Earlier on this web site I wrote two Learning Activities on a basic introduction to the topic of sin. That material appears in Learning Activities # 20 and # 22. Since I wrote those Learning Activities I have continued my study of the topic of sin and decided I needed to write this in-depth paper on more of the specifics of sin in the New Covenant era.
It is important for you to understand that during the Old Covenant and the Transition period when both covenants were side-by-side for a time, that sin was an issue between mankind and God.
After Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and His spiritual return in AD 70 the sin issue changed drastically because of what Christ accomplished for each and every one of us by His substitutional death for us. It is this period of time that we need to investigate in the Scriptures in order to determine “What Sin Looks Like in the New Covenant” for those who believe. In order to start us off on our journey we need to review how sin was taken care of during the time of the Old Covenant.
1. “Then he (speaking of Aaron) shall kill the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood within the veil (a curtain in the Mosaic Tabernacle) and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat; thus he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the people of Israel, and because of their transgressions, all their sins…” (Leviticus 16: 15, 16). This was part of the Day of Atonement ceremony under the Old Covenant to take care of sin.
With this understanding in mind the mode of dealing with sin under the Old Covenant became one of “covering.” This seems to be valid when we consider the following passages.
2. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).
This same passage is repeated later.
3. “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7).
This “covering” for sin actually began in the Garden of Eden when God provided a covering of animal skins for Adam and Eve.
Now we need to look at a very telling passage in the book of Hebrews.
4. “For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). What! We just read above that the sins were forgiven! Is there a difference between “forgiving sin” and “taking away sin?” The answer is a resounding YES there is a difference.
5. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant….for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31: 31, 34b, RSV).
Under the Old Covenant, when the blood covering was made there was forgiveness of sin, but the sin was NOT taken away! This is a key understanding and difference between the two covenants!
6. “and this will be my covenant with them when I (God) take away their sins” (Romans 11:27). Taking away sin is separate from forgiveness of sin.
What the Old Covenant could not do was to “take away” sin because Jesus had not yet died on the Cross of Calvary. But from Jeremiah 31:34 and Romans 11:27 above we can see that “taking away” sin involves both the forgiveness of sin and, importantly, God not remembering the sin anymore! This is a huge understanding.
Let’s look back at the Hebrews passage to make still another point. I will be repeating some of what I have already cited above, but it is important for the narrative to be complete.
7. “For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).
8. “And every high priest (referring to the human priesthood of the Old Covenant) stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can NEVER take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11).
The two passages above stated by the writer of Hebrews are setting up a contrast between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant as the chapter goes on to say:
9. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (that is referring to we believers!). And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, This is the covenant (the New Covenant) that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds, and then he adds, I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS AND THEIR MISDEEDS NO MORE. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10: 12-18).
The three passages above clearly illustrate that the Old Covenant could not take away sin and contrasts this biblical fact with the New Covenant after the Cross having the result of Christ taking away sin and sin not being remembered any longer. This was something that was unavailable to those under the Old Covenant until the General Resurrection circa AD 70. In effect, the Old Covenant facts on this topic end up being types and shadows of the fulfillment that would be found in Christ under the New Covenant. I personally also see here a doing away with of the action of “repentance” in the New Covenant as why repent of something that God no longer remembers and has already been forgiven and taken away?
Under the New Covenant there is a radical change in the answer for sin.
10. “Then as one man’s trespass (Adam’s) led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act (Christ’s) of righteousness leads to acquittal and life (eternal spiritual life) for all men” (Romans 5:18).
11. “…Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
12. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” (John 3:16).
13. “and he (Christ) is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
14. “If the worshipers (speaking of the Old Covenant) had once been cleansed (and we have already learned that they were not yet cleansed until Christ went to the Cross to accomplish that fact) they would no longer have any consciousness of sin” (but they were conscious of sin because they had to continually go to the human priesthood with animal sacrifices for their sin) (Hebrews 10:2b, RSV).
The verse above is a spiritual eye opener to those of us today in the New Covenant! It tells us that if a person is once cleansed, as we who live in the New Covenant have been) then WE ARE TO HAVE NO CONSCIOUSNESS OF SIN! Is that the way you believe it to be today? If not, be set free and let your mind be renewed to this biblical fact!
Additional support could be added to the above, but suffice it to say that Christ provided the taking away of sin for ALL of mankind that ever lived in the past, are living today, and will live in the future, with a single act on the Cross of Calvary. There are no exceptions! The only conditional statement made in the Scriptures for this to be applicable to any of us is that we must be part of the group who “believes in Him” which is the second half of John 3:16.
Chapter eight of Hebrews contrasts the Old and the New Covenants. In describing one aspect of the New Covenant it states that:
15. “…I will remember their sin no more” (Hebrews 8:12).
As you read this Learning Activity do you see an exception for present and future sin in these passages? If God has forgotten all of mankind’s sin, then why do we constantly hear from those who supposedly represent Christianity on radio, television and other media as well as from many church building pulpits that insist that we must stop sinning? If God has forgotten why do they perpetuate this nonsense under the guise of it being a requirement? I AM NOT SAYING THAT CHRISTIANITY ENCOURAGES THESE ACTS THAT REPRESENT SIN – HERE I FULLY AGREE WITH THE APOSTLE PAUL – BY NO MEANS (Romans 6:2).
What I have discovered in my personal life and the Scriptures is that any unwanted thoughts and actions are the result of a part of my mind not being renewed to a biblical truth. Too many Christians think that if they want to stop sinning they need to change their behavior when in actuality what is needed is to change what they are believing or should I say what they are NOT believing about God and/or themselves.
In the New Covenant in which we live today, when we accept the Lord into our lives we become a New Creation. In that New Creation we are not under the Law but rather under Grace. If we are not under the Law the word of God tells us that any wrongdoing after becoming a New Creation has been forgiven, in fact, that sin is not even “counted against us.”
16. “…but sin is not counted where there is no law” (Romans 5:13b).
17. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalms 32:2). Notice in this verse the emphasis is on what is true in the SPIRIT that has NO DECEIT, and it does not address the physical body that was crucified with Christ!
18. “blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin” (Romans 4:8).
19. “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15).
20. “…Apart from the law sin lies dead” (Romans 7:8c).
21. “I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more” (Hebrews 10:17).
Here are some additional passages that inform us about what God says about those who believe in Him during the New Covenant.
22. “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (that is Old Covenant) THAN OVER NINETY-NINE RIGHTEOUS PERSONS WHO NEED NO REPENTANCE” (that’s we New Covenant believers) (Luke 15:7). As New Creation believers we have been declared righteous, therefore we do not repent!
23. “I HAVE NOT COME TO CALL THE RIGHTEOUS, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). God says we ARE righteous (See Learning Activity # 78) therefore we do not repent! God never calls a believer sinners in the New Covenant.
24. “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39, RSV).
25. “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” (1 Corinthians 6:11, NIV).
26. “according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4, YLT).
27. “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9, RSV). Remember, the Spirit of Christ DOES live in you when you believe!
28. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18, NIV).
With the above passage, John 3:18, in mind it would be appropriate to place a graphic here that illustrates the only problem in the New Covenant with reference to sin. The problem is not one of sin at all but rather A PROBLEM OF BELIEVING!
29. “And you – BEING DEAD in the trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh – HE MADE ALIVE together with him, having forgiven you all the trespasses, having blotted out the handwritting in the ordinances that is against us, that was contrary to us, and he hath taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13, 14, YLT). This passage tells us about our personal spiritual resurrection that takes place at the instant that someone BELIVES!
30. “So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir” (Galatians 4:7, RSV).
31. “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:5,9, NIV).
32. “Blessed (is) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3, YLT).
33. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).
What the passages above indicate to me is that our union or oneness in Spirit with Christ has already broken the dominion of sin and there is no need for us to create or follow some sort of man made program of works to accomplish any spiritual goal. If you don’t realize this you will go about trying to do all sorts of things to overcome sin which ONLY Christ can do. Because we are in Christ our standing before God is not the result of our good day/bad day performances. The way the Father views Christ, He also views we believers. As Christ pleased the Father in all things (John 8:29), so we have been made pleasing to God because we have believed on His Son!
We no longer stand before God in Adam’s guilt, condemnation, and spiritual death, but in Christ’s obedience, righteousness, and life. We stand before God as though we were Christ Himself and we do nothing but believe it to be true. What a miracle of Christianity!
I have made up Figure 138 below as a reminder of how it is that God views the New Covenant believer. The believer holding the SIN banner has an inaccurate understanding of who and what he is in Christ which I have tried to summarize in the incomplete list of Bible passages at the bottom of the Figure.
It is my desire that this Learning Activity has renewed your mind to a point where you can experience to some greater degree what Jesus stated in the following passage.
“…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free….if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed…” (John 8:32, 36, RSV).