Does a Christian never sin when they receive the Holy Spirit?
by Rod Jackson
All verses are quoted from the NASB anything in [square brackets] is added by me for clarity.
Some Christians believe that once someone receives the Holy Spirit, they no longer sin. But is that a biblical doctrine or is it a misunderstanding of a biblical doctrine?
King David is one of the old Testament figures, when God is telling King Saul that the kingdom will be taken away from Saul and given to another. God describes the next up and coming king, David, this way -
"But now your [Saul's] kingdom shall not endure The LORD has sought out for Himself a man [David] after His [God's] own heart, and the LORD has appointed him [David] as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you." 1 Samuel 13:14
So David is described as a "man after God's own heart". When David was anointed to be the next king, but before he actually is made king, the Bible says -
"Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah." 1 Samuel 16:13
So it is clear that before David was made king he had the Holy Spirit. Yet after David is made king, he commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband, Uriah the Hittite murdered. You can read the whole account in 2 Samuel 11. But the Bible summaries David's life here-
"because David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He [God] commanded him [David] all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite." 1 Kings 15:5
So David, who was full of the Holy Spirit, still sinned in the case of his murdering Uriah and committing adultery with Bathsheba. Therefore we can conclude that just because someone has the Holy Spirit does not make them sinless.
Unfortunately there are some Christians today who call themselves "New Testament" Christians. So they think they can ignore the old Testament (even though the early church "New Testament" Christian only had the Old Testament). But for their sake we will look at a New Testament example as well (seeing that God is the "same yesterday, today, and forever").
"He brought him [Peter] to Jesus. Jesus looked at him [Peter] and said, `You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).'" John 1:42
Here we see that Peter and Cephas is the same person. This is important for later on. However at Pentecost Peter receives the Holy Spirit as we can see in the next two verses, from the book of Acts -
"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." Acts 2:4
"But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: `Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.'" Acts 2:14
Peter after being filled with the Holy Spirit addresses the crowd at Pentecost. The important part for our study is that Peter who is also called Cephas is filled with the Holy Spirit. For later we read that the apostle Paul writes -
"But when Cephas [ie. Peter] came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned." Galatians 2:11
The apostle Paul had to condemn the Holy Spirit filled Peter. Now it is clear that if someone is sinless they are never condemned and they are not needed to be opposed by those on the side of Truth. So again we see that just because someone has the Holy Spirit does not mean that they are sinless. In fact the apostle John writing to Holy Spirit filled Christians writes -
If we [Holy Spirit filled Christians] say that we have not sinned, we make Him [God] a liar and His word is not in us. " 1 John 1:10
So not only is the doctrine of Perfectionism wrong. But when someone makes this claim they are in fact sinning by claiming to be sinless because they are calling God a liar! God who is Truth cannot lie. It seems to me that the doctrine that a Christian filled with the Holy Spirit must then be sinless comes about by confusing a Christian's status in God's eyes. A Christian is seen as being perfect because of Christ's righteousness being imputed to them (Romans 4:22-25). So God sees a Christian as if they are perfect because a Christian, even though they still may sin, is given Jesus' righteousness in place of their own. So a Christian may validly say that they are "perfect in Christ" but at the same time a Christian may say they are "not perfect in themselves", both statements being non-contradictory and true at the same time.
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