IN TODAY'S Sermon, I come to preach a comparison of the Words “sins” and “unrighteousness.” I John 1.9. In this comparison, I shall do two things. I. I shall show that the subject of sin appears three times in the Text. II. The difference between the Words “sin” and “unrighteousness.”
I. The Fact that the subject of sin appears three times in the Text. In the Text, there is the subject of the Forgiveness of sins. The Text has three parts. In every part, you read about Forgiveness. At the same time, there comes along in the Text the subject of sin. This subject appears three times in the Text too. It's not that all three times happen in the beginning, the middle, or the end of the Text. Rather, the subject shows up in all three parts. Therefore just as the Forgiveness of sins is spread out all across the Text, just so it is with the subject of sin. There is no place in the Text but what something is said about sin.
From whence I deduce this Instruction. There is no correct discussion of the Forgiveness of sins that does not include the knowledge of sin. In the contemporary Christianity of the times, what is the common thinking? It is a common thought (or at least a common practice) to ignore sin. They like Forgiveness. They like Grace. They like how JESUS died for our sins. But they dispose with the subject of sin. They don't want to spend any significant time thinking or speaking about sin. They deem sin as offensive.
But, say, what does GOD do in the Text? In the Text, the Forgiveness of sins and the subject of sin walk hand-in-hand through the length of these Words. They are equally mentioned. Where one appears, the other appears too. If one would be taken away, the rest of the Text would not make sense. Which speaks that the Forgiveness of sin cannot be correctly considered or received without an honest consideration of sin. If you ignore sin, you deprive yourself of Forgiveness. You cannot just step into the Forgiveness of sins. The gate by which Forgiveness is entered is the realization, the acknowledgment, and the confession of sin. It is only when you know and confess your sin to GOD in Prayer, that GOD will forgive you of your sin.
II. The difference between the Words “sin” and “unrighteousness.” As the subject of sin appears three times in the Text, there is variation. The first two times the Word “sin” is used. Every time it is the same Greek Word. The third time there is a slight change. Instead of the Word “sin,” there is the Word “unrighteousness.” This is a different Greek Word.
As for the Word “sin,” the Greek Scholar Dr. Strong defines the Greek Word that is here used to mean “to miss the mark.” This is what sin is. GOD gave the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments set the mark respecting how GOD wants the human race to live. But what is sin? Sin misses the mark. Sin takes place when people come short of this standard, or in their pride they fancy they go above it. Whereas the Greek Word for “unrighteousness” is a different Word. Three ideas are wrapped up in the Word. The Word denotes injustice, iniquity, and a deed or deeds which violate law and justice.
In the Text, the two Words “sin” and “unrighteousness” are used in this fashion. First: “If we confess our sins.” In these Words, the idea is there must be a frank and full confession of how the soul has missed the mark of GOD'S Law. Then come the Words: “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” In these Words, GOD says that when this missing the mark of His Law is confessed to Him in Prayer, He will forgive sin. At the end of the Text, there is an addition: “And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Word “unrighteousness” signifies injustice, iniquity, or a deed or deeds which violate law and justice. Therefore the difference between “sin” and “unrighteousness” is that “sin” is a more general Word. It broadly refers to all the times the mark has been missed. Whereas “unrighteousness” is a more specific Word. The Word alludes to individual instances of sin—perhaps to those sins that are more glaring—and certainly to those sins that lay most heavy on the conscience. So that in Forgiveness GOD not only forgives those times the mark was missed, but even those sins that are more glaring or bow down the conscience—He cleanses and takes them away.
From whence there are two Instructions. 1. The First Instruction is see how the soul comes to GOD and receives the Forgiveness of sins. How does the soul come to GOD to receive Forgiveness? This is a useful question. It is this mind that ought to be aspired to. In coming to GOD to receive Forgiveness, the soul does not come ignoring its sin. The soul does not come explaining away its sin. This is going the wrong way. Instead, as the Words suggest, the soul comes to GOD in Prayer confessing sin in such a way as if sin is missing the mark of GOD'S Law. The soul also is deeply aware of glaring and particular instances in which the mark has been missed.
2. The Second Instruction: See how GOD meets the soul in the Forgiveness of sins. I just showed how the soul comes to GOD to receive Forgiveness. In Forgiveness, how does GOD come to meet the soul? The two Words “sin” and “unrighteousness” teach that GOD does not give the soul a meager Forgiveness. Instead, GOD satisfies the soul in Forgiveness. For observe. In the instances in which the soul has missed the mark, GOD performs a corresponding action. GOD “forgives” those sins. In those instances that are more glaring and concerning which the soul is peculiarly concerned, GOD takes special care. In regard to these things, GOD “cleanses [the soul] from all unrighteousness.” No wonder, then, that the Forgiveness of sins is the first step to Glory. This one experience is better than a lifetime of sin. The Forgiveness that GOD gives in every way satisfies the soul. Amen.
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