What is the Taking Away of Sin?
By Carlton Foster – December 09, 2022
What do the words in 1 John 3:5 (NLT) mean when it says, “And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him.” First, we must see what “sin” is before we can see what Jesus is taking away. So, the Bible’s definition of sin is “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4 KJV).” The NLT version says, “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.” If sin is the transgression of the law, the very thought, even if the act is not performed, is sinful. So, to ‘take away our sins’ is to take away the idea of going contrary to the laws of God.
Jesus came to take away the thoughts from our minds that would result in some sinful actions. But how can these thoughts of doing something contrary to God surface in our minds? Where do those thoughts come from? The answer is our surroundings. The saying “this is a sinful world” explains our environment. The movies, TV, friends, schools, work, siblings, parents, books, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit shape our thoughts and behaviors. These interactions send ideas into our brains through our five senses (eyes, ears, mouth, feelings, and smelling). Both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ thoughts constantly bombard our minds, teaching us how to think ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ We have even come to the point where we can now see ‘good’ as evil and ‘bad’ as good. The Bible said, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light, and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter (Isaiah 5:20 NLT).”
If sin is the transgression of the law, what is transgression? The Oxford dictionary defines transgression as “an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense.” Jesus came to take away those types of actions perpetuated by sinful thoughts. That is to remove them from our thoughts because he said in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Therefore, the formulation of thoughts is included in the acts of transgression. People can transgress laws, their bodies, policies, friendships, and many other things. To take away our ‘sins’ also includes taking those thoughts from our minds, but how can Jesus take those evil thoughts away from our minds?
Sometimes we think that sin is an object, such as an apple, a knife, or a plate of ungodly food. But sin is the act of going contrary to God’s law. Jesus said, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you (Mark 7:20-22 NLT).” So removing the thought of committing those acts is the same as taking away those sinful thoughts – our sins. This can be achieved by teaching us to love what is good – Godly, and hate what is evil – sinful thoughts. E.G. White wrote, “While Christ was on earth, He showed by His miracles that He had the power to save unto the uttermost. By curing the diseases of the body, He showed that He was able to take away sin from the heart (The Good Shepard, Ch 12, SJ 77.9).”
King Salomon prayed to God, “Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours (1 Kings 3:9 NLT)?” Knowing right and wrong is an integral part of the process of ‘taking away’ our sins. We, humans, can do that. It started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve transgressed God’s command. God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever (Genesis 3:22 NLT)!” Live forever in their sinful state (like Satan and the demons)! Knowing that the knowledge of right and wrong is needed for this to happen, Paul wrote, “For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrew 10:4).” Those sacrifices reminded us of what we had done, but we need constant education of what is good to do and what is evil that we must shun.
The burden is on us to know what is good instead of evil, keep doing what is good, and stay away from what is evil. Cast out sinful thoughts and actions from our bodies, just like the example Jesus gave, “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away (Matthew 13:47-48 NLT).” The nets and the water are like our environment; the fish is the information we catch from them, so we must keep the good behaviors and throw away the bad ones. Jesus gave two other examples of what we should do to know what is good. He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” Also, “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it (Matthew 13:44-46)!” Just like the treasure and pearl, we must diligently seek the knowledge of what is good and study and practice them.
So that is what 1 John 3:5 is alluding to: Jesus came to give us knowledge of what is good. He knows that if we follow his practice, the thoughts of sinning will be taken and disappear from our hearts. Jesus came to clarify some of the gospel’s misunderstandings and put us on the correct path of what is good. And when he left, he sent the Holy Spirit to continue to educate us. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments, and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him because he lives with you now and later will be in you (John 14:15-17 NLT).”
Jesus paid for the condemnation of Adam and Eve and their offspring’s sinful acts. However, we still need to conform our minds and characters to the ways of Christ, so John said, “And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him (1 John 3:5).” Learn how NOT to transgress the laws of God (which is solely for our character building). Do good, and you will see God.