Guilt - Part I
So far as the Bible is concerned, guilt is the fact of falling short of God’s standards because of sin (Rom. 3:23), and not just a feeling.
Feelings can be sincere, but still be scripturally wrong. A person can be involved in blatant sin and not feel guilty because he has rejected convictions from the Holy Spirit long enough that his conscience has become seared (I Tim. 4:2), or calloused and insensitive. On the other hand, a person can be taught something is wrong and feel guilty about doing it, even if it is not scripturally wrong. Therefore, biblical guilt can only be determined by the standards of the Bible.
In the Bible, there are three kinds of guilt: condemnation, conviction, or godly sorrow (II Cor. 7:10). The sorrow of the world is about being sorry only for getting caught and having to face the consequences.
Condemnation, in this sense, is not only deciding that someone is guilty of doing something wrong and deserves the penalty and punishment, but it is judging the motives and eternal destiny of a person, and, as much as possible, imposing the sentence. This is unscriptural for people to do because only God knows the heart of a person (Jer. 17:9-10; Ps. 139:23; Heb. 4:12; I Sam. 16:7) can judge his eternal destiny, and, as much as is possible, impose the sentence.
The ultimate source of this unscriptural condemnation is Satan (Rev. 12:10), but it is also used by people. Condemnation emphasizes the past and is destructive; it provides no solutions or forgiveness, and it leads to hopelessness and giving up.
Conviction, on the other hand, comes from God when the Holy Spirit reproves of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:7-11), emphasizes the present and the future (Phil. 3:13), is constructive, and leads to repentance, reconciliation, and hope. Conviction is an expression of the mercy of God, which is the opposite of condemnation.
The Bible says the following are results of guilt:
People try to do a lot of things to avoid guilt. They try to change or modify the Bible, blame their circumstances, or redefine sins as diseases or bad habits. These are attempts to either decrease or remove the need of dealing with problems as sin, but none of these are successful since there is only one answer and solution for sin.
- Fear of judgment, hiding, covering up, and blaming others (Gen. 3:7-13)
- Shame, stress, no peace, and confusion (Prov. 13:5; Lam. 1:20; Isa. 57:20; Jer. 7:19)
- Physical, spiritual and eternal death (Rom. 6:23)
- Envy, strife, divisions, grief, and fear (I Cor. 3:3; Ps. 31:10; Micah 7:17).
- Physical problems (Ps. 32:3-4; 38:1-10)
For the unsaved person, the only answer for guilt is to get saved, and for the believer, it is to repent and ask for forgiveness. Both are possible only because of Jesus dying on the Cross.
When a person gets saved by confessing and repenting of his sin, and, through faith, receives Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord, his sins are forgiven and guilt is removed. This means that the justice of God is satisfied for his sins because of Christ’s death on the Cross. Not only is the penalty or punishment cancelled, the sin, which is an offense to the holiness of God, is removed. So, both the sins (Ps. 78:38; 79:9; Lev. 5:18), and the sinner (Lev. 4:20) are atoned for.
This means that the sin is blotted out (Jer. 18:23; Isa. 43:25; 44:22), removed (Isa. 6:7), covered (Ps. 32:1), cast into the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19), cast behind God’s back (Isa. 38:17), and pardoned (Ps. 78:38).
So, by dying for sins, Jesus paid the necessary price to redeem, or buy back, the sinner (Matt. 20:28; Rev. 5:9; 14:3-4; Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Titus 2:14; I Pet. 1:18). This results in being reconciled to a right relationship to God (Rom. 5:10; II Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:21).
Similarly, when a believer sins, he must confess and repent of his sin, and ask God to forgive him based on the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross (I Jn. 1:9), and he will be forgiven and his guilt removed.