Puzzling, yes? The Word of God teaches us two things which appear to be opposed. We are taught that God can not be scorned; that if we continue in sin, we pay the ultimate price – we die eternally, in corruption.
Roman Catholics get around this puzzle by teaching that some sin is minor – deemed venial or ‘easily forgiven’ – and does not lead to corruption while other sin is major – deemed mortal or ‘deadly’ – and will lead to eternal death, i.e. to damnation of the soul.
The bulk of the New Testament seems to teach, on the other hand, that sin is sin – that all sin leads to corruption. The problem then for mankind is what to do about sin. In Romans 7, Paul speaks of his woe – that the good he wants to do he can not do. He asks who will rescue him from his body of sin and death and then praises God that it is Christ who secures that rescue.
Yet, here in his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul warns that sin somehow hasn’t been nailed to the cross with Jesus.
“Do not ye err, God is not scorned; for those things that a man soweth, those things he shall reap [for why what things a man soweth, also these things he shall reap]. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh he shall reap corruption; but he that soweth in the Spirit, of the Spirit he shall reap everlasting life.”
Then there are those who claim that Christians – if they are true Christians – never sin. I presume this belief is to reconcile themselves to the many scriptural passages that imply that if a Christian commits a sin, then God can not be in his or her body. After all, a Christian is the temple of God the Holy Spirit. How can a holy God dwell inside an unholy thing?
Yet, Paul speaks of the deeds done in the body that are unworthy of God burning off as the Christian passes from life into death and from there into eternal life – the mortal being swallowed up by the immortal, so to speak. In these passages, Paul implies that Christians do indeed sin. We makes mistakes, yet we are saved though as through fire.
Sometimes, I imagine Paul himself struggling to fully understand the good news. The good news that we are saved while we are still sinners, that God loves us so much that He considers us His friends while we are still His mortal enemies.
Why would God die for us while we are dead in sin, and then turn away from us because we fail? I can’t imagine. I don’t think Paul was able to imagine that, either. Instead, he reminds us that God’s love for us is higher and deeper and wider than anything we have ever known; that Jesus Christ does for us more than we will ever understand while we remain on this earth.