Question: "How does sin separate us from God?"
Answer: A simple way to define sin is “the act of going against God and His ways” (Romans 3:23). It makes sense that, when we are going against something, we are separate from it. By definition, then, sin separates us from God.
Since God is the creator and giver of life, to be separate from Him means to be experiencing death (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1). The Bible describes the unrepentant: “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:18). Sin hardens us. Ongoing sin is a series of decisions, each one choosing against God’s authority in our lives and substituting our own. Those decisions create a wall between us and our Creator because we cannot have two masters. Jesus said we “will hate the one and love the other” (Matthew 6:24). Not only are we separate from God when we are ruled by sin; we are His enemies (Colossians 1:21). This separation from God created by sin dooms us to an eternity away from Him—except for one thing: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
The separation exists because God is perfect and we are not. The universe He created was perfect. The human beings He made in His own image were perfect until sin messed it all up (Genesis 1:27, 31; 3:1–24). The moment Adam and Eve sinned, their “eyes were opened” (Genesis 3:7), and they knew that a separation had occurred; something had come between them and God. They became aware of sin and its consequences. Part of God’s perfection is His perfect justice, and justice demands that sin be reckoned with. To overlook the sin would not be just, so the sin stood between humanity and the righteous Judge.
In an act that foreshadowed God’s ultimate plan, He killed a perfect animal in the Garden of Eden and covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness with its skin (Genesis 3:21). God counted the blood of that substitute as payment for the man’s sin. Without the shedding of innocent blood, there could be no forgiveness, and mankind would be eternally separated from God (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus Christ’s shedding of His blood on the cross was an intentional act that would forever bridge the separation between mankind and God. “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16; cf. John 3:17–18). God counts the blood of His Son as sufficient payment for the debt we owe. When we trust in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, God closes the gap that yawned between us (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:13–15).
However, even as Christians, our sin can continue to separate us from God’s fellowship. Sin is like a dark curtain pulled over a sunny window. The sun is still there, but the curtain creates a separation from its warmth and light. Repentance lifts the curtain and restores the relationship we once enjoyed (1 John 1:9). Any unconfessed sin in the life of a follower of Jesus can create a sense of separation from God. God does not leave us, but the light and warmth of fellowship was cut off when we chose sin. We do not lose our salvation, because Jesus paid our debt in full. But we can lose the love, joy, and peace of the Holy Spirit when we persist in living apart from God.
King David felt such a separation when he sinned. He lusted after another man’s wife, slept with her, and then had her husband killed to cover up his sin (2 Samuel 11). God was displeased with David’s actions and sent Nathan the prophet to confront him (2 Samuel 12). Although David sinned greatly, he repented thoroughly. Psalm 51 is David’s cry of repentance to the Lord. He suffered consequences because of his sin. The infant conceived in that adulterous union died as a part of David’s judgment (2 Samuel 12:15–25). But when David repented, the separation his sin had created was gone. When we sin and God confronts us, we should not defend, justify, or excuse our transgression. We must repent of it and let the forgiveness of God restore us to fellowship with Him.
For every human problem, God has a solution. Even though we created the problem, God rescues us when we call on His name (Proverbs 18:10; Romans 8:28–30). Separation from God does not have to define our relationship with Him. We can confess our sin, trust in His offer of salvation through faith in His Son, and accept the full pardon Jesus’ sacrifice provides (Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 103:12; John 1:29; Hebrews 8:12). Sin separates us from God, but the grace and mercy of Jesus restores anyone who will receive Him as Lord of their lives.