Why is there wickedness, sorrow, suffering, war, hatred in the world? Why is there greed, envy, pride and cruelty? Why do even children act selfishly, lie, disobey and bring grief to those closest to them without having anyone directly teaching them to do so? Is this only due to a bad environment? The Bible tells us that the root of man’s condition begins from birth and is present before there are any outside influences on him (Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3). The problems of man cannot be properly understood without facing the problem of sin.
Common View of Sin
What is sin? A common dictionary will tell us that it is an offense against moral law or against the law of God. This is clear enough. Yet men have departed from this simple definition to introduce various strange ideas. Examples are:
1. There is No Sin.
Right or wrong
is only a matter of changing social practice.
2. What Harms Someone Else is Sin,
but whatever you do personally is your own business.
3. Sin Has to Do With Various Bad Habits.
These are viewed by different groups in different ways.
4. Sin is Wrong Thinking or Bad Judgment.
5. Sin Displeases God But is Not Serious.
Everyone does it and we are only human.
Biblical View of Sin
These ideas may be contrasted with what the Bible teaches sin is:
1. Turning to our own way (Isaiah 53:6).
2. Breaking the law of God (1 John 3:4).
3. Rebellion against God or lawlessness (1 John 3:4 NASB).
4. Knowing to do good and failing to do it (James 4:17).
5. Acting other than according to faith (Romans 14:23).
6. Not believing in Jesus (John 16:9).
7. All unrighteousness or wrongdoing (1 John 5:17).
8. Anything contrary to God’s character (Romans 3:23).
Various evil things which come from within the heart of man are listed in Mark 7:21-23 (NASB) such as evil thoughts, fornication, adultery, coveting, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. No sins are hidden from God (Psalm 90:8). They spring from a sinful nature (Romans 7:18). Our sins are an offense against God because He is absolutely holy (Psalm 145:17; Isaiah 6:3-5; Habakkuk 1:13). If there were no God, then there would be no sin, for there would be no perfect Being to be the standard for what is right.
The Origin and Results of Sin
The first recorded instance of sin took place in heaven. The angel Lucifer desired to be equal with God (Isaiah 14:12-14). His sin was pride (Ezekiel 28:15-17). For this sin he was cast out of heaven and became the devil. Through his temptation of the first human family, he introduced sin into the world. That sin was disobedience to God (Genesis 2:16-17; Genesis 3:1-6). Man was held responsible for sin and judged accordingly (Genesis 3:16-24).
It will be seen in Genesis 3 that the first human beings lost their fellowship with God. Their judgment was separation from His presence. They became liable for the first time to physical death, which is separation of the soul from the body. They immediately experienced spiritual death, which is separation of the soul from fellowship with God. They discovered the truth of the classic Bible statement, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Wages are what we earn and deserve.
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Death alone is the payment for sin. This death includes the second death (Revelation 20:14), which means eternal separation from God. The sins of men are recorded in heaven and will be used as a basis of judgment (Revelation 20:12). Money, prayer, church attendance and good deeds will not pay the debt of sin.
God Loves and Receives Sinners
It is amazingly true that a holy God, with all His hatred for sin, still loves the sinner. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is “not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10). He demonstrated this love by sending His only-begotten Son to save us (John 3:16). Through the death of His Son for us God is able to offer forgiveness (Acts 13:38; Ephesians 1:7).
The acknowledgment of sin must precede any true desire for forgiveness. The Psalmist cried, “I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). He cried out for cleansing and denied nothing of his offense toward God. The lost son said, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee” (Luke 15:18).
Our Savior told a story of two men who prayed. One man would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but rather he smote his breast and cried, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus pronounced this man justified (Luke 18:13-14). God’s Holy Spirit works to bring the inner conviction of sin (John 16:8-11).
God Calls Sinners to Repentance
“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” said Jesus (Luke 5:32). The convicting work of the Spirit brings men to repentance (John 16:8). The simple meaning of this word is “change of mind.” In Scripture, its usage involves a change of mind with the intent to turn from sin, in order to turn to God. The Old Testament call was “Turn ye” (Zechariah 1:3). It is only God’s goodness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). There is no lightness about sin, but rather sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Repentance works to bring about genuine change, rather than empty words (Matthew 3:8; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 26:20).
Early Christian preaching commanded men to repent (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 17:30). Such an act is not one that earns our way to God, but one that acknowledges our wretched condition. Repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ are companion acts of a right response to God (Acts 20:21). Repentance is not a work which earns salvation. It is a response towards God which acknowledges the seriousness of the offense and desires to change (Isaiah 55:7).
Need for Self-Examination
It is important to know that
we are lost if we are ever to meet our Savior (Luke 19:10). That lostness is due to sin—of which we must repent in turning to God.
1. Have you always been unselfish?
2. Have you always been free of envy and covetousness?
3. Have you unfailingly done every good you could do?
4. Have you always been kind and thoughtful to everyone?
5. Have you always loved God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?
6. Have you always loved others just as yourself?
7. Have you always been as perfect as the Lord Jesus Christ?
If the answer to any of these is “NO,” the Bible says you are a sinner. To have kept the whole law and be guilty of one violation is to be guilty of all (James 2:10). One violation of the perfect holiness of God makes a person a sinner.
The Lord Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The penalty and power of sin is dreadful. The possibility of the second death is awesome. The Psalmist writes, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity” (Psalm 32:1-2).
It is well for a person who professes to be a Christian, but who practices sin as a way of life, to ponder this question: “If a man is not saved from his sins, from what is he saved?”
Study Guide The Problem Of Sin
The following questions may help clarify man’s greatest problem.
1. Write a definition of sin in your own words after considering Matthew 5:28; Romans 3:23; James 4:17 and 1 John 3:4.
Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) Isaiah 53:6.
2. According to Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:15-17, sin originated in the heavens and had its roots in (select one)
b. lack of good judgment.
c. a misunderstanding.
3. According to Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:1-6, the first recorded sin on earth had its roots in (select one)
a. unbelief and disobedience.
b. lust and immorality.
c. anger and frustration.
d. a misunderstanding.
4. What is God’s attitude toward sin (Habakkuk 1:13)?
What payment did God require for sin in Old Testament times (Ezekiel 18:20)? In New Testament times (Romans 6:23)?
5. There are three types of death mentioned in Scripture: (a) physical death (separation of the soul from the body); (b) spiritual death (separation of man’s spirit from God’s spirit); (c) the “second death” (eternal separation of man’s spirit from God’s spirit, occurring when a man dies physically while still in a state of spiritual death).
Match the verses on the right with the three types of death on the left:
-------physical death a. Ephesians 2:1-3
-------spiritual death b. Hebrews 9:27
-------”second death” c. Revelation 20:11-15
6. According to Romans 5:8, whom did Christ die for? There are two types of sinners as illustrated by Luke 18:10-14: those who admit that they are sinners and those who do not. Why is it important to realize you are a sinner?
7. Repentance means (select one)
a. a religious rite to be observed on certain days.
b. a change of mind which results in a change of action.
c. telling God you are sorry.
d. we are unhappy with the way things turned out.
8. To receive God’s forgiveness, we must (select one)
a. acknowledge our sin.
b. admit our responsibility for sin.
c. cry to God for cleansing.
d. be willing to forsake our sin.
e. all of the above.
What do you say? How and when were you first convicted of sin and your need of a Savior?
What do others say? Contact at least three people this week and ask them the following questions. You may wish to say something like the following:
“I’m involved in a Bible Survey here in (name city). Could you help me by sharing your opinion on three important questions? (1) In your opinion, what is sin? (2) Do you see anything in the newspapers or on television that indicates that man is a sinner? (3) What do you think a righteous God would do about sin? Thank you so much for your help. Would you like for me to mail/e-mail you a copy of the survey results? Thank you.”
Record their names and addresses on the 3x5 cards provided by the class leader. Record the answers on the back, indicating if survey results are desired. Then return the cards next class meeting. Results of the survey will be tabulated by the class leader and mailed to each person indicating an interest.