Are Secret Sins for Real?

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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I'm sorry, I was kind of tired when I asked that question. The truth is I've always believed in secret sins and I have searched the Scripture for proof for ages. I also have examined the Reformed Confessions and read commentaries on them concerning good works and the infirmities and weaknesses found in them, and I'm surprised Psalm 19:12 is never quoted as proof.

This may have to do with the fact that when the Bible talks about secret thoughts or sins, it always seems to mean man trying to conceal his sin from God -- not his sin being concealed from himself. As far as I know, Psalm 19:12 is the only exception, since it starts, "Who can understand his errors?". Psalm 90:8 does not count.

Other proof I've found for secret sins are the following,

"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isaiah 64:2)

"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21)

I don't count verses that teach God won't justify us even if we have kept His law perfectly for the simple fact that a former sinner needs his old sins atoned for before he can be justified and for that we will always depend on Christ.

Now, here are my biggest struggles with this view of secret sins. How do you explain the following verses?

"Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." (John 9:41)

"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)
 
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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Are you asking if it is possible to commit sins of omission?
I'm not sure what you mean by "of omission". If you mean the Catholic teaching of sin of omission which means a failure to do something one can and ought to do, then yes, it is included, but that's not the point. I am asking whether every sin committed by a person must be conciously perceived like in John 9:41 and James 4:17 above; that there is no sin committed that is hidden from us (whether by lack of understanding or a defiled conscience).

I believe the thoughts of the heart can flow into our minds without us ever realizing our evil intentions behind them.

So, for example, I may be praying to God out of a pure conscience, but I am not seeing all my intentions (including both good and evil) in my thoughts.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I think I may have got the right answer now. There is a way to harmonize all of the Scriptures I laid down above. And that key is to think that our conscience can never be so silenced that it is completely silent. And since our conscience was put into our hearts in perfect comformity to God's law, it informs us of all our sins and good deeds. The voice of the conscience is subject to change, it can be loud or quiet, but it can never be completely silenced.

Why does this fact harmonize all of the Scripture above? Because conscience does not give us understanding on how evil or how good we are, it simply tells us if we are evil or not. We can still say our best works are imperfect and defiled by sin even when done with a pure conscience, because conscience does not give us the eyes of understanding to see the breadth and length and height and depth of our sin.

I am completely content with this solution.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
So, Psalm 19:12, for example, does not mean we don't know some of our sin when committing it. It means that we either cannot count the number of our sins (like in Psalm 40:12) or that we cannot see the depth of our sins.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
By the way, this view of conscience necessarily implies that the conscience cannot be defiled in the sense that it can become unconformed to the law of God and starts accusing us of good things or excusing us of sins. If anyone insists it does, please, give me all Scripture proof you can come up with, because I don't know of any!

The only one that I had in mind was John 16:2, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." However, even this passage should be understood as that in the last days it will be taught by a variety of religions (if not the One World Religion) that killing heretics who are against their religion, especially, the Church of Christ, is to be persecuted to death. The idea one should not get from this text is that those people's consciences have been so seared they don't know right or wrong at all (or any passage of Scripture that teaches the "searing of one's conscience" for that matter).
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
So, contrary to what I've seen so often taught (John MacArthur for example), we SHOULD equate the conscience with the voice of God or the law of God. Conscience is NOT simply a human faculty that judges your actions and thoughts by the light of the highest standard you perceive. But again, remember conscience should not be confused with our "eyes of understanding" that tell us how sinful sin is and how blessed holiness is (but, of course, our understanding can and is very lacking).
 

Tirian

Puritan Board Sophomore
The conscience can be seared though, and dulled to the detection of sin. Trying to follow your thread here: I think you are asking if we commit sins that we are not conscious of? And if we are not conscious of them, are we therefore "blind" to them and subsequently not held accountable for them via John 9:41?
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
The conscience can be seared though, and dulled to the detection of sin.
I agree, but not to the point of complete silence. Read everything I've said here. Also, if you want to insist that conscience can be completely silenced, then start throwing verses.

Trying to follow your thread here: I think you are asking if we commit sins that we are not conscious of? And if we are not conscious of them, are we therefore "blind" to them and subsequently not held accountable for them via John 9:41?
Exactly, that was my former position; that we could sin and not realize it whatsoever (i.e., a secret sin to ourselves) and still be held accountable for it.

However, I was able to harmonize all of Scripture in my knowledge regarding this topic, and thus changed my view. Just carefully read what I've written here.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I will still clarify conscience and understanding in regards to the unsatisfaction of God toward even our best works (although through faith in Christ they are accepted),

The reason why even our best works, whether done in pure conscience or not, are as filthy rags before God is NOT because there is some sin associated with them that we are totally unaware of (i.e., a secret sin, in the sense that it is secret to ourselves). Rather, it is because our understanding of the heinousness our sins (that we are aware of -- and there is none that the law of God in ours hearts would not inform us about when we are violating it), is lacking and imperfect.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
You might wish to look at Leviticus 5:17ff before proceeding too far.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
You might wish to look at Leviticus 5:17ff before proceeding too far.
That verse silenced me,

"And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity." (Leviticus 5:17)

Also,

"If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the LORD; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering." (Leviticus 5:15)

"Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:" (Leviticus 4:2)

"But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." (Luke 12:48)

Hmmm................ Ok, now I need help in harmonizing those verses with these,

"Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." (John 9:41)

"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I'd also appreciate some clarification on this passage,

"Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience until this day" (Acts 23:1)

Does "until this day" include Paul's preconversion life?
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Samuel, I'm not sure how much help I can be, but I'll take a stab at it. Perhaps the puerility of my effort will serve as chum to bring up the exegetical sharks. At any rate, I'll try to bear in mind John Murray's trenchant hermeneutical principle, "each text contains its own denotative scope and universe of discourse."

James 4:17 doesn't seem to me to be a problem. To sin against knowledge is an aggravation of sinfulness, whether with a sin of omission or commission (therefore "ignorance" is put forward as a palliation but not exculpation of guilt on a couple of occasions, Acts 3; 1 Timothy 1). The text doesn't say that ignorance entirely excuses sin, though knowledge certainly aggravates it. Thomas Manton has this to say:

In this verse the apostle taketh off the prejudice and cavil whereby his admonition might be slighted and evaded. They might reply, We have no need to be taught such a plain lesson; we know that life is short, and that God's providence governeth all things. Do you, saith the apostle, know all this? then you are the more obliged to subject your desires to his will and pleasure, which he proveth by this general rule.
In other words, in this verse as constantly throughout his epistle, James incites us not to let faith or knowledge lie barren, but to affect our practice. It's not part of his scope to affirm that knowledge is essential to sin, only that knowledge not practiced simply leads us deeper into sin.

For John 9:41, it needs to be remembered that this isn't an isolated apophthegm pronouncing general truth, but occurs specifically in answer to a hostile question from the Pharisees. After Christ reveals that he has come for judgment, that the blind may see and the sighted may be blinded, they demand if they also are blind. Christ then retorts that if they were blind, they would have no sin; but since they say they see, their sin remains. Have no sin is contrasted to your sin remains. The words of Christ imply then, not that the intellectually blind (ignorant) aren't capable of contracting guilt, but that the Pharisees who won't admit their problem, close themselves off from the solution. And so George Hutcheson says:

...their being sensible of misery, were an evidence that they lay near mercy... "If ye were blind," (in your own esteem, and coming to me with it) "ye should have no sin," to wit, in comparison of your guilt now, and I would really pardon and heal you, and it should not "remain," as is after declared. Men's conceit of their own condition as good enough is a sin against the very remedy....
The physically blind man was healed in body and soul; the sins of the sighted and learned Pharisees remain upon them: the difference is their attitude to Christ.

As for Acts 23:1, I do think that Paul had endeavored to follow the dictates of his conscience before he was converted. He thought that he ought to do many things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth, after all. Obviously he was set straight on the Damascus road with regard to some of what he thought; and obviously from Romans 7 there was a continual struggle with sin, so that his good conscience undoubtedly had as much to do with confessing sin and being forgiven as it did with consistent obedience.

You might find some help in Calvin's Institutes Book 2, Chapter 2, Sections 24 & 25. Thomas Manton's commentary on James, from which I quoted above, has a brief sketch of the Puritan doctrine of the conscience on 1:22 (Observation 3).
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks, Ruben! I'll be back when I've studied those chapters thoroughly and tried to harmonize all of Scripture in my current knowledge regarding this topic. Things just got very complicated. :detective:
 

convicted1

Puritan Board Freshman
To know to do good, and doeth it not, to him is it sin. So if we did something unaware it was wrong, according to God's holy writ, would it be held as a sin in His eyes?
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I studied John 9:41 first. It seems that Jesus is known for His ironic responses to people who are unwilling to receive Him. We already get the sense of Jesus' words at verse 39 where He states, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind."

The "they which see not" refers to all kind of blindness (both spiritual and physical) that keeps men from knowing Christ. Likewise, "might see" refers to enlightenment that is necessary for this end of knowing Christ. Whereas, "they which see" ironically refers to men like the Pharisees who claim to know the Messiah, but yet don't receive, nor recognize Him. "Might be made blind" means Christ's judgment of hardening toward unbelievers like the Pharisees, who won't receive Him, even to the point of blashpheming the Holy Spirit when they have reached the point of utter darkness of understanding.

In John 9:41, Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin," that is, of rejecting Christ, because a physically blind man cannot see the incarnated Christ, nor His miracles. Then He said, "but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains," meaning, since you claim you know the Messiah, and yet you don't recognize Him with your eyes and you reject Him, the guilt is on you.

In John 15:22 Jesus uses similar language,

"If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin (of rejecting Christ); but now (that Christ did come and speak to them) they have no excuse for their sin (of rejecting Christ)."

Now for James 4:17. :book2:
 
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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Now I also understand James 4:17. It makes so much sense when you read the whole chapter straight through and think you are witnessing it on the spot. Paul was exhorting these brethren for judging each other. To be more precise, they were so busy judging each other's sins of commission that they were totally ignorant of their own sins of omission! This is why Paul concludes,

"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not (sin of omission), to him it is sin."


Edit: I'll take all that back.

Need to do more reading to wrap my mind around Ruben's interpretation above.
 
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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
It seems that Paul is not trying to make a distinction between sin of commission and omission because

1) it makes no sense as a conclusion of what was said immediately before,

2) a sin of commission IS a sin of omission; if you don't do what you ought to do, you do what you ought not to do. That's inevitable.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Ruben, after hours of studying I'm convinced your interpretation of James 4:17 is correct. This, however, made me realize I have had a false view of the Word of God; of its proper hermeneutics and its time-to-time literally incorrect or lacking form in which we are to receive it.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Samuel, with regard to John 9 it does seem crucial to recognize that Christ speaks wittily, with a paranomasia.

With regard to James, I'm glad my thoughts commended themselves to you, but I'm curious as to what changed with regard to your view of God's word.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I'm curious as to what changed with regard to your view of God's word.
Ruben, I understand ironic talk, and that there are terms in the Bible that have a variety of meanings depending on the context (e.g., "world"). However, in the instance of James 4:17, it seems like the author, James, had not written precisely what was said by Paul. Or was it the tone of Paul's voice that made "sin" sound like "a great sin" to the crowds?
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
"Said by Paul" where? I'm not coming up with anything in Paul's letters or speeches in Acts that seems discordant with James 4:17.
 
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