I have met several patients of cancer in my life. Some of them have gone through surgery or other kinds of therapy to get rid of the cancerous tissue. On more than one occasions the treatment was successful. But, the doctor's never said that the patients were cured. The doctors always said that the patients were in remission. I wondered what that meant. And as I found out, I realized that remission from a disease is very similar to how God deals with Sin. Let us talk a little about cancer and remission, and after this we will make the parallels between Sin and cancer, and being in remission from a disease and Sin.
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. Cancer can be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapy or other methods. The choice of therapy depends upon the location and grade of the tumor and the stage of the disease, as well as the general state of the patient (performance status). There are challenges inherent in some of the treatment that can limit its effectiveness. The effectiveness of chemotherapy is often limited by toxicity to other tissues in the body. Radiation can also cause damage to normal tissue. 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 cancers to invade adjacent tissue or to spread to distant sites by microscopic metastasis often limits its effectiveness.
That is why it is not said that a person is to be cured of cancer, but that the cancer is in remission. A remission is a temporary end to the medical signs and symptoms of an incurable disease. Remission is the state of absence of disease activity in patients known to have a chronic illness that cannot be cured. It is commonly used to refer to absence of active cancer or inflammatory bowel disease when these diseases are expected to 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 in this earth, those who live by faith can stop committing Sin; however their sinful nature is still alive. As long as we live in this Earth, Sin is always a threat. Just like 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 upper hand. But, as long as we subject ourselves to the Jesus treatment, Sin will be in remission. This is what Peter talks about Jesus in Acts 10:43,
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 verb believeth in the Greek is in the continual present. This means that it should read as such, "whosoever continually believes in Him …" Also, the Greek word for believe here is the same for faith. So, "whosoever continually has faith – believes, trust, has confidence …" So, the remission of Sin comes through believing and so does righteousness. We know this from Genesis 15:6,
Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Ellen White said 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" (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 367). So, now we see that there is a relationship between remission of Sin, "not perishing, but having everlasting life," and being righteous. Believing causes all three. So, this means that those who are righteous by continually believing, experience remission of Sin, and eventually receive incorrupt and immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53).
The word righteous is a synonym for just. So, the expression justification by faith means, made righteous by continually believing. So, Paul tell the Galatians,
Galatians 2:16 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.
True justification by faith always produces law keeping Christians. And, since the law is summed up (fulfilled) in Love (Romans 10:13), true justification by faith always produces people that love God above all things and their neighbor as themselves (Galatians 5:14).