Paul's First Missionary Journey
Throughout my life, I have met several individuals who have had cancer. Some of them had surgery, chemo and radiation, while others utilized natural methods or treatments to get rid of the cancerous tissue. On more than one occasion, the cocktailing of treatments was successful. Despite this however, the physician never stated that the patient was cured. Instead, the pronouncement was that the patient was in remission. Upon hearing this medical phrase, I was initially quite puzzled, and wondered what it meant. What I later discovered was that this idea of remission from disease could give us a window into how God deals with Sin. Let us talk briefly about cancer and remission in its medical context, and afterward, we will make the parallels between Sin, cancer, being in remission and its spiritual application.
Cancer refers to a class of diseases. Therefore, it is unlikely that there will ever be a single "cure for cancer" any more than there will be a single treatment for all infectious diseases. Treatments for cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and monoclonal antibody therapy. There are also natural homeopathic methods as well. The choice of treatment depends upon the location and grade of the tumor, the stage of the disease, as well as the general state of the patient (performance status). There are challenges inherent in some of the treatments that can limit their effectiveness. For example, the effectiveness of chemotherapy is often limited by toxicity to other tissues in the body. Radiation can also damage healthy tissue which can cause other medical issues. Simply stated, complete removal of the cancer without damage to the rest of the body is the goal of treatment. Sometimes this can be accomplished by surgery, but the propensity of tumors to invade adjacent tissues or to spread to distant sites by microscopic metastasis often limits its effectiveness.
This is why physicians say that cancer is in remission and not that a patient no longer has cancer. Remission is a temporary end to the medical signs in all tests, scans, physical exams, and symptoms of an incurable disease. It is the state of absence of disease activity although cancer still may be in the body and may manifest again in the future.
Sin, this side of eternity, is like cancer in that it can be treated, but it does not disappear. As long as we live on this earth, those who live by faith can stop committing Sin; however, their sinful nature is still alive. As long as we live on this Earth, Sin is always a threat. Just as cancer can show its ugly face when and where you least expect it, so can Sin when not held in check. It is always present and always fighting for the mastery. However, as long as we subject ourselves to the treatment of Jesus by His Holy Spirit, Sin will be in remission. This ‘remission’ is what Peter spoke of in Acts 10:43,
“To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of Sins.”
There is a similar expression in John 3:16, "…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The tense of the verb ‘believeth’ in the Greek is in the continual present tense. Consequently, the passage should read as such, "whosoever continually believes in Him.…" The Greek word here for ‘believe’ is the same as ‘faith’. Thus, the meaning is rendered, "whosoever continually has faith – believes, trusts, and has confidence in…" Therefore, we can see that the remission of Sin comes through believing as does righteousness. Genesis 15:6 has this to say of righteousness and faith in regards to Abraham,
“And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness.”
Furthermore, the Spirit of Prophecy says that "The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain righteousness is through faith" (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 367). So, now we see that there is a relationship between remission of Sin, "not perishing, having everlasting life," and being righteous. Believing causes all three. This simply means that those who are righteous by continually believing, experience remission of Sin, and eventually receive incorrupt and immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53).
In addition, the word righteous is a synonym for just. Therefore, the expression justification by faith means made righteous by continually believing. Paul reminded the Galatians,
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
Genuine justification by faith always produces law keeping Christians. Since the law is summed up by, and (fulfilled) in Agape-Love (Romans 10:13), justification by faith always produces people that love God above all things and their neighbor as themselves (Galatians 5:14).
The Lord longs to have a people who completely reflect His character. He has been waiting so long for us. Let’s not prolong His agony. Now is the time, today is the day to allow His treatment for Sin to be effective in each of us and let Sin be declared ‘in remission’. This will prove our Lord to be good, merciful, just, and victorious.