About a week ago, I was reminded of the importance of beginning our gospel presentation with the truth of God’s word, specifically in relation to the total depravity of man.  If we start from a faulty premise, then the solution to the problem of sin will be faulty as well.

I listened to a children’s message where the speaker was explaining Romans 6:23.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”  To illustrate this, the speaker began with a cup of clear water, and told the children that when we sin, our lives become corrupted by sin.  Then the speaker took an eye dropper and added what appeared to be a black ink.  The clear cup of water then became black.  The speaker said this is what happens when we sin.

Next, the speaker held up a white cross and explained that it is the cross of Christ that deals with the sin.  Some substance was then released from within the cross that changed the black water into white water.

I know what the speaker’s intentions were.  But the problem with this illustration wasn’t that the cross deals effectively with sin, but how the cross effectively deals with sin.  In this picture, the speaker presented Christ as something that is added to our lives to make everything better.  But this isn’t the full Biblical picture of Christ’s atonement.  Christ is indeed “added” to a person, but the guilt of sin is taken away also!

2Corinthians 5:17 & 21 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. . . .For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

There is a dual transaction that takes place at conversion.  Not only is Christ’s righteousness credited to the believer, but the believer’s guilt is credited to Christ who paid for it by his sacrifice upon the cross. 

This is what happened to the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6.  He entered into the heavenly temple and instantly became aware of his great sinfulness.  In order to deal with Isaiah’s sin, Christ’s righteousness wasn’t simply added to what was there.  The angel took a coal from the altar and touched his lips (which symbolized the application of the atoning sacrifice) and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

There is a cost in converting to Christ and it is no less than dying to self.  Paul’s language stresses this.  We don’t simply add something to what exists, but the old is removed and the new is born.  The language of Scripture backs this up.

“You must be born again.” John 3:7

“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them.” Ezekiel 11:19

“And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.” 1 Cor 5:7

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 2Cor 5:17

“For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”  Gal 6:15

“Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph 4:24

“Seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Col 3:10

“To the one who conquers . . . I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone.” Rev 2:17

Not only does Scripture teach the creating of something new, but Christ expressly denies that the new is added to what already exists.

Matthew 9:17 says, “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

So as I considered again the speaker’s illustration, it became clear to me that the reason the explanation was faulty was because the basic premise was faulty.  We do not enter into this world with a clean slate.  We are not pure water.  Because of Adam’s sin we are born sinners, and then we sin because that is our nature. (Ephesians 2:3)

If we simply view sin as a contaminate that is added to our lives, then all that needs to happen is to remove the contaminate.  But if we view sin as the corruption and distortion of everything that we are, then we need to be remade.  We need to become a new creature.

This is how the cross deals with our sin.  Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Our justification (which is different from our sanctification though in some respect the processes are very similar) is accomplished by the death of the sinful nature and the regeneration of a new nature. 

So for the illustration to have been biblically accurate, the speaker should have begun with a cup of black water and vacuumed out the black water into the cross and simultaneously poured clean water back into the cup.

Now that would be an illustration worth showing our children!

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