Q&A: Sin and Separation from God

Sin and Separation from God

Question

Can you briefly explain how sin separates one from God? What are some of the highlights?

Answer

When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit (i.e., sinned) their eyes were suddenly opened (Gen. 3:7). They knew something had changed; something had become between them and God. They immediately became aware of their own nakedness and they hid from God. They even tried to cover their sin by blaming it on one another. Now in league with the serpent, their perfect innocence vanished. A spiritual wall had been erected between them and God and they were no longer one with him.

"Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God" (WSC, A1). It is the act of going against God and his way (cf. Deut. 10:12-13). It’s common sense, but if someone is going against someone else, they are separating from whom they are going against (cf. Matt. 12:30). So, by its mere definition, sin — any sin — is separation from God.

Separation from God has consequences, some temporal, some eternal. Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, but with their sin they corrupted this image so drastically that the apostle Paul describes us as darkened in our understanding and alienated from the life of God (Eph. 4:18). We are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1-3) and are literally God’s enemies (Rom. 8:7-8; Col. 1:21), and we hate him (Matt. 6:24). Part of God’s eternal perfection is his righteous justice, and according to his holy nature he must judge sin. Eternal separation from God is the end result of his judgment. Those who don’t know God will "suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thess. 1:8-9).

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t briefly share the rest of the story with you. Let’s go back to Adam and Eve for a moment. They were the first family of sinners. In an act that foreshadowed his ultimate love in giving his own Son to die for his people’s sin (John 15:13; cf. John 3:16), God sacrificed a perfect animal for the first couple (Gen. 3:21; cf. John 1:29). He counted this spilled blood as payment for sin — a shadow symbolizing Christ’s sacrifice (cf. Heb. 9:22). The actual sacrifice of Christ — the Lamb that was slain at Creation (Rev. 13:8) — broke down the wall of separation between God for all those who are enabled to repent (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24-26) and come to Christ by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-10).

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-14)

In Christ the wall of separation is destroyed. God’s people are redeemed. They are at peace with God. They are now one with him (cf. John 17:23).

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Sin separates us from God, but Jesus alone restores our fellowship with him (Rom. 5:1; cf. Psa. 103:12; Isa. 43:25).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).