Have to Sin

by Bryan Sharp

God Has Never Given Man a Law He Could Not Obey.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (I Corinthians 10:13).

We are able to live perfect lives. This is not true only under New Testament law. In Deuteronomy 30:11-14, when Moses delivered the Old Testament law to Israel, he said they had the ability to keep that law.

"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it."

Even before the Law of Moses, God implied man had the ability to live above sin by telling Cain he must rule over it, Genesis 4:4-7.

"And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.'"

Calvinism in the Church

While the idea that man must sin is a Calvinistic doctrine, this teaching is not limited to strictly Calvinistic denominations. The concept, if not the specific form of doctrine, has found its way even into the Church. For example, rather than citing inherited depravity, some reason that if it was possible to live without sin, someone would have done it. Restated, the fact that all men sin, proves we must sin. Others have stated that we must sin to fulfill prophecy. In Romans 3:23, God says all sin, so if we lived without sinning God would be lying. Consider the following quotations from sermons and bulletins:

If man has the ability to live a perfect life why hasn't someone give us a demonstration?...if man has the ability to live sinlessly then why did the Lord come to this low ground of sin and sorrow and die the ignominious death of the cross that we might be saved?

There are some who believe man can live without sinning. Yet in theory, when examine the facts the answer is NO! Man cannot live sinlessly perfect…All men will sin if the Scriptures are to be fulfilled…

We know that Christ lived without sin, but does that prove that we can? If so, we would not need his cleansing blood nor his work as 'the propitiation for our sins…

In what sense was the law weak and faulty? Primarily because of its demands and man's inability to live up to them…But the justification which the law sought was never realized due to man's inability to accomplish what it demanded of him…No man could do the 'all things' which the law demanded, therefore no flesh could be justified by the law…The fault was in man and his weakness and inability, not in the law per se."

Whatever the rationale, the common theme in all of these statements is that man must sin. Whatever the reasoning, teaching man must sin is a violation of our opening three passages and necessitates unacceptable implications.

Implications of Calvinism

If we conclude man has to sin, logic demands we also conclude:

  1. God is unjust: If God created a law which man could not keep, He would be unjust and cruel for punishing us when we do not keep it.
  2. God is a sinner: God created us and gave us whatever abilities we do or do not have. God created the law and made it as easy or difficult to keep as it is. If God created us without the ability to keep the law He also created, it is God's fault when we sin. If it is God's fault that we sin, then God is a sinner (Matthew 18:6-9).
  3. We are not responsible for our sins: Where there is no ability, there is no responsibility. For example, we do not condemn the sick when they do not assemble. We are only responsible for doing what we have the ability to do.
  4. Repentance is both unnecessary and impossible: If God is responsible for the condition we are in, God is responsible for getting us out of this condition. Besides, because repentance is turning away from sin, if we have to sin, we cannot repent. We cannot turn away from what we have to do.

Why is this so important? We all do sin, or we all have to sin, what's the difference?

First, claiming man has to sin is simply a contradiction of the gospel. God thought passages such as I Corinthians 10:13 were important enough to include in His plan for our salvation. We need to treat this truth as importantly as He does (Revelations 22:18-19; Galatians 1:6-9). Second, claiming man has to sin is the first step to accepting the doctrines of T.U.L.I.P. If we are willing to take the first step, where do we stop? Finally, claiming man has to sin logically necessitates a denial of Christ's humanity.

The point of this lesson is not to teach that we live without sin (I John 1:8), only that we are able to do so. The Bible not only says we are able to do so, but presents Christ's life as proof that we can. By living on earth and overcoming temptation as one of us, Jesus showed humanity is able to perfectly keep God's law.