Does Sin Discredit the Gospel?

“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” (1 John 1:8-9).

Does sin threaten the Gospel?

It seems non-Christians and Christians alike believe a sinful act discredits the message of the Christian who sinned. They usually follow this indictment with Matthew 7:1 (for a good explanation of this, check out my friend Chad’s article).  Many (including many in the Church) are waiting to point a finger at the Christian who sins. Christian scandals in the media make this clear. In fact, I’m going to agree with them, because those who point a finger rightly see the evil in Christians who sin.

So what should we do with this? It makes me want to hide everything so they stop pointing the finger. Maybe then they’ll accept the Gospel and see that Jesus really does change people. This is a bit problematic. Hidden things often become visible. Private mistakes become public executions. In the end, this approach wouldn’t change much. Actually, it hasn’t changed much because Christians are using this approach already. Maybe we should start using a different approach, because, in reality, we sin.

This isn’t bad news. In fact our sin makes the good news of the Gospel taste good to us. Granted, we shouldn’t sin so that God’s grace taste even better (Romans 6:1-2). The answer lies in 1 John 1:9: Confess it.

How Should Christians Respond to Sin?

Sadly, I clearly remember the first time I was exposed to pornography. Has it caused problems for me to this day? Absolutely! Have I sinned with my mind? Yep! Am I deserving of God’s eternal punishment? Yes. Am I forgiven? Thank God I am! Now my message is forgiveness and grace for the sinner, just as God forgave and continues to forgive me.

God forgives my sin because he took the punishment I deserved. Those who cannot accept this still want justice to be done when they see sin; but a rejection of God’s forgiveness and an unwillingness to forgive the sin of those around them requires the same justice for their own sin. When Christians point this out, they see it as unfair (they’re actually right). Because it isn’t fair, they reject the good news along with the bad.

As I said before, it seems Christians respond to this by covering their own sin to make their message more appealing. This is actually self-defeating. According to 1 John 1:9, confessing sin–I’ll leave the public or private confession discussion for another post–leads to forgiveness. Admitting the reality of sin and evil in myself brings God’s grace. This is the good news: The sinner has hope. I must admit the reality of sin and evil in myself and allow God to forgive me, and, in turn, forgive others. This makes my message different from the Christians who point a finger at sin while they cover their own.

Should Christians sin less than others?

Yes, but don’t expect a sinless life immediately. The Christian life is a constant struggle to kill the remaining sin in our lives. During this fight, God forgives us when we confess.

Here’s the bottom line: Though every Christian on earth (God forbid) should sin in the most vile way imaginable, it would not change the truth of our message. God’s holiness requires the destruction of evil (by him), whether Christian or not. Neither does sin invalidate the good news of our message. God loves sinners so much he destroyed himself in our place. The Christian message should admit the reality of sin and proclaim forgiveness, not cover evil in shadow to deceive those around us. When we do so, we actually deceive ourselves.


Josh Havens is a founding member of Theology in Progress. He and his wife and son live in Springfield, MO, and love to walk with people as they become fully devoted followers of Jesus. He's also addicted to Rubik's cubes and enjoys trying to figure out any puzzle or problem put in front of him. Josh has an M.Div. with a concentration in Expository Preaching from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

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