Yes, believers sin. Some sin all the time, because the fact is, Christians are still held captive in these mortal, carnal bodies for now. Believers can even have besetting sins that they find very difficult to shake off. But the topic of this blog presents the question, “What if a Christian died or Christ returned today, and they had not repented of those sins?”
There are different theological schools of thought about the answer to this question. It hinges on the concept of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross purchasing our past, as well as our present and future sins. Some believe well enough that when a person initially comes to the Lord and accept Him as savior, their past sins are completely forgiven and forgotten. However, after that time, they are under the impression that any further sinning is not yet forgiven, so they must continue to repent of their sins, or their salvation is in jeopardy. Then, when they do repent, Christ’s sacrifice will “retroactively” come into effect –their present and future sins after they accepted Christ can finally be forgiven.
The second school of thought takes Christ’s purchase of our past, present and future sins as literal. After the initial proclamation of faith in Christ, all of a person’s sins are forgiven, because, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus...” Romans 8:1a
Those from the first school do not live in the spirit of freedom, but of bondage and fear. The light yoke of Christ has been made very heavy to them. They must constantly be taunted with negative thoughts such as, “ What if I die in the next minute and I haven’t repented of this or that sin? What if Christ’s returns today and I still have sins I haven’t repented of? Christ will surely hold that against me.” Such a misled Christian is no less than making their salvation a salvation of their works rather than Christ’s work on the cross. Those thoughts are from none other than Satan himself. If a Christian believes that they must repent after their initial repentance when accepting the Lord Jesus or their salvation is on the line, they are essentially naively asking Christ to get back up on the cross and die all over again for every sin they commit thereafter.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Just because repentance of sins is not required to secure a Christian’s salvation, does not mean it is not extremely useful in a believer’s walk with God. Repentance is a divine privilege God has given us to maintain a healthy relationship with the Trinity. We should confess and repent of our sin as soon as possible after we commit it to strengthen a repentant heart, regularly acknowledging our trespasses and seeking God's grace and mercy every day. This is the sense in which 1st John 1:9 was written, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (sin).” This should build a strong sense of humility in recognizing His love for us. It also paves the way for the Holy Spirit to more freely work with us in making us the people God wants us to be in Christ-likeness and for His purpose.
Another point I want to make is, just because a believer repents of a sin, doesn’t mean they can escape the consequences of it. As gracious as God is, He allows us to go through the process of learning from our mistakes, just like an earthly father would do with his children. However, I personally believe that if a believer shows true remorse and turns away from their sin, God can lighten those consequences to make them more bearable. In a way, that is partially what a believer is doing when they repent. They are not pleading with God for their salvation. They are pleading with God for mercy in His chastisement.
What are some other harmful consequences of not repenting? We live in a world where sin is considered normal. We may feel it’s unfair when we’re sinned against. But when we sin against God, we may carry some of that spite that we have to give in when others do not. We may surround ourselves with others who agree with our sin. Eventually sin becomes an habitual and dangerous social bond. We may place ourselves in situations where we feel we’re not accountable for our wrongdoing. Or we begin to think that nothing bad has happened to us yet, so there’s no need to confess and repent. Worse yet, we may think that God doesn’t know or care or is going to do anything about our sinning. We may force others to accept our sinning as being o.k., putting them in the regretful and delicate position of how to deal with us. Or worse, we could simply alienate them. We can blame others for our sin. Outside of the element of denial, the emotion of anger that enters into the picture can be a sin unto itself. Or we may think we just do not need to repent. After all, Christ has already forgiven our sin. We can get along on our spiritual journey just fine on our own. However, if we adopt that attitude, we are dangerously close to shunning God’s provision and protection for us.
Finally, let’s go back to Romans 8:1,2, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” The word “walk” here means to live; to be utterly absorbed in”, for such a one, according to 1st John 3:9, cannot be born of God’s Spirit. A person who lives for the flesh cannot be a true believer, and must recognize what sin is, confess their sins, repent of them and fully trust that Christ has forgiven them of their sins and forgotten them, covering them with His righteousness
God bless your life, and love others as Christ loves us.