The Sandheap and Sin

22 Sep

Pictured: A heap of sand. Maybe.

Let us begin with a famous paradox (The Sorites’ Paradox). One has a heap of sand made up of 1,000,000 grains of sand.

We assume;
1,000,000 grains of sand is a heap of sand. (Premise 1)
A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap. (Premise 2)

Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one less grain), eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that a heap may be composed of just one grain of sand.

What does this have to do with sin? Everything.

Reformed theology affirms that the Bible teaches that it is sinfulness, and not individual sins, which condemn a person to Hell. Reformed theology affirms that any person not living in the grace of Jesus Christ is sinful and condemned, regardless of how many (or how few) sins he may have. It also affirms that anyone who is in Christ is totally saved and secure no matter how many (or few) sins he may commit.

To many this doctrine is offensive and unfair. Many believe that a person with few sins may enter Heaven without Christ, and others believe that those with many sins may not enter even with Christ. To these people I say this: answer the paradox. How many grains of sand constitute a heap?

Either one grain of sand constitutes a heap, or there is no such thing as a heap, or there is a specified number of grains which constitute a heap.

Therefore when applied to the question of sin we find one of these must be true;
(Truth 1) One sin is sufficient for condemnation.
(Truth 2) No amount of sins are sufficient for condemnation.
(Truth 3) A specified number of sins are required for condemnation.

If #1 is true, then Reformed theology is correct in this matter, and all sinners are equally condemned without Christ, and all saved persons are equally secure in Christ.
If #2 is true, then all of Christianity is bunk because there was/is no sin debt with God and therefore no reason to send Christ to die for us.
If #3 is true, then there should be a specific number of sins laid out clearly in Scripture, underneath which there is no condemnation (Christ or not) and above which there is no salvation (Christ or not).

What does Scripture say?

Galatians 2
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

First, Paul makes it clear that a person cannot be made right with God through his own effort (works of the law). This is critical, for many believe the sand heap can be thus altered in size by one’s good works. It cannot. We cannot reduce its number. Just as a thousand good deeds done by a murderer cannot bring the victim back to life, so we cannot undo our own sins.
Second, Paul also makes it plain that if it were possible to attain righteousness on one’s own, Christ’s death would be meaningless. Therefore if one ascribes to the idea of Christianity, truth #2 must be discarded. The sand heap is very real. The only question is, how many grains of sand constitute a heap?

James 2
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James makes it clear that there is no partiality among sins. Anyone who breaks God’s law in just one place becomes guilty for breaking all of it. QED, one grain of sand constitutes a heap.

John’s Gospel 3
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

1st John 5
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

God used John the Elder to make it plain to us. If you are in Christ Jesus, then you will not be condemned. If you are not, you are already condemned. That is, the number or severity of your sins is really irrelevant. If you have ever sinned (and all humans have) then you are a sinner and sinful. Either you will believe in Jesus, trust in Jesus and repent and therefore find full grace and forgiveness in Him, or you will refuse Him and be condemned to an eternity separated from the Father of Joy in eternal torment.

Romans 1
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

2nd Corinthians 3
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Galatians 6
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

1st Corinthians 4
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

No matter how few sins you have committed, or how many good works you have done, you cannot be saved apart from Jesus Christ. Likewise, the man in Christ is not judged on the quantity of his sins after repentance nor is he judged on the number of good works he has done in Christ. What counts, as Paul says in Galatians 6:15, is a new creation. The new man in Christ is a changing man who is changing from faith to faith and glory to glory. He is being sanctified out of sin but is so long as he breathes a work in progress, which should not be judged on some arbitrary system of men, including his own.

Romans 5

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, andso death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

One grain of sand is a heap. One sin results in total condemnation. One act of true righteousness (the Cross) is sufficient to pay for all.

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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Soteriology


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