Does sin separate us from God? How could one be separated from an omnipresent God? If you try to think of a scripture that states “sin separates you from God” (or something like it), you will have a hard time.
If sin separated us from God, wouldn’t that mean that there isn’t much hope? We would have been stuck in our sins forever. Plus, if I was really separated from God, then I suppose I could keep on sinning anyhow (God isn’t around to see it happen, right?).
There may be some theological reasons for thinking that sin separates us from God. For example, God is holy. The word holy does (to some extent) connote “separated.” However, God is not holy in the sense that God is separated from sinners. God is holy as one who confronts us (separate), but primarily as one who blesses, restores, and helps. As the Holy One, God reaches out (not separate!) and overcomes sin through the reconciling work of the Son as well as the sanctifying work of the Spirit. God is holy in relation to his people—the Redeemer is “the Holy One of Israel” (e.g., Isa 47:4).
I say all this simply to highlight that we have to significantly qualify what we mean when (or if!) we ever say that sin separates us from God.
There is a sense in which sin does separate us from God. In fact, Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (similarly, Eph 2:12 and 4:18). However, when we look at the context of this verse in Isaiah, we know it is not literal: verse 1 speaks of God’s hands and ears and verse 2 speaks of God’s face. This indicates that the biblical author is using metaphorical language in these verses.
Therefore, “separation” between God and humanity is metaphorical. We are only separated from God relationally. Most of us understand what this means. I can even be sitting right beside someone with whom my relationship has (in a sense) been cut off! Similarly, Isaiah 59:2 explains how this “separation” from God means that God is not responding positively to the Israelite’s prayers; metaphorically speaking, God “does not hear” them (v. 2). It certainly does not, however, mean that God does not love them (John 3:16!), as a human relationship “separation” might imply.
So, sin separates us relationally from God. But if we don’t make clear what this “separation” means (and doesn’t mean!), people might end up with unfortunate misunderstandings regarding their relationship with God.
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