Sin Not Unto Death

While “all unrighteousness is sin,” it is true that “there is a sin not unto death.” (See 1 John 5:16-17.) Webster’s Dictionary defines sin as: “(1) Any voluntary transgression of the law of God: disobedience to or violation of the divine command; moral depravity; wickedness; iniquity. Sin includes not only actions, but neglect of known duty, all evil thoughts, words, purposes, and all that is contrary to the law of God. It may consist in commission, when a known divine law is violated, or in omission, when a positive divine command or a rule of duty is voluntarily and willfully neglected. (2) An offense in general; any offense or fault.”

The Bible also teaches that not all sin is imputed: “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Rom. 5:13. It should be observed that God judges each individual according to their knowledge and understanding of His law as well as the purposes, motives, and intents of their heart. “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Jude 22-23.

I remember when, as a boy growing up, I would get a little rowdy around the home and, unintentionally, I would sometimes end up doing something destructive or injurious. When my parents would call me to give account of my action, I was always quick to tell them, “I DIDN’T DO IT ON PURPOSE!” I knew very well that the severity of my judgment was going to be determined by whether my act was perceived to have been done ON PURPOSE, or not! Whether it was done on purpose, or not, was going to determine how the principle of my action was judged as well as the consequence I would have to face.

Any voluntary transgression of God’s law, willful disobedience or violation of His commands, or voluntary and willful neglect of duty, God judges to be morally impure in principle; therefore, He imputes the action, or the lack of action, to the transgressor as “sin.” This is the kind of sin that brings spiritual death to the soul. It separates the soul from the favor and fellowship of God, who is absolutely holy, and who is offended and grieved by any action that is motivated by an unholy principle. “… The soul that doeth ought presumptuously … the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.” Numbers 15:30-31. However, a “sin of ignorance” or an unintentional offense, fault, shortcoming, or missing of the mark, God justly views in a different light. He does not impute it to the offender as a sin that cuts him off, or an iniquity that “shall be upon him.” It may be considered a “sin” from the standpoint that the offender has missed the mark or has come short of the standard of righteousness on some point (and “all unrighteousness is sin”), yet, God does not impute it to him because the purpose, motive, and intent of his heart was not to do evil. In this case God judges the transgressor differently than “the soul that doeth ought presumptuously” because the principle of his heart was different. An offense or fault that was not done on purpose is not a sin unto death because the offender was not aware of, or perhaps lacked understanding of, the law that he (or she) was transgressing. Such a fault, offense, or sin does not sever one’s soul from spiritual life, salvation, or a right relationship with God, but just needs to be repented of when a child of God is made aware of it, and any necessary correction needs to be made.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. 3:16-17. Proverbs 4:18 says, “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” The way of salvation is a progressive pilgrimage that ultimately ends in Heaven provided we continue to progress and never retrogress. Keeping pace with the revelation of Jesus Christ through the gospel as the Holy Spirit reveals Him to us through the Scriptures is imperative to maintaining salvation and safely reaching our goal. If we choose to turn our back on light, or rebel against it, we will get in trouble with God. God says, “if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Heb. 10:38). A sin that one time was “not unto death” can become a “sin unto death” if we reject light or refuse to walk in the light as He reveals it to us.

Because of the ever-increasing illumination brought to my soul by God’s Word and Spirit, there are things I cannot allow in my life now that I once allowed as a new Christian convert. How well I remember, after I first gave my heart to Christ on November 24, 1967, and He made His glorious entrance into my bosom, filling me with joy and peace that surpassed my understanding, in the weeks that followed I began reading the New Testament, starting with the book of Matthew. I got to chapter 12, verses 36–37, and the Spirit of the living God, working in conjunction with the Word, convicted me of the need to lay aside the use of slang words, by-words, and etc., in my conversation. In order to keep saved, I had to walk in the light as God revealed it to me. By continuing to obey and walk in light as it has been revealed to me through God’s Word (His Spirit illuminating my heart and mind with an ever-increasing understanding of its teachings), the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, has kept me cleansed from all sin these past 47 years.

It is absolutely necessary that we be sanctified and cleansed “with the washing of water by the Word” if we would remain a part of Christ’s “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:26- 27). Jesus prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17. “And to her (the church, the Lamb’s wife) was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Rev. 19:8. How do the saints receive their righteousness? By following the Lamb of God whithersoever He goeth (Rev. 14:4; 19:14). This is how we receive that spotless, wrinkle-free wedding garment that will make us acceptable to the Bridegroom when He returns. Don’t ever forget this: effort (work) is required on the part of a bride to make herself ready for her wedding day (consider Rev. 19:7b).

More About the Believer’s Call to Holiness

Paul says in Titus 3:8: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.” While “good works” cannot initially save us, the failure or neglect on our part to “maintain” them after being saved by grace can certainly undo our salvation. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Titus 2:11-12. Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world will definitely require the effort of perpetual obedience to the Word of God on our part. The preservation of our salvation depends upon our drawing from the resources that are made available to us through the Word of grace and the Spirit of grace. As Paul said to the Ephesian brethren, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Acts 20:32. It is by the sanctifying influence of His Word, as well as His Spirit, that Christ redeems us from all iniquity and purifies unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). Furthermore, Paul says, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” Titus 2:15. “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” 1 Thes. 4:7.

The call of Jesus Christ to every one of us is: “Follow Me.” His beloved disciple John, said, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 2:6. Peter said, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” 1 Pet. 2:22-23. Clement of Alexandria wrote in A.D. 195, “It is in this manner that one truly follows the Savior: by aiming at sinlessness and at His perfection.” The Apostle Paul said to young Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:19b, 22, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. … Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” In Psalm 119:9- 11 it says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” This is how we “depart from iniquity.”

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. … Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 19:7-13; 119:104-105.

The purpose of the Word of God is to reprove, correct, and instruct us in the way of righteousness, just as parents instruct and discipline their children. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” Heb. 12:6- 10.

Perpetual subjection to “the Father of spirits,” following the instructions of His holy law, and being thereby made “partakers of his holiness” is imperative to remaining a “son” of God and inheriting eternal life. The scriptures clearly teach us that “presumptuous” sinning by willful disobedience or premeditatedly yielding to temptations and fleshly lusts brings spiritual death to the soul. Any and all “works of the flesh” are soul-killers! (See Gal. 5:19-21.) They that “do such things SHALL NOT inherit the kingdom of God.” “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Cor. 6:9- 10. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” 1 Pet. 2:11. It is very important to remember that the lusts of our flesh are warring to kill our souls, to be always vigilant and on guard, refusing to give place to the devil who allures us through fleshly lusts, and to maintain an attitude toward sin like the words of the following old song express:

“I will part with thee, old master [sin – John 8:34]; This is my firm resolve;

And I’ll boldly state my reason, Why we must now dissolve.

“The wages of sin is death,

The wages of sin is death,

The wages of sin is death and woe,

And bitter remorse; I’ve found it so.

Bitter, bitter, bitter remorse and woe.


“But the blood of my Redeemer Has saved me through and through,


– D. S. Warner

Dear pilgrims on the journey to the celestial city, fix this truth firmly in your mind. SIN is what will trip you up, overcome you, knock you out of the Christian race, and cause you to lose your crown of life, if you aren’t careful. This is why the devil works so hard to tempt and allure you to sin. He knows very well what sin will do to you. He knows that if he can get you to yield to temptation and thus sin, he’s got you on his territory and in his kingdom! Because, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.” 1 John 3:8a. Therefore, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Pet. 5:8. If it were impossible for him to do this, he wouldn’t be trying! He knows that as long as you abide in Christ, keep His doctrine, and sin not, he can’t touch you – you are safe and secure! But if he can just get you to transgress Christ’s doctrine, then, as he very well knows, your situation changes. You have departed from “the shadow of the cross,” exited the strait and narrow pathway (your security zone), and entered into a bypath. The bypath is his territory, and there he can, AND WILL, devour you! He has the right to do this when you enter his territory. The blood of Christ does not cover or protect you there! I have seen him devour many in my lifetime who departed from “the cross.” My most sobering thought is realizing the fact that he can do it to ME if I am not vigilant, watchful, and prayerful, and if I do not keep in the strait and narrow way, the “way of the cross.” Therefore, let us beware and “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.” Heb. 3:12-14. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23. This is the only way that we can have eternal security. As an old song, written by A. S. Kieffer, says:

“Let us walk in the light of the gospel divine; Let us ever keep near to the cross;

Let us love, watch, and pray, in our pilgrimage here; Let us count all things else as but loss.

Let us pray for each other, nor faint by the way, In this sad world of sorrow and care,

For that home is so bright, and is almost in sight, And I trust in my heart you’ll go there.”

The Holy Spirit is always hovering around “the cross,” and there He administers the sanctifying, soul-preserving grace and virtue of Jesus’ blood to those who abide beneath the shadow of the Almighty – “the shadow of the cross.” That is our security zone!

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down;

I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.” – George Bennard

To cling to the old rugged cross means to cling to humility and self-denial. This is how we obtain grace to win the battle against sin. As Jesus won the battle against sin and Satan by submitting to His Father’s will, humbling Himself as a servant, and enduring the cross, so we also triumph by following His example – humbling ourselves, submitting to God, and taking up our cross daily. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, … And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, …” (Phil. 2:5-9).

Always remember, the only way up is to first go down – down in humility. “…God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:6-8, 10.) He will lift you up in grace and victory over temptation and sin. “Sin shall not have dominion over you … under grace.” (Rom. 6:14.)