Question: What are the consequences of sins committed before salvation for a believer?
The Bible tells us that we all have sinned and are in need of the Saviour Lord Jesus (Romans 3:23). Our sins have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and we are guilty before God. It is only by the work of Christ that there is a way for us to be saved from our sins (read the Gospel).
The remission of sins
What happens to our sins when we repented and asked Jesus to save us? The Bible says that Jesus died for our sins and he paid the price for not just our sins but of the whole world (John 3:16). Therefore God forgave our sins and declared us not guilty. We were imputed Christ’s righteousness and were sealed with the Holy Spirit at the moment of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Our sins committed before salvation have been forgiven and are remembered no more by God (Hebrews 8:12, Isaiah 43:25, Psalm 103:11-12).
So at the moment of our salvation:
- We were freed from the condemnation of sin. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death:
Romans 6:23 King James Version (KJV)
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This death is eternal separation from God and eternal suffering in hell. But because of Christ’s sacrifice, as said before, we will no longer have to face hell but have eternal life with Him.
- God delivered us also from the power of sin.
Before salvation, we were slaves of sin and there was no way we could overcome it by ourselves. But now, in Christ, we have been freed from sin and now serve a new master – the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Paul says:
Romans 6:12-14 King James Version (KJV)
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
The consequences of past sins committed before salvation
When a person repents and believes, God forgives him and forgets his past sins:
Psalm 103:11-12 King James Version (KJV)
11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Hebrews 8:12 King James Version (KJV)
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Hebrews 10:17 King James Version (KJV)
17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Thus, it is clear that God will not hold your past sins committed before salvation against you if you have confessed them.
1 John 1:9 King James Version (KJV)
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
However, even though the price for our sins committed before salvation has been paid and we were made free from sin, it does not mean that there are no consequences at all. The remission of sins is not the same as being free of the consequences of sin. Once we are saved, God forgives our sins and promises to remember it no more. It is like an acquittal in court where the judge declares us not guilty – God will no longer punish us with death in hell for our sins. But being right with God does not necessarily mean we are being made right with men. If you have committed murder, even if you have become a Christian after that and thus have been forgiven by God, this does not mean that you should not serve the punishment in jail for your crime. Thus in the eyes of the Lord, our sins are forgiven but we might still bear the consequences of our wrong doings. For example, if one had premarital sex or multiple partners before he was saved, there will be consequences that he will carry with him for the rest of his life (both relational and physical such as STDs). Another example of a consequence is that sexual sin disqualifies a person from holding leadership positions in the church. Our past and present sins also leave traces in the lives of other people. When we sin, we first sin against our loving God. But often we also harm or hurt others that we love. You cannot undo what has been done and those negative consequences of sin may remain. It takes time and God’s wisdom to go through the process pf reconciliation with others.
Also after salvation, Satan will not let us escape so easily. We all have our weaknesses. If some of us before salvation were struggling with alcohol, then it is very likely that even after salvation we will have a strong temptation to go and do this again. We might feel a weakness or vulnerability towards that particular sin. Similarly if we have been involved in watching pornography, then even after our sins have been forgiven we may not be able to give up this dangerous sin easily. It is only because of the power of Christ that we can resist all those temptations.
Believers’ sins and God’s discipline
All of the above applies not only to our past sins committed as non-believers, but also as believers. Even after being born again, we still give in to temptations and we sin against God. Our God is a loving Father, He forgives these sins, however if we are willingly going down the wrong path, He will not allow us to stay there. He may lovingly discipline us so that we do not continue in sin and harm ourselves and others.
Hebrews 12:4-6 King James Version (KJV)
“4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”