When Jesus came to earth, He announced the purpose of His ministry, saying, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The word “lost” is a good description for those who don’t know Christ. It depicts a spiritually estranged status. Though each was made for a forever relationship with God, sin has separated us from Him. Because He is holy, He will not be near to unholy people. Scripture is accurate when it describes the human condition by saying, “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6). By virtue of our ancestry from Adam, all of us are helplessly bent towards self and sin. Each of us has said, thought, and done things which fall short of His holy standard of perfection (Romans 3:10 and 23). Because of this, we need deliverance. Thankfully, God provided a way of deliverance through His Son (Romans 5:6-8). In order to experience the fulness of His salvation, however, it helps to understand how He delivers us from sin. Consider three stages whereby He does this.
When a person places his or her faith in Christ, God immediately cancels the punishment related to sin. The humble believer is no longer an enemy of God (Romans 5:10), and he or she is made alive spiritually (Ephesians 2:1). Death’s power is cancelled, and emancipation from hell is granted. The believer can say, “Death has been swallowed up in victory…Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Indeed, as Paul says, “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The penalty of sin is cancelled. All guilty charges are satiated before the Eternal Judge! Death has no threat, and hell can invoke no fear!
As if forgiveness of sin’s penalty wasn’t enough, God also robbed sin of its power over our lives. Saved people may sin, but they don’t have to sin. They are no longer slaves to the flesh. They don’t have to submit to promptings to fulfill natural desires in ungodly ways. Paul said it like this — “But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to, and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). Though sin will pull and tug at the hearts of even the most consecrated of believers, it ultimately has no power over their lives. We are no longer slaves! We have been loosed from sin’s dominating sway. We can now live righteous lives for the glory of God!
Though sin’s penalty and power met their demise at Calvary, the presence of sin will remain until the end of time. God won’t fully redeem His creation until the commencement of the New Heaven and the New Earth. At the dawn of the eternal state, He will forever eradicate the sin-born curse (Revelation 22:3). This truth should be a comfort to modern believers. Some feel as if they aren’t saved because they still struggle with sin. Passages like 1 John 3:6 confuse them. Be encouraged. Your struggle with sin is normal (Hebrews 12:4). Its penalty and power have been broken, but its presence will remain until Jesus returns. There will be no perfection until the resurrection (1 John 3:1-2).
Dr. Patrick Latham