Do Christians Have a License to Sin?
by David J. Stewart
"Do we then make void the law through faith? God Forbid: Yea, We Establish the Law." -Romans 3:31
I frequently receive e-mails from people who are upset at the idea that a person can be saved simply by trusting Jesus Christ as one's personal Saviour. In particular, they are upset at the idea that someone can profess faith in Christ and still continue to live in sin, in effect... A LICENSE TO SIN!
One man who e-mailed me was very sarcastic and thanked me for opening his eyes. He said that he was extremely happy now that he knew he could live in wild sin and still be saved. He said that my teachings on salvation had given him a license to sin.
I would like to just share a few thoughts with you on this matter and clear up any misunderstandings. I think the problem that quite a few people have is a lack of understanding about Biblical "repentance." They confuse the "root" of the believer's faith (Romans 4:3-5) with the "fruit" of the believer's faith (James 2:18-21). The word "repentance" in the Bible means "a change of mind." The Bible clearly teaches that repentance is necessary for salvation (Acts 2:38). It is impossible for anyone to be saved without repentance. But what exactly is repentance in the Bible? Repentance is when we make a U-turn in our mind concerning Christ and our sins. Dr. Harry Ironside said it well...
"Repentance is the recognition of my sinnership — the owning before God that I am as vile as He has declared me to be in His holy Word."
SOURCE: Except Ye Repent, by Dr. Harry Ironside, chapter 3
To be saved my friend, you MUST come to Christ as a SINNER (1st John 1:8-10). If you are not a sinner, then why would you need a Savior? It would not make any sense at all for a self-righteous person to ask Christ for forgiveness. This is exactly why Jesus said that He DIDN'T come to save the righteous; but to call sinners to repentance. My point is that you must turn from your "good" image of yourself and confess to God your "sinful" condition. This does NOT mean ceasing from deliberate sins. Eternal life is a gift. It is received, not achieved. We simply trust the SAVIOR, Who then forgives us SINNERS. That's what salvation is, i.e., getting your sins forgiven through faith in Jesus' name (Acts 10:43).
Biblical repentance is turning TOWARD Christ Jesus to be forgiven of one's sins; not first giving up one's sins as a prerequisite to placing one's faith in Christ. You let the horses in first, then you close the barn doors. Faith comes first, and then God makes the necessary changes over time in a person's life. No one can run until they first learn to walk, and a person cannot walk who doesn't first learn to crawl. Getting saved is a gift that is freely offered (Romans 6:23), freely paid for by Christ's literal blood (1st Peter 1:18-19) and is freely received (Romans 10:13). A changed life is the FRUIT of genuine repentance (James 2:18-23; Genesis 22:1-12); and NOT a part of the ROOT of saving-faith (Romans 4:5-6; Genesis 15:6).
Most people reject Jesus as their personal Savior and continue their downward spiral into hellfire and damnation. But a FEW people, and only a few (Matthew 7:13-14), decide to come to Christ. It is at the very moment that they decide to turn to Jesus Christ that repentance has taken place. They've "turned" towards the Savior to be forgiven of their sins. Note that a person cannot turn to Christ without also turning their back against sin. Think about it. If you turn about face toward the Savior, then you have turned your back to the world, sin, and self. But this is a natural consequence of repentance and not a mandatory requirement for salvation.
God requires repentance; but Biblical repentance is properly: a change of mind, which happens simultaneously the moment you BELIEVE on Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. Believing and repentance always go together and are inseparable. This is why the words "believe" and "believeth" are mentioned 85 times in the Gospel of John, but the word "repent" is never mentioned even once. The man who believes has repented, and the man who repents has believed.
This is quite different than forsaking one's deliberate sins as a prerequisite to be saved. Some false prophets teach that a person must stop committing deliberate sin, or at least be willing to stop committing sin in order to qualify for salvation. However, that is damnable heresy which negates the gift of God. Giving up deliberate sins, and the desire to give up sins is a result of genuine Biblical repentance. If true salvation has happened, then God has done a miracle in that soul and somehow in some way it will show as time passes. But you have to be real careful about judging who is saved or not merely by one's lifestyle. The only sure test of a person's salvation is to simply ask them if they have placed their trust in Jesus as their Savior to forgive their sins.
Jesus paid for our sins so we wouldn't have to. All a person needs to do to be saved is to acknowledge their guilt of sin (Romans 3:19) and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be forgiven (Acts 10:43; 16:30-31).
I was watching the news one day and heard something disturbing to me as a Christian. A woman who makes a living as a porn model professed to be a Christian. She said that Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden and she didn't see anything wrong with being naked. You see, she was seeking to justifying her evil deeds. We'll Adam and Eve were the only two people in the world at that time. Mankind has a sinful tendency to rationalize evil into good. Jesus foretold of the time when the unsaved will murder Christians, thinking they are doing God a favor (John 16:2). We are living in apostate times, when pastors are saying it's ok to be gay.
America is going to Hell. Our churches are filled with unsaved religious hypocrites who know not the Lord Jesus Christ. They've made commitments to serve God, have joined churches and many claim to have prayed the salvation prayer; but they are as lost as the Devil himself. They've never repented, i.e., come to God as a dirty, rotten, hell-deserving sinner in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ. They've never trusted upon the name of Jesus, the Christ, to forgive their sins.
I am convinced that any porn-star who claims to be a Christian is a liar. Why? Because there is no evidence of salvation. Repentance is supposed to bring forth a changed life (1st Corinthians 5:17). This is what James meant when he said in James 2:18: "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." James was speaking about being justified in the eyes of men. With God we are justified by faith alone; but with men we can only be justified by our works because men cannot see our heart (1st Samuel 16:7). Again, a changed life is the FRUIT of genuine repentance; but not a part of saving faith. I wouldn't give you a dime for any believer's testimony who attempts to justify abortion, homosexuality or other sins.
Although becoming a born-again child of God is NOT a process, a growing in grace process does begin at the time of salvation and continue throughout life (1st Peter 2:2). Just as a newborn baby must learn to crawl before it can walk or run, so must a new convert grow in the knowledge of God. Every believer must go through the trial of their faith to please God (Hebrews 11:6; 1st Peter 1:7). A faith MUST be tested! The faith you placed in Christ to be saved is the same faith that carries you through the Christian life, and it's all by God's grace. A believer's faith never dies out, quits, nor disappears. People who claim that they "used to be saved" are liars. They may have had the psychology of Christianity, or have belonged to some religious organization, or what have you; but they were never born-again to begin with if they're not saved now. IF SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED!
The Bible says that the Christian walks by faith and not by sight (2nd Corinthians 5:7). Most believers choose, sinfully so, to walk by sight; they are carnally-minded and worldly (Luke 8:14; Romans 12:1-2; 1st Corinthians 3:1; 5:1-5). Does this mean they are not saved? You don't know by merely observing. The Bible is filled with examples of believers who sinned horribly: David, Jacob, Noah, Samson, Jonah and Solomon. They all sinned horribly at times; yet they were saved. It is important to notice that of all the believers who sinned in the Bible, not one of them attempted to justify their sins, parading up and down the street like homosexuals do, and defying the Law of God. This is the difference between heathens like Marsha Stevens, a proud lesbian who claims to be a Christian; versus the Apostle Peter, who wept bitterly over his sins. Judas claimed to be a Christian also, but Jesus said Judas had a devil (John 6:70).
Salvation is more than mere head knowledge or acknowledgment of some historical data concerning a man who once lived by the name of Jesus. Salvation is when you personally believe that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Who died for YOUR sins, and you are relying upon the Lord and what He did to pay for your sins to get you into Heaven one day. If that's you, then you are my beloved brother or sister in the Lord.
The Bible instructs us as believers to judge "righteous judgment" (John 7:24). We are to separate from carnal believers who indulge in sinful living, and from those who attempt to justify sin (1st Corinthians 5:11). Romans 16:17 reads, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." Biblically, we are supposed to expose false prophets and contend for the faith. Certainly, we are not wrong to question the salvation of those who live contrary to the Scriptures. In 2nd Corinthians 13:5 the Apostle Paul questioned the salvation of certain members of the church at Corinth.
In a way, each believer DOES have a license to sin; meaning, a believer is safe and secure in the arms of the Savior, regardless of the sins they commit. BUT, no one, and I mean no one, has God's permission to sin. Romans 6:14-15, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Plainly, these Scriptures teach that just because a believer is no longer under the curse of God's Law, does not give us the right to continue in sin. God expects some changes and He wants to make them for us. 1st John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a precious Savior!!!
ROOT versus FRUIT of the Believer's Faith
It is important to discern between the "root" of a believer's faith; and the "fruit" of a believer's faith. The FRUIT should be present in the life of a genuine believer, but that believer will still falter at times... "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief" (Proverb 24:16). There should be some type of evidence of a changed life to validate a person's claim of being a true Christian. This is NOT a part of saving faith; It is the result of genuine repentance. In other words, a person should live right because they are a believer; and not live right as a prerequisite in order to be saved. If someone claims to be a Christian, but their life denies their words, then I certainly am going to doubt their testimony. This is Biblical.
However, I am not going to fabricate a false doctrine, as the Lordship Salvation crowd has, to require sinners to cease from sinning in order to qualify for salvation. I am not going to deny the Biblical teaching of Eternal Security and require believers to endure in holy living to be saved. That would be Works Salvation. Such damnable heresies corrupt the simplicity that is in Christ (2nd Corinthians 11:3). Eternal life is a free gift (Romans 5:15;6:23), paid for by Jesus' precious, literal, redeeming blood (1st Peter 1:18,19). We have no part in salvation except to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:43; 16:31).
Do Deliberate Sins Have to Be Stopped to Be Saved?
When a sinner turns to Jesus Christ by faith to be saved, that person's sins are forgiven. They have forsaken their sins already in their heart, for a man cannot even be saved without acknowledging his SINNERSHIP.
A man asks, “Do I have to stop cheating on my taxes to be saved?” That's the wrong question. The question should be, “Will the Lord forgive a man who is cheating on his taxes?” When the women allegedly CAUGHT IN THE VERY ACT of adultery was dragged before Jesus in John Chapter 8, Jesus wrote something on the ground and they all left one-by-one until they were all gone. I think Jesus drew a picture of a man on the ground (but I don't know for certain). As the older scribes and Pharisees figured it out first, they left; and then the younger men figured it out eventually and departed in their self-righteous shame. I think Jesus drew a picture of a man on the ground to say to all of those hypocrites... WHERE'S THE MAN? You brought the woman whom you claimed was caught in the very act; so why did you not bring the man too? The reason is because they had condemned the women, but let the man go. They were hypocrites. Jesus had them on the spot. Their plot backfired on them horribly so.
Does an individual need to stop living in sin to be saved? No. We know that a person must realize their guilt of sin (Romans 3:19) and believe on Jesus Christ for salvation (Acts 16:31); but does a person actually have to forsake those sins to be saved? You forsook them the minute you trusted Christ to be forgiven of them. What you're really asking is, do I have to stop committing deliberate sins to be saved? The answer is no, because we all sins deliberately at times. We shouldn't, and God will hold us accountable for each deed, work, and word spoken; but our salvation rests in what Jesus did for us, and not in what we can do for Him. Eternal life is receiving, not giving.
True Biblical repentance (Greek: metanoeo) means "a change of mind," i.e., acknowledging one's guilt of sin before God (Romans 3:19) and turning to Jesus Christ by faith to be forgiven. The "turning" is not from the act of sin itself; but rather, TURNING TO THE LORD to be forgiven from the condemnation which sin has brought upon all mankind (Romans 3:19-23; 5:12). Repentance is more than just realizing that I have done wrong, it is acknowledging my guilt of violating God's holy Law and turning by faith to Jesus, the Christ, to be forgiven. Lordship Salvationists have perverted the Gospel.
They teach that repentance and faith are two separate steps to salvation, and that faith alone in Christ is insufficient to save anyone unless they've turned away from their sinful lifestyle too. They are liars! Salvation is receiving; not giving. Salvation is turning to Jesus to be forgiven of one's sins; NOT turning from one's sins in order to be forgiven by Jesus. There's a big difference. The former truth places salvation unconditionally in the hands of God; but the latter lie conditions salvation upon the self-righteousness of men. My salvation is rooted in the PROMISES of God. Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”
In a sense, every believer DOES have a license to sin, i.e., one's salvation is not conditioned upon works. Romans 4:5 plainly states this: "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." You need HIS righteousness!!!
However, as I've pointed out from Romans 3:31 and Romans 6:15, God expects us to fulfil the Law as believers. Anyone who would rejoice in the fact that they can live like Hell and still go to Heaven has never experienced true saving repentance. Hebrews 12:6-8 teaches that God chastises His children when they sin, otherwise they are not God's children. No genuine believer can happily live in sin, because God's Holy Spirit Who indwells them will convict them.
Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.
In other words, saving faith should produce works as the FRUIT of faith. If faith doesn't produce works, then something is radically wrong. This has nothing to do with getting saved. We are saved by faith alone. But if we have truly found Christ, then our faith should compel us to live for God. If a man says he has faith, but there are no works to evidence that faith, then something is wrong. That person may not be saved at all.
God Does Not Approve of A Believer Who Sins
Romans 3:31 states: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God Forbid: Yea, We Establish the Law." Just because a born-again person is free from under the condemnation of the Law, it does NOT give him or her permission to sin; rather, we must establish the law and keep it. Does a believer have a license to sin? ... "Yes!" A believer can sin without fear of going to Hell. If this is not true, then the Bible is lying in Romans 4:5, Ephesians 2:8,9 and Titus 3:5—which all plainly state that salvation is NOT by works! Get mad at God because He said it. However, no believer has God's permission to sin, nor to make light of evil. God hates sin and commands every believer to hate sin (Psalm 97:10; Hebrews 1:9).
The Bible clearly warns all believers in Hebrews 12:5 that God WILL chastise His own children. Listen friend, no one is going to get away with anything. I think oftentimes that many people get frustrated with the simple plan of salvation because they think being saved gives believers a ticket to hurt and abuse others—IT DOES NOT! Romans 12:19 clearly teaches that God will "repay" (Greek: punish) those who defraud and hurt others. This includes believers (2nd Corinthians 5:10). 1st Thessalonians 4:6 is a warning to all believers not to defraud each other because God will "avenge." Why would God have to say something like like that? Why would God have to assure us that justice will eventually be executed? Simply because sometimes we cannot obtain justice in this world. God is more fair than any human judge could ever be. We will receive justice and restitution at some point (or else the Bible is a fraud and God is not Holy). God's Judgment Seat and Laws supercede any of man's courts or laws. The Supreme Court may say that abortion is legal and acceptable, but God says it is cold-blooded murder. If someone wrongs you, whether there is a law against it or not, God WILL avenge you if it was wrong. A man desperately tried to stop his separated wife from aborting their child, she did it anyway with the backing force of the courts and law enforcement. That wife will stand trial before God for murder and her husband and child will receive justice.
So don't think that Christians have permission to sin. On the contrary, believers will be held more accountable to God if they are deliberately sinning in the knowledge of the truth. They have been enlightened. They know better.
No one has God's permission to live in sin; nevertheless, the Bible does teach that God only requires simple child-like faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved and eternally secure. To those false prophets who would add holy living and works as requirements to receive the gift of God... you are in league with the Devil. No person can be saved by good works; and no man can be lost by bad works. Salvation cannot be by God's grace AND works (Romans 11:6). The Bible declares that it is through a person's FAITH by God's GRACE that they are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). Titus 3:5 proclaims, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done..." No person is saved by works, or lost by lack of them. When the Apostle James speaks of "works," he clearly says to show "me" your faith without your works. You see friend, we are justified with mankind by works because he cannot see into our heart; but with God we are justified by faith because He can see into our heart (1st Samuel 16:7). If you add "works" to your faith, then it is no faith at all and you are still bound for Hell in your self-righteousness.
Please don't allow anyone to deceive you on this matter—you do NOT have to live above sin to be saved. Can any believer live above sin? Of course not! I don't care how close you get to God, you will always sin as long as you are in the flesh. I am not condoning sin, not one bit. I am just saying that human beings cannot escape the "body of this death" as the Apostle Paul called it (See Romans 7:14-24). We are flesh, which makes us inherently hateful, greedy, lustful, envious, et cetera. It's in our blood. The ONLY escape is through the blood sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Only when believers walk in the Spirit of God can we live righteously. The Christian life is not hard to live... it's impossible! Jesus wants to live the Christian life through us, if we'll let Him. Unfortunately, no Christian walks in the Spirit ALL the time. We are still cursed by the flesh. We shouldn't sin, but as long as we are in the flesh we will sin at times. It is a dangerous thing to teach (as the Charismatic Pentecostals and Seventh-Day Adventists do) that a person needs to maintain good works to keep their salvation. It is a lie of the Devil. To go to Heaven, God only requires a simple child-like faith in THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. We are eternally safe in Christ, apart from our own faults, sins and shortcomings in the flesh. To teach otherwise is to negate the gift of God, which is eternal life (Romans 6:23).
Howbeit, no Christian has God's permission to sin. Just because we are saved and can live in sin without fear of going to Hell doesn't give us permission to do so. 2nd Corinthians 5:10 plainly warns that every believer will stand trial at the Judgment Seat of Christ, to be judged according to his works (i.e., the good and the bad). This will be a civil court; not a criminal court. The condemnation of the believer's sin is taken away by the blood of Jesus; but the consequences of the sins themselves must be given account for. 1st Corinthians 3:15 tells us that some believers will have no rewards in Heaven. Tears will flow. There will be sorrow and remorse for our sins and failures of this life.
Do believers have a license to sin? Yes, in a sense! Our salvation rests upon the redeeming work of Jesus Christ; and not upon our own self-righteousness. However, no believer has God's permission to sin and Hebrews 12:6-8 promises that God will chastise his children who do live in sin. No genuine believer can live in sin and truly be happy, because the Holy Spirit of God will convict. Nevertheless, our salvation is not conditional upon our works, good or bad. Salvation is the unconditional gift of God—paid for by Jesus' precious redeeming blood (1st Peter 1:18,19).
The Eternal Security of the Believer (by Dr. Harry Ironside)
The Hypocrisy of Those Who Don't Believe in Eternal Security
Repentance Heresy | Eternal Security
Lordship Salvation Exposed!
The Curse of Lordship Salvation!
What is Biblical Repentance?