Several years ago, a pastor who was inviting a man to visit his church was told, “I don’t go to church. Everyone in church is a hypocrite.” The pastor’s response? “You’re right. We’re all hypocrites…and I’m one too.” He went on to explain: “My life is such a contradiction sometimes. My behavior often contradicts my values, occasionally my actions contradict my beliefs, and sometimes my life contradicts my ‘position’ in the church.” His conclusion? “Hi! I’m Bill, and I’m a hypocrite. See you at church this Sunday!” This pastor has apparently resigned himself to a life of spiritual defeat.
A prevailing Evangelical view of sin suggests that in order to be truly humble and authentic with others, believers must admit to perpetual sinful brokenness. In such an atmosphere, a testimony of clear and present victory over sin is viewed with skepticism and may be met with accusations of spiritual pride. To the argument that a continual struggle with sin contributes to humility in the life of a believer, the esteemed Methodist theologian John Fletcher aptly stated, “We answer, sin never humbled any soul. Who has more sin than Satan? And who is prouder?…If sin be necessary to make us humble, and to keep us near Christ; does it not follow that glorified saints, whom all acknowledge to be sinless, are all proud despisers of Christ?” 1
To be sure, absolute honesty before God and man as to our true spiritual condition is essential. We must not use our doctrine as a cloak to hide or excuse disobedience that should be confessed and forsaken. However, we must guard against statements that condone any condition of sinfulness as acceptable or unavoidable. Such an approach minimizes the seriousness of sin and belittles the wonders of our great salvation.
Thoroughly convinced of the Scriptural promises of full salvation, Wesleyan holiness people have declared to the world through pen, pulpit, and personal witness that Jesus Christ offers victory over sin and self—NOW—even on this side of eternity. The power of sin can be broken and the nature of sin can be cleansed by grace through faith in Christ’s victory over death, hell, and the grave!
Our public worship has reflected this theme of victory. Wesleyan hymnals brim with songs that testify to freedom from sin, present victory, and full cleansing!
Our churches have been blessed with saints who have not only believed that present victory over sin is possible, but they have lived it out before a watching world!
We believe that God has offered a complete remedy for our greatest problem! While others preach a Christ Who helps manage the sin problem, we preach a Christ Who “was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin.(I John 3:5)” In commenting on these words Adam Clarke stated, “He came into the world to destroy the power, pardon the guilt, and cleanse from the pollution of sin.” And if this is the very reason Jesus came then “can it be supposed that He either cannot or will not accomplish the object of His own coming?”2 Did Jesus die so that His followers could live a life of hypocrisy, safe in the knowledge that their hypocrisy is covered by the blood of Jesus? The Apostle Paul answers “God forbid!” (Romans 6:2)
There is nothing compelling about a Gospel that covers my sin but does not transform my life.
In his autobiography, Mahatma Ghandi, a Hindu lawyer and political leader in India, recounted a conversation he had with some Christian friends whose explanation of the Gospel surprised him. Read carefully to see the error of his friend’s theology. His friend said, “How can we bear the burden of sin? We can throw it on Jesus…Therein lies God’s infinite mercy. And as we believe in the atonement of Jesus, our own sins do not bind us. Sin we must. It is impossible to live in this world sinless. And therefore, Jesus suffered and atoned for all the sins of mankind. Only he who accepts His great redemption can have eternal peace…” 3
Gandhi wrote: “The argument utterly failed to convince me. I humbly replied: ‘If this be the Christianity acknowledged by all Christians, I cannot accept it. I do not seek redemption from the consequences of my sin. I seek to be redeemed from sin itself…’” Gandhi went on to say, “And the brother proved as good as his word. He knowingly committed transgressions, and showed me that he was undisturbed by the thought of them.” Therefore, he concluded that until he found a way to be truly free from sin, he would be content to remain a Hindu. 4
What if Mahatma Gandhi had been told of a Christ Who could do more than cover his sin? What if he had been offered a Christ Who could transform him? How might his life have been radically altered by the influence of a Christian who lived a truly victorious and Spirit-filled life?
While we must be clear and precise in our thinking and teaching, we must not be afraid to stand out from our Evangelical brothers and proclaim a Biblical message of present and continued victory over sin. Our message will contradict what much of the Evangelical church teaches, but it will not contradict what Jesus and the apostles preached!
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)
1. Fletcher, John. The Works of the Rev. John Fletcher, (United Kingdom: John Mason, 1859), 5:431.
2. Clarke, Adam. Clarke’s Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, ca. 1960), 5:914.
3. Johnson, Oyvind. “Mahatma Gandhi’s Brush with Christianity.” http://activechristianity.org/mahatma-gandhis-brush-with-christianity (Accessed February 10, 2022)