Why Does God Allow Sin to Remain in the Regenerate? (Boston)

Posted at The Reformed Reader:

“Why do I keep struggling with the same sinful thoughts?” “Why can’t I just gain victory over lust and pride?” “Why in the world does God allow sin to remain in his people?” These are questions Christians ask from time to time. We think of how nice it would be if we didn’t have to struggle with sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. But, in his sovereignty, God has a reason for allowing sin to remain in his children. Thomas Boston (d. 1732) gave some helpful answers to the question of why God allows sin to dwell in his elect while on earth. Here are some of Boston’s answers (which I’ve edited and summarized):

  1. God has ordered the matter of the believer’s sanctification, that sin is left to be active in their souls while here on earth, for their further humiliation. For example, God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him low. And so we find David, after his grievous fall, grows in the grace of humility.
  2. The Lord allows sin to remain in his people so they are stirred to the frequent exercise of prayer. The soul feels the continual need of pardon, and therefore must be much lying at God’s footstool. When his children grow remiss in their duty, the Lord sometimes allows them to fall into some grievous sin to awaken them and wound their conscience, so they cry to Him like a child who falls into a small fire.
  3. The sin left in us makes us more watchful of our hearts which still are prone to wander. When a prisoner escapes, and they catch him, they will put him in more close custody than before. We walk through a world filled with many snares; if we were not watchful, we would be caught in them.


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