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Question and Answer

Is sin a choice?


Are we born sinners or with a sinful nature? Can we believe in Jesus and yet live sinful lives and still be saved? We’re not saved by works, right? I thought sin was a choice that WE make, not what others make for us.


In Psalm 51:5 David speaks for us all: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The Apostle Paul takes things a step further by saying, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). We are born with a sinful nature inherited from Adam. Therefore, the human race is collectively guilty and condemned.

We make the choice to sin because we have a sinful nature. However, we are free moral agents, meaning we do what we want to do. No one makes us sin. When a person stands before God in judgment, he is held accountable for what he has actually done, not what someone else has done. As Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.” Note also Proverbs 8:36, “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul.”

Christians sin. The Apostle John writes in 1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things I write to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” But as the verse indicates, our goal is not to sin. We believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, based on what he did on the cross. Trust in Jesus brings the forgiveness of sins, past, present and future. But “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1–2).

There is a difference between struggling against sin and practicing sin as a way of life. “Whoever abides in him does not keep on sinning” (1 John 3:6; the present tense of the verb indicates ongoing activity). Paul describes his struggle in Romans 7:19, 24–25, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do … O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us to die more and more to sin and live more and more to righteousness (sanctification).

There is no salvation by our own works. Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Also note Titus 3:5–6, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

I hope this response is helpful.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

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