THE REALITY OF SIN
- Read I John 5:19.
- Sin exists.
- It is a matter of fact; a sober reality.
- People do not give much thought to it; not disturbed or troubled by it.
- Sin binds one to its nature.
- People fail to recognize a standard.
- A lack of respect for law and authority.
- The solution
- What sin is:
- A debt that must be paid.
- Man's inability to pay.
- Jesus paid it all.
- A degradation that needs to be removed.
- The prodigal, as example.
- A moral debasement.
- Degeneracy, disgrace.
- The happy ending: the son returned and he received him.
- A defilement that needs to be cleansed.
- An uncleanness.
- Dirt, filth.
- Vomit, mire.
- A darkness that needs to be lighted.
- Foolish hearts darkened.
- Understanding darkened.
- Former conditions reviewed.
- Way of wicked is darkness.
- One who leaves the path of righteousness.
- Hates his brother.
- God is light.
- Jesus dispels darkness.
- A disease that needs to be healed.
- Infirm, without strength.
- The sins of Israel—head sick, heart faint.
- Vanity an evil disease.
- Like leprosy.
- The need of a physician.
- Jesus can heal us.
- A death that needs to be abolished.
- Punishment pronounced against our ancestors.
- Sin entered the world and death by sin.
- Men are dead in trespasses and sins.
- Jesus came to destroy him who had the power of death.
- Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
- We have access to that immortality.
- The quality of that life.
- Our reception and response.
- Baptized into his death, raised to walk in a new life.
- We are a new creature in Christ.
- Death without sting and grave without victory.
THE REALITY OF SIN
“We know we are children of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one [lies in sin]” (I John 5:19).
Sin exists. It is a matter of fact; a sober reality. It has actual existence. It is not a dream, or a figment of the imagination, or a far–fetched idea or notion. It is not a shadowy, spectral, nebulous nothing. Sin is a positive, absolute, and prevalent reality. This passage says that it is present, extant, and a current certainty. As much as any other subject with which the Bible deals, sin is shown to have unquestionable, incontrovertible existence.
But many people today do not give much thought to it. An attorney in another country asked me, “What is sin?” Some do not recognize it, and outside of such sins as murder, robbery, and adultery, they have never seriously considered it. Little emphasis has been placed upon the danger of it, where it leads, and its fearful consequences. It is sad, but true, that our generation is not very disturbed or troubled about the matter of sin. Why is this so?
It is so prevalent and we live so close to it and are, at times, implicated in it ourselves, that we are blinded to its nature and we fail to understand its purpose and we disbelieve its consequences. More than that, we minimize its seriousness and underestimate its detrimental and destructive action in our lives. It is an abomination and the damage is damnable and irreparable, unless we turn away from it and seek the forgiveness which is found only in Christ through His gospel.
What makes sin so vicious is its ability to conceal its true intent and its shrewdness to manipulate man's thinking. By intrigue and deceit, sin cunningly leads us to believe that there is no standard by which to measure our conduct—that every man has the right to establish his own measure and model of deportment. Furthermore, sin victimizes us by contriving a scheme of moral relativity, that is, by inducting us to believe there is no absolute standard of right and wrong. He affirms that right and wrong are dependent upon times and circumstances. He makes us believe that we may do evil that good may come. Under such a system, each person is left to decide for himself what is
good and what is evil, paying no attention to what the law says. The most crucial period in the history of Israel was when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Things have not changed much. In our society, there are those who feel they should have the freedom to decide for themselves. When men become a law to themselves, this spells anarchy. They have no respect for law or the authority which enacted that law. God speaks plainly on this subject.
“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).
“That this is a rebellious people, lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the Lord” (Isaiah 30:9).
“They have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked according to it” (Jeremiah 9:13).
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
The Solution to this Problem
The solution to this problem is both brief and easy—that is, it is easily understood!
“But happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18).
Of the godly man it is said: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2).
In the New Testament, this truth is given even greater emphasis: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11).
“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ [which is from Christ] does not have God” (II John 9).
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you that what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
What Sin Is
There are about a dozen different words in the New Testament for sin, each carrying a little different meaning, or bearing a different connotation, so that we may get a full and comprehensive view of what sin is as it is described by inspired writers. Some of them picture it as:
1. A debt that must be paid. The common definition of debt is “something that is owed; something that one person is bound to pay or perform for another person; a liability or obligation to pay or render something. The condition of being under such an obligation.”
Jesus spoke of sin as a debt in the prayer He taught His disciples to pray: “Forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12).
He further underscored this truth in a story He told in Matthew 18:23–27: “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.”
There are a number of lessons in this story for us, but there are three which I believe deserve our very serious attention. First, the size of the debt. The average laborer worked for a penny (denarius) a day. Through his lifetime, he would earn the equivalent of one talent. It may be said that a talent represents one lifetime.
You are able to deduce from this how great was the debt of ten thousand talents. It says that there is not the slightest possibility that the servant could ever repay the debt.
The second lesson is just that. We are indigent, bankrupt, and cannot pay the debt. Luke relates that Jesus told another story parallel with this one: “There was a certain creditor who had
two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii and the other fifty. When they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both” (Luke 7:41–42).
The third lesson in this story is that Jesus paid the debt. He forgives fully, freely, lovingly, cancels the debt, and sets the servant free. Paul said we have nothing; we are penniless: “as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (II Corinthians 6:10). The reason we have everything is because Christ has paid our debts. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).
If we had to pay the debt of sin, the penalty would be death. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Paul said the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We should constantly thank God that Jesus paid it all, cancelled our debt, and offered us eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
2. A degradation that needs to be removed. Jesus accentuates the degrading nature of sin by highlighting this fact in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Here is how he did it: The younger son “gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But, when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want” (verses 13–14). When that need arose and he became desperate, “he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything” (verses 15-16). Later in the story, the inference is that his clothes were gone. He had no shoes and his garment was, doubtless, filthy rags, having been down in the muck and mire of the pigsty.
Sin had reduced his rank as a son, polluted his moral and spiritual condition, devastated his character, and left him a pauper. Morally, he was debased: he had “there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” Physically, he was hungry. He would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods the swine ate. Spiritually, he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country. Intellectually, his thoughts had turned from his home
to the far country. He wanted to be free from parental restraint, to “become a law unto himself.” He wanted to do what he wished. There is a popular saying abroad today. “If it feels good, do it.” Sin is a debasement. It degenerates further into disgrace, eventually bringing shame and humiliation. Can you imagine how humiliated he must have been as he returned totally indigent, impoverished, down–and–out, in rags and filth, when only a short time before he had left home confident, determined, and in possession of his inheritance and feeling that he was in command of his destiny.
The beautify of this story is that the son “came to himself,” lifted himself from the hog pen and returned to the father's house, confessed his sins, and asked to be received as a hired servant. What makes it more beautiful is that the father received him gladly, removed the degradation, and restored him to full sonship.
3. A defilement that needs to be cleansed. There are a number of Bible terms used to describe this condition. One of them is filthiness. Sin is said to make one filthy. Ezekiel said that Israel had profaned the name of the Lord in the midst of the heathen. He must have had other sins in mind when he said, “... and you shall be clean. I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols” (Ezekiel 36:23–25). Earlier, Ezekiel spoke of their impurity. “In your filthiness is lewdness.” Then, he further pronounced this curse upon them: “You will not be purged of your filthiness anymore, till I have caused my fury to rest upon you” (Ezekiel 24:13). And one said, “The land is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people.”
An ugly term is used to describe them, the word excrement. “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness” (Proverbs 30:12). Gesenius, in his Hebrew–Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, defines filthiness “anything unclean [excrement], ignominy, dishonor.” And Young defines it as filth, excrement. This tells us something of how repulsive sin in our lives is to the God of heaven.
When he wanted to show the baseness and obscenity of sin, he used a word which means indecent, aiskros.“Let it not even be named among you ... neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor course jesting, which are not fitting” (Ephesians 5:4).
Another word is used by the apostle to speak of the defilement of sin. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1). The word here is molusmos and means “to stain, to defile, contaminate morally, to soil; pollution.”
Then, there is the word for cleansing or purifying in the passage: katharizo. It means “to cleanse from filth, render pure, cleanse from sin; free from the influence of error and sin.” The word is used frequently in the New Testament—some form of it sixty–six times. Our English word cathartic derives from this word and indicates a drastic action of thorough purging or cleansing the system. We are here admonished to submit to the will of God completely that the blood of Jesus will thoroughly and absolutely cleanse us from every defilement of the flesh and spirit. And this makes us like our Lord Jesus Christ.
Still another word is used to describe the filthiness of sin. That word is dirt. In the language of the New Testament, it is rhuparia, and it means, “dirty, to be filthy, moral filthiness.” “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness” (James 1:21).
Peter used a term for sin that is disgusting to us, and he does it to show how reprehensible it is to God and how damaging it is to man. “But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire’ ” (II Peter 2:22).
Look back at some of the words which are used to describe the character of sin as defilement: uncleanness, impurity, excrement, baseness, soil, dirt, filth, vomit, and mud. The purpose of this multiple use of terms is to solidly impress our hearts with how utterly, totally evil sin really is.
4. A darkness that needs to be lighted. If you have studied your Bible carefully on the subject of sin, you are aware that it is often portrayed by different word pictures. Sin is often represented as darkness. Paul reminded the Christians at Ephesus: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in
all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8–10). If light, figuratively, is goodness, righteousness, and truth, then darkness is evil, unrighteousness, and falsehood. This picture of sin as darkness runs almost as a thread through the whole Bible. It begins in Genesis 3 and does not close until Revelation 22.
Solomon made two statements about darkness I would like to repeat here: “The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble” (Proverbs 4:19). This passage signals their blindness in the dark. They are not able to see. They do not even know over what they stumble. That is often how sin operates.
Solomon further discloses the choice that many people make to walk in darkness because they wish to conceal their unrighteous deeds. “From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness” (Proverbs 2:13).
Persistent practice of sin in which men find immediate pleasure will darken their foolish hearts (Romans 1:21). Paul addresses this problem and communicates this truth in his letter to the Ephesians. “Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). He seems to know that it must be accented or we will miss the lesson entirely.
All manner of sin, at times, is categorized under the term darkness. One who hates his brother is in darkness. John stresses this in one of his letters: “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (I John 2:9–11).
We have learned several other things about darkness in the passages we have read: one is in darkness because he is ignorant, often willfully, of God's word. He is in darkness because He has hardened his heart with the practice of sin.
To escape the darkness, we must turn back to God, for He is light. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at
all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is the light, we have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:5–6).
In his earlier writings in the record of the gospel, John declared: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not the Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world” (John 1:4–9).
Jesus is the only one who can dispel the darkness in which men walk and which has shrouded their hearts. Let us, therefore, walk in the Light as He is in the Light. Only in this way can we have forgiveness in the blood of Christ and true fellowship with one another. This is the reason for Jesus' coming into the world, and to accomplish this is the fulfillment of His purpose for us. Daily, therefore, we should pause to give the thanks of our hearts.
5. A disease that needs to be healed. I Corinthians 11:30 contains a sad utterance of the spiritual condition of many of the Christians there. It was a spiritual infirmity that robbed them of goals they should have achieved long before. “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” The word weak in this passage means “without strength (to the point of feebleness), without energy, inefficient.” To add to their moral defectiveness and their spiritual imperfection, Paul further asserted that they were sick. This word carries the idea that they had so progressed in their faultiness and failures as to be invalids.
It sounded like a repeat performance of a time in Israel's history: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints from the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores, they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment” (Isaiah 1:5-6). Solomon talked about it in these terms: “This is vanity, and it is an evil affliction” (Ecclesiastes 6:2).
Not just the sins of adultery, lying, robbery, and murder are reported and depicted as a disease, but here is a man who has gained much of this world's goods so that he is in need of nothing and he comes to a position in life where the circumstances of health will not permit him the use and enjoyment of what he has accumulated. Solomon reminds him that all his striving and grasping for things have been vanity, and then he calls it an evil disease. The acquisition of material things without the disposition to give it where God says it should be used becomes a disease that will progress into further ungodliness. The accretion of wealth and storing it up for power, prestige, and personal security is a sickness that is virtually incurable.
Take a look at the rich young man with whom Jesus talked in Matthew 19:16–27. He told His disciples, when the young man had left, “I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Such becomes a serious disease, although many of us look upon such a person as a splendid success, or even a hero, confer on him our admiration and praise and secretly wish we might be like him. Sin is pictured as leprosy by drawing an analogy to this debilitating, damaging, destructive, and incurable disease.
Those who are sick need a physician, Jesus said (Matthew 9:12). That physician is Jesus and the Psalmist spoke of Him, prophetically, when he said: “Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:3). Malachi called Him the “Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2). And Peter said it is He “by whose stripes you are healed” (I Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:5). There is no human cure for this disease, and this world will never be what it ought to be until men learn that fact and turn to the Great Physician.
6. A death that needs to be abolished. When God pronounced a curse upon our disobedient first parents, he said, “You shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
Recounting the history of this event, Paul said to the Roman church: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men ...” (Romans 5:12).
Later, he said that sin leads to death (Romans 6:16). To those who were dead in trespasses and sin, he offered life through Jesus Christ. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4–5).
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:22). Jesus came to destroy him who had the power of death: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14–15).
Speaking of the grace of God to us, Paul wrote to Timothy telling him that it “has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (II Timothy 1:10).
Jesus promised us: “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die” (John 6:50). In John 11:25–26, he further stated: “... He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Physically, men—all men—will die, except those who are alive at His coming, and they will be changed (I Corinthians 15:51). but, one who is baptized in Christ will rise from the watery grave to walk in a new life (Romans 6:4). In Christ he has been made a new creation, and he will live forever (II Corinthians 5:17). Death for him has been abolished, and in heaven he will live and reign with Christ throughout the eons of eternity.