PART 1-THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF SIN
CHAPTER 1-THE NATURE OF SIN
Sin is a patent fact--its reality does not need to be argued. Sin is a fact of experience, of observation, and of revelation. Sin is something I feel in my own heart; it is something I see in others, even in my best friends and loved ones; and it is something revealed in the Bible. The policeman pursues it, the physician prescribes for it, the law discovers it, conscience condemns it, God controls and punishes it, and yet nobody likes to own it. But as a matter of fact, sin is all that anyone owns; he is a steward of everything else he may possess. Obvious as sin is, there is a proneness to treat it like some folks treat their trashy relatives; it is ignored and even denied.
Sin may be defined but it cannot be explained. To explain sin is to explain it away. How sin got started in the universe is a profound mystery. It had no place in the original creation, which God pronounced good. Sin is a parasite, an interloper, an outlaw cell in the moral system, and a terrible monstrosity. Sin made its appearance on earth in a garden of delights, after it had defiled the heavens, and turned this fair earth into a wilderness of woe. In the original creation we read only of heaven and earth, but later we are told of everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Sin is a cheat, a deceiver, and a destroyer. It promises pleasure and pays off in pain. It promises life and pays off in death. It promises profit and pays off in poverty--the loss of all good. Every sin is committed for profit. Nobody would sin if he did not think it would profit in some form or other. There is profit in sin, but it is short-lived. Moses took a long look and made the wise choice. He chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. He chose in view of the day of judgment.
Sin is dangerous beyond expression and description. Sin is violation of the moral law of God, and violated law cries out for just retribution. Sin is against God, the Judge of all the earth, and must be accounted for before God. Crime is against human society. Human society may and does punish crime, but only God can punish sin. Human society may fail to punish the criminal, but God will not fail to punish the sinner who is without a Saviour. All crime against men is also sin against God, but all sin against God is not crime against men. Human society punishes men for what they do; God punishes men for what they are and in proportion to what they do. Every sinner will either be punished in his own person or in the person of a Surety and Substitute, even the Lord Jesus Christ, the Surety of the better covenant. The only possible way for any sinner to be brought into the favor of God as the Lawgiver was for Christ the Just to suffer for the unjust. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:" (#1Pe 3:18).
1. Modernism: "Sin is good in the making." John Fiske (1842-1901), says that original sin is neither more nor less than the brute inheritance which every man carries with him, and the process of evolution is an advance towards true salvation. According to this view, the human race is on the way to salvation; there is no hope for the individual; the race will be saved when the process of evolution has made it perfect. It is like the process of improving the razor-back hog by breeding. According to this view there is no individual responsibility and therefore no individual salvation. Poor hope for the individual who cries out, "What must I do to be saved?" Cold war everywhere, and shooting wars in various places, with terrible consequences to human happiness and safety, give the lie to the evolutionary process of salvation.
2. Christian Science: "Sin is a figment of a perverted imagination---an imaginary creation of abnormal minds." In other words sin does not actually exist; it is not a reality. Some people just imagine they sin, and this imagination is a disease of the mind. The man who is convicted of sin is unbalanced, and the man who mourns over sin and seeks forgiveness from God is terribly insane. Such nonsense is refuted by science, and Scripture, and common sense. When the prodigal came to himself, he said, "I have sinned." The insane man is the one who denies the fact of sin. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us" (#1Jo 1:10).
3. The Popular View: regards sin as only crime against society. Sinners are young men sowing wild oats, prostitute women, murderers, and gangsters. Some seventy or more years ago the Japanese resented the preaching of Paul Kanamoro. They complained that he talked to them as if he were an official talking to convicts. They confounded sin with vice. They could not distinguish between sin and crime. Every person is a sinner, but all are not vicious or criminals. There are many virtuous women, but no sinless women. There are many law-abiding men but no sinless men. There are many beautiful babies, but no baby without a sinful nature. "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (#Ps 51:5); "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies" (#Ps 58:3); "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (#Eph 2:1-3).
1. Westminster Confession: "Sin is any lack of conformity to, or transgression of the law of God." This is a good definition and includes both sins of commission and of omission. The moral law of God---the eternal standard of right and wrong is summed up in supreme love to God and to our neighbor as ourselves.
2. A.H. Strong: "Sin is any lack of conformity to the law of God, whether in act, disposition, or state." This is a better definition, since it recognizes sin as a condition of human nature. Sin resides in the heart; it is quality of being.
3. The Apostle John: "Sin is the transgression of the law" (#1Jo 3:4). Or more literally: "Sin is lawlessness." There can be no sin where there is no law. If there is no Lawgiver to Whom we must give account, then there can be no sin, for sin is lawlessness.
There is a Bible word which means "to miss the mark, "and it is translated sin some 200 times in our Bible. Man has missed the mark-- he has missed the purpose of his being. Man was created to reflect the glory of his creator, but he has missed this aim and has come short of the glory of God.
Man is like a clock that fails to tell the time of day; he is like a car that will not run; he is like coal that will not burn. Man is a failure in the greatest and grandest enterprise--he has failed to glorify God.
There is another word used to describe sin which means "to turn aside from the straight path." This conception of sin is expressed in "But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow" (#Ps 78:57), where God complains that Israel has turned aside like a deceitful bow. And again in Isaiah where we are told that all like sheep have gone astray, and turned everyone to his own way. Man is off-center. Instead of revolving around God, and making God' s will his chief delight, man has become a wandering star in the moral firmament.
Sin may be defined as competition with God for sovereignty- competition in the realm of authority. This view of sin is seen in the story of the first sin as recorded in Genesis three. The word sin does not occur in the account, but the fact of sin does, and the nature of sin is also clearly revealed. Satan told Eve that if they would eat of the forbidden fruit, their eyes would be opened, and they would become as God, knowing good and evil. And when the deed was done, God said, "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (#Ge 3:22)
Now, in what sense did man become like God by sinning? Obviously, it was not in respect to character, for in sinning he lost the good character with which he was created. Nor can it mean that man acquired the Divine attributes such as power, holiness, and wisdom. In sinning man lost the power to live and die; he lost his original holiness and became filthy or depraved; and he lost the wisdom of his original creation and became a fool, sin brought death, depravity, and delusion. Sin is consummate folly.
The only possible sense in which man became like God was in spirit and aim--not in reality. Adam and Eve asserted their independence of God. They would make their own laws and do as they pleased. They rebelled against His will for their lives. They rejected His expressed will as to what they could have. They would determine (know for themselves) what is good and evil--what is right and wrong. They would no longer be tied to God's Word about what they could do. They would be a law unto themselves and do as they pleased. They would do that which was right in their own eyes. Thus, they entered into competition with God for sovereignty. In spirit and aim they made themselves God. They would make their own will supreme.
Every sin is competition with God in the realm of authority. If I have the right to determine what is right and wrong, then I am God-I am supreme in the matter of authority. Sin is, therefore, a decoration of independence before God, and this means war, for God has said "I am God, and there is none else" (#Isa 46:9). And again, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (#Ex 20:3). Great Britain could do little about it when the American Colonies declared their independence--she lost the war. But there is much God can do with His rebellious creatures. The sinner is waging a hopeless war against his Creator. God is a jealous God and will tolerate no rivals or competitors. God is the one and only person in all the universe who has the right and the ability to do as He pleases. He is the only one who has the right to act for his own glory. All that God does, whether in mercy or in justice, is to the praise of His glory. Salvation is primarily to the praise of His glory. "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory" (#Eph 1:1-14).
Is sin real? Ask Adam and hear him bemoan his loss of Eden. Is sin real? Ask Abel. He cannot speak, but his blood cries to God for vengeance against his murderer. Is sin real? Ask David and hear him say, "I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me." Is sin real? Ask the rich man in hell and listen as he says, "I am tormented in this flame." Is sin real? Ask Pharoah and hear him say, "I have sinned, "when he discovered a dead boy in every home and a dead animal in every stable throughout all the land of Egypt, Goshen excepted because of blood of the passover lamb. Is sin real? Ask Peter and hear his confession: "Depart from me for I am a sinful man." Is sin real? Ask Christian parents and hear them as they pray for their godless children. Is sin real? Ask the Son of God and hear Him as He cries out under its terrible load, "My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me." Is sin real? Ask the martyrs and let them tell you the price they paid for resisting sin unto blood.
The holier a man is the more he realizes what sin is. The fewer acts of sin are on the part of those who grieve over the state of sin. A J. Gordon, the great Baptist preacher of Boston, was a godly man, and yet just before he died, he asked to be left alone. He was overheard confessing his sins so extravagantly that it was thought he was in delirium. Luther was wont to cry out, "Oh, my sins, my sins" Jonathan Edwards was said to be the holiest man of his day, and yet his diary contains such abhorrence of himself as would make one think he was the most wicked of all.
Sin as an act of transgression is only a small part of sin. Nine tenths of the mass of an iceberg is below the surface, so that only a small part of the total is seen. And there is far more sin in every man than ever appears on the surface in actual transgression. The potential evil is about the same in every man. The Bible says there is no difference for all have sinned. If we have not sinned outwardly as much as others it is due to the restraining grace of God and not to anything good in our nature. When our Lord said that out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adultries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. He was not describing any particular heart but the heart of every man. When Paul said that the carnal mind is enmity against God, he was speaking of the mind of humanity.
The sinner is God's competitor; the Saviour is God's co-operant. The first Adam competed with God for sovereignty and ruined all of us; the last Adam, Jesus Christ, cooperated with God for our salvation. The first Adam said, "I will; "the last Adam said, "Not my will, but Thy will be done." The first Adam despised the will of God; the last Adam said, "I delight to do Thy will, O God." And God's will led Him along the rough road of suffering through gloomy Gethsemane to bloody Calvary, where He cried, "It is finished." All men are victims of the terrible tragedy of Eden; all believers are victors through the tragedy of Calvary. And may writer and reader bow in adoring wonder.