Sunday School Lessons

Sin Was Always Sin, but Faith Was Always Faith

Editor’s note: I appreciate that some readers of this site may celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ today.  If you are among them (or if you – like me – can find hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ whenever you consider the significance of it, regardless of the day), may you be blessed in a special way today as you remember this reason for our hope and joy!  

One of the interesting things that I have learned in studying the book of Romans is that God’s plan for salvation through faith in Jesus didn’t start when Jesus died for our sins.  Knowing that Jesus would arrive and give us a path to salvation at the right time, though, those who had faith that God would provide forgiveness for their sins could be justified (considered to be righteous, even though they sinned) long before Jesus was ever born.  Even in the age of the church, with the knowledge of how Jesus paid for our sins (and with more instructions on how to receive that gift, along with expectations of how to live for God once we have done so), the step of faith in God’s commitment to handle our sins continues to be a key element of the process.

By way of context, Romans 4 talks about Abraham, and how his righteousness came through belief, trust, and faith.  Abraham’s faith was rewarded through God’s faithfulness, when Abraham not only became the father of many people through Isaac, but Abraham ended up becoming the spiritual ancestor of even more people “who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (see Romans 4:24).

Because our text today begins with the word, “Therefore”, I encourage you to read Romans 4:23-25 as a lead-in to today’s lesson.  (Most readers won’t, but if you do, this should help the following introductory passage from Romans 5 make more sense.)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1‭-‬2 NIV

Let’s walk through this statement one piece at a time:

We have been “justified through faith”.  That is, through our faith in God – similar to Abraham’s faith in God – we are pronounced righteous.  Despite the fact that we have sinned, we are declared righteous through God’s gift of salvation.

We have “peace with God” (or perhaps “let us have peace with God”).  The very ability to have any sort of peace with God is especially profound, in light of just how far we separated ourselves from God through our unrighteousness.

However, that peace is, in fact, something that Jesus Christ provided for us, as this verse attests to.  We don’t get peace with God by following the law perfectly.  We don’t get peace with God by claiming ignorance of right and wrong.  Both the paths of trusting in the law and not having the law still end up convicting us of sin.  The only way we obtain peace with God is through Jesus Christ.

Skipping down a few verses (although I encourage you to always try to read Bible passages in context, even if I’m limited in what I can share in a single article), let’s take a look at verses 13 and 14:

To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
Romans 5:13‭-‬14 NIV

Abraham’s faith could be credited as righteousness before the Law of Moses was given, but this was necessary because sin was still sin before the Law of Moses was given.  It might not have been as clearly articulated, but death didn’t have to wait for that law to be in effect.  In addition, as a commentator pointed out, Adam’s sin resulted in death for his descendants, even innocent children.

Once the law arrived, though, it became more clear to the Hebrew people what it meant to obey God and be righteous.  Like finding out that you’ve been doing something the wrong way for years (or you’ve been pronouncing a word incorrectly for a long time), clear definitions of right and wrong – instructions for life, we might say – are convicting and may make us regret our past choices.

However, doing something wrong was still wrong before we were formally told that it was wrong and – as we learn elsewhere from Romans – we don’t get off the hook because we didn’t know specific rules, since each of us knows enough about right and wrong to know that we sin (even if we don’t call it sin).

Going back to the start of this chapter, with our faith, Jesus also gives us access to God’s grace.  When our works failed us, God’s grace became our only hope.

In the end, we may have humbly accepted God’s grace (or, if you haven’t done that already, I hope that you will do so right away), whether on our knees or with head bowed, but I like that we stand in God’s grace (verse 2).  We are declared righteous, we become part of the family of God, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and we can stand before God – not because of our good deeds, but because of our confidence in His grace and our trust in His Word.

The bad news is that sin always was – and is – sin, but the good news is that faith has always been part of the path to restoration to God from that sin.

From Sunday School lesson prepared for February 13, 2022


  • The Lookout, February 13, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • The College Press Commentary, Romans, Volume 1, by Jack Cottrell.  College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.

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