“If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,)” 1 Kings 8:46
1 Kings 8:46 has been used by Calvinists to teach that there is no deliverance from sinning in this life – that even believers in the gospel must continue to sin every single day of their lives in word, thought, and deed. They uses this verse to teach that we cannot look to Jesus for cleansing from all sin but at most all we can expect is to be forgiven while we continue to sin.
However, does this verse really teach that it is impossible to stop sinning in this life? Does this verse really teach that sin is completely unavoidable and that not even Jesus Christ can save us from it? A closer look reveals that this verse by no means teaches the perpetual sinfulness of believers or the inevitability and unavoidability of sinning.
Adam Clarke on 1 Kings 8:46
“If they sin against thee – This Seventh case must refer to some general defection from truth, to some species of false worship, idolatry, or corruption of the truth and ordinances of the Most High; as for it they are here stated to be delivered into the hands of their enemies and carried away captive, which was the general punishment for idolatry, and what is called, 1 Kings 8:47, acting perversely and committing wickedness.
In 1 Kings 8:46 we read, If they sin against thee, for there is no man that sinneth not. On this verse we may observe that the second clause, as it is here translated, renders the supposition in the first clause entirely nugatory; for if there be no man that sinneth not, it is useless to say, If they sin; but this contradiction is taken away by reference to the original, כי יחטאו לך (ki yechetu lach), which should be translated If they shall sin against thee, or should they sin against thee; כי אין אדם אשר לא יחטא (ki ein Adam asher lo yecheta), for there is no man that May not sin; i.e., there is no man impeccable, none infallible, none that is not liable to transgress. This is the true meaning of the phrase in various parts of the Bible, and so our translators have understood the original: for even in the thirty-first verse of this chapter they have translated יחטא (yecheta), If a man Trespass; which certainly implies he might or might not do it; and in this way they have translated the same word, If a soul Sin, in Leviticus 5:1; Leviticus 6:2; 1 Samuel 2:25; 2 Chronicles 6:22, and in several other places. The truth is, the Hebrew has no mood to express words in the permissive or optative way, but to express this sense it uses the future tense of the conjugation (kal).
This text has been a wonderful strong hold for all who believe that there is no redemption from sin in this life, that no man can live without committing sin, and that we cannot be entirely freed from it till we die.
1.The text speaks no such doctrine: it only speaks of the possibility of every man sinning, and this must be true of a state of probation.
2.There is not another text in the Divine records that is more to the purpose than this.
3.The doctrine is flatly in opposition to the design of the Gospel; for Jesus came to save his people from their sins, and to destroy the works of the devil.
4.It is a dangerous and destructive doctrine; and should be blotted out of every Christian‘s creed. There are too many who are seeking to excuse their crimes by all means in their power; and we need not embody their excuses in a creed, to complete their deception, by stating that their sins are unavoidable.”
Asa Mahan comments:
“This rendering, which, as Dr. Clarke shows, is demanded by the conjugation in which the word translated sin is found, makes the whole passage self-consistent, and fraught with important meaning. This unquestionably gives us the true meaning of the author of this utterance. In no case, however, can this passage be legitimately made to sustain or favour the dogma of the continual conscious sinfulness of all believers.”