Is There a Balance Between Sin and Repentance ?
One of the questions that I received here on the website was, “How do we balance our repentance with the level of our sin?”
I’m sure the thought behind that question is that if you have sinned a lot, you must repent a lot. And vice-versa; If we only sin a little, we only need to repent a little. And so the question is, “How do we know if we’ve repented enough for the level of our sin?”
This kind of thinking does indeed make sin and repentance a “balancing act”. But I know that’s not the way God wants us to view sin and repentance. And the reason I know that, is because of what God’s word says. Repentance isn’t a “balancing act”, but rather it’s a desire to stop sinning, and be forgiven. Without having the desire in our hearts to completely TURN from our sin, there IS no forgiveness!
Man tends to “categorize” sin, thinking this sin is worse than that sin, and so they think some sins require more repentance than others. But God doesn’t view one sin as being any worse than another. As a matter of fact, the bible says, “For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” James 2:10. That’s a fact that most people either don’t know or don’t want to acknowledge. Most people want there to be a little more “leyway” without feeling so guilty. But God’s word is what it is. If we stumble in even one point, we are guilty of all!”
Now there’s probably no doubt that some people do sin more often than others simply because many people don’t care if they sin. And many might care, but they don’t want to restrict themselves from the “fun things” of this life, even though the bible might condemn those things. But it really doesn’t matter “how much” we’ve sinned. The fact of the matter is, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. And we all need the forgiveness of God! And thanks be to God that, “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to ALL men.” Titus 2:11
So let’s begin by taking a look at what the bible says about sin and God’s “laws”. God’s laws, are simply the instructions that God has given to us, to guide and direct us. God’s instructions are “laws” because of the simple fact that He expects us to OBEY His instructions, therefore, they are “Law” to us.
Why Did God Give Laws ?
I’m going to start by reading Romans 5:20, “And the Law came in, that the transgression might increase, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (sin and transgression are the same thing)
So God gave Law, so that sin could increase? Interesting verse, isn’t it?
It says in Romans 5:13, “..But sin is not IMPUTED when there is no law.” It’s not that people weren’t sinning before the law came, it’s just that before God gave a LAW, people didn’t KNOW that they were sinning.
Listen to what God says about salvation and the Law of Moses. God says in Galatians 3:16, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say; And to seeds, as referring to many, but rather to ONE; And to YOUR seed, that is Christ!” God told Abraham, in Genesis 12:3, “..And in YOU, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So in Abraham’s seed, (in his offspring) salvation would be offered to ALL the families of the earth. Not just to one nationality, but to all families! And Christ IS that “seed of Abraham” in whom salvation is offered to everyone.
Now, back in Galatians chapter 3, God is telling us about this promise of salvation, and about the Law of Moses. It says in V-17, “What I am saying is this; The Law, which came 430 years LATER, (later than the promise) does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.” So God is saying that salvation is NOT according to the Law of Moses, and it never was! It has ALWAYS been the result of a “promise”, which is conditional upon FAITH in God’s word, and on our OBEDIENCE to that faith.
Listen to V-18, “For if the inheritance is based on Law, it is no longer based on a promise! But God has granted it to Abraham by means of a PROMISE.” That’s pretty easy to understand isn’t it? Salvation is a promise, given to all those who are of the same kind of FAITH, as Abraham was. Namely, a faith that OBEYS the instructions of God. “By FAITH, Abraham OBEYED..” Hebrews 11:8. “By FAITH, Abraham OFFERED up Isaac..” Hebrews 11:17
Galatians 3:19 says, “Why the Law then?” Remember, Romans 5:20 had said, “The Law came in, that the transgression might increase..” Was God CAUSING sin to increase by adding the Law? “The Law came in, that the transgression might increase..” No He wasn’t! Let’s go back to Romans 5:13 again. Remember it said, “But sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Well, here’s the first part of that verse.. “For until the Law, sin was in the world!” It’s not that people weren’t sinning before the law, it’s just that they didn’t KNOW they were sinning! “But sin is not IMPUTED when there is no law.” In other words, the sins that were being committed, were not “charged against” the people, so to speak. If God hadn’t told man about any law, how could we know to KEEP the law? And therefore those sins were not “imputed” against them.
Why was the sin of Adam and Eve “imputed” against them? Obviously because God had told Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, YOU SHALL NOT EAT!” That was a “Law”! Gen 2:17
God’s Will For Us
By His very nature, God is loving, and kind, and compassionate, and forgiving; and He wants US to be the same way. But without God’s laws, we would have no idea of how we should act. Even HAVING God’s law, as we do, in the bible, we still act in accordance with our own physical desires, which are for the most part, very selfish desires. And because we are led by our physical nature, we’re are guilty of sin. (We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:23) That’s why God has always given man “Laws” to live by. So that we DO know how we should be living. And so we DO know about loving one another, and about helping one another, and about obeying God. Otherwise, it would be “every man for themselves”.
Galatians 3:19 asked, “Why the Law then?” And here’s the answer, “It was added BECAUSE of transgressions, having been ordained through angels, by the hand of a mediator (which was Moses) until the “seed” (Christ) should come, to whom the promise had been made.” So the scriptures say, that the Law of Moses was added because of the sin that people were already living in. And when it says in Romans 5:20, “The Law came in, so that the transgression might increase”, it means, so that the people’s AWARENESS of their sin might increase. They were already in sin. They just didn’t know it! But the law made them AWARE of sin, and it made them AWARE of how God says that they SHOULD be living.
The Law was added BECAUSE of the transgressions, because of the way people were conducting themselves. How are people ever going to be able to repent of sin, and stop sinning, if God doesn’t TELL us about sin, and if He doesn’t TELL us what we’re doing wrong? That’s the whole reason why God has given laws. So that we can KNOW about sin, and so that we can ABSTAIN from sin. God does NOT want us to be conformed to this sinful world, doing the same things as the ungodly do. Remember that sin, is exactly like the “spirit of evil”. It’s in complete opposition to God! The “spirit of evil” IS satan, and satan is “the adversary”. Satan is “the opponent”. SIN is our opponent and our adversary also. Sin is the complete opposite of God’s will.
Listen to Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be TRANSFORMED, by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove (that means to approve of in your mind) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The “renewing of your mind”, is the acquiring of the knowledge of God’s will, through His word, and then the “approving” of that knowledge.
God has given us His laws, so that we don’t have to simply be led by the desires of the flesh. He has told us what is right and what is wrong. He has given us a choice that we wouldn’t HAVE if it weren’t for His laws. And He has given us those laws, through His word. And God has also given us the opportunity to repent. He tells us in Acts 17:30, “Therefore having looked beyond the times of ignorance (those were the times during which the gentiles didn’t have His word, the Jews did have His word) God is NOW declaring that ALL people everywhere should repent!”
Repentance Should Characterize Us
Repentance needs to “characterize” our lives! It isn’t something that we do once and then we’re done. Repentance is as much an “attitude” as it is an “action”. It’s an “attitude”, in that we need to have a “lifestyle” of abstaining from what God tells us is sin. And it’s an “action”, in that when we realize that we HAVE sinned, that we STOP the sinful action, and ASK for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 tells us that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But a prerequisite to being forgiven, is that we confess our sins to God, implying that we also repent of them! I don’t think anyone is so naïve as to think that we’ll be forgiven if we say; “Oh yeah, I sinned, and I’ll do it again!” No, we all understand that confessing our sins to God, implies that we are of the attitude that we’ll do all we can, to STOP sinning and START obeying!
You can’t repent “a little bit”. Repentance is a “turning”. It’s a turning FROM sin, and a turning TO God’s will. Consider this analogy.. Sin is the complete opposite of God’s will. The world, and all that is in it is sin. 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world, nor the things that ae IN the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world and it’s lusts are passing away, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”
So if we are turned TOWARD the world, in attitude or in practice, then we are turned AWAY from God. And so to repent, we need to be turned TOWARD God, and AWAY from the world. If you just turn “a little bit” away from the world, are you then facing God? No you’re not! What if you turn “half way” from the world? Are you then facing God? No, you’re not facing God until you turn ALL the way around, completely opposite from the world, and face toward God. That’s what repenting is. It’s a FULL turn, FROM the world, TO God. Anything less than that, is NOT repentance!
Can you repent ‘a little bit”? NO, you can’t! With God, it’s everything or nothing. It’s like Jesus said in Luke 11:23, “Whoever is not with Me, is against Me. And whoever does not gather with Me, scatters.”
Repentance must comes from the heart. We must “feel badly” for going against the words of God, and we must have the true desire to turn from disobeying God, and turn to obedience to Him. It says in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God, produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” You see, if a person is still holding onto the things of the world; “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life”, they can feel sorrow, but it won’t be “according to the will of God”.
The sorrow that’s according to the will of God will cause us to TURN from the world. But if we’re still holding ON to the world, our sorrow won’t cause us to repent, and that’s why “worldly” sorrow only leads to “spiritual” death.
How should We Conduct Ourselves ?
Think back for a minute to Romans 5:20, “And the Law came in, that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Since it’s by God’s grace that salvation is offered, it’s logical that where sin is increased, grace abounds all the more. More sin means more forgiveness, right? Well listen to Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who have died to sin, still live in it?”
When we repent of sin, and turn to God, we are supposed to “die to sin”. Remember what I said about repentance being a “complete” turning to God? We are supposed to turn to God SO completely, that we “die to sin”. It’s truly everything or nothing with God isn’t it? But listen to how the bible answers those two questions; First, Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? And then, How shall we who have died to sin, still live in it?
Here’s the answer, in Romans 6:3-4, “Or do you not KNOW, that all of us who have been baptized into Christ, have been baptized into His death?” (we’re talking about dying to sin, right?) “Therefore, we have been BURIED with Him through baptism, into DEATH, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” So when we’re raised up out of baptism, we should live differently than we did before we repented, and before we were baptized. We should “walk in NEWNESS of life”. We’ve completely turned to God, haven’t we? That would indicate a “newness of life, wouldn’t it?
Listen to V’s 5-7, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old self, was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. For he who has died, is FREED from sin.”
Remember that verse in John 8:32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Well, this is what Jesus was talking about. We come to know the truth of how to be saved, then we repent of our sins, then we’re baptized so that those sins can be washed away, and we arise out of baptism, to walk in newness of life, and at the same time, we’re freed from the consequences of sin. SIN, no longer has a hold on us, because we’re completely forgiven. And we’re completely forgiven, because we’ve completely repented!
We didn’t “hold on” to some of those lusts, and to some of that pride of life, but we completely turned to God. Now if you’ve been baptized, but you HAVE held on to some of those things, then you’d better think seriously about repenting completely. And if you were baptized without repenting, then you need to question your salvation. Jesus Himself said not once, but twice, “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish!” Luke 13:3 & 5.
And if you’ve never been baptized, you need to repent and be baptized, confessing your faith in Christ. When people asked the apostle Peter, what THEY should do, when they realized their sin of crucifying Jesus, Peter said, “REPENT, and let each one of you BE BAPTIZED, by the authority of Jesus Christ, FOR the forgiveness of your sins..” Acts 2:38. And V-41 tells us, “So then those who had received his word, WERE baptized; and there were added that day, about 3,000 souls.” and V-47 tells us, “..And the Lord was adding to the congregation, day by day, those who were being saved.”
Here’s How We Should Live After We Die
Romans 6:8-13, “Now, if we have DIED with Christ, we believe that we shall also LIVE with Him. Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God! Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God, in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it’s lusts! And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin, as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God, as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
Romans 12:1 instructs us, “I urge you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
And Galatians 5:16 tells us, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” How do we walk by the Spirit? And how do we present our bodies a living sacrifice to God? We do it by obeying the instructions of God, written in His “instruction manual”, which is the bible. We obey the words of God, and the words of Christ. Jesus said in John 6:63, “The WORDS that I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life!” Walk by the Spirit!
Here’s The Balance..
There IS a balance of repentance and sin. The balance is, Complete Repentance of sin, balanced with Complete Forgiveness of sin”. If you are willing to completely repent, then God is willing to completely forgive. “God is patient towards you, not wishing for ANY to perish, but for ALL to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
Actually, there are three things that are “balanced” in God’s word. First, we’re “completely sinful”, because “if we stumble in one point, we’re guilty of all!” James 2:10. Second, our “faith is completed” when we obey God’s word. “And as a result of the works (works of obedience) faith was completed” James 2:22. Third, we are “completely forgiven” when we obey God’s word. “But if we walk in the light (to walk in the light, is to obey the word), as He Himself is in the light (Jesus IS the light, and His word is light), we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us of ALL sin.” 1 John 1:7
Only God can complete this “balancing act”, through Jesus Christ. His word makes it clear, what we need to do, to balance our sin with His forgiveness. Believe His word, and completely turn FROM the world, and TO God. And after we do that..
“And now, why do you delay? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on His name.” Acts 22:16. And then “walk in the light as He Himself is in the light”.
Because Jesus “promised”, “Remain faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10.
May God bless you in the study of His word. And remember that Jesus is, “The author of eternal salvation to ALL who obey Him.” Heb 5:9