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It's a familiar tale.

The Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. They asked if she should be stoned. Jesus (after a bit) said "Let him that is without sin among you first cast the stone at her." After they left, Jesus said this:

John 8:11b (Darby)
And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

This command to sin no more can also be seen in John 5:14. Also we see do not sin in Ephesians 4:26.

Final verse for my question:

1 John 3:9 (Darby)
Whoever has been begotten of God does not practise sin, because his seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten of God.

My question:
Is it possible to live a sinless life? Is it possible that any person can come to God, be forgiven of their past sins and actually sin no more?

The implied question: Is it possible that some person X may actually be free from sin and, therefore, no longer a sinner? (Examples: the pope, politicians, random guy on the street, the Virgin Mary when she was alive, the prostituted in Jesus' days, etc.)

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+1: I assumed that the answer was no, but I wasn't aware of these verses. –  Andrew Grimm Sep 12 '11 at 23:20
Per the new rules this question is Not Constructive as it is open to all different manners of opinions rather than facts and doctrines. As such, I'm closing this as Not Constructive and leaving this here as a signpost of what is not allowed. –  Richard Oct 18 '11 at 13:26
@Richard What if there are actual doctrinal and biblical facts that can argumentate a positive or negative answer to this question? You made the question and then forbade the possibility to provide a good biblical answer for it! –  clami219 Apr 13 at 13:06
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closed as not constructive by Richard Oct 18 '11 at 13:26

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4 Answers


Paul makes it clear that we cannot avoid sinning:

Romans 7:21-25 (ESV)
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Apostle John confirms that no one is without sin:

1 John 1:8 (ESV)
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

It looks the same in Proverbs -- even a righteous man falls:

Proverbs 24:16 (ESV)
16 for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
   but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

No, we cannot completely stop sinning. Surely God can and does change us in our lives, and we might start carrying fruit of the Spirit. We might overcome some of our habitual sins, and we might even become better persons. But no, we can't stop sinning -- that is just unbiblical.

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@Richard: yes -- Jesus was the only sinless human being. No one even claims the Pope sinless AFAIK. As for Mary, I personally believe she was just another person, but I do know some have differing views. –  dancek Sep 12 '11 at 13:43
@Richard While this can start a completely new topic, I'd just like to point out that the Roman Catholic Church holds that Mary was sinless. It is held that she was born without original sin, and thus without the inclination towards sin. Comments are not the place to debate this belief, but for the curious there are write ups on the matter here, here, and here. –  karategeek6 Sep 13 '11 at 14:40
@Richard Except for the Mary was sinless part, dancek's answer is pretty much exactly what I would post. The Catholic Church makes it pretty clear that Mary is the only person besides Jesus who remained sinless. –  karategeek6 Sep 13 '11 at 16:52
@Karategeek6 There actually has been some speculation that Joseph was sinless as well, and there are legends that he was assumed. These are not discussed terribly much these days, but it is my understanding that at one time Joseph may have been up for the title "conceived without sin" even if it was only a very minor point. –  cwallenpoole Sep 13 '11 at 17:12
@karategeek6 The dogma is that Christ and his mother were both preserved from original sin. The rest is speculation. –  cwallenpoole Sep 14 '11 at 4:08
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(in theory)

This is what Jesus calls us to do:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. —Matthew 5:48

He wouldn't set a standard that was impossible for a human being to reach. That would be setting us up to fail. And, of course, Jesus himself was sinless, and fully human.

God has also promised to "sanctify [us] entirely":

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. —1 Thessaonians 5:23-24

Again, in theory, this would enable a person to live a life of sinless perfection.

However, in practice, I'm not aware of anyone other than Jesus who has achieved this on a permanent basis in this life.

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Excellent. Glad to see some more verses support this idea. –  Richard Sep 13 '11 at 14:10
"He wouldn't set a standard that was impossible for a human being to reach." Can you back this assumption with scripture? The way I see the Sermon of the Mount, it's exactly about setting a standard that's impossible for a human being to reach. –  dancek Sep 13 '11 at 15:29
@dancek: With God's help, nothing is impossible. (Philippians 4:13, Luke 18:27). And we have the example of Jesus himself, who was human in every way that we are, and did not sin. –  Bruce Alderman Sep 13 '11 at 18:16
He wouldn't set a standard that was impossible for a human being to reach. Your statement seems to assume that one must reach this standard before death. Perhaps it was never intended that we reach perfection before death. Perhaps dying is a necessary step towards perfection. –  karategeek6 Sep 14 '11 at 3:32
@karategeek6: I'm not saying we must reach perfection before death. In fact, I explicitly said that I know of no one other than Jesus who has. But if it were impossible to be perfect, then Jesus himself couldn't have done it. –  Bruce Alderman Sep 14 '11 at 4:03
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Catholics make a distinction between types of sin. There are venial sins and mortal sins (one unconfessed mortal sin will prevent a person from getting to Heaven). Its possible to avoid mortal sins. To completely avoid all venial sins is very difficult, but perhaps St. Francis of Assisi or St. Benedict achieved this, I don't believe that this is knowable. +

Edit: Catholics believe that neither Jesus nor the Virgin Mary ever sinned. So my original answer is correct because they never stopped sinning, because they never started sinning in the first place.

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Are you quizzing me? Being conceived without sin is not an option for the OP, so I didn't include it. Why don't you add it as an answer. –  apocalypse_info_click_here Sep 13 '11 at 16:35
+1 Thank you! That is an interesting view. –  Richard Sep 13 '11 at 17:04
one unconfessed mortal sin will prevent a person from getting to Heaven This is inaccurate. One unrepentant mortal sin will prevent heaven. It is possible to make a spiritual confession, however, and make it into purgatory. –  cwallenpoole Sep 13 '11 at 17:13
@cwallenpoole Do you mean perfect contrition? –  apocalypse_info_click_here Sep 13 '11 at 18:03
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We are all sinners by our very nature. No longer can a man escape his nature than the sun keep itself from shining. It is what makes us human.

If there was one Christian doctrine beyond suspicion, the fallen nature of man would be it.

If there is a person without sin I'm yet to meet them.

Luckily Jesus become God incarnate so that we are not dammed for our sinful nature, but can attain everlasting life through a relationship with God.

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