Why We Need To Understand Sin
Brothers and sisters, I greet you all in the name of Jesus Christ our saviour and Lord. It’s a privilege for me to be here at this conference and to be able to speak to you concerning God’s word. As we approach the subject of the doctrine of sin in light of the holiness of God, we will read from Ephesians 2:1-8. The Apostle Paul writes saying, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Let’s pray. We thank you sovereign Lord for an opportunity to gather in your presence, to reflect on the theme of holiness indeed as you are a great and holy God. And as we behold your holiness in light of what the scriptures say, today we are forced to look at the subject of the doctrine of sin. For only as we understand our sinfulness can we indeed appreciate and understand your holiness. How we pray that as we work through your word and seek to understand it, you will not only show us the depth and the danger of our sinfulness but more, all the more we will behold your glory. That we will bask in your holiness, we will be reminded of what Christ has done for us on whose account we who were captives of sin have now become the liberated children of God. Open our hearts to understand you, open our eyes to see the truth of the Scriptures that we may be reminded that he whom the son sets free is free indeed. Would you bless us together as we get into your word? All for Jesus’ sake we pray, Amen.
I cannot think of a better theme of a conference than the theme of holiness. As you well know, our God is indeed a holy God. I am so excited at what the different speakers will be talking about concerning the holiness of God. But on my part, I would like to address you on let’s say the opposite of holiness-on the other side of the coin; The doctrine of sin. If holiness is what it means to be the perfection of God, then you may imagine sin as the imperfection of something. If holiness is the light and the brightness of God, then you may want to think about sin as the darkness of things. Why is it important for us to know about sin? Or to study the doctrine of sin? It is very important that we understand what sin is, what sin is about for a number of reasons. Especially because an appreciation of the gospel can only come with a proper understanding of sin. If you go wrong on what sin is, you’re likely to go wrong on how to solve it or how to resolve the problem of sin. Like we say in medical terms, a proper prescription must follow a proper diagnosis. If you have a wrong diagnosis of what someone’s sickness is, you cannot prescribe the right drugs.
You may also notice, some of you who are familiar with false religious groups or what they call cults, that the heart of cultic teaching is always the lack of appreciation of the gospel of salvation. And the appreciation of the gospel only becomes obvious when there is a proper understanding of what sin is about. A wrong view of sin eventually results into a wrong understanding, a alack of appreciation of the gospel of salvation. In other words, when we understand what sin is, then we are able to appreciate the good news of the gospel better because now we have a background of what sin is which is really bad news. Someone has said, that there is a kind of proportionality between our understanding of sin, its seriousness, its gravity, it’s consequence and how great God’s mercy is. You sense that at the end of Romans 5 where Paul talks very much about sin and its consequences to the human race, that he concludes saying that where sin abounded, grace has abounded all the more. In other words, even the proper understanding and appreciation of God’s grace can only come when there is an understanding of what sin really is.
Modern Christianity today downplays the subject of sin. Sometimes even will deny it and therefore negates the need for the gospel. There are a number of cultic groups for instance, around us today, in Africa today that will downplay the doctrine of sin. Either they will explain it as just a mere weakness or a mistake. Or, they will explain as something that is not transferable, something that one can chose to do or chose not to do. And how you define sin, like we said ultimately tells you how the gospel will be understood. And whether it will be appreciated or not.
The Proper Definition Of Sin
John Calvin in the instance of the Christian religion has said that, only when we see our truly miserable condition, can we approach the Lord with genuine humility and faith. When we understand our miserable condition, when we understand that we fall short of God’s standard, that’s when we are able to appreciate the mercy and the grace that God has lavished on the human race through Jesus Christ. So, in simple terms when we think about sin, what are we really talking about? What is the proper definition of sin that can help us not only understand what it is in its nature but why the gospel must address it at its core? A number of theologians and Biblical commentators have given some definitions that we could work with, like A.H Strong has said that sin is lack of conformity to the moral law of God either in act, disposition or step. Charles Hodge, one of the New Testament commentators has said that sin is a transgression of, or want of conformity to the divine law. And another James Oliver Buswell Jr. has defined sin saying that sin may be defined ultimately as anything in the creature which does not express, or which is contrary to the holy character of the creator. And of course, when we come to the Bible, the Apostle Paul described sin in a number of ways. And more particularly in Romans 5 where he gives an extensive analysis of the origin of sin and the effects that have come upon the human race as a result. The Apostle Paul understands sin to be unrighteousness, or transgression, or missing the mark, or impurity, or uncleanliness, or disobedience, or ungodliness, or lawlessness. And he uses several Greek words to describe sin in terms of its nature but also sin in terms of principle and actions.
When we think about the subject of sin, we must wonder, how do we come to know what sin is? And how do we come to know that it is something that really needs to be addressed by Scripture? Of course, if you want to know the truth you must always go back to the Bible- the revelation that God has given us in Christ Jesus. The revelation that God has put down for us that we may know his word, we may know his holy will and we may be able to walk in that very perfect will. And when we go into the Scriptures, a quick passage that we could look at as a helpful foundation for understanding what sin is, is to go to Genesis 3 where it all begins from. Perfect Eden where Adam and Eve have been placed by God, he has given them everything they would ever need for all of life. In Eden we see not only God’s provision of wonderful things, but also what we would call God’s prohibition – what to do and what not to do. And among the prohibitions was that while man was given the license or the guarantee to enjoy everything within the garden, he was not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden. And what we find in Genesis 3, is a wilful, voluntary disobedience of Adam and Eve. That against what they know to be God’s will, they chose another way that is against God’s will and thereby in disobedience they sin against God.
The Results Of Adam’s Sin
In Genesis 3, we see a progression of the temptation that eventually leads to their sin. One, we see a distortion of God’s word; the serpent comes to Eve and begins to create doubt in Eve’s mind – Did God really say, Eve, are you sure God actually said that you should not eat of any of the trees in the garden? He creates a doubt in Eve’s mind, he distorts Gods word by questioning it, and rephrasing it. And then he denies the very same word, when even tells him of what God told him of what to eat and what not to eat, what does the serpent say? “You will surely not die; you cannot be serious. You mean you also believed that simply because God jokingly said it? God was not really meaning what he said.” So, they deny what God has said. They have distorted his word; they have denied his word and now they doubt his goodness. The serpent tells Eve, “The reason God didn’t want you to eat of that fruit of the tree, is because he knows if you eat of it…” What is the serpent saying? That God is not actually as good as you think he is. While he has given all these wonderful things to enjoy, there’s something he’s hiding from you. So, they doubt God’s goodness and eventually they desire God’s glory. How? The serpent tells them, “Let me tell you a secret, if you actually eat of this tree, or of this fruit of this tree, you will become like God. You no longer have to be under God, you no longer have to be like a creature. All you need is to eat of the fruit of the tree of the garden and you will be like God. So, there it is; A distortion of God’s word, a denial of God’s word and will, doubting God’s goodness and desiring God’s glory. And before we knew it, the first sin had come into the world. Adam against the knowledge that he had of Gods express demands, had not only resisted God’s word and will, but had deliberately walked away from Gods known will. And from then, not only do we have the first sin into the world, or coming into the human race, but the consequences that come out of it.
Adam, as the first man of the human race, has since passed on the corruption & polluted nature that he inherited as a result of sin.
In Genesis 3:15 we read about the curses that God pronounces. Not just about Adam and Eve but about the land, about the so many ills, the so many misfortunes that would begin to characterize the world because of that sin. Now, when you come to Romans 5, you find the Apostle Paul referring back to that experience in the garden of Eden in Genesis 3. But now he takes it even much further, he says what did happen to Adam became not just a problem for Adam, but a problem for the whole human race. That Adam, as the first man, as a federal representative of the human race has since passed on the corruption, the polluted nature that he inherited as a result of that sin and the curse that came because of that sin.
And from Genesis 5, the Apostle Paul gives, rather from Romans 5, the Apostle Paul gives us a theological perspective of the doctrine of sin. A number of things that he says: Number one, he reminds us that because of Adam’s sin and disobedience against God, sin and its consequences which include death have transmitted to all men throughout all ages. And on account of Adams sin, all humanity is now steeped in disobedience against God. And we can read that in Romans 3:23, we can read that in 1 John 1:8. And that this sin has been transmitted into humanity. But it has been transmitted in a form of a corrupted nature. And from this nature comes all sorts of sinful acts and behaviours. So, from Paul’s explanation in Romans 5, we identify sin as a corrupted, perverted, polluted sinful nature. But from that very nature, we also identify what the Apostle Paul could call the works of the flesh in Galatians- the acts, the behaviours that proceed from the nature that’s now at work in sinful man.
R.C. Sproul has wisely captured the nature of sin by saying that, “We are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.” The reason we are sinners is not because of the sinful acts we do. It’s not because we steal, lie or cheat, or kill people but on the contrary, the reason we do all those acts, is because by nature, mankind is born in bondage to sin. Theologians have come up with this word, that’s usually used to describe the nature, the extent and the intent of sin. The word that is commonly known as total depravity. Now, there’s some disagreement about the usage of this word, some people have chosen to use radical depravity instead of total, especially because the word total can really be confusing.
So, when we talk about man being totally depraved, what are we really talking about? Well, we can look at it in two ways; We look at it quantitatively and also qualitatively. And quantitatively, when we use total depravity, we are saying that every part of who we are has been affected by sin. There’s not a portion, there’s not a part of our lives that is clear, that is clean, that is innocent – our minds, our thoughts, our wills, our emotions, our bodies are all polluted or touched by that sin nature to the extent that everything that comes out of us, that wells out of us is corrupted by sin, is affected by sin and is bound to have negative consequences on us and the world in which we live. But we should also understand this qualitatively, that when we talk about total depravity, we are not saying that man is incapable of doing anything good, we are not saying that man is as bad or he is as sinful as he could ever be. On the contrary we see that man because of God’s image in him is still capable of doing something good. For instance, man even though he is a sinner, is going to love his children, is likely to want to help the poor and the needy and the widows. You can see that there’s some residue of good in man despite of his sinfulness. But what this means is that man is incapable of doing anything good that can result in his salvation.
So, quantitatively, every part of who we are has been affected by sin. Qualitatively, man is not as sinful as he could be. It could actually be much worse than that if not for the grace of God. And in summary we are saying that this inherently sinful nature results in a complete alienation from God and a total inability of human beings to achieve reconciliation with God based on their own abilities. In other words, because of the sin nature at work in us, inherited from sinful Adam, man is incapable of saving himself. The Westminster confession of faith in Chapter 9 paragraph 3, summarizes this condition of man in this way, ” Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation. So as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.” That because of the state of sin in which man is born and lives all his life, no matter how good he thinks he is, no matter how wonderful good works he attempts to do, all those good works are incapable of saving man or even drawing him closer to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
No One Is Sinless
In fact, when you look at Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul describes a deplorable condition of sinful man as not just one of weakness and mistakes, but one of death. He says that, “For you were dead in your trespasses…unable to help yourselves, but God who is rich in mercy…” The turning point comes on that phrase ‘But God…’ Apart from God, you were dead in your trespasses, unable to help yourselves. In other words, man in and of himself, left to himself, is bound to do evil because his will is tainted by sin. And everything he thinks about, everything he wills, everything he desires to do is corrupted by that nature. When we do not understand the extent and the intent of sin in man’s life, we are bound to downplay the gospel, we are bound to fail to understand why the gospel becomes good news. But when we understand the heinousness of sin, the danger of sin and the consequences that come after it or out of it, then we are ready to see why the gospel in the Scriptures is announced as good news because it comes against the background of the bad news of sin.
Sin has not only come to us as, from Adam in terms of nature, but like I said earlier, this very nature is evidenced or demonstrated through sinful acts that man does. Sin is not just a nature that we have to live with, but it is universal. A number of Bible passages will remind us that not that just we are sinners, but that sin has so much corrupted and overwhelmed us. That apart from the grace and mercy of God no one could ever stand, no one could ever have hope for eternal life. Listen to a number of Scriptures and what they say about the understanding of sin: 1 Kings 8:46 says that, ” …for there is no man that sins not.” Meaning, no matter who you are, or where you are, you are a sinner and that sinful nature will lead you into sin. Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from sin?”, Who can say? And indeed, that rhetorical question just reminds us that there is nobody, nobody can say that they are clean, that they are okay. Then you come to Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart of a man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” The heart of a man, deceitful above all things. Who can know it? Meaning, that sin has not just corrupted who we are and how we think. But it has corrupted the core of our being that everything that proceeds from us is corrupted, is sinful and can only breed sinful consequences. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says that, ” For there is not a just man upon the earth that does good and sins not.” Isaiah 53:6, ” All we like sheep have gone astray.” All, the key word being all not some of us, not a few of us, not maybe, not most likely but all, all of us like sheep have gone astray. Isaiah 64:6 the Prophet reminds us, he says that, “But all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness as a filthy rag; And we all do fade as a leaf and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away.” That even our best righteousness, even the best of our deeds is like filthy rags. Now, if our best righteousness is like filthy rags, what does our unrighteousness look like? You can imagine.
Even the best of our deeds are like filthy rags. Now, if our best righteousness are like filthy rags what does our unrighteousness look like?
Romans 3:23, one of the major gospel passages that I like to run to. The Apostle Paul says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” And the all means both Jews and Gentiles, the all means regardless of gender or background, or career, or profession it doesn’t matter who you are. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Galatians 3:22 says that, “But the Scripture has concluded all under sin.” Again, the key word being ‘all’ are under sin. 1 John 1:8 says that “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I John 1:10 says, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Now, to sum this up, the message of all these Bible passages, there is a summary quote in Canons of Dort in article Chapter 3, where it says that, “Therefore all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath. Unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins and slaves to sin. Without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit, they are neither willing nor able to return to God to reform their distorted nature.” Please mark those key words; their distorted nature, slaves to sin, inclined to evil, incapable of doing – not just of doing good but of doing any saving good. That no matter what man does, no matter his excuses, no matter his qualifications, he’s bound to be corrupted and polluted by sin even when the intentions are good soon or later it results into sin because it proceeds from a sinful nature.
Now we can understand why people like David in Psalm 51 would not only confess his sin to the Lord, but he confesses saying that, “Even from my mother’s womb I was a sinner. I was sinful at birth.” Is David saying that he was sinful while he was in his mother’s womb? No. What he’s saying is that even in my mother’s womb I had the sin nature in me, at work in me. And the reason I have sinned, or I have performed sinful acts is because of the sin that is already at work in me. We met the Prophet Isaiah 6 crying out after he has beheld the awesome glory of God in a vision. And what is his immediate conclusion or confession? “Woe unto me, a man of unclean lips.” Not just a man of unclean lips, but a man who lives among people of unclean lips. What is Isaiah saying? That, “My problem is not only that I have unclean lips but that’s who I am. That’s where I live, that’s my context, that’s my culture. Everything around me is unclean. And I deserve to die, I deserve to be punished. Woe unto me.”
Receiving God’s Grace
Now, I know some of you might be here listening and you’re wondering, “Why do you have to spend all this time giving us the bad news? Why do you have to tell us about the sin that we’ve been running away from all our days? Can’t you just tell us something nice? We’re sure we’ll like to hear about God of love, God of grace, God of patience and mercy.” And indeed, there’s lots of scriptural passages and evidence that show God to be all those things. But like we said at the beginning, God’s grace cannot really be appreciated or understood well without the background of who we are. For us to appreciate the intensity of light, we must understand the depth and fear that comes with darkness. That the good news of the gospel does not really become good news until we understand that number one; that we are sinners. Number two that we are incapable of saving ourselves or delivering ourselves from that sin nature out of which proceeds all the different sinful acts. And that we cannot understand the intensity of the sacrifice of Jesus- the sinless son of God, unless we understand the heinousness of our sin. When we understand the heinousness of our sin, and the consequences that must come out of that sin, and how a holy God must severely punish that sin, then we recognize why God’s grace is important, why God’s grace is necessary, why God’s grace is something that everyone of us must desperately hunger for, must desperately pant after. Because apart from that grace, none of us will be saved, none of us can save ourselves.
We live in a world today of alternative spiritualities where so many religious groups continue to mushroom across the continent of Africa. And one of the things you may notice that create an appeal for followership in these groups is that often they will deny the teaching about sin or they will downplay the nature of the seriousness of this sin. For instance, if I can quickly think of some cultic groups that do this; Think about the Seventh Day Adventist movement, that at the heart of the theology of Seventh Day Adventism, is a distortion of the Biblical understanding of sin. A Seventh Day Adventist for instance will tell you that sin is something that is not as serious as the Bible would like to call it. If I can quickly summarise for you Seventh Day understanding of what the gospel is really about, listen to what they say that, there is something that they called the great controversy in their theology. And I want to share with you the summary of how they understand that controversy. That the great controversy predates the fall of man and begins with Satan in heaven. And according to this doctrine, Satan challenged Gods rights to govern the universe because God was unfair and had made a law, that is the ten commandments, that could not be kept. As a result, God must vindicate himself from these charges in front of the whole universe. This need for God’s vindication is why Christ had to come as a fallen human and to keep the law of God. He had to prove that Satan was false. Jesus’ success in obeying the law however, would not be enough. A group of people must also demonstrate that Gods law can be perfectly kept by following the example of Jesus. Thus, the reason that Jesus has not returned yet, is that the Church has failed to produce such a group. In other words, what Seventh Day Adventism would like you to believe is that really our existence here on earth or the struggles we go through as human beings, is not because we are sinners, it’s because we are here to prove that we can keep the law of God perfectly which Satan claims that was unfair because nobody will keep it. So, according to Seventh Day Adventist doctrine, Jesus really came to demonstrate that he could keep the perfect law of God well and therefore serve as an example of somebody that we are supposed to follow in our pursuit of salvation. A seventh Day Adventist will insist that they believe in forgiveness of sin and that this forgiveness comes through faith in Jesus Christ. But did you know that there’s something more they add? Which in most cases they will not tell you? Quoting Ellen G White one of their prophetesses rather the founder and the prophetess of the group, she says that, “It was because the law was changeless, because man could be saved only through obedience to its precepts that Jesus was lifted up on the cross.” In other words, that man can only be saved through the law and man is capable of keeping the law of God unto perfection. In another quote she says that, “God’s requirement under grace is just the same that he made in Eden- perfect obedience to the law.”
So, according to Seventh Day Adventism, man can actually perfectly keep the law of God. And through his keeping of the law, man can actually find salvation for himself. But if you think for a moment, is that really the evidence of Scripture? Is that the testimony of God’s word? That man is capable of keeping God’s law perfectly and in the process saving himself? No! What we read almost on every page of the Bible is that man is a sinner, man has sinned, man has fallen short. There’s nothing in him that is inclined to doing any saving good. And man left to himself apart from the grace and the work of God in his life, actually is on a downward spiral into eternal destruction and damnation. He’s not capable of saving himself. When someone thinks that one can just obey the law of God and therefore become accepted before God, what they are saying is that they have not understood the teaching of what sin really is. Is that they have downplayed the doctrine of sin and there’s nothing more dangerous than that.
There’s another group that again distorts the doctrine of sin and therefore under estimates and under appreciates the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, listen to their theology of what salvation really looks like; they say that before we were physically born in this world, we were born as spirit children to heavenly father and heavenly mother in our pre-mortal existence. While in this spirit world, God called a council, all of us as spirit children of God not yet sent to earth were present. Heavenly father announced that we would be coming to earth to be born in human bodies, to be tested to see if we would be worthy to return to him. This point is very crucial remember, because according to Mormonism, the reason for your mortal life on earth is to prove yourself worthy by keeping God’s commandments. In one of their doctrinal books, in 2 Nephi 5:23 which is found in the book of Mormon by the way that they call another Testament of Jesus Christ. They say that, “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.” Please mark that; While the Scriptures say that it is by grace and grace alone that man can be saved and not of his works or any of his efforts. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will tell you that yes, we are saved by grace after all we can do. The problem with most of these cultic groups is not that they deny Jesus, no. In fact, in most cases they will tell you that Jesus is essential, Jesus has provided the attornment for our salvation. But then they will quickly say, Jesus is not sufficient. So, Jesus is essential. We all need him in order for us to get saved, but Jesus is not enough or is not sufficient and therefore we need to add something on top of who Jesus is and what he has done. And in this case, we need to add the commandments, we need to add good moral behaviour and living. Like Seventh Day Adventism, you must add the observance of the sabbath, you must perfectly obey the ten commandments without which you will really not go to heaven. In Mormonism you must not only believe Jesus who has provided an example that you can be worthy before God, but you must also fulfil the commandments. When it comes to the understanding of sin, Latter day saints will tell you that the sin that Adam committed was really not as bad as we take it to be. That it was a necessary part of our eternal destiny.
This is how they reason it, if Adam didn’t sin, then when we would come to earth later, we would find a perfect world and be unable to prove ourselves to God. There would be no basis for us to be tested. Remember, according to their theology, we are here on earth so that we can be tested to see if we are worthy to stand before God. And they reason that Adam needed to sin so that we can fight against sin and prove ourselves worthy. According to them Adam’s sin brought physical death which Jesus’ atonement covers. Everybody, no matter where they will spend eternity will be selected because Jesus conquered death for us. So, when Jesus died, he was not fully and finally paying for our sins. He was only conquering death for us and giving us an opportunity to obey the commandments and prove ourselves worthy before God. According to them Adam’s sin did not produce a sinful nature in his descendants. If we had a sinful nature then it would be unfair to test our worthiness. Instead, we are born without a propensity to sin. So, Latter Day saints in their proselytization efforts would like to convince their would be followers that you don’t need to worry so much about original sin. Because really what Adam did number one was necessary, number two, it does not get transferred to anybody. Adam as our representative has not really transmitted that corruptive sinful nature to each one of us. In other words, we are born neutral, we are born perfect. Jesus has covered our nature by his death and now we must follow him as our example as we keep the commandments. In other words, they are still insisting that you can find salvation by your personal human effort.
Coming To Grips With Our Sinfulness
Is that the evidence of Scripture? No! Do we read anywhere in the Bible where somebody can do anything in order to make themselves likeable or acceptable before God? No! And that’s why we are saying that only a profound grasp of our sinfulness before God, can lead us to a true attitude before God. An attitude of gratitude, an attitude characterized by true piety which according to Calvin has three parts: Number one, humility, number two, humility, number three, humility. But when you understand the extent of our sin, the intent of our sins, the consequences of our corrupted and perverted nature at work in us. When you understand those things, not only do you cry out and say, “Woe unto me I am undone.” but you further say, “I deserve to die. I deserve to die. I am not worthy of anything good. I am not worthy of God’s love. I am not worthy of God’s grace.”
And you see brothers, that is why the Apostle Paul captured in Ephesians 2, when he says we were all dead in our trespasses apart from God’s mercy. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says, Ephesians 2, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” Mark that, you were dead, not weak, not sick, not drowning, not mistaken but read dead. And dead people don’t get saved, dead people don’t confess Christ, dead people don’t do anything good. Paul says, “… you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the desires of the flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature, …” mark that ” … by nature deserving of wrath.” That a proper understanding of sin brings us to the acknowledgment of the eternal judgement and wrath of God that we all deserve.
God Has Made Us Alive
Ephesians 2:4, ” But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-….” God, because of his love, number one. Number two, who is rich in mercy and number three, made us alive. We, who were dead, unable to help ourselves have been made alive. And that is the good news of the gospel. That’s why the gospel is called good news. In the gospel, dead men come alive. In the gospel, men who were originally enslaved to the dictates of the sinful nature and its cravings, and desires, and consequences, now can say praise the Lord! Why? Because God who is rich in mercy. out of the greatness of his love has made us alive in Christ Jesus. No wonder Paul can confidently say, ” It is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” And he concludes saying, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, …” mind you. “… it is a gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is by God’s grace and him alone. Gods unmerited, undeserved favour that while you were dead, God who is rich in mercy, God who is rich in unconditional Calvary love has made us alive, has made us into a new creation, has made us sons and daughters of the living God. Has given us a heavenly inheritance that none of us deserves.
Living A Changed Life
And when we understand the depth of our sinfulness, the consequences that accompany that sinfulness, then we begin to recognise the bright light of God’s grace and then for the rest of our lives we want to live in wonder and awe. We want to ask ourselves why would a God of this greatness and holiness, and purity love a miserable sinner like me? Why? For the rest of our lives, there is only one thing that consumes our thoughts and our minds, that a good, great, glorious God could love miserable, pitiable, sinful, wretched, depraved human beings. How does that work? That’s what we call the wonder of the gospel my friends. That’s what makes the gospel good news. That against the background of the darkness, and the blackness, and the death that comes from this sin that so much overwhelms and characterises us, God who is rich in mercy has given us an opportunity. Romans 5:8 says that, “For God demonstrates his love in this way, that while we were still sinners, … ” The word ‘still’ being the key word there, that, “… Christ Jesus died for us.” Isn’t that wonderful? To know that you and I have now become children of God not on the basis of what we have done or what we can’t do. Because we are not capable of doing any saving good but rather on the basis of what God has done. And that God has not just provided an example, as Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints would want us to believe. But that Jesus is the final, the full, the perfect attorning sacrifice from whose perfect obedience and righteousness has become our own righteousness. That Christ Jesus had paid the penalty for your sin and mine. That God’s whole wrath has been poured on the sinless son of God that you who were a recipient of death has now become a beneficiary of eternal life. That my friend is the gospel, that my friend is the good news we are talking about. And that good news can only be appreciated when we understand the depth and darkness of sin. When we understand the corruption and pollution that sin has brought upon the human race. And as we look at our misery and our desperate condition, crying out, ‘woe unto me’ in the midst of those cries, we hear the cry of Jesus on Calvary’s cross saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” We hear Jesus saying, “It is finished.” The price is paid, the debt is sorted. And Matthew 11:28, he says, “Come to me, come to me you who are weary and are heavy laden. And I will give you rest.”
We have now become children of God, not because of what we have done or can do, but rather on the basis of what God has done.
The gospel becomes and invitation. A clanging call for all those who were once dead but have now been made alive in Christ Jesus. Not by any human work or effort but by the glorious grace of God, by the unconditional love of God who out of the richness of his mercy, has made us alive in Christ Jesus, has made us recipients of this grace that brings salvation, that brings the sinful nature into bondage and releases us in the power of the Spirit of God to become the sons and daughters that God has called us to be. Men and women with hope not just of a future here on earth but of a great eternity that awaits all those who have received God’s grace. My brothers, the doctrine of sin is not just something that we study so we can have information about where the problems of this world are coming from. But it’s something that is foundational to the good news of the gospel. It is something that you and I must be reminded of day in and day out. Because as we look back to where we are coming from, we are able to appreciate the grace that has come to us in Christ Jesus. And knowing what God has done to deliver us from that darkness of sin, we are reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:15 where he says that, “He died for them all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Jesus who died and rose again.” Now, you and I, out of our understanding of sin and the grace of God that has come to us in the gospel, we no longer live for sin, we no longer obey the promptings of the sinful flesh, but we live for the honour, the goodness, the greatness and the glory of God. Amen.