Christ Is Set Against Sin
By Rich Carmicheal
One of the tragedies of our day is that many people, even a substantial number within the church, believe that Jesus Christ is soft on sin. These folks like to point out that Jesus tells us not to judge and that He told the woman caught in adultery that He did not condemn her. They emphasize how compassionate, merciful and forgiving He is toward sinners.
Of course, such things are true. The problem, however, is that when such truths are considered in isolation and taken out of context, they provide a very incomplete picture of Christ’s view toward sin and righteousness. The reality is that when we take into account the whole of His life and teaching, we see clearly that Christ was (and is) absolutely and resolutely set against sin. Consider even these few vital truths:
• Christ Himself was devoted to righteousness and lived a perfect and sinless life. He was (and is) "holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners..." (Heb. 7:26). He was tempted in all things as we are, and was tempted severely, even directly by the devil himself, and yet He was without sin (Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22). He was completely devoted to His Father’s will, always kept the Father’s commandments and always did the things pleasing to the Father (John 6:38; 8:29; 15:10; Heb. 10:5-10). He "loved righteousness and hated lawlessness" (Heb. 1:9).
• Christ had a much deeper definition of sin than the culture around Him. For example, He taught, "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I say to you, that every one who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:27-28). He was concerned not only about outward violations of God’s commandments, but about inner thoughts, motives and desires as well. He condemned hypocrisy and stressed that genuine righteousness was necessary for one to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20; 23:23-28). Instead of downplaying the significance of sinning against God’s law, Christ came to fulfill the law (Matt. 5:17).
• Christ gives strong warnings to those who continue to sin. For example, He teaches, "And if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell..." (Matt. 5:29-30). Although He does not mean we are literally to remove our eye, His point is clear: Avoid sin at all costs.
The need for repentance from sin is central in Christ’s teaching. He started His earthly ministry preaching, "Repent..." (Matt. 4:17), and from heaven He continues to call people, even His church, to repentance (Rev. 2:1 – 3:22). In the example mentioned earlier of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus certainly extended great mercy toward her, but He also told her to go on her way and "from now on sin no more" (John 8:11). He warns in the closing portion of Revelation that those who continue in sin will not be allowed into the heavenly city: "Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying" (Rev. 22:15).
• Christ gave His life to save people from sin. Sin is of such consequence, it required the most costly and precious sacrifice possible to atone for it – the life and blood of the Son of God. He "gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us out of this present evil age..." (Gal. 1:4). He was "pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5). He endured the Cross, despising its shame, in order to redeem us and free us from our sins by His blood (Heb. 12:2; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 1:5). How terrible sin must be in the Lord’s eyes for Him to have gone to such drastic means to rescue us from it!
• Christ will judge sin. Although Jesus shares that His Father did not send Him to judge the world, but to save the world, He goes on to share that those who love darkness and whose deeds are evil are already under judgment (John 3:17-20). And what is more, a day of final judgment is coming, a day when the One whose robe is dipped in blood will in righteousness judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 19:11ff.). There is a day of wrath coming, even the wrath of the Lamb (1 Thes. 1:10; Rev. 6:16), on those who are unrepentant and ungodly (Rom. 2:5; 2 Pet. 3:7). Christ will command those who practice lawlessness to depart from Him (Matt. 7:23).
Our All for Christ
These truths remind us that we must treat sin seriously. The challenge to do this is all the greater as our culture breaks down and sin is tolerated, redefined, whitewashed and even embraced. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), and His views toward sin have not changed and will never change. No matter what popular opinion may dictate, what the Lord sees as sin is sin.
How thankful we can be that Christ died so that we can be forgiven, cleansed and set free from sin. How thankful we can be that He sympathizes with our weaknesses and is able to come to our aid when we are tempted (Heb. 2:18). How thankful we can be that we can unite with Him in His death, dying to sin, and unite with Him in His life, becoming alive to God and righteousness (Rom. 6:1ff.; 1 Pet. 2:24). Let us embrace Christ and His love and sacrifice for us, living the holy and righteous life He makes possible. He gave all that He had to rescue us from sin; let us in turn forsake sin and give our all to Him.
"For the grace of God has appeared ...instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession..." (Titus 2:11-14).