One of my favorite professors in seminary was Dr. Larry Hart. He was a godly man, a wonderful teacher, and had a great sense of humor (much like mine!). I always sat in the front row of classes when I had opportunity to pick my seat, and I especially enjoyed being in the front when Dr. Hart was teaching. One day during the course of a Systematic Theology class, Dr. Hart began by saying, “Class, we’re going to be talking about sin today. Now, I personally know nothing about it, so we’ve brought in an expert guest speaker today. Brother Ben is making his way from the front row to the podium now to discuss it with us?!”
It is vitally important that we study what the Bible teaches about sin. Apart from knowing what the Scriptures say about sin we cannot properly call the unbeliever to repentance and salvation or call the believer to repentance and sanctification. During this month’s newsletter we will look at 7 Biblical Points About Sin. (*note: we looked at 8 points on service during 7-17-19. Sermon is at website.)
POINT 1—GOD DEFINES SIN (Gen. 2:16-17; Ex. 20:1-17; Matt. 5:21-48; Rom. 14:23; James 4:16-17)…From the moment that the Almighty created man and first spoke to him, it is clear that God alone gets to define what sin is. The Lord clearly tells Adam that he may eat from all the trees in the Garden of Eden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now there are many who would think and/or say, “what’s the big deal about eating a piece of fruit! How could mankind and indeed all of Creation fall and be subject to a curse due to biting an apple (we’re not sure it’s an apple-though it did make us rotten to the core!)” I’ll tell you why partaking of the forbidden fruit is a big deal, because GOD DEFINES SIN! Fast forward about 2,000 years and the children of Israel have just been delivered from Egyptian bondage. Moses goes up on the mountain and receives the 10 Commandments on stone tablets engraved by the hand of God Himself. You might not think lying is a notable trangression, culture may not think adultery is a terrible thing, but what matters is that God condemns such things with “Thou shall not!” GOD DEFINES SIN! Let’s proceed another 2,000 years and Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount. He speaks of things such as adultery and declares that not only is the act itself a sin, but if you have lustful thoughts in your heart and mind then you stand condemned as well. There are those who think that “as long as you look and don’t touch, you’re okay.” Many believe, especially men, that they can look at images in a magazine or on a computer screen and it’s not hurting anyone, so no harm and no foul. However, Jesus said it was sin. GOD DEFINES SIN! The Apostle Paul teaches us in Romans that not only is anything that Scripture forbids a sin, but additionally that anything you cannot do in good faith with a clear conscience is a sin. James, the Lord’s half-brother, further instructs us that not only is a sin doing something wrong that God forbids, but that sin is also failing to do something right that God commands. The culture might not think certain things are sins that actually are sins (such as homosexuality; what they might call “an alternative lifestyle”). A cult leader might attempt to control people’s lives by telling them that certain things are sins that actually aren’t sins (such as getting married or eating certain foods). However, neither the culture nor the cult leader, nor anyone else for that matter, gets to define what sin is. GOD DEFINES SIN!
POINT 2—SINCE THE FALL, ALL ARE BORN INTO SIN AND HAVE A SIN NATURE (Eph. 2:1-3; Psalm 51:5)…There is a popular belief in the world today that “all people are basically good.” However, that’s not what Scripture teaches. Ephesians 2:1-3 clearly instructs us that unless we have come to faith in Christ, then we are dead in our trespasses and sins and are by nature children of wrath. In Psalm 51:5 David declares that “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” He is not stating there that his mother somehow conceived him in an act of fornication or adultery, but rather that he, as all men after the Fall of Adam, are born into sin and have a sin nature. Since all humans are born into sin and throughout their lives engage in sin, then all mankind stands in need of forgiveness.
POINT 3—ALL SIN IS ULTIMATELY AGAINST GOD (Psalm 51:4; Mark 2:1-11)…Since God defines sin and is the only sinless One, then all sins are ultimately against God Himself. Psalm 51 is David’s recorded repentance from committing adultery with Bathsheba and basically signing the death warrant for her husband Uriah. In verse 4 the famous king states to God, “Against You, You only, I have sinned.” Now David here is not denying that he had done wrong by Bathsheba and Uriah nor is he denying that we should repent to and make restitution in some way to those we have wronged, but he is recognizing the truth that all sin is ultimately against God. The opening verses of the second chapter of Mark’s gospel tell of the paralytic man who was brought to Jesus by four of his friends. The Lord does heal the man, but not immediately. Before Christ commands the man to pick up his pallet and go home, He tells the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven. The religious leaders who heard Jesus’ comments were accusing Christ of blasphemy in their hearts because they believed that only God could forgive sins. In this belief they were right, where they went wrong was not believing that Jesus was God. Now, if I told a lie against you and then sought forgiveness from John Doe; that would make no sense. Mr. Doe could say he forgave me, but my sin was not against him, my sin was against you. Why can God rightly forgive sin? Because ultimately all sin is against Him!
POINT 4—SIN BRINGS DEATH (Gen. 2:16-17; Ezekiel 18:4; Rom. 6:23)…God not only defined sin from the very beginning of mankind, but He also told man what the penalty for sin would be. In no uncertain terms Adam and Eve were admonished that in the day they ate the forbidden fruit they would die. Now someone might say that Scripture records they lived many years after that dreadful day. However, there is more to life than physical life that no matter how long it’s experienced is temporary; there is a spiritual life for every man and woman that is eternal. And in the spiritual sense, death was issued forth when the fruit was eaten, a death that every human since has been born into and an eternal death for those who do not put faith in Christ that is described by Jesus as eternal conscious torment in a place where the fire is not quenched and the worm does not die (Mark 9:48). The prophet Ezekiel puts it succinctly (a trait that I am usually not blessed with) when he states, “the soul who sins (which is every soul) will die.” In the New Testament letter of Romans the Apostle Paul tells us clearly that, “the wages of sin is death.” Someone may be tempted to think, “isn’t that a mean God who would punish in such an extreme way.” However, the same perfectly just and perfectly righteous God who defines sin is the One who also sets its penalty. God would not be perfectly just and perfectly righteous if He just let sin go. You know this instinctively. When you hear of a rich billionaire who got away with a slap on the wrist for molesting minors, you’re upset with the judge. When you hear of a murderer who escapes prison because of a technicality or a high powered legal team, you’re upset with the judge. Sin must be punished, and every sin will be punished by the perfect, just, righteous, and holy God of All; and the punishment for sin is death!
POINT 5—GOD FORGIVES THE SIN OF THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST (Rom. 6:23; Rom. 5:17)…As we already looked at, the first part of Romans 6:23 states “the wages of sin is death”, but thanks be to God for the last half of the verse, the good news, the great news, the gospel news that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I ended the last point by saying that every sin will be punished by God and that the punishment is death. Indeed, that is true. However, for those who repent of sin and put trust in the sinless Savior, Christ died the death that we should have died, the righteous wrath of God for our sin was poured out upon Him. We who were under the reign of death now can be forgiven and reign in life (spiritual life) through Jesus Christ! We who were bound can be free, we who were lost can be found, we who were doomed for damnation can now be destined for glory, we who were children of wrath can now be children of God, we who were in the kingdom of darkness can be translated into the kingdom of light! Glory be to His Holy Name! The Name of Jesus! The Only Name under Heaven whereby we can be saved! The Name to which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord! If you haven’t repented and put trust in Christ as the ONLY One who could pay the price for your sins and bring you salvation, then I encourage you with all the sincerity and gravity I can muster, do it now, do it today! It indeed is a matter (better said, THE matter) of life and death!
POINT 6—GENUINE BELIEVERS DO SIN (Matt. 6:9-13; Matt. 18:15-18; Rom. 3:23; Heb. 12:4-6; James 5:16; 1 John 4:7-8)…Those who have put trust and faith in Christ have had the penalty of sin paid and the power of sin broken by Jesus. However, during their time in this life, until the moment when they see Christ face to face, they live in a fallen world and walk around in a flesh that is not yet glorified. Genuine believers still sin. In what we call the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This instruction was given to believers. The “debts” are sins. When Jesus teaches on church discipline He says that “if your brother sins” then we are to confront him privately. If he does not repent then we take two or three with us to confront the sinning brother. If that still does not yield repentance, then we take the sinning brother before the whole church. If there is still no repentance then we treat him as an unbeliever, which he has proven himself to be. However, at all points in this process, the assumption to be held onto until the very end is that the sinning one is a brother. Genuine believers still sin. Romans 3:23 declares that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The “fall short” is in the present tense and is indicative of all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. The writer of Hebrews (whom I think is Paul) instructs those believers that they have not yet resisted sin to the point of shedding blood and exhorts them that God disciplines His children. If they were not genuine believers then they would not be striving against sin, but would be yielded to it. If they were not believers who had sinned, then God would have no need to discipline them. James tells us that we are to confess our sins to one another with the understanding that this is being done within the context of a genuine believing community. John tells us even more plainly in his epistle that “if we (the “we” here obviously means believers as the Apostle is including himself in the mix by using the word “we”) say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
POINT 7—BETTER SAID, GENUINE BELIEVERS STRUGGLE WITH SIN (Rom. 5:20-6:2; Rom. 7:21-8:4; Philippians 3:1-14; 1 John 1:9-2:2)…Before coming to Christ, we are in love with sin, but after coming to Christ we are at war with sin. In Romans 5:20-6:2 Paul asks the question that in light of the fact that where sin abounds grace much more abounds, should we (believers) continue in sin so that grace may abound? He answers with a resounding, GOD FORBID! In Romans 7:21-8:4 Paul speaks of an internal war inside himself where his inner man seeks to walk after God but his mind/flesh want to take him towards sin. He professes his sinful failings by declaring that he is (a present tense verb) a wretched man, but then gives thanks to Christ who has set those who are His genuine children free from condemnation. In Philippians 3:1-14 Paul recounts his “good” works with regards to the law in his life before he knew Christ, but then declares them as refuse. For indeed, we cannot be saved by “good” works, for the very best of our works apart from faith in Jesus are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). The Apostle then goes on to state that now that he knows the Lord, he presses toward the mark of the high calling of God. However, he is also quick to confess that he has not obtained that high mark as of yet (nor will he until he is finally and fully in the presence of Christ). Finally we will quickly look at 1 John 1:9-2:2. John instructs us (believers) that if we say we have no sin then we are deceived. Indeed, the only way we can grow in Christ is to confess our sins to Him, the Advocate who is faithful and just to forgive believers of their sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. However, John is not writing to us (believers) about these truths so that we would feel “good” about our sin and continue in sin, but rather he writes these truths to us so that we would not sin.
Let me close by again pointing out the vital importance of a biblical doctrine of sin which we’ve looked at briefly and in part in this month’s newsletter. If we deny that God defines sin and water it down with words like indiscretion, mistake, or bad choice; then we have taken God’s place and engaged in idolatry. If we deny that all are born into sin and that sin is punished with death, then we will never see nor know the need for the Savior. If we deny that forgiveness of sin is found in Christ alone, then we either establish a works based righteousness or follow a false religion (neither of which will save). If we deny that genuine believers still sin, then we not only blatantly disagree with the clear teaching of Scripture (as well as deny what we and those who have anything to do with us know intuitively and by observation), but we will never progress in sanctification (or likely even see the need for it). If we deny that believers struggle with sin and think that we can still be in love with our sin, then we are almost certainly false converts who have need to genuinely repent and put trust in Christ.