apostle Peter were both believers and they both sinned, but one was restored through repentance and was forgiven while the other was not. And these were not what people would call “accidental sins” or “sins of ignorance” but were an absolute rebellion against what they knew to be right. Nevertheless, they were genuine believers before committing such heinous crimes, but David and Peter were later restored and forgiven through repentance. There is no forgiveness of sins in advance, but there is gracious forgiveness through Christ when there is real repentance.
So, regarding your question about homosexuality, the grace of God through Jesus Christ is not a means by which a person can be saved while continue in their sins, but is the means through which they can be saved from their sinning. When Jesus saves a homosexual, that man chooses to live for God and no longer live in their sin. They may still have to face those temptations every day, but by God’s grace they overcome. They are still capable of committing homosexual acts, or yielding to homosexual thoughts, but they are not saved or right with God while they do so. The Bible is clear that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. A believer who returns to their sins must repent and ask God for fresh forgiveness. As believers, we are capable of sinning but by His grace we never have to sin again.
I hope that helps!
She wrote back:
Thanks for your reply. So you do feel that there is a difference in the types of sins we might commit. That’s what I am understanding by this statement: “And these were not what people would call “accidental sins” or “sins of ignorance” but were an absolute rebellion against what they knew to be right.”
What I was trying to say is that I believe that believers can commit known acts of rebellion, but that they are not saved or right with God when they do so. Some teach that believers only commit accidental or ignorant sins, but I am saying that believers are capable of committing terrible acts of known rebellion against God. And those terrible acts of known rebellion does not mean that they were “not truly saved to begin with.” But these terrible acts of sin do not have to happen and if they do happen, these people must repent or perish. In other words, it is possible for believers to turn back to their sinning and consequently forfeit their salvation.
What many people would classify as accidental sins or sins of ignorance, I wouldn’t classify as real sins at all. A person is held accountable according to the knowledge that they have and as long as a person is obeying the knowledge that they have, they have a perfect heart and are blameless. If a person chooses to be ignorant of their obligations, then that is a sin that they can be blamed and punished for. Sin is of the heart, a selfish intention, and it is rebellion against what you know. Jesus said if you were blind you would have no sin, but as God’s law is written on our hearts, sin is a choice of the will to do what we know to be wrong. God judges us for our intention, as the Bible says God judges the heart.
If we did have any “sins of ignorance” in our life, God could easily bring these to our attention so that we could repent of them, so the idea that perfection is impossible because of “sins of ignorance” is not a logical argument. God wants us to be morally perfect and He is capable of giving us everything that we need to do so.
At conversion, we repent of all of known sins, as sin is a choice to do what you know is wrong. Then we continue to grow in knowledge and consequently grow in obedience and grow in character. We do have perfect hearts at conversion in the sense of having pure and benevolent motives to love God and love our neighbor, and our hearts remain perfect as long as we do not return to our sins. A man remains saved as long as His heart remains purified by faith, as the same faith that justifies is the same faith that sanctifies, so a man remains justified by faith only as long as he remains sanctified by faith. There is no justification in sin or salvation in known rebellion against God.
This is a lecture I gave on the doctrine of holiness at our recently Sharing Your Faith Conference, which might help to clarify what it is that I believe on this issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTQbsqf9_OQ
This was a post I made on My Facebook about the issue of “Sinless Perfection:”
I am often accused of teaching “sinless perfection.” That is a term that I have never used to describe my beliefs. Allow me to clarify or specify what I believe:
I believe that it is possible for a believer to sin and it is possible for a believer not to sin. At conversion, a believer repented of all their known sins. They still grow in knowledge throughout their Christian life and therefore grow in character. And if sin occurs at all, it should be the exception and not the rule. Sin is not their practice or habit, obedience or holiness is.
That is how I understand 1 John. For example 1 John 2:1 says if anyone sins. That means that it is possible to sin and it is possible not to sin. And it says whosoever is born of God sinneth (habitual practice) not. And that those whosoever sinneth (habitual practice) is of the devil. So true believers do not sin every day in word, thought, and deed. They obey God and love Jesus every day in word, thought, and deed.
The perfection required of us in Matt 5:48 is love. Love is the fulfillment of the law. If we make the daily choice to love God and love our neighbor, we have a perfect heart. Our mind is limited but our heart is perfect. Biblical perfection is not the inability to sin. It is not that a perfect man can never sin again, or will never sin again, but that they are not sinning or as 1 John says “sinneth not.”
I have noticed that the term “sinless perfection” is only used by the anti-holiness camp. Those who actually preach the possibility of perfection, holiness, or stopping your sin, do not typically use that term – at least not the holiness preachers I know. The Bible uses the word “perfection” or “perfect” and the word “sanctified” and “holiness.” But “sinless perfection” seems to be used as a derogatory phrase, which is not how the Bible uses the word perfection at all.
I choose not to use the term “sinless perfection” because the anti-holiness camp that uses it typically defines it as the teaching that it is impossible for a believer to sin, or that a person has never sinned in their entire life, or that a true convert never sins from conversion to death. Since I do not necessarily teach any of the above, I do not use the term sinless perfection.
I simply teach that sin is avoidable. Nobody ever has to sin. A true convert does not habitually sin, though they are capable of sinning and may sin. If you sin, you must repent.
Also from My Facebook:
Some “Christian” rantings against “perfectionism” on Facebook inspired me to post this:
To say that perfection is not possible or is impossible is to undermine the power of the gospel, distort the work of Christ, and charge the law of God and the command of Christ with injustice and tyranny.
Christ not only saves us from the penalty of sin, but also from the practice of sin. Otherwise, if we were saved from the penalty but not the practice, the atonement becomes nothing more than a license to sin. But when we see how much He loved us, we begin to love Him in return, and when we love Him we will obey Him. So the atonement is the greatest moral influence we could experience that influences us on to perfection – to repent of all our sins and live in obedience to God. And once we have turned from all our sins, we still need Christ to keep us from returning to our sins. Even in Heaven when we are perfect we will still need Jesus.
If we are convicted of sin, we must acknowledge that we had no excuse for it, giving up all justification, and recognize that such sin was avoidable. In repentance, we must determine to never do it again. A man cannot be perfect if he does not recognize his sin, admit that it was avoidable, and repent of it determining to never do it again. But if a man confesses and forsakes it, he can go on to perfection as Christ commands.
Perfection is of the heart, not the body or mind. That is, while our bodies are physically imperfect until glorification and our minds are mentally imperfect, our heart can be pure. Love is the fulfillment of the law. God’s law is love and we are only commanded to love God with all of our ability, so our obligation never exceeds our ability. If we love God supremely and love our neighbor equally, we have a pure or perfect heart.
We will never be in the position where it is impossible for us to sin, but we are in a position where it is possible for us not to sin (1 Cor. 10:13). So if you have sin in your life, the Bible commands you to stop it. And God has given you the ability to do this, so you are without excuse. Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.
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