Does Sin Separate Us from God?
Updated: Feb 3
Have you heard a sermon or teaching that states that your sin separates you from God? I have heard this several times from people who are speaking to believers. When I hear this taught, I start to ask some questions inside my head:
1. For how long after I sin am I separated from God? Is it for a day, a year, the rest of my life?
2. What do I need to do to get back into His presence? Do I need to repent, ask for forgiveness and/or do some sort of good deed to counterbalance my sin?
3. Where is Jesus in that statement? Didn’t Jesus pay for my sins? And if that’s true, why does my sin separate me from Him when the Bible tells me that I am “in Christ”?
Maybe you have pondered these questions too. Whether we ask them consciously or subconsciously, doubt and fear may start to creep in. I hope to clarify this topic for you and bring you some peace of mind that if you are in Christ, you cannot be separated from Him. This teaching is a part of the prolific B.S. Gospel we hear today, and it is false when taught to believers. (For more on the B.S. Gospel see my post with that title.)
Unbelievers are separated from God (spiritually and relationally) by their sin. That is why they need to put their faith in Jesus and His righteousness. But believers? Friends, I am going to just say it straight up.
No. We are not separated from God by our sin.
Why is it important to know this truth?
This teaching is wreaking havoc on people’s relationship with God. I have heard so many believers say that because of their sin, bad choices, or wrongdoing, that God is not listening to them anymore, that God is far from them, or that they don’t feel the presence of God in their lives. This thinking stems from the kind of teaching I am addressing today. My dear brothers and sisters, this is tragic! This ought not be so! This needs to be corrected.
My heart breaks when I hear about people who wander from God or even walk away from Him completely because this false doctrine drove them to thinking anything from "God doesn't love me" to "I'll never be good enough for God so why bother." In an effort to reveal the truth about our relationship with our God and Father, I will prove my case.
Separation in the Old Testament
The concept that sin separates us from God is found in the old testament, notably and usually referred to, in Isaiah 59:2:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear .
Anytime I have heard this taught, this verse is used and pulled out of context to make the speaker’s point. Let’s put it back into context.
First, I would like to address who the audience is concerning that verse in the Bible. I suggest you pick up your Bible and go read the entire chapter of Isaiah 59. I will highlight a couple verses for you. This chapter starts out by stating that God is God and He is able to save and to hear people, but people’s willing defiance is what separates them from Him (verse 2). Then the bulk of the middle of the chapter lists all the sinful doings of the people it is talking about.
My friends, look at verse 11:
We look for justice, but there is none; For salvation, but it is far from us (Isa 59:11).
First, note that this is written to the Israelites who are participants in the old covenant, not the new covenant we are participants in as those who have put their faith in Jesus' righteousness for salvation and new life. Also note, these are people who are not saved, as mentioned in the second line above. This passage is not talking to you, the new covenant believer in Jesus Christ. Let’s look at one more verse.
Here is verse 20:
The Redeemer will come to Zion And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob, Says the LORD (Isa 59:20).
Isaiah gives the antidote for this separation! A Redeemer! Jesus! He redeems those who turn from their past and turn to Him! Hallelujah!
If someone uses Isaiah 59:2 to tell you that your sin separates you form God, please remember, it DID separate you until you came to Jesus. Remember the entire chapter in Isaiah and the good news at the end. The answer to Isaiah 59:2 is Isaiah 59:20.
Separation in the New Testament
Is there any place in the New Testament that says our sin, as believers, separates us from God? Nope. The fact is, it says the opposite.
…that at that time you were without Christ…having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:12-13)
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39).
Nothing created can separate you from the love of God. Your sin cannot separate you either. This is very good news! We can stand firmly grounded in faith that God will not leave us because of our sin. Remember, He died for it.
There is one verse that says we can be estranged (or separated) from Christ. Paul writes to the Galatians:
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Gal 5:4).
Notice Paul isn't talking about sin.
He's talking about trying to be justified by obeying the law. If believers place themselves back under the law that Christ freed us from, they are, in a sense, walking away from Jesus and the sacrifice He made to bestow His grace upon us, and therefore separating themselves from Him. Paul says you have “fallen from grace.” Being in God’s grace is the pinnacle of our relationship with Him. If we leave that grace to attempt to be justified (made righteous) through the old covenant law, we are leaving God and Jesus behind and have fallen down, or away, from the grace that saved us.
One final observation. I have heard the “light” version of this separation teaching. It goes like this:
“If we willfully sin after we are saved, then we break fellowship with God.”
If I believe that, it means my sin is more powerful than Christ’s blood.
It also doesn’t fit with the fact that the Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit dwells in those who have faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit has fellowship with us 24/7! The Spirit is God. No broken fellowship.
This teaching is aimed to place fear into people about their sin and leaves grace at the door. It is meant to encourage people to pull themselves into righteous living, or righteousness, by trying to behave better. That is the epitome of the B.S. Gospel. Jesus has already cleansed us (John 15:3). He has already separated us from our sin (Rom 6:6-7) and remembers our sin no more (Heb 10:16-17).
Our Duality of Nature
The reason this topic is so confusing to people is because they have not been taught about our duality of nature once we are in Christ. If you think of yourself as one being that is in Christ, but you still sin, you have to grapple with the idea that if Jesus made you new (2 Cor 5:17), why do you still sin? Sadly, the logical train of thought says that if Christians are made new and the bondage of sin has been removed, I shouldn’t sin anymore, so if I do, I need to work on making myself better, or, even worse, maybe I’m not really saved. This is a reality of modern times and the epitome of the B.S. Gospel we talk about here at Matthew's House. Many people are leaving the church and Jesus altogether because this logic adds up all too well.
However, that is not the logic of the Gospel of Grace. The Bible teaches us, through much of Paul’s teaching, that our old man, or sinful nature, also called our flesh, is put to death or crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6), and we are no longer in bondage to the sin it produces (Rom 6:14). That doesn't mean our flesh is gone (1 Pet 3:21), it just means we don't have to answer to it anymore. We still drag that old man around and do things in our flesh, but those sins are paid for by our Lord.
The other half of the good news is that we are also made alive in Christ. Romans 6:11 says we need to consider the fact that we are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. We are born into a spiritual existence and then given the Holy Spirit to help our new spirit walk in this dark world. Christ makes our spirit new (Eph 4:22-24), He renews our mind, and gives us a new heart. He imputes His righteousness on us to make us righteous (Rom 3:21-22).
We, at the same time, have our old sinful nature, and have our new spiritual nature that partakes of the divine nature of God as His Spirit dwells in us (2 Pet 1:4). And, those two parts of our being, our flesh and our spirit, fight against each other (Gal 5:17). But, that does not mean when we walk in our flesh that we are separated from God. Our spirit can never be separated from Him as long as we remain in Christ and do not go back under the law.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:25).
God bless you, my friends!
 Unless otherwise noted, all scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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