Once a person has been justified through faith in Christ, do we lose our salvation each time we sin? Each time do we need to repent and confess our sin putting our faith in the atoning work of Christ in order to resaved again and again? That is the position of those who hold the theology of Charles Finney who writes, "the penitent soul remains justified no longer than this full-hearted consecration continues. If he falls from his first love into the spirit of self-pleasing, he falls again into bondage to sin and to the law, is condemned, and must repent and do his "first work," must return to Christ, and renew his faith and love, as a condition of his salvation."

Continuous Justification is the idea that those who have been born of God are justified even when we sin.
Discrete Justification is the idea that those who have been born of God lose their justification and become unborn of God each time we sin. In this case justification through confession and repentance has to be sought for each instance of sin to be saved. Finney proposes that sanctification (living a holy life) is a condition for justification, rather than the other way around.

I contrast these two but in fact another significant position is the idea that one can sin up to a point before losing salvation. But nonetheless such a view does accept the idea of Continuous Justification until such a point is reached. Therefore the issue concerning Discrete Justification is not just about the concept of Eternal Security. For there are those who don't believe in Eternal Security and yet perceive that Discrete Justification is unBiblical.

Discrete Justification is held most commonly among Holiness groups in the Charismatic community who reckon that they no longer sin. That itself gives one pause. For John writes, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." 1John 1:8 But rather than call such people liars outright, I think Jesus' approach would simply to be more specific in defining sin, just as he dealt with the man who asked what he must do to have eternal life. For example, let's say that you heard that your neighbor made alot of money on the stock market or such, and just for an instance you envied him. According to Finney you have now lost your salvation. Or if you at the supermarket checking our grogeries and took a second glance at that glamour magazine, you have sinned, and if you were to suddenly die right then you would end up in eternal damnation. Or if you misrepresent the views of other Christians, that is slander and you're on your way to hell. The Pharisees were also quick tojudge others and condemn others, but it seems they were rather blind to their own hypocrisy.

Sins of Ignorance

Thus in practice I would imagine many who hold such a position simply ignore their own sinfulness and don't call sin for what it is. But this brings up another issue which is a major problem with the theory. I doubt that any of us is aware of the degree of our sinfulness. As we grow in Christ we become more aware as the Holy Spirit illuminates and as we walk in the Spirit we submit such areas to the Lordship of Christ. But what about those areas we may not be all that aware of? A person cannot consciously repent of things they are not consciously aware of. David said, "Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults." Ps 19:12  And this is my question to those in the Holiness movement who claim to never sin, I ask, "How do you know that you do not sin? Who can discern every particular error they make?" The fact that David asks forgiveness for such sins that he is unaware of indicates that God does indeed hold us accountable for such sins and that such sins need to be forgiven. But if we can't discern our errors and if Finney is right, then each time we commit a hidden fault we lose our salvation but can't even realize it. At best it seems one can only pray to be forgiven of sin every few minutes and hope that one doesn't die between committing a hidden sin and praying for general forgiveness. Finney only responds to the problem of ignorance by saying that such ignorance is itself due to sin. But if we apply his concept of discrete justification, then such a person cannot be saved while he is sinning in ignorance as such and therefore a person cannot be saved until they are first aware of all their sinfulness. Then they have to repent from such sins to be forgiven and continue to maintain living a perfect life or lose their salvation.

Continuous Justification and Sins of Ignorance

Continuous justification does not require perfect behavior for justification to apply. Ignorance is indeed an effect of our sinfulness. And Christ came to save us from such effects and ultimately will brings us into perfection. But such salvation unto perfection is an effect and not a requirement for salvation. The gospel is not - save yourselves from your sinfulness and then I will forgive your sins. The gospel is - accept Christ as Lord and Savior and you will be saved both from the guilt of your sins and from your innate sinfulness.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015