Two Types of Sin and How Salvation Relates
“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.” (1 John 5:16, 17).
It is generally known that the gospel is about salvation from sin. A critical element to understanding exactly what this means is the largely ignored fact that all sin is not of the same nature and that broadly speaking there are two categories of sin, both of which are treated differently in the plan of salvation. In speaking about the gospel, salvation and sin, some of these expressions have become so generalized and clichéd that people do not understand exactly what is involved. The result is that their thoughts on these matters are unclear and superficial and do not lend themselves to any kind of conviction that they would be willing to lay down their lives for. In this presentation, the objective is to seek to bring clarity so as to strengthen conviction.
The last-days prophet Ellen G. White explains that the two types of sin are exemplified by the sins of Lucifer and Adam respectively. She says:
“But even as a sinner, man was in a different position from that of Satan. Lucifer in heaven had sinned in the light of God’s glory. To him as to no other created being was given a revelation of God’s love. Understanding the character of God, knowing His goodness, Satan chose to follow his own selfish, independent will. The choice was final. There was no more that God could do to save him. But man was deceived; his mind was darkened by Satan’s sophistry. The height and depth of the love of God he did not know. For him there was hope in a knowledge of God’s love. By beholding His character he might be drawn back to God.” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 761, 762.)
She explains also:
“There was nothing poisonous in the fruit itself, and the sin was not merely in yielding to appetite. It was distrust of God’s goodness, disbelief of His word, and rejection of His authority, that made our first parents transgressors and brought into the world a knowledge of evil . . . . By the mingling of evil with good, his mind had become confused, his mental and spiritual powers benumbed. No longer could he appreciate the good that God had so freely bestowed.” (Ellen G. White, Education, p. 25.)
So, there you have it. There is the sin of rebellion which is final and there is the sin of ignorance or naiveté for which redemption rests in the knowledge that will straighten the mind out of its confusion.
Jesus came to reveal the truth
Jesus Christ, the Son of God came to earth for the very purpose of bringing light into this dark world of confusion so that our minds may be transformed. The Bible says:
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4, 5).
Again, it says:
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John3:19).
At another place, it says:
“My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee”. (Hosea 4:6).
It is by the renewing of our minds that we are transformed. We are told:
“be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”. (Rom. 12:2.
Some people dismiss the importance of knowledge lightly, saying: “Knowlege? What’s that? That can’t save you. That’s only words or information.” But the Bible says otherwise. It says:
“the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63).
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3).
Jesus came to the world for the specific purpose of bearing witness of the truth. He said:
“To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” (John 18:37).
The truth that He came to bear witness of is the truth about the character of God – His Father; further, to reveal the true character of Satan and the real reason for Satan’s rebellion. As was pointed out earlier:
“But man was deceived; his mind was darkened by Satan’s sophistry. The height and depth of the love of God he did not know. For him there was hope in a knowledge of God’s love. By beholding His character he might be drawn back to God.” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 762.)
Truth revealed in life and in death
Jesus came as the “express image” of God’s person (Heb. 1:3) and it is by “beholding” Him we see the true character of God and “are changed” (2 Cor. 3:18) from our attitude of suspicion towards God and alienation from Him. We are told that in our unconverted state, we were like the Gentiles who were described as:
“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18).
Don’t forget, it was man who went and hid from God after he sinned in the Garden of Eden. Satan speaking through the serpent told Eve that nothing was wrong with the fruit (which was correct) but led Adam and Eve to be afraid of what they were made to believe that God would do to them. The fear of death that was sowed in man’s mind then has since kept humanity in bondage to the Devil. We are told that Jesus came to “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Heb. 2:15). But Jesus came to show us that there is no need to be afraid of God because “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and nothing such as the Devil portrayed Him. He showed that God’s instructions are for our protection and not requirements of God for His sake. Jesus showed that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18). So much does the Son have the character of the Father that Jesus told Philip: “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
So, in His life on earth Jesus revealed by living demonstration the truth about God’s character. And then, by allowing Himself to fall into the hands of Satan, He allowed the entire universe to see the truth about Satan’s true motives and character as a murderer, a liar and the real cause of death, suffering and misery.
As is explained in another presentation on this site, “Who Killed Jesus and what is the Significance of His Death?”, it was Satan and his evil host that murdered the innocent Son of God and by so doing, exposed the true character of Satan so that the last link of sympathy for Satan among the loyal angels of heaven was forever broken. It is supposed to have the same effect on the human mind, if we understand what really happened and what it was all about.
The death of Christ was specifically the basis on which the Devil’s destruction is assured, as we are told:
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8).
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
It is all about the truth
It is by believing the truth that we are saved! We are told:
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).
Hence, the real objective of the Devil is to deceive people or cause them to stop their ears – anything that might lead them to not receive the truth, which, in believing it they would be saved from joining him in rebellion. In the parable of the sower, we are told:
“Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” (Luke 8:12).
Further, the Devil will work
“with signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:10).
Those who make miracles their benchmark for determining authenticity will be sent
“strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess. 2:11, 12).
It is by our repentance when the truth comes to us that we provide the basis whereby Christ can plead our case, before the heavenly tribunal and the entire universe presided over by the Father. We are told that we should not sin, but if we miss the mark, we have an advocate with the Father:
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
People wonder what Christ’s advocacy on our behalf could be all about, in relation to us having sinned and being in need of forgiveness. But a clear illustration of it is given when Jesus was on the cross. He prayed to His Father, saying:
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).
Mercy because we are ignorant and naive
Throughout the Bible, the fact that we are ignorant and naive has always been referred to as the basis on which we are not classified with Satan. Here are a few cases:
Speaking of the death of Christ, Peter said:
“ And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” (Acts 3:17.
- We mentioned already the Gentiles, being alienated because of ignorance, but it is worth noting again:
“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18).
- The former lusts in which people walked were due to ignorance:
“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance” (1 Pet. 1:14).
- The people of Nineveh, to whom Jonah was sent, were described as not knowing their right hand from their left hand. That’s ignorance.
“And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11).
- The priests that ministered in the earthly sanctuary were chosen such that they could have compassion on the ignorant, in order to be able to minister for them.
“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.” (Heb. 5:1, 2).
- Jesus told the Pharisees that their sins remained if indeed they were not blind but saw clearly.
“Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:41).
- Again, He told them that they might have had an excuse if He had not come and spoken to them.
“If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.” (John 15:22).
The Apostle Paul said that all his previous actions in persecuting God’s people were due to ignorance, and for that reason God had mercy on him; and further, that the ignorance was due to his unbelief at the time.
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” (1 Tim. 1:12, 13).
- People in the last days who are willingly ignorant in denying the creation and the flood are warned that destruction is coming upon the earth and they need to repent before it is too late.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:3-9).
Truth in the sanctuary and the final conflict
The fact that Christ pleads for us on the basis of our ignorance and naiveté is clearly taught in the sanctuary services that were given to ancient Israel. It was only sins of ignorance that were ministered for in the sanctuary on earth (Lev. 4:2, 3, 13, 22, 27; Num.15:25-29) and all those confessed sins are eventually laid on Satan, represented by the scapegoat – Azazel, on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:9, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22), as the one who is truly responsible for them through the darkness and confusion that he has unleashed on the whole earth, that has caused us, the ignorant and naive descendants of Adam, to repeatedly stumble and miss the mark. Sins that were considered presumptuous were not atoned for (Num. 15:30, 31).
The fact that we are ignorant and naive and not rebellious, as Satan is, and we have not genuinely rejected God, provides the basis for our redemption. But if we reject the truth that is to straighten us out and lighten our dark understanding, we have no basis on which our sins might be laid on Satan as the real culprit. We must bear the responsibility for them ourselves and perish with them.
Those who remain in ignorance will be destroyed for lack of knowledge.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee” (Hosea 4:6).
Because the truth is the only basis on which we can be straightened out of our confusion and be redeemed to God in an unswerving relationship, the truth is the focus of the Christian warfare. Satan seeks to distort the truth, whereas the followers of Christ are called upon to cast down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2 Cor. 10:3-6).
It is for this reason that the finishing up of God’s mission on this earth is tied to the gospel being preached in the entire world, because people cannot believe if they do not know.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14).
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:13, 14).
It is the truth that sanctifies us. It is not some strange miracle that causes us to be seen as righteous when we are not in reality, as propounded by the new theology that I wrote about in a previous presentation. Accordingly, Jesus prayed:
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17).
The final conflict will be fought by persons who are sealed – people who will not turn away from the truth or their allegiance to God, even when faced with weariness, hunger, delay and the prospect of losing not only their reputation but their very lives. The last-days prophet, Ellen G. White tells what the sealing is. We are told:
“Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads – it is not a seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved – just as soon as God’s people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come.” (Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 1161)
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
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