In his first letter John has incorporated three levels of consciousness which pertain to our Christian walk. Three levels of understanding of who we are in Christ as new creations. John denotes those three levels little children, young men and fathers. In addition the Spirit has in the same letter incorporated representations of at least three levels of awareness in man concerning sin. Those are levels through which the Spirit takes us, and if we have ears to hear and dare to walk beyond the fortified cities in the Promised Land the third level is our possession – our inheritance. It seems like each level is necessary in our maturing process from little children to fathers.
The first level is represented in the famous and much discussed 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The first years of my walk I viewed myself as a hopeless sinner who needed to confess my sins every day. I wasn’t even sure that God really forgave me or had forgiven me because of this or that. My only means of judgment was tied to behavioral patterns and conduct. I took God’s place and judged myself harshly. This more or less sums up my awareness during those first years in the wilderness. On the verge of utter ruin and completely exhausted I was finally in a position to recognize that I was dead to the law and that helped quite a bit.
When the law has exhausted our own imagined resources we are ready to be taken to a new level in our awareness. A new level of faith, as it were. The following has stood foremost in our consciousness as we are taken to the end of ourselves in the similitude of Romans 7, that is, the consummation of the first level: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). As law-minded people we couldn’t escape the gravity of John’s words. We thought they applied to us, but we soon discovered that the law only spoke death to us.
The second level is as follows (It is a consequence of that we begin to see the outline of the union life and realize that we are dead to the law): “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). In Him there is no sin, but we are yet not wholly convinced that this applies to us as well. However, after a while it becomes utterly clear to us that there can’t be any sin in us either since we are in Him and He in us.
Well established in the union the following becomes our reality – the third level:
- Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not (1 John 3:6).
- Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God (1 John 3:9).
- We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not (1 John 5:18).
This truth is in fact so central and precious that it is repeated three times. Further on, the third level is in harmony with the Hebrews: “For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins” (Hebr 10:2).
In Christ we have returned to the innocence of the Garden of Eden. In the first Garden we find no trace of sin or shame, until Adam fell. There were further no laws in the Garden, save; don’t eat from the tree to knowledge of good and evil. The consequence of that single law was that Adam fell. However, our paradisaical being is again restored in Christ, but now we show up as conscious sons who have tasted wickedness and in Christ made the final choice to be self-for-others (even though we do not perhaps yet know that’s who we are).
“God created Adam to (enjoy) eternal life in Paradise in a state of paradisiacal perfection. Divine love illumined his interior, as the sun is illuminating the world.” (J Boehme)
When treating this subject, i.e., sin, it is vital that we make one central distinction. We are in this exposition mainly dealing with sins and not sin. What is the difference?
“‘SIN’ has forever been dealt with and settled in the Cross. “Sins,” however, seem to be so much on the mind of Christians (most do not understand the difference between “sin” and “sins,”) so that everyone is already so sin-conscious, sin-minded, it is one of the most pervasive obsessions with believers today. We have left the sin question behind in our death. That goes for beginners as well as those who are further along.
I know 1 John is disturbing sometimes because it seems so black and white, but I think the point of “he who committeth sin is of the devil,” and “he who is born of God does not sin,” set juxtaposed like that in clear terms, black and white, is to move us into one declaration or another. Who are we? We may be caught in “sins” but even if we are, can we still make the confession that we are Him in our forms, that “as He is, so are we in this world”? It is against this backdrop of ourselves still seeming (to us) to be committing all kinds of sins (according to our tradition or consciousness), that we must make our faith confession of Who we are and Who runs our show. That is the key” (Fred Pruitt).
“If righteousness does not rely on our actions but on the person that indwells us, shouldn’t unrighteousness (iniquity, injustice) be addressed the same way? If we say Jesus was MADE ‘sin’ so that we could be MADE ‘righteousness’ that implies that both sin and righteousness are two persons: the spirit of error and the Spirit of truth. Why, if righteousness IS Jesus, don’t we talk about unrighteousness as Satan? If righteousness has nothing to do with the works per se but “the person” who does the works in us, why approaching terms like “iniquity”, “sinfulness”, “sin”, “evil” etc, as behavioral matters? Do we really see that even the “good” out of self-centeredness is as evil as the “evil”?” (Andrea Garzon).
When Jesus said: All their works are wicked (John 3:19, John 7:7), He took behaviour out of the sin equation and replaced it with spirit. His statement efficiently dispels any notions of shades of grey. It is either black or white, and there is nothing in between. “Sins” are the byproducts of a deceived captive union, whereby we express the deeds of our father, the devil. Righteousness deeds are the byproducts of a right union, whereby we express the deeds of our father, God, who is love. It is crucial that we learn that everything in this universe is person/Person.
Daily we are caught in the battle Paul describes: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” The expansion of our awareness is the principal battleground while we are in this temporal realm. There is only one obedience; the obedience of faith. Those walled cities in our minds where disobedience dwells must be brought to naught if we are to penetrate further into the light which no man can approach unto. An awareness of either sin or sins can’t fully enter this light, because in this light none of those terms can exist or hold any meaning.
The obedience of faith persistently persuades us to see only one reality, that is, it is God who works and wills in us; He causes us to walk in His ways. To see double is to maintain that we can divert from His workings in us and that all that apparent ‘evil’ in our lives is ourselves doing our own stuff apart from Him. Paul plainly insisted that everything which is not of faith is sin. Faith is single-eye seeing. The disobedience of faith has basically merely one argument which it repeats to the point of torture: “No, this can’t be. Have a look at yourself!”
Daily we are tempted to be drawn back into a mindset of separation. Sin is thus conceived when we agree with the temptation – the lust of our eyes – and again try to become like God in the similitude of Adam and Eve, which means another hard knock on our heads when we taste death. Thank God for the Spirit who pulls us back to the truth, and whose promptings again give raise to faith in us. What is our work? It is to receive and agree with what we have received.
“The soul of Adam fell in love with the creation of the formed word in its differentiation, and not being conscious of the power of distinguishing, she entered into lust, into differentiation.” (J Boehme)
In the context of sins it is also fitting to include a brief discussion on desires which in many Christian circles are viewed upon with suspicion. Notably James’ “lust of the eyes” has caused many concern. A most vital question in this context is what made man fall in the first place? Wasn’t it our lust towards becoming king; self-sufficient, autonomous, self-managed, i.e, becoming like God, that was the original motivation that caused us to stumble? Therefore, the lust that conceives sin is the temptation of the flesh towards again trying to be God.
In the Old Testament Saul is a figure of this lust towards being king without God. Saul represents our flesh inclinations, whereas David is the new man in all his bloom who at last possesses the throne as king. Twice David was in a position to kill Saul, that is, the flesh, but both times He confessed that Saul was something God would kill in His own time. Thus Paul writes, “and when he (God) had removed him (Saul), he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22). The flesh will burn itself out and die in the similitude of Saul when he committed suicide by letting himself fall on the sword.
Desires wells forth out of the eternal being of God. Desires are the manifestation of love and can only be judged in accordance with Spirit. “The second part of John 17:5 has such a significant sequence in the original Greek. It literally says: and you will desire, and you will ask, and it shall be created. Desire is the natural and inevitable consequence of abiding in Christ Jesus. His companionship, His conversation (word), stirs up desires, good and godly desires. The reason that He stirs these desires is not to disappoint you, but to fullfil you!” (Andre Rabe)
Our walk is a faith walk. We trust that God has fulfilled in us everything He has said He would, and that He works in us both to will and do after His good pleasure even though we do not always understand where He is taking us. We by the Spirit learn to make righteous judgments seeing beyond appearances to Spirit. We trust that the fruit of the Spirit will manifest spontaneously in us by God’s grace and His mighty workings in us. That is the father’s vantage point. The father has irrevocably faced his own nothingness and thus Jesus’ words “you can do nothing without me” are well rooted in his consciousness. Hence, he has walked far beyond the question about sin and sins. From his position the whole issue seems irrelevant and it borders to the ludicrous, simply because he knows and because he has entered the third level in his awareness.