What happens when we mess up?
By: Scott Morton
This question is always at the heart of looking at forgiveness. It can be hard to understand at times what is exactly going on in this area. Most people can understand the issue of how we are forgiven today (see last issue) when they honestly look at what the Bible says.
However, there is a feeling of needing to maintain this forgiveness with God. It does not take an individual very long to figure out they are going to make mistakes after they are saved. A believer can give into the lust of the flesh and do some things contrary to what God would have us do. The Bible does provide a clear answer to our problem when we follow the principles of right division (2 Timothy 2:15) and look at this issue.
What does not apply to us
One passage many people try to make apply to a believer today is 1 John 1:9, as it seems to say things an individual wants to think applies:
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We see the issue of confession comes up as an answer to the sin issue. Who would an individual have to confess these sins to? Would another person be sufficient to be the one hearing a confession? The simple answer to this question is no, another person could not receive a confession. How could a person, who has the same sin nature as you, hear the sins you have committed and give any sort of forgiveness for these sins, when they are in need of the same thing? It cannot work this way.
Should we be confessing our sins to God? Using right division, we need to figure out if this passage is applicable to the life of a believer today. Who is John writing to? John is one of the 12 Apostles and would be writing to the believers of the nation of Israel. This is not us, the members of the Body of Christ today. This goes along with the salvation message being preached by Peter in Acts 2:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The people who heard Peter preach wanted to know how they could erase the guilt of what they were being charged with. He was charging them with the murder of Jesus Christ. This was the sin they had seen they had committed and wanted to know what they needed to do. The answer was to repent (have a changing of the mind), and receive a baptism for the remission of sins.
Israel had to proclaim their sins as a nation. This was a requirement for them under the law. The passage in 1 John is going back to this principle and is discussing how Israel needed to confess all of their sin, including the murder of Jesus Christ, instead of their acceptance of Him as the Messiah.
Who we are
Paul identifies the fact that members of the Body of Christ have had a change in their make-up:
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Members of the Body of Christ are made to be a new creature. This occurs when an individual puts their trust in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The believer is then made a new creature, as we are given His righteousness and He takes our sin upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). This exchange is part of the forgiveness we have already received. This goes along with the identification we have in Christ:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
When we have become a member of the Body of Christ, we have been identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This change shows how we are now viewed in the eyes of God. We are viewed as His Son, as the body of sin has been destroyed.
What a wonderful thing to know that the body of sin has been destroyed. In the eyes of God the sin nature an individual has is considered to be dead. We cannot function is something that is dead. Paul is explaining to the believer how sin has been taken care of for an individual and we need to realize the change that has occurred for us.
What is sin?
We need to know what sin is to see how this can no longer have the effect we often think it does. It sometimes seems like a simple thing to define what sin is, but we need to take a look at what Scripture says sin is:
1 John 3:4
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
The definition being given here is transgression of the law. I have heard sin be described in this verse by the following mathematical equation:
Sin = transgression + law
The sin we are looking at here is part of the sin nature we have discussed before. This is the sin we need forgiveness from that would send an individual to hell. Paul does address this issue in a couple of verses:
Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
The issue Paul is talking about is the law. Is a believer today under the law? The answer to this question is no. We have been removed from the law (Galatians 3:13). It is truly good news to realize that God has taken the law out of the way for us because of the work done on the Cross. Using these passages, we start to see the breakdown in the above formula. If the law has been taken out of the way by the Cross, we are left with the following:
Sin = transgression +
The formula does not work! By definition, transgression means you have gone against something. If the law has been taken out of the way, there is nothing for an individual to transgress. The whole thing starts to break down, because if there is no law, there is no transgression, and therefore no sin. This is why Paul can make the declaration he does:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
This passage causes a lot of problems for people. What sin is Paul talking about in this passage? He is talking about the sins that are past. Is there any mention of present or future sin in this passage? The answer to this question is no. You have to read this into the passage if you are trying to make Paul state other sins are being covered by this passage.
Why would Paul only say our past sins are dealt with? Doesn�t he know we are going to mess up? Paul does have an understanding of the problems we will have, but he also knows this is not dealing with these. There is a big reason why the sins of the past are the only ones dealt with. This reason is the law has been taken away. If we could still commit one of these sins that needed to be covered by the cross, then the law would still be present. If the law is still present, then we would need to be following what the law says.
Thank God we live in the dispensation of grace where the law is no longer present for us to deal with. Since the law has been taken away and is no longer an issue for us, we have been saved from the wrath God will be pouring out on those who have not had their sin dealt with.
It is unfortunate when someone who understands the gospel does not fully understand what is has accomplished in their life. I have heard people make statements of being able to walk in the flesh and having sin run their lives. If this is the case, what would need to be done to help an individual deal with these sins. A person would need something to cover the sins they are committing. Since Paul has stated the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross dealt with the sins that are past, what would be needed to deal with these sins? Isn�t the shed blood of Jesus Christ what dealt with the sin issue for us? We need to recognize the victory we have over sin and be able to start living our lives the way God intended them to be lived.
We do mess up at times
I want everyone to realize that I am not saying people do not mess up at times in their lives. There are times where we all have problems we are trying to deal with. Paul had a struggle himself that he brings up in Romans 7:
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Paul is talking about an internal struggle he is having. He knows he wants to do good things. Paul understands we are created unto good works (Ephesians 2:10) and is attempting to demonstrate these in his life. However, he also was experiencing problems of where he was doing the things he hated. There were times Paul was doing things contrary to what God would have him do. None of these things had an impact on his salvation, as he is sealed with the holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13-14). However, there were some things being done that God did not ask him to do and he knew this was an issue.
The major question that has to be asked is what are these things that are being done and what happens to an individual when they do these things? Paul identifies the fact that sin is dwelling in him. As a believer, we are waiting for the redemption of the body at this time. Even though the flesh has been rendered dead in the eyes of God, it is still present with us. This is why he has to get into the discussion we see in Galatians 5:
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Paul states here we are to walk in the Spirit. The contrast he puts to this is shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. He does not state a person is walking in the flesh at this time. The only reference Paul makes to walking in the flesh is in Romans 8:1-4. In this passage, he is contrasting the unsaved (walk in the flesh) with the saved (walk in the Spirit). The only way an individual can walk in the flesh would be for them to lose their salvation. Paul clearly teaches eternal security for the believer (Ephesians 1:13-14), so we know we cannot lose our salvation.
The true struggle for the believer is to either walk in the Spirit (living life how we are supposed to be in this dispensation) or giving into the lust of the flesh (not living life how we are supposed to). The identification with the believer always remains with Jesus Christ, no matter what we do. Paul know this and this is why he can identify there is no condemnation to those who walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:1). God cannot condemn a believer, as we are seen in His eyes as His Son. Jesus Christ never did anything worthy of condemnation and we are seen in the same light, since we are identified with His righteousness.
Paul did identify the fact that sin was dwelling in him. Can this be the same sin we looked at earlier? If it is, then we have done something that can undo the shed blood of Jesus Christ. There has to be another definition of sin Paul sees and he does identify one in Romans 14:
And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
The definition Paul is giving for sin here is whatsoever is not of faith. This is the sin a believer can commit. Throughout his epistles you will see Paul make statements of an individual sinning not (Ephesians 4:26) and other statements where Paul is dealing with the sin of a believer. When Paul is dealing with sin in the life of a believer today, he is using the definition we see in Romans 14.
How does an individual commit a sin that is defined here in Romans 14? This happens every time an individual does something contrary to the doctrine found in Paul's epistles. Paul states faith comes from the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and he is the one teaching the information for this dispensation. If an individual starts to try to do things contrary to what Paul says, then they are committing a sin.
A brief example will help show what Paul is talking about. Let's say a believer had been studying the Bible rightly divided and has come to the knowledge of the doctrine Paul has laid out in Romans through Philemon. This individual, after a period of time, decides we need to keep the Sabbath. The support for this comes from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy as the principles for the Sabbath. The individual also uses Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to show how Jesus Christ continued to keep the Sabbath during His earthly ministry. While this is all Biblical, it does not follow the principles of right division. Paul makes a couple of statements related to the Sabbath:
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.  Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.  But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?  Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.  I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:  Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Paul is not saying anything positive to the believer about keeping the Sabbath day. He states he is afraid of the believers in Galatia because they have started to follow the law, which he had taught them they were free from (Galatians 3:13, 5:1). Paul points out the Sabbath was a shadow of things to come. It does not have a place for members of the Body of Christ today.
This is just one example of where an individual can fall into a situation of where they are doing something that is not of faith. This can also apply to things of the flesh that are often viewed as being a sin (drunkenness for an example) or to a person who is not standing for the sound doctrine laid out in Paul�s epistles.
It is sometimes easy for a person to fall into a trap like this and start to do things contrary to God. If I do not have to worry about facing the punishment of God for what I have done, why do I need to do the right things? Paul states there is a punishment that does occur for individuals who are performing this kind of sin and it is something we need to be wary of. He brings this up when we look at the Judgment Seat of Christ:
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;  Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Paul looks at what is going to happen when we appear before Jesus Christ in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:10). This event will be where all of the works of an individual are tried. It is important to note there is no indication some of this work is going to be removed, as if it had been forgiven. All the works an individual does after their salvation will be judged.
These works fall into six different categories: gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble. The judgment fire will come and will try these things to see what is going to happen to them. The wood, hay, and stubble will be burned away, as these things are temporary and fired destroys them. The things that are the gold, silver, and precious stones will remain, as fire purifies these things.
The question most people ask is what makes up these things. The simple answer is the things that are burned away are the things God would not have us to do, the things labeled as sin in Romans 14:23. When we are following the faith that is laid down by following the Word of God rightly divided, we start to build up the gold, silver, and precious stones.
The punishment for committing sin has nothing to do with the death (the wages of sin in Romans 6:23). Now we have to worry about the loss of rewards. Paul identifies in the passage we looked at in 1 Corinthians 3 what happens to an individual who has nothing left, because all of their works burned up. The individual is still saved. He or she has not been able to undo the salvation that was accomplished when they put their trust in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
As members of the Body of Christ, we do not need to worry about forgiveness. We have already received the forgiveness we need when we put our trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. This took care of the sin that would have led to death.
There are times when we mess up. These instances when we do something that is not of faith, it is considered to be a sin in the eyes of God. This sin leads to a loss of rewards when we appear before Jesus Christ.
This should be the motivation we need to make sure we are doing the right things and are not falling into the trap of continuing to do all of the things we should not do. The law had put everything as a requirement that a person needed to follow. We, as members of the Body of Christ, are not under the law. Because we are not under the law, the motivation for us should be the love we have for God because of what He did for us.