“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19–21
Throughout this series we’ve established that God created sex exclusively for marriage. We’ve also discussed how harmful it is to pursue sexual pleasure outside of God’s design. The problem is, many who call themselves Christians also participate in things that are immoral, impure, or sensual. So, can believers practice sexual sin and still be saved?
The word “practice” in Galatians 5:21 refers to a habitual lifestyle. Both Galatians 5 and 1 Corinthians 6 list sexual sin among behaviors of those outside of Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:11 goes on to say, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
That’s why 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” At the moment of salvation, we are pardoned, purchased, and possessed by Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19–20.) If we have the Spirit of the living God within us, how can we continually practice rebellion without remorse?
So, what does it mean if you claim the name of Christ and aren’t convicted by what God calls, “sin”? Well, two possibilities come to mind: (1) you have a hardened heart; or (2) you are not really a Christian. Let’s talk about these one at a time.
First, Christians can commit sexual sin, but not without the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Lord may stop prompting when a believer continually ignores the Spirit. One of God’s harshest disciplines is giving us what we think we want. The result can be a hard heart. That doesn’t mean you lack sensitivity to others, but to God. Keep in mind, this includes sensual entertainment. How can we judge others, then turn around and pay to watch similar behavior?
The other possibility is that you are not truly a follower of Christ. Consider 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7-8, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality…For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” Sexual immorality not only violates God’s will, it also demonstrates rejection of God Himself.
If you’re a genuine believer who has fallen into the grip of sexual sin, then you possess the power to break free. Simply confess your sin to Jesus. Allow Him to live through you once again. If you are not a follower of Christ, God loves you and desires to make you new (2 Corinthians 5:17.) He stands ready to forgive. Invite Jesus into your life by placing your trust in Him.
So, the question we should really ask isn’t, “Can a Christian practice sin and be saved?” But rather, “Why would a follower of Christ choose to sin repeatedly when Jesus provides the grace and power not to?”