What is the position of the Christian denominations about whether a person who commits sins and lives un-Christian lifestyle, yet believes he is Christian, still remains Christian?

This question is motivated by the claim by user H3br3wHamm3r81 that a Christian who killed 10 people is not a Christian any more.

Per his request, this is a transcript of the relevant dialogue that occurred between us in another thread:

H3br3wHamm3r81's post:

History has shown that many Jews, despite knowing that so-called "Christians" killed Jews in the name of Christ, realized that such individuals were not Christians at all and did not represent the teachings of Christ. These Jews then later became Christians, most willingly.

My comment in response to H3br3wHamm3r81's post:

"reaized that such individuals were not Christians at all" I think a question already appeared here whether people who claim to be Christians and commit sins remain Christians. I think the answer was positive. –Alixx

H3br3wHamm3r81's comment in response to my comment:

So, X says, "I'm a Christian," and then he goes out and murders ten people." He's a Christian because he said so? I can hardly accept that. But, Anixx, I have answered and will let it rest. You're more than welcome to change your vote if a better answer comes along. God bless. – H3br3wHamm3r81

I personally thought that to be a Christian one only has to believe in Christ and that there are no sinless Christians, and that to achieve salvation of the soul one has to sincerely repent.

So who is more correct? Do Christians who sin remain Christians?

  • 3
    H3br3wHamm3r81 is very correct, but you might want to restrict the answer to a praticular denomnation. Protestants from a Calvinist background think that anyone who 'regularly practices' any sin so that their life is properly 'charcterized by it', - like 'a murderer' or 'a thief' or 'a drunkard' never was a Christian. Other Christians think they were a Christian but now are not. Catholics have their own confusing sets of rules where water baptism makes a person Christian and then in practice complicated relationships to their church define their actual status.
    – Mike
    Feb 16, 2013 at 2:48
  • 1
    I'm sorry Anixx, but "who is more correct" is not a question that can be answered in the SE format here. We aren't the place where you are going to find the truth of a matter, only what various Christian traditions position on the matter is. As such, the duplicate we've pointed you to covers what he major views on this are. Feel free to ask for specific questions addressed at those theological traditions in specific if you have unresolved points on further study.
    – Caleb
    Feb 16, 2013 at 15:23
  • It surprises me that even Christians are so often confused about the critically important difference between sin and evil. Both terms are used in the scriptures, because they have different meanings. Murderers are evil, and evil people are not Christians. Evil people would however lie to others or delude themselves about being Christians.
    – Bread
    Oct 21, 2018 at 0:35

2 Answers 2


My Background: predominantly Southern Baptist.

Summary: you can have works without faith but not faith without works. Your faith saves you but your works are evidence of your faith. It isn't that your bad works take away your salvation, they just show that it was never there.

Ephesians 2:8-9, along with a number of other verses, clearly state that our faith saves us apart from our works.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast"

James 2:14-26 explains that our works demonstrate the existence of our faith. Just as Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit. James also explains that faith isn't just an intellectual assent to facts but it is rather a decision to trust in those facts. He says in verse 19, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder". Satan believes in God, but he decided not to follow him. A human can believe that God exists but choose not to place his trust in Him.

Christians do sin, but it should be a struggle. Paul depicts this struggle in Romans 7:14:25 where he says, "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate"(v15). We sin, but we hate it.

1 John 3 talks about this and can initially be confusing. Is says in verse 6, "No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him". After reading that chapter one could be left wondering who could ever be a christian. I think the key is verse 9 where it says, "No one who is born of God practices sin", with an emphasis on "practices". This chapter is talking about habitual sin. You will find this explanation in most commentaries that bring up the Greek verb tense means, "does not live a life style of habitual sin".

If you are looking to draw a line with which you can measure if someone is saved or not based on the quantity of sin in their life, then you will probably not find an answer. I used to struggle a lot with that. In the end I realized that I was asking the wrong question. How would an answer help me? Rather than asking, "how close can I get to the line", I realized that I should ask, "how close can I get to God". Then I started living for Him and forgot about the question.

So when you look at a life and you see habitual sin, it should reasonably make you doubt that person's faith and subsequent salvation. There could be people who have good works who don't have faith though. Since I am not God, and therefore do not know the hearts of men, I try not to judge that status of their eternal salvation. However, if their conduct makes me doubt, then I let that drive in me an urgency to make more sure of their salvation.

In conclusion, 2 Peter 1:5-11:

"5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you"

  • It seems you cut off your answer. I'm interested to see the rest.
    – user900
    Feb 16, 2013 at 3:23
  • yeah, I noticed that too ... luckily I had it all in my clipboard :)
    – bygrace
    Feb 16, 2013 at 3:24
  • I am not asking about whether somebody is saved, I am asking about whether such person can be considered a Christian (I suppose that not all Christians are saved).
    – Anixx
    Feb 16, 2013 at 3:45
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    "I suppose that not all Christians are saved." oy...sounds like another question. :)
    – user900
    Feb 16, 2013 at 3:55
  • I think this is the most widely held view by most bible commentators. Excellent summary and trace through the relevant questions and issues.
    – Mike
    Feb 16, 2013 at 8:55

Since you did not specify a denomination that you preferred an answer from I will simply point to a part in the Bible that I think is self explanatory. Whether a certain Christian group will follow it or not is a different story entirely.

This is best answered by Matthew 18 starting vs. 15. I is often simply called the Matthew 18 principle. As a christian your desire should be to not sin, however, being in a sinful world, it is entirely possible to sin and not know it (which opens more questions, but never mind that for now). Therefore, the Church (body of believers you worship with) may notice your sin and you not. Or because of pride you refuse to admit it.

Matthew 18 says to forgive, however, is quite clear that you give a christian 'sinner' a few chances to repent and if he does not then separate him from the body and call him a fellow believer no more.

So the answer is this: A sinner who claims Christianity and repents is still a Christian. A sinner who claims Christianity and does not repent at the pleadings of the Church is not a Christian in the eyes of the Church and according to the doctrine of Matthew 18.

Now we must note that the parable of the unmerciful servant immediately follows the principle described above, therefore, I think we can assume that once repentant all are accepted into the fold of Christendom.

Whether saying the unrepentant 'Christian' is no longer Christian or never was Christian is really semantic.

  • My question was about repentant Christian. Thank you, this answer confirms my view.
    – Anixx
    Feb 16, 2013 at 11:19
  • This same idea can also be summed up in "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). Jul 2, 2015 at 4:37

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