Question:

I am having a conversation with an Independent Baptist, who claims that even after conversion, if we lie or cheat or steal, we are a liar, a cheater, a thief and we carry that label until we enter heaven. She says only in heaven is there no sin. Even if we are forgiven by Christ, we are still liars. I cannot find any example of this in the New Testament. The argument seems to say Christ cannot remove the sin thoroughly enough. It sounds rather Gnostic. What do you think?


Answer:

A label declares who a person is. If we are labeled sinners while here on earth, then we are going to be condemned because God tells us that sinners are going to burn in the lake of fire. "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8; see also Galatians 5:19-21).

So the question to address is whether we remain labeled for the sins we have committed until our death. Whenever a claim is made we need to check the Bible, which you did and that's awesome. But another step one can take is to search God's Word about the topic in general. In this case examining what the Bible says about sin. What I've found researching the topic is that labels of sin are removed from those who follow God.

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

The wording, "such were some of you" indicates that Christians are no longer liars, homosexuals, thieves, etc. God removes the labels of sins done by people when they are washed (baptized), justified (made right before the law) and sanctified (made holy); in other words, when they become Christians.

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief" (I Timothy 1:12-13).

If we are still bound by the labels of sins we have done in the past that would mean Paul could not claim to be a former blasphemer, persecutor or violent aggressor. Instead, Paul would say he is still a blasphemer, persecutor and violent aggressor. But we know that cannot be true if he were a Christian because the Bible tells us that we cannot walk in such roles and be right before God (Matthew 6:24; Ephesians 5:6-12). To be noted as well, Paul does claim in I Timothy 1:12 that he has taken on a new label: a servant of Christ Jesus.  

Does God forgive and forget?

"Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity. And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18-19).

God has stated multiple times in the Bible, that He indeed forgives and forgets. Micah tells us He casts all our sins into the depths of the sea. When something is dropped into the depths of the sea, it is forgotten, unseen and cannot be retrieved because it is miles below the surface. God not only casts them away, but we are forgiven when He cleanses us from our sin, and we are released from our debt.

"For I will be merciful to their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more" (Hebrews 8:12; see also: Isaiah 38:17; 43:25)

If the labels of our sins remain with us, then the memory of them does not go away. But God no longer remembers our sins when He forgives us and shows us mercy.

"Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18).

"But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:7).

"And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood (Revelation 1:5; see also: Psalm 51:7,10; James 5:20).

Should we remember our former life?

God's desire is that we always remember that it is through Jesus Christ that we are saved from our sins. It is because of His mercy, that we are free from our former manner of life (Colossians 1:19–23; Romans 6:23). We are not to hold on to the past (Luke 9:62; Ecclesiastes 7:10), but look forward to the future, being able serve our Savior here on earth and to be with Him in heaven.

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12-14).

by Alan & Leia Feaster and Tony Hamilton