“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10


What happens when Christians do unchristian things, do they lose their salvation? What about when Christians have moral lapses, become porn addicted, indulge in a tryst, or even an affair, is their salvation lost? What about when a Christian breaks the law or acts recklessly, what about when their actions cost someone their life? What about when Christians victimize others? The undeniable truth is that Christians do some really sinful things, and when they do unchristian things, do they cease being Christians?

When Christians do unchristian things, it defames and dishonors the Lord Jesus they are named by. When Christians commit sins, Jesus is often denounced, painted as impotent in effect, and even denied as a reality. When Christians act in such unchristian ways, have they committed the unforgiveable sin, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

These are weighty and real questions. These questions come up when Christians are involved in tragedies or dark places, or unchristian behavior that even the unsaved world knows is not befitting a Christian. These are questions that we are going to inevitably encounter in life.

What about Christians who lead a double life? What about someone like Ravi Zacharias whose life of sin became known only after he died? His life’s work in apologetics was brought into question because of the heinous sins he indulged during his life. He wasn’t even punished in this life. Some in frustration took out their anger and disappointment on his family. “How could they not have known?” it was accused. But those enticed into sin by the devil are often equipped or enabled by the dark lord to deceive in very effective ways. Did Ravi Zaharias forfeit his salvation?

The longer I live in my walk with the Lord, the more I come to believe that we will all at some point face a situation where a Christian does a very unchristian thing. Maybe we ourselves will be the culprit. But what tools, what truth has God given us in His word to solve or at least make sense of such situations? God’s word is designed for such situations where we seek to approve truth and find instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The Bible states, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Some things are held from us by the Lord. Some things we are not able to bear or understand because of our limited knowledge and humanness. But other things are revealed by God to us so that we can understand life and our Lord. Walking by faith and not be sight involves accepting God’s sovereign decision concerning the things He chooses not to reveal and walking in the truth of what He does reveal (2 Corinthians 5:7). We need to understand that from the start in our study.

A bedrock blessed truth of God is that our salvation is not based on anything we do, but on what Christ has done for us. Our salvation is a gift of God’s grace to be received through faith in Jesus. Salvation is received by faith when a person turns from their sins (i.e. repentance), confesses their sins to God, then asks God for forgiveness based on the atoning cross work of Jesus. When faith is placed in Jesus, and forgiveness received, the Lord regenerates the person by indwelling them with the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to be “born again” (John 3). This is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We know Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is acceptable to God as the just basis for our forgiveness because Jesus rose from the dead defeating our final enemy, death. Before we come to Christ we are earning with every sin a death sentence. But God loves us. And because of His love, He has offered us forgiveness through faith in Jesus (Romans 6:23). This powerfully and undeniably confirms the gospel of Jesus Christ. For these truths we should forever be thankful and praise the Lord.

A mistaken notion is that we are saved by our good works. Such a thought is offensive to God. The right perspective is that works follow faith. We work or live holy lives and devote ourselves to the Lord, not to gain His favor, but because we have His favor by His grace through faith in Jesus. We sacrifice and stand for Him and share His gospel, not to earn salvation but as acts of worship to the One who gave His all for our salvation. Any attempt to base salvation on something we do, minimizes the worth of what Jesus did on the cross. And anything that minimizes Jesus and His atoning work is of the highest offense to His Father. Indeed, denying salvation as a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus is worthy of being accursed, excommunicated (Galatians 1:6-9).

There is only one unforgiveable sin, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32). The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is when a person rejects the Spirit’s conviction about their sins (John 16:8-11) and the revelation of God’s gospel solution to sin (e.g. John 3; Galatians 1-2; Ephesians 2). The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not per se some serious terrible sin a person commits. It is not saying bad things about the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the only unpardonable sin, is when a person rejects the salvation revealed by the Spirit to that person.

Now what about Christians who do unchristian sinful things? First we need to remember that Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). This doesn’t mean we should never assess or correct someone about sin. In the same context Jesus says of false prophets, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16a). How would we know their fruits unless we observed to assess them? The Bible was given to reprove, correct and instruct all of which involve observation and assessment (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What then does Jesus mean? “Judge” (Greek krino) means not only to distinguish, but it means to decide, to pass judgment, to condemn, to punish, avenge, decree, damn. Jesus was not prohibiting our assessment of people. Jesus was condemning putting ourselves on the judgment seat and passing final judgment on people. Jesus condemned that because such judgment is reserved for the Judge. We are not suited for such a judgment. God looks at the heart. “I the LORD search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10). We don’t have the capacity to search a heart or test a mind. We don’t know what goes on in the heads of people. God does; He knows what’s in the heart and mind. So, DON’T JUDGE! We can ask what happens when Christians do unchristian things, but we should never cross the line to passing judgment on a person. Only God is suited and sovereign to judge a person about eternal life.

The Bible states clearly that our salvation and eternal life is not based on our works or efforts but purely on God’s gracious provision in Christ received through faith in Jesus. This is an emphatic truth stated over and over throughout the New Testament. Salvation by grace is the keynote message in Romans and Galatians. But you find it everywhere in the New Testament (e.g., Ephesians 2; Titus 3; Hebrews 4; 1 Peter 1; Revelation 1 and 22). If we are not saved by our works, can we forfeit our salvation because of our works? Is there some sin, beyond the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit, that forfeits or surrenders our salvation?

If it is true that we are not saved by our works, then it is just as true that we are not sustained in our salvation by our works. Our works are important, but they need to be put in their proper place. We are saved and sustained BY GRACE.

That our salvation is all about God’s grace to enter salvation and continue in our walk with Jesus is found in the following verse:

1 Corinthians 15:10 (NKJV) 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

“Grace” (Greek charis) can be understood with acronyms such as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense relating to our conversion, and God’s Resources At Christ’s Expense relating to our life from conversion to eternity. We are who we are by God’s grace. We are saved from our sins by God’s grace. From the point of our conversion we will always ever be whatever we are by God’s grace.

Now, we need to be able to say with Paul, “and His grace toward me was not in vain.” “Vain” (Greek kenos) means empty, devoid of truth, vain. In other words, a person who is genuinely saved from their sins will be different, “a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Someone who has been indwelled by the Holy Spirit will live a new different life. Their priorities will change. Their attitudes and worldview will change. They will be a new creation of God. A genuinely born-again person bears fruit of the Spirit (e.g. Galatians 5:22-24). When the Holy Spirit indwells a person, He begins to make them holy. But this doesn’t mean they will never sin!

We may look at Christians and think, “Huh? How can they do that and call themselves a Christian?” What we often miss is, a person may not be all they should be as a Christian, but they are far more than they ever would have been without being a Christian. Jesus makes a difference in the Christian’s life. But that difference is relative to the life circumstance of the particular individual Christian. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others anyway. Our standard of spiritual growth is ourselves. We might ponder something like, “Have I grown and matured in my faith over the last year?” “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Galatians 6:4).

If you have been a Christian for any amount of time you know that Christians sin. I sin, you sin, all Christians sin. Those who say they don’t sin are guilty of the sin of hypocrisy. They are self-deceived and devoid of truth (1 John 1:8). God’s promise is that if we confess our sins to Him, He will forgive us and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). When we sin, Jesus is our Advocate pleading our case based on what He did for us on the cross (1 John 1:1-2). But having said that, we should not easily excuse our sins.

What about BIG sins, does God forgive them too? Peter was guilty of arrogance, boasting, and the betrayal of Jesus in the gospels (Matthew 26). He was guilty of prejudice (e.g. Galatians 2). James and John wanted to smoke unbelievers (Luke 9:51-56). The thief on the cross committed a capital offense before he was saved and Jesus forgave him simply by his asking Jesus, “Remember me” (Luke 23:39-43). The cross is sufficient to pay a redemption price for any, ANY sin (except for the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as stated above). One might say, “Wait a minute, the thief was a sinner and then Jesus forgave him. He wasn’t a Christian when he committed his sin.” That is true, but the important thing is that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross can deal with ALL our sins, BIG and small, (though I would argue that there really isn’t a “small” sin – sin like cancer, spreads and always grows bigger if not dealt with.) Once a person becomes a Christian, they are not less forgiven for the sins they commit. They should be less likely to sin because they have the help of the Holy Spirit. But if they do sin, God’s grace applies to them just as much as to the sinner repenting for the first time.

You might be thinking, “Well then, if I’m saved by grace not my works, and if I sin I can be forgiven because of God’s grace, then why not sin more?” That’s faulty shallow thinking. Paul said such thoughts should perish (Romans 6:1ff.). The other half of Paul’s statement about grace in 1 Corinthians 15:10 says, “but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” We labor for the glory of God and to get his gospel out to the lost. That is good. But the word “labored” (Greek kopiao) means to feel fatigue, toil, to be wearied, to get exhausted, wearisome. In such times of laboring, when our strength is low, when our spiritual gas tank is running on empty, we may falter and sputter, we may downright stall in sin. But if that happens, the grace of God is still with us.

“So what is to keep us from sinning once we become a Christian?” The prospect of God’s discipline should give us second thoughts about indulging in sin. God is not mocked. What a person sows or decides to do has consequences. If we sow to the Spirit we receive spiritual life. If we sow to the flesh or our selfish sinful desires, we will reap destruction (Galatians 6:7-9). God disciplines those He loves. When you become a Christian, you aren’t going to get away with sin. Because sin is destructive, God disciplines the Christian to strengthen them against doing it. To the Christian who sins persistently and disregards God’s warnings and word, the chastening rod of correction of the Lord can be severe. God’s priority is not our happiness here on earth, it is to secure our eternity with Him (cf. Hebrews 12:3-11).

So why should the Christian avoid sinning? To avoid the discipline of the LORD. To prevent the reputation of Jesus being tarnished. But most of all, to glorify God. God has promised to provide us a way of escape when tempted so that we don’t have to sin. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). There is no excuse for sin. To claim you can’t help yourself is to denounce God’s faithfulness and call Him a liar. When tempted, we need to seek the Lord’s escape route. But even if we do sin despite God’s provided escape route, we can be forgiven because of His grace.

“Why do Christian’s sin?” People are led into sin when they are, “drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is ful-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:13-14). Christians sin when they live in their own strength and not the strength of the Holy Spirit. If you want to know what that looks like, the Christian living in their own strength is depicted in Romans 7. The Christian living in their own strength is missing the abundant life promised by Jesus (John 10:10). Instead, in our own strength, the Christian life becomes “wretched” (Romans 7:24). That’s a horrible place to be because with the Spirit in you, you are acutely aware of what sin is, and yet you are often defeated by it. What’s the solution? “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). The empowering sin-defeating experience of Jesus is received when we give ourselves wholeheartedly to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit rule us.

The pinnacle of all scripture is arguably Romans 8. In that chapter we find there is no condemnation for those who have a saving relationship with Jesus, “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). I encourage you to read and prayerfully study Romans 8. There you will discover how to be more than a conqueror. In that glorious chapter you will discover nothing can separate you from Jesus, nothing. In that chapter you will not find license to sin, but freedom and victory over sin. It’s a wonderful chapter. Please take the time to saturate yourself with it.

What happens when Christians do unchristian things? If they repent and ask forgiveness they can be forgiven. But even if they die suddenly, before they can verbally ask forgiveness, Jesus is able to read the heart. Jesus knows the full circumstances regarding the Christian’s sin. Jesus is not surprised by our sins. Jesus knows and is grieved by our sins. He gave His life for us to save us from sin. And because of that you should not shortchange God’s grace. God is not looking to swat sinners and throw them in hell. That is not His preference. His preference is that they would refrain from sin and choose to spend eternity with Him. God’s preference is for all to avoid His just eternal hellish place of damnation. The choice is yours.

I think it’s important to add one last thing. When Christians sin, when they sin and die before they can face our judgment, we become frustrated and often turn on the family of the Christian who are left behind. Even if they don’t die, but are caught red-handed in gross sin, some blame and ostracize the family of the sinner. That is very unchristian. That is very unloving. That is very unchristlike. That is very unbiblical. We need to remember that the family of the Christians who have sinned are frequently victims too. Sin is deceptive and is done in darkness and secrecy. It is wrong, and yes, sinful for us to accuse family members of sinning Christians saying, “How couldn’t you know about such sin?” The Bible says, “the soul that sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 10:20). It’s truly clear, we should not punish others for sins their family members commit.

In situations where a Christian dies in an uncertain way that causes us to ponder whether they have sinned or “lost” their salvation, or to wonder if they were ever truly a Christian at all, it would be best to not speculate but to have a fervent love that covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Jesus said, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:28-30). When we are uncertain about Christians and their sin and what that means, we need to remember these words of Jesus. There is such a thing as eternal security, for the one who is certainly and securely in the fold of Jesus. In situations where certainty is lacking, trust the Lord, fall back on His grace. God’s grace is always sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

The best way of avoiding any of this problem is to draw close to Jesus, walk hand in hand with Him. C.T. Studd, a missionary with whom there was no doubt about his salvation once said, “This one life will soon be passed, only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.” If we live for Jesus, if we burn out our light for Him, there will be no doubt about our eternal destiny for others to ponder. Let’s live in a way that leaves no doubt about who we are in Jesus.

Living like that is how we avoid having to ask, “What happens when Christians do unchristian things?” We need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Totally surrender to the Holy Spirit. Don’t let the circumstances of life get you down or drive you to sinful outlets. Come to Jesus. Live for Him. The closer you come to Jesus, the more clearly you will see your sin. The closer you come to Jesus, the more grateful for His grace you will be. The closer you come to Jesus, the more power you will have over your sin. May the Holy Spirit make us holy and prevent us from ever tarnishing the reputation of our Lord Jesus. Let’s walk with Jesus. Let’s worship Jesus. Let’s glorify Him with our lives and leave no doubt of who He is, and who we are in Him.



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