Can a person be a true Christian and be a drunkard at the same time? Many would say “no” and claim they are a false convert.
Can a person be a true believer if they are: out of control, not respectable or hospitable, insubordinate, living a debauched lifestyle, violent and not gentle, quarrelsome and a lover of money, unable to manage their household, quick-tempered and arrogant, the husband of more than one wife?
Again, many, if not most, would say “no”, and claim they are not a true believer.
Yet, we learn something interesting when Paul describes who the church should choose out of their family of believers to be a Deacon, Elder or overseer. When Paul states that believers with the characteristics in the following verses are not qualified to be leaders, he is telling us that the early church had believers with these sins. After all, if everyone in the early church was a perfect law-keeper, and the pinnacle of morality, as some insist real Christians are, there would be no need to morally qualify, test and prove blameless, a person seeking these offices. In the following verses, Paul tells the church that when they look at their group of believers, those with certain character defects should not be chosen as leaders of the group.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 1Tim 3:1-5 ESV
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 1 Tim 3: 8-13 ESV
Paul lists much of the same criteria in Titus 1:5-9 too.
Of course, in the verses we just read, Paul advises that only believers who are sound in the faith and walk morally upright should be selected as leaders. However, there is no doubt from Paul's statements that many believers in the church had a long way to go. There is also no doubt that God and Paul want the church to move in an upright direction morally, walking in the spirit of the law, which is love, not the letter. Because the letter kills and the spirit gives life. Nowhere does Paul indicate that those who did not qualify as a leader, and were caught in the sins listed, were not true believers.
Scripture reveals a whole host of believers who were caught up in various levels of sin. Just look at King David who was a man after God’s heart for years before he fell hard into sexual sin, murder and the violation of all ten commandments. The book of Corinthians is full of believers caught in sexual sin. We do not see Paul claiming they are false believers and he still calls the Corinthians saints. In Romans 7 we even see Paul’s struggle with sin.
In this next verse, Peter tells us if we suffer as a believer it should be for doing good for Christ, not for murder, theft or any other evil where we would be ashamed.
If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 1 Peter 4:14-16 NAS
This brings me to my point. I am not suggesting that Christians continue in sin, I am totally against sin and any true believer is looking for a way out of sin and not a way to sin. God does not want us to sin because sin is opposed to walking in the spirit, which is love. If we love we will not lie, murder, cheat and steal from others. Love is the spirit of all of Gods laws. If we sin, we are not walking in love.
However, I am here to assure those who doubt, your failures and unbecoming lifestyle, like those who looked like you in Pauls day, do not automatically indicate you are not a true believer. Just like keeping the law like the Pharisee's and doing good deeds does not automatically make or prove you are a believer. I know atheists who could be chosen as elders in a church based on Paul criteria above if they only believed.
In the Bible, those who were false believers and teachers were not those caught in sins as we have described. They were always those who were leading people away from faith in Jesus, often by pointing people to the law and exterior appearances instead of salvation by grace. They were always anti-Christ. In fact, while many think the term “fall from grace” means a believer has fallen into sin. The Bible actually teaches that a fall from grace is not falling into sin, it is when a person goes back to the law in an attempt to be right with God through the law. Going back to the law severs a person from the grace of Christ, Gal 5:4. Jesus set us free from the curse of the law, Gal 3:13. Those who go back to the law place themselves back under the curse of the law, Gal 3:10. Thus falling from grace.
From Paul, we have learned that a person can believe the gospel but not look like the perfect Christian, having some of the character defects Paul listed. Maybe some have suggested that you are not a true believer, because of your lifestyle. The Bible is very clear, in scripture after scripture, that if you believe the gospel with your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved. In John 6:29, Jesus tells us that the work we need to do, to be doing the work of God, is to believe. The only one that wants you to doubt is Satan. In the beginning, the only thing Adam had to do to be right with God was to believe him and act accordingly out of that belief. Instead, Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan and doubt God. Today we are in the same position as Adam; we just need to believe God’s word and place our faith in Jesus and we will be saved. Today, just as he did with Adam, Satan is still at work trying to get you to doubt God’s word. Don’t let satan use others who are weak in their faith themselves, believing it is about appearances, make you doubt this very clear truth. Focus on the multitude of scriptures, from God who cannot lie, that plainly convey the truth.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
Has your belief that God is telling you the truth in John 3:16 led you to place your faith in Jesus as your savior? If your answer is yes, then you are saved. Stop doubting.
Read here: If You Believe You Have Been Saved
To stop sinning read:
What is The One Thing That Keeps a Believer in Sin?
How to Stop Sin
How to be Transformed Into His Image
Lacking These Qualities?
The truth is the only way anyone was ever considered righteous, right with God in the entire Bible, Old and New Testament is by faith not law-keeping or lack of sin. As a believer, you are no longer under the dominion of the law; you are under grace where your sins are not counted. It is also extremely important to understand that the only unforgivable sin is unbelief, it is the single sin for which the Holy Spirit convict’s unbelievers. If you consider this truth in depth, you will realize no other sin is unforgivable, and obviously, a believer cannot commit the one unforgivable sin of unbelief. Here are those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Many more New Covenant Bible Studies HERE. Jesus poured out His blood for the New Covenant of grace and truth, replacing the Old Covenant law of Moses. Believers are exclusively under the New Covenant, the last will and testament of Jesus that began after the cross.
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. Luke 22:20