Can a saved person have “sins of the spirit”? I have heard this preached on, but I can only find sins of the flesh in the Bible.
Thanks for your intriguing question. A friend of mine and I discussed this some time ago.
Most of the time when people speak of sins of the spirit, they are simply referring to attitude sins in distinction from action sins. This would include sins such as pride, envy, and so forth. When this meaning is the case, the reference is really not to sins of the spirit, but sins of the soul.
A believer possesses a regenerated spirit, which is “God’s seed” (sperma) or nature implanted in man (1 John 3:9). It is referenced scripturally as the “new man” created after God in righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24) and a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). With this understanding, this part of man “cannot sin” (1 John 3:9), for God’s nature cannot sin. Obviously, we can ignore this provision and the indwelling Spirit who has joined and energizes our spirit, and when we do, we sin because we yield to the flesh instead of the Spirit.
It follows there could be no “sins of the spirit” for believers, yet Paul admonished, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). The connection Paul makes between filthiness and spirit commands our attention, but the immediate context explains the apparent enigma. The “therefore” connects this verse to the preceding discussion on separation/not maintaining unequal yokes. There, it specifically mentions not having any fellowship with “Belial” (a name of Satan) or “idols” which in the Old Testament were backed by demons (evil spirits). Thus, it appears the reference to filthiness of the flesh and spirit refers to defilement which originates from both the physical realm and the spiritual realm that includes evil spirits.
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