Christian Living

#STRask: August 14, 2017

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Published on 08/14/2017

In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about Christians sinning, Christians called bigots, and new books in the biblical canon.


  • 1 John 3:6,9 seem to say that true Christians no longer sin. Yet experience shows otherwise. How are we to understand this passage?
  • People accuse us of being bigots or hateful just because we are Christ followers. How do you respond?
  • Are there letters and accounts written by the Apostles that are not a part of the biblical canon? If so, should Christians read them?


Melinda: Hello there. I'm Melinda, the Enforcer. This is the STRask podcast, and Greg Koukl is staring at me because he's sitting next to me.

Greg Koukl: It's not because I'm sitting next to you. It's what's with the headphones. You're the earbud girl.

Melinda: I know. I just grabbed them. They were sitting here.

Greg Koukl: Oh.

Melinda: If it's throwing you off I can switch.

Greg Koukl: No. It just makes your glasses go crooked.

Melinda: I know. It is. I'm feeling that. Maybe I'll switch them.

Greg Koukl: It's kind of hard to look at your crooked glasses.

Melinda: Well, to be honest with you, the glasses you're wearing right now I really don't like. These are his ... Some of you who see him ...

Greg Koukl: These are my reading glasses. That's all. They're not crooked.

Melinda: These are like the ... But these are like your black, narrower ones. They just sort of make you look mean.

Greg Koukl: They're not that narrow. They're reading glasses. They're not crooked. There you go.

Melinda: I didn't say they were crooked.

Greg Koukl: I know. But at least mine are not crooked is what I'm saying.

Melinda: You know we're getting old when we have all kinds of different kinds of glasses. We've got reading glasses. We've got desk glasses.

Greg Koukl: That's a good point.

Melinda: Got distance driving glasses. Which pair of glasses do I need right now?

Greg Koukl: That's right. Where are my glasses? Which one? You've got three of them sitting on your head right now. Oh. Can't find them.

Melinda: Right.

Greg Koukl: All right. Let's go to work.

Melinda: This is the old fogey host show. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. That's how we can find them. Then I post ...

Greg Koukl: Speak for yourself, okay.

Melinda: See the delayed response is a perfect instance of old fogey-ness. It's like I'm off into the next thing already.

Greg Koukl: The coins just fell into the meter.

Melinda: Yes.

Greg Koukl: Just a little slow lately.

Melinda: Of course in you that's not a case of old fogey-ness. It's always been the case. But I'll find your question on Twitter that way. Pose it Greg and he's got four minutes or less, or we get to ding him. You know, audibly, not physically. But literally.

Greg Koukl: Thankfully.

Melinda: Yeah. I voted for the other, but everybody else vetoed me. Let's get going. First question comes from MiguelAnzuelo. That's his Twitter name, plus I assume his real name.

Greg Koukl: Probably.

Melinda: Open your bible to first John 3 please. “First John 3:6 and 9 seem to say that true Christians no longer sin. Yet experience shows otherwise. How are we to understand this passage?”

Greg Koukl: Well, we have a rule. The rule is never read ...

Melinda: Say it all together out there.

Greg Koukl: Never read a bible verse. That verse comes up in John 3. Turn to first John chapter 1. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he's faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.” Next verse, that's the last three of chapter one, the first one of chapter two. “My little children, I'm writing these things to you so that you may not sin and if anyone sins, you're not really a Christian.” No, that isn't what he says. “We have an advocate with the father Jesus Christ the righteous and he himself is the propitiation for our sins.” That means that he is the satisfaction okay?

Now, the point I'm making here is when you read such a strong statement there about the reality of sin in our lives in general, and even in the lives of Christians, and then we go to chapter three, it would be very odd for John in a very short span of time to completely contradict what he's just said. Reading John charitably and not presuming he's just contradicted himself we have to ask ourselves, well what could he possibly mean in chapter 3 given what he said in chapter one? I think that the point in chapter 3, and what is the verse again?

Melinda: 6 and 9.

Greg Koukl: 6 and 9, which says, “no one who abides in him sins, no one who sins has seen him or knows him. The one who practices sin is of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin.” Gosh, that sounds like a direct contradiction. Well, like I said, I'm going to try to read John charitably and it seems what John is speaking of here is not someone who has occasions of sin, but of people who continue on in a sinful lifestyle in rebellion against god. I sin every day. I pretty much sin every moment. When you think of the demand, like the two greatest commandments, which Jesus gave I think principally to show how inadequate we are to satisfy the demands. We must love the lord our God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Well, I have never fulfilled either of those commands for an instant in my entire life.

Melinda: I really don't love my neighbors on the freeway like I love myself.

Greg Koukl: No. Yeah okay, there you go. The point is then we are always in sin of some sort. But there's a difference between that kind of situation, which I think is what John is talking about in the beginning. If you say you're not a sinner, come on. You know, God says you are, so you're calling God a liar. There's a difference between that and somebody who persists in habitual rebellious sin. This is what I think John is talking about in chapter 3. That everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness, or sin is lawlessness. That's verse 4. I think the sense there is that, and from what I understand the Greek tenses bear testimony to this view. That if someone who is consistently and persisting in kind of a sinful state, and a sinful action. Somebody who is celebrating ... Somebody who has same-sex attraction and falls into sin on occasion, that's one thing. Someone who's celebrating their homosexuality and living in homosexuality and thinks that's just fine with God, that's an entire thing. Entirely different situation. That's the kind of contrast I'm making.

Melinda: Yeah. Sexual sin falls into this category quite a lot these days. Lot of Christians living with their girlfriend or boyfriend of the opposite sex too, and they just aren't convicted of the sin.

Greg Koukl: No big deal. Yeah. What's the deal? I have every reason to doubt that person's spiritual life. Whether its heterosexual sin or homosexual sin, I have every reason to doubt that. Because it's clear that they are not doing as God wanted them to do. Look at. When I became a Christian, it took me about, I'd say two years to get my sexual life squared away. I was 23 years old. Man, I knew when I fell, that was bad news. I suffered because of it, emotionally and spiritually, whatever. I knew that I was in the wrong place. I addressed that with God. What I wasn't saying is, hey man, save my grace, happy conditions. Sin as you please because there's remission. No. That wasn't my view. Just libertine lifestyle because of the grace of God. No. Even though there was sin in my life, it wasn't a habitual pattern that I was not willing to repent from. I think that's what John has in mind here. If this isn't what he has in mind, what you have is a radical contradiction within a few paragraphs of each other. I don't think John was that stupid.

Melinda: No. Maybe the dividing line here we can say is it's not whether you sin or don't sin, it's whether your sin grieves you when you're confronted with it.

Greg Koukl: Well, that would be an indicator yes. Subjective indicator.

Melinda: Because even if sometimes we tend to fall into the same sin, like every morning on the freeway I tend to fall into the same sin. It grieves me.

Greg Koukl: Yeah. Look. If that's going to be the criteria, let me just add this then, not all of my sin grieves me.

Melinda: Well that's true.

Greg Koukl: You know, but I still know it's sin and I know it's wrong.

Melinda: Your conscience is pricked.

Greg Koukl: I'm consciously aware that this is not right. Even if it doesn't grieve me, you know, I've got to deal with it.

Melinda: Right. Okay. Next question comes from play it again Sam. He says, hi Greg and Melinda.

Greg Koukl: Which, by the way, he never said that in that movie.

Melinda: I know.

Greg Koukl: Play it again Sam. Casablanca. Just for the record.

Melinda: People accuse us of being bigots or hateful just because we are Christ followers. How do you respond?

Greg Koukl: Well, I give a little instruction in the Tactics book that whenever anybody calls you a name, you always ask them the first Columbo question, what do you mean by that? Don't do it belligerently, but the point is what is it that I am doing that qualifies me for bigotry? That would be ... Now, this presumes something, and maybe a different question needs to be asked first. It presumes that the person knows what bigotry is and they think you're doing it.

Melinda: Right.

Greg Koukl: This is where the first question maybe should be what is bigotry? It's kind of an unreasonable hatred to a particular person. Boy, if that's it, well in what way is my censure of homosexuality as a behavior an example of bigotry defined that way? Just as a point of information there are certain words that are used in conversation nowadays that are used for their rhetorical force to silence opposition and not to make any progress of a meaningful sense in the conversation. Bigotry is one of them, or bigot. Or racist.

Melinda: Phobic. Some kind of phobic.

Greg Koukl: That's right. Any of the phobics, and there's a whole bunch of them now, and also racist. I was with a group of students, Christian students, a couple of weeks ago, big audience, about 3 or 400 students. I asked for somebody to give me the definition of racism. It took five students before I got the right definition. Yesterday I was at the doctor's office having a conversation with the medical assistant there. We were talking about this stuff too. I told her about this situation, and I said, by the way, what is racism? I asked her. She's an educated, intelligent person. She could not give me the right answer. She equated racism with kind of a prejudice or bigotry or something. That's not what racism is.

The point I'm making is, these are terms that are used by people who don't know what they mean, but they have rhetorical force when they're leveled at the opposition. We don't have to put up with that. The best way to get around it is to force them to define it, and once they defined it, ask them how is it that my actions right now, or explain to me, are characteristic of that definition? A more politicized issue, and I know this happened, I read the article. When a young lady in a classroom said regarding Black Lives Matter. She said all lives matter. She was accused of being a racist. Then the question is, well, what's a racist? It's the one who believes that one race is superior to another race. There's usually persecution that comes as a result of that. Okay. How is the statement all lives matter an example of that definition? It isn't at all, but you can't uncover the rhetorical misstep, the name calling, unless you get someone to give a definition. I think that's the best way to do it.

Melinda: Yeah. You've made the point in the past that name-calling is not a substitute for an argument.

Greg Koukl: That's right.

Melinda: But it does a lot of substitution these days.

Greg Koukl: Oh. It's unbelievable. From the least to the greatest too. Ridicule is not an argument. Name calling is just a fancy form of ridicule.

Melinda: Right. You know, I think ultimately, a lot of people, you're obviously not going to ... They're just caught up in the rhetorical value of these labels. You're not necessarily going to dissuade them from using them or your view. But I think ultimately what we need to do is live lives of honor before God and loving people. Being kind.

Greg Koukl: Certainly so we're not guilty of those things.

Melinda: That may not convince, right. But ultimately Jesus says they'll know you by your love. Let's be loving people in the biblical sense and prove them wrong. Hopefully draw those who really are open.

Greg Koukl: Yeah. Here's another way you could respond when somebody calls you a bigot. You can say and you are really ugly.

Melinda: I wouldn't recommend that, no.

Greg Koukl: I wouldn't do that, but I mean, you see. I'm making the point. They attack your character, you attack their looks. Nobody's talking about the issue anymore.

Melinda: Yeah.

Greg Koukl: I'm not saying to actually do that. It's just parody.

Melinda: Your glasses are really ugly. Okay, let's go to the next one.

Greg Koukl: Look who's talking about glasses.

Melinda: I have you on recording saying a couple weeks ago you thought they were cute.

Greg Koukl: Not when they're crooked.

Melinda: They're not crooked. I switched the headphones.

Greg Koukl: Look at me.

Melinda: Let's just go to the next question. Logos Theo.

Greg Koukl: I can see they’re crooked.

Melinda: Maybe my head's crooked. My ears are crooked. I don't know. Are there letters and accounts written by the apostles that are not part of the Biblical cannon? If so, should Christians read them?

Greg Koukl: There are letters written by the apostles. For example, there is one between what we call first Corinthians and second Corinthians, because Paul makes reference to them. But, you can't read it because it doesn't exist anymore.

Melinda: It's lost.

Greg Koukl: It's lost okay? The fact that it was lost is good indication that it's not part of the cannon or else it would not have been lost. It was an incidental writing that did not have the theological significance of these other things.

Melinda: Since his question is in the present tense, are there letters and accounts written by the apostles that are not in the Biblical cannon? The answer would be no.

Greg Koukl: Well yeah but I ...

Melinda: Were there, yes.

Greg Koukl: Yes. Just to give a little bit more substance. It's my great learning that I paid so much ... No. Stand to Reason paid so much money for that, I've got to make use of it. But I think that's important because this might be the detail that launched the question. Will we discover some new book that has Biblical authority? I think the answer is no. The reason, I wrote a piece once, that was called “No Lost Books” because there was this ...

Melinda: It's still on the website.

Greg Koukl: Yeah. It's still on the website. That there were lost books of the bible, and my point was, well if what we understand the Bible to be as the inspired word of God, how is God going to lose his books? Our doctrine of cannon really amounts to the idea that God is the one who preserves the cannon, not just inspires the individual books and the texts and the words God breathed, but the concept of cannon is just an extension of the concept of inspiration. God is responsible for both of them. He's not going to lose his books. If there were letters that were written, and we have indication that they were, like the middle Corinthians, then it wasn't one that God wanted to save because if he wanted to save he would have saved it. It didn't get saved. The early church did not save it, so there's no reason to be concerned about it.

Melinda: It would be hard at this point also to substantiate an authoritative book of the Bible because it had to do with knowing the lion of authority. The eyewitness of Jesus or the recording of an eyewitness account, like Luke's. It'd be hard to do that. That's why it's all really just done in the first generation or two. Yeah. As people sometimes think, the cannon wasn't established until the second century, that's not the case.

Greg Koukl: Right.

Melinda: It was simply formalized.

Greg Koukl: Right. Right.

Melinda: There was already agreement in the first century because the people who knew the eyewitnesses.

Greg Koukl: Right. You can see from the writings of the church fathers. Their citation of these texts. They cite these passages that are part of the ... From books that are part of the established cannon now. It shows that they revered them as being canonical at the time. I see you’re looking at Paul Mayer's book and The Constantine Codex, which I read, which was really interesting, but it was annoying because it did suggest that something could be found that might be considered the long ending of Mark and stuff like that.

Melinda: Which we would disagree. Paul Mayer's a biblical scholar in Michigan, we've had him out to speak before. He's been writing biblical fiction or historical fiction for decades.

Greg Koukl: Right. He's got a great book on Paul.

Melinda: Right. Paul L. Mayer, M-A-Y-E-R. Yeah, but he has written a more recent one called The Constantine Codex. It has to do with the discovery of this extra letter to the Corinthians, and whether it could be demonstrated or not to be authoritative. We won't give away the ending, even though you sort of did. What it does in the course of the book is raise all of these ...

Greg Koukl: I don't remember how it ended.

Melinda: Raise all of these issues.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, right.

Melinda: That go into determining these things. You can learn something from it.

Greg Koukl: It's kind of fun.

Melinda: All of his other books too.

Greg Koukl: Paul is a good guy.

Melinda: Yeah. Okay. That's great. That's it for this episode folks. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. I will pose them to Greg. We post two new episodes every week, Mondays and Thursday. I'm Melinda, the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl. We're both here with Stand to Reason.