Is it possible to lead a sinless life?
It’s an interesting question—with a seemingly endless number of Biblical contradictions.
When Jesus heals the paralytic man in John 5, He tells him, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (v14b KJV)
And, when He frees the woman caught in adultery from the Pharisees about to kill her he tells her, “…go and sin no more.” (John 8:11b KJV)
There are also numerous times in the Old Testament where God commands His people to be sinless. Leviticus 19:2 is one example: “Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” (KJV)
Then, there’s this in 1 John 3:9: 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. (KJV)
That’s a pretty high standard and frankly, I don’t know if I can pull that off.
In contrast, we have Paul’s “wretched man” lament in Romans 7: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (v. 15 NIV)
Paul was obviously admitting that he still sins. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (v. 24) These are not words written by a man who considers himself sinless.
That makes me think of a man in Scripture who did consider himself sinless:
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” (Mark 10: 17:20 ESV)
While it’s interesting to note that Jesus didn’t specifically list the commandments about idolatry or coveting, the rich young ruler actually looked Jesus in the face and lied to Him! And, he did so after failing to acknowledge Jesus as the sinless Messiah and being warned that only God is sinless.
The next verse is flabbergasting: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21 ESV) (Emphasis added.)
I would have expected Jesus to launch off into this bold-faced liar with a diatribe normally reserved for the Pharisees. I want Jesus to flip over the rich guy’s table, expose the glaring truth behind the white-washed walls, and call this guy a liar in front of the whole crowd.
Jesus looks at him with love!
And then, as only Jesus can do, He cuts to the heart of the matter: Go and give up your idolatry of all your possessions and give your heart to me.
And there’s the deal.
Once again, it’s about our souls.
If you carefully read Paul’s wretched man lament starting at the very beginning of Romans 7, he begins by talking about a wife cheating on her husband being guilty of adultery but, after that woman’s husband dies, she is free to marry someone else with no danger of being accused of adultery.
The point is, it’s our soul’s marriage to sin that ends when we give up everything we have to follow Jesus—because sin has been crucified on the cross. It’s dead!
The law still lives and it is good and beneficial, but the death we cannot escape because of our inability to keep the law was conquered when Jesus rose from the dead!
Our soul is dead to sin. Our soul no longer desires the sinful lifestyle. The old man no longer lives, but a new man has been raised up in the dead man’s place.
So, while we are still trapped in these bodies of flesh that will be subject to sin until the day we die, Paul’s conclusion and the great affirmation to his wretched man lament continues throughout Romans 8: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Vs. 1-2 NIV)
While Paul urges us to keep from sinning as much as we are able--to “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (v 13b) it is by the Holy Spirit we are to do so. It is the Holy Spirit that makes us free from sin, conquers fear, and seals our adoption as righteous, holy, and free sons and daughters of God.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39 NIV)