Free sin?

Question
A visiting preacher stated that Christians have free sins. He said it didn't matter about our purposeful ongoing sins. I don't remember his exact words but he said something to the extent, 'I don't care what you've done or what you're presently doing or who you're sleeping with or what drugs you're using or even if you're are gay, if you're a Christian your sins are free. Don't sweat it even for an instant.' Is this biblical?
Answer
What you describe in your question is not biblical. There is no such thing as free sins. All sin—even forgiven sin—has an extremely high cost. Yes, all sin has a price. The consequences of sin can be both temporary and / or eternal. Let me explain:

Sin: A High Personal Cost

First, all sin is against God but it also costs us personally. Though there is fleshly pleasure in sin for a season (Heb. 11:25; cf. Job 20:25), ultimately, when God must and will judge it, the cost is very high—death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). An example in the Bible is the life of Samson.

(1) Sin will always take you farther than you expect to go (Judg. 16:4-20). At first, Samson wasn't planning on telling Delilah the secret of his strength. But her constant enticements and the lust working in him lead him off the cliff of depravity into the deep, dark caverns of a tormented life and ultimately death.

(2) Sin will always keep you longer than you intend to stay (Judg. 16:20-21). Samson had no intention of remaining bound by his so-called experiment with free sin. He didn't initially consider the bondage that sin brings, how it clutches, grabs, and handcuffs you to itself. It is as if you are tied face to face, shoulder to shoulder, hand to hand, and thigh to thigh with it's rotting corpse [1]. Nor did Samson know when God's strength left him.

(3) Sin will always cost you more than you intend to pay (Judg. 16:30). Samson's free sins cost him his communion with God, his dignity, his strength, his freedom, his sight, and finally his very life. While Samson was ultimately forgiven, we can clearly observe that there is a difference between forgiveness of sin and having to live out the consequences of it. God, in his mercy, forgives the Christian's wrongs, but the sins we commit lead to negative and often painful consequences. We will reap what we sow.

Sin: God's High Cost

Second, man's forgiveness of sin required a life, indeed the death of the Father's own Son. (John 3:16; cf. Isa. 53:5-6; Matt. 27:45-46; John 19:28-30; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 4:10). All genuine Christians understand that Christ paid this high price to redeem them from the power of sin. Nothing less than his suffering and death under the wrath of the Father could have secured our eternal salvation. This is the ultimate cost because only God could have borne it. And this is as expensive as it gets.

Anyone who thinks sin is free should make this very thinking the first sin to repent of. For the Christian, if we truly understand the love of God, we would not desire to sin at all (John 15:13; Rom. 5:12). To think sin is without cost (free) is to commit a severe injustice to the sacrifice of Christ himself; the one who does clearly doesn't personally comprehend the cost of the cross. To lessen the cost of the cross is to cheapen grace.

Genuine grace is not cheap. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship famously wrote the following:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

Cheap grace is really another gospel which is no gospel at all (cf. Gal. 1:6-9). The grace offered by God to the repentant sinner is a free gift, but the cost of that gift was premium. I hope you understand this.

Sin: Purposeful or Deliberate Sin and It's High Cost

Third, ongoing purposeful sin is an indication that someone probably isn't a genuine Christian at all. The Apostle Paul asks us, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Rom. 6:1-2). The Christian is to walk in newness of life and not in the slime-filled gutters of his previous one. While Christians won't be sinless this side of glory, they will sin less and less with each and every breath they take. To assume they can continue to freely sin is high treason against God. Hebrews 10:26-29:

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

The Greek word for deliberately in Hebrews 10:26 is hekousios. It is used one other time in Scripture where it is translated as "willingly." 1 Peter 5:2 instructs us to "shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly." Seen in Peter's words are two different types of willingness: one of committed sincere eagerness, and the other under compulsion for shameful gain. In this latter use, it appears the actor would rather be doing something else; it's something that goes against his will; he serves begrudgingly. It's sort of an unwilling willingness.

All sins are acts of our will, but there may be differences in kinds of willingness. While all Christians sin (1 John 1:8-10), their sin is the result of a lost fight with their flesh (cf. Rom. 7:14-25). Yet, as they continuously struggle against sin — fighting with all that is in them against it (2 Cor. 10:5, et. al.) — they always have victory in Christ (Rom. 8:1, 28, 35-39).

But, there is another kind of willingness to sin that is more deliberate and persistent than the way a Christian may sin. It is unrighteous at its core. It's not the result of a lost fight, but outright willingness for the opposite — to not fight (cf. Rom. 8:7-8), to not have actual spiritual weapons to fight with (cf. Eph. 6:10-18). In Hebrews 10:26 we see this type of willingness that is an intentional, wholehearted, eager act to sin (cf. 1 John 1:6; 2:4). It's not merely one sin or even periodic ones. It is, rather, a settled, deliberate, persistent pattern of continual sin. It's a passion for sin instead of godliness (1 Pet. 1:16).

This type of deliberate willingness for sin doesn't desire loving fellowship or engaging in the good works of the gospel for the glory of God alone (Heb. 10:24; Jas. 2:17; cf. Eph. 2:10; 2 Tim. 2:21; Tit. 2:14). It puts the laws of God aside (Heb. 10:28). It doesn't appreciate God's discipline (Heb. 12:3-17) through his church (Matt. 18:16-20). With the seed of the gospel sown in the corrupt soil of their heart (Matt. 13:3-7, 18-22), in time they may even drift away from the covenant community (cf. Heb. 10:25). As John writes in John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." Hebrews 10:29 reveals the effect of the one who has "trampled underfoot the Son of God and profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified." [2] This is outrageous to the Spirit of grace.

Continual and ongoing deliberate sin is indicative of a person who was never saved in the first place. They are just confessors of the faith, not possessors of it. This is different from the true saint who earnestly desires not to sin. This saint holds on firmly to his share in Christ until the end—and with full assurance (Heb. 3:14; cf. Heb. 10:14, 19).

Sin is not free. At every level, it has a high cost. It has global (Rom. 8:22), national (Prov. 14:34), societal (Gen. 11:9), mental and emotional (2 Cor. 7:10), physical (1 Cor. 11:30), spiritual (Isa. 59:1-2), and eternal (Matt. 25:41) implications and consequences. Woe to them that say, "Sin is free" (cf. Isa. 5:20).

"Go and sin no more" is the command of Scripture (John 8:11). Genuine Christians will endeavor to do just that. And when they fail they will seek forgiveness in the only Savior who has already paid the high cost of their sin. They understand that there is no such thing as free sins!

Note

[1] Apostle asks, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:24). In thinking about the strong desire to be unchained and untethered from the body of death, consider this portion of a translation of Virgil's The Aeneid, where it describes a terrible horrific type of torture:

He even tied corpses to living bodies, as a means of torture, placing hand on hand and face against face, so killing by a lingering death, in that wretched embrace, that ooze of disease and decomposition. VIII 483-88. (http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/VirgilAeneidVIII.php#anchor_Toc3637706).

This describes a hideous death doesn't it. One body tied to another; one living and the other dead. One decaying and the other living. The body of death slowly decomposing and crawling and seeping its way into the body of the living. The living body dies a hideous death. Such is the eternal death of the unforgiven in an eternal gangrenous Hell.  

[2] In context, the term "sanctification" does not refer to salvation. The word literally means "set apart." While it can apply to true believers, it may also apply to objects (Matt. 23:17; 2 Chron. 7:16), places (Exod. 19:23), and even people that aren't saved (1 Cor. 7:14). Here it refers to a Jew being sanctified by becoming a member of the New Covenant (cf. Rom. 9:4-5; Heb. 6:1-6). Note that not all members of the God's Covenant are saved (i.e. Ishmael, Esau, Judas, Demas, etc.). It's possible to be in the visible church and not the invisible one. What is the Visible / Invisible Church?

Related Topics

Losing Your Salvation
Make Your Calling and Election Sure - 2 Peter 1:10
What is Evanescent Grace?
A Salvation Check-Off List
An Eternal Hell is for Real - The Heresy of Annihilationism?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).