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  • Rick LoPresti

Guilty until proven innocent

When God created the world, He put Adam in charge (Gen 1:26). Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out of the garden of Eden (Gen 3). Since then, the nature of man is tainted by sin (Rom 5:12-21. 1Cor 15:21-22). Therefore, the government of man is also tainted (Rom 8:19-23). History shows us one continuous string of imperfect men in the government of other men at all times in all places . By and large, this has always meant government by tyranny and power by force.

The American colonists wanted to try an experiment in government based on a different model. They recognized the teaching in the Bible about the sinful nature of man which clearly comes out when men have power over others. The framers of the U.S. Constitution did their best to account for the tendency toward corruption and tyranny, and they put safeguards in to account for that. A major example is that there are three branches of government with separate and different but equal powers with checks and balances. They anticipated the tendency to grab for power, and they expected each branch to check power grabs by the others. The political problem with America is not its form of government. It is the failure of men to live by it. The spiritual problem with man is failure to follow God's commandments.

The whole world lies in wickedness (1Jn 5:19), and all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). The value system of this world is diametrically the opposite of God's. It is based on lust and pride (Gen 3:1-7, Mt 4:1-11, Mt 13:19-23, 1Jn 2:15-17). It says the way to climb the ladder is by stepping on others on the way up. Jesus said the greatest would not be he who has power over others, but he who serves (Mt 20:20-28). The world says he who dies with the most toys wins. Jesus said, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul (Mt 16:26)?" As the saying goes, you can't take it with you. Some say violence is the way to power. Jesus said, "all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword (Mt 26:52)". Some think corruption and deceit are the way to success. God says, "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God (2Sam 23:3)".

Another important difference between the American legal system and the history of others is that men charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty. In many places before that, concurrent with it, and even today, men are guilty until proven innocent if they even get a chance to try to prove their innocence. The framers of the Constitution saw the abuses of men and the injustice that was so prevalent, and they decided it would be better for a guilty man to go free than for an innocent man to be found guilty. They said that guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to protect the right of men to not be judged wrongly which is given them by God and abused by men. Sometimes this happens intentionally, and sometimes without ill intent.

Although this is good for men to follow, God does need the safeguards that men do. God sees and knows all. He can read the hearts of men, and there are no secrets hidden from Him (Heb 4:12). He never gets it wrong (Ps 19:9). In fact, since all have sinned before Him, we are all guilty (Rom 3:19, Jam 2:10). In God's spiritual courtroom, He is the Judge, and nobody is innocent on their own record.

That being the case, how can anyone be saved? How can anyone be proven innocent before Him? There is a way, but only one way (Jn 14:6). That is if you have Jesus Christ as your defense attorney. Jesus died for our sins, the just for the unjust (1Pet 3:18). He is the substitute sacrifice for the eternal penalty we all face on our own (Rom 3:25, Heb 8-10, 1Jn 2:2, 1Jn 4:10). Since He died without sin for us, He can now be our intercessor (Rom 8:34, Heb 7:25). This does not mean that Jesus in His deity is asking another person of deity. It means that in His humanity, His sacrifice satisfies the justice of God against sin. He was God in the flesh (Jn 1:1-3 & 14, Jn 14:7-11, 2Cor 5:19, Col 2:9, 1Tim 3:16). It was the human part of Jesus that died. He saw beforehand that no man could do it, so He did it Himself (Is 59:16). Jesus told the disciples the night before He died that He was going away but would return to them in His spiritual form (Jn 14-16). He called this the Comforter (Jn 14:16 & 26, Jn 15:26, Jn 16:7). The word translated Comforter does not mean to make comfortable. It is the Greek word parakletos. This word means "one who pleads another's cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate". This same word appears as advocate about Jesus (1Jn 2:1). An advocate is a defense attorney. If we forego His advocacy and choose to represent ourselves before His great white throne of judgment, we will lose (Rev 20:11-15). If we believe in Him and become His disciples, He justifies us by His blood (Rom 5:9). His blood remits our sins through water baptism by immersion in His name (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16).

We can never be innocent of sin on our own, but it has been said that justification means "just as if I had not sinned". God does not erase the past, but He forgives us when we repent and no longer holds it against us (Ps 103:12). The path to being found innocent before God is not denying our guilt. It is through confessing our sins to Him and forsaking them. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Prov 28:13)." We will be no more successful at hiding our sins from the Lord than Adam was (Gen 3, Job 31:33). "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1Jn 1:8-10)." God's ways are not our ways (Is 55:8). The way of the world is to cover up, lie, and try to get away with it. The way to innocence is through admitting our guilt, repenting, being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost - the advocate (Acts 2:38), and then to follow Him. If a Christian who has already done these things and is not living a lifestyle of sin errs, they can repent. If someone has left the way but seeks to return, they too can be forgiven and restored (Gal 6:1). There is only no hope for those who refuse to repent.

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