Odd as it may sound, it is a word that many churches, if not most churches have dropped from their vocabulary. We just don’t like talking about it these days. The trouble is, we cannot very well talk about Jesus Christ and the good news of the gospel without also talking about sin. Modern churches have turned the gospel of God into a “God is for you” message, God is on your side, God accepts you just as you are with no strings attached, and if you just do what he says, life will be so much better all the way around. While the early church was described as turning the world upside down, the modern American church can rightly be said to have turned the Word upside down. Without sin, there would be no gospel. And without the gospel, there would be no church. So, let’s talk about sin for a few paragraphs. What does God have to say about sin? And does what God have to say about sin accord with what you think about sin?
The Biblical Definition of Sin
What is sin? To answer this question, we turn to the writings of 1 John. There we find this statement: Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4) John tells us that sin is lawless behavior, behaving in a way that is without, apart from, or better yet, against the law. What law you ask? Why, the law of God of course. So sin is defined by God in his word as living without his law. How does God deal with beings that live without his law? What does God have to say about beings that would dare to conduct their life without consulting his law? To answer that question, you guessed it; we must turn to Scripture once again.
The First Sin
In the beginning, God created man and woman perfect. We know this because God looked at man and woman and said that his creation was וְהִנֵּה־טוֹב מְאֹד, and, behold it was very good. The Hebrew phrase literally means “exceedingly good.” Adam and Eve, our first parents were created abundantly, exceedingly, good. But they both failed to honor God’s law as expressed in his covenant with Adam. Adam and Eve wanted to live without submitting to God’s law. They made a choice not to honor God’s covenant. Hos. 6:7 could not be more clear on the matter. “But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.” Adam transgressed God’s covenant and as a result, all of mankind was cast headlong into sin, condemnation, blindness, and judgment. Sin brought pain, imperfection, sickness, disease, doubt, alienation, death, and eternal judgment. Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree in violation of God’s sacred command and God cursed both of them, their prodigy, and cast them from the garden. One reason many scholars want to relegate Adam and Eve to myth is that they cannot accept the idea that God would act so harshly toward something they consider to be in reality, a minor offense after all. However, breaking the divine covenant is never a minor offense. And it is a contemptuous and arrogant attitude that would embrace that sort of mindset. Nevertheless, I fear that the majority of us Christians in 2016 have adopted precisely that sort of mindset toward our own sin at least and in most cases toward sin in general. Sin is viewed as an unavoidable fact of imperfect beings, winked at with a shrug of the shoulders, and given very serious thought beyond that. Christians have adopted a defeatist attitude toward sin. We use the crutch that we are all sinners, we sin every day, so what is the point of confronting sin in our lives and waging war on it with every fiber of our being to root it out, to kill it. And so we give up. We move along daily sinning all the while, asking God to forgive us with a half-hearted prayer at the end of the day and get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
It didn’t take long for mankind to reach its threshold of evil after the fall. It took humanity all of ~1656 years to once again provoke God to the point that he wiped nearly every human from off the planet with the exception of 8 souls. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5) Man, as a creature of God, is still under a covenantal obligation to acknowledge God in all his ways and to submit to God’s law in all he does. Modern man scoffs at this claim. Modern man, if he acknowledges any god at all, only acknowledges a god that pleases him, not the God whom he is under strict obligation to please. The same was true in the time of Noah. Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. (Gen. 6:11-13) God hates sin so much that he destroyed all of humanity excepting Noah and his family.
Sodom and Gomorrah
Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord. (Gen. 13:13) And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. (Gen. 18:20) The LORD visited Sodom and Gomorrah by way of two angels. The cities were so given over to wickedness that the following was the result: “and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” (Gen. 19:5) The wicked men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the two angels, thinking they were men. Lot even went so far as to offer the men his daughters. But the men would have none of it. As a result, God destroyed the cities. “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” The NT writer, Jude, commented on the situation in Sodom: just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7) God was so intolerant of rampant homosexuality that he completely wiped out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. (2 Sam. 11:2) David lingered too long and his fleshly lust got the better of him. David allowed his sexual urge to cause him to commit adultery. David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. (11:4) As a result of this union, Bathsheba conceived a child. David then attempted to engage in deception, bringing Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband home from war in hopes he would think the child was his. But Uriah refused to have sex with his wife while his comrades were still at war. Uriah was a man of high honor. As a result of David’s sin of adultery, and his failed deception, he decided to add murder to his failings. “He had written in the letter, saying, “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” (2 Sam. 11:15) David’s master plan worked, finally. But God was watching. God is always watching. “Then the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was very sick. Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead.” (2 Sam. 11: 15 & 18) God punished David by killing the child of his adulterous union with Bathsheba. God did not, as so many modern Christians think, understand that David was just an imperfect sinner who made a few mistakes along the way. David committed adultery, then he lied, and finally, he murdered to cover up his sin. And God was watching. God is always watching.
The High Cost of Redemption
But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief. (Isa. 53:10) But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. (Isa. 53:5) About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46) The cross was as much as an act of divine judgment as it was an act of love. In fact, if the cross was not an act of judgment, it could not have been an act of love assuming that God is perfectly righteous. If the cross was a loving act of a perfectly just God, then it necessarily included divine judgment so long as it’s intent was to forgive sin and redeem men. If you do not understand this principle, then you do not understand Christianity. If you do not understand this principle, you do not understand the gospel. And if you do not understand my claim, you should be very upset right now. And I can only hope you are upset enough to read the following article, which provides a discursive overview of Christ’s atonement: http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pt153.htm. God despises sin so much, and sin is so wicked, and God’s love is so profoundly deep, that only his only Son could serve as the object of his wrath in our place in order to release us from the divine curse, from condemnation, from divine judgment. No one else but God could serve as the object of his own wrath in order to redeem man. God’s perfect righteousness would have been compromised if the cross had not served as the object of divine wrath. God could have been loving and forgiven us without crushing Jesus at Calvary. But he could not have remained perfectly righteous, holy, and extended such forgiveness.
What does God have to say about sin? What will God do where sin is concerned? How will God deal with sin on the earth? How will God deal with unrepentant human beings in love with sin?
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:11-15)
How do we respond to these truths of Scripture concerning sin? Some of us contend that Adam and Eve was literary myth. We reject the historicity of the flood. We consider the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to be about something other than homosexuality. We accuse the God that killed David’s baby of being a projection of ancient, unsophisticated, bloody, violent men. We reject the cross as an object of divine wrath and prefer rather to view it as religious hypocrites with their rules murdering a good man. Others think the cross was nothing more than God giving us a good example and self-sacrificing service. Finally, we reject the idea of final judgment, believing that a loving God would never subject any human to eternal punishment. The message of love is contradictory to the message of wrath. Moreover, the prevalent attitude is that sin is not really that big of a deal. We all sin every day. We are sinners. We are not perfect. Don’t make more out of it than it is. No one is perfect. Sin is just humans being human. But if we begin with Genesis 1 and read through Revelation 22, we understand the Bible to be telling us the grand story of the history of divine redemption. And in that love divine, we see God’s attitude toward sin. We see a different picture unfolding before us if we just allow it to speak for itself. Sin is something to be avoided. Sin is something to be hated. Sin is something to be eradicated. God hates sin so much that he came to earth as a man and died a cruel death at the hands of sinful men in order to put an end to it.
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ’tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!