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What is the difference between having sin and committing sin?

John writes that we all have sin, but that those who commit sin have neither seen God nor known Him. (1 John 1:8; 3:6). What is the difference?

The fall

Sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, who were disobedient to God. Through their act of disobedience (the fall), Adam and Eve were defiled and their flesh—their human nature—became sinful. (Genesis 3:1-6; Romans 5:12) Desires dwelt in that flesh that were awakened and began to oppose God’s will. These desires are called “sin in the flesh,” or our self-will.

Having sin—temptation

All human beings have inherited sin in the flesh, and that is why we can say that everyone has sin. (1 John 1:8) We experience this when we are tempted. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James 1:14-15. Being tempted is not the same thing as sinning, but if we consciously yield to our desires, sin is “conceived.” This happens when our mind is in agreement with the sin that dwells in our flesh.

Committing sin; falling in sin

There is a big difference between having sin and committing sin. Those who commit sin are those who want to sin—they do not want to give up sinning. “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” 1 John 3:8. “. . .and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James 1:15. This is referring to a spiritual death, a separation from God. God cannot have fellowship with a person who will not give up sin. That is a life without hope and without God.

When we have given our lives to Jesus, we walk on the way He walked. We have committed to doing God’s will and stopped living in sin. We have taken up a battle against sin and have started walking on the way of life. Even so, it can happen as we walk on the way that we fall in sin. However, this was not our mind – our mind was to serve God and follow Christ. We do not remain in the sin, but  grieve over it, repent and ask for forgiveness and get back up right away. Since we have the mind to do good, our fall wakes us up and helps us pay attention and be resolved so that it doesn’t happen again.

Do not sin!

“My little children, these things I write to you so that you may not sin.” 1 John 2:1. This must be possible since it is written so clearly in God’s Word! Jesus Himself lived life on earth as a human being, with the same nature we have, but He never sinned because He never lived according to the desires that dwelt in His flesh. Instead, God was able to condemn sin in the flesh! (Heb. 4:15; Rom. 8:3). Death could not hold Him, and as a result, Jesus opened up a way back to God—a way on which we who are His disciples can follow Him. What a powerful, hopeful gospel we have been given!

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