If Jesus came to destroy sin why is it still here?
John, the beloved disciple, writes “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (1 John 3:8-9)
This passage has disturbed many a good Christian, not for the first part but for the latter. They reason, If Jesus came to destroy sin and if one born of God does not sin, yet I am aware that I at times still sin… perhaps still lose temper… still hold disdainful thoughts about another… still tell alleged ‘white’ lies, does this mean I am not truly a Christian… not really saved?
But what John is saying is that Christ appeared to defeat our adversary once for all. He took our sin and is working His righteousness into us. He knows He will complete this work and already sees us as the righteous saints He is making us to be. But in our current moment of experience we do not yet see that completed within us. Nor do we see righteousness reigning in this earth – that’s for certain!
But what we do see since coming to Christ is that a new nature now lives within us! The things we want to do are not what they were before. Paul well describes this inner conflict:
“…what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. … I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. … in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind…” (condensed from Rom. 7:15-23)
“…For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other” (Gal. 5:17).
The Christian no longer wants to sin and certainly no longer sins continually. But we are not yet perfected in Christ – never will be while still in this fallen flesh – so we still do at times make poor choices and sin.
That we would still sin is no surprise to John either, for he also writes,
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10).
So John goes so far as to tell Christians that it is a sin to say you are sinless. But now, we have Jesus to go to for forgiveness and restoration. And we have the Holy Spirit resident within us and the Word of God to plant within us and the Body of Christ, the church to stand beside us – all these to help keep us from sin… to keep us walking “in the light.”
“If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7).
But why doesn’t He get the job over with?
Well… Where do you draw the line?
Do we want God to destroy the mass murderers, the inhuman monsters, the heartless, the cold and calculating… the cheaters of fortunes….. the cheaters of hundreds… the cheaters on their income tax, the cheaters who didn’t go back to the convenience store when they found they had been undercharged $5…. Or $4… or 0.15 cts? Well… where do you draw the line? Where do you draw the line when you’re measuring up alongside a Holy God?
God has already set the standard – and it is a very high one indeed: “…to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)
So if God were to straightaway destroy all evil from this world He must also destroy His own, the faithful who remain here to testify to the gospel in hopes that others may yet turn to Christ.
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