and the Atonement
By Jeff Paton
THEOLOGY OF SIN
We are sinful and of sinful tendency…we can be saved only in a deliverance from sin and a moral harmonization with God.
Without such facts there is no place for the redemptive
work of Christ, and no saving office he can fulfill.
The whole purpose of the atonement resides in the fact of man’s predicament. God created the first man, Adam. Adam was perfect, living in a perfect world that did not know or experience the effects of sin. Through a deliberate act of unbelief and rebellion, Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge though it was the one and only restriction God had put upon them. Upon that singular act, both Adam and Eve spiritually died. God, knowing that they would do this, had a choice. In His holiness, He could not have anything to do with sin. He could scrap it all right there and condemn Adam and Eve to an eternal hell with the devil, or He could allow the fallen race to continue and propagate. If He did so, He must make a way to save for Himself a people of willing children through an act of atonement. God could only be in union with man if He could reconcile man to holiness. God’s desire is to make a way so He could fellowship with man, and be worshipped by man for His wondrous act of sacrifice and grace.
I use the term “man” in its classical sense, meaning all humanity. We are
told however, that we all have a physical and spiritual connection to the man
Adam, who represents the whole race of humanity. By one man, sin entered into
the world. Adam did so as the progenitor of the whole race, and by his singular
act, put all men under sin. Jesus is the Second Adam that came in the form of a
man, as the Second Adam to undo the loss suffered by sin (1 Cor. 15:45; Rom.
5:17). For more detail on this issue, see The
Depravity of Man.
The theology of salvation can be reduced to a bare minimum by stating that there is a Holy God, and that there is man, whom He chooses to fellowship with. The problem that lay in the way of this union is anti-holiness, or sin. Sin is the focus of the atonement, the act of removing the barrier to fellowship. God must deal with sin in man, and bring him to the nature of holiness for any union to be possible. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Adam and Eve deserved a physical death along with the spiritual death they suffered. God chose to make a provision in the foreseen atonement that would take place on a cruel Cross by His Son Jesus. I consider the immediate act of the first physical death in Scripture, the shedding of blood for skins for the clothing of Adam and Eve, to be the first representative atonement. It was a picture of the death Adam and Eve deserved, but was suffered by an innocent substitute (Gen 3:21). This representation of substitution is foreshadowed in the sacrificial system of the patriarchs and the Nation of Israel, all the way to the completion of the reality of atonement in Jesus Christ. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins (Heb. 10: 4). They were innocent, but were not moral. They were not human. It took a representative of the race, who met the qualifications of a perfect Sacrifice in order to atone for sins. Jesus was human, perfect, sinless, and innocent. Only a Sacrifice with these qualities could die in place of the guilty. Otherwise, if He had sin, He could have only died for His own guilt. The sacrificial system is God’s way of explaining the atonement of Christ for mankind.
Atonement is the act that was the direct result of the death of Christ. The extent of His sufferings and pain, in order to accomplish this, can only be explained by the momentous feat that was required to save us. Imagine, with what pain and difficulty Jesus endured so you and I could have a chance for reconciliation with God! How horrible sin must be! If we could only comprehend this, we could see how impossible it is for God to have the slightest relationship with someone who lives in willful sin! “God is not capricious, nor is He one who is easily offended and who needs to be placated. Yet, due to His holiness, He is wrathful toward us when we lift our puny fists in His face. He does not, and cannot overlook such rebellion in the fashion of a doting grandfather. The death of the sinless Christ, on behalf of us sinful humans, the just for the unjust, assuages the Father’s holy wrath against sin, reconciles the Father to us, making it possible for Him to forgive all who repent and believe”1 God is not depicted in Scripture as a vindictive tyrant, as Shakespeare’s Shylock, who “must have his pound of flesh.” God’s goal in atonement is not to “get even,” or the equivalent of tossing a virgin into a volcano to placate the gods. He is angry with the sinner as long as they continue in rebellion. Through the grace of the atonement, God seeks and reaches out to us, initiating conviction and calling us to turn from sin, to faith in Him. There is no wrath abiding on the believer. They have been justified, their past sins are forgiven, (Rom. 3:25), their slate is clean with no guilt upon it for God to be angry with. They are surrendered to Christ and no longer live in rebellion. They have been regenerated and saved, all by the grace and mercy of God through atonement.
It is unbiblical to make the atonement of Christ to be a rift if the Trinity of God. What I mean by this is, God is One. God the Father and the Holy Spirit did not lash out against a Third of the Trinity. Jesus was not ousted from the Divine Union of the Father and the Spirit while He was on the Cross. This would mean that Jesus was not God while on the Cross, and that His presence in the Trinity was optional to begin with! If The Trinity can become the Dichotomy, then the Three were never really “One.” The atonement theory of punishment and wrath destroys the Trinity, and gives us Tri-theism at best!
The Cross was not a scene of an angry Father, thundering down lightning bolts of wrath upon the Son in vengeance! The Cross was not a scene of an angry and vindictive God, but the act of a God of mercy and love. It was the unity of the Trinity, seeking to reconcile fallen man unto Himself, for, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). “While it is true that Jesus is our substitute, he is our substitute truly and strictly only in suffering, not in punishment. Sin cannot be punished and pardoned also. This would be a moral contradiction. Sin is conditionally pardoned because Jesus has suffered and died. There is no punishment of sin except in the person of the sinner who neglects so great a Savior. Sin was not punished on the Cross. Calvary was a scene of wondrous mercy and love, not of wrath and penalty.”2 While all of this may be quite shocking to most readers, they will search the Scriptures in vain to find a single statement that the wrath of God was upon Jesus, or that a single sin was punished upon the Cross. Most have been shamefully sold an unscriptural bill of goods when it comes to the doctrine of atonement. The only thing that can be substantiated from Scripture is that, “Christ was at no time the object of his Father’s personal displeasure, but suffered only the signs—the effect, not the affection of divine anger.”3 “The atonement did not procure grace, it flowed from grace.”4 Suffering is not punishment. One must be guilty in order for them to be punished. One however, can voluntarily suffer a punishment due to someone else. This does not make them guilty in any way. “There is neither term nor text of Scripture which explicitly asserts the penal substitution of Christ in atonement for sin. It is noteworthy fact; and the assertion of it will stand good until the contrary be shown. As a fact, it is against the theory of atonement by penal substitution and in favor of that by vicarious suffering. The punishment of Christ as substitute in atonement is rendered familiar by frequency of utterance of theology, not the assertion of Scripture.”5
For more information on Payment
and Punishment, click here.
“Why,” you may be asking, “are you dwelling on the atonement, but have not connected it to sin”? To explain the purpose of my diversion: I needed set a foundation, not only for a Biblical view of the atonement, but to prevent error by contrasting it with the false. Today, most people rely on punishment for their understanding of what happened upon the Cross. Unfortunately, besides not having any Biblical basis, it sets a foundation where salvation is the result of God changing the nature of sin, and not the sinner. If “sin was punished” on the Cross, then redemption would be based upon God changing the damning nature of sin. In essence, it is saying that God converts sin, and not the sinner. We cannot start with a theological fiction as the very center of our theology without effecting what is actually in Scripture. It is the unbiblical dictating the meaning of the Biblical! Christ came to save sinners, not to convert sin! “And thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Everywhere in the Scriptures we are exhorted to repent, obey, and be holy as God is holy. It is clear from Scripture that God requires a change of nature in the believer from darkness to light, and that He empowers the believer to be able to obey His commands. If sin is converted, any pursuit of holiness is a useless redundancy. The vast portion of the New Testament is rendered optional, for it commands that we do things that we do not have to do. Any theory of the atonement that renders the Scriptures to be irrelevant cannot be the doctrine of God! If a theory that was developed to support a theology potentially leads one to take sin lightly, where God does not, then I feel obligated to expose it for the soul-damning lie that it is. My hope is to introduce those that are unaware, that the God who will not allow anything unholy into heaven, has the power to make us holy now.
The Result Driven Purpose of the Atonement
Sometimes it can be helpful to our understanding if we come in by the back door in order to see what the intent of the atonement is. If we observe what God commands, we can see what He has accomplished by the atonement; for God would not command that which he has not made possible.
through the atonement, the nature of sin is
changed so it no longer damns the Christian, then why would God command us not
to sin? If God hates sin, and won’t allow into heaven, then why does He remain
powerless to deliver Christians from its grip? Does it strike you as odd that
He commands us to be holy, and is not able to do so? Does it make you wonder why
so many “successful” preachers teach that holiness is not actually
necessary, but God defies them and says, “Follow peace with all men, and
holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14)? What He
wills, He commands. What He commands, He is willing to work it in us. God wills
and commands that which he desires, and holiness is always His will.
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that
we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4).
“but ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…”
(1 Peter 2:9). “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to
all men. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we
should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world”
(Titus 2:11-12). “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem
us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a peculiar people, zealous of good
works” (Titus 2:14). Through the atonement of Christ, we are not
merely forgiven of our past sins, but regenerated and Born-Again. We are
changed! The purpose of the atonement is not just to deliver us from the penalty
of sin, but its power also! Holiness is presented as a practical reality for the
believer, not some pie-in-the-sky “goal” of the Christian. “For this is
the will of God, even your sanctification…” (1 Thes. 4:3). “And the very
God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole
spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it”
(1 Thes. 5:23-24). Holiness and sanctification is God’s will for the believer today!
Not some slow process of the believer striving and struggling, never really
reaching holiness, but experiencing it now! “Whosoever is born
of God doth not commit sin;” (1 Jn. 3:9). It is our privilege to
have victory over sinning as
soon as we are regenerated. This is not delayed by some slow unending
"growth" out of sin, or some ambiguous and undefined “maturity,” that
no one seems to ever be able to define or achieve. God wants us to be holy, and
Jesus died on a cruel Cross in order to make us holy. It is the epitome of
disrespect for one who claims Jesus as their Savior, to treat holiness as
something optional for their lives, when Jesus died to ensure it!
For more on the issue see Entire
How Many Sins?
One of the most popular objections to a view of the
atonement that denies theoretical payment and punishment,
resides in the hypothetical question: “If one can lose their salvation by
sinning, how many sins does it take?” This question in itself is popular
because it supposedly puts most Arminians in a dilemma. I don’t believe that
it raises any dilemma whatsoever, that is, if you remain consistent with what
the Scriptures say! I will be more than happy to oblige the inquirer with a
clear and unambiguous answer straight from the Scriptures, but before I do, I
must first question the motivation of the one who would raise such a question.
No matter what answer a person gives for the answer, it cannot have the
slightest bearing on the issue of Eternal Security. Most people loft the
question at those that believe in conditional salvation, as if the answer will
prove that Eternal Security is in the Bible! Whether the answer is one, two..,
or seven times seven, it cannot establish a doctrine that is not in the Bible!
I do wonder if those that
would raise such a question are seeking to obey God with their utmost obedience,
or whether they are looking to see how little holiness, and how much sin they
can have and still go to heaven! Some people use Scripture as a drunk uses
a light-post; for support, and not for enlightenment! It reminds me of the
story of a friend that visited W.C. Fields in the hospital. His friend was
astonished to see Fields reading a Bible, in which Fields responded, “I'm
looking for loopholes." Shamefully, many people ask the question, not
to arrive at truth, but to seek to establish a loophole for sinning.
if I give an absolute number from Scripture, would it really matter if I did?
You see, if someone has already rejected the obvious witness of the Scriptures
concerning the conditional nature of salvation, and the lack of Biblical support
for an unconditional security, would they abandon their faith in a Biblically
unsubstantiated doctrine and believe the truth? Most people ask this because
they believe it raises a conundrum. They do not really want an answer; they
want to latch on to an objection! Do many ask not seeking the truth? Yes! If I
give them a specific number, they would not adjust their thinking on the
subject. They are not seeking the truth of the matter, but are seeking to locate
a chink in the Arminian theological armor. Keep in mind that even if a
difficulty can be raised, it does not change the meaning of a singular passage
in Scripture! Even if insurmountable difficulties concerning the number of sins
were discovered, it would not do anything to establish a doctrinal Eternal
Security. It takes Scriptural assertions stating a doctrine to establish truth,
not objections! Others, not believing in unconditional Eternal Security, might
raise the question out of a sense of fear. The primary reason for this fear is a
wrong conception of sin in most cases. If the reader has not reviewed that
issue, I would recommend reading What
and Must We Sin?
before continuing on. Otherwise, the Scriptural view of how many sins will cause
many people needless alarm, and quite possibly cause them to “give up in
despair, drop [their]oars and go over the Niagara of damnation.”6
The purpose here is to be true to the truth of the Scriptures and to give hope
for victorious living, not to destroy people’s faith.
Concerning the vast majority that would ask such a
question; what if the Scriptures give a definite number? Are you willing to
wholly accept it? Would knowing a number cause you to reject any false notions
and beliefs that you may have? If I am unable to identify a definite number from
Scripture, would that in itself disprove conditional security? Would it prove
unconditional security? Perhaps if I ask it this way; if an Eternal Security
advocate is unable to fix that number at infinity from Scripture, then would
that disprove Eternal Security? All I am asking is that there would be a
rational and open reason for the questioning.
On the other hand, we find that an immense amount
of dodging and waffling from those from the Arminian perspective. Those that
believe that a Christian can cease believing and ultimately apostatize from the
faith are all over the place concerning the number. This has been a source of
glee for those who believe that one cannot fall from grace. The inconsistencies
are the reason why the question at hand is so powerful. My hope is to move those
with an “opinion” on the subject, over to a Scriptural “belief” on the
issue for not only consistencies sake, but also for souls sake. With a right
conception of what sin is, and is not, there should not be any fear whether the
answer is one or a hundred. We saw in Must
We Sin? that nowhere in Scripture do we
find any sanction for the idea that we must sin. We are given every hope that
through the power of God, working in and through the believer, that they can do
whatever God commands of them.
How Many Sins?
Is There A Number?
The question that is raised (How Many Sins?) is a valid question. It however, is only of any importance once we are clear about what the Scriptures say about the security of the believer. The question is wholly unnecessary if one believes in theoretical Eternal Security. If Eternal Security is true, and the Scriptures are wrong, then the question of how many sins is irrelevant. Only when the question is raised in the context of Scriptural Perseverance in the faith does it carry any significant meaning.
Some will say that they object to a definite number of sins because it would be “playing God” if we were to lock onto one number. This would be a legitimate concern if it were not for the Scriptures being consistent in its answer on the subject. The Scriptures give us the answer through an example; it is Adam and Eve in the garden. God stated, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). We see that by the example of God, one sin was all it takes. On this singular passage alone, we have the statement of God that it only takes one! There is not a singular statement in all of Scripture that says that this has been amended! Nowhere, either under the Law, or under Grace, do we see that the number has changed. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The statement here is that “sin,” any “sin,” brings death. No “three strikes your out”! No number is affixed, for a singular sin earns the wages it deserves.., Death! Ezekiel 3:20, 21, says, “When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity.., he shall die.., Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live…” It only takes one sin for a righteous man to cease to be righteous. My friends, more examples can be given, but no examples can be found to show that God has amended the standard! One sin is the number! It cannot be evaded! “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). How many sins does it take to make a “soul” sin? We can invent an artificial standard to rescue our theology. We can give a number other than one. We can set a level at some unknown point where a believer crosses the unseen line of apostasy and departs from the faith. But some unknown point or "secret number" of sins as the point of departure will help no one avoid apostasy. We can set up all kinds of imaginary standards, but God only has one! A single sin still needs atonement for forgiveness. This is an established fact of Scripture that cannot be escaped. If we have one sin, it must be atoned for, or we will be separated from God. The question that is in debate is how does the atonement work to deal with these sins?
We cannot find in Scripture where a single sin is paid for. We also have direct reference and inference to the fact that when we come to Christ, our past sins are forgiven. It is astonishing to see the level in which people will contort the Scriptures to imply pre-forgiveness for sins not yet committed. This is purely a theological invention to salvage an unbiblical theory. Nowhere in the Scriptures will you find that future sins are forgiven. In the Old Testament, the sacrificial system foreshadowed how Christ would atone for sins. When a person sinned, a sacrifice had to be made in order for the sin to be atoned for. “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God…” (Eph. 5:2). John writes clearly concerning the same process for the sacrifice of Christ. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins.” “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” (1 Jn. 1:9; 2:1-2.) Forgiveness of sins require a confession (repentance) of sins in order for them to be atoned for. Jesus is our ready Sacrifice. He does not have to go to the Cross again, nor do we need to seek out a sacrifice of our own. “If any man sin,” we can turn to the Advocate for forgiveness. Keep in mind, sin, properly so-called, is a willful transgression of a known law of God. If we willfully, and knowingly sin against God, we need atonement for that sin. Notice that John states “if any man sin,” not, “when any man sin.” In 1 John 2:1 he states, “My little children, these things I write to you that ye sin not (Gk. Singular). And if any man sin…” Sin is avoidable, and therefore inexcusable. One sin left unatoned for brings death. God is more than willing to give us victory over willful and known sin. It is the privilege of every Born-Again Christian. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (1 Jn. 3:9). The possibility of sinning and needing atonement is ever available to the repentant believer. Sin however, is never necessary for the Christian.
If you believe an individual can depart from God and their salvation, but do not set the standard at one sin, then you open Pandora’s Box for either unscriptural pre-forgiveness or Eternal Security. What therefore would be the rationale for asserting that the standard cannot be that stringent? To say that one sin does not separate a believer, it to say that God owes Adam and Eve an apology! Separation and spiritual death for merely eating the forbidden fruit cannot be justly compared with the level of rebellion existing in a person who willfully sins when they have the Holy Spirit living in them! How can we say the standard of one sin bringing condemnation is unfair, or too stringent, when our own sins make the rebellion of Adam and Eve eating fruit to appear to be so innocent by comparison? If we are to demand that one sin cannot separate one who is under grace, then in essence we are saying that God is either fickle or unreliable concerning sin, or He is petty and abusive in His judgments.
One sin and your out! It seems so extreme from a permissive person’s point of view. But tell me, where do you find it clearly stated in Scripture where God revoked this statement? Where is it stated that the wages of sin have been adjusted to make a Christians “sin” any less damning than an unbeliever’s sin? Where is the number set higher than one?
More on Atonement
1. 1. God overlooks the sin of believers- This assumes that God can defy His holy nature. That He is a respecter of persons and will overlook the sin of some, and punish those He does not respect. To say the sin of the believer does not, and cannot damn the soul, is to fly in the face of revealed Scripture. The soul that sins shall surely die! The wages of sin is death! To object that sin separates one from God is to say that the believer is not converted or changed, but God is converted and changed so His holiness no longer revolts against sin! Certainly this assertion is impossible and cannot be found in Scripture! I cannot comprehend how some believe that God, who is the barometer of holiness, can be bought off to accept a certain amount of sin. Can we actually believe that God could be changed? Even if we do not suggest such an absurdity, it is just as dangerous to claim that sin gets converted in the atonement. The Bible says that sin always results in death and separation. But those that say that the believer remains sinful, yet saved, is saying that in the atonement, God somehow changes the nature of sin instead of the nature of the sinner to that of a saint! Sin is “converted” so it no longer has its sting. The same sin that damns an unbeliever is winked at and excused in the “believer." This absurdity, though not so candid in its expression, is what passes for Biblical Christianity these days! “If God sees not my sin but my position in Christ, if He views me as clothed with Christ’s righteousness, then how could sin—which has been put to Christ’s account—“break fellowship”?7 If it can break fellowship, the God of all truth and holiness must not only break fellowship, but relationship! God cannot overlook sin without denying Himself.
God judges the fruit of the individual based upon the weight and
direction in their lives, and not upon isolated and sudden incidents of sin. A
believer who dies with an unconfessed and unrepentant sin, and does not have
ample opportunity to repent, will still go to heaven- First, I must point
out that this is nothing less than human rationalization and theological
interjection. It is brought forth by those who believe a Christian can fall
away, but are afraid to confront the reaction of others which comes with holding
to the Biblical standard of one sin. If most of us were to be judged by
this standard, and these imaginary scales, few of us would be in heaven. Most of
us have been unbeliever’s longer than we have been believers. How does this
differ from pagan views of how to get to heaven? “God will weigh the
good against the bad, and if the good outweighs the bad, you go to heaven!”
If we are to raise the objection that it is unfair that a singular sin would send a person to hell, who was just moments before on their way to heaven, then we must question the fairness of God to Adam and Eve! Also keep in mind, those that say that separation at one sin would be an injustice for God, have no problem imagining that a sinner can believe one moment before death, and change their direction from hell to heaven in the same period of time. It is strange how the standards of justice change when it serves to rescue a theory!
The second point I present for your consideration is that God has changed our hearts as believers, and can mold and make us into His people through the sanctification of the Spirit. He gives us the power not to sin. Sin is the result of the heart. If you believe this, then there should be no fear in the believer that they may be throwing away their salvation in a rash moment. For a true believer no longer commits sin as a matter of their course of life (1 Jn. 3:9). If the idea makes you shudder, and is a great cause of personal fear, then the question faces us as to whether we have ever received a changed heart.
We know the warnings; we are given a new nature and grace to live the Christian life. After being given everything necessary to holy living and righteousness, the question is whether we will take the responsibility for our actions. With the power to succeed, and God doing all that He can do to save us without violating our free will, we are truly without excuse if we choose to fail.
3. Another option is the argument of Family Relationship. “God is our Father, and we are His children; Parents don’t throw their children away when they do wrong.” While this sounds logical, it is not Biblical. God does convey truths about Himself through the use of anthropomorphisms, that is, using the physical realm to describe the spiritual realm so we can understand it. The error that people make in using this approach is that they take God’s limited use in one particular area, and run with it to extremes. In doing so, they create a “god” in their own image, making a “god” that operates with the mind of a man, and within the confines of modern cultural values. We see the serious limitations of such an approach in the parable of the Prodigal Son. In the story, we see that a son can rebel and become separated from his father. Jesus says that the son left his father and fell into desperate times. After he had enough of his self-inflicted situation, he came to his senses, and turned toward home. Upon returning, (picturing repentance,) the father rushed out to greet him with open arms, (picturing grace). Take note that this was the father’s son! If the son, who left in rebellion did not return, he would have remained lost! Look at the words Jesus uses concerning the son. "For this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again: he was lost, and has been found." This son, if he did not repent and turn back to the father, would have remained lost, “dead” in his trespasses and sins, regardless of his “son” status! This is a plain statement of God’s spiritual relationship with mankind. The son disowned and left the father, which rendered him lost! Dead! Son-ship would have availed him nothing on Judgment Day if he did not repent and return to the father! Just because we, in our humanness, would not count a child of ours as “dead” to us because of rebellion, is not a license to reduce Almighty God down to our level! God is in no way required to operate within our earthly construct of human relationships! He is not a “god” of our own image!
Our status as “sons” is not through birth, but through adoption. We are told that our adoption is not finalized until we receive our glorification. "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23, NIV). "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev. 21:7). The one who does not overcome does not receive all things, and are not adopted as His sons! The anthropomorphic statement that “Once a son always a son” is soundly disproved by the Scriptural statements that our adoption is not finalized until we reach glorification, and the plain statement of Jesus in the parable of the Prodigal Son, where He states that God is not confined to human limitations concerning son-ship. Besides, if “Once a son, always a son” is true, then no one can be saved! We are all born children of the devil, and if we cannot become “unborn,” then we cannot become children of God! If one can repent and become a child of God, then they can just as decisively rebel against God in willful sin, and die spiritually; thereby becoming children of the devil once again (1 Jn. 3:10; Rom. 6:16; 8:13). The parable of the Prodigal Son is unambiguous in stating that if a “son” rebels and sins, and dies without repenting, they will find their place in hell with the unbelievers. One sin, unrepented of, and unatoned for, leaves a sinner in a state of unrighteousness before God. The state you die in is the state you will be in for eternity. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Rev 22:11). “The place where the tree falleth, there shall it be” (Eccl. 11:3). There is nothing unfair or insecure about the idea that sins separates. We have a choice, and we are promised that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to resist. (1 Cor.10:13). God does not leave us here on this earth, precariously dangling over the pit of hell and without any power to resist spiritual failure.
Anthropomorphisms are a poor substitute for Divine revelations in Scripture! The number of sins therefore cannot be determined by man’s tolerance of sin, but by God’s intolerance for any sin whatsoever! Relying on our tolerance for sin in human relationships, and forcing God to work that way, can only result in unreliable and dangerous doctrines that will land multitudes into an eternal hell! Such unbiblical teaching not only endangers the listener, but the teacher themselves! Discard such shallow human reasoning, and believe the Gospel of salvation from sin! Where you spend eternity depends upon it!
Many will complain that this setting separation at one sin would "cause Christians to pop in and out of salvation." You don't want to "pop in and out" of salvation? Then don't sin! It is your choice, not God's fault. "But," say some, "God does not throw us away at one sin. He is patient. The Christian can lose their salvation only if they openly reject the faith." But, I say, the latitude of God's grace is to be based upon Scripture, not upon our opinion on how God should operate in our minds, or based upon human latitude for sin!
whether our relationship to God changes His latitude towards sin, the Bible
says, "The wages of sin is death." Rom. 6:23. This is
either true or false. If it is false, we must abandon Christianity, for we do
not need a Savior. If it is true, it is always true.
"The soul that sins shall surely die." Ezek. 18:4. Once again, either it is true, or false.
“But every man is tempted, when he drawn is away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err brethren.” (James 1:15). The question is, is this a process of sinning that brings death? Persistency? Apostasy? Or an Act? It is addressed to brethren, for sinners are already dead.
God treated "Christian" sinners differently than non-believing
sinners, He would be a Respecter
of persons. If God ignored the sin of a believer and damned non-believer for the
very sin that a believer does, He would be unjust. He would be tolerating sin,
which He cannot do.
"The wages of sin is death."
Not one thousand sins. Not twenty sins. Not "three sins and you're
out," but "sin."
"But when a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, (which is done in a moment), and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. Yet ye say (the anthropomorphic advocates), The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and commimitteth iniquity, and dieth in them; for this iniquity shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive." Ezek. 18:24-27
Let's look at our "parent relationship" argument. If your son kills someone, they are still your son? Most any human parent would side with their son. The question is: How many people does he have to kill before he is a murderer? How much rebellion does one have to commit before they are a rebel? How many sins does one have to commit before they are a sinner? How many acts of unbelief does he have to commit to be an unbeliever? I do not see this "persistent" period of time in Scripture concerning the effect of sin. Yes, there is a differentiation between a fall and apostasy. This does not however, disregard that sin always brings death, whether momentary, or permanent apostasy.
I have given a few examples, so where are the examples for the anthropomorphic doctrine? Where is it stated that the sins of Christians do not bring death? Where is it stated that God does not separate from Christians who sin, unless they are “persistently” sinning? What verses show that the operation of God in relationship to the law of sin and death has changed? I think it is vitally important to validate such a supposition before teaching people that God works that way, otherwise they may become careless and endanger themselves presuming upon a grace of God that does not exist.
4. If one sin separates and damns, then there is no security for the believer! This I will assert as being absurd logic. It is mainly based in one’s fears and failures. If one understands what sin is, and what kind of sin constitutes personal guilt, the ability we have through the New-Birth of regeneration, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us, should give every believer assurance that they can be consistently more than overcomers in the Christian walk. Though it will sound harsh, the interest of truth compels me to state it honestly. If a person cannot keep from willful sin, it is doubtful whether they have ever been born-again. How can the God of Holiness indwell that which is willfully sinful? He cannot, and will not! It is sad to hear this objection raised, for it indicates that the one who would use it is either ignorant of what sin is, or that they have been deceived into believing that they are saved when they are not. They have a profession of salvation, and not a possession of it. God tells us not to sin, and that which He commands He is willing and able to complete in us. What hope could there possibly be in a God who is unable to save us from sinning and the power of sin? How can you believe that He has the power to deliver us from sin in the future, when there is no evidence in your life that He has the power to do it now?
John Wesley describes many who are close to salvation, but because of ignorance, they do not grasp it by faith. They are described as “almost Christians.” God is working on them to bring them to the truth. The universal experience of those that were at one time “almost Christians,” is that they thought that they were Christians at that time, but the experience they have now is so clear that they know without a doubt that they are children of God (Rom. 8:14-16). They cannot help but bear good fruit, for Christ works righteousness in and through them (John 15; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 13:21).
5. I don’t believe that sin will send a Christian to hell! My friend, God will not allow anyone to go to hell unless sin causes it! Sin is the only cause which God states as the reason for an interference to a relationship with Him. Unfortunately, a firm and resounding belief that sin does not have a damning effect, is of no value unless it is founded upon Scriptural truth! This kind of belief is no more effectual for salvation than a belief in Santa Claus! You can put your head in the sand and pretend or lie to yourself, but that does not change God’s opinion of you in the least! I have regretfully had people tell me that they did not want to hear anymore on the subject, because they would then be accountable! My friend, God is not fooled by willful ignorance! If knowing the truth ruins a false peace, is it not worth ruining if it leads to true peace? Will it cost you that sin that you love? Absolutely! But if your faith does not cause you to love God more than your sin, then your faith is certainly in vain. Faith in a false object motivates people to do all kinds of things; but if that faith is in a lie, it does more harm than good. The terrorists on 911 thought that they would be in Paradise with 72 virgins for their terrible deed of “faith.” Yet they are getting what is due for their faith in a satanic religion.
6. Salvation can be forfeited, but it is hard to lose it! This is a common dogmatic statement and personal creed, yet I have never heard any Scriptural reason given by anyone that would support such a sweeping assertion. If it can be forfeited, then where is the line? Please say so for the sake of peoples eternal souls! If you cannot point people to the line that you dogmatically assert, then how can you be sure that you haven't crossed that line yourself? Is salvation hard to lose? Allow me to consider the assertion by observing the inevitable opposite: Is salvation hard to get? If salvation is not difficult to obtain, and can be acquired by simple faith, then what would be the difficulty of believing that it can be forfeited in the same simple manner? Is it easy to come to faith? Is it not also equally easy to fall out of faith? Repentance, the forsaking of sin, is the fruit of saving faith. One cannot love sin and God at the same time. Sin is anti-faith. We are clearly saved by a faith that causes us to trust implicitly on Christ and His atonement for our salvation. This faith will cause us to forsake our evil ways. 1 Peter 1:5 states it clearly. Christians are those, "Who are kept by the power of God through faith..." It is "through faith" that we have salvation. If faith is not present, we cannot be saved. One cannot receive salvation without faith. So how can someone continue to be saved without the same requirement of faith? What makes people believe that it is difficult for someone to cease to have saving faith? If one persists in sin, how can their faith be anything more than a devil's faith? Intellectual assent to the truth of the Gospel has never saved anybody. They must act; they must have faith!
Dogmatic statements and creedal assertions that "One can lose their salvation, but it is a difficult thing to do," does not have to be disproved... it must be proved! Faith in doctrinal thin air only proves gullibility! Those that believe that this difficulty exists, must be the one's to prove it. If it can be done, it must be accomplished with something other than Scripture; and one can never prove anything to be true about spirituality without that truth being founded upon Scripture!
One thing that I have found to be quite consistent is, that the unregenerate wishes to avoid hell too! Every natural man flatters himself by thinking that he shall escape it. Most people believe that they are going to be in heaven regardless of what they believe. It is ironic that they are generally satisfied with a religion that makes “themselves” the standard for getting in! If the standard is that they must “be a good person,” to get in, we must ask, “how good is good enough?” It is not surprising that if you ask an individual, they are always “good enough!” No matter how far the bar has to be lowered, an individual will generally include themselves in the category of those that are going to heaven! Those of us that are Evangelical Christians shake our heads in pity for these self-deluded souls. The “standard” is not what they make it to be, but what God makes it to be. Yet the vast majority of Evangelicals are doing the very same thing by creating a standard in which sin is allowed into the picture, and ignoring what Scripture says is the result of continued sinning. "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:14). So many "Christian" teachers convincingly get others to believe that the gate is wide, and broad is the way. Religionists of "toleration" insist that the Gospel be weakened so that it is not narrow and exclusive. This is not Christianity, it is heresy!
Christians that believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, yet are soft on sin, may have “more right” than most of the self styled religionists today, but are dangerously close to the same result; which is willful ignorance and damnation! Many will persist in their "comfortable belief" without any real consideration of the truth. The seriousness of misinterpreting the atonement, and its relationship to sin, somehow escapes a large portion of Evangelical Christians. Many put their trust in a doctrine of "simple faith," but are in reality, basing their hopes on the doctrines of simpletons! Sin and the atonement are the main subjects of the entire Bible. Any true believer cannot afford to neglect an honest investigation of that which cuts to the very center of the salvation. Sincerity will no more save you, than sincerity will save a terrorist bomber from eternal punishment in hell! Faith in Christ and His work on the Cross, is what will save you. We are saved by grace through faith, but that faith must be in the truth in order for it to be of value. Sincerity has never saved a single soul!
“Man’s departure from God was voluntary; his return to God must likewise
be voluntary. God wanted a people who would serve him in love and through
choice. As we saw the original pair in Eden, we found those qualities present
until the disastrous intrusion of sin. The intervention has not changed God’s
original plan. He still wants a people who will serve Him in love and devotion.
These cannot exist without choice.”8
But the choice confronts us. Will we continue in sin? Will we repent and
believe the Gospel? Will we choose to remain in rebellion towards God, or will we
trust in His atonement to save us from our sin? The choice is ours if the Spirit
is calling and convicting us today. Do not snub the offer of grace to be delivered
from sin-- the very provision of the atonement of Christ. “For this is the
will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thes. 4:3).
1. A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology, J. Kenneth Grider, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO. 1994. Page 325.
2. Steele’s Answers, Dr. Daniel Steele, Schmul Publishers, Salem, OH. Reprint. No Date. Page 60.
Theology, John Miley D.D., LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.
1989, reprint of the 1893 edition. 2:157.
4. The Cruciality of the Cross, P.T. Forsyth, M.A., D.D., Hodder and Stoughton, London, No date. Page78
5. Systematic Theology, John Miley D.D., LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA. 1989, reprint of the 1893 edition. 2:187.
6. Steele’s Answers, Dr. Daniel Steele, D.D., The Christian Witness Company, Chicago, IL. 1912. Page 19.
7. The Scandal Of Pre-Forgiveness, Richard S. Taylor, Schmul Publishing Company, Salem, OH. 1993. Page 14.
8. Profiles in Wesleyan Theology, Leslie D. Wilcox, Schmul Publishing Company, Salem, OH. 1993. 3:200.
A Theology of Sin
The Holiness of God
What is Sin?
The Wages of Sin
The Depravity of Man
The Grace of God
Sin and the Atonement
Must we Sin?
Chastisement and the Christian