A Biblical View of Sin
Paul says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” People die because they sin. Babies die because they are sinners. Obviously, they sinned in some sense different from morally. Babies die because God imputed to them the sin of Adam. This is the point Paul seeks to make in this verse.
The sin of Adam, imputed to the human race, becomes for us his children, both a curse and a blessing. Although we lost much when God imputed Adam’s sin to us, in reality we gained more when God imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. Those in Christ gain more than what they lost in Adam. In this issue, I would like to make four observations regarding sin:
Sin is a Specific Evil
You cannot convey the idea of sin to one who has not experienced it. (I remember wondering about the ability of a Sunday School class of three year olds to understand the words to the hymn they were singing, “I was sinking deep in sin.”) How do you explain sight to one born blind? Or pain or pleasure to one who has had no experience with either? You cannot prove to one who has never had pain that pain exists. So too you cannot prove that what you experience as pain is the same as what others experience.
Understanding right and wrong is only possible for moral creatures. You know that you are a sinner, not because of the experience of others, but because of your conscience and the Golden Rule. You know that it is not a limitation of your nature, not merely unwise and hurtful to yourself and others, but rather it has a specific character of its own that makes you feel guilty and unclean.
Sin is Related to Law
All people see the need for law and the necessity of being under it. Even the anti-nomian and libertine revert to law when they are in control; when people live in community they see the necessity of law. We, in part, explored this in the study on The Nature of Law.
Included in law is the sense of obligation. When you say, “I ought to,” you mean by it, “I am bound by some authority to do it.” That authority may be your conscience, which governs as the rule of law in your life. Paul said, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” In this verse Paul states what it means to violate the Golden Rule, which is the definition of hypocrisy.
If you repudiate God’s law, arguing with Him when you meet that you did not accept His law and therefore should not be judged by it, He willingly consents to judge you by your own standard or law. Like a tape recorder that records all expressions of judgment, He plays back to you your own moral pronouncements and judges you by them. Thus, if we so desire, He is willing to judge us by our own standard of law. When you reject His standard in favor of your own, however, you forfeit your right to claim the Blood of Christ if you violate your standard.
Sin and guilt are mutually inclusive; nothing is sinful that does not involve guilt. Law defines the sin that produces the guilt. Your conscience, the government, or Scripture may form this law. Conscience attests to the presence of sin by the presence of guilt; the consciousness of sin includes the conviction of guilt.
All instinctively judge as good in others what they consider good in themselves. So too, they judge as evil what they consider evil in themselves. The question of what caused the character of the other person to be good or evil does not enter into the forming of this judgment. For example, you do not call murder good because the murderer is mentally retarded. You may excuse the crime because of such a deficiency, but you do not call the deed good.
Law Demands Consistency
People everywhere acknowledge that hypocrisy is wrong. Using Paul’s definition for hypocrisy, all acknowledge that they are hypocrites and are therefore guilty. Even the saint violates his own conscience, treating others differently from how he wishes to be treated.
A law is a law because it has no exceptions. For example, we call gravity a law, because it consistently acts the same. Paul says, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” We can call this “The Law of the Harvest,” for there are no exceptions. If we think that this law is not consistent, we “deceive” ourselves; if this law is, in fact, inconsistent, then “God is mocked.”
Sin is Not Confined to Acts of the Will
When you talk of the will you can mean: a) – An act of deliberate self-determination, something performed, as illustrated by an act of premeditated murder; b) – A habit or disposition, as illustrated by a person developing the habit of becoming angry whenever he does not get his own way. Such a person may say, “I can’t help myself;” c) – A spontaneous, impulsive exercise of the feelings and affections, as illustrated by your cursing when something hurtful falls on your foot.
People usually associate the will with only “a,” when in reality all three can promote feelings of guilt and remorse. There is such a thing as character, from which the act is distinguished. Sin is not merely an act, but also a condition of the mind. Jesus said, “I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.” God will judge you because of your anger, and your sin does not necessarily involve the will as defined in “a;” it may be an involuntary reaction.
You may manifest selfishness, indifference, anger, lust, or covetousness without involving the “a” definition of your will. They flow from the essence of who you are without your thinking about them.
The two components to sin are guilt and pollution; they reside in the conscience of every person. Guilt deals with a sense of having done wrong. Jesus says, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”Most crime is committed in the dark of night because when people sin they seek to hide their wrong. Occasionally you will find brazen people who flaunt their sin, as currently seen in sexual promiscuity. But the conscience, untutored by society, identifies it as wrong. The conscience condemns wrong and the soul feels guilty.
Pollution deals with acknowledging that justice demands punishment. When the acts of others violate your conscience, you call for justice. When my grandchild gets caught doing wrong, he asks, “Am I going to get spanked?” The Old Testament talks a great deal about the relationship between sin and pollution, illustrated by the comment of the Psalmist: “And (they) shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.”
Christ takes upon Himself your sin in the latter sense, but not the former. He satisfies the demand for justice, but He does not remove your sense of having done wrong. In your own eyes you consider yourself worthy of judgment and hell, even though He paid the penalty for your sin. The same holds true for the person who goes to prison for his crime. Upon release, he acknowledges that justice has been satisfied, but he still acknowledges that he did wrong. For example, he is asked, “Why did you go to prison?” He replies, “I killed a man.” He knows that killing the man was wrong, even though he served his time in prison.
Furthermore, being guilty is not the same as feeling a sense of guilt and shame. You can be guilty and feel no guilt or pollution. For example, Hitler executed Dietrich Bonhoffer for plotting his death. Bonhoffer was guilty, but we have no indication that he felt a sense of guilt and shame. He was guilty, but he felt justified in trying to kill Hitler.
Guilt is the consequence of sin, irrespective of your attitude or feelings of guilt. You can easily willfully disobey the commandments of God and feel justified in doing so, as evidenced by a woman having short hair and not covering her head when she prays, and by a man taking a brother before the civil court in litigation.
It is also true that you don’t have to rebel to incur guilt. All violation of God’s commands brings guilt, in an objective sense. Thus, God says, “Or if any one touches an unclean thing, whether the carcass of an unclean beast or a carcass of unclean cattle or a carcass of unclean swarming things, and it is hidden from him, and he has become unclean, he shall be guilty.”
Jesus makes the same point: “But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating.” You may not be aware that you did wrong, or that what you knew you did was wrong, but you are still guilty. Ignorance may be an excuse with God, but you are still guilty; when God excuses you, He does not say that you did no wrong.
Guilt constitutes a heavy burden, not easy to carry; it wants removal. Cain cried out to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” The Psalmist says the same thing: “For my iniquities have gone over my head; they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.”
When you acknowledge your guilt and wish God to remove it, sorrow and repentance are essential. When the sinner acknowledges his guilt before God, seeking His forgiveness, God intercedes on his behalf – in the Old Testament with a covering (“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”), and in the New Testament with the blood of Christ.
Grateful for His redemption,
 Romans 5:12
 Romans 2:1
 Galatians 6:7
 Matthew 5:22
 John 3:19
 Psalm 106:38
 Leviticus 5:2
 Luke 12:48
 Genesis 4:13
 Psalm 38:4
 Psalm 32:1