Should Christians Feel Guilty?

We are slowly working our way through 1 Corinthians at church at the moment. It’s a challenging book, addressing some very hotly debated topics within the Christian community today. When it came to studying the Lord’s supper I thought this passage would be a little more straight forward. However we should never under-estimate the depth of God’s word, even from the passages we think we know well.

Part of the message addressed how some Christians consider not taking communion some weeks because they feel guilty or unworthy of doing so. We may be struggling with a sin in our life or generally not feel as close to God due to some disobedient act. Knowing the significance of the Lord’s supper and what it represents in Christ’s sacrifice to us, it’s easy to at times feel we are not worthy given our tendency sometimes to rush into disobeying God in our daily lives. However to feel that way is to forget what has actually happened to us when we become a Christian and what is at the heart of the Gospel message.

When Christ died for us two things happened. Firstly Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He bore the wrath of God for our sins so that we may be spared God’s righteous judgment and eternal condemnation in hell. However that is only half the story. Jesus lived a perfect life. He was without sin. When He took on our sin, He became sin for us so that through faith in Him we may be declared righteous. This concept is critical to understand as a Christian, and it’s referred to as “atonement”. I will cover that more in a later blog. However the key point I want to focus on here is the fact that Christ’s righteousness is imputed or transferred to us as we choose to trust in His atoning death for us.

states “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”.

That is such a profound verse!!! Especially when you appreciate how sinful we are before our holy God. It highlights the justice of God in needing to have our sins punished, and also His love and mercy for us in sending His Son to take our bullet.

This leads me to my main point. If through faith in Christ we are now the righteousness of God, justified in His sight and without blemish, why should we feel unworthy to be in His presence, let alone when we are taking communion. This type of thinking is not only wrong biblically, but robs God of the glory He deserves in saving us.

Our salvation is a work done by God alone. We can take no credit for it whatsoever. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work in our lives to call God’s children out of spiritual darkness into salvation and an eternal relationship with Him. Through Christ we are righteous before God, and as a result there is no condemnation from Him towards us, as famously declares. So should Christians feel guilty? I believe the answer is no.

Now before your eyebrows raise and jaw drops let me clarify what I mean, and don’t mean, about “feeling guilty”. I think guilt is different to conviction. To be convicted by the Holy Spirit for sin we are committing or have committed is a healthy yet unpleasant experience. It’s healthy because it should lead us to repentance and a more focused relationship with God. It is also different to mourning. Our daily battle with sin can lead us to mourning our current sinful state and a longing for God’s comfort and forgiveness (). The focus here is a reliance on God’s grace, not feeling helpless and sorry for ourselves. The point I am trying to make is that guilt leads to separation from God by causing us feel unworthy to commune with Him, whilst conviction or mourning one’s sinful state leads to a greater reliance on God’s grace and therefore stronger relationship with Him.

Remember we are right with God because of what Christ has done, not what we can or can’t do. Sin will disrupt our intimacy with God, but it doesn’t disqualify us as we continue to trust in what Christ has done for us on the cross. Therefore do not let Satan or anything else allow you to feel unworthy or guilty to commune with God and celebrate what he has done in Christ. That goes for when we take communion, as well as during our daily lives.

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5 thoughts on “Should Christians Feel Guilty?

  1. Nick

    I have a comment to make. You said “impute” means “transfer,” but I came across this passage from Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, an apparently popular commentary (available online):

    QUOTE:
    ————-
    Was counted – ἐλογίσθη elogigisthē. The same word in , is is rendered “it was imputed.” The word occurs frequently in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, the verb חשׁב chaashab, which which is translated by the word λογίζομαι logizomai, means literally, “to think, to intend,” or “purpose; to imagine, invent,” or “devise; to reckon,” or “account; to esteem; to impute,” that is, to impute to a man what belongs to himself, or what “ought” to be imputed to him. It occurs only in the following places: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , ; ; ; ; ; . I have examined all the passages, and as the result of my examination have come to the conclusion, that there is not one in which the word is used in the sense of reckoning or imputing to a man what does not strictly belong to him; or of charging on him what ought not to be charged on him as a matter of personal right. The word is never used to denote imputing in the sense of transferring, or of charging that on one which does not properly belong to him. The same is the case in the New Testament. The word occurs about forty times (see “Schmidius’ Concord),” and, in a similar signification. No doctrine of transferring, or of setting over to a man what does not properly belong to him, be it sin or holiness, can be derived, therefore, from this word. Whatever is meant by it here, it evidently is declared that the act of believing is what is intended, both by Moses and by Paul.
    ————-

    What are your thoughts on this?
    If the Greek term Logizomai doesn’t mean “impute” but rather “consider something as it really is,” then how can imputation be supported?

    1. StuStu Post author

      Thanks Nick for your response and thoughts. Sorry for the delay in my response… I have been away a bit over the last week.

      By imputation I mean God thinks of Christ’s righteousness belonging to us, i.e. our sin belongs to Christ. This is the point of the 2 Cor verse I listed, and what effectively happens on the cross. Christ atoning for our sins is not enough. We need to be seen as righteous before God for Him to accept us into His presence. Even though Christ has paid the penalty for our sins, we are still sinful, so we need Him to clothe/transfer/impute to us His righteousness so when God looks at us He sees Christ’s righteousness. So Justification involves both the atoning for our sins as well as declaring us righteous.

      says that God’s righteousness has been manifested through faith in Christ. says we are made righteous. Through our faith in Christ, God see us righteous.

      I think the 2 Cor 5:21 verse sums it up well, which is why I listed it. I think that verse in itself challenges what your quote says. It’s clear through faith in Christ, we become the righteousness of God. That righteousness can only come from Christ.

  2. Martin Pakula

    Thanks Stu. A very important reminder of the gospel and our righteousness in Christ. We need to keep coming back to the cross and trust in Jesus’ death: that he has paid for our sins. The Lord’s Supper proclaims the gospel and is one of many times in which we can do that (focus on Jesus and trust in him). Not coming to the Lord’s Supper because of sin is close to refusing to believe the gospel! I know that’s not what people intend by not taking it, but nonetheless it is true.

  3. Ula

    Thanks for the important distinction you make between guilty feelings and conviction, Stu. The distinction is wide and often misunderstood. :)

    1. StuStu Post author

      Thanks for your comment Ula. I have always wrestled with the difference. Clearly we need to teach it more so that people are not under the bondage of guilt, but freed to serve and honour Christ.

      It’s funny when one becomes a Christian, little do we know what is really happening. As we slowly learn what Christ has done along with the implications, we appreciate more and more the magnitude of His grace and the blessing that it brings to one’s life. One can not but marvel at God and what He was willing to do to have to save us, as well as bring glory to His name.

Comments are closed.