Since Adam and Eve were holy and righteous before they sinned and Jesus has now restored relationship with God, why are we still not holy and still sin?
The person who trusts in Jesus Christ (a Christian) is both holy and righteous in God’s sight already, because of Jesus’ work for us on the Cross! However, we’re still awaiting the final redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23), when we will be perfected and live a completely righteous life.
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3), all humanity has, what can be called, a sinful nature. That is, every single person has been tainted by Adam’s sin. They sin like Adam did (Ephesians 2:1-3), and they are born guilty before God (Psalm 51:5). Therefore, there is no-one who is righteous or holy before God (Romans 3:10). Every single person is under God’s wrath (Romans 3:19-20) and is facing judgment. However, when someone believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are radically changed. In Romans 4, Paul uses the example of Abraham: to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:5).
What this means is that the person who trusts God (who takes God at this word), is made righteous. How is it that someone who is unrighteous can be made righteous? When Jesus died on the Cross, God placed all my sin and unrighteousness upon Jesus. As Jesus hung on the Cross, Jesus faced God’s judgment at my sin. He faced God’s wrath for all my unrighteousness (1 Peter 3:18). But more than that, since Jesus lived a fully perfect, obedient life before God (He was the only man who is truly righteous), He can give his righteousness to me (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The result of this “swap” (Jesus taking on himself our unrighteousness and giving us his righteousness) is that we are now really righteous before God. That is why Paul says in Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith…” Our justification (being made righteous) is a past event.
Living in two ages
So if Christians have been justified, why do they keep on sinning? The answer is that the Christian lives in two ‘ages’. These two ages can be classified as ‘the present age’ or ‘in Adam,’ and ‘the age to come’ or ‘in Christ’. Those ‘in Adam’ are enslaved to sin and death. But those who are ‘in Christ’ have been freed and now have life (see Romans 5:12-21).
However, these two ages overlap. That is, the Christian is still part of this present age while simultaneously being a member of the age to come. This is why we still experience sin and the effects of sin in our life. And it is why, although we have been justified, we still struggle with sin (as Paul expects for Christians, Romans 6:11-14; Galatians 5:16-18).
Members of the age to come
Wonderfully, though, when Christ returns, this ‘present age’ will be finally destroyed. Christians will then be solely members of ‘the age to come’ where we will no longer struggle with sin. And where there will be no death or decay (Revelation 11:15; 21:1-4). However, until that day, we groan and long for it. As Paul says in Romans 8:23: “but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”