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I want to understand what Paul believed about habitual sin (Biblical theology) according to 2 Thessalonians 3 about habitual sin, considering where Paul touches on the matter elsewhere in his first letter to Corinth.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 (NASB)

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 (NASB)

14If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

And, consider what he wrote to Corinth...

1 Corinthians 5:11 (NASB)

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

What is Paul's view on the eternal consequence of habitual sin for a Believer?

  • Does the Believer merely receive temporal punishment, but will yet be admitted into the kingdom?
  • Or is Paul saying that the Believer will lose his admission into the kingdom by persistence in habitual sin?
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  • I'm pretty sure it was the late Dr. Walter Martin who said it. He wrote the book, "Kingdom of the Cults" back in the day. And like Jesus stated at Matthew 7:16. "You will know them by their fruits."
    – Mr. Bond
    Jan 9, 2023 at 20:58
  • This Fruits. What are they ? Are they listed in scriptures? Jan 9, 2023 at 21:24
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    Fruits here are words and deeds and life-style. The genuineness of a prophet can be judged according to these criteria. The chief mark of a false prophet is self-interest. He teaches in order to gain prestige or money and to pass on his own thoughts and ideas. The nature of a person's heart will be disclosed by his or her words and deeds. I employ Acts 17:11 because the Bible is your plumb line. Any pet idea deserves to be thrown out if it will not stand examination in the light of the whole Bible. In short, you check everything out by the Bible. It also helps to have the gift of discernment.
    – Mr. Bond
    Jan 9, 2023 at 22:01
  • Many thanks for your Replies . Jan 10, 2023 at 14:48
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    You've inspired some interesting answers here, but this is essentially a theological question, and by using multiple passages it is a systematic theology question. These are off-topic. Still, it is interesting. Can you please edit it so it has a primary focus on interpreting a single Bible passage? You can include other passages, but questions need to be about either a hermenticical method or a specific Bible passage. Something like, ...according to [this Bible passage], while considering other passages... might be enough.
    – Jesse
    Jan 16, 2023 at 15:39

6 Answers 6

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A sinner who is habituated in sin is unlikely to have been saved from their sin (by putting faith in the one provision for dealing with sin). That is because they are enslaved to sin, which is the way the Bible puts it - people were "in slavery under the basic principles of the world... Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves..." (see Galatians 4:1-8).

But once a sinner has repented, confessed before God and put total trust in Christ's sacrificial death, they stop being a slave to sin. "You are no longer a slave to sin..." that passage says. Also, here:

"So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." Romans 7:25

That was the apostle Paul speaking, of how all his efforts to keep the law of God failed to prevent him sinning, because his mind had not been transformed so as to "have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16). Ah, but once the Lord converted him on the road to Damascus, he was released from his bondage to sin, set free in Christ, and began to develop the mind of Christ. He discovered that the hold the law had over him was broken, therefore it could no longer condemn him. He had been set free in Christ!

Yes, converted Christians still lapse into sin, but they are no longer habitual sinners. Their habituation in sin has been smashed and (as all liberated slaves know) they rejoice in their new-found freedom to live for Christ and no longer for themselves or according to the principles of this world. They know that for them to sin is an anomaly, and their afflicted conscience requires them to immediately repent, seek fresh forgiveness, and to have their cleansed conscience restored. They are ashamed of their sin, knowing at what great cost Christ set them free from sin. The more they grow in the grace of God and the knowledge of Christ, the more sensitive their consciences become. Years on, they are dismayed to even think about when they were new Christians, still unaware of many things that later they realised were offensive to God. They keep pressing on to maturity, which means constantly walking in the opposite direction to sin.

Their eternal salvation is secure in Christ; but if they lapse into sin, their consciences will disturb them and they will not know peace with God again until they have confessed in repentance. They will know the need to battle against the flesh, but (as Christians) they now have the indwelling Holy Spirit to aid them in that fight of "crucifying the flesh" (Romans 6:6 & Galatians 2:20 & 6:14). Nobody said it would be easy, but confidence in Christ is such that they do battle daily, having the victory in Christ.

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  • If they laspe into sin and remain in Sin. What is the outcome ? Jan 8, 2023 at 21:42
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    @Faith Mendel Christians who lapse into sin might die before having that put right, in which case they will answer to God. We do not judge on that score. All Christians still commit some sin. Read 1 John 1:6-2:2. Jesus is our mediator. We seek him to intercede, and he does! Our confidence is in his faithfulness when we lapse into unfaithfulness. No Christian can treat sin lightly for they know no peace until they have confessed and turned away from whatever their lapse was. The Holy Spirit disturbs them, to that end. We do not judge others - read James 4:7-12.
    – Anne
    Jan 9, 2023 at 14:49
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Sin is sin, and any sin prevents our access to the Heavenly Kingdom, in which there is no place of any sin, but only righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:11-18), so, therefore, possession of even a single sin will prevent our eternal citizenship therein.

As Proclus and other Neoplatonists teach, a sin committed through an outburst of a passion is less dangerous than a sin that has crept so deeply in our nature, as to become a habit. In the light of this insight, if any plain sin makes us disqualified for the citizenship of the Kingdom of Christ, how much more so a habituated sin! Just think about it!

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    1john says that we should acknowledge that we sin. But then our advocate is with the Father What do you take on that Jan 7, 2023 at 14:45
  • @FaithMendel Acknowledgment is not enough! I can acknowledge that it is health-damaging to smoke, bit still continue chain-smoking. I should cut with a sin altogether, completely. Jan 7, 2023 at 14:58
  • Yes but I am talking about the tendency to still sin as we are in the flesh. When Christ comes would we depart from him ? Jan 7, 2023 at 15:02
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    @FaithMendel Unless we fight against this very tendency, and fight to the utmost, we shall not inherit the Kingdom Jan 7, 2023 at 15:59
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    @ACME Until he was an angel obedient to God, yes, but when he rebelled and through the rebellion became Satan, not. Jan 8, 2023 at 21:21
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The passages you mention in Thessalonians simply state that we need to shine a brother/sister (i.e. believer) who is sinning so that the person may be shamed and that this will lead to repentance. Let’s say you have a friend at church who is having an affair, and hanging out with him/her is like saying you are ok with the affair and the person is likely to continue on sinning.

As for “Can you lose your salvation?” I will break this down into the following questions:

  1. Did you do anything to become saved? No Ephesians 2:8-10 "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

  2. Do you do anything to stay saved? No Phil 1:6 "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

God’s promise comes with no conditions

  1. Can anything make us unsaved? No Romans 8:38-39 "38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

No created thing includes yourself

  1. What about those who “leave the church” and “stop believing”? 1 John 2:19 "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that [d]it would be shown that they all are not of us."

Why do they leave? They were never truly saved. The parable of the seed sower in Matt 13. the seed that fell on the good soil was the only seed that produced a crop (the only person who was saved). Some people hear the gospel and are elicited/ swept up but there is never any repentance and faith. Being born again isn’t just a concept, it is a real thing that happens. Some people fool us, some fool themselves, and some yet are fooled by us or people who claim to be us. This is why we need to be very careful when we share the gospel so that we do not twist it, sugarcoat it, or water it down. We need to make sure we are sharing the one truth and not anything just to get more people in the seats.

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  • As for your Scriptures on Eternal Salvation. They are not sufficient to proof such Conjecture. All this can be dismissed if you can bring me the words of Jesus concerning Eternal Salvation Jan 16, 2023 at 8:35
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1Jo 5:16 describes different severities of sin. Heb 3:12,13 describe a Christian's need to combat their sinful tendency. Heb 10:26,27 describe those who reject Jesus. 1 Jo 3:19 gives us confidence if we feel bad and work hard not to practice sin. Matt 12:31 and Mark 3:28,29 describes those who are beyond forgiveness. Heb 6:4-6 describes the condition of those who commit an unforgivable sin. @Faith Mendel, Additional thoughts: Your question had these additional clarifications. each is addressed below.

".... what is the eternal consequence of habitual sin....? Rev 7:9 describes ones in white robes standing before the throne, vs 14 says they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb resulting in everlasting life. All desirous of eternal life must work hard to avoid the practice of willfully choosing to sin. Because Jas 1:14,15 unrestrained willful sin leads to death. Matt 10:22 shows that we must maintain our Christian identification till the end of our life or until God's Judgment comes.

The next two questions are similar.
Does he merely receive temporal punishment but yet will be admitted into the kingdom? Or does the believer lose his admission into the kingdom by persistence in habitual sins?

Repentance is required for forgiveness. Rev 1:5, Lu 13:3-9 Mark 6:12, Acts 2:38, 3:19. Excerpt from Insight on the Scriptures:

In Greek, two verbs are used in connection with repentance: me·ta·no·eʹo and me·ta·meʹlo·mai. The first is composed of me·taʹ, meaning “after,” and no·eʹo (related to nous, the mind, disposition, or moral consciousness), meaning “perceive, discern, mentally grasp, or be aware.” Hence, me·ta·no·eʹo literally means afterknowing (in contrast to foreknowing) and signifies a change in one’s mind, attitude, or purpose. Me·ta·meʹlo·mai, on the other hand, comes from meʹlo, meaning “care for or have interest in.” The prefix me·taʹ (after) gives the verb the sense of ‘regretting’ (Mt 21:29; 2Co 7:8), or ‘repenting.’

Those who continually choose to act on their sinful nature, "works of the flesh" Gal 5:19-21 are in line for losing out on their opportunity for everlasting life as shown also from Heb 3:12-14, Those with faith in Christ must maintain "clean garments" identifying themselves by their fine conduct to be in line for future blessings Gal 5:22-26. At some point, some may be so flagrant in their sinful conduct as to render themselves beyond forgiveness. Heb 10:26-31 Matt 12:31 Mark 3:28,29. It is not up to us as sinful humans to Judge another as to whether he has committed an "unforgivable sin" or not. God has put all Judgment into the hands of Jesus. 1 Tim 4:1 If we fear we may be unforgivable. Note: I assume, that if we had, we would not be desirous of returning to God as in the case of Judas Lu 6:16, Jo 6:70,71 (Greek diablos meaning devil or slanderer) the course that Judas chose was a deliberate one, involving malice, greed, pride, hypocrisy, and scheming. He afterward felt remorse under the burden of guilt, as a willful murderer might at the result of his crime. Yet Judas had of his own volition made a bargain with those who Jesus said made proselytes that were subjects of Gehenna twice as much as themselves, who were also liable to “the judgment of Gehenna.” (Mt 23:15, 33) So in this state, he committed suicide. This is not denoting that all suicide is unforgivable, but that in Judas' mind, he knew he had lost any chance of God's mercy, he was beyond repentance.

Thus we may see examples of those who are unforgivable but it is not our place to discover these instead it is the Christian obligation to continue to assist others to build their own Faith in Christ our Judge as commanded in 2 Tim 4:1-5, to try to help them to repentance. If they are not repentant, their bad influence must be removed as in 1 Cor 5:1,2,9-13. This provision is not necessarily a recognition that they are beyond God's forgiveness but given as a protection against bad influence from within the trusted fellowship.

There is much more to consider on this subject, such as what about those who die before "Judgment Day" are not their sins paid for? What about those who die before the Messiah came?, suffice it to say simply, No imperfect human knows for sure God's judgment on another unless revealed in Scripture. The consequence of habitual sinning will most likely lead to a Christian's failure to "endure firm to the end" resulting in losing out on their prospect for eternal life.

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  • How does this answer my question Jan 8, 2023 at 21:39
  • @FaithMendel Please see the edit to my first answer.
    – ACME
    Jan 10, 2023 at 0:35
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Will Habitual Sin Affect the Believer's Eternal Salvation?

Answer to this question will need to answer a pre-requisite question. Is this so called believer a true Christian? That is, is he/she an legitimate offspring of Abraham that inherit the promise of the Lord given to Abraham?

Paul asserted in Romans 9:6-8, that the offspring of Abraham is not from blood origin, it is the promise.

6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.

7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. (NIV)

In Galatians, Paul said whoever belongs to Christ are Abraham's offspring, according to the promise.

29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed (offspring), and heirs according to the promise. (NIV)

So how do we know if we carry the promise? Yes we do, for there is a sign, the Holy Spirit that the Lord promise given to His children, declared initially in Jeremiah 31:31-34, where vv33 read

33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 elaborate what is meant by putting His law in their minds

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Conclusion

Now, if a believer is not capable to get rid of his Habitual Sin, did he receive the Holy Spirit? If he didn't, then he was not a legitimate Abraham offspring, and therefore not eligible to receive the eternal salvation.

Paul warned the disciples stayed away from these people, more precisely speaking, stayed away from a certain distance, but not totally detached. As Paul said "Do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (2 Thessalonians 3:15). For we don't carry hatred, we always love. Who can judge in the position of the Lord that someone should go to hell. Who knows the exact time someone will turn back to God. In our mind, we always have hope.

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Arguably we are all habitual sinners, unless someone believes that they have never sinned again.

This is a very tricky Q to answer as there is no clear evidence regarding habitual sinners / salvation. There is also some tension between some passages. There is also some conflict with Paul & Jesus.

Common sense would dictate keep good company and avoid bad company to avoid being drawn into temptation of sin.

Paul appears to be providing a very serious warning – stay away / do not associate from those who are immoral / practice contrary to the teachings. The passages in the Q are very clear, no ambiguity, stay away from these sinners for your own good.

[note: what teachings? Clearly there have to be rules / regulations / commandments we need to follow – otherwise how do we conclude who is ‘unruly’ etc… – which is contradictory to Paul’s teachings by faith alone]

Pauls - contrary to those in the Q

2 Timothy 2:25 Correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 - And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

[Note: after warning to stay away from sinners – Paul now implies be gentle to them and help them, NO ‘put to shame’ or stay away from them]

Paul – does sin really matter

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:5 - even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

[Note: it appears it doesn’t really matter if you have sinned as you can only be saved from the grace of God – so arguably believe in Jesus and do whatever you want]

what did Jesus say

Mark 2:17 - 17On hearing this, Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 5:32 - I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Mark 2:17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:10 - 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.

Luke 15:2 - And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

[Note: Jesus was mixing with sinners – not saying stay away from them]

can sinners be saved - Yes Repent

Psalms 86:5 "For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

REV 3:19 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Matt 4:17 - From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Acts 3:19 - Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, Matthew 3:8 - Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Luke 13:3

Matthew 18:3 - 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Luke 15:10 - Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

[Note: yes you can be saved if you repent]

who do you repent to

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalms 103:8)

Mark 10:18 is the word "alone": ""Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good–except God alone."

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. Job 5:17

If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 2 Peter 2:9

Deuteronomy 24:16 - 16 Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

John 7:16-18 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

Matt 26: 39. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." 44. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

John 8:28 Jesus said "I do nothing of myself"

conclusion

There is no clear evidence / information in the bible regarding the habitual sin / salvation. You need to Repent to God – only God can save you. Obviously, when you repent your intentions are not to sin again, God knows your heart and if your repentance is true. God is merciful and will forgive, even those who sin again and again.

There is no inherit sin OR Jesus the Lamb died for our sins: see links below.

Otherwise we are not sinners and can do whatever we want, as long as we believe in Jesus as our saviour.

inherit the sin: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/62982/33268 Jesus the Lamb: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/75324/33268

Ecclesiastes 9:2-4 - 2 Everyone will die someday. Death comes to godly and sinful people alike. It comes to good and bad people alike. It comes to “clean” and “unclean” people alike. Those who offer sacrifices and those who don’t offer them also die. A good person dies, and so does a sinner. Those who make promises die. So do those who are afraid to make them. 3 Here’s what is so bad about everything that happens on this earth. Death catches up with all of us. Also, the hearts of people are full of evil. They live in foolish pleasure. After that, they join those who have already died. 4 Anyone who is still living has hope. Even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

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  • Great analysis. But you seem not to answer the question directly Feb 5, 2023 at 20:49
  • @FaithMendel I have slightly amended the conclusion - IMO there is no clear evidence in the bible regarding habitual sin / salvation. Only that you can repent to God and hope he strengthens / guides you. Arguably everyone is a habitual sinner, unless someone is saying that they committed a sin and then never sinned again Feb 6, 2023 at 10:59

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