Isaiah 1:18
The Misunderstanding
By Dr. Ken Matto
(Isa 1:18 KJV) Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Since I became a Christian 39 years ago, I have heard the interpretation of this verse as follows that if one repents and turns to Christ, then their sins which were scarlet would be made as white as snow, meaning a person goes from being a sinner to one who is cleansed. However, in this case that interpretation does not match up with what the verse states and the context in which it is found. When we look at the context of Isaiah 1, God is pronouncing a serious woe upon the nation of Judah. Isaiah 1:1-24 speaks about their impending day of Judgment by the hand of the Chaldeans. Isaiah 1:25-31 speaks about the restoration of Judah if she will heed the warnings the Lord gave in the first 24 verses.
Verse 18 sits in the middle of this warning and is not a salvation verse because the warning of chapter 1 is to an entire nation and not individuals. When we look at verse 18, it speaks about a nation who has sin in their life and is going opposite of the commands of the Lord. So the Lord comes to them and says that their sins are as scarlet but they will be as white as snow and though they be like crimson, they will be as wool. This verse is not speaking about redemption but is a further warning that if their sins continue as they are going, then they will be fully engulfed in sin and God will have no recourse but to judge that nation.
The reason that I am saying that Isaiah 1:18 is not pointing to salvation by grace is because that does not fit the context of what is in view plus it does not harmonize with what is taught in the Scriptures concerning sin and Christ’s sacrifice. If we look at the following verses, we will see a common thread which runs through them.
(Psa 103:12 KJV) As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
(Isa 43:25 KJV) I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
(Isa 44:22 KJV) I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.
(Col 2:13-14 KJV) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; {14} Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
If you will notice the words in these verses, “he removed,” “blotteth out,” “I have blotted out,” “Blotting out,” “took it out of the way.” These five verses all have the common thread of the removal of sins from the believer upon salvation in Christ. The sins which darkened our souls before salvation are gone. They are no longer attached to the believer because God has annihilated them.
Let me give a quick illustration. I show up at your home to paint your car with white paint but the car was towed out to the junkyard two hours before I arrived. I have the paint and I have the brush, but since the car was removed, there is nothing to paint. How can I paint a car that is no longer there? In the same manner, how can one be made white if their sins are no longer there? It is the soul that is cleansed.
Let us look at two practical examples of this in Scripture.
(2 Sam 12:13 KJV) And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
When David sinned with Bathsheba, he had kept from confessing that sin for about a year and since God would not let him get away with that sin and the other accompanying sins such as the murder of Uriah the Hittite, He sent Nathan to David. Nathan then points out the fact that David was the object of his narrative and he was the man who sinned against the Lord. Then Nathan tells David something very interesting, “The Lord has made your sin white.” That is not what he said, he said, “The LORD also hath put away thy sin.” God completely removed the sin from David but, He did not remove the consequences as you study the life of David from this point, there is nothing but hardship and rebellion in his family. The key is, that God took away the sin of David, it is no longer attached to his soul.
(Acts 3:19 KJV) Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
Acts 3:19 is a part of a sermon Peter gave right after the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful at the Temple. After the man was healed, Peter then begins to speak about salvation. In verse 19, notice what Peter states. He states the same actions that God spoke about in Isaiah concerning the blotting out of sin. Notice that Peter did not say, “that your sins be made white as snow.” Peter states that when a person becomes saved, their sins are blotted out. The Greek word for “may be blotted out” is the Greek word “exaleiphô ” which carries with it the meaning of “erase, obliterate, wipe or smear out.” It is the same word used in Colossians 2:14 for “Blotting out.” There is no question about what happens to the sins of the believer, they are obliterated.
Now let us take a look at Isaiah 1:18 and see if it harmonizes with the verses that we just looked at. The words in these verses, “he removed,” “blotteth out,” “I have blotted out,” “Blotting out,” “took it out of the way” all show a removal of sin from the believer, that is, a separation of the sin and the believer. Referencing Isaiah 1:18, I must ask the question, How can sin, that has been removed, be made white as snow. If it is not there, then something else is in view in Isaiah 1:18.
What is in view is how God is making a comparison to leprosy and its representation as an all consuming sin. Judah would have been familiar with the Levitical laws concerning leprosy.
(Lev 13:19-20 KJV) And in the place of the boil there be a white rising, or a bright spot, white, and somewhat reddish, and it be showed to the priest; {20} And if, when the priest seeth it, behold, it be in sight lower than the skin, and the hair thereof be turned white; the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague of leprosy broken out of the boil.
In Leviticus 13:19-20, we read about the priest determining as to whether a person who has leprosy is clean or unclean. Notice in verse 19, it speaks about a reddish spot on the skin. One of the beginning symptoms of leprosy is the red skin or patch. Please note in the following citations from these medical websites with their URL.
Tuberculoid Leprosy Symptoms
Tuberculoid leprosy (also known as paucibacillary leprosy) is the mild form of leprosy. Early symptoms can include one or more light or slightly red patches of skin that appear on the trunk or extremities. This may be associated with a decrease in light-touch sensation in the area of the rash.
In general, the signs and symptoms of leprosy may vary with the form of the disease and include the following:
Flat or raised skin lesions or nodules, often less pigmented than the surrounding skin, though they may reddish or copper colored
Signs and Symptoms of Leprosy
The earliest sign of leprosy is commonly a spot on the skin that may be slightly redder, darker, or lighter than the person's normal skin. The spot may lose feeling and hair. In some people, the only sign is numbness in a finger or toe.
Hansen’s disease (Leprosy) is a bacterial disease of the skin and nerves. Early signs or symptoms may include:
    1) A rash on the trunk of the body and/or extremities
    2) Reddish or pale colored skin patches which do not itch and which may have lost some feeling
Now when we look at the early symptoms of leprosy, in all four medical websites, we see there is a presence of red on the skin. This means that the disease had not yet spread to the entire body but is beginning to and without medical treatment it will engulf the whole body. This is what God is telling Judah in Isaiah 1:18 that if their national sins were to continue, they would eventually be fully permeated with sin and God would have to bring judgment. Do you see the progression which God is warning them about? Though their sins be as scarlet and crimson, in other words, if their sins were cutoff now and they did a national repentance, then God would not judge them but if they allowed the red and scarlet sins to continue, then they would become a totally sinful nation as one who has leprosy in fullest manner and as you know, God did judge them by the hand of Babylon because of their failure to heed the warnings.
(Num 12:10 KJV) And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.
2 Kings 5:27 (KJV) The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
Do you see the verses above and what is the common thread? Both Gehazi and Miriam, because of their sin, were both turned as white as snow. Now with that information concerning the progression of the disease of leprosy and leprosy representing an unbeliever in sin, now look at Isaiah 1:18, and you will now have the proper understanding.
(Isa 1:18 KJV) Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Isaiah 1:18 is also a warning to every person on this planet. We have all witnessed this verse in action. A person starts out with one alcoholic drink and winds up a drunk. A person smokes one marijuana joint and winds up on cocaine or heroin. A person steals a candy bar when they are young and gets away with it and winds up a murderer later on. We have all seen and many have experienced the destructive progression of sin and that is what God was warning Judah about and He continues the warning today.
(1 Cor 10:11-12 KJV) Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. {12} Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
May I suggest in conjunction with this article to read my other article entitled “The Portal Sin” at: