He breaks the power of canceled sin

Kevin Watson has an interesting post responding to Rachel Held Evans’ argument that we cannot overcome sin.

Watson argues that the Wesleyan teaching of holiness is often rejected precisely because people are persuaded by arguments such as Evans’. The point Wesleyan Christians have made consistently is that we cannot overcome sin, but that Christ can. If we are growing in holiness by working out our salvation, the Holy Spirit does, in fact, have the power to overcome sin. It is along journey for many, but it is not impossible for God.

In response to Evans’ claim that sin is inevitable, Watson writes:

This is not the fullness of the gospel. The gospel proclaims that Jesus was the Son of God, he was crucified, died, and raised again on the third day. Jesus faced the very worse that sin and death could do. He entered fully into the reality of death. And he conquered sin, even the grave!

Which leads to his strong statement about God’s grace:

Here is what it comes down to: Which do you believe is more powerful: sin or God? If you believe that people are not able to “go and sin no more,” then you believe that sin is more powerful than God. If you believe that God is more powerful than sin, which I think is the conclusion Christians must come to, then you may need to take a closer look at the reflexive excusing of the reality of sin in the lives of those who have taken on the name of Christ that is prevalent in contemporary American Christianity.

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15 thoughts on “He breaks the power of canceled sin

  1. What I commented on Kevin’s piece was that the way this story is most often used in evangelical circles is to justify confronting *other sinners* about their sin since Jesus said to “go and sin no more.” Usually it comes up in the endless obsession over gayness. Should we “just love them” when they come to our church or are we obligated to say, “You’re welcome here but you need to know that I disapprove of you.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the “Go and sin no more” card played to justify the latter.

    What’s perverse about this is that it’s part of the deeply sinful way that we measure holiness according to the way we stand our ground in our opinions about other peoples’ behavior which we often do as part of our means of obfuscating when God is confronting us about our own sin. As long as we are thinking of ourselves as THE WOMAN in the story who are exhorted to go and sin no more, that’s great, but if we’re the Pharisees who just put our rocks down and we use Jesus’ “Go and sin no more” to justify picking them back up, that’s just perverse.

    1. Morgan, correct me if I’m wrong, but it would seem that you find certain Christians acting in “perverse” and “deeply sinful” ways and would like it very much if they would “go and sin no more.”

      1. Sure. What I try to do is to emulate how Jesus dealt with people prophetically. He didn’t picket Zacchaeus’ house until Zacchaeus gave back the money he stole from the people. He went and ate lunch with him. He didn’t say, “You slut!” to the woman washing his feet; instead he publicly embarrassed his dinner host Simon for flashing a disapproving look. It was the really pious, righteous people whom Jesus goaded for their hypocrisy in Matthew 23. We cannot live as Christians as though the Pharisees did not exist. They are a very loud counter-example to Christ and important foil for us to examine, and a type of person whom we are constantly in danger of becoming.

        1. It’s also worth pointing out that Jesus says that “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20). The Pharisees were not portrayed in the Gospels as “really pious, righteous people,” but instead were often held up as an example of external righteousness and inward sin by Our Lord. But the proper response to that should not be inward righteousness by faith which does not show in external changes. Instead, we are told “faith without works is dead.”

          Perhaps the real challenge is in actually saying Yes to the sinner without saying Yes to the sin (to paraphrase Bonhoeffer). But in my own experience, the Christians I know are not so much in danger of using “Go and sin no more” as a stone. Instead, the danger is in a “thieves’ agreement,” a latitudinarianism that glosses over the other guy’s sin because we sin too–“I won’t say anything if you don’t.”

        2. I guess what rubs me the wrong way about a lot of these conversations is they’re completely in the abstract. The only thing I’m opposed to is all the barrel-chested posturing in facebook statuses and so forth. I absolutely think that we need to have spaces within our churches where people can go deep with each other regarding their spiritual accountability and gaining freedom from sin. It’s very hard in the suburban church where I serve to create any kind of space like that. I hate it. I can’t even get people to commit to coming every week to a small group at my house much less get a group of people to really open up about their sin.

      1. I am an evangelical. I’m sorry that you’re so dismissive of me that you presumed me to be dealing only with straw men. Ask a question that you genuinely want an answer to next time.

  2. What is difference if the phrase “do not sin” found in the OT is used or “sin no more” is used in the N.T?
    Maybe why the phrase “sin no more” is repeatedly used on a particular topic is because that particular subject keeps coming up for discussion. More than any other.

  3. Morgan, we are largely in agreement then. Speaking of sin, and the divine command to sin no more, should be part of what Christians do–among themselves. But perhaps where non-Christian moderns responded to notions of sin and judgment, non-Christian postmoderns respond best to fellowship and divine love.

    1. What method did Christ use?
      What method did the apostles use to preach the gospel and make disciples of Christ in a hostile environment?
      What part does the Holy spirit of God have in the process?
      By my count the the word “sin” is found 128 times in the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. and over 400 times in the New Testament.
      How will one know what pleases and displeases God if they are not told?
      Why does everyone think they are saved today and everybody get’s to go to heaven?
      Is that what Christ said?
      Is that what the apostles predicted?
      Is the CC guilty of preaching 1/2 the message?

  4. The 1957 E. U. B. Hymnal has “He breaks the power of reigning sin,” which seems much more pessimistic. Does that change reflect a difference in E. U. B. and Methodist doctrine?

    1. I must confess I do not know the origin of the wording in that hymnal. Great question, though.

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