On the question of sin and death, as to whether the child of God is subject to either, I have a thought that might seem radical but I think it holds up surprisingly well.
First, I will admit that I DO believe that sin still exists and death still exists.
As we read in I John 2:1: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin…”
Now, supposing someone invokes the issue of audience relevancy – saying that this applied only to Christians of the 1st Century – I still believe we cannot dismiss the idea of sin and death today.
And so, to offer something radical on this question, I will ask a “What if.”
What if matters of spiritual-life-or-death, and matters of sinfulness-vs.-righteousness, are two different things?
And what I suggest here is that having sins removed does not give us life. We are not “washed” into a state of aliveness. We are given life, and once we have life, we are made alive—our state of spiritual deadness is no more—and at the same time we are made “washable,” because the life we have is Christ’s. We are forgive-able. The state of being forgiveable is a byproduct, a result, of obtaining life. But they are not the same thing. We are not washed into a state of aliveness. We are made alive and thus are made forgive-able. Two different things.
Now let me introduce a second thought. I will say something about those who are or were “in Christ.” But when I say that someone was “in Christ,” I am including all the Israelites, going as far back as Sinai. No further back than that, because it was only at Sinai, after the crossing of the Red Sea, that the Israelites were “in Christ.” Heb. 9:15 does not say that Christ’s blood saved all the faithful back to Adam’s time. It saved only those who were “under the First Covenant.” That only takes us back to Moses’ time. Not to Adam’s time. I know I will get some argument on that, but please let that stay to the side for just a moment. After all, Paul wrote that “Death reigned from Adam to Moses.” He did not say that “Death reigned from Adam to Christ.” Why not? Because life returned at the Red Sea, for those who were under the First Covenant. (I Cor. 10:1-2: “For I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and in the sea; (2) and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”)
But that’s not my point. My point is that the implantation of life and the removal of sin are two different things. And now, to get more radical:
Sin, for the newly created child of God, is not something in the past. It is something in the present and the future. It’s not that the new convert to Christ stops sinning. It is that he begins sinning. He begins sinning for the first time since he lost his soul, which was way back in his early adolescent years.
The Bible does not discuss sin as something attaching to a person who is outside of covenant with God. Those people have a problem that does attach to them, yes. Their problem is death, not sin. They are dead. They are removed from the presence of God. What they need is life. Because when they are made alive in Christ, then another quality attaches to them, and that is a quality of being washable – forgivable. Something else happens, too. They START to sin. There is no accounting of sin against the dead. The dead do not sin. The Bible never speaks of sins where the spiritually dead are concerned. It doesn’t need to. They are dead. They are removed from the presence of God and they are bound for eternal destruction.
If we stop to consider all discussion of sin in the Bible, we see that all of it is directed at the saved, not at the lost.
Only the saved are sinners. The lost are not sinners. They are dead.
Think about the idea of law. To be under law is to be SUSCEPTIBLE to death. If I am under law, then I must (A) act with perfect righteousness, or (B) keep obtaining forgiveness through the sacrificial system. Why? Because if I don’t, I will die. The law BRINGS death. So if I am under law, I am alive. I have to be alive.
If I am under law, then I am susceptible to death. If I am susceptible to death, then I am still alive.
The Gentiles of, say, Elijah’s day were not sinners. They were dead. Yes, they did sin a (singular) sin. They each sinned precisely one sin-unto-death, coming sometime in the adolescence of each of them. But after that, there was no reckoning of sins against them. Why? Because sin brings death. Once one is dead, one cannot sin. Dead things don’t sin – they are dead. Only the living sin.
The Bible does not discuss sins in the plural except when talking of children of God. And we must keep in mind that the ancient Israelites, from the time of Sinai, were children of God.
And so, when we become children of God, it is only then that we begin to sin. But the good news is that the life that is in us – obtained at baptism – washes away those sins.
The ancient Israelites obtained life at the Red Sea. What that meant was that they henceforth had something in them that had to be protected. It had to be preserved. And so immediately God introduced them to a system of obtaining forgiveness. That was the priestly/sacrificial system. You may have noticed that there was never any talk of sin between the time of the Garden and Mount Sinai. You may have noticed that there was no talk of forgiveness anytime from the beginning of the Bible until Sinai. That’s because all spiritual life ended at the tree in the garden, and life was not instilled in man until the Red Sea. Only then was forgiveness needed. Only then was there any life in man to be preserved, to be kept clean, to be washed off repeated and regularly for the duration of their days.
When I am baptized, I am not washed of all my previous sins, going all the way back to my birth. For one thing, I was not guilty of any sin that I committed anytime prior to my arrival at the age of accountability (from age 0 to, say, age 12).
What if someone were baptized today and the preacher turned to the congregation and said, “This person’s sins have been washed away. All of his past sins. Well, all of them from today going back to his 12th year. All of those sins are washed away. There were no sins in his life prior to that which could have cost him his soul.”
We realize that that sounds odd. But if we are going to talk about baptism as the washing away of PAST sins, then we have to admit that those are the facts. It really IS that way.
But why do that? And how did ANY sin committed after that sin committed at age 12 cause that person to be any blacker, any more lost, any more removed from God’s presence than he was in the moment he sinned that sin? So all that we are really talking about was ONE sin. One sin made that person dead. And once that person was dead, the word “sin” no longer has meaning.
When we are saved, it is not a matter of an accumulation of sins that are removed from us.
Consider it this way:
Had I died in an accident while I was 6 years old, I would have gone to heaven. That’s because I would have still been spiritually alive. I lost my spiritual life sometime after reaching the age of accountability. And it was one sin – not a multitude of sins, not a preponderance of sins – that took my spiritual life.
I might have committed misdeeds after that, but they did not worsen my condition, nor did they make me any deader than I was previously.
All that needed “removal” was that one sin that killed me. But to say it that way is misleading. I didn’t need that one killing sin removed. What I needed was life. My problem was not sinfulness. My problem was deadness. I needed life. I needed a washable life. A regenerative life that would not succumb to death each time I sinned a sin as an adult living his life beyond his age of accountability.
I got that in Christ. I became washable. And I began to sin. I did not cease to sin, if only for the reason that I had not been sinning sins (sins in the plural). Why had I NOT been sinning sins between the time of my adolescence until the time of my entrance into the family of God? Well, I had not been sinning any sins because I was dead. Dead beings don’t sin. Why? Sin BRINGS death. If I am a sinner, I am NOT yet dead. It’s like law. To be under law is to be SUSCEPTIBLE to death. Law brings death to sinners. If one is under law, then one is susceptible to death. If one is susceptible to death, then one is still alive.
The same goes for sinning. If I am someone who is sinning, then I am alive, not dead. Only children of God sin sins (plural). Those who have never been in the Lord do not sin sins, plural. They commit a single sin-unto-death, at adolescence, and they pass into death, where sin matters not, because they are dead.
My sins began for me at the time of my adoption into the family of God, just as they began for those Israelites who emerged from the Red Sea in possession of new life. They needed a way to keep their new spiritual aliveness intact. They got it in Christ. Christ’s blood began cleansing them. I possess that spiritual life, too. And I NEED that spiritual life and its cleansing power, because sins are NOW touching me, affecting me. They were not something that affected me before, because I was dead then. Not a sinner then. I was dead.
Just as John wrote, “But if you sin, you have an Advocate…”
Christ did not remove sin and death. Nowhere does the Bible say that. For more in that vein, go here: https://jessemullins.com/?p=1373
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