Holding to Truth

holding to truth in love for the building up of the Body of Christ

The Difference Between Sin and Sins—Two Problems with Two Solutions

Difference between sin and sins

Have you ever done something you knew was a sin, confessed it, and quickly found yourself doing it again? I know I have.

What’s the solution to this problem? It begins with seeing the difference between sin and sins and then applying the proper remedy to each.

“Sin” and “sins” in the Scriptures

Concerning sins, 1 Corinthians 15:3 says , “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”  Later, 1 John 1:7 says, “…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin.” These two verses speak of our sinful acts and their remedy.

In contrast, Romans 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be annulled, that we may no longer serve sin as slaves.” In this verse we see “sin” as a powerful master that enslaves us and makes our body, the “body of sin.”  But we can also see a wonderful remedy.

Sadly, a lack of understanding concerning the difference between these two—sin and sins—has been a source of real frustration to many seeking Christians.

So what are we missing?

The underlying problem involves a lack of spiritual sight. But there definitely is hope. The apostle Paul both diagnosed and treated the problem in Romans 1-8.

First, we need to see the fundamental difference between “sin” and “sins.”

“Sin” singular refers to the powerful nature of sin within us. It’s like a tree that produces its fruit—“sins.” It follows then that “sins” plural refer to countless acts of sinning as the fruits of this sinful nature within us (Rom.7:8-19).

We need to be clear on this distinction because the two refer to two strikingly different problems with two different solutions.

God’s remedy for our “sins” is forgiveness by the blood of Christ.

In the first two chapters of his classic book, The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee addresses these two problems—sin and sins with their two respective solutions.

We must be clear that no amount of tears, time, penance, or good deeds, can remove the record of our sins before God. Nor can it remove the stains of guilt from our conscience.

Only the blood of Jesus can deal with our sins. First John 1:7 says,

“…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin.” Then verse 9 continues, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

To apply God’s remedy to our “sins,” we simply need to believe God’s word and receive the effectiveness of Christ’s blood by confessing our sins to God.

God’s remedy for “sin” is deliverance by the cross of Christ.

After we’ve received the forgiveness of our “sins” by Christ’s blood, we may come to a further discovery, that is, that  “sin” dwells within us. Watchman Nee said, “The Blood deals with the sins, but the Cross must deal with the sinner…In [Romans 5] a sinner is said to be a sinner because he is born a sinner; not because he has committed sins.”

So it’s important for us to see that we’re sinners not because of our behavior, but because of our sinful heredity. In Romans 5:19, Paul said, “For just as through the disobedience of one man [Adam] the many were constituted sinners…” I can compare this heredity of sin to my allergies. My allergic reactions are due, not to something I’ve done, but to my birth, my heredity.

The only solution to our problem of sin  is to “change our parentage.” We got into Adam by birth. So the only way out of Adam is by death. Romans 6:3-4 show us how we died to Adam. We were baptized into Christ, and into His death. In such a union with Christ, we died to Adam, with our heredity of sin. Now, as those joined to Christ in His resurrection, we can walk in newness of life.

Deliverance from sin by the cross of Christ, is ours simply by remaining in Him. Since Christ is now a life-giving Spirit in His resurrection, we can be in Him and He in us. This is just like our being in the air and the air being in us. As we remain in union with Christ, all the effectiveness of His cross is ours and sin has no dominion over us.

May we enjoy such freedom in Christ by seeing the difference between sin and sins. May we also daily apply this vision by practicing to confess our sins to Him and to remain in  Him by breathing His name—“Lord Jesus! O Lord, I love you”—to be in His Spirit.

If you’ve been helped by seeing the difference between sin and sins please confirm it in a comment.

For a more complete covering of this topic you enjoy reading from The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, especially Vol. 43, Chapter 4 at ministrybooks.org.

About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

57 Replies

  1. Phil Watson

    How does “practicing to remain in Him” save you from that same sin again?

    1. When we’re remaining in Christ, the effectiveness of His cross is automatically applied to our sinful nature. However, to experience the fact of being “in Christ” in Romans 6, we need to practice being “in spirit” in Romans 8. When we’re in spirit, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ frees us from the law of sin (Rom. 8:2). Then the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled IN us who walk according to the spirit (v. 3). We don’t try not to sin, we simply enjoy and are one with the sinless One.

    2. Michelle

      As you become “born-again”, receive Jesus as your Savior and invited Him to live inside you (want to change your life for the better) you are now made righteous (right standing with GOD). Your spirit, which is Christ living inside you will not want to sin. We still struggle by still having the old stuff (the reason we wanted a change) so we commit sin (acts). As the spirit of Christ continues to grow (read Bible, follow laws, do right) we will not choose to sin. Eventually, we will say, “I am not doing that again”. Another way to look at it is this, When you said, “I am not gonna curse anymore. We still continue to curse. When the Spirit of Christ starts convicting us of our speech, we will on purpose stop using profane words. We will on purpose, not curse. That is what happens. It is step by step, little by little, The more you read the Bible and strive to do what it says, the more you will not choose to sin. The Spirit CANNOT sin. I hope this helps. If not, email me.

      1. Tom Smith

        Michelle, thank you for your comment on HTL post, The Difference Between Sin and Sins. As you mentioned in your comment, we are born again when we receive Jesus as our Savior. (You may also enjoy reading my post on What Does it Mean to be a Born Again Christian?“)

        God considers our believing in His Son the real righteous. By this we are justified before God. This gives us a right standing with God. As a result, God regenerates our spirit, imparting Christ as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) into our spirit, to make our spirit life (Rom. 8:10).

        It is by the Spirit of life in Christ that we are freed from the law of sin and of death (Rom. 8:2), the indwelling Sin in our members (Rom. 7:17-18).

        As those living in this sinful flesh, we still commit sins (sinful deeds) occasionally, due to some weakness. For this we need to confess our sins to the Lord Jesus and receive the cleansing of His precious blood (1 John 1:7-9). In this way, we can continue to enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with Him and grow in His divine life, unto maturity in Christ.

        Yes, when we say, Amen! to the convicting of the Spirit of Christ in us, He has the freedom to infuse us with more of Himself as the obedient One. By His continuous operation within us, we gradually lose the taste for the things that displease Him and become willing to submit to His will in our lives.

        It is only this One, the Spirit with our spirit, that can overcome Sin, and that can live the normal Christian life in us.

      2. Olapade Praise

        Sincerely,it Is As If I Have Never Been Blessed,am So Much Blessed,dunamis

        1. Tom Smith

          It is really a blessing to see that God’s salvation not only saves us from our history of sins by His cleansing blood (1 Pet. 3:18; 1:18-19), but also saves us from the power of sin in its nature by the inward operation of the law of the Spirit of life in us (Rom. 8:2). We simply need to walk according to the Spirit with our spirit (Rom. 8:4-6), to experience such a freedom from sin. Thanks for your comment.

          1. Elizabeth O Swafford

            I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I read the Scriptures as much as I can. I confess my sins to the Most High. But I can’t seem to get rid of my strongholds. I worry that I have did something or said something, that may be unpardonable to God. I get so depressed worrying about this. It is so exhausting. This isn’t living a Christian life. I know that some ppl are God’s pre elect….Could it be that God has blocked or hardened the heart, so that it is impossible to abide in the Lord?

          2. Tom Smith

            It is so good that you believe in our wonderful Triune God (2 Cor. 13:14) and read His Word. It is especially good to read His word with prayer just to inhale His words which are spirit and life (John 6:63). This is not just for knowledge but for feeding your inner man with spiritual nourishment as the Lord Jesus did while living on this earth (Matt. 4:4) and as Paul practiced and taught (1 Tim. 4:6) Confessing our sins to the Lord Jesus brings His promise, “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Once we confess we must believe His word of promise to forgive us and cleanse us. God’s enemy will try to condemn us with suggestions that God would not forgive us. We must reject this lie from Satan and stand on God’s faithful word. To be under incessant condemnation is not of the Lord. The Lord does not do this, Satan does. I encourage you to read a booklet entitled “Precious Blood of Christ” by Witness Lee. You can read the full text for free at: ministrybooks.org. Such a blood satisfies God, brings peace to our conscience and silences the accuser, Satan. We must believe the blood and point the enemy to Christ’s overcoming blood.
            When we have confessed, we must reject any further accusations and mind the things of the Spirit so that we can walk according to the spirit (Rom. 8:4-6). We must exercise our will to reject Satan’s lies and keep ourselves under the hearing of faith (Gal. 3:2, 5). When your mind is plagued by doubts this is good time to listen to the Word (check out lsmradio.com) or sing hymns of praise (check out the resources at hymnal.net). I hope these resources help. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Godbee

    I have enjoyed reading from this website

  3. James

    This article is very illuminating. I have been a Christian for sometimes but never knew the difference. I am blessed by this site

    1. Tom Smith

      James, it is a real deliverance to see the difference between “sin” and “sins.” To see that sin and sins are different problems with two different solutions is a big encouragement to us who find ourselves trying to overcome sin and repeatedly failing. The sinful deeds require our confession and the cleansing of the Lord’s precious blood. However, the sin nature within us requires the working of the cross by the operation of the Spirit of life. It is only the law of the Spirit of life that can save us from the law of sin and of death (Rom. 8:2). But praise the Lord, that this powerful, overcoming law of the divine life is in Christ. Whenever we abide in Christ, living and walking according to His Spirit of life in our spirit, we transcend the powerful law of sin in our flesh. Be encouraged to call on the Lord, to converse with Him, to sing His praise and enjoy the automatic operation of this higher law freeing you in Christ!

      1. Tony

        Q: If our sin’s (plural) were forgiven and cast as far from the east to the west through the redeeming and washing blood of Christ… Why would we who have been made new in Christ (all things 2Cor5:17) continue to confess the sins that have been forgiven and forgotten about by God?

        If by faith we believe what He said about redeemed, renewed, resurrected and cleansed children of God, than why would we continue to confess what has already been finished? Was there not enough of Hos blood already shed to finish the work of sins?

        The Scripture reference in 1 John 1:8-10 was clearly being spoken to ungenerated non-believers and not those abiding in the finished work of Jesus!

        Can you give me truth to support what I ha e believed to be the truth… Please understand that many things that you have said have been so good for me and so many, I am only seeking the complete truth brother regarding this piece of your message…

        1. Tom Smith


          According to its context, First John was written to the believers in general. John said in 1:3, that “we…report to you that you also may have fellowship with us.” An unbeliever could not have fellowship with the apostles but only those who possess the divine life in Christ through regeneration, who are also children of God.

          It is in this fellowship that we enjoy the blood of Jesus cleansing us continuously and constantly. The eternal efficacy of the Lord’s cleansing blood is fully effective for all our sins past, present and future, once and for all. But, now it no longer a matter of the accomplishment for the Lord said, “It is finished.”
          Now it is a matter of the application. As believers we do sin occasionally, so we still need to confess those sins we become aware of in our fellowship with the Lord. In our confessions to the Lord we employ the eternal efficacy of the Lord’s blood to our defiled conscience so that we may continue to have uninterrupted fellowship with Him.

          We may say, “Lord, I confess that word I just said was not out from You. I apply Your precious blood again. Thank you for cleansing me afresh. I love You.” Such confession enables us to enjoy the Lord’s forgiveness and cleansing for those sins that we commit after being saved.

          Hope this helps. Thanks for the comment.

  4. James

    Tom, once again thank you. I praise God for this site. Tom, it may interest you to know that I am a Nigerian and live in the North Eastern part of the country where our government has been battling with the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group known as “boko haram”. Praise God for the increase in knowledge at this end time that one can be encouraged by somebody far away (I suppose the US). Your site is a blessing to the body of Christ.

  5. Thank you so much for the truth that sets one free…Question: Romans 10:9 -10…Most churches leads people to Jesus Christ through confession of salvation! Are sins and sin not forgiven and eliminated after such a prayer?

    1. Tom Smith

      At the moment we believe in Christ our sins are forgiven based on Christ’s accomplished redemption. Our faith is simply to receive what Christ has already accomplished for us. Our sins were forgiven and our sinful nature was crucified with Christ. This fact still requires our present application by the Spirit. For example, after believing, we may commit sins, so we still need to confess those sins so that the Lord’s blood may cleanse us (1 John 1:8-9). We must also apply the effectiveness of Christ’s death now in His Spirit to the practices of our body, our fallen natural being (Rom. 8:13). When we contact the Lord, calling on His name and praying to Him with our spirit, we enjoy the operation of His Spirit applying Christ’s death to the sin in our old nature. We simply need to live and walk according to the Spirit with our spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16, 25). Much grace to you. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Paul Dogbatsey

    Pastor Tom Smith,l love your explanation so much,you know l am the up coming minister of the gospel and now doing my degree in one of thought of bible school in Ghana,so as time goes on l shall be seeking knowledge from you and l know for sure that you will make yourself available to me ,so please l need your personal email address.thanks may Jehovah continue to bless you with His realma words.hope to hear from you.

    1. Tom Smith

      Send any direct communication via the Contact page on the right. It comes directly to me. Thanks.

  7. please sir’ what is the two(2) different between “sin” (sin nature) and sins

    1. Tom Smith


      Sin (singular) refers to the nature of sin. Whereas, sins (plural) refer to our sinful deeds. Because of the fall in the garden, all of mankind inherited the sin in Adam. Romans 5:12 tells us, “through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin, death…” We did not need to do anything wrong. We are simply sinners because we were born in sin. As sinners, we are a “sin-tree” that brings forth sins, as fruits. Christ, on the one hand, “bore up our sins in His body on the tree (the cross), in order that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24). On the other hand, “Him who did not know sin (Christ)He (God) made sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

      Christ has solved both problems by His death. Now we must experience their application on by: 1) confessing our sins (1 John 1:9) and 2) on the other hand, walking according to the spirit so that the law of the Spirit of life can free us from the law of the indwelling sin (Rom. 8:2-4).

  8. In Chinese Bible, the same character is used for both sin/Sin and sins, absolutely no difference. Through years of studying English Bibles, I have seen the difference, but your explanation is truly enlighting, thanks. May God continue to overfill you with His Spirit to bless His people to His glory.

    1. Tom Smith


      The distinction between sin and sins is a great one. It is like comparing the difference between a tree and it’s fruit. Our sinful nature is something we’ve inherited in Adam. Whereas our sins, our sinful deeds, are the many fruits of this sinful nature. Just as no one needs to train a child to tell a lie, we commit sins unconsciously. Christ’s redeeming blood cleanses us from these sins, whenever we confess (1 John 1:9). However, it is only Christ’s powerful resurrection life in His Spirit that can free us from the law of sin in our nature (Rom. 8:2). When we’re abiding in Christ, this overcoming law of life in our spirit, conquers the sinful law in our flesh. May we learn to remain in His spirit by means of calling on the Lord, praying, singing and enjoying God’s word. Thanks for the encouraging comment.

      1. KT

        Sin meaning imperfection is natural we are all born with but as we grow we get better .. love Forgiving compassion gratitude humility area all something we learn as we grow.. we will never become 100 % perfect.. that is OK.. with each failure Jesus makes us to get up and walk again.

        1. Tom Smith

          Hi KT,

          Thanks for your comment saying,

          “Sin meaning imperfection is natural we are all born with but as we grow we get better .. love Forgiving compassion gratitude humility area all something we learn as we grow.. we will never become 100 % perfect.. that is OK.. with each failure Jesus makes us to get up and walk again.”

          Actually, according to Romans 7:8, 11, 17, and 20, we can see that “sin” is personified. Sin deceives us and kills us (v. 11), and dwells or makes home in us (vv. 17, 20). It is much more than sinful deeds, transgressions or offenses. “Sin” (singular) is a person. It is the embodiment of Satan, living and acting within us.

          As Jeremiah said, “Can the Cushite change his skin, / Or the leopard his spots? / Then you also may be able to do good, / Who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jer. 13:23).

          The skin and the spots are something related to the nature of a certain life, something that can not be changed. Hence, we should not look for self improvement but for “organic salvation” by the dispensing of the divine life with the divine nature into us.

          Yes, “forgiveness, compassion, gratitude, and humility are all something that issues from Christ growing in us. They are the issue of God’s divine attributes filling, saturating and being expressed through our human virtues.

          Because we still carry the “flesh of sin” (Rom. 8:3), we must give up hope of arriving at some kind of human perfection in ourselves. Instead, we should give up all hope in ourselves and live in dependence on the resurrected Christ who is living in us. That is we should live and walk according to the spirit–His Spirit that is one with our spirit.

          Galatians 2:20 says,

          “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me…”

          Every time we fail we simply need to turn to the Lord, confess our sins and continue to contact Him and enjoy Him, living by faith. As the rest of Gal. 2:20 says,

          “…and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

          We walk in Christ, by faith, by breathing Him as the Spirit, moment by moment, calling on His name and feeding on His living Word.

          May the Lord bless you as you seek to grow in His life by a living in one spirit with Him.

  9. After last comments, it remind me of Watchman Nee, a Chinese Spiritual leaderback in 40`s and his profound spiritual insight on this subject and others. Sadly most of Chinese churches will not touch his writings.

  10. Hello Tom, what a wonderful blog and article on difference between sin and sins. God starting show me this a long time ago and it made me realize how that in my years growing up in church, there was this “cycle” of never enjoying salvation because of the sense of condemnation. Part of this was as you say, not understanding the difference between sin as being in Adam, and sin as a “power” versus believing God’s Word that through faith we are now in Christ, the Living Person and He is the power of God. The “eye-opener” of “reckoning myself dead to sin” (and its power according to Romans 6) and only alive to Jesus Christ now living my heart” is my hope every single day. This is God’s way for every child of His – not exclusive! This to me, is the definition of “abiding.” That I am to never struggle through my fleshly effort to “attain” His fruitfulness in my walk, but continually turning to the One Who lives in me as the Life and Glory of God. And this again to me is the definition of living by faith in Him all the days of our lives. And lastly, another thing I realized was that “faith” in His blood cleansing ALL the sins and blunders (even after I was a Christian) was going to cleanse my conscience too of those things. I believe a lot of Christians sin more because of the ignorance of God’s Truth – that they really do not want to sin but don’t understand like you have shared as to what and how to apply the glorious Truth. So thank you for sharing and keep on keeping on holding forth God’s wonderful words of life. The Church needs this – we’ve been stuck too long!

    1. Tom Smith


      Realizing the difference between Sin in our fallen nature (Romans 7:8, 11, 13, 17-18)) and sins (1 Pet. 2:24) is a big help to our Christian life. For the forgiveness of our sins we need only to confess and receive the cleansing of the Lord’s precious blood (1 John 1:7, 9). However, to be delivered from the Sin in our nature is a matter of putting into operation a higher law–the law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2). When we come to the Lord as the Spirit of life in our spirit, we enjoy this higher and more powerful law freeing us from law of sin in our members. It is so practical to switch on this life-law by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus (Rom. 10:12-13), praying (1 Thes. 5:17) and feeding on His word (1 Tim. 4:6), as well as speaking and singing His word (Eph. 5:18-19). Thank you for your comment.

  11. Sjoerd

    Hi Tom!

    I tried looking if I can find this distinction in the Greek, (not that I speak or read it, but with a dictionary:), but I couldn’t find it. ‘Hamartia’ is used in all instances.

    I get what you’re saying though with the tree and the fruit. In Jesus we died and rose a new tree and therefore we can bear good fruit now. So is it from context that one can understand which of the two is meant in specific verses? I hope you know more about Greek than I.


    1. Tom Smith

      You’re right…it’s really the context that helps us to understand the difference between sin and sins. From Romans 7 we can see that sin is like a tree with a nature that spontaneously brings forth fruit–“sins.” We can see that the Lord bore up our sins in His body onto the tree–the cross in 1 Pet. 2:24. His blood cleans us from our sins when we confess them (1 John 1:7-9) But it is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that frees us from the law of sin in our flesh (Rom. 8:2). When we walk according to the spirit we are freed from this law of sin (Rom. 8:4). Thank you for your confirming comment.

      1. Sjoerd

        Thanks! Let’s put to death flesh and its deeds and live as sons of God by the Spirit 🙂 Rom 8:13-14. Because in Christ we have already died.

        1. Tom Smith

          That’s right. The effectiveness of Christ’s death is now available to us in the Spirit of reality or truth. When we are living in one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17), sin cannot Lord it over us. We simply apply His death the flesh of sin by the Spirit and enjoy freedom in Christ. What a release!

  12. peris

    sin and sins, which causes which?

    1. Tom Smith

      “Sin,” singular is the source and “sins,” plural are the fruit. We don’t need to be taught to commit “sins” in word or deed because the fallen “Sin” nature within us causes us to do so. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from our “sins” when we confess them to Him (1 John 1:7, 9). However, the law of “sin” in our fallen nature can only be overcome by the operation of the law of the Spirit of life in our spirit (Rom. 8:2-4). We need to continually walk according to the spirit, setting our mind on the spirit (vv. 4.6) to switch on the operation of this powerful “sin-overcoming law.” To switch on the law of the Spirit of life, we can call on the name of the Lord Jesus, pray, sing and read or muse on a few Bible verses. These life practices help us to set our mind on the spirit to spontaneously live a sin-overcoming life.

  13. Dharshan

    How can I get a book on Watchman Nee. I live in Sri Lanka

    1. Tom Smith

      Living Stream Ministry is the publisher of the Collected Works of Watchman Nee and also has a couple of biographical books on Watchman Nee, one being Watchman Nee’s Testimony and the other Watchman Nee – A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age . Both of these titles are freely available to read on the ministrybooks.org site. FOr a more brief online bio of Watchman Nee, you may want to read WatchmanNee.org. As far as hard copy books, I am not sure what to tell you accept to check with Rhemabooks.org.

  14. Rey

    Can you make a diagram for this? Lets simplify this lesson that even the new Christian may understand the lesson. This is very important. Thank you.

    1. Tom Smith

      Good idea. As time permits I will consider such a diagram to simplify the content addressed in this post. Thank you for your comment.

  15. Seth

    Thank you for being available, can you clear this question i have that i am stumbling with in regard to this topic. In FIRST John 2:1 i write these things to you that you may not sin (singular) then in FIRST John 3:9 whoever has been born of God does not sin, (singular) for the seed remains in him; and he cannot sin (singular) because he has been born of God. I am struggling on this thought. for John says in 2:1 my little children as if were children of God and born with the Spirit of God then later he says we cannot sin because we are born of the Spirit. I understand the Spirit of God cannot sin and there is no darkness in Him, please help. Thanks so much, bless you

    1. Tom Smith


      the issue of sin is not just a matter of whether it says “sin” or “sins.” Sometimes the verse like you mentioned says “sin” but in fact it is an act of sinning versus the nature of sin. Christ’s redeeming blood cleanses us from every sin or offense in our actions (1 John 1:7, 9). However, we need the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2) to deliver us from the law of sin, the nature of sin in our members (Rom. 7:23). “Whatever is born of God cannot sin, that is, the sinless seed we receive at our regeneration. However, we know from 1 John 1:8, that if we say we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves” and from 2:1, “that if anyone sins we have an advocate with the Father. So we need to realize that after believing in Christ, our sinful nature has not been eradicated. But we do have a new nature by regeneration that does not sin. Whether we commit sins depends on which nature we live by. If we walk according to the spirit, we fulfill the righteous requirements of the law (Rom. 8:4). The reference to “whoever has been born of God does not sin” literally means “does not practice sin.” This is because our new life in Christ does not remain in such a condition. If we fail we need to confess our sins to the Lord and then come to Him to be supplied with the bountiful supply of the Spirit to live Christ (Phil 1:19-21).

  16. Do you see the death of Jesus a penal substitution? a legal transaction?

    1. Tom Smith

      Christ’s death is all-inclusive. Yes, on the “judicial” side it solves all the problems between us and God. It deals with sins, sin, Satan, the world, the flesh and our old man. In particular, 1 Peter 2:24 says Christ “bore up our sins in His body on the tree (the cross).” Since Christ’s death satisfied the righteous requirement of His law, God is legally obliged to forgive us.

      In addition, Christ’s death was something “organic.” He died as the one “grain of wheat” (John 12:24) to release His eternal, divine life to bring forth “much fruit,” us as the “many grains,” His many brothers in His resurrection (John 20:17).

      These two aspects of Christ death correspond to the two substances that flowed out of Christ’s pierced side on the cross–blood and water (John 19:34) The “blood” redeems us and the “water” imparts life to us.

      We need to appreciate, receive, and apply both aspects of Christ’s death by living faith.

      Thank you for your question and comment.

  17. Jason

    I’m late to the party here, but well done. I believe it is problematic that many Christians are taught that the Christian faith is a matter of us learning not to sin or to remove sin from our lives. I am thankful for your word that relies of the work of God in Christ through faith to not only take away the power of the sinful nature but to meet us with a forgiveness that shapes a new nature that has the joy of sin spoiled for it. This is my first time reading your work, Mr. Smith. I’m excited to read more. Thanks for proclaiming a Christ who truly is responsible for saving us both from the spiritual disease of sin and the sins that are its symptoms.

    1. Tom Smith

      Jason, Thank you for taking the time to underscore the importance of this truth. I’m afraid that few believers have a clear understanding of the distinction between the “sin” in our fallen nature and the “sins” in our behavior. These are distinct, yet related issues, with different remedies. The sins in our conduct are the fruit of the “sin tree.” These sins are dealt with by our agreement with God, confessing to Him in prayer what His light exposes (John 1:9). However, the sin in our nature, is the powerful source that can only be overcome by a more powerful one, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2). Only by living in union with Christ, in walking according to the spirit (v. 4) can we activate this “super law” that frees us from the law of sin and death in our fallen flesh (Rom. 7:18-23).

      1. Bemnet

        Does really Jesus eradicate and vanish the body of sin, accoeding to romans 6:6? If so why we still struggling with sin? What does Gelatian 5:24 really mean?

        1. Tom Smith

          We still have the flesh of sin (1 John 1:8) in this age. It will not be done away with until our glorification with Christ (Rom. 8:30). At that we will put off the body of the flesh and no longer be troubled by it. The fact that you mentioned in Rom. 6:6 was accomplished at our salvation. Through faith and baptism we have buried the old man.

          However in our experience we are often in Romans 7 struggling and being defeated by the law of sin in our flesh (vv. 7-25). So we need to advance from Romans 7 to Romans 8. In Romans 8 the fact of Romans 6 becomes our experience when we walk according to the spirit (v. 4) and set our mind on the spirit (vv. 5-6).

          The crucifying of the flesh in Gal. 5:24 is the practical experience of the crucifying of the old man in Rom. 6:6. The crucifying of the flesh is carried out by the Spirit. When we contact the Lord as the Spirit with our spirit by enjoying Him in prayer and the Word we switch on the law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2) The the flesh is spontaneously crucified, that is, we are freed from the law of sin in our flesh. This is similar to the putting to death of the practices of the body by the Spirit in Rom. 8:13.

          Hope this helps. Thanks for the comment.

  18. Jim

    Tom, Thank you for this explanation. I knew that sin (singular) had to do with what we inherited at conception from Adam and sins (plural) had to do with acts of our mind/flesh. Sin is what sends a person to hell, while sins breaks our fellowship with God. Christ died to break the curse of sin (hell), but our sins also result in a what are referred to as generational curses that affect 3 or 4 generations down the line.

    1. Tom Smith

      You are correct to say that our sins may not only affect us but also adversely affect our children and future generations. Since sin in its two aspects is so serious, we need to see what is our present need. Each aspect of sin has its own remedy. Our record of sinning, our many sins, break our fellowship with God. They can only be dealt with by the cleansing blood of Jesus, God’s Son through our confessing them to Him (1 John 1:7, 9). The sin in our fallen nature is dealt with by the operation of the law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2). If we try to overcome Sin by our self will we will be like the wretched man in Romans 7. However, if we walk by the spirit (Rom. 8:4), we put into operation the higher law of the divine life that transcends the law of sin in our members. When we call on the Lord Jesus, pray, sing and enjoy His word to set our mind on the spirit (v. 6) the divine life operating within us elevates us above the downward pull of the law of sin. This is like the airplane overcoming gravity to fly by the law of aerodynamics.We have such a transcending law in us! Thanks for sharing your comment.

  19. Kevin

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for this. Very helpful.

    One question I have is regarding responsibility. The Bible repeatedly calls people out for their individuals sins. Romans 1 shows we are without excuse because we suppress the truth.

    How do you reconcile this with our sins being the fruit of the Sin tree?

    Are we responsible for not resisting this nature? Are we guilty for producing what is natural?

    Otherwise, why does the Bible condemn these individuals for their choices, if it was the only choice they could make? We have to have some responsibility for our sins.

    I’ve struggled with this for some time, so any light you can shed would be invaluable.

    Thank you!

    1. Tom Smith

      We need to see God’s verdict and God’s provision. When we acknowledge that God is altogether true and righteous our mouth is stopped, our excuses are gone, and we can only bow before Him. Then He points us to the one Person, Christ and His one way, the cross. Our responsibility then is to align ourselves with God’s verdict that we are hopeless sinners committing countless sins, and choose His Son, Jesus Christ. We choose not only to receive Christ for our eternal salvation, but to contact Him moment by moment so He can live in us that crucified life (Gal. 2:20). When we fail, we choose to confess our sins and apply the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9). We also choose to come forward to the throne of grace to receive His divine provision (Heb. 4:16)—the bountiful supply of the Spirit, to actuate the law of the Spirit of life in us to overcome the law of sin and death in our members (Rom. 8:2). This is to walk according to the spirit so that the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in us (v.4)

      1. Kevin

        Thanks for the reply.

        That provision isn’t for everyone though. There are unbelievers and also those who have never heard the gospel, now and in the past.

        Are they accountable for the sins that came from their sinful nature? Or are they just victims of Adams original error?

        I’m only seeking to understand. Thanks again.

        1. Tom Smith

          God’s provision is intended for all men (1 Tim. 2:4), that is, Christ and His cross. However, the issue is whether people will receive it or not (John 1:12). That’s why we must preach the gospel. If the hearers believe God’s word, the good news of the gospel, they receive Christ with the effectiveness of His death as God’s provision to them. Yet, even within those people who have never heard the preaching of the gospel, Paul did say that, “the invisible things of Him …since the creation of the world being perceived by the things made, so that they would be without excuse (Rom. 1:20). God has left all men some witness of Himself even if only from His creation (Rom.1:20). Romans 1-3 do not absolve man from responsibility for his sin. Read these chapters. From them we can see God’s condemnation on all the world totally. 3:20 says “that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may fall under the judgment of God.” This simply proves every man’s need for God’s salvation. Yes, we are victims of Adam’s error, yet we are still accountable. How much we need Christ!

  20. William Wynn

    Do you believe in the eternal security of the believer?

    1. Tom Smith

      For an adequate response to your question, please read a HoldingtoTruth post Four Reasons Why We Can’t Lose Our Salvation. Please let me know if you find the post helpful. Thanks for your comment.

      1. Ehimen Godwin

        Thank you sir. My question is this, what is the difference between errors, weakness, and sins

        1. Tom Smith

          First, we need to see that whether errors, weakness, or sins, they are all the issue of the old man in Adam (Rom 6:6). We were all born in Adam, inheriting the sinful nature. This is the “sin tree” from which comes many sins as the “sin fruit.” Sins are our sinful actions, our unrighteous deeds. Errors are our mistakes. For example, forgetting to be somewhere at a certain time may not be an unrighteous act, but it still is a kind of shortcoming that we need to confess and often apologize for. A weakness, though neither a sin or error, is still a lack in our old man. We may be weak in our spirit, such that we cannot pray as we should or weak in our heart so that we get discouraged easily and give up when we should endure. For all of these we need to experience Christ, contacting Him, opening to Him in prayer so that we walk according to the spirit joined to His Spirit (Rom. 8:4; 1 Cor. 6:17). When we do so, His life and peace supply so that we may live a life that expresses Christ.

  21. Glyvette

    Very helpful. Thank you.

    1. Tom Smith

      Glad you enjoyed the post. We are not only forgiven of our sins by cleansing of the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7, 9),but freed from the law of sin and death by the operation of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2).

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