Posts Tagged 'original sin'

What Is Man, Part 4

Man today is not exactly how God created him. Man today is the result of sin. God didn’t create sin and the sin nature that exists inside every human being isn’t there because of anything God did, but rather man’s sin nature is there because man became a sinner.

The fact of sin can’t be denied. Just watch or listen to the news: murders, wars, rapes, and other crimes against humanity are all there. Though sin can’t be denied, that doesn’t stop certain groups from trying to do so:

Atheism denies God, therefore it denies sin also. Atheists may, and often do, decry moral violence and even immorality, but that’s as far as it goes with them. They view sin as a shortcoming or a failure of man, caused by the human condition. In fact, sin is committed against God, which is why atheists are wrong.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Psalms 51:4 | NIV84)

Determinism teaches that free will is really only an illusion; that man acts (sins) in accordance to his inner impulses or his circumstances. In other words, poverty is what causes wrongdoing. People who believe this believe that if man’s circumstances could be improved, his behavior would also. Or they think that evil in a man can be educated out of him.

Hedonism is another way to reason sin out existence. This idea is perfectly illustrated by an adulterous spouse who excuses their sin by reasoning, “God wants me to be happy.”

There are all kinds of ways concocted by man to dismiss the idea of sin, but they all refuse to acknowledge the nature and character of God. Sin is not a shortcoming or a mistake or an illness or anything like that. Biblically, sin is an outright act of rebellion against God.

The origin of sin, Genesis 3

Genesis 3 details how sin entered the world and entered man. In all, there are several aspects of sin that are worth thinking about.

Temptation

If Genesis 3 shows how sin came into the world and into man, then the stage is set one chapter back.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8-9 | NIV84)

God made a place – a garden – for man to live in, and by all accounts it was perfect for him. Man had everything he needed, thanks to God’s thoughtful provision. But in the middle of the garden were two special trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What was the purpose of these two “trees of destiny?” It’s all speculation, of course, but it seems likely to view these trees as a visual means by which God was trying to teach man a very simple lesson. From anywhere in the Garden, man would see these trees and be reminded of two things: his life came from God and that his life depended on choosing to listen to and pay attention to what God says.

Long after the Fall, God was still trying to get this very simple concept through to His people, but this time it was in the form of words:

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. (Deuteronomy 30:15-18 | NIV84)

A lot of Bible readers wonder why God would do that; why would God take a chance like that with the people He created? The answer lies in the fact of man’s free will. I have always called “free will” the second greatest gift God gave human beings. A loving God would want the people He created to choose Him willingly and out of love. God wouldn’t have wanted a bunch of robots loving Him. Therefore, the trees would have represented a test – a way for man to continually be reminded of God’s provision and his own obligation.  But a lot of Bible readers get a little confused. The trees weren’t the source of temptation. The temptation to sin came from somewhere else.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 | NIV84)

The source of temptation was the serpent – the devil. The serpent, before the Fall, was probably a beautiful creature. When it spoke to Eve, she held a conversation with it, she didn’t run away. The serpent was what Satan used to get man’s attention. Satan had fallen from grace long before God created man. That’s why he is referred to as an ancient evil in Revelation:

The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:9 | NIV84)

We don’t know when Satan, then called Lucifer, was cast out of Heaven, but it was long, long before the events of Genesis 3.

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12 – 15 | TNIV)

Satan is a spirit, and he always works through an available agent. In the Garden, he worked through a serpent. In the New Testament he worked through Peter, who had no idea what was going on.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”. (Matthew 16:22, 23 | TNIV)

We can learn a lot about the nature of temptation by looking at how Satan tempted Eve. Here’s the account:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”. (Genesis 3:1 – 5 | TNIV)

Satan is the master of the subtle deception. In Genesis, he’s called “crafty.” Over in the New Testament, we read this:

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15 | TNIV)

And he’s subtle; he actually used God’s own words, although he twisted them to get Eve’s attention. He got Eve’s attention, and she actually tried to reason with Satan, and that was her big mistake. She was hooked from the get-go. Then he made it all about God, not about her. Satan got her mind off herself and onto God and the “unfairness” of it all. The temptation seemed to be, “eat the forbidden fruit and become like God,” but really the temptation was to think badly about God; to think that God was actually withholding something good from the people He created and gave everything to!

Guilty conscience

The moment Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened. Satan was right: The fruit gave them more knowledge, but it wasn’t the kind of knowledge they were hoping for. They realized they were naked. Instead of become Godlike, they saw their own state and were embarrassed and afraid. That’s a guilty conscience. And like the child who tries to hide a broken vase, Adam and Eve tried to hide from God because they knew that they had done wrong.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8 | TNIV)

That’s a significant statement: “…they hid from the Lord among the trees of the garden.” In other words, Adam and Eve hid among God’s blessings and provision. That’s exactly what Christians do today; we sin and then we hide among what God has given us. But nobody can hide from God; He sees all. And though judgment for sin may be long in coming, make no mistake: It’s coming. Nobody “gets away with it.”

Adam and Eve knew they had done wrong and not only did they try to hide from God, but they tried to cover up their sin by making some clothes to wear. They sewed some leaves together. It was a wholly inadequate covering though and in an act of grace, God made the couple some clothes:

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21 | TNIV)

Of course, the lesson there is that man’s sin can only be “covered” or dealt with by a work of God and the sacrifice of another. In the case of Adam and Eve, an animal or animals had to be sacrifice so that their sin could be covered, and in the case of mankind since then, the sacrifice was the Son of God, who gave His life and shed His blood to wash away sin.

Consequences of sin

When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought upon themselves the personal consequences of sin. Immediately their close relationship with God was ruined. Though God still communicated with them and worked with them, He no longer “walked” with them in garden. They had alienated themselves from their Creator.

The consequences of sin came in the form of curses from God. These curses, though, weren’t just on Adam and Eve (and the serpent). They touch every single descendent of the first human couple. We call this “original sin,” which is simply the inclination to sin that is present in every single human being. Innocence was lost. Adam’s “original sin” resulted in the corruption of every baby born since, with the exception of Jesus Christ, who was and is sinless.

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. ” To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”. (Genesis 3:16 – 19 | TNIV)

But if you look closely at those curses, you’ll see that even nature was adversely affected by human sin. Adam and Eve’s sin had dreadful and far reaching consequences that are felt to this day, and will be felt until the Lord returns and makes things right, with both man and nature.

So then, sin originated in the free choice of man. Rather than trusting God and believing in His Word and living in obedience to His will, the first humans willingly chose another way. But in choosing to go their own way, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God was ruptured. And all human relationships, which should come as easy as breathing, became corrupt and almost impossible to maintain. What happened between Cain and Abel proves this.

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The Awful Truth About Sin

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Evangelical Christians love their sound bite theology. If it’s a catchy slogan that fits on a bumper sticker, or a refrain in the latest Christian pop song on KLOVE, they’ll believe it. “God is in control.” “God has a plan for your life.” “Jesus is coming soon.” There is no shortage of these kinds of slogans. But are they Biblical? Is God really in control of everything? Everything? And just how long has Jesus been “coming soon?” That’s the trouble with slogan theology. It makes all the sense in the world, but only as long as you don’t think too long about it.

“All sins are equal, you know.” That’s what passes for profound thinking in the church these days. I haven’t seen it on a bumper sticker, but it certainly qualifies. There are variants of that slogan, like this one:  “All sin is sin.” Let’s talk about the notion that “all sins are equal.”

Two views

Unless you are a Roman Catholic, you’ve probably heard and repeated this bit of popular theology. Roman Catholics believe there are mortal sins and venial sins. A mortal sin is a super serious sin that separates a person from God. The only hope for one who has committed a mortal sin is confession to a priest, repentance, remorse, and some kind of penitential service. A venial sin is a sin that must be confessed to a priest, but it’s not nearly as serious a sin as a mortal sin. It won’t stop a person from having fellowship with God. A person can never be eternally condemned just because he commits a venial sin.

That’s a relief. Or is it? Is the Roman Catholic two-step even Biblical? As far as the Protestants go, the great Reformers (Luther, Calvin, etc.) didn’t like the Roman Catholic idea of sin. They thought sin was much more serious than the Roman Catholic Church did. They came up with the idea that man is totally depraved, and no mere talk with a parish priest could help him. They believed that every man is rotten to the core – that sin infects every square inch of a man’s being.

Of course, the doctrine of total depravity, as the Calvinists call it, or original sin as other refer to it, is an accurate picture of sinful man. He is totally depraved. That doesn’t mean he’s as bad as he could be, only that he is riddled with sin (like a disease) and that there is no hope for him apart from a work of grace initiated by God. Martin Luther and his pals, by the way, never once taught that “all sins are equal.” But over the centuries since the Reformation, that’s the impression a lot of Protestants have been left with. In fact, the idea that “all sins are equal” is so ingrained in Protestant consciousness, it’s hard for them to see the truth even when it is in black and white. Or red and white. Verses like these are often misunderstood and used to support the notion that “all sins are equal.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27, 28 NIV)

Is Jesus really saying that a lustful thought about illicit sex with a woman is just as bad as the act itself? Of course not. That would be ridiculous. What Jesus is doing in these verses is explaining that all sin begins, not with the act itself (like murder or adultery), but with a thought or an attitude. The Pharisees prided themselves in keeping the “letter of the law,” but the problem they couldn’t overcome using the law was the same problem we can’t overcome: total depravity. Jesus’ point was that merely keeping the law really didn’t do anything to change a person’s life; that a list of do’s and don’t’s is useless in making a person righteous. It takes a change on the inside of a person to do that. What Jesus wasn’t doing in that teaching is saying, “all sin is equal.”

Sin versus sins

Essentially, what Jesus was saying is that nobody can get through a day sin-free. Yes, you can make it through a day without committing adultery. You can make it through a day without committing a murder. You can get through a day or two without stealing, telling a lie, taking the Lord’s Name in vain, etc. But you are still a sinner because you are living in sin. You can stop committing a particular sin, but you can’t stop being a sinner. According to Jesus, sin is not just outward acts but an inward disposition; the root of sin goes deep into man’s inner-most parts.

In Romans 7, the apostle Paul describes what normal life is like for the true believer. I know some Bible scholars see Romans 7 as the way Paul was before his conversion, but a Bible reader has to do exegetical backflips to see it that way. Read these verses and I bet you’ll see yourself in them:

I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp.  It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin. (Romans 7:18 – 25 TLB)

I believe that to be the normal experience in every Christian’s life. We, as genuine born again Christians, struggle every day with our sinful nature (root of sin, total depravity, original sin). We’re saved and our sins are forgiven, but we still have a natural bent toward sin.

All sins can’t be equal

So, why is this an important topic? Does it really matter if you believe “all sins are equal?” What you believe about God (your theology) influences what you think about God and what you think He thinks about you.  Isn’t it a perverse God who thinks that murder is on the same level as, say, telling a white lie?  Or stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family is just as bad as stealing it because of greed?

Many times our assumptions are wrong or inadequate. A lot of cherished beliefs we hold come not from the Bible but from Aesop’s Fables or some stories we learned from our parents. It’s vitally important to know your theology is Biblical so you can function in the mind of Christ.

All sins can’t be equal because, first of all, such an idea goes against common sense. Is it reasonable to believe that, for example, fudging on your tax return is as bad as molesting a child? Or engaging in a little neighborhood gossip is as serious as poisoning your nagging spouse? Or an act of horrible violence is no worse than reusing a postage stamp?

Common sense tells us that all men are sinners because of what theologians call “original sin.” In other words, all human beings ever born inherit the condemnation heaped upon Adam. We may not be guilty of committing the sin he committed, but Adam is our spiritual and moral “head.”

When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. His sin spread death throughout all the world, so everything began to grow old and die, for all sinned. (Romans 5:12 TLB)

So by virtue of the fact that we descend from Adam, we are sinners just he was. Total depravity and original sin were passed on from Adam to succeeding generations, down to this very day. The finished work of Christ took away the guilt of original sin, but our tendency to sin remains. That’s why Paul wrote this in Romans 6 –

Your old evil desires were nailed to the cross with him; that part of you that loves to sin was crushed and fatally wounded, so that your sin-loving body is no longer under sin’s control, no longer needs to be a slave to sin; for when you are deadened to sin you are freed from all its allure and its power over you. (Romans 6:6, 7 TLB)

And in the very next chapter, this –

I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. But I can’t help myself because I’m no longer doing it. It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things. (Romans 7:15 – 17 TLB)

So all men are sinners, equally. That’s common sense. We know all men are sinners because the Bible tells us, but also all we have to do is look around. The evidence of our own eyes confirms our theology.

Common sense tells us something else: some sinners are worse than others. Common sense tells us that Jack the Ripper was far more evil than some schmuck who pilfers a few thousand dollars from his employer. Of course, we’re talking about crimes here. God is concerned about sins. Both a murderer and a petty thief have two things in common: they are sinners by God’s standard and criminals by ours. Their crimes are not equal. But what about their sins?

Let’s take another example; one that hits close to home – my home. One day, I shouted my order into the microphone at McDonalds. A Big Mac, large fries, and a Coke – a diet Coke, of course. My order as it appeared on the screen was correct, right down to the penny. I drove up to the window, handed my debit card to the girl and she handed me a bag, a diet Coke, then my card and receipt. I drove off. When I got to the office, I sat down to eat. Out of the bag I pulled: A Big Mac, a large fry, and a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese. I checked my receipt immediately. My receipt – what I ended up paying for – was for a cup of coffee! So not only had I been given an order I hadn’t ordered, I actually paid for a much smaller order. All of this happened without my knowing; I didn’t look in the bag before driving off and I didn’t look at my receipt. The fault was McDonald’s, not mine.

I admit I enjoyed both burgers immensely.

So the question is: did I sin by not going back to McDonalds to straighten out the order; at least pay for what I got? What if the mistake was really God’s blessing in disguise? And after all, who was hurt? It’s a trivial event in my 50 years of life, but it’s stuck with me all these years. If “all sins are equal,” is my sin of getting a meal for the cost of a cup of coffee the same as Jack the Ripper’s sins of murder and who knows what all?

In God’s sight

As always, common sense is revelatory: all sins may be not be equal in terms of human judgment, but they may or may not be equal in God’s sight. There is another folksy saying that goes like this: “How many sins will keep you out of heaven? Only one.” That’s a little better. While all sins may not be equal, God is cognizant of them all, and all sins equally alienate us from God. All sins equally damage our relationship with God. All sins need to be repented of because – note this – they all equally bring condemnation. All sins, from telling a little white lie to stealing an old person’s pension to killing another human being equally grieve God.

So are the Roman Catholics right with their two-step approach to sin and are the Protestants, with their “all sins are equal” wrong? Or is their a third view? A Biblical view?

In 1 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul confronted a particularly nasty situation: a man was sleeping with his father’s wife. The Greek is a bit fuzzy; but at the very least there was a case of adultery going on in the church and at worst it was a case of incest. Paul’s solution seemed harsh:

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Corinthians 5:4, 5 NKJV)

If all sins are the same, why single this loser out? Why excommunicate him when surely there were other terrible sins simmering beneath the surface in this large, metropolitan church? Clearly in Paul’s view, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not all sins are equal.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! (1 Corinthians 5:1 NKJV)

That’s Paul shocked at what was going on in that church. For sure there were gossipers in that church. There were liars and cheats, too. There were over-eaters and maybe even drunkards sitting in those Corinthians pews. But Paul singled one out. Not all sins were equal to him. Some, in this case sexual sin, were definitely more heinous than others. There is a hierarchy of sins. There are degrees of sin. That is, some sins like sexual sins, do more harm to the Body of Christ than others.

That is why I say to run from sex sin. No other sin affects the body as this one does. (1 Corinthians 6:18a TLB)

Some scholars view “the body” as being the human body. But others, I’m one of them, think “the body” refers to “the Body of Christ.” That it means this seems obvious since in the preceding chapter, Paul dealt with a sexual sin going on within a congregation – the Body of Christ. So the most serious of sins are those that do the most harm to the Church of Jesus Christ. If we view sins as varying in degrees, then we can say that both the Roman Catholics and the Protestants are partly correct. Not all sins are the equal (point to the Roman Catholics) and all sins are equal in the sense that they grieve God and harm man’s relationship with Him (point to the Protestants).

Degrees

We can conclude safely that from the Bible’s standpoint, there are differences in sins. Some harm the Body of Christ more than others. And there is at least one sin that is unpardonable and therefore shouldn’t even be prayed for. But all sins are the same in that they grieve God’s heart and cause a rift to develop between a believer and God and between believers.

Common sense application of tried, tested, and true Bible passages make a lot more sense than sound bite, bumper sticker theology.

 

MORE ABOUT SIN

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John Calvin, Mr. Happy, the man who found more doctrines in the Bible than anybody!

MAN AND HIS PROBLEM WITH SIN, CONTINUED

The study of sin is called “Hamartiololgy,” and is part of the study of man, called “Anthropology.” Sin is a serious topic because sin is serious. Sin is what drove mankind’s parents from their home in the Garden of Eden. Sin is what separates man from his God and  from his fellow man. Sin is what causes all of man’s problems.

While it is simple to identify a sin, it’s not as easy to define. The simplest way to understand sin is to understand that sin is simply a dereliction of duty on man’s part. In the Garden, man was unwilling to live within the boundaries established by God. Adam and Eve exemplified what the prophet Isaiah wrote:

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

The key phrase in that verse is “turned his own way,” or as we might say today, “did his own thing.” When man chooses to “do his own thing,” he is choosing to NOT do what God wants him to do. Hence, sin is man’s failure to live in obedience to God. For the Christian, this poses a particular problem. When we confess Christ as Savior, our sins are gloriously forgiven, but temptation is still all around us. We may be “dead to sin,” as Paul wrote, but sin is still very much alive. Therefore, just as man chooses to sin, so the believer must choose not to sin by daily “dying to sin,” and cultivating living the will of God. In other words, the Christian must master the art of self-discipline.

No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:27)

1. Defining Sin

There are actually several Greek words that get translated into our English word “sin” or refer to “sins.” By looking at each of these words, we can get a good idea of what sin is all about.

(A) Hamartia. This may be the most common word used for “sin,” and means “missing the mark.” Picture being at the shooting range, firing at a target. If you are a terrible shot, you “miss the mark.” The word hamartia is used frequently in the New Testament, but Romans 3:23 is a good example:

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… (Romans 3:23)

What is “the glory of God” referring to in this verse? It seems to have reference to God’s original high and holy purpose for man to be like His Creator. Man was created to be like His God; WE were originally created to be God’s glory on Earth.

(B) Parokoe. This Greek word is often translated “disobedience.” It means failing to pay attention to God’s will as He speaks through His Word and by His Spirit.

For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. (Hebrews 2:2-3)

(C) Parabasis. Often translated “transgression,” it means “passing beyond a boundary.” It means to “go too far,” but also means to “break a commandment.”

For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. (Romans 4:14-15)

Think about the “No Tresspassing” sign in relation to parabasis. If you ignore that sign and tresspass, you are breaking a law.

(D) Paraptoma. This Greek word means “falling down when you should be standing up.” It’s often translated “trespass” and often refers to our faults or shortcomings and our mistakes. When we don’t “stand upright” when we should be, our behavior doesn’t glorify God and we don’t treat others honestly or with the respect due them.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)

(E) Agnoema refers to an error caused by ignorance. When this word is used in the New Testament, it is used in the context of a person or persons acting out of ignorance when they should have known better. Think:  “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. (1 Timothy 1:13)

(F) Hettema. This Greek word carries with it the idea of being defeated or overtaken by an adversary. How is this a sin? Christians are engaged in spiritual conflicts every day. The New Testament calls these conflicts “spiritual warfare,” and we are given the weapons to prevail. When we don’t prevail; when we are spiritually defeated, we have essentially failed in our duty.

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? (1 Corinthians 6:7)

(G) Asebeia means “ungodliness,” and apostasy. It refers to living life and leaving God out. This may well be the worst kind of sin, even though it doesn’t always have to do morality or ethics. It simply refers to ignoring God; failing to acknowledge Him and love Him, the One who gave you life and sustains your life.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness… (Romans 1:18)

2. The depravity of man

All those words for “sin” tell us something very telling about the human condition: mankind is in sad shape without Jesus Christ! Paul put it best:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one…” (Romans 3:10)

Man is depraved without God. This does NOT necessarily mean there is no good at all in the unredeemed man. It means that man without Christ is definitely unsaved and depraved, though not necessarily as depraved as he could be. No human being is totally “bad,” even though they may be unsaved. This, of course, in no way suggests that “good works” or good behavior can earn one salvation.

“Depravity” is that inclination of every human being to sin. It is a direct result of the Fall of man. As originally created, man was given a free will and the capacity NOT to sin. But since the Fall, man cannot help himself: while he still has a free will, he WILL sin. He may not sin all the time, but his whole nature is drawn sinward, not Godward. Paul in Romans 7 paints a pathetic picture of man in his fallen state. Even in this state, a man may desire higher ideals, but when he seeks to live that way he is constantly frustrated in his efforts because of the presence of evil in his inner most being. This ever-present evil in fallen man is his depravity.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18)

James put it another way:

…but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (James 1:14)

Another name for “depravity” could be “original sin.” We call it “original sin” because this inner evil came down to us through its original source, Adam. It was through Adam that the sinward tug was placed in all human beings.

Dr. Pope’s remarks are helpful:

From the first Adam we received original sin. In the last Adam, Christ, we are made partakers of original righteousness, His righteousness. The fall was the utter ruin of nothing in our humanity, only the perversion, contamination, and corruption of every faculty. The human mind retains the principles of truth; the heart, the capacity of holy affections; the will, its freedom. Depravity is the absence of original righteousness and the bias to all evil. Original sin a hard and absolute captivity. Romans 7 indicates that, while man is bound to sin, underneath there is a better nature crying for deliverance.

So, is man without Christ totally depraved or just partially depraved? That question is academic because man without Christ is completely lost; without any hope of salvation. The man of Romans 7; the man who desires to live right but cannot is still lost. Good intentions don’t count toward salvation.

MAN AND HIS SIN PROBLEM

eden apple

Throughout the days of Creation in Genesis, after each thing and creature God created, He pronounced them as being “good.” Yet in looking around at our world, we would be hard pressed to say everything in it is “good” today. There is sickness, crime, violence, disease, and trouble all over. God certainly never created any of those things, so the question thinking people ask is, Where did evil come from? Naturally the Bible tells us.

1. Sin is real

In spite of man’s best efforts to dismiss the reality of sin, sin is real. Over the centuries since the Fall, man has created ingenious ways to excuse or justify his sin. Here are some of the more familiar philosophies man has developed in response to the sin problem.

Atheism

The atheist believes there is no God; if there is no God, then it follows there can be no sin. Man may harm others, and he may harm himself, but since there is no God, his evil acts are not sin.

But the Bible teaches something very different. It teaches that all wrongdoing, regardless to whom it is directed, is really directed against God, and therefore all wrongdoing is sin.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:4)

Determinism

This philosophy teaches that man has no real freedom of choice. He thinks he does, but in reality his choices are determined by outside forces or laws. Determinism teaches that a person is not always responsible for his wrongdoings.  Man, according to the determinist, is just a helpless slave to his circumstances.

Once again, the Bible teaches something completely different. Man was created with a free will and is able to choose between good and evil. This is implied in every exhortation and command.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:17)

One of the consequences of determinism is the notion that “sin” is a sickness and the “sinner” should be pitied, not punished for his wrongdoing.

Hedonism

Hedonism, a philosophy named after a Greek word for “pleasure,” is a philosophy that teaches the most important thing in life is for the individual to be happy, no matter what. Behind this philosophy is the desire to lessen the severity of sin, blurring the line between right and wrong. In our society today, the most common expression of hedonism is in the area of marriage and relationships. Many a marriage, even Christian marriages, has ended when one partner claims they are unhappy and would be happier with someone else.

The problem with modern hedonism, practised by many ignorant Christians, is that the individual justifies his sin, claiming that the evil act he just committed may be wrong for some, or may be wrong sometimes, but that in his particular case, what he did wasn’t really sinful.

But the Bible never allows for exceptions in the case of sin. When it comes to sin and human behavior, there are no “special circumstances” whereby an evil act may be justified.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)

Evolution

Those who believe in evolution think sin is nothing more than man giving into the base behavior common to his less evolved ancestors. If man evolved from animals, then sin is merely “animal-like” behavior and eventually, in time, all that “animal-like” behavior will be evolved out of man.

The Bible teaches that man was created by God in God’s image. Man did not grow out of an animal and is not the product of a random collection cells.

2. The essence of sin

The beginning of sin is temptation, even though temptation to sin in NOT sin. Jesus Himself was tempted, yet because He never gave into those temptations, He is said to have lived a sinless life. Temptation to sin is all around us. There is no way to avoid temptation. Therefore, the problem of sin runs much, much deeper than any temptation.

Temptation

a. Two trees in the Garden

Genesis 2 is a remarkable chapter. In it, we have all the background information on man’s Fall. This chapter tells us what man’s first home was like. It speaks of man’s intelligence and his first occupation in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2 speaks about the first couple and the first wedding. It speaks also of two trees, which some have called “the two trees of Destiny.” In the Garden of Eden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17)

Notice neither tree is described as being sinful. Man was given complete freedom to satisfy his need for food with just one caveat: he could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why? Was there something evil about the tree? Was there something wrong with its fruit? No there wasn’t.  Did God put that tree there to tempt Adam and Eve?  Absolutely not!  God did not then and He would not now ever tempt anybody to sin.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone… (James 1:13)

That one tree was placed in the Garden of Eden to provide a test whereby man could freely choose to serve God in obedience, developing the kind of character that mirrors God’s.

b. The source of temptation

Many people miss the point of what happened in Genesis 3. Many people think man was tempted by the tree of knowledge, but the Bible does not say that.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ” (Genesis 3:1)

The temptation to sin came, not from a tree, but from the serpent, Satan. Now, we don’t see serpents running around whispering into the ears impressionable young women today. Today, Satan works through other people. For example, we read this in Matthew 16:22, 23–

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

What was Peter doing? He was trying to convince Jesus to find another way to fulfill His mission without having to die. There wasn’t an evil bone Peter’s body, Satan was working through one of Jesus’ friends and Peter didn’t realize it.

c. The subtly of temptation

Temptation to sin is always subtle. Rarely is temptation obvious. In the Garden, Satan first went to Eve. She was “the weaker vessel,” which modern Bible readers often misunderstand. Eve was “the weaker vessel” because she never directly heard the prohibition from God. She heard it second hand from Adam. Satan twisted God’s words and caused Eve to doubt three aspects about God and God’s prohibition:

  • Satan convinced Eve that God was withholding something very good from her. In effect, she began to doubt the goodness of God.

  • Satan convinced Eve that God didn’t really mean what He said. She began to doubt His righteousness.

  • Satan convinced Eve that God was jealous of man; that He didn’t want man to become as smart as He is.

3. The guilt of sin

Adam and Eve both knew they bore responsibility for their actions. It is true that Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent, but inside they knew what they did was wrong. They saw their nakedness and tried to cover themselves. They tried to hide from God. No, these two people knew what they did was wrong.

The one who sins is the one who will die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

Just as Adam and Eve tried to hide among God’s creation, so man, especially Christians, will hide either in the pleasures of sin or in the midst of God’s blessings.

4. Judgment of sin

When man sinned, God pronounced three separate judgments, Genesis 3.

The Serpent

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:14)

The curse seems to suggest that originally the serpent may have been beautiful and may have walked upright. Because it became an instrument for man’s fall, it was cursed and degraded in appearance. But why was the serpent cursed if it was only a tool in Satan’s hands? Peter was a similar tool, yet he wasn’t cursed. It’s because of verse 15:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

God would use the serpent’s curse as a type and a prophecy of the curse upon Satan and the powers of evil. Adam in particular, but all men in general, needed to see the horrendous repercussions of what Satan did when he tempted man to sin. This is also meant to be an encouragement to man. Even though man sinned, man remained an upright creation. The serpent, however, did not. In other words, even though the curses upon men and women were about to come, there would be hope.

The woman

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. ” (Genesis 3:16)

This seems to suggest that originally bearing children would not have been painful for women. The second part of the woman’s curse must be viewed in light of man’s curse.

The man

Work had already been appointed for man (Genesis 2:15), but the penalty for his sin was that the work would suddenly become hard and lifelong. It would be disappointing and it would be arduous. The curse on man was certainly far-reaching, affecting even the environment.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

But notice within the marriage relationship between men and women, while the curse upon women would be that “her desire would be for her husband” alone, man was not similarly cursed. His desire, within that relationship, would NOT just be for his wife. That does not excuse infidelity or thoughtlessness or selfishness, but it may explain why there exists between men and women a sort of “great divide” in their ways of thinking and in their expressions of emotions.

Finally, notice there is a death penalty associated with sin. Man was created with capacity of not dying physically; he could have lived indefinitely in his present body and state had he not sinned.

While the relationship that existed between God and the first couple suffered on account of their sin, their communion with God was restored, “sort of,” thus overcoming spiritual death. But it was now a different kind of communion. Man could approach God, but only through prayer and repentance. For man to return to God in a personal way, he must now do so through death.


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