In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. We’ve been looking at the subject of sanctification, which is God making Christians holy. But if God has sanctified Christians, then why are Christians imperfect in their actions. Why do they still sin?

The Bible teaches us that the remnants of sin continue to live in Christians while they are on earth. The Christian’s sinful nature struggles against the Holy Spirit, so that the Christian heeds temptations and falls into sin. The apostle Paul describes the battle with these words: ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members’ (Romans 7:14-23).

This means that Christians are hindered by sin as they seek to serve the Lord. So the author of Hebrews encourages Christians to watch out for sin: ‘…let us throw off everything  that  hinders  and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us’ (Hebrews 12:1).

The struggle with sin also means that the best works of the Christians are defiled in the sight of God. Isaiah says: ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away’ (Isaiah 64:6).

Even the apostle Peter fell astray and had to be confronted by Paul for falling into serious sin, whilst a believer. We read in Galatians: ‘When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew’ (Galatians 2:11-14).

So what is the Christian to do in his imperfect state? Right after he says to throw off sin, the author of Hebrews says: ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2). If you keep your eyes on Jesus, he will continue to cleanse you of your sin until you reach glory.

Do you recognise you are imperfect? Do you keep your eyes on Jesus?