Believers Struggling with Sin: Are They Not Genuine Christians?

Somebody once commented that “while we are here on earth, it’s a daily fight with our sins, but we’re not slaves [to them] anymore.” This is also like saying, “While we are here on earth, it’s a daily fight with our sins; therefore, we’re not slaves of sin anymore.” Is this statement biblically sound?

This is what I call a formal fallacy. 

A formal fallacy occurs when one arrives at a false conclusion. The reason a believer is in a spiritual battle is because he is still a slave to that particular sin. There is no need for a spiritual battle if he is no longer a slave to sin. While still slaves to lust, some believers may have overcome alcoholism. Are we saying that we are no longer subject to any sin? So we’re already perfect? The lordship of Christ also applies to our sanctification process, in which we fight every day to be freed from the slavery of sin. When the apostle Paul reprimanded the Corinthian believers for their jealousy and strife, which demonstrated their fleshly ways, weren’t they slaves to sin at the time? (see 1 Cor. 3:1-2) Paul even labelled them as fleshly, worldly, or carnal. (see 1 Cor. 1:3) What I mean is that we cannot claim that we are “no longer” slaves to sin. Aren’t some of us slaves to hidden sins that others cannot see? The late Charles Spurgeon explains in his comment on the Roman Catholic form of priestly confession,

“Why, if we could receive pardon for all our sins by telling every sin we have committed in one hour, there is not one of us who would be able to enter heaven, since, besides the sins that are known to us and that we may be able to confess, there are a vast mass of sins, which are as truly sins as those which we do observe, but which are secret, and come not beneath our eye. Oh! if we had eyes like those of God, we should think very differently of ourselves.” (1)

Are we saying that we have already been freed from the servitude of sin? Do you no longer struggle with sin? What are the secret transgressions that you are currently battling? It is true that believers are engaged in a spiritual battle every day. Many of these must be fought daily. Many of us are still slaves to bitterness, jealousy, laziness, pride, unforgiving, insecurity, lust, lies, rage, doubt, worry, and so on. Can you tell yourself that you are no longer a slave to any of these sins? The reason we fight is because we are still its slaves. And once we have conquered sin through Christ and emerged victorious, we have won. Here comes yet another battle that must be overcome. To put it another way, we cannot judge those who continue to be slaves to obvious sins and then label them as unbelievers. Every day, we all engage in a spiritual battle. Even the apostle Paul confessed to being a slave to some sins. Will we assert that Paul is an unbeliever with no relationship to Christ? He stated, 

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”

Romans 7:15

It is my prayer that we not be overly righteous in labeling some believers as unbelievers because they are still slaves to their own sinful flesh. We have no idea how they are also praying and asking God for help in order to overcome the sins that cause them to fall. What we can do is pray for ourselves and our brothers and sisters who are still struggling to overcome the sins that have enslaved them. Disciple them. Guide them. Lead them. Mentor them. Stand with them in faith. Let the spiritually mature person pray for and minister to the weak (see Jam. 5:16). As Jesus prayed for unity among the believers, He saw that they were still enslaved by the sin of disunity.

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 

John 17:11

Once a person comprehends the holiness of God it is natural for him to change his perspective and dedicate his life to Christ. And this change does not happen instantly. Through the years, we spiritually grow in Christ. And we cannot claim to have “fully devoted” ourselves to Christ in all aspects of our lives. We are to grow in Christ as we journey with Him daily (see Eph. 4:15; 2 Pet. 3:18).

We should never tolerate sin in our lives (see Rom. 6:1-2). But we should not dismiss the possibility that these believers, who are still struggling with sin, have a relationship with Jesus Christ (see Jam. 3:2; 1 Jn. 1:8; Rom. 7:15-17; Eph. 6:12). When we say they are not believers just because of the obvious sins they commit, then we are usurping God’s role, as if we can see into the hearts of every person who claims to be a follower of Christ. We have no idea how much they hate sin, yet they keep stumbling. We have no way to know how they pray to God for deliverance. If they continue to sin, let God discipline them in love because they are His children (see Heb. 12:6). Remember that the Lord identifies those who are His (see 2 Tim. 2:19). He also knows who truly despises sin in their lives. And hating sin does not automatically result in victory. As a result, we should not label these believers who struggle in the flesh as unbelievers simply because we cannot see them victorious in some obvious sins as they walk with the Lord.  

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

Matthew 7:3


1 A Sermon (No. 116) Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 8, 1857, by the Rev. C.H. Spurgeon. Access April 15, 2023

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