The Effects of Sin

Fact: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Fact: All sins are equally damnable in the sight of God, but not all sins are equal in damage caused to ourselves and others.

Fact: Since all sins have been paid for by our Lord Jesus Christ in his death, Christians should forgive an offending brother from the heart.

Fact: Forgiveness of sins does not always erase the effects of sin. One may sincerely forgive an offending brother (or sister) of his or her sins, but this does not mean that things will necessarily go back to normal. Depending on the magnitude of the sin, and the damage caused to others, it may indeed be impossible for things to go back to normal (i.e. the way it was before).

I say this because I have found over the years in my dealings with church members that people often do not seem to understand that sin, though forgiven, has consequences. The consequences may be larger or smaller but there are consequences nonetheless. Adam and Eve, though fully forgiven by God for their rebellion, were nonetheless banished from the Garden. Now there is pain in child birth for the woman and work is irksome for man. King David, though absolved by Nathan the Prophet, lost his firstborn son. A public criminal who repents and is forgiven may still have to go to jail. A man who is unfaithful to his wife, but repents and ceases his infidelity may indeed reconcile with his wife but the relationship will more than likely be strained and certain limits may be placed on one’s freedom afterward.

Perhaps more people would avoid sinning, if they only thought more about the effects their sins would have on others, and the potential consequences of their actions. But alas, the flesh is weak, and the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Jesus alone is our refuge from sin AND its effects.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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3 Responses to The Effects of Sin

  1. Chad Myers says:

    Great post. I’m not sure if you realize that you just described the Catholic explanation for the doctrine of Indulgences and the need for Purgatory as explained by Paul?

  2. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    All I have described is the reality that it is not always possible for things to go back to normal when there is sin involved. I think you have read something into my words that was completely NOT meant. I didn’t say that one could buy their forgiveness or that they needed to somehow work off their debt in purgatory. That would be a gross misreading of my words. Forgiveness is totally a free gift in Jesus Christ, apart from our works (Eph. 2:8-9). We don’t contribute one iota to our righteous and forgiven standing with God. David didn’t; Adam and Eve didn’t; the woman caught in adultery didn’t. The sad reality is that because sin damages relationships, in this life, it may not be possible to go back to what was before the sin. I haven’t the slightest idea how you inferred from my words that people can buy their forgiveness or that they need to work off their debts toward God in purgatory.

  3. Chad Myers says:

    @Rev. Beisel:

    I’m afraid we’re talking past each other here. Your understanding of the doctrines of Indulgences and Purgatory are flawed. For example, your words “could buy their forgiveness” — this is not a doctrine of the Catholic Church. In fact, I’m not aware of any Christian denomination yet alive today that teaches or has ever taught this notion.

    Neither of these doctrines (Indulgences and Purgatory) have anything to do with Salvation or Justification. Your understanding is a common misconception among all Christians (even some Catholics!) — especially Lutherans (I know this since I was born and raised Lutheran in Fort Wayne, IN).

    Indulgences and Purgatory are concerned with the “temporal punishment/consequences of sin” which is exactly what you were talking about in the OP above. It also concerns the attachment we might have to particular sins (i.e. a specific inclination to go crazy on Alcohol or eating, or fornication, etc).

    For it says in Revelation, that nothing unclean will enter heaven (Rev. 21:27). How then, can we reconcile someone who is Justified by Christ and thus on their way to heaven, but still attached to Sin and with temporal punishments yet unfulfilled? They are Justified and therefore are not condemned, but they are not yet fully clean. We must be tested, or purified, through “fire” as Paul calls it (1 Cor 3:15) in order to be fully Sanctified (clean) to enter Heaven.

    This goes to a fundamental doctrinal distinction between Catholicism and Lutheranism (at least LCMS which is the only one I’m familiar with) and that is the separation of Justification and Sanctification. These are two separate things happening different ways as Gifts from God.

    For, as the logic goes, if Christ’s death on the Cross both Justified and Sanctified us simultaneously, why then do we yet live on this Earth? Why wouldn’t we just be *whooped* up into Heaven immediately? No, the faith must be tested and sin must be tempted and the consequences of those sins must be accounted for (Sanctification).

    Before you say “But, but, we cannot sanctify ourselves!” Indeed you are correct. We do participate in the process of Sanctification, though (either by cooperating with God’s pouring out of his Sanctifying Grace or by our rejection of it or deliberate counter movements i.e. sin).

    But I have already gone on long enough. My point is this: You too easily dismiss this concept even as you write blog posts explaining it quite well and thoroughly.

    You said, “I haven’t the slightest idea how you inferred” — there’s no inference necessary. You’re talking about temporal (in this life) consequences of sin are real and must be accounted for. This is the heart of the doctrine of indulgences and purgatory. You have explained it quite well.

    I have not given a full apology for these concepts, that would take too long (I have already taken too long). If you wish to know more, please check out:

    http://www.catholic.com/library/Purgatory.asp
    http://www.catholic.com/library/Grace_What_It_Is.asp

    These are very accurate in terms of what the Catholic Church actually teaches (as opposed to this errant priest or that errant Bishop who was committing simony in Luther’s era — for which Luther was justified in condemning and which was actually condemned in the Councils of Trent).

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