Haven of Truth Article – Sin
By Pastor Barry Black
“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” Hebrews 6.19
In the words of Barney Fife, “Yes, sir, that’s one subject you just can’t talk enough about…sin.”
“First, the bad news…”
From the moment that Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they became sinners. Every person born thereafter is born with a sin nature. That is everyone, with the only exception being our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Romans 3.10,23 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Sandwiched between those verses (Romans 3.11-18) is a brief eight verse description of man’s sin nature. Several other passages in Scripture describe the sin nature of all mankind: Mark 7.20-23; Romans 1.29-32; 1 Corinthians 6.9,10; Galatians 5.19-21; Colossians 3.5-9.
We are not sinners simply because we sin; we sin because we are sinners – born with an inherited, imparted sin nature. Most theologians define sin as “missing the mark”. Because of our inherited sin nature, we will never be able to get back to the condition that Adam and Eve knew before they fell into sin; in other words, no matter what we do, we will always “miss the mark”. Our attempts at righteousness are futile – we can never measure up to God’s righteous standards. Isaiah 64.6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” Because all people are sinners, all people are potentially capable of falling to any temptation and therefore engaging in any kind of sinful activity. In the discipline of Psychology; psychological disorders, defense mechanisms, etcetera, are quite simply rooted in mankind’s sin nature.
“Are we hopeless?”
Matthew 5.20 “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Wow, at first glance, that seems pretty hopeless – especially when you read a description of the Pharisees. In Luke 18.10-12, one Pharisee boasts of fasting, tithing…wow, if our righteousness must exceed that, we will all fall short! But the problem was with the Pharisee’s view of righteousness. But take a closer look at the Pharisee’s self-righteous perception of himself which Jesus addresses in Luke 18.9: “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous…”
“A screen door on a submarine”
Therein is the problem. It is made evident in modern Christianity when people (well meaning though they may be) tell a lost person to “turn from their sins” in order to be saved (i.e. “receive eternal life”). The problem with that is three-fold. First, “turning from one’s sins” is not the requirement for eternal life. Secondly, telling someone to “turn from their sins” in order to receive eternal life is to put the spotlight on human effort, and therefore take the spotlight off of where it belongs – on our Savior and His death, burial, and resurrection. Third of all, to tell an unsaved person to “turn from his/her sins” places an impossible burden upon them simply because a lost person has no power in and of him/herself to turn from their sins. To try to produce one’s own righteousness is not the answer. Romans 10.3 “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” As you can see when it comes to eternal salvation, human effort is more worthless than a screen door on a submarine. To think we can do anything equal to or better than God’s way (i.e. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection) is foolish.
“Oh, but there is GOOD news!”
However, there is good news! The bible calls this good news “the gospel”, and it is defined in 1 Corinthians 15.1-4 “Moreover, brethren, declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures: and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” That is the gospel, the good news of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul stated in Galatians 1.6-12 that if anyone preach any other gospel than that, let him be accursed. In other words, let God condemn that person. The good news is given by our Savior in John 3.16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Placing our faith in Jesus Christ gives us eternal/everlasting life. After we believe on Christ, we begin a wonderful journey in discovering what Christ has done for us.
“I need to exchange this please!”
When we believe on Christ as our Savior, we make the ultimate exchange. We give Him our sin for which He died; and He gives us His righteousness, which we could never earn nor deserve.
2 Corinthians 5.21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
When Jesus died on the cross, He died between two criminals (Matthew 27.38-44; Mark 15.27,28; Luke 23.39) both of which deserved their punishment. Jesus had done nothing to deserve punishment (Luke 23.40,41). One of the criminals mocked and would not believe on Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (Luke 24.39). In fact at one point both were both in unbelief (Matthew 27.38-44). However, something happened to one of them. He said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 24.42). Jesus responded, “…Today thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 24.43). One criminal refused to believe; the other realized that Jesus was exactly who he said He was, and believed on Him. Both were sinners, undeserving of God’s grace and mercy (as are we). One refused to believe (as do many). One believed and received eternal life, and the righteousness of God in Christ (as I have, and I hope you have). Paul put it this way and said concerning Abraham:
Romans 4.3-5 “…Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
So when we believe on Christ for eternal life, one of the many things that happen is that God places Christ’s righteousness to our account. From that moment on, when God sees us, He sees us through the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ! And one way that the Apostle Paul describes us, we are“accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1.6).
“The deceitfulness of sin”
Once we receive eternal life (and the righteousness of God in Christ); the debt of sin has been paid in full. However, for the rest of our life, we will be faced with sin – its desires, and ensuing consequences. The writer of Hebrews encourages us: “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”(Hebrews 3.13). Temptation and sin are deceitful for several reasons. One of which is that we think that we can be an exception to the rule, or that we can get by with it, or that we won’t get caught or it won’t effect me the way it does everyone else. Or perhaps we may think that we can sin and not suffer the consequences (Galatians 6.7,8). Another reason that temptation and impending sin is so deceitful is that over a period of time we are conditioned or “desensitized” by it. As the serpent kept enticing Eve, the fruit likely seemed more pleasant each time (Genesis 3.1-6), and God’s warnings eventually became more faint than a whisper. I am reminded of a phrase from the 1734 poem by Alexander Pope entitled, An Essay on Man, (Epistle II):
Vice (sinful behavior) is a monster of so frightful mien (appearance),
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
“Now wait a minute…would a Christian do THAT?”
The problem of the remaining sin nature in the life of the believer is twofold. First there is the problem that all sinners have – saved or lost – and that is the problem of giving in to the desires of our sinful nature. Some hold to the view that when a person receives eternal life at salvation, then the desire to sin is either completely severed (eradicated), or that it at least becomes much weaker since the person has been born again. Often when a Christian falls to temptation, it is common to hear others make statements such as: “Well if he/she was ‘really saved’ they wouldn’t have done that (committed a particular sin)” (as if there could possibly be a difference between being saved and being “really saved”). Herein lies the dilemma concerning eternal salvation, and a Christian falling to the pull of temptation and sin. There are a few possibilities. Either the person was not saved to begin with, or the person lost his/her salvation (as if any amount of sin could be committed to cause that). The first possibility can only be determined as to whether the person has placed his/her faith in Christ. If they have placed their faith in Christ, then they have eternal salvation. Eternal salvation cannot be “lost” by any sin, or any amount of sin (which takes care of the second possibility).
Another possibility is that the person is saved, but their sin nature has not yet been eradicated (i.e. cease to exist). This would create a somewhat intermediate state of eternal salvation, and then the eradication of the sin nature would become a requirement, or at least a “step” towards eternal salvation. This would nullify the Biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith apart from works of any kind (Ephesians 2.8,9). Think about it – if any of the above possibilities are true; then at death a person will stand before God only to find out that either they were saved but lost it, or that they were never saved in the first place! No room for assurance or security with either of those!
There is at least one more possibility, and it is the most likely of any; in fact, the only biblical possibility. This possibility is the biblical doctrine of carnality in the believer. We will deal with this further in another article.