Q304 : If Christ Paid for All Our Sin, Why Does Sin Affect Our Fellowship with God?

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Q304 : If Christ Paid for All Our Sin, Why Does Sin Affect Our Fellowship with God?

I am currently going through Andy Wood's study on Soteriologya. In one of the lessons he tells us about progressive sanctification, and during that process our sins can break/weaken our fellowship with God.

He gives the example of him and his wife, that if he were to sin against her there would be hurt feelings and broken fellowship for a time. That makes sense, but my question is if God sees us as He sees Christ (spotless/blameless), and our sins have been paid for, past, present, and future. How could any sin we commit break or weaken our fellowship with God?

A304 : by Tony Garland

Your question is a good one and concerns differences between the three aspects of sanctification. The sanctification of the believer occurs in three successive phases, each of which concerns the relationship between the believer and sin.

  1. First, the believer is saved from the penalty of sin. This occurs at salvation—where the blood of Christ cleanses us from the penalty of all sin: past, present, and future. This aspect of sanctification is completed, in the past tense (Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Heb. 10:10).
  2. Second, the believer is saved from the power of sin. This occurs through the enablement of the Holy Spirit as we progressively yield to His control and influence in our lifes. This is a progressive (ongoing) process which continues from the time we are born again until we are glorified. During this process, sin cannot undermine our ultimate position in Christ, but adversely affects our fellowship, both vertically (with God) and horizontally (with fellow man). This aspect of sanctification is ongoing, in the present tense (John 17:17; 1Th. 4:3; 5:23).
  3. Third, the believer is saved from the presence of sin. This occurs when we are glorified and entirely free from sin. This aspect of salvation has not yet occurred, in the future tense (1Cor. 15:20; 1Th. 4:16-17; Php. 3:20-21).
Between salvation and glorification, we are in a progressive state of sanctification where sin separates us from God’s intimate fellowship, but subsequent confession of sin cleanses us and renews our relationship. This is often referred to as experiential sanctification:

In discussing the process of salvation, the work of Christ is supreme in achieving man’s salvation. Primarily, it involves the death of Christ as a substitutionary atonement for sin in securing man’s release from the penalty and bondage of sin and meeting the righteous demand of a holy God. Another important aspect of salvation, not previously mentioned, is sanctification. The word sanctification (Gk. hagiasmos) means “to set apart.” The same root word is found in the English words saint, holy, and holiness. Sanctification and its related terms are used in a variety of ways in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. With respect to the New Testament believer, however, there are primarily three aspects of sanctification. (1) Positional sanctification. This is the believer’s position or standing before God, based on the death of Christ. In positional sanctification the believer is accounted holy before God; he is declared a saint. Paul frequently began his letters by addressing the believers as saints (Rom. 1:7; note, the supplied word “as” hinders the statement by Paul; it simply reads, “to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called saints.” Compare 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; and Eph. 1:1). It is noteworthy that so carnal a group as the church at Corinth is addressed as “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2). This positional sanctification is achieved through the once-for-all death of Christ (Heb. 10:10, 14, 29). (2) Experiential Sanctification. Although the believer’s positional sanctification is secure, his experiential sanctification may fluctuate because it relates to his daily life and experience. Paul’s prayer is that believers should be sanctified entirely in their experience (1 Thess. 5:23); Peter commands believers to be sanctified or holy (1 Peter 1:16). This experiential sanctification grows as the believer dedicates his life to God (Rom. 6:13; 12:1–2) and is nourished by the Word of God (Ps. 119:9–16). Clearly, additional factors enter into experiential sanctification. (3) Ultimate Sanctification. This aspect of sanctification is future and anticipates the final transformation of the believer into the likeness of Christ. At that time all believers will be presented to the Lord without any blemish (Eph. 5:26–27).1

Essentially, there is a delay between the guarantees that occur at the moment of salvation—which are instantaneously accredited to our account and eternally secure—and our actual attainment of those promises at some later date. This is much the same as the way in which we receive the Holy Spirit (at the moment of belief) Who serves as a guarantee, during our present time of mortality and ongoing difficulties, of future inheritance and immortality to come (2Cor. 1:22; 5:5).

Some important verses which concern progressive sanctification include:

  • And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors (Mat. 6:12). This prayer is made by believers—who are eternally secure—but they still ask God for ongoing forgiveness. This forgiveness concerns restoring relationship not salvation.
  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn. 1:9). This cleansing from all unrighteousness does not pertain to the ultimate forgiveness we already have when redeemed, but relates to our ongoing walk with the Lord.
  • Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:29-30). Here again, we see that our sin can grieve God’s Spirit—even though we remain sealed for the day of redemption. Although we cannot drive the Holy Spirit away with our sin, but we can offend Him through ongoing sin in our life. Thus, sin adversely affects our relationship with God.
This distinction, between position (saved, eternally secure) and experience (ongoing sin) is something that concerns other doctrines besides sanctification. Consider eternal life (John 11:25-26):

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"2

We attain eternal life at salvation (positionally), but we still die physically (experientially).3

Two books that I would recommend every believer purchase which provide helpful discussions on this topic and many more are:


1.Ref-0024, 329-330
2.NKJV, John 11:25-26
3.The exception being the generation of believers which bypass death at the Rapture.


NKJVUnless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ref-0024Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (IL: Moody Press, 1989).

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