Sin, Righteousness, Judgment
Read Today’s Gospel: John 16:5-11
“And when he [the Counselor] comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
— John 16:8-11
This Gospel teaches us three important words: Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment. It’s actually the job of the Counselor (known as the Holy Spirit) to convince us about these three things. But what are these?
Basically, sin is defined in the Bible as “lawlessness”, to wit:
“Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” — 1 John 3:4 (RSVCE)
In the original text, the Greek word “anomia” was used, which means “without law” or “against the law”. Thus, any person who goes against the law is deemed to have sinned. The law here pertains to the spiritual law established by God which is known as the Ten Commandments as laid out in Exodus 20:2-17 or in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.
Truly, Jesus summarized the law in the simple context of loving God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Even then, Jesus strictly emphasized that we continually follow the commandments as a whole, not by choosing bits and pieces that would benefit us. He said:
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ said also, ‘Do not kill.’ If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.” — James 2:10-11 (RSVCE)
Thus, it’s pretty useless if you go to church every Sunday yet you keep on spitting curses outside (or perhaps even inside) the church. Indeed, you kept holy the Lord’s day — following the Second Commandment — yet you still failed to not take the name of the Lord God in vain — a transgression to the Third Commandment. This is still sin.
Moreover, all wrongdoings are sins. As the Scriptures says:
“All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.” — 1 John 5:17 (RSVCE)
Whatever may be the means to an end is, if the means are entirely wrong, the end still remains a sin. It’s just like how Adolf Hitler tried to rationalize killing the Jews for the sake of purifying the land of the Germans — killing is a sin though how righteous the motive may be.
This is especially true when the person who does the wrong deed knew beforehand that he was doing wrong. Thus:
“Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” — James 4:17 (RSVCE)
The Lord wants us to know sin with the help of the Holy Spirit. He wants us not to be picky in following the Commandments. Many people who believe in Him do so superficially and only to the point that’s beneficial to them. If it’s not favorable, they simply neglect that part. This is what Jesus is trying to remind us — a sin, though how partially you may have or may have not committed it, is still a sin.
The Book of Ezekiel gave an extensive description of what being “righteous” is:
“If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right— if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of impurity, does not oppress any one, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any increase, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances —he is righteous, he shall surely live, says the Lord God.” — Ezekiel 18:5-9 (RSVCE)
Let us break that one down. To be righteous, a person must:
- Do what is lawful and right — not to transgress the law or to commit any wrongdoings; basically, not to sin
- Not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel — not to commit idolatry; not to be a slave for money
- Not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of impurity — not to commit adultery, fornication, prostitution, or any other immoral/unchaste conduct
- Not oppress anyone — not to harm or humiliate anyone or to make any person suffer either physically, psychologically, mentally, socially, financially, spiritually, etc.
- Restore to the debtor his pledge — not to outsmart anyone by unreasonably withholding the pledge or anything given for safekeeping
- Commit no robbery — not to steal or to take something you do not own
- Give his bread to the hungry — to share food to the needy
- Cover the naked with a garment — to share unused (but still usable) clothes to those who have none or less
- Not lend at interest or take any increase — not to lend with high-interest rates that may lead to bankruptcy; not to ask for an unreasonably excessive price
- Withhold his hand from iniquity — to stay away from doing wicked, immoral, unacceptable, improper, or grossly unfair conduct
- Execute true justice between man and man — to do what is just; to be fair and equitable, not for one’s own benefit but for the fairness of everyone involved
- Walk in God’s statutes and is careful to observe God’s ordinances — to carefully follow and apply God’s law and commandments in its entirety.
This list is not exhaustive though. Bottomline is, knowing righteousness is significant because it is the pathway to eternal life, thus:
“In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” — Proverbs 12:28 (ESV)
Thus, the Lord delegates to the Holy Spirit the task of teaching us about righteousness. Since Jesus is no longer with us, physically, here on earth, the Holy Spirit will guide us through the path of righteousness.
The Judgment Day is described in the Holy Scriptures as the time when every person will be adjudged by Christ according to his deeds, whether good or evil, here on earth. No one can escape from this fateful day, thus:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.” — 2 Corinthians 5:10 (RSVCE)
Here lies the connection between sinfulness and righteousness to judgment. A person shall be adjudged according to how sinful or righteous his life is on earth and the Lord has been taking note of all our deeds, both good or bad, all this time. These notes are written in the Book of Life, which will be the basis of God’s reward.
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.” — Revelation 20:12 (RSVCE)
That’s why you have to be careful. Don’t dare hide your sinfulness before God since He knows everything about you, even the number of hairs strands on your head, even your darkest little secrets. These are all written down in the Book of Life. You can’t escape. You can’t hide. You can never conceal whatever you did wrong:
“For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” — Ecclesiastes 12:14 (NIV)
But you can always change.
Since “you only live once”, you should not waste it living dangerously and immorally. Use your life to live according to God’s virtues. It may not be as exciting as taking risks but at least you won’t endanger yourself of being thrown in the eternal fires of hell.
Say “No” to Sin.
Say “Yes” to Righteousness.
Be Prepared for Judgment.
If you’ve been swerving off the right path, it’s not too late to go back and follow God’s track.
Thus, we pray that the Lord may give us wisdom and restraint against all evil and sinful temptations, that we may be guided to live righteously, that we continually prepare ourselves for Jesus’ judgment, and that we may be rewarded the eternal glory of heaven, all these in Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.