Sin and Sinfulness: Their Significance: Part I
Introduction: The three-part series: Sin and Sinfulness: Their Significance brings biblical truth to bear on a subject that is misunderstood and often poorly taught. We speak of sin as it is “something out there.” We speak of sinfulness as an ism. Both words are linked to the person – a sinner. The three words – sin, sinfulness, and sinner are linked. A proper understanding of sin and sinfulness: their significance is critical for the believer to understand the band and good news.
The words sin and sinfulness invokes a number of responses. Some have no idea what the terms mean. Others view them non-theologically. Some think the terms are passé. The subject is often missing from the pulpit. Others may preach on the subject of sin but they often miss the issue of the sinfulness of the sinner prior to salvation and after salvation. Sin and sinfulness: their significance must be properly understood if this country is to an awakening.
Rarely is there a mention of the guilt of sin that has resulted from God’s judgment on Adam after his first sin. As a result all men are born sinners and they do what sinners do, sin. The doctrine of sin and sinfulness are central to Christianity. Its basic message is redemption in and through Christ by the holy Spirit. To say that sin and man’s sinfulness is an important topic is an understatement. Rather, It is a matter of life and death (Romans 6:23)
I saw this paragraph on the internet. It begins: sin is a riddle, a mystery, a reality that eludes definition and comprehension. So much for the Internet! The Bible does not agree with that assessment. Sin and sinfulness: their significance must be taken seriously and given its full weight. The paragraph continues: Perhaps we most often think of sin as wrongdoing or transgression of God’s law. Sin includes a failure to do what is right. But sin also offends people; it is violence and loveless-ness toward others. I think the statement is correct to a degree. The paragraph takes notice of a vertical reference but then moves quickly to the horizontal. Sin and sinning does have a relationship to both references but the Bible makes the vertical reference – first to God -foremost when it speaks of sin. Moreover, unless a correct definition enters into the discussion, sin and sinfulness: their significance will not be God-honoring. of sin define sin.
Another comment from the internet includes the following: In a religious context, sin is an act of transgression against divine law. Each culture has its own interpretation of what it means to commit a sin. Sin is associated with the corruption of a being through acts which are wicked or destructive, such that can cause a being to fall from grace and divine providence. While sins are generally actions, any thought, word, or act considered immoral, selfish, shameful, harmful, or alienating might be termed “sinful”. Note the comment regarding cultural determination of what sin is and sin as act of falling from grace and divine providence. Obviously sin is considered the absence of good and the presence of evil, an attack on God. With these approaches to sin, sin and sinfulness: their significance will never to answered God’s way for His glory and the benefit of the believer..
Obviously there is much confusion (an understatement!) about the nature and definition of sin and si8nfulmness: their significance. The definition of sin is interesting. No matter the source of the definition, sin is considered as an action in terms of lawbreaking according to a standard or inaction according to a standard. That definition is getting closer to the Bible’s view of sin (1 John 3:4; 5:17). However, the Bible views sin as a real evil – the presence of evil and the absence of good. It is a specific kind of evil according to a standard that has been established by God, the ultimate Standard-maker. Sin is a moral evil because sin is a violation of a standard, God’s law and revealed will. Sin also involves a sinner – a lawbreaker – as well as presupposing a Standard-Maker – a lawmaker. Sinners sin. They express their sinfulness.
Sin is theological and spiritual but involves the whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions in both the inner and outer man. Regarding sin and sinfulness: their significance, evil is the absence of good. Both good and evil require defining and a standard. As I have written, in is more than the absence of good – it is the presence to which is antithetical to God. Note that good and evil require a standard, a standard maker, and a standard breaker. Sin is the presence of and the demonstration of evil. At its essence, sin is anti-God, the final and ultimate Standard-maker. The sinner when he sins is competing with and attacking God. Sin is always vertically-oriented and may involve others. These facts are critical for understanding sin and sinfulness: their significance.
Sin, sinners, and sinfulness are realities in this world which is God’s world. Sin involves the whole person. It has a relational aspect (to God, self, and perhaps toward others); a moral-ethical aspect such that sin is a moral and religious activity since man is a religious, worshiping being by God’s creative design; a cognitive aspect because man is rational, thinking being by God’s design; an emotive aspect because man is not only faith-based but also a desire-based being such that he desires and feels which are always linked to thoughts and motivation; and sin has a willful aspect to it even when a person may say he does not want to sin (Romans 7:14-25).
We must go to the Bible, God’s personal, purposeful, and powerful self-revelation and expression. There we learn that sin always a vertical reference – toward the Lawmaker. At the time, it the person’s statement regarding the importance his relationship with God in Christ buy the Holy Spirit. It is an attack on God. Sin which reflects the heart of the person, but more accurately, the sinner attacks God’s wisdom and goodness. The angels in heaven and Adam and Eve in the Garden freely and willfully chose another counselor and provider and his words. They were trying to get; they were not satisfied with God and what they had. Neither the angels had an internal reason to sin. Adam and Eve but not the angles had external influence but the serpent did not appeal to anything in Adam and Eve.
1. How do you define sin?
2. Sin has a thinking (cognitive) aspect to it. What is the significance of this fact?
3. Sin has an emotive aspect to it. What is the significance of this fact?
4. Sin has a willful aspect to it. What is the significance of this fact?
Misconceptions: Part II
Continuing our discussion: sin and sinfulness: their significance, we often hear the mantra: God hates the sin but loves the sinner. Sin is considered only an ethical act – a behavior that needs to be stopped for any number of reasons but foremost because it causes hardships to the sinner and his family. A vertical reference is missing. Rightly considered, sin is an affront to God. But sin springs from within – the heart – and even though saved, the believer is still a sinner. He has within his whole person remaining sinfulness. Yet the believer as a result of re-creation – regeneration – has the capacity to think God’s thoughts, desire what God desires, and to obey from the heart. But he does not perfectly while on this earth. He has not reached perfection.
Sometimes a person can focus so much on sin especially when sin considered only as act, that he misses the fact man is a whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions. Actions express the heart that includes thoughts and desires. The believer is to guard his heart for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).
Sin is a problem only because man is a sinner AND because God is the just Judge and holy Lawmaker. Law is part of God’s environment. There were rules in heaven and pre-fall (before Adam and Eve sinned). God is a God of order and rule that reflects that every aspect of His character. Rules are good. When His laws are broken (disobedience) rightly there are consequences – misery of various types. Sinners are miserable unless they are saved and then there is still misery. But because the Triune God has provided His solution in Christ by the Holy Spirit, there is hope for saved sinners.
God hates sinners and sin (Psalm 5:5: The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong; Psalm 7:11: God is a righteous judge who expresses his wrath every day; Psalm 11:5: The Lord examines the righteous but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates). Sinners are in hell and not sin. Sinners are the problem. God saves sinner – people. Many believers acknowledge their sin in varying degrees. But it is another thing to acknowledge their sinfulness as patterned thinking, wanting, and doing. They have a regenerated heart but still harbor a patterned self-pleasing habituation. Worship goes on within the person’s heart (root activity) and fruit is manifested by sinful thoughts, desires, and actions.
All mankind has the tendency and capacity to excuse his sin and his patterned sinfulness. This is true of the believer as well. However, the believer does come to his senses by virtue of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 15:17-18 – the prodigal son; Psalm 73 especially verses 16-18, 21-22; Job 42:5-6). Every believer must and will come to his sense. Sooner or later he realizes that confession and repentance are necessary. Both must be vertically-directed (to God) because all sin is vertical. Often sin has a horizontal reference. When appropriate, confession and repentance must be given to others.
In general, it seems hard to confess sin. Such is sin and sinfulness: their significance. People have trouble owning their sin. How can you personally own your sin and how can you help others do the same? Start with yours and the person’s view of God. A high view of God leads to a right view of sin and self. It also leads to a right view of others (Matthew 7:1-6). The Bible teaches that God is holy. Holiness is often misunderstood. Biblical holiness focuses on God’s set-apartness and otherness. He is in a class by Himself. You are to come into His presence with fear and trembling.
Isaiah came to grips with God’s holiness upon a glimpse of the train of His robe. Faced with a holy God, Isaiah did the only logical thing: he made an accurate testimony of himself. He then counseled himself! He said: I am a man of unclean lips. He confessed God’s holiness and his own un-holiness and unworthiness (Isaiah 6:1-10). Further Moses wrote that God is the just Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). A holy and righteous God must judge (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). .In Psalm 51, David came to grips with a number of things about God and himself, one of which was God’s justice (51:3-4). David, like Paul as described in 1Timothy 1:12-16, acknowledged that he alone had offended a just, holy God. God judgment was just. These two men were motivated to confess their sins and patterned sinfulness. It took David a much longer time but he, too, came to his senses. Each came to grips with sin and sinfulness: their significance.
Often, people don’t appreciate sin and sinfulness in them because they do not appreciate radical depravity or radical heart corruption. This phrase refers to the remaining corruption and sinfulness in the believer. Theologians refer to this as indwelling sin. People don’t believe they are as bad as they truly are. Therefore, regeneration is not considered such a miraculous and supernatural activity. This low view of God and the work of the Spirit is contrary to John’s teaching (John 3:3-8; 6:63).
If man is not as bad as the Bible says he is, then he can save and sanctify himself. He does not need a savior – he has himself. While denied, this is the mindset of many people even those that say they are Christians. The Bible emphasizes God’s goodness as opposed to man’s badness. A good God does not deserve to be sinned against. Moreover, this good God is your Father if you are a believer. As Father, He disciplines His children for their good and His glory (Hebrews 12:5-11). As the just Judge our God (if you are a believer) is compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6-7). He will not leave His children especially to worship at the false altar of self. He saves sinners especially those who are unlovely and humanly unlovable (Romans 5:6-10).
1. Where are you in your Christian life? Do you consider repentance a friend?
2. In answering, consider Jesus and the cross. What do you learn about sin, self, and God?
3. Jesus went to hell on the cross in your place. What does that say about hell, judgment, and God’s wrath in regard to you?
Sin and Sinfulness: Their Significance: Part III
A Holy God and Sin
Continuing the discussion sin and sinfulness: their significance, let’s look more closely at the holiness of God. God is holy. What does that mean? It has at least aspects. In His being, God is absolutely distinct from all of His creatures AND He is exalted above them in absolute majesty. We use such terms as His otherness, His uniqueness, and His absolute overpowering-ness in an attempt to understand the concept of the holiness of God. He is in a class all Himself (He is sui generis) and as such He is majestic. He is separate from His people. He is not them! He demands purity from His people; He hates sin but the sinner if he is a saved sinner (Psalms 5:5 and 7:11). As a holy God, He judges justly thereby comforting believers and warning unbelievers (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
Having a holy God motivates believers to view God as One who is inapproachable unless He, not man, makes some type of provision for ma to move toward Him. The holy God is a Lawmaker and command-giver so that He governs His word His way for His glory AND for the good of the believers. The holy God is to be exalted and worshipped for who he is. He is jealous for His honor which He will not share or give to another. God’s holiness refers to His purity. He has no spot or blemish to mar or distort His Being. There is nothing in His nature that is not perfect. Moreover, He defines perfection.
Being aware of a holy God leads the believer to consider hell and the wrath and judgment of God. Even though salvation is more than a fire escape out of hell, the reality of hell follows upon the heels of God’s holiness. Hell is factual, fearful, fair, and final (Hebrews 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 5:29; 13:42; 25:33; Luke 16:28). The fact of hell is another manifestation of the holiness of God and should motivate the believer to be holy as God is holy (Mathew 5:48; John 12:41-42; 1 Peter 1:16).
The holiness of God is demonstrated in His lawmaking and lawgiving and in His justice as He rewards the lawkeeper and curses the lawbreaker. There is no other Being like Him in any way. The question is asked several times in Scripture: “who is like him, who compare with him?” (Exodus 15:11; Psalm 35:9-10; 71:19-21; 77:10-13; 86:8-10; 89:5-8; Isaiah 40:18,25; 46:5; Micah 7:18). The answer is no one. He is sui generis.
With that background it is time to see how the Bible defines sin. It defines sin using a variety of words in the original language in both the Old and New Testaments. From the Old Testament, one word carries the idea of bent or twisted out of shape. Man was designed for God-pleasing but sin made it impossible for man to accomplish what God designed him for – pleasing him. Another word also focuses on sin’s effect: the picture is one of destruction and tragedy. Other words picture sin as rebellion against God, unrest and double-minded in the soul, unfaithfulness which is actually spiritual adultery, guilt, lawlessness, and wandering and missing the mark. The last word (chatha) closely corresponds to the New Testament word hamartia. The New Testament carries the same type of in-depth, multi-faceted, vivid description regarding sin.
From the brief summary, it is important to note that the Bible has much to say about sin. Sin and its effects are the results of the first man’s rebellion against God and God’s righteous judgment. Only a magnificent, truly holy, wise, powerful, and trustworthy God can and does provide a remedy for man’s greatest problem – sin and sinfulness. Actually man is the problem. We tend to miss that point. Saved sinners are in heaven and unsaved sinners are in hell. Whether sin is ongoing in hell is another issue. It is hard to believe that in eternity there was continued rebellion against God!
But we are addressing man’s problem now – on this earth. As a result of Adam’s first sin, every person (except Christ) is born a sinner and begins to sin in the womb (Psalm 51:5). Man the unsaved sinner would continue as such unless God acted in him and for him. God does by the Son and through the Holy Spirit. Salvation is 100% God and 0% man. Fallen man does not like that biblical truth but God says so (Jonah 2:9; John 3:3-8; Romans 1:16-17; 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Ephesians 1:4-11; 2:8-9). .However, there is life after salvation which is a reality for the believer. Life after salvation is not simply going to Church, reading the Bible, praying, and evangelism. Certainly, those activities are to be joyfully practiced. But the overriding emphasis of life after salvation is growth in Christlikeness.
Another term for that growth is progressive sanctification. As a whole person the believer begins to mare and more think God’s thoughts, desire what God desires, and acts according. The work is 100% God via the Holy Spirit and 100 % the believer. The Holy Spirit works in him, with him but never for him or against him (Philippians 2:12-13). Growth comes as the believer has a correct view of God, himself, sin, and God’s solution for him in his sin, He rejoices as he puts off self and sin and puts on Christ. He does this because self has been put off in Christ, Christ’s relationship with the believer and the believer’s with Christ.
A seminal passage that depicts this dynamic is Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live I the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. There are many metaphors for growth in Christ such as the put of-put on dynamic (Romans 13:12-14; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-10), the dynamic of denying self and take up your cross (Matthew 10:32-38; 16:23-24; Mark 8:31ff; Luke 9:23-24; 14:25-27; John 12:25-26) and putting on the fruit of the Holy Spirit in lieu of the “lusts’ of the flesh (Galatians 5:22-23). Growth in Christlikeness is a must for believers. A proper understanding of sin is a start I the right direction.
1. Define God’s holiness and its implications.
2. If God is holy what is the unsaved person?
3. God calls people to be holy as He is holy: how is that possible?
4. What is progressive sanctification and what is its significance?