Five Truths About the Sinfulness of Sin

sinThe sinfulness of sin, to borrow Ralph Venning’s language, is beyond our natural comprehension. Born in sin (Ps 51:4), we are unable to see the sinfulness that engulfs our hearts, minds, decisions, and daily activities. Because we love sin so much, we do not even realize the way we manufacture and fondle our idols. Only with the light of God’s Word can we begin to see what sin is, and only as the Spirit illumines our minds do we begin to see our darkness.

Indeed, simply to know truth about sin does in no way eviscerate the presence of sin in our lives, but it is a start. Truth about sin is necessary for putting sin to death. Such knowledge is not sufficient to grow in holiness, but it is necessary for sanctification. With that hope in mind, I have listed out five points regarding the (1) prevalence, (2) power, (3) pervasiveness, (4) partnership, and (5) pleasure of sin.

May God use these biblical truths to help you and I understand the enemy that lives within that we might cry out with greater earnestness for the grace that pardons sin and the power to say no to sin.

1. The Detailed Prevalence of Sin

All men are sinners and men are sinful from birth. Men do not become sinners because they sin; they sin because they are by nature sinful. Because of the historic fall, all men are born in Adam and hence are born with original guilt on the basis of their covenantal relation to Adam. Simultaneously, everyone is born with a corrupt nature. By nature we cannot do right, seek God, or please the father. Faith in God is not something that is natural to mankind. In the Scriptures, there is overwhelming testimony to man’s sinfulness. [1]

OLD TESTAMENT

1 Kings 8:46

. . . for there is no one who does not sin . . .

 

Job 15:14–16

What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water! (Job 15:14-16 ESV)

Psalm 51:3, 5

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalm 58:3

The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.[2]

Psalm 130:3

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?

Psalm 143:2

Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

Proverbs 20:9

Who can say, “I have made my heart pure;
I am clean from my sin”?

Ecclesiastes 7:20, 29

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. . . . 

See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

Isaiah 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 64:6

We have all become like one who is unclean,
     and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

NEW TESTAMENT

Romans 3:10-18, 23

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

James 3:2, 8

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. . . . but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

1 John 1:8, 10

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. . . . If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

2. The Deadly Power of Sin

Men are enslaved to sin, because human nature is sinful and inherently rebellious against God. And worse, unlike someone outwardly forced into slavery, men and women are enslaved by something within themselves. Even though all men once knew God through creation (Rom 1:18-20), we have all exchanged the glory of God for the glories of this world.  Therefore, every single person has received a human nature that falls in love with things other than God, and we cannot, by ourselves, pull ourselves away for such idols, because our love for the darkness is too great. And our love for the light is non-existent, until God changes our hearts (John 3:19). This is manifested in a number of statements in the New Testament.

John 8:34

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.[3]

Romans 3:13–18

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Romans 6:16-20

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.[4]

Titus 3:3

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

2 Peter 2:19

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

3. The Deep-Down Pervasiveness of Sin

Enslaved to sin, men cannot choose to free themselves. Why?  Because men are not physically constrained by sin, as if sin was an external force. Every fiber of our being is effected by sin, and thus mind, will, and emotions rebel against God and lust for sin. As you read through the verses below, notice the way sin originates from within us. As James 1:13 indicates, we are not just tempted from without; our own sinful nature actually tempts us to sin against God.

Genesis 6:5

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 8:21

And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.[5]

Ecclesiastes 9:3

This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Mark 7:21-23

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

John 3:19

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Romans 8:7–8

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

1 Corinthians 2:14–16

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”[6]

Ephesians 4:17-19

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

Ephesians 5:8

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Titus 1:15

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.

James 1:13–15

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

4. The Demonic Partner of Sin

Not only are men bound by sin, they are also ruled and bound by Satan. As with Israel in Egypt, those enslaved by Satan cannot choose a course that will set themselves free from their captor. They have neither the wisdom, power, or the resources to be able to break free. In sin, the sons of Adam are also ruled by Satan himself. Through deception, he keeps unbelievers bound in their sin, until Christ sends his Spirit to justify, enliven, and liberate the elect of God.

John 8:44

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Ephesians 2:1–2

And you were dead in the 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—

1 John 3:10

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

1 John 5:19

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

5. The Deceitful Pleasure of Sin

Men love their sin so much they cannot repent or believe of themselves.

Job 14:4

Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.

 Jeremiah 13:23

Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.

Matthew 7:16–18

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

Matthew 12:33

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.

In Summary

Collectively, the effect of sin is prevalent, powerful, and pervasive. It is propped up by Satan, sin’s partner. And it deceives humanity by masquerading as pleasure. In truth, sin is both the cause of our judgment and sin, in itself, is the first-fruits of God’s judgment. To have the ability to sin is to experience God’s judgment in a passive way. As Romans 1 says, he hands over idolater’s to the lusts of their heart. When he does that, it is not a gift of freedom; it is the first-fruits of hell.

May God be so kind to awaken our taste buds to taste and see how bitter sin is. May he open your eyes to see it’s ugliness and quicken your feet to flee from its trap. Sin is not just a trifle against God, it is cosmic treason that snares the natural man (the one without the Spirit) and that continues to tug at the redeemed man (the one who in Christ is dead to sin).

May we be aware of Scripture’s view of sin and may we seek to root such sin out of our own lives.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

_______________

[2]While the wicked may rightfully distinguished from the righteous ones in the Psalms, Scripture tells us that all men are wicked (1 Kings 8:46; Ecc 7:20, 29).

[3]In the next verse, Jesus tells how he liberates sinners from sin, but it places no emphasis on man’s repentance or belief.

[4]As slaves to sin, impurity, and lawlessness, the only thing men can do is take steps towards further lawlessness.  Changing direction is categorically impossible.  A man who is a slave to sin is free (i. e. separated) from righteousness, which means that such a man must also be free from faith, for righteousness comes through faith.  A man enslaved to sin must change his very nature in order to believe, and the one thing men cannot do is change their nature (Jer 13:23).

[5]While the Flood removed sin and sinners from the earth, it did not change the inner condition of the heart.  Noah would soon “Fall” and the curse would be passed on to Ham.

[6]In contrast to the natural mind which cannot perceive or accept anything spiritual, those who have been born again have been given “ the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16b).

 

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