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Based on the biblical doctrines, is it possible to achieve a completely holy life without any sin during our lifetime after salvation?

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I really don't want this to sound inappropriate, but a very early death would presumably accomplish this. You may want to restrict it to normal length life, etc. –  Marc Gravell Aug 21 '12 at 10:39
Absolutely not! The vast majority of Christianity will emphatically deny this, but you'll find a few pseudo-Christian traditions that claim otherwise. You'll also find some variation in doctrines on the depth of sanctification in this life. I suggested this as a topic for our community blog, but I don't think it makes a very good question here. You might want to check out our guidelines for what makes a good question and edit this with some background on who you want to hear from. –  Caleb Aug 21 '12 at 10:40
@MarcGravell: A) Many Christian doctrines would disagree with you based on the nature of human beings and B) even if you didn't agree on that issue, what you describe would be a untimely but holy death not an acheived completely holy life. –  Caleb Aug 21 '12 at 10:42
Me and Martin Luther believe we sin every second because we have never loved God with our whole heart. This is why the daily prayer includes 'forgive us our sins'. We are supposed to believe it anew each day. –  Mike Aug 22 '12 at 5:36
@BijoyThangaraj, you should then edit your question and make it clear you are not talking about never sinning in your entire life. As written, it can be taken that way. –  thursdaysgeek Aug 22 '12 at 18:54
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9 Answers

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Absolutely not. The notion that was has become sinless can only be thought from a heart blinded by wicked pride.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (NIV Jeremiah 17:9)

The bible makes the model prayer to be a daily confession of our daily sins. The moment any man thinks they have gone a day without sinning is the moment this prayer becomes insincere hypocrisy of the self-righteous.

Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’ (NIV Matthew 6:11-13)

Even the most holy men that have ever lived never thought for a moment were were free from sin but bitterly complained about the sinfulness.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (NIV Romans 7:21-23)

Of course John Calvin, Luther and all the reformers understood these verses by Paul was a description of his 'Christian' experience.

Sufficient to say there is no biblical warrant to suppose we can for a moment be without sin. If I ever met a person who loved God with all their heart, which is the greatest command, I would ask them to sign my bible and I would sell everything I have and follow that person.

Of course we know that would not happen as only Jesus was perfect.

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The Catholic might say, "yes" and point to the doctrines surrounding the Virgin Mary. But, this does not really answer the question as you asked, whether it is possible to achieve this life (Mary was exempt from original sin).

While the testimony of the Saints is unanimous in the fact that you can live in near-sinlessness state (where you are free from mortal sin) (Fire Within by Dubay goes into some detail about John of the Cross's and Teresa of Avila's thoughts on this), the fact that there is a requirement that the faithful go to confession during Lent suggests that the Church does not believe that it is possible to go a year without sin.

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I do not agree: Mary was not exempt from the ancestral sin. Why would she be? She did have a little extra help though, because God surrounded her by angels and kept her from having all the forces of Satan come down on her. If the devil knew that she was going to be the mother of God, he would have attacked her mercilessly. –  Byzantine Aug 23 '12 at 15:25
That would be a marked difference in our theologies. The RCC holds that Mary is free from original sin. –  Ignatius Theophorus Aug 23 '12 at 15:42
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There is disagreement on this. Many denominations believe that we always sin, some going so far as to say that even our best is still sin to God, even after salvation. Others, such as the Nazarenes, teach a doctrine called Entire Santification, which claims that by wholly submitting to the Holy Spirit, it is possible to reach a point at which we no longer sin. In spite of that teaching, I've never met someone who claims that they are no longer sinning.

Even Paul wrote of doing what he knew he shouldn't do, and not doing what he should. None of the Biblical characters are ever depicted as reaching a point of no longer sinning.

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The Bible states that human are born sinful.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51.5)

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3.10-12)

But John Wesley wrote a book named A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (short explanation of the book). The book is still debated to this day. I do not know any other christian or evangelical demonination that would argue in favor of perfection this side of heaven.

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I agree that we are all born with sin in us. But, after we have received salvation by claiming the precious sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, at any point later, can we achieve a sinless life till death? Thanks for the reply @DavidLaberge. I would like to wait and see other answers to this question. –  Bijoy Thangaraj Aug 21 '12 at 10:35
@BijoyThangaraj - once you start out guilty, while God does absolve us of guilt via faith in Jesus Christ, it does not mean the guilt was never there: it means it has been paid for, and "forgotten" by God (or, more accurately, will not be remembered against us in judgement) –  warren Aug 21 '12 at 14:39
@BijoyThangaraj Some sects of Wesleyanism (amongst others) say that after receiving Christ, one can and should live perfectly. They are known as the "Holiness" bodies en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holiness_movement. –  San Jacinto Aug 21 '12 at 22:51
@SanJacinto - I thought those people only thought you could be free from conscious sins, but as most of the sins we commit worthy of death are subconscious in some ways it is a meaningless belief because some suppress their sins into the subconscious just fine. Or do you know something about these sects that make them more extreme then I thought? –  Mike Aug 22 '12 at 5:34
@Mike I'm a little bit new to it myself, so I'm not the best one to ask beyond a conversational level. However, many believe in what they term "entire sanctification," which you'll see under "What does the Church of the Nazarene believe about living a holy life?" at nazarene.org/ministries/administration/visitorcenter/questions/… –  San Jacinto Aug 22 '12 at 9:29
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No, and here's why.

When I was young, I went to a Catholic grammar school. The teachers made it perfectly clear: Follow the Ten Commandments if you want to go to Heaven.

Now you may have noticed - The Decalogue, for the most part, is a list of things that you must not do if you want to go to Heaven. So as a child I wondered: If that's the case, and Heaven is what all Catholics strive for, why don't parents prevent their children from participating in society in order to absolutely ensure that they will honor this list of "don'ts" and virtually guarantee their passage to Heaven?

Of course, as I got older, I realized how absolutely absurd this idea was, but I actually think that my childhood "literalist" interpretation of the Ten Commandments might help to illustrate my point.

To live the life of a Christian is to live the life of Jesus. If you "Love thy neighbor as thyself", to your fullest capacity, every day of your life, then you've done just that. At the risk of sounding irreverent, you may think of the Ten Commandments as guidelines to help you decide how you can "Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself."

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting that you ignore the Sabbath, and disrespect your parents. I'm just acknowledging that living life at any time in any society will present problems and conflicts. Our imperfect human vessels may "sin" and violate the Ten Commandments from time to time. But at the end of the day, if you endeavor to "Love thy neighbor as thyself", you really can't go wrong.

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Some say that we can not live a life without sin, as this is unattainable! Why not? "...:go and sin no more" John 8:11, This is what Jesus told a woman caught in sin. I think those that don't believe we can live without sin in our lives are getting sin and temptation mixed up! Temptation is like the birds flying around your head, sin is like allowing them to build a nest in your hair! How long did it take this woman to learn? Repent means to turn from sin. This is what she did!"... now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2. Salvation came to her that day. She was not about to go back into what she just got forgiven for. And Jesus would not have told her to do something that's imposable. She will be tempted, but Jesus did not tell her not to be tempted, He told her not to sin! James 1:14,15 "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." There is a progression. We are to "nip it in the bud". Thats what Jesus was saying and thats what we must and can do with the spirits help."But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Romans 8:9. Paul said in Galatians 5:16, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." Are you any of his or none of his? Thats the only thing you need concern yourself with!

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That is exactly what Jesus Christ did.

But I take your question to mean, can one of God’s created beings (humans) possibly live without sin on earth. The answer to that is no and the justification is really very simple.

A created being does not understand the mind of the Creator. The clay does not declare to the potter, it is not right for you to make such and such of me. The pile of clay can only allow the potter to make something of it. It cannot fashion itself into a plate or a pot.

Like the clay, we need to go to our Creator to learn, first, just what sin is(!), then to learn how God would like us to deal with it. And if we are still learning, then we cannot live a life without sin because we do not yet properly act or react with the appropriate love or other quality that is needed. Presently, God alone knows perfectly how to properly act and react with the appropriate love or other quality and so lives without sin.

Someday, we will have learned fully and live without sin, but not today.


I apologize, I was not very careful. I answered only the title of this question. I have not fully answered the body.

The biblical doctrine you are asking about can be termed “total sanctification”.

Now the water is muddied a little by equating a “completely holy” life as that which is one without any acts of sin in it. I submit that a “completely holy” life must be much broader than simply not sinning. Where is worship? Where is praise? Where is a willingness to serve as our Lord would like?

As I write this, I am asking myself the question, is a sin free life my only goal? My answer is, I don’t think so because there is no fruit bearing in simply living a life free of sin. In John 10:10 Jesus says “I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” Life with God is meant to be so much more than simply not sinning. But I digress.

There are two seemingly valid but opposite views for total sanctification.

Matt 5:48 where Jesus tells his hearers, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”

Paul says saints will be equipped for building the body “until we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13).

Paul prays “May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:23)

And in Hebrews “the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ” (Heb 13:20-21)

The above view seems to indicate it is very possible to achieve total sanctification. But the opposite view seems to also be clearly endorsed.

1 John 1:8-10: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

Then what about Paul in Romans: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing (Rom 7:18-19).

So how is one to deal with a doctrine that seems to have two valid and totally opposite views? I think we should turn to the book of Job. God himself declared Job blameless and upright. I submit he must be an example of total sanctification. Job feared God and turned away from all evil. Clearly total sanctification - a life without sin.

But as we read the rest of the book, we find things broke down and Job sinned. In the end Job confessed and repented and God accepted and restored him. If he was restored, didn’t he return to when he feared God and turned away from all evil? Wasn’t he back to a life without sin?

So let me explain what I believe is a doctrinal position for total sanctification. To your question I say, yes, it is possible to live a life without sin in it. However, if this goes on for an extended period of time, you are stagnate and not growing in the grace of Jesus Christ.

If I choose not to be stagnate, then I will be asking the Holy Spirit to make known any inner sin I am hiding or sin I am somehow blinded to or to put me in some sort of situation where I will, like Job, be tested and fail so I might gain a more complete level of purity like Jesus Christ.

For: “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continue to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:3-6)

I want to be found living a life where the Almighty God of Creation is active in cleansing me of all sin. I think if I am living a life without sin, either I have achieve this perfect cleansing (ha!) or I am not seeking all that God can make of me. I guess I am not really eager for my “total sanctification.”

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To achieve a holy life in this life? David said "Thy word have I hide in my heart that I might not sin against thee". Today we have that word , the very word that is God (Jesus)John 1:1, in our hearts!

Paul said in Romans chapter 7 that he was in a wretched war with the flesh, but chapter 8 tells us his great victory through faith in Jesus Christ in the spirit! Verse 9, "But you are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if indeed the spirit of God dwells in you." Thats a big if, but not impossible! Paul in Titus 2:11-13 gives us instructions. "...teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and Godly in this present world." Well how do we do that? Verse 13 By "Looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ."

If we are conscience of Him and in expectation of Him, we will live accordingly.There is great reward for those that keep oil in their lamps (the spirit and the word). These will go to the marriage supper of the lamb, Matthew 25:1-13, especially verse 13,"Watch therefore..."

Again, if holy living is impossible, then why did Peter say in 1 Peter 1:15,16 "But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy."

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Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Nov 8 '13 at 22:14
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I don't know exactly what you mean by salvation. Until we are restored to perfection after Armageddon there is no way to be free from sin. It is a condition we see we obtained at the inception of the human race back in the garden of Eden. Adam and eve disobeyed god by eating the forbidden fruit and that is when sin entered the world. After that account they started having children after they where no longer perfect through sin.

Romans 5:12 explains this "12 That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned. 13 For sin was in the world before the Law, but sin is not charged against anyone when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death ruled as king from Adam down to Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the same way that Adam transgressed, who bears a resemblance to the one who was to come.

Jesus provided us with a means for forgiveness and salvation with his ransom sacrifice. It allows god to forgive us because we are imperfect and sinful. We will remain Imperfect until we are made perfect again. As for the timing on when that happens, well that's up to god to decide when all people have had the chance of serving him.

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