In considering the question of how God treats sinners, it becomes of paramount importance to know just who is a sinner! If I don’t know anyone who is a sinner, and if I never meet anyone who is a sinner, the scale of importance of the issue drops to virtually zero. However, if I know a sinner or two, or if I am likely to come in contact with a sinner, the degree of importance rises somewhat. In fact, the more sinners I know or am likely to know, the more important the question becomes. I must confess that when I think of sinners, I prefer to think of them in the distance – far away from me and any influence on me. I must also confess – that is a very unrealistic and inaccurate view.
The Bible talks about sinners in a number of places. In fact in the New King James Version, the word sinner(s) appears more than sixty times with almost two thirds of these appearances in the New Testament. Perhaps the disproportionate usage of the word in the New Testament is to be expected since Jesus said of His mission, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2.17). This should certainly not come as a surprise when we realize that “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15.7). One could surmise that a sinner, strictly speaking, is simply someone who commits sin. However, the word is used in a number of ways; not every time is it used in such a simplistic way, but it refers often to one who is given over to the practice of sin as contrasted to those who attempt to follow after righteousness.
However, strictly speaking, we are all sinners. In that way we differ significantly from Jesus. The Hebrews writer describes Him as our High Priest “…who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens.” (Hebrew 7.26). Peter spoke of Him “…Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth.” (1 Peter 2.22). Likewise the apostle Paul referred to Him as the One “…who knew no sin.” (2 Corinthians 5.21).So, He in that regard, is unlike us; we are sinners, each and every one of us. That point is made in a number of scriptures, but none is plainer than John’s words: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1.8).
I have known people who claimed that they did not sin. Then again I have known people who claimed to be Jesus Christ! Claims do not reality make! The sad reality of humanity is that all accountable persons sin. Further, unless there is forgiveness on the part of God toward man, all men will be held accountable for their sins. Even those who claim they do not sin are accountable for that erroneous claim.
The bottom line is this: I would do well to try to understand how God treats sinners because I am a sinner! Furthermore, reader friend, so are you. My interest in this subject matter is not merely theoretical; it is practical; it is vital, it is of extraordinary significance. In fact, how well I understand this subject determines my eternal welfare! Compelled now? You should be!
1. Paraphrase Jesus’ mission on earth as regards sinners.
2. As our High Priest, how did Jesus differ from other High Priests in regards to sin?
3. If we say we have no sin, we lie. To take it further, what does John say about us and truth?
4. How can my knowledge of the way God treats sinners affect my eternal destiny?
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