Removing the Stain of Sin
AFTER Jehovah God had finished his creative activity, he surveyed all that he had made and pronounced it “very good.” (Gen. 1:31) Everything he had made was perfect. (Deut. 32:4) When sin invaded this righteous arrangement, it was like an undesirable cancer cell invading a healthy body.
Actually, humans have not been the only ones to rebel against God and sin. The Bible speaks of “the angels that sinned.” (2 Pet. 2:4) It was a spirit creature, Satan the Devil, who first led Adam and Eve into their wrong course. (John 8:43, 44) However, nothing can be done for these wicked spirits. They were perfect and made a deliberate choice. Hence, their sin was inexcusable. The stain of their sinfulness will be removed from the universe by their final destruction in God’s due time.—Matt. 25:41.
Similarly, Adam and Eve chose to sin. Although created perfect, they deliberately did wrong. Thus, they voluntarily became slaves of sin, since Jesus himself explained: “Every doer of sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34) Eventually they were removed from the scene, when God allowed them to die as a result of their sin-induced imperfection.—Gen. 3:19; 5:5.
It is different with us, however. We, too, are slaves of sin, but not entirely by choice. We are sinners because we were born that way, as if we had been sold as slaves even before our birth. (Rom. 5:12; 7:14) Hence, Jehovah God, in his love and wisdom, has made a provision so that we can get out of slavery to sin, if we really want to.
Solving the Problem
In his dealings with the nation of Israel, Jehovah showed that he accepts the principle of repurchase. For example, if an Israelite became poor and had to sell himself as a slave to a non-Israelite, a close relative could repurchase, or ransom, him, if he was able to do so. (Lev. 25:47-49) The price was worked out exactly, so that the repurchase was entirely just.
Jehovah also established the principle of equivalence in handling guilt for sin. For example, if someone deliberately caused bodily harm to a fellow Israelite, according to justice he had to suffer the same kind of harm. The law specified that “soul [should go] for soul, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, branding for branding, wound for wound, blow for blow.”—Ex. 21:23-25.
Comparably, God would allow for the repurchasing of mankind out of slavery to sin, but this would have to take place in accordance with justice. The price paid would have to be correct, not trivial, as if what was being repurchased had no real value. What was the price? Well, just think. What Adam had given up was perfect, sinless human life with the prospect of living forever. That was very valuable.
Nothing that man possesses is equal to this in value. Even the wealthiest men in the world have to die some time. All their silver and gold cannot prolong even this imperfect life, let alone buy everlasting life. The inspired psalmist said: “Not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him . . . that he should still live forever and not see the pit.” (Ps. 49:7-9) Therefore, help had to come from outside the human race.
God first revealed his purpose to provide this help right after Adam and Eve chose sin instead of obedience. He foretold the coming of a “seed” who would oppose the influence of the wicked spirit creature that had led mankind into sinfulness. (Gen. 3:15) By successive revelations, he identified the family that would produce this seed, or offspring. Eventually, these revelations focused on an engaged couple named Joseph and Mary, living in Palestine during the time of the Roman Empire.—Gen. 22:15-18; 49:10; Luke 1:26-35.
This couple learned that Mary was going to have a son who would play a pivotal part in removing the stain of sin from God’s creation. Jehovah’s angel informed Joseph in a dream: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife home, for that which has been begotten in her is by holy spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you must call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:20, 21) Here at last was one who could “redeem even a brother.”
Jesus was born a son of Mary, and, hence, was truly a Jew of the family of David. As was later revealed, however, he had actually had a prehuman existence in heaven. His life was transferred by Jehovah’s miraculous power to the womb of Mary, so that God’s Son could be born as a man. (John 1:1-3, 14) In this way, Jesus did not inherit the sinfulness that had crippled all of mankind up to his time. Like Adam, he was perfect. Unlike Adam, he remained obedient. Hence, unique in human history, Jesus was a man who never sinned. The apostle Peter said: “He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth.” Paul explained that Jesus was “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.”—1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 7:26.
Jesus thus possessed the only thing that is equivalent in value to a perfect human life: another perfect human life. When he died, his death was not the “wages sin pays.” (Rom. 6:23) Jesus did not deserve to die. Hence, at his death he sacrificed something that was exactly equivalent to the perfect life Adam had lost.—1 Tim. 2:6.
Jesus’ sacrifice had precisely the opposite effect of Adam’s sin. The apostle Paul said: “Just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22) Jesus was able to use his perfect human life as a price to buy mankind out of sin. “He gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from the present wicked system of things according to the will of our God and Father.”—Gal. 1:4.
Relief from Sin
So now there exists a way out for mankind! A redemptive price has been paid. Does this mean that everyone now will automatically be freed from slavery to sin and will be restored to perfection? Not really. The way this provision works was explained by Jesus himself, who said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Yes, those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ, through whom God made the ransom provision, will enjoy life everlasting from which Adam’s willful disobedience had cut them off.
Even now, those who really accept Jesus’ sacrifice gain benefits. Of course, they are still imperfect. God’s time for restoring mankind to literal human perfection has not yet arrived. But if, because of imperfection, they do commit a sin, this does not irreparably break their relationship with their heavenly Father. The apostle John wrote: “I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.” (1 John 2:1, 2) Yes, if because of imperfection we fall into sin, we can pray to God on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, confident that Jehovah will forgive us.—1 John 1:7-9.
Does this mean, then, that sin really does not matter anymore? Because of this loving provision, can we now commit any sin we want to, and be assured that we will be forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice? No, this is not the case at all. If we want to benefit from this provision, we have to demonstrate the same attitude toward sin that Jesus has. He ‘loves righteousness and hates lawlessness,’ and so should we. (Heb. 1:9) Like Paul, we should ‘pummel our bodies and lead them as slaves’ to overcome the tendency to sin. (1 Cor. 9:27) This involves clearly understanding what sin is and fighting to resist it. God will help us in this, and it can result in our real transformation as a person.—Rom. 12:2.
If, however, we do not fight our sinful tendencies, it may be that the apostle Paul’s further words will come to apply to us: “For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment.”—Heb. 10:26, 27.
Finally, those who demonstrate that, in spite of their imperfect flesh, they truly wish to escape slavery to sin have an even more wonderful prospect. They are promised the opportunity of living in a new order where sin will be a thing of the past. It will have been completely eliminated from God’s creation. At that time, “they will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.” (Isa. 11:9) The inspired psalmist promises us that “the wicked [or, deliberately sinful] one will be no more.” On the contrary, “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Ps. 37:10, 11.
Yes, thanks to Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, believing mankind has the wonderful opportunity finally to come out from slavery to sin. Hence, the encouragement of the psalmist is very timely: “Turn away from what is bad and do what is good, and so reside to time indefinite. For Jehovah is a lover of justice, and he will not leave his loyal ones. To time indefinite they will certainly be guarded.”—Ps. 37:27, 28.