Have you ever done something you knew was a sin, confessed it, and quickly found yourself doing it again? I know I have.
What’s the solution to this problem? It begins with seeing the difference between “sin” and “sins” and then applying the proper remedy to each.
“Sin” and “sins” in the Scriptures
Concerning sins, 1 Corinthians 15:3 says , “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Later, 1 John 1:7 says, “…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin.” These two verses speak of our sinful acts and their remedy.
In contrast, Romans 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be annulled, that we may no longer serve sin as slaves.” In this verse we see “sin” as a powerful master that enslaves us and makes our body, the “body of sin.” But we can also see a wonderful remedy.
Sadly, a lack of understanding concerning the difference between these two—sin and sins—has been a source of real frustration to many seeking Christians.
So what are we missing?
The underlying problem involves a lack of spiritual sight. But there definitely is hope. The apostle Paul both diagnosed and treated the problem in Romans 1-8.
First, we need to see the fundamental difference between “sin” and “sins.”
“Sin” singular refers to the powerful nature of sin within us. It’s like a tree that produces its fruit—“sins.” It follows then that “sins” plural refer to countless acts of sinning as the fruits of this sinful nature within us (Rom.7:8-19).
We need to be clear on this distinction because the two refer to two strikingly different problems with two different solutions.
God’s remedy for our “sins” is forgiveness by the blood of Christ.
We must be clear that no amount of tears, time, penance, or good deeds, can remove the record of our sins before God. Nor can it remove the stains of guilt from our conscience.
Only the blood of Jesus can deal with our sins. First John 1:7 says, “…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin.” Then verse 9 continues, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
To apply God’s remedy to our “sins,” we simply need to believe God’s word and receive the effectiveness of Christ’s blood by confessing our sins to God.
God’s remedy for “sin” is deliverance by the cross of Christ.
After we’ve received the forgiveness of our “sins” by Christ’s blood, we may come to a further discovery, that is, that “sin” dwells within us. Watchman Nee said, “The Blood deals with the sins, but the Cross must deal with the sinner…In [Romans 5] a sinner is said to be a sinner because he is born a sinner; not because he has committed sins.”
So It’s important for us to see that we’re sinners not because of our behavior, but because of our sinful heredity. In Romans 5:19, Paul said, “For just as through the disobedience of one man [Adam] the many were constituted sinners…” I can compare this heredity of sin to my allergies. My allergic reactions are due, not to something I’ve done, but to my birth, my heredity.
The only solution to our problem of sin is to “change our parentage.” We got into Adam by birth. So the only way out of Adam is by death. Romans 6:3-4 show us how we died to Adam. We were baptized into Christ, and into His death. In such a union with Christ, we died to Adam, with our heredity of sin. Now, as those joined to Christ in His resurrection, we can walk in newness of life.
Deliverance from sin by the cross of Christ, is ours simply by remaining in Him. Since Christ is now a life-giving Spirit in His resurrection, we can be in Him and He in us. This is just like our being in the air and the air being in us. As we remain in union with Christ, all the effectiveness of His cross is ours and sin has no dominion over us.
May we enjoy such freedom in Christ by seeing the difference between sin and sins. May we also daily apply this vision by practicing to confess our sins to Him and to remain in Him by breathing His name—“Lord Jesus! O Lord, I love you”—to be in His Spirit.
Besides reading or listening to Chapters 1-2 of the Normal Christian Life, I’d also mention that you can read more in The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, especially Vol. 43, Chapter 4 at ministrybooks.org.