Summary: If salvation depended upon living a sinless life, none of us would have a hope of reaching heaven. No Christian can claim to merit God’s mercy or grace. No saved individual can state that God was compelled to grant her life because of her goodness. We are
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Such were some of you.” These are assuredly dark words that could easily condemn many of God’s beloved saints. However, note that these words are written in the past tense, indicating that the condition no longer holds true. Therefore, what appears dark and despairing is transformed into that which is comforting and joyous. The transforming power is the Lord Jesus Christ, working in the life of His saint by the Spirit of God. There is no need for anyone to labour under the sentence of death when life is offered to all in Christ the Lord. Certainly, there is no reason that any of God’s people should ever fall into despair, believing that they are doomed in the sight of the Living God.
If salvation depended upon living a sinless life, none of us would have a hope of reaching heaven. No Christian can claim to merit God’s mercy or grace. No saved individual can state that God was compelled to grant her life because of her goodness. We are saved precisely because we were lost. We have sinned—wilfully and wantonly—against the Infinite God. Thus, our sin is not a trifling thing; it is monstrous, horrendous, offensive beyond comprehension. Yet, if we have life in the Beloved Son, we can say with confidence that God has forgiven our sin, cleansed us of unrighteousness and brought us into His Family as His dear child.
*Unrighteousness, the Characterisation* — “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Generally, people imagine that unrighteousness, or wickedness, is defined by certain acts that are disapproved by God or that dishonour God. However, unrighteousness is not defined by specific acts; it is a general condition affecting all mankind. “I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” [*Romans 7:21-23*]. An unrighteous person is one who has no standing before the Living God.
Many people, perhaps even many who profess faith in the Son of God, live by a code that allows them to believe that because they avoid certain activities they are pleasing to God. I got into serious trouble with a congregation that adhered to such a philosophy on one occasion. I noted that they were proud of their “pure lives” that was best summarised by an old couplet:
We don’t smoke, and we don’t chew;
We don’t go with girls who do.
I continued by pointing out that they were vicious toward fellow Christians, inconsiderate, and intolerant. Those dear folk were enraged, which only substantiated the point I was making.
One of the great doctrines of the Faith that is woefully neglected in this day is total depravity. The term can be misleading; however, it does not mean that individuals are as mean as they can be, or that people indulge in every sin they can imagine, or even that people never try to do what is right. It does mean that every aspect of our being has been contaminated as result of sin. Our lives are fully corrupted by sin, and there is nothing that we can do that will make us acceptable to God. Thus, we are incapable of holding pure motives for any spiritual action and unable to please God through our own efforts.
The situation is not that some parts of our being are sinful and others are pure; every part of our being has been affected by sin—intellect, emotions, desire, goals, motives and even our physical being. Indeed, the Apostle has identified our situation in darkest terms when he writes, “I know that nothing good dwells in me” [*Romans 7:18*]. Had our first parents never sinned, you and I wouldn’t struggle with ageing. In fact, there would be no “old age,” or “middle age,” if Adam and Eve had obeyed God. We wouldn’t need bifocals or hearing aids; we wouldn’t need joint replacement surgery. Moreover, these signs of ageing are evidence of our fallen condition which points to death—the separation of the soul from the body; and death is the result of sin. We are taught that “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” [*Romans 5:12*].