An Important Question about My Views on Sin as it Relates to the Believer


----- Original Message -----
From: Name Withheld
To: Paul Stringini
Sent: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 3:46 PM
Subject: Matthew Study Chapter 1Part Two

Greetings an peace unto you, Paul, 

I began listening to your word by word study of Matthew chapter 1.  After I had listened to about three or four of you unpacking general topics, I wanted to hear your expository unpacking of God’s word.   I hope you don’t mind that I send you an e-mail just as a further point of seeking clarity as I listen to your studies. I hope I can listen to as many of them as possible.

The comment that caught my ear as you’re unpacking Matthew 1, was your reference regarding our Lord’s definition of sin, as He states it in John Chapter 8, verse 34.  If I recall correctly, you mentioned that “he who commits sin does not abide in the house forever, rather he is a servant of sin”.  Then you mentioned that other people may add to it the word ‘habitually’ to perhaps dilute what the Lord Jesus is really saying.  I believe that was the extent of your reference to the verse in John.  As I write this, I admit that I have not yet listened to your expository teaching of the Gospel of John, so I hope that I am not doing a disservice here, if I do please forgive me. 

It has been a habit of mine that I try to read or listen to what other expositors say or have said about the meaning of a verse or a passage. One of my favorite places that I go to, is old time preachers, like Jonathan Edwards, C.H. Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, Arthur Pink, Benjamin Warfield and others.  Their type of preaching is no longer what is being heard from today pulpits!

Again, your John chapter 8 expository notwithstanding,  I believe that that your statement regarding John 8:34 in the Matthew study was very simplistic and could have needed to be elaborated further, lest it comes across as an impossibility for any believer who commits sin.  Just as an example of what I’m trying to say, here is the expository form the Matthew Henry Commentaries, excerpted from the website, regarding John 8:34, and a definition of ‘he who commits sin’:

“See who it is on whom this brand is fastened- on him who ‘commits sin’.  There is not a just man on earth that lives, and sins not; yet not everyone that sins is not a servant of sin, for then God would have no servants; but he that makes sin, that makes choice of sin, prefers the way of wickedness before the way of holiness ( Jer. 44;16,17 ), - that makes a covenant with sin, enters into league with it, and makes a marriage with it, that makes contrivances with sin, makes provision for the flesh, and devises iniquity, and that makes a custom of sin, who walks after the flesh, supports its interest, and accepts its wages, Rom. 6:16.”

Having communicated the above, regarding clarifying a point, I will next go straight to John 8:34 of your study and listen to it.  The Lord gets all the glory for the ministry of the expository teaching that you provide for whoever has ears to listens, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you brother.

Warm regard,

 Your brother in Christ,

Name Withheld

My Response:

----- Original Message -----
From: Paul Stringini
To: Name Withheld
Sent: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 6:47 PM
Subject: Re: Matthew Study Chapter 1Part Two

Hello brother,  Thank you for writing.  I have had to clarify my position on sin more than once.  So the flaw is clearly mine.  I have made the point more clearly in other, more recent, studies.  I have always been a believer, but I grew up listening to none of the great expositors of Christian thought.  As a young adult, I was corrupted by false teachings.  So throughout my adult life I have struggled to understand and correctly express Christian teachings as found in the bible. 
So when you listen to me, you are listening to a man who has struggled, and still struggles with the scriptures.  I did not get a proper education, so I do not have well-worn explanations for everything.  For some people, that is what makes my studies worth listening to, I have been told that they have a certain freshness which some people enjoy.  For others my flaws might indicate I should not be teaching.  I confess I have sympathy with both positions.  Yet if I waited until I was sure my understanding and expression were perfect, I might never record another study.  I do not wish to bury my talent for fear of an austere reception.  With eyes and ears open, I proceed with care.
Sin. For the first 13 years of my adult life I believed that the sins I committed were of little  or no consequence, after all, I was forgiven.  Then in 2005 I was exposed to a different kind of preaching that emphasized the importance of walking uprightly.  For the first time, many scriptures I had casually dismissed now demanded that I should reckon with them.  Titus 2 is a good example.
Tit 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Tit 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
This sense that we ought to be doing these things  right now, and not merely after resurrection, and not merely through imputation caused me to have a strong reaction and pulled me a little too far in the other direction.  We could describe this as a case of "blinded by the light."
The studies I recorded in 2009 and shortly thereafter were heavily influenced by my desire to walk a fine line between walking as Christ would have us walk, and acknowledging the fact that being a believer does not make one sinless in that practical "in this present world" sense we all would love to see manifest in us, and that even the most seasoned, conscientious, and careful Christian may sin, or even become embroiled in an habitual sin. That would have been a very difficult thing for me to enunciate at that time, even though I knew it was true, due to the influences around me.   
The studies were also heavily influenced by the fact that I believed that the teaching regarding the sanctification of believers was being generally neglected in the churches.  This resulted in a bit of an imbalance in my own teaching where I was continually seeking to emphasize the necessity of righteous behavior by believers.  I do think this is a very necessary part of our walk (sanctification)  but I have stopped over-emphasizing this teaching in favor of a balanced approach that seeks to encourage believers to obtain the gifts of God in Christ rather than cast doubt on their walk due to flaws in their character and behavior.
When recording Matthew and other studies, at that time, I was very conscious about, "making room for sin"  in my preaching.  So I resisted making statements which would allow for a believer to sin. This was due to the church I was associated with.  Once I got away from the influences there, I became more comfortable acknowledging what every believer should know by experience, and from the teachings and examples of the Apostles:  Even though we aspire to perfection in Christ,  and even though we will make great progress towards Christ's likeness; there are still significant flaws in even the most upright man that will only be cured by the resurrection. 
I still believe that we ought to walk uprightly, at all times, as much as possible.  But failure to do so does not make void the saving grace of Christ.  It is rather through the saving grace of Christ that we receive the imputation of righteousness, freeing us from the burden of condemnation, and enabling us to pursue all the blessings of God in righteousness, including the very upright behavior we all aspire to.  I still believe that the pursuit of righteous action is the birthright of everyone who is born of Christ, each sin subdued to the will of God is a blessing of Salvation.
A sinner is someone who wills to sin in defiance of God and the Law of God.  I understand this point as you described it.  A believer is not a sinner.  Though a man cannot serve two masters, a believer hates his old master and clings to Christ.  Whereas the sinner rejects Christ and clings to sin.  This was not clear to me in 2009, but I do not think it would have become clear without having gone through all the studies.  I recorded the studies for my own edification.  Sharing was incidental at the outset, and I did not expect anyone beyond my wife and the folks at church to listen.  
I have often wondered if some of my older expositions should be removed, but not having anything to replace them with yet, I have left them as they are.  I also recoil a bit at the thought of erasing my errors.  I tend to rather like to lay a correction over the error, as I did with the doctrine of the Trinity.  I do believe that anyone who came to rely too heavily on my expositions for their understanding would eventually hear clarifications, because I have made many of them, and consider transparency the best policy.  If my teachings are flawed and are being used as a substitute for proper Christian education, the problem is that, as you indicated, there is so little expository teaching and it is missed.  That fault is not mine.
If anyone became confused or distressed by any of what I say, I pray that they would write for clarification or seek the counsel of my betters.  I have discussed this aspect of my thinking in my studies and I hope that by including these kinds of corrections people will understand that while it is a blessing to share my studies with everyone, no one should rely too heavily on them, but should use them with an appropriate amount of kind and brotherly skepticism, as you have. 
I hope this answer is satisfactory.  I will probably post this question and answer on my website, near the Matthew study, or on the main study page, (you will be anonymous)  as I think it would help people properly frame my studies from the period around 2009.
Thank you,
Paul Stringini