It Is Finished
February 08 05
A conversation came up this past week that sparked me to write this week's segment. A friend asked me where in the Bible it says that "sin is sin," that God doesn't rank our sins on a scale. Well, my reply was that there is no one verse that says "sin is sin," but there are plenty of passages that illustrate the point.
First, let me say that we are talking about those who are saved, who have given their lives to Christ and are following Him. But for those outside of salvation, there is a sort of ranking of sin; it's more like a ranking of punishment. It is apparent that there are degrees of hell and it would seem that this ranking is based on how much "light" the unrepentant unbeliever had. For example, in Luke 10:10-12, Jesus says that it will be worse for those cities that reject His disciples than it will be for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment. Why? Sodom was visited by angels but was unrepentant. These other cities were visited by the disciples of Christ and were given the Good News of salvation but were unrepentant. These latter cities received the greater light, they were closer to the Kingdom of God; thus, they will receive the greater judgment. And what were the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah? Pride, rebellion, homosexuality and other sexual sins. And these other cities? Pride, rebellion, disbelief. We seem to think that some sins are worse than others, but God would seem to be saying otherwise. The greatest sin, which is the unpardonable sin, is disbelief to the point of the rejection of the Holy Spirit (and so, Jesus) (Matthew 12:31-32). All sins are forgiven for those who believe. For those who die in their disbelief, the only thing that would seem to distinguish among them is how much "light" they had. And that means that those who are in the Church but are not saved will suffer the greatest condemnation (see Luke 10:13-15), for it would be better for them to have not known the truth at all (2 Peter 2:20-21).
But what about for Christians? Obviously, we still sin even after coming to salvation, but is your sin worse than my sin? Is my sin worse than someone else's sin? First, I don't see anywhere in the New Testament where a believer is to rank sin. We are instructed to help each other out of sin, but nowhere are we told to judge our brother's sin as worse than, or not so bad as, someone else's sin. There is, however, a special distinction made for sexual sins due to the fact that these sins are done against one's own body (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit) (1 Corinthians 6).
Now, there are consequences for our sin. We all know that when we sin, we affect those around us to some degree. And we often find ourselves in predicaments that are a direct result of our poor decisions. We have to live with it. As Christians, we know that God has forgiven us, but the consequences may or may not linger for some time. That's up to God and how we respond to Him. But when we sin, God sees us as clean, no matter the sin (1 John 1:9). Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." And "...those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:8-9). If you are saved, you have the Spirit, and if you have the Spirit, there is no condemnation.
Does this mean we can do whatever we want? "Certainly not," Paul would say. The grace of God is not to be tested. The grace of God is not to be taken for granted. If the Holy Spirit dwells in us and we are truly saved, then our desire should be to please God (see Romans 6). Paul would also say, however, that if we dwell on our flesh, we will struggle (see Romans 7).
The flesh is sinful and if we could conquer it we wouldn't need new, glorified bodies to enter heaven. But Paul says that our flesh is corruptible, so God will clothe us with new bodies fit for heaven (1 Corinthians 15). We cannot perfect ourselves, but praise God that He already has that figured out; He already has us covered.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He died on the cross to make us acceptable to Him and He sent the Holy Spirit to lead us into that truth. We came to Christ by the leading of the Holy Spirit. So now let us recognize that it is by His work alone that we are saved and not by anything that we did (Romans 4:5-8). As we walk with Him in this new relationship, nothing has changed. He is still leading us and it is His work alone that counts.
But what, then, will happen at the judgment of believers? The Bema Seat judgment that takes place after the Church has been called home is not a judgment of sin (2 Corinthians 5:10). Sin has already been taken care of for believers. The Bema Seat judgment is an examination of the believer's works AFTER salvation. What did we do with our lives after salvation? Was the work we did according to God's will, or did we do it to try to impress God? Did the work bear fruit? Did the work build upon the proper foundation? If the work was according to God's direction, it will have borne fruit and our work will not be burned up. In such a case, we will receive a reward. If the work was according to OUR ideas and OUR wisdom and did NOT bear fruit for the Kingdom, it will be burned up but the worker will not lose his salvation; he just won't receive any rewards (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
My brothers and sisters, be free from condemnation. He whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36). Walk in freedom. And here's the irony: The more you walk in freedom from condemnation, the more you will want to be closer to God and to please Him. But it all starts with letting go and accepting the grace of God. This does not mean that we take sin casually. God hates sin and so should we. But we also need to see that if we are in Christ, we are new creations. Be at peace with God, knowing that He loves you unconditionally.