The Two Wages of Sin

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The Two Wages of Sin

James R. Aist

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

A great many Christians find it much easier to accept God’s forgiveness of their sins than it is to live free of the stains of those sins: guilt, shame and condemnation. In Romans 6:23, Paul correctly declares that the wages of sin is death, but, for many, these lingering stains are another wage of sin that needs to be dealt with. In this article I will show that a better understanding of how God responds to our confession and repentance of sins can help remove the stains of sin once and for all.

Let’s begin with the key verse, above. Notice that if we confess our sins to God, He will respond by doing, not just one, but two, things: first, He will forgive our sins;  and second, He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness associated with those sins. These are not two ways of saying the same thing, but two very different, but related, things: forgive and cleanse. So, let’s focus on this cleansing from the stains of sin for a few moments.

In Isaiah 43:25, God says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins, and Hebrews 10:17 says, “Their sins and lawless deeds will I remember no more.” Here again, we see two things that God does in response when we confess our sins and repent: First, he no longer remembers our sins, meaning that He will no longer bring them to mind and hold them against us; and secondly, He will “blot out our transgressions”, meaning, in effect, that He will “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In the book of Hebrews we find the same process of removing the stain of sin referred to as “cleanse your conscience from dead works” (Hebrews 9:14) and “cleanse them from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22). Finally, we see the same theme recorded in Ephesians 5:25-27, “…Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, and that He might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” And, concerning specifically the stain of condemnation, Paul had this to say, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1a).” Clearly, God has promised to cleanse us from the lingering guilt, shame and condemnation when we confess our sins and repent, and He has surely done it. So, God, for His part, has released us from these stains of sin, but the question is, have we accepted His release as the final word on the matter and released ourselves from the stains?

How, then, can we be released from these stains left by sins? I believe that the first thing we must do is to forgive ourselves as God has forgiven us. This means that we must “remember our own sins no more.” In other words, we must no longer bring our sins to mind as if God still holds them against us! After all, it is to God, and Him alone, that we must give account (cf. Psalm 51:4), so why not let Him have the final say in the matter? And, we can have a very active part in letting go of the stains. Satan likes to remind us of our sins by putting evil thoughts about them into our minds, thoughts of guilt, shame and condemnation. But we do not have to allow ourselves to dwell on these evil thoughts until they consume us. Remind the devil that God has cleansed you from all unrighteousness. James exhorted us in this way, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7b).” Keep on resisting these lies of the devil until he doesn’t bring these accusations to mind any more. In this way you will be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), and you will no longer have to struggle with an “evil conscience.” You can do this; God will help you, if you will trust Him!

(To read more of my articles dealing with biblical topics, click HERE)

“Do Not Judge”: What’s That Supposed to mean?

Gavel & Stryker“Do Not Judge”: What’s That Supposed to mean?

 James R. Aist

Introduction

Born-again Christians who are proclaiming the truths of God’s Word are increasingly being accused, especially by unbelievers, of judging them, against the admonition of Jesus, “Do not judge”, as if Christians are not allowed, much less instructed, to judge anyone or anything, ever. But, is that really what Jesus meant? Is that a valid accusation, or is it merely a ploy to mislead us and keep us from speaking out on current moral issues, so that they can freely contend for their version of moral truth without opposition? Let’s have a look at what Jesus really meant when he said “Do not judge.”

The Relevant Verses in Context

The Bible records this monologue in two different gospels:

Matthew 7:1-6 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces”.

Luke 6: 37-42 says “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Obviously, these are two similar versions of the same teachings. Jesus is not saying here that Christians are never to judge the actions of others, in the sense of pointing out that those actions are against the will of God. What He is saying is that we must first remove sin from our own lives so that we can clearly perceive God’s will regarding the sinfulness of certain actions or behaviors that we see in others. Moreover, He is warning us against sharing such insights with those who will not be receptive (e.g., people who have not been born-again and, therefore, do not have “ears to hear”), lest they turn on you and rip into you verbally (e.g., by accusing you of violating Jesus’ instruction to not judge others!). So, in reality, Jesus is not telling us to refrain from judging the actions and behaviors of ourselves and others; rather, He is telling us to get our own spiritual act together before we do that, so that our words can faithfully represent God’s view and achieve the intended purpose when we do it.

What Does the Word “Judge” Really Mean As Used in the Bible?

When you find the word “judge”, or its derivatives, used in the Bible in reference to people, it usually refers to condemnation of them per se, as persons. We can see this in the passage above where Jesus clarifies what He means by “Do not judge” by following that with “Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (Luke 6:37). And the Bible strictly forbids us from judging, or condemning, people, at least for the time being. That kind of judgment is strictly reserved for God Himself (Romans 14:10-12; James 4:12). We are also not to draw conclusions about (i.e., judge) the motives of others, as that is something that only God can do (Proverbs 16:2; 1 Corinthians 4:5). However, we are to form Godly opinions about the morality of human actions and behaviors, whether they are seen in ourselves or in others. This is how we form a Godly conscience that enables us to hate what is evil and love what is good, as the Bible commands us to do (Psalm 34:14; Amos 5:15; Romans 12:9). In doing this, however, we are simply agreeing with God’s view of these things, nothing else and nothing more. But, unfortunately, when verbalized, this can be mistakenly perceived as “judging” others, in violation of Jesus’ command.

As Christians, we are called to do some things with boldness and gentleness, and that includes “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). We are instructed in the Bible to speak of evil as “evil” (Isaiah 5:20) and to actively expose evil (Ephesians 5:11). The purpose and motive for doing this should be different regarding unbelievers versus believers. We are to preach and teach against what God calls evil for the repentance and salvation of unbelievers (Matthew 5:19; Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15; Acts 10:42; Romans 10:14-14; Romans 15:15-16) and for the repentance and cleansing of believers (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 1:28; Romans 15:14; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:2). But this should never be done as a means of condemning others or making ourselves feel better about our own residual unrighteousness. Thus, it is imperative that we first examine our motives before we undertake to “speak the truth in love” to someone else!

What Role Will Christians Have, If Any, in the Final Judgments?

The answer to this question will be a big surprise to many, Christians and unbelievers alike. According to the Bible, born-again Christians will be called upon to assist Jesus Himself (John 5:22, 27) in judging the angels and “the world” (i.e., unbelievers) (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)! In view of the teachings of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 7 and Luke Chapter 6, discussed above, it behooves us born-again Christians all the more to cleanse ourselves from all unrighteousness. Now that’s a sobering reality for those of us who are striving to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)!

Conclusions

According to the Bible, born-again Christians are not to judge other people in the sense of condemning them per se. This task is reserved for God, for the time being. Under some circumstances, it is admissible to “speak the truth in love” regarding sinful actions and behaviors in order to help someone see the error of their ways, but this should be done only with the proper motives and with gentleness and respect. We are called, as God’s elect, to proclaim the truths of the Word of God in order to enlighten believers and unbelievers alike, according to their ability to receive the truth. In doing this, we must not let unbelievers intimidate or silence us with false accusations against “judging” others; they are misrepresenting the words of Jesus, and we should not listen to them. And finally, according to the Bible, born-again Christians will participate with Jesus in the final judgment of  the angels and unbelievers. Therefore, we should work diligently while there is still time left, to prepare ourselves for that daunting task.

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)