Summary: This sermon will help you determine the source of your guilt, and instruct you how to get rid of it.


Acts 24:16

By: JB Hall

Introduction: Guilt is an issue we all experience and need to learn how to deal with. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary gives us a very long and detailed definition of genuine guilt. It describes genuine guilt like this, and I quote:

GUILT, n. gilt. 1. Criminality; that state of a moral agent which results from his actual commission of a crime or offense, knowing it to be a crime, or violation of law. To constitute guilt there must be a moral agent enjoying freedom of will, and capable of distinguishing between right and wrong, and a wilful or intentional violation of a known law, or rule of duty. The guilt of a person exists, as soon as the crime is committed; but to evince it to others, it must be proved by confession, or conviction in due course of law. Guilt renders a person a debtor to the law, as it binds him to pay a penalty in money or suffering. Guilt therefore implies both criminality and liableness to punishment. Guilt may proceed either from a positive act or breach of law, or from voluntary neglect of known duty.

This is a very detailed and accurate definition of genuine guilt. But, sometimes we experience false guilt. Either type, genuine or false guilt, can paralyze us and hold us in bondage until we learn how to respond to it in a way that will eliminate it from our lives.

When we experience guilt it brings our lives to a screeching halt. We are unable to make any significant forward progress until we deal with the problem that is producing the guilt and clear ourselves of its constraints.

Some people will carry the guilt of something that has occurred in their lives at an early age, until they are old; not understanding how to get rid of that guilt.

Example – told by the preacher with Life Action Ministries – An 84 year old lady who had had an affair on her husband who was now deceased, and had had an abortion when she was young, was still paralyzed by her guilt.

There are 2 things we must learn if we are to conquer the bondage of guilt and be set free from it:

(1) We must learn how to distinguish between genuine guilt and false guilt.

(2) We must learn how to respond in the proper way to the type of guilt we are experiencing.

1. Genuine Guilt

A. In Deuteronomy, Chapter 19 we learn to identify genuine guilt.

B. In Verse 4 it says, “And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past.”

C. In other words, this is what we would call manslaughter, or the accidental killing of another person.

D. But, Verses 11 – 13 say this, “But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities:” “Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.” “Thine eye shall not pity him but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.”

E. The difference in this slaying is that it was premeditated.

F. So, the definition of Webster was absolutely correct.

G. Genuine guilt results from a free moral agent acting in intentional violation of the known will and word of God.

H. When you or I knowingly violate the will of God, we have committed sin, and the resulting consequence of that sin is that we experience an immediate sense of guilt.

I. This guilt informs us we are a lawbreaker, and stand indebted to the law to pay the penalty required for our crime.

J. But, we also experience genuine guilt when we know the right thing to do and just refuse or neglect to do it.

K. James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

L. So, refusing or neglecting to do what we know we should do is also knowingly committing sin against the will of God, and will also produce an immediate sensation of genuine guilt.

M. Again, Webster is right.

N. Guilt not only proceeds from a positive act or breach of law, but also from voluntary neglect of known duty.

O. So genuine guilt results from the sin of commission and from the sin of omission.

P. Genuine guilt then, results from our indebtedness to pay the penalty the law demands for our having broken that law.

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