Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



My father was a very hard worker. He never drank more than one or two drinks in a day, and that very infrequently. He smoked once or twice a month. He did good things for people every chance he was given. He belonged to a service club that did nice things for people. Was he a Christian? You don't know do you.

A friend I knew many years ago drank heavily frequently. He led the church choir. He was a very big business man. He prayed in prayer meeting. He didn't mind lying in his business. He wasn't above shady business practices. Was he a Christian? You don't know do you.

So, just how can we possibly judge a person to determine whether they are a believer or not? Some suggestions of the past.

1. The law: The law was given for us to follow and if we don't then we are not believers.

The law is a set of regulations. This has nothing to do with a persons spiritual state, eternally speaking. The obedience to the law, may or may not give hint to the person's real spiritual state. A lost person can attempt to keep the law, just as well as the saved person.

2. Works: Works may or may not give indication of a persons state eternally. A truly born again person should automatically desire to walk according to all that he knows. On the other hand a lost person can do many things that appear to be good works yet be lost.

Then there is the question of the born again person that does not know any of the Word, who is living in adultery and drunkenness. The outward appearance would indicate that he is not a believer, yet inwardly he is.

3. Life: If a person lives a good life then surely we can say that he is saved! Not necessarily. A lost person that has a good high moral value can lead a very "good" life.

We cannot know from the outward what is true.

There are things like, following the teachings of Scripture, works, and good living that will be indicators of a heavenly eternal destination, but not always. NORMALLY OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME THIS wills PROVE OUT.

On the other hand good Christians at times take a wrong turn and end up in drastic sin. That does not mean that they are not born again. When we were in the northwest, a pastor fell into sexual problems with one of the church women. A one time slip into sin. Even with this sin his salvation is sure, and he will continue with the Lord. Continuing in the ministry was out of the question, but he is eternally secure. He was forgiven as soon as he sought forgiveness.

The conscience is one method that may be an indicator of a person's salvation. This is an inward indicator that only the person can know. A person that hurts in his inner being when he does wrong is probably a believer. A lost person will sin but normally not have the inner hurt. They may have guilt etc. but they will not be pained knowing they have wronged God.

The question of sinless perfection has been argued for many years. There are those that suggest that this is to be the state of the believer. They oft times redefine sin slightly, so that the small - normal - insignificant sins aren't really sin, but only mistakes. Sin is relegated to the bigger items of killing, adultery, rape, etc.

Sinless perfection? For a time. Maybe even a long time. However, they cannot be sinless to the point of perfection. We cannot from a point in our lives cease to sin. We always seem to find a good rationalization every now and then to fall into trouble.

Having said this, we need to understand that holiness is the standard set before us. We should be very close to being sinless. In Luke where he mentions the parents of John the Baptist we see in Chapter one verse six that, "...they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless." NOT SINLESSLY PERFECT! But they were living a very clean and pure life.

First John is quite plain that the believer is not one that is into sin on a regular basis. His thought is that the believer is basically without sin, but if he does fall now and then, I Jn. 1:9 is there for his use.

I Jn. 1:10 is plain that we cannot be without sin. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." thus, sinless perfection is not a possibility.

One final passage to show how sinless we should be is II Peter. "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:" (2 Peter 1:3)

Notice that He has given us ".....all things that pertain unto life and godliness....." In salvation or eternal life, he has provided all things that are required. In godliness he has provided all things that are required. We have everything that we need to say no to sin on a continual basis. THAT PUTS THE MONKEY ON OUR OWN BACK, NOT THE DEVIL OR THE OLD NATURE. WE SIN BECAUSE WE MAKE A CONSCIOUS DECISION TO DO SO.

Another question that you can think about is this. If man and creation were here, but God did not exist, would there be sin? No, for we have sinned, or missed the mark of God. If there is no God then there is no mark to aim for - no standard set to which we must measure ourselves.

Let us move now, from sin and sinlessness to forgiveness. Indeed, the existence of forgiveness, requires that the possibility of sin exist. If there were no sin, there would be no need for forgiveness.


Vine mentions, "to bestow a favour unconditionally,"

FORGIVE is a translation of two words both of which have the idea of sending away. It may be similar to when a faculty member of a school dismisses class. He is sending the students out, or away. Release is also a word that carries the idea. "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." Ps. 103:12

We need to remember that God does not forgive because He is a big softy. He is Holy and His judgment is sure and proper. He can only forgive when the proper situation is arrived at. Christ's work on the cross allows God to forgive all sin based on the offering of the perfect sacrifice.

In the Old Testament times the animal sacrifice was a covering, looking forward to the perfect sacrifice which would take away the sin. The saint of that age was not righteous in their standing before God. God just could not see their sin, due to the sacrifice covering their sin. They could not be regenerated, nor any of those things that are related to salvation in this age. How could they? The perfect sacrifice had not been offered yet.

The saint, when dead was carried to a holding area for saints called sheol. The lost dead were in the same area, yet in a different compartment. Luke sixteen describes sheol nicely.

When Christ had offered Himself, then the Old Testament saints could be in the Lord's presence, so they were taken with Christ to the heavenly scene of God.

We might add at this point that the sin of the Old Testament saint was much more understandable, because they had not been given "all things that pertain unto life and godliness. . . ." They did not have the new nature, they did not have the Holy Spirit within, so how could they live up to the righteous standard that we will be held to? They could not. That is why David could be the apple of God's eye, even though he had sinned so deeply. That is why the patriarchs were considered godly men, even though some of them lived in adultery with their multiple wives.

Today we look back to the perfect sacrifice of the Lord. The sacrifice of Jesus was large enough for every single sin of all of mankind both past, present, and future. It is sufficient for any amount and any depth that might come to man!

That is the divine side. Man's side is to sin as little as possible!

Thus, divine forgiveness is that act of God whereby He eliminates our wrongdoing, via the death of Christ. He wipes the slate clean and the sins are completely gone. Not covered, as in the Old Testament, but gone - as the chorus ending goes, G-O-N-E- GONE!


Is it forgive and forget? A relative of mine, in the early 60's, pulled a tax trick on me that cost us $300. The incident came up via his mother a few years ago that I didn't like him and that as a Christian I should have forgiven him. I had - in the early 60's. I hadn't remembered the incident for many years, until she brought it up. I had forgiven, yet memory is there for life. If you remember, and remember and remember to the point of dwelling, I would question the forgiveness. If you don't think about it, and consider it, and mull it over, then the forgiveness is probably complete.

Forgive and forget? No. We can forgive but not forget. We will remember as long as we have life. Our memory banks aren't as easily wiped clean as a computers.

When we forgive, there needs to be a change of heart from wrong feelings to right feelings. The memory tends to erase the bad part of the situation over a few years leaving only a recollection of the situation. When the person remembers with all those hateful feelings, then there has been no forgiveness.

Forgiving requires that we not have bad, or vengeful feelings toward the other party or parties. If there are bad feelings then there probably is no proper forgiveness. I have wondered if there is any true, real forgiveness in the Jewish community over the German holocaust. I realize that forgiveness would be terribly difficult in that situation, however it is the trait of the godly person. In an interview of the son of a man that had been convicted of being a German war criminal the son related the scene in the court room when his father was sentenced to death. He stated that the entire crowd gave a standing ovation, and was singing and chanting in joy. One young Jewish man came up to the son and pointed his finger at the son, saying, "And you should be the one to kill him."

Joy over a man, a being created in the image of God, is not right. In this case it would seem that the hate of one generation had passed to the next. The young Jew, it would seem, was suffering because of the former generations hate and lack of forgiveness.

Christ forgave his murderers before He even died.

We know that there is divine forgiveness for the sin of man. The old phrase, "How bad is it." comes to mind when I consider sin. Yes, man sins, but just how bad is it. Let us consider the sinfulness of man.


Since Christ died for the entire world, and since His death cared for all sin then we might deduce that sin is universal in man. This thought is specifically taught in scripture as well. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one;" (Rom. 3:10). This is a quote from Ps. 14:1-3, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." (This same thought is seen in Ps. 53:1-3.)

Rom. 3:9 mentions that, ". . .they are all under sin;" Gal. 3:22 tells us, "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin," Eccl. 7:20 seems to be fairly plain on the subject as well, "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not."

I think that from these texts we might deduce that universally speaking, man is a sinful being.


TRANSGRESSION: The basic meaning of the terms used is to go over, or go above, or go aside, according to Vine (Vine, W. E.; "AN EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS"; Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co). We might say it is being outside God's boundaries. The idea seems to be a deliberate act of stepping out of bounds. One of our kids was quite stubborn when very small. We once told her not to hit at her mother. She looked mom square in the eye and hit her again. That was a deliberate stepping out of bounds.

It seems to have the idea of overstepping the boundaries. You're violating my airspace might be part of the idea.

When I am trying to do something with the computer and it won't do what I want it to do, I at times give up and turn it off. I deliberately step out of its bounds.

INIQUITY: Vine uses "lawlessness" and "wickedness" to define iniquity. Unger suggests "without law". Something completely wrong. When the power goes off while I am on the computer there is total catastrophe. THINGS ARE COMPLETELY WRONG!!!!

ERROR: (What my computer says if I do things wrong.) That which ignores, or goes away from God. Vine indicates that this is not a direct leaving of the path, but possibly more like driving down the road, loosing your attentiveness, and wandering off onto the shoulder.

I mentioned that ERROR is what my computer tells me at times. At times, I am typing away and decide to do something and just poke a wrong key, creating all kinds of problems. I wonder off into trouble. At times when at the computer, I go to sleep while typing into the Word Processor. When I wake up, I find garbage on the screen. I keep typing, though completely unconscious. I wonder out of the boundaries.

SIN: Missing the mark. This Greek term is used in classical Greek of a spear missing the target. The target is set - the law, or God's command, and we don't live up to them. We have missed the mark. It may be by choice, or by not watching what we are doing, or by omission.

When I find that there is something that I need to do on the computer and I don't know how, I go to the computer book that has all the answers. I read the book and think that I understand what it says to do. I then go to the computer and do something the opposite of what the book told me to do. Not wise! I miss the mark set.

WICKEDNESS: This seems to be a state rather than an action. A sinner is wicked. That state may well be an active state, a continuing state. The term is also translated "bad". Because I turn my back on the computer book I am in a state of not being able to do the task I desire to do.

EVIL: Something wrong, or against God. Again this is not an action. It describes the character of a person if he is sinning. It is also the source of sin.

I am going to shift the illustration from myself to the computer. When it goes into what is called a lockup, or crash, it is completely useless. You can poke keys, you can get frustrated, you can try all sorts of things, but nothing will help. Evil is very similar. The only way to get out of a lock up is to shut down the power and start over. Evil is complete. The only remedy is to start over and that is what God does with us. He gives the lost a new nature!

UNBELIEF: One idea of the term is that of not believing what God states. Another idea is the thought of disobedience. Certainly unbelief will bring a person to disobedience. The gentiles have opportunity with God because of the "unbelief" of the Jewish people.

Remember when I go to the book and read the instructions, and go back to the computer. If I don't believe the book and its instructions I will do my own thing and ignore the instructions.

All computer books tell you to save your material often, just in case of power failures, power troubles, kids hitting the wrong switch etc., yet many computer operators do not save often. Why? Because they don't believe that anything will ever happen to them. When the administration building was being remodeled at the school where I taught, one of the workmen flipped a breaker to see what lights would go out. Yes, it was my office, and I hadn't backed up my information for several hours. Unbelief can cost.

DISOBEDIENCE: Disobedience is the willingness to be led in ways of truth. It has the idea that if we don't believe, then we will not do as truth dictates, and as a result, become disobedient. This is the state of not following those instructions in the computer book.

LAWLESSNESS: Being without the law. This assumes that you have the law available to you, and you have not taken it - you have decided not to follow it.

Lawless would be the situation in which I refused to read the manual on the computer, and was trying to get it to do something. I would be lawless and the computer would be completely unresponsive.

The illustrations are really inadequate, yet they serve to help us understand the uselessness of a person involved in sin. The computer is a device which demands that you do according to ITS RULES AND NOT YOUR RULES! God has His rules, and if we fail to follow them then there is little He can do except follow the standards that He has set.

Is sin always an outward act? No. We can sin in our minds. Christ mentioned this, "But I say unto you that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Mat. 5:28

Sin can also be an omission of an act that God asked us to do. This situation would not require others to know of our sin.

Sin is not always within. It can be against God, another person or yourself.

Against God: God tells us that we are not to covet. When we covet we sin against God. We sin against God anytime we decide to go against Him.

Against another person: When God leads us to give to a missionary, or witness to a lost person, and we refrain, we sin against God as well as that person. That person is hurt by your omission.

Against yourself: God tells us not to abuse our bodies. A Christian places himself into a place where he is in danger. If the person is hurt then he has sinned against himself. Example: Someone offers to let you try drugs. You "try" it and you are hooked. The physical, mental, financial and eternal damage is against you. (Eternal in that you are sidetracked - out of God's will and not interested in things that will bring you eternal reward.)

The believer should consider his activities in relation to this. Just how much danger should we place ourselves in when we are enjoying recreation. Should we put our physical being in danger? I suspect that the believer that places himself in danger and is injured to the point of being handicapped, will suffer loss in the eternal reward that they could have had.

I heard two crack users on the news that mentioned that soon after starting on crack there were no outside interests. Crack was their total life. Family was out. Drinking was out. Friend's were out. Both even mentioned that they weren't even interested in sex. Sin can cost us everything.

A good Biblical illustration of all three of these in one case of sin is David's sin with Bathsheba. It was a sin against God as David mentions in Ps. 51:4, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight...." He sinned against another in that he had Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, killed, and he sinned against himself. He caused himself great trouble and pain - his child died.

When I was in the navy, I had opportunity at one point to be division head in the Electronics department. I was told that the captain was going ashore and that they needed a radio in his boat. I called the shop and told one of the men that I wanted him to go put a radio into the captain's boat. I assumed he would do it. An hour later I received a call wanting to know why there wasn't a radio in the boat. I called the young man and asked him why he hadn't done the job. His answer was very simple, "I didn't want to!" His I didn't want to was not unlike Adam and Eve's I WILL EAT attitude.

The moral of this story might relate to the parenting side of your nature. God disciplines His erring believers and we as believers should discipline the children in our families.

When sin is discussed, quite often the question of the unpardonable sin arises? (Matt. 12:31-32) The unpardonable sin has been described in many ways. Many believers over the centuries have worried about committing the sin. This fear arises from not knowing what it is.

The unpardonable sin is the sin of rejecting Christ. In the context it was attributing the miracles to the power of the Devil, but behind that charge was the fact that the Jews were rejecting Christ and His deity. Anyone that rejects Christ is close to the unpardonable sin. There may be multiple opportunities, yet when the person finally and completely rejects Christ his eternal punishment is assured.

In relation to salvation/forgiveness/etc. eternal security comes into the picture. Those that believe that they can loose their salvation each time they sin, believe that when they are forgiven they are again saved.

A couple of questions: Is salvation the same as forgiveness? Does forgiveness automatically bring salvation?

Salvation is a series of thirty or so things that happen instantly. When we sin and seek forgiveness only one thing happens. God forgives us of that sin. We are not rebaptized into the body, we are not rejustified, we are not re-regenerated, we are not readopted, and we are not re-reborn, etc.

Once God has brought the person into His family, there is nothing that changes that relationship. Personal sin from that point on is forgiven, but salvation is not an issue. We must remember that salvation deals with several items. There is the sin nature, there is the past personal sin, and there is the eternal death. These were cared for in salvation. Forgiveness, there after, relates to personal sin only.

In relation to the Old Testament law, and the people under it, how did they gain forgiveness? They took sacrifices and their blood "COVERED" THE SIN so that the Lord could forgive the person. This also allowed for fellowship with God. That sin remained covered until the cross when the judgment of those sins was placed upon Christ. This is why Abraham's bosom, or the good side of Sheol was there. To contain the righteous until Christ could usher them into God's presence through His blood offered in the heavenly tabernacle.


1. As we go into new churches, we need to understand that dead and problematic churches are the way they are, most likely because of sin in the membership. If the membership is living in sin, there is no way that God can be working in and through them.

2. As we are going into churches, we need to understand those nasty things people say and gossip about are stemming from sin.

3. Take time to read Isa. 1:1-9. This is God's view of a sinful people. The better I understand sin from God's perspective the more gracious he automatically seems to become.

We cannot understand God's view of sin, for we are not infinite, but we need to strive to see it as clearly as we can.

4. Because we have men like David Brainard that were so terribly introspective about themselves, we often say because of their overemphasis on self examination, we will not do any of it. He seemed to thrive on looking for his worst parts, and his sin. We tend to go the other way and not look at all, to our inward beings.

In a devotional by Spurgeon we read, "It will be humbling and profitable for us to pause awhile and see this sad sight. The iniquities of our public worship, its hypocrisy, formality, lukewarmness, irreverence, wandering of heart and forgetfulness of God, what a full measure have we there! Our work for the Lord, its emulation, selfishness, carelessness, slackness, unbelief, what a mass of defilement is there! Our private devotions, their laxity, coldness, neglect, sleepiness, and vanity, what a mountain of dead earth is there!" (Spurgeon, Charles H.; "MORNING AND EVENING"; Mclean, Virginia: Macdonald Publishing Co., p 16 - Jan 8)

We need to ask God to teach us how vile sin is!

Martin Luther said, "The recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation." True we are saved, but do we really know the real joy of our salvation?

Because we today diminish sin so much can we really know the truth of what we were saved from?


"At times I grew remiss and sluggish, without any great convictions of sin, for a considerable time together; but after such a season convictions sometimes seized me more violently. One night I remember in particular, when I was walking solitarily abroad, I had opened to me such a view of my sin that I feared the ground would cleave assunder under my feet, and become my grave; and send my soul quick into hell, before I could get home. Thought I was forced to go to bed, lest my distress should be discovered by others, which I much feared; yet I scarcely durst sleep at all, for I thought it would be a great wonder if I should be out of hell in the morning. And though my distress was sometimes thus great, yet I greatly dreaded the loss of convictions, and returning back to a state of carnal security, and to my former insensibility of impending wrath; which made me exceedingly exact in my behaviour, lest I should stifle the motions of God's Holy Spirit. When at any time I took a view of my convictions, and thought the degree of them to be considerable, I was wont to trust in them; but this confidence, and the hope of soon making some notable advances toward deliverance, would ease my mind, and I soon became more senseless and remiss. Again, when I discerned my convictions to grow languid, and thought them about to leave me, this immediately alarmed and distressed me. Sometimes I expected to take a large step, and get very far toward conversion, by some particular opportunity or means I had in view."

That man knew what sin was, he knew how to view sin, he knew what God thought of sin, we should have such a reality about the sin in our lives!

5. We have mentioned that sin is really only a surface action due to the real problem, or root cause down below. I personally believe that at times we deal with the surface and forget about the root.

Can you think of any examples of this in the church today? Divorce and remarriage is the outward sin activity.

We are finding ways to work with divorcees.

We are finding ways to help the divorcees.

We are finding ways to put them to work in the church.


Are we dealing with the root? The root is that we aren't teaching a proper concept of marriage. The root is that we aren't teaching a proper concept of divorce. The root is that we aren't teaching a proper concept of remarriage. When we deal with the roots, we will eliminate most of the outward manifestations of it!

Outward sin in the church MUST be dealt with. We have churches where adultery is going unpunished. We have people hopping from church to church so that they can tickle their ears. We have people leaving their spirituality at the church door when they leave, and assuming it again Sunday morning when they return.

The problems, must be met, if the church is ever again to be the light of the Gospel to this nation. We MUST be the salt of the earth, or we will be discarded.

I trust that the realization of the terribleness of sin might begin to come to the reader. I trust that God will assist the reader in finding His perception of sin, rather than the perception of the world, or the humanist. SIN IS MISSING THE MARK OF GOD, not something that we decide in our own minds.

Some references that might help in your further study: Heb. 3:13; Heb. 11:25; Heb. 12:4.