The “S” in my blog, Gods S.C.A.L.E. of Mercy and Justice stands for Separated by Sin. In this blog I am going to look at how mankind came to be separated from God and why I believe our separation does not mean what some Christians believe it means.
Many sincere Christians believe that mankind’s fall and sinful nature made people completely unable to realize they have a spiritual problem or need of salvation. This belief is called Total Inability. Those who hold to this idea say that one must be given the ability to respond to the Gospel by first being made alive spiritually through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Only then can you believe in and accept Christ as your savior. In their view, they liken man’s spiritually fallen condition to that of being physically dead in the full sense of being dead. The dead and buried are unable to do anything at all. This idea of spiritual death however, is never taught in scripture I believe. Comparing our spiritual condition with physical death muddies a clear understanding of God’s wonderful gift of salvation. It mocks God’s perfect character because it makes God’s call for the wicked to turn to Him a charade. The result would be that God holds people accountable for not doing what they are unable to do. As I stated in the previously mentioned blog: “Justice and honesty are a delight to God, and He calls us to be honest and just, as He Himself is.”
Levit. 19:35-36 – You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Proverbs 11:1-2 – Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight.
Sin is man’s greatest problem, and the end result of sin without exception, is eternal spiritual death, also called the second death. In a sin of disobedience, Adam and Eve chose their own way instead of God’s way. The results of this sin were many, but one stands out as far worse than any of the others, even that of physical death. Because of our sin we all face the real possibility of being eternally separated from God and His life. We are all in the same predicament, with our destination guaranteed. However, before God laid the foundation of creation, He ordained a solution to this problem of our own making. God’s solution is good news for everyone.
1 Peter 1:18
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
God’s only Son was chosen to lay down his life to restore our spiritual life. The condition to receive this new life is to simply believe in the one who offers it. Just saying you believe won’t save you, you must believe with your heart and God knows your heart. Our hope then, rests fully on God, who provides life, just as He provided for Christ our savior in the resurrection. Amazingly, God chooses us through His son when we trust in Christ! God clearly teaches in His Word that all people must choose His way or their own way. We are made with, and retain the ability to respond to God’s call. If we do, our spiritual condition changes from death to life. This is as God willed it from the beginning, and as it continued even after Man’s first sin.
Dead In The Garden
In Genesis 2:17 God said to Adam, “..for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” In the next few chapters of Genesis, you will find that Adam did not immediately die in the sense of ceasing physical functioning when he ate of the forbidden fruit, though he did die later at the age of 930. Nor was Adam unable to hear God when He called him as he and Eve were hiding in their shame.
And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
God then cursed the serpent, the ground, and man with toil and physical death. Absent from God’s rebuke is any statement, or even hint, that people would now be unable to respond to, or please Him. There was a death in the garden though, because God used animal skins to cover the man and woman. This was a picture of the future covering for sin that would be provided by the blood of Christ. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, away from God’s presence and the Tree of Life. They were barred from ever entering again, however, God continued have a presence with them and later spoke with and Cain and Able. They heard God’s voice, even outside of the garden.
When did man’s total inability begin? Either it had not happened yet, or it was short lived for Adam and Eve. Some believe that inability was there in the garden as seen when Adam and Eve hid from God or that God sovereignly elected them to spiritual life before he spoke with them after their sin. These ideas cannot be held with certainty as the text doesn’t specifically support them. Reading into the Word of God here is the only way to keep it line with the theology of Total Inability. Nothing in the Bible at this early stage of humanity, or even later in Genesis support a theological conclusion of total inability.
Let’s continue on to look how God is revealing his plan for man’s redemption throughout Genesis.
God spoke with Cain, Adam’s son, after Cain failed to give God an acceptable offering. We note that Able’s offering on the other hand, was pleasing to God. In the example of Cain and Able, we see both one who believed and sought to please God, and one who was seeking his own way. Cain let sin reign which lead to the murder of his brother. The first human killing. Notice what God said to Cain BEFORE he killed his brother in anger.
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
God told Cain that he was able to “do well” and be accepted by Him. Cain is also told he is able to resist the sin he eventually fell into. God said “you should rule over it“, that is, the sin at the door. This creates a problem for those who believe that being spiritually dead is as dead as being physically dead.
So we still don’t see spiritual death in the sense of unresponsiveness yet. Again, it can be explained by assuming Cain and Able were both sovereignly elected by God. But, up to this point, no person has been totally unable to hear or please God. Such a spiritual death must have started later in the history of the world?
What does the bible say happened after Cain continued in the sin nature started by his father Adam? We see that people were born and people died, all while man’s sinful nature continued to grow out of control. Sin became so bad that God only found one righteous man and his family left on earth.
This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.
We all know the account of Noah and the flood where God, sorry he had created man, destroyed the world but saved one family. We must assume, if Total Inability is true, that God, in order to display his glory, elected only Noah and his family, and destroyed the rest of the humanity because it pleased him. Only, the Bible says it didn’t please him. Why was the wickedness of people so great that only Noah found Grace? You can answer this in two ways. One, at some point all these people became totally unable to choose to do things God’s way, or, like the account says, people decided on their own to follow their sinful desires to the inevitable end of death. Noah and his family on the other hand “walked with God” and life.
I believe that people followed the sin in their nature because they wanted to, and they had fully “corrupted their way on the earth” as God explains to us. Sin had fully separated the world from God, except for Noah and his family who believed.
The question becomes, “what kind of death did God speak of back in Genesis 2:17?” What fits with God’s revelation up to this point? The choices that remain, if NOT death as inability, are: A current spiritual death, a future physical death, a future eternal spiritual death, or all three.
I believe God was speaking of all three when he told Adam he would surely die. All three deaths are separation because SIN SEPARATES. We see this currently when sin separates us from the blessings of God’s fellowship in the present. Also, physical death is the separation of the body from the spirit and this will happen to all people. And finally, future spiritual death, or the second death, happens at the judgement seat of God when those who did not put their trust in God are separated eternally from God and life in the Lake of Fire.
Throughout the old testament God reveals himself to the world through people of His choosing, starting with Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. Through the Prophets until now God’s message to Israel and the world is consistently, “repent, and believe”. There would be no reason to call for people to believe if it were not possible for them to do so.
Dead In Sin…Dead To Sin
A terrible reality is that most people in this world think they are “totally able” to be good enough to merit entrance to heaven. They live their lives with a false hope and see no reason for a savior. But God is still calling them through the Gospel and Spirit to partake in His life. He reveals Himself in His Word and the world around them so they cannot say “I was never told of God and His love”!
The greatest tragedy in our world is that all who do not turn to God are guaranteed an eternal death. There will be no second chance or comfort when they realize how wrong they were. God now stands with open arms to all who will come and the urgency is real. We made ourselves mostly dead due to our sin, but God left us slightly alive with an ability to respond. God allows this because He wants us to love Him, not because He made us to, but because we chose to.
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Jesus said of himself…
I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
To be clear, no man woman or child, is able to save themselves from the present consequences or end result of sin, which is eternal separation in spiritual death. Our inability to save ourselves is VERY true. Eternal separation need not be the end of the story for people because in our hopeless problem, God reached out to all the world with the light of life, Jesus. God calls through the gospel of Christ, for all people to turn to Him and we are not too dead to do so.
What about when we read that Paul said we are dead in sin?
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—
Those who have an incorrect view of spiritual death use verses like Romans 5:12 that say that we are dead in sin to “prove” their point. They will say things like “a dead person cannot move, respond, walk, nor do anything”. They conclude that since all people are said to be dead in sin, it follows that all people are unable to respond to God without first being made alive. It certainly may seem logical, but it’s a serious misunderstanding of God’s Word.
Look for example, at what Paul says in the next few verses and it becomes clear that the death Paul speaks about is not to be associated with total inability.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If Paul means death is as in inability here, he would be saying that believers can’t sin, which from our experience we know is not the case.
Dead End Street
The parable of the prodigal son given by Jesus, demonstrates God’s heart when it comes to the World. I imagine God saying exactly what this father said to his son when a sinner turns to Him.
“This my son (or daughter) was dead, and is alive again.”
The prodigal son was dead in the sense that he was separated from the father. Stuck in the mire of the pig pen, his sin brought him to the end of a dead end street. He could fall no further on this earth. However, we see he was certainly capable of making decisions while he was in the far country separated from the father. He made the decision to go back to the father.
“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee. And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father.”
The characterization of spiritual death as being inability has led men to build a doctrine based on an illustration of a dead man, instead of sound study of Scripture. Total Inability denies the power of God through the Gospel and sets up the “elect” to fall into pride, and many others to fall into doubt. It needlessly creates a problem where none should be, with God’s perfect justice.
The Doctrine of Total Inability was created by sincere christians, and is held onto with zeal only out of necessity I believe. It has to be true, because without it the color of the TULIP fades and the petals start falling one by one.
The majesty, truth, and power of the Gospel is plainly shown throughout God’s word. From the beginning in Genesis to the end, God calls people to Himself. God, without partiality, calls all people to turn and be reconciled to their creator-father. We are responsible to do so, both in being able to respond, and being responsible for the choice we make.
Nearly everything we read or watch on tv these days is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis in our world. It’s inescapable, and the bottom line its power over us lies in the death this virus can bring to us and our families. For those in the world who have not given much thought to what is beyond this life, these days may be especially stressful. As some must feel that they are standing at the edge of an abyss. For believers who have trusted in God, this time of upheaval certainly tests our faith. But we are able and should be clinging to the promises of our Heavenly Father.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
My heart goes out to those who are suffering and grieving the loss of loved ones. I pray for the gospel of Christ to light the way to life for those who find themselves facing physical death today. May they fear being eternally separated from all that is good more than being separated from their physical body. May they respond to the God of life and rest on the rock of His salvation. May God give us all strength for the battles ahead. Amen.