Sin and Sins

Once again, because of comments to yesterday’s post, I felt compelled to see what Scripture had to say about Sin as something inherent and sins as deeds of lawlessness. I believe in both but realized I couldn’t give chapter and verse to show from Scripture that both exist.

Interestingly, I came away from my study (reluctantly—it’s really interesting to read the Bible asking one focused question like that) with the conviction that the sin nature of man does exist, but I don’t see it by name. It’s actually somewhat amusing to me because some time ago I did a similar study to defend the existence of free will, and in the same way found that term is not one the Bible uses in the same theological way we use it today.

(For those of you who don’t see the issue as amusing, it’s because those most adamant in their belief in free will—not named as such in the Bible—are most likely the ones who disbelieve the concept of the sin nature—not named as such in the Bible. And vice versa. Irony! 😀 )

Be that as it may, how do I remain convinced Mankind has a sin nature? For one, the Genesis 5 passage I quoted yesterday sets the stage. Other passages must take this fundamental truth into consideration.

But what other passages? First, I want to reiterate that I do not believe in “proof texts.” I believe the Bible as a unit tells us what God wants us to know. To isolate one verse from its context can distort Truth. Not always. But Scripture should be examined in light of Scripture.

In that vein, then, I think no one would disagree with Kameron that sins are acts, thoughts, attitudes of lawlessness. In addition, Romans, supported by a plethora of verses, makes it clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The disagreement, as I understand it, is what compels all to sin. I can’t help but think this is a semantic discussion to a degree. Clearly, something must be acting on Mankind. Is it a corrupted will? The flesh? I’ve understood this to be the sin nature—another name for “the flesh”—which each person inherited, going back to Genesis when Seth was born in the likeness of Adam.

Paul’s argument in the book of Romans that sin entered through the disobedience of one man seems to bear this out. The entire discussion is in chapter 5, but here’s the key verse: “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (v. 19, emphasis mine).

Couple that with Romans 3 and Paul’s Old Testament quote: “There is none righteous, not even one.” The implication would seem to be the condition in which Mankind exists.

Romans also refers to man being a slave to sin, clearly a picture of a condition without options: “Though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart … and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness …For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness … But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”

Still more from Romans—the concept of an old self and a new self. “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”

This concept also makes sense of Jesus’s statements to Nicodemus in John 3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God … That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Another convincing reference is Paul’s characterization of us as sinners: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Clearly this doesn’t mean while we were in the midst of some lawless act. I wasn’t even born then. A verse or two later, he refers to us as “enemies.”

Finally, for the purpose of this blog post, Paul also discusses reconciliation with God, as if something separated us from Him, made us enemies, but no longer does. And yet he also exhorts believers to not let sin reign in our mortal bodies, to not go on presenting the members of our bodies to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. The implication is that believers still must battle sinning.

What then, did Christ do that brought reconciliation? His blood sacrifice was a payment for sins, yes, which cancelled our debt and stamped us forgiven, but His death and resurrection was also victory over Sin, over the corruption that ruled our hearts.

Published in: on June 3, 2008 at 11:48 am  Comments (5)  
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5 Comments

  1. Great post!!!

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  2. Someone once pointed out to me that the things in Scripture have a tendency to operate on both a corporate and individual level. For example, we have the entire race of humanity aging, getting sick, and dying, all of creation cursed, because of one man. On the other hand, each man dies for his own sin. A second example might be that we see whole households saved by one man, and we see individuals saved by one man. Israel as a nation was set apart by God, but within Israel were both wicked and righteous men.

    It’s written somewhere that not everyone commits the sin of Adam. Furthermore, there is a point in which we all feel consequences for Adam’s sin, we all bear responsibility for our own sins, and we all carry with us a need of reconciliation with God.

    I think problems arise when we hone in one one aspect. There are internal sins that can go unnoticed for a lifetime. There are external sins which can’t help but be noticed.

    And then there are those neutral,amoral things that have no bearing on your salvation, that are not sins in and of themselves…but they rob your affections for God, distract you from him.

    I’ll just reiterate to make sure my neck stays on the block: Most of the time I find free will/predestination, OSAS/NOSAS, age of accountability, and other such related topics a rather chilling effort on our part to try to figure out who’s saved and who isn’t. Honestly…I dread the thought of ever making that call. True, some you can tell. Some you can’t. It’s wheat and tares.

    However…Jesus never really specified “preach the gospel to unsaved people.” He just said “preach the gospel.”

    (Someone’s going to point out that Jesus expressly said the whole world but I’m going to contend that if we’re doing our job within the body — that is, to build up, encourage, teach, exhort, correct each other — the difference is only a matter of approach. Sometimes not even that.)

    Furthermore, God exists outside of time. Time itself he created. This is why texts such as John 1.1 and the “crucified before the foundation of the world” (can’t think of the reference) text comes in.

    I think that’s how you reconcile a lot of these things. Does God want the whole world to perish? No. But it is perishing. Did God love the whole world? Well, yes. Are all saved? No. But it’s possible (refer back to the Israel reference). Did Christ come to condemn? No. But “the world stands condemned already,” and “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” and “the ax is already at the tree.”

    Anyway. This comment is a blog entry in and of itself at this point.

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  3. Thanks, Robert. I appreciate your feedback.

    Kaci, I think you’ve added an interesting component, this idea of a collective and an individual look at sin.

    I’ve thought about God’s work with nations before, which always has ramifications for individuals. And yes, there are also internal sins and external.

    I’m not sure I agree with the “neutral” things that steal our affections. I tend to think we can sin in an area that seems neutral. Reading, for example. I had a friend years ago who used to read as an escape from … whatever. Reading certainly would be considered by most as a good thing and neutral at worst. But if it takes a place that God wants in our lives, even reading can become a sin, I believe. Whatever pushes God off the throne of my heart is no longer neutral.

    In the gospels the exaggerated picture is to cut off a limb or pull out an eye if they are the cause for sin. Hands, eyes … these would be considered good, necessary, and neutral at worst, but they can be behind sin, one of those acts of lawlessness Kameron referred to.

    Again, thanks for your thoughtful participation in the discussion, Kaci.

    Becky

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  4. Sure, Becky.

    Just wanted to clarify: That is what I meant by “neutral sins.” Whatever distracts you from God becomes sin. Just as you said. I was either unclear or never finished that thought.

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  5. […] special intervention. In addition, because of sin and the sin nature (see posts from Monday and Tuesday ), the world is not a safe place spiritually […]

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