Although a lot of times these two words are used interchangeably, biblically we find there is a subtle but vital difference between them. I’ve been studying on them this morning, prompted by a devotional study someone sent me. The devotion presented the story of the woman who broke the alabaster box to demonstrate that There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus Rom. 8:1. But we need to look deeper into the word to find the full meaning of that phrase.
We are told, And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.. . . Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. Luke 7:37-48 ( KJV)
We don’t know much about the woman in this story except that she lived a sinful life. The Bible doesn’t specify what her sin was, which illustrates the beauty of God’s love for us, demonstrating that whatever the sin it does not put us outside of God’s mercy.
When we come to the Lord with our sin and present ourselves openly to Him we receive His forgiveness. He doesn’t bring it up again or write it down for everyone to see. He forgives it and it’s gone.
That’s one lesson we can learn from this story. If you are wrestling with some guilt or condemnation for something that happened in your past that you’ve already laid before the Lord, the condemnation is not from God. He does not keep reminding us of the sins of our past. He has forgiven them and remembers them no more. If we have come to Him repenting and claiming the blood of Christ as our sacrifice for sin, our sins have been forgiven and God remembers them no more. That is the foundation for the transforming power of Salvation.
Now there is an extension of this lesson that many like to over look or set aside for their own convenience. We see clearly here that the sins of the past are forgiven; but the popular teaching today is that any future sins we may commit are also forgiven. Very often this teaching produces sincere believers who are filled with guilt and condemnation. They have no victory in the Lord and are constantly filled with a sense of failure in their walk with the Lord. When they speak with a pastor or mentor regarding that guilt and condemnation these scriptures are pulled out and dusted off. The young believer takes them to heart and endeavors to live for the Lord trying to believe that his sense of guilt is only Satan oppressing him.
I have a dear relative who lives constantly with the sense of failure in his Christian walk. He speaks the words of rejoicing and joy, but there is no depth of feeling or inner glow to back up the words. When we speak of joy in the Christian life, all he can express is his own unworthiness before God. And that was true once. Before we are born again in God’s sight we are most certainly unworthy. But the cleansing power of Salvation makes us worthy of the blessings God bestows on us.
We find the example of this in the story of the prodigal son. Remember the young man demanded his inheritance and then left home to live in profligate abandon. Then when his substance was gone he came to himself sitting in a pig pen and eating of the scraps given to the swine. He decided to return to the Father. We find that he acknowledged that he was unworthy to be a Son at all. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But once that acknowledgement of unworthiness had been made, all was forgiven. The heart of the Father overflowed in love and he lifted him up to the position of son-ship again.
The Father made him worthy. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 3And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. Luke 15: 21-24
Praise the Lord! We were totally unworthy of God’s grace! But in His Mercy He raised us up and made us worthy to be called heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ Rom. 8:17 How glorious is that! We are no longer unworthy, but we are sons of God! It just thrills my soul to its very depth!
But my relative can never experience that joy. He continues in his intermittent sin, believing the damnable teaching that we can never live without sinning and yet always convicted of his sin. He must realize there is a deep difference between the condemnation that our sins might bring upon us and the conviction that the Lord allows to rest on the heart that needs to repent of sin.
If you are still burdened by teachings that bring you no joy and only a constant sense of failure and unworthiness I beg you to seek God’s face privately. Don’t consult with ministers or teachers or anyone other than the Holy Spirit. This freedom from sin is a promise of God to His people! Set aside all the teaching you have known from a child or since you began to follow God. Look into the Word and find the promises of God.
Remember the Lord never requires of us anything that He does not supply the power to accomplish. Knowing that we can look at the directions Jesus Himself gave in the book of John and the Holy Spirit directed to be written in other places. John 5:14. . . Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. (John 5:14) and . . .Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:11) We see clearly here the direction is to ‘go and sin no more.' How then can we justify the teaching that we are all bound by sin in flesh and human frailties?
It is true! There is no condemnation for sins repented of and forgotten by God. But when sins committed in our present life rise up we find ourselves ‘convicted by our own conscience’ John 8:9 And in that small phrase we find the difference between condemnation and conviction. Conviction rests in the knowledge of unforgiven committed sin. Condemnation is the judicial finding that accuses one of wrong doing, in Christ there is no longer any accusation of wrong doing over past sins. There can only be conviction when sin is committed in the present.
. . .Let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (I John 3:7-9)