‘We Cannot Sin’ is Not Our Emphasis
By Fred Pruitt
(This is taken from something I wrote several years ago, which was then collected along with quite a few others into a book titled, Pearls from My Interactions with Fred Pruitt,” put together by my good friend from Norway, Ole Henrik Skjelstad.)
One thing I am having difficulty with, is this emphasis on “we cannot sin.” I do not understand what the point of it is. It is not our (my) message, that “we cannot sin.” Nor was it an emphasis of Jesus, nor of Paul, etc.
I don’t “teach” that for the same reason I don’t teach “eternal security.” The reason is that if you want “eternal security,” it must come from the only One Who IS eternal security, rather than a “doctrine” that we hold to be true. “Eternal security” is a personal thing, not a one-size-fits-all “reality.” We don’t let people off the hook of their sufferings over this issue. Their sufferings regarding their “salvation” are Spirit-driven, and the results must come from the Spirit’s word in them. They must have the “witness” in themselves. I don’t think we can say, “Can you check your Book of Life again? I went forward once at a service and they told me I was eternally secure from then on out, so my name HAS to be in your Book.”
When I think of this “cannot sin” emphasis, I think of Jesus. Did Jesus think He could not sin? The scripture says He “did not” sin, not He “could not.” What would the point of temptation be if we were impervious to it, because it had no possibility of taking us? Like I said in my talk in Louisville or somewhere, then we’d be like Superman. Bullets bounce off us, so why pay them any mind? Plus, if He was incapable of succumbing to temptation, He would not have really been “like us.”
But that isn’t the way it is in our lives. Temptation is real, as well as the ever-present possibility that we might go the wrong way with it. We are still in the devil’s camp, and still temptable. If the possibility did not exist that we might succumb to temptation, then it would have no bite. It would be meaningless. I don’t think Jesus’ temptation in the desert was easy. I don’t think they bounced off him. I think that in “temptation,” we are pulled and poked and prodded every way possible to see if we will budge. So it is not an easy thing. These bullets don’t just bounce off. It’s tough sometimes!
How did Jesus do it? Isaiah 42:1 says, “Behold my servant, Whom I uphold.” He was “held” in the “keeping of God.” That’s the truth. But Jesus had to walk that out by faith just as we human sons do, since He was also a human son. He counted on God to hold Him up, but when the temptations assault us, do we feel like God is holding us up? No, it is exactly the opposite. We think, “Where the hell did He go?” It seems like it’s all on us.
We have to address that “element” in our maturity. In our infancy, temptations are enemies, because we so easily fall into the trap. But in our maturity, temptations are our friends, because we have learned that they bring the plan of God into effect. But if there is no “struggle,” and there could only be “struggle” if in my thinking I am afraid I am being taken by that “thing,” then where will be the victory in the struggle? No struggle, no victory. No tension, no rest. These things must be.
But to make it our “doctrinal stance” that “we cannot sin” basically removes the whole sin/temptation issue into the theoretical realm, and we can argue night and day over what it means when it says, “we cannot sin,” but it doesn’t matter anyway, because we are all sitting around arguing over something theoretical, like a bunch of professors who don’t actually “do” the thing they teach.
It’s kind of like telling a soldier he cannot get killed in the war. It is an impossibility we tell him. But when he gets to the battle, do you think he feels like he “cannot be killed?” I don’t think so. Out here in the trenches of life, where the battle is joined every day through manifold temptations, I don’t “feel like” I “cannot sin.” I “feel” the opposite of that. So how am I to know it then?
It is a daily walk and each situation calls for “applied faith” for that situation, which God provides through His grace. That is because in every situation there is also temptation in it, the ever-present temptation to unbelief.
Frankly, that temptation to unbelief is the undercurrent of our lives. And that is how God would have it. We live tempted. Not sinning, thank God, but tempted. And I will say again, when these temptations really assail us, the last thing we think is “we cannot sin.” That’s the point! We must be driven into God by the Spirit, to find the answer to “being kept” and “cannot sin” within our own being. This is a Spirit faith-level, we might say, and one does not come to it except that “being kept” is a BIG issue to us. It must have been a BIG issue to Jesus — the keeping of the Father. He was “lost” without it, and we are, too! So we must find it for ourselves, just as certainly He did also, since it says, “He learned obedience through the things he suffered.” (Heb 5:8). What obedience? The obedience of faith! Fought for faith, prevailing faith with God, in some sense “working” faith, because the exercise of our faith produces the goods the Father is after, and so we do not just look to the faith itself, but to its outcome as well, the “goods” the Father produces by our faith. (The “goods” are a “grown-up” Christ “fully formed in us.” There are no greater “goods.” [Gal 4:19])
One cannot know about “being kept” unless it is an issue to him. We might get it as a concept but let us be sure we know the difference between knowing the “concept,” and the work of the Spirit in bringing “concept” into being manifest reality in some form. The only way that happens is in the walk, not just by the hearing of the ears. The “walk” is where we find God, not in the concepts we think we know. They’ll be found wanting, just as Peter’s resolve was found wanting.
So you see my thrust here. I very much think there is a “saying no” to sin in us. We cannot say it is an impossibility. I don’t give “guarantees.” Only the Spirit does that in the individual.
(P.S. [Not in the original] I don’t want to leave anyone hanging. There are “promises” in Scripture that we may definitely “count on,” if the Spirit has enlightened them to us. It isn’t a point of “doctrine” on which we rely, but instead the Living Word of the Spirit Who is in us and “is” us. He Himself IS the fulfillment of all desire. He Himself IS the ultimate Promise, as He said to Abraham, “I am thy shield, and thy exceedingly great reward.” [Gen 15:1]. Here is something on which we may rely: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” [1 Thes 5:24).)