By Gerald Cowan
Maybe it’s because He did not pay “the full price,” including all negative consequences and results of sin, our own or those of others that can affect us. Maybe Jesus only paid the part we could not and cannot pay: He did not die to recover all that we and others have lost by sins. He did not promise to undo all the damage done by sin or to prevent sin from occurring again. He made the sacrifice that makes possible the forgiveness of the guilt of sin – the free will giving of a sinless life to redeem the sinful lives of others. Such a sacrifice was and in impossible for us because our own lives have been stained and corrupted and forfeited by our own sins. The wages or results of our own sins is death for us (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 6:23). We cannot offer a flawed and polluted life to purchase a new life. Jesus did not removes all the consequences of sin, either for the sinners or those sinned against. He was not a “whipping boy” required, forced, bribed, or paid to take all the punishment deserved by other persons. Imagine a world or society in which one could pay or force someone else to suffer the punishment he himself deserved, even prison or death, or worse – hell is, of course, the worst possible punishment. But nobody can go to hell for another. Paul may have hinted that he would be willing to suffer that eternal punishment if it could or would save others (Romans 9:-3), but that may be over-stretching his words. Actually it is not possible for one to suffer eternal hell in place of another – even Jesus could not do that. In spite of creeds that state Jesus “descended into hell,” the fact is he never did so, and never will.
Do not discount the debt we owe to Christ for the debt he paid for us. “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe” is a valid concept. The idea that “Jesus paid it all; nothing more I owe” is a comfort claimed by those who want a completely free ride to heaven with no “works” required of them personally, like the false “once saved (by belief in Jesus?) always saved and can’t be lost” doctrine touted by myriad Protestant churches. But it is false assurance, counterfeit comfort.
BAPTISM IS NOT A “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” CARD. One who is baptized and becomes a Christian in prison does not get out of prison and should not expect to be freed – he will still experience the consequences of his past sin; he will continue to serve out his sentence for his crimes. A “born again Christian” who falls into sin (such as adultery, theft, assault) may lose his family, his job and career, and his reputation etc.—even after he confesses and repents his sin. Forgiveness does not always, and may not be required to, remove all the consequences of the sin. Repentance and baptism may constitute a new start spiritually, but they do not change one’s history, do not remove or cancel the offense or the consequences of it. One may forsake his sin and discontinue the practice of it but the results and consequences of it remain. Being forgiven by God assures one that he will not continue to bear the guilt and spiritual consequences of his sin. The spiritual consequences of unforgiven sin. and guilt are spiritual death, the loss of heaven, and eternal separation from God. There are several consequences of sin, some of which are irrevocable.
IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCE FOR COMMISSION OF SIN. One who sins is immediately guilty, whether or not he knows it and admits it. Judgment is not an intermittent action, so that one is considered innocent until judged for sins committed between moments of judgment. One is guilty from the moment of sin, whether commission or omission, whether attitude or action. At the moment of sin and the duration of sin he is under God’s condemnation, subject to punishment, retribution, spiritual death and rejection (Romans 6:23) if and until acknowledgment, repentance, correction, and request for forgiveness are forthcoming. Guilt and consequences may be augmented and added to by delay in correcting and being forgiven, but the initial sin remains independently of any future accretions or contingent sins. Sinners deserve the consequences of their own sins (not necessarily the consequences from the sins of others, though realistically that may not always be avoided). Christ paid the penalty of our sin by redeeming us with His own blood sacrifice. He who knew no sin was made to be the personification of sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the basis of Christ’s perfect sacrifice obedient believers are no longer under God’s condemnation (Romans 8:1). But other consequences remain.
Universal consequence. Though we are not born in sin as a universal consequence of Adam’s sin (as wrongly and unscripturally taught in some religions) there may be and are some consequences suffered by all descendants Adam and Eve. They were expelled from Eden and denied access to “the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24). As a result of their sin they became mortal – subject tp physical death, and that mortality has passed on to every human whether or not they sinned personally (Romans 5:12-14). We are all children of Adam, genetically what he is. We are not burdened with “original sin,” but are burdened with any true consequences of Adam’s original sin. But please note: this is a natural consequence, and not a spiritual consequence.
Natural consequences of sin. We live in a world of cause and effect – the law of sowing and reaping is always in full effect (Galatians 6:7-8). Some of sin’s consequences are “built-in” and will happen no matter whether the sinner is saved or unsaved. “Can a man take fire into his bosom without being burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). If you commit a crime or a sin and get you should expect to get caught and face the natural consequences that follow. To avoid the certain or probable hurtful results, avoid the action that produces them. If you don’t want the expected fruit, don’t plant the seed that will produce it.
Instructional consequences and disciplinary consequences. We should learn from both positive and negative consequences of our attitudes and actions. As an example of this: We see in 2 Samuel chapter 12, even after David confessed his sin and was forgiven God allowed certain consequences to befall him and his household (verses 11–14). God probably allows some of sin’s consequences to remain in our lives to remind us and teach us, and also to warn us about staying in sin or returning to sins that have hurt us before. Others can learn from our experiences too. For example, when Ananias and Sapphira were disciplined (they actually lost their lives) because of their sin, it was instructive for the church: “Great fear came upon the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11). See also 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20. We are encouraged not to resent discipline, including necessary and appropriate punishment for our sins (Hebrews 12:4-11, compare Proverbs 3:11-12). It is for our own good, to make us fit for fellowship as partakers of God’s holiness.
God allows us to experience some of the temporal consequences of sin to show His love for us. Thanks to God for memory that helps us avoid repeating the mistakes that would otherwise hurt us again. If God never disciplined His straying children, He would not be a good Father. If we were never disciplined or never suffered the consequences for our wrong action, we would probably never learn right from wrong. We tend to learn from our mistakes more readily than we learn from our successes.
Praise the Lord for His goodness. He allows us to experience the temporal consequences of sin (for our own good). But He has saved us from the eternal consequences of sin. Jesus paid the redemption price for our sins so we will never experience the second death, which is the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). Obedient and faithful believers in Christ are promised that the negative curse and consequences of sin will be completely removed in heaven (Revelation 21:3-7), that nothing from the saved person’s past will be brought against him to affect or afflict him Hebrews 8:12, 10:17). In and of itself that should be sufficient to lead one to call upon the Lord for forgiveness of any and all sins (Romans 10:9-13) while he can and make his calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com