I want to start out this article with a medical question:
Is it possible for a person who does not know that they have terminal cancer to still die of that cancer?
Many people in our society today have enough medical knowledge to answer this question. From our common medical knowledge, we know that, unless cured, terminal cancer ends in death. So, the answer to the medical question above is, yes, a person who does not know that they have terminal cancer can still die of that cancer. In fact, if the cancer is not both detected and cured, the person certainly will die of the terminal cancer, whether they know they have it or not.
That answer was pretty easy. Let’s move into a different field and see if we can answer a similar question. So, let me ask a theological question:
Is it possible for someone who has sinned against the Law of God without knowing it to still be guilty and condemned by that sin?
This theological question will probably be more difficult to answer than the medical question because relatively few people in our society have a great deal of theological knowledge. God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness in His book, the Bible, and yet few people take the Bible seriously. In the Bible is all the theological knowledge necessary for a person to spend eternity in heaven in loving fellowship with the living God, the Creator of the universe, and all the theological knowledge needed to avoid condemnation and an eternity in hell. Yet, again, few people can be bothered.
In my current Bible study, I am reading through the book of Leviticus, a book that gives careful instruction about the various sacrifices that the ancient Hebrews were to give to the LORD to atone for their sins. Leviticus is a fascinating book, and in Leviticus 5:17 it says this:
“Now if a person sins and does any of the things that the LORD has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment.”
Here in this one verse, in Leviticus 5:17, we find the answer to the theological question that was posed above. From this verse, it is clear that any person who sins and breaks any of the LORD’s commandments is guilty and is under condemnation, whether they know about their sin or not.
Now, because our sin is against the living God, there is no more dangerous place to be than to be guilty of sin and under condemnation. Just as it is the nature of terminal cancer, unless detected and cured, to end in physical death, so it is the nature of sin, unless detected and removed, to end in eternal death. And because the situation of our sin against the living God is so perilous, the Bible is full of warnings about our sinful condition. Here in Leviticus 5:17 we read one such warning, which tells us that we are guilty of all our sins and liable to punishment, whether we know it or not. Just as the MRI and the CAT scan detect and warn us about our terminal cancer so that we can remove it and live longer physically, so the Bible detects and warns us about our sin so that we can remove it and live eternally in heaven.
We know, from our medical knowledge, that there are some cures for cancer, but what is the cure for our sin against the living God? If the Bible is full of warnings about our sin, which will lead to eternal death, surely there must also be some instruction somewhere in the Bible about how we can remove our sin. If the Bible graciously tells me about my sin and warns me about my condemnation, doesn’t it also graciously tell me how I can escape from my condemnation? Having revealed to me my disease of sin, doesn’t it also tell me of the cure?
The Bible does indeed provide the cure for the disease of sin. Having revealed to us the ugliness of our sin and condemnation, the Bible also reveals to us the beauty of our salvation. Or rather the beauty of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. As condemned sinners, we need a Savior who will rescue us, and so God sent Jesus Christ from heaven to earth on a rescue mission. After living a sinless life filled with miracles, teaching and healing, the Lord Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross as an atoning sacrifice for sinners. He died on that cross and was buried. On the third day Jesus rose from the dead, proving that He had conquered sin and death, and ascended into heaven. Now the good news of the gospel is that any person who has sinned and has done many things that the LORD has commanded not to be done, will be forgiven of his sins through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
the apostle Paul to the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31
SDG rmb 8/9/2020