THE EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF SIN
- Read I Corinthians 15:21; Romans 5:12
- Sin came about by man's choice.
- It is widespread and universal.
- Sin is responsible for:
- All the sadness and heartache in the world.
- All the marital difficulties and broken homes.
- All the catastrophe, war, and death.
- All the drunkenness, murder, hunger, and fear.
- The various aspects of sin—what it really is:
- A missing of the mark (hamartia). A missing of our aim. Of spears thrown, but miss the foe (Liddell & Scott).
- A missing of the true end and scope of our lives.
- Every departure from the way of righteousness, both human and divine (Arndt & Gingrich (Greek Lexicon).
- Read these passages: I John 5:17; Romans 3:23; I Corinthians 15:3; I John 3:4.
- The overpassing of a line (parabasis).
- Adam's transgression (Romans 5:14).
- Eve overpassed a line which God had drawn.
- Harper identifies it: “to step by the side of, to deviate.”
- This is what so many have done (Romans 3:23; Hebrews 2:2, 9:15; James 2:9).
- Trench, the New Testament language scholar, suggests that in Paul's language this is more severe than “missing the mark.”
- Disobedience to a voice (parakoe).
- A failing to hear, a hearing amiss. Disobedience which follows careless or inattentive hearing.
- Failing to listen when God is speaking (Trench).
- Hearing but not hearing. They heard and understood, but refused to heed (Jeremiah 11:10; Acts 7:57; Hebrews 2:2).
- Failing where one should have stood upright (paraptoma).
- To fall by the side of, to fall off or away from (Hebrews 6:6).
- He had reached a height in godliness and virtue and fell where he ought to have stood (Matthew 6:14–15; Mark 11:25).
- A slip; a falling from the right way (Liddell & Scott).
- Ignorance of what one ought to have known (Trench).
- To be ignorant; not to understand; sin through ignorance (Harper).
- So designated when it is desired to make excuses for one's sin. To regard it in the mildest possible light (Trench) (Acts 3:17; Psalm 23:7; Hebrews 5:2; I Timothy 1:13; Luke 23:34).
- Forgiveness for the sin of ignorance is possible, but not necessarily forgiven simply because it was committed in ignorance.
- Diminishing of that which should have been rendered in full measure (Trench).
- Less: to be less. An inferiority to a particular standard; shortcoming (Harper).
- Not the giving of the full measure which belonged to God (Romans 11:12; I Corinthians 6:7).
- This thought is emphasized in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 15:21).
- This is very likely the sin of Cain (Genesis 4:6–7).
- This was the sin of Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-11); the one talent man (Matthew 25:14–28); the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16–22).
- The nonobservance of law (Trench).
- It means “without law, lawless, not subject to law” (Harper).
- To hold the law in contempt, violation of law (Thayer).
- Read these passages: Acts 2:23; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; I John 3:4; Mark 7:23.
- A discord in the harmonics of God's universe (Trench).
- There are many other words which tell us what sin is.
- In this way a fuller and more comprehensive Bible view is afforded us.
- Nothing is more important in our daily walk of the Christian life than an awareness of sin and a resolute determination to steer clear.
- If our lives do not comport with the will of God, we need to make whatever corrections are necessary.
- We need to share our knowledge of God's Word with others that they may escape sin's devises.
THE EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF SIN
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
“We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one“ (I John 5:19).
“Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful” (Romans 7:13, RSV).
THE SCOPE AND DESTRUCTION OF SIN
Sin is a universal product peculiar to no nation of people. “They have all gone out of the way; they together become unprofitable; there is not who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). The damage that sin works upon the human race is readily discernible in the deep and ugly marks it has left—a hating, warring civilization, bitterness and dissension within nations evidenced by racial strife and hatred, by lawlessness, and men's disregard for the rights of others.
The foul workings of sin are seen in the boundless misery and the dreadful disorders which inhabit the globe—shocking, deplorable circumstances of hunger and deprivation, of darkness and ignorance, of bloodshed and devastation. It's fruits are abundant in the innumerable calamities of life.
In countless instances, the sensual appetites have triumphed, the moral and spiritual faculties have been corrupted, the heart, the will, and the affection have been alienated from God, and man has filled his life with the most impious, inhuman, and diabolical sins.
The obduracy of the human heart keeps him from responding to the tender pleadings of the Savior of the world to turn his face toward God and his feet into paths of righteousness.
Let us consider the various aspects of sin, as this subject is treated in the word of God. This must be our standard.
TO MISS THE MARK
“All unrighteousness is sin” (I John 5:17). The word for sin, hamartia, which the apostle John used here, means, primarily, “to miss the mark, or aim.” Liddell and Scott, in their lexicon, say it is used “especially of spears thrown.” The warrior hurls his spear, but fails to strike his foe.
So, sin is the missing of the true end and scope of our lives; it is our failure to fulfill its designs and purposes. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). They missed the mark; they frustrated the very purpose for which God put man in the world. To sin is to defeat the object of life.
Departure from the way of righteousness, whether it is a human or divine standard, is sin. But that which I believe God wants us to consider is this: He has set a standard for us and He makes it possible for us to keep that standard. A failure to measure up, to bring our lives and service into correspondence with His will is a “missing of the mark,” and constitutes sin. How often we fall short of God's norm. He has a standard of faithfulness and of loyalty in his service, but so many miss the mark. “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).
There is the model and the pattern for a dedicated life of prayer and purity, of study and spirituality, and of service and selflessness. He left us an example that we should follow in His steps. In every facet in the entire fabric of the Christian life, there is a high and noble standard to which He invites and challenges us.
OVERPASSING OF A LINE
“Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come” (Romans 5:14). This “transgression,” parabasis. is the overpassing of a line, “the stepping by the side of.”
It is the word Paul used when he said, “but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (I Timothy 2:14). She lost sight of her goal; something obstructed her view. She somehow got mixed on her values, and she stepped outside the path. It is
so easy to deviate from the course of righteousness when we remove our eyes from the divine Guidepost and remove our had from the Guideline. The transgression of the law of God begins, as you see, in the heart. There is no question but that Eve understood that the step she was taking in crossing over this forbidden limit was wrong. In her heart, she wanted what was wrong to be right. She further wanted what was not truly hers. It was attractive, appealing, and offered promise of what Satan caused her to believe would make her truly wise and happy, and so she reached out to appropriate that which belonged to another. In doing so, she “overpassed the line.”
The nature of sin, the tactics of Satan, and the desires of men have not changed through the centuries. Men would still like for wrong to be right and the search out ways to minimize the sinfulness of sin, to discredit the force of God's condemnation of it, and to give respectability to it and make pure what is, in fact, evil and corrupt. The imagine that happiness can be found in that which is forbidden and which belongs to someone else, and they thus break the law, dishonor God, and bring destruction upon themselves (Romans 2:23).
The writer of the Hebrew letter said that “if ... every transgression [the overpassing of a line, stepping by the side of] and disobedience received a just reward&rdquo (Hebrews 2:2). Trench suggests that in Paul's language this is more serious than ‘missing the mark.&rduqo; This may be so because it is more deliberate and planned. Jesus, however, came to redeem us even from this sin (Hebrews 9:15).
DISOBEDIENCE TO A VOICE
“For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners ...” (Romans 5:19). Adam's disobedience, parakoue, was a failing to hear, a hearing amiss, an erroneous, or imperfect hearing; disobedience. Paradoxically, it was hearing, but not hearing. He heard and understood, but refused to heed. He did not really listen when God was speaking; it was an inattentive and careless hearing.
Jeremiah described this consideration of sin when he said, “They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods
to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers” (Jeremiah 11:10). “Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the doom that I have pronounced against them; because I have spoken to them but they have not heard and I have called to them but they have not answered” ” (Jeremiah 35:17)
Adam's action was a deliberate renunciation of the sovereignty of God, a repudiation of his supreme power. It was a self–determined rebellion against God. The issue was whether to hear the will of man or the will of God; and he did not have enough respect for the word of God nor enough concern for the consequence of his deliberate act to listen. Members of the Sanhedrin Court refused to hear the truth spoken by Stephen. I was condemnation of them and their fathers before them. “Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ear, and rat at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him ...” (Acts 7:57–58). They heard, but they did not hear. They failed to listen when God was speaking. Their sin was disobedience to a voice.
Jesus gave simple but full instruction upon the subject of discipline in the church. “More over if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your bother. But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15–17).
The man here described by the Lord who needed to make amends, or some reparation, heard and yet he did not hear. In a sense, he heard the brother against whom he had trespassed, he heard the witnesses who accompanied the injured party when this matter was discussed for the second time and he heard the church when it called to his mind the sin of which he was guilty and instructed him to make recompense. And yet, he was unwilling to hear. He was like the Pharisees and lawyers who rejected the counsel of God. They heard it, to be sure, but they set it aside and annulled it (Luke 7:30).
I conceive this disobedience to a voice to be among the most flagrant and heinous of sins. What could be more hateful and offensive to God than for one to know well his duty and refuse to comply? James says, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). In the church, this lamentable condition exists. It is true that most of us have opportunity to teach men in classes and from the pulpit the fundamental facts and commands of the gospel. The hear these things times without number, but they continue in disobedience to the voice of God. But what of our brethren, who, through the years, have been fully instructed in Christian duty and service, but who give so little of their time, energies, talents,and money to the good of the Lord's cause, to the dissemination of the gospel, to the saving of the precious souls of men? Those who know the requirements of God, but do not listen to His voice, shall be beaten with many stripes.
FALLING WHERE ONE SHOULD HAVE
“Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). This word which is here translated offenses, and which means “to fall by the side of, to fall off or away from, or a stumbling aside,” paraptoma, according to such authorities as Harper, Thayer, Liddell and Scott, is used many times in the New Testament.
In Hebrews 6:4–6, the inspired writer declares some people who had reached a great height in godliness and virtue and fell where they ought to have stood. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and powers of the age to come, if they fall away, [or having fallen away], to renew them again to repentance. ...”
The background and training of these people in the religion of Christ was sufficient to make them strong and stalwart Christians, with the courage to meet the opposition and trials which doubtless confronted them in that day, and with the dedication and resolution to hold fast the confession of their faith (Hebrews 10:23). Of Christians who had developed such spiritual character, who had reached such a stage of maturity by growing up in
him in all things, one would conclude that they “are not of those who draw back to perdition, but those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).
But somewhere along the way; they made a false step. But they did more than that; they defected from the service of God. The became deserters where they ought to have been valiant soldiers. They quit their ranks. We are not told exactly why they did; there were likely many contributing factors. It was difficult to be a Christian in that day when Christianity was insignificant, unpopular, and dangerous.
The restrictions and prohibitions it imposes and the demands it makes upon our lives are often considered penalties which some are not willing to pay. but whatever the cause or causes, the statement is unequivocal that they fell away where they ought to have stood. Paul used the term in Galatians 6:1: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault. ...” Although the element of surprise is here involved—that is, he was taken unexpectedly in a trespass, the truth of the matter is he fell where he ought to have stood.
Many of you have been reared by Christian parents, lived, and served in God's church all your adult lives, tasted the full measure of the blessings of the abundant life and have been given a foretaste of the ineffable joy that awaits the faithful, but some you have fallen away. You have abandoned the position you once held; you are no longer standing upright. We hope this will be the time when you will arise and stand staunch and erect for that which is right.
IGNORANCE OF WHAT ONE OUGHT TO HAVE KNOWN
“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). the word is agnoia, and it means “to sin through ignorance; not to understand; to be ignorant—that is, to be in error and sin because of ignorance.” Peter is here discussing the crucifixion of Christ. The Jews in ignorance had slain the Savior of the world.
This, however, was not a mitigating circumstance. It did not diminish the enormity of their crime. It is true that God has shown mercy and compassion where ignorance has reigned. In
relating some things in his former life, Paul said, “Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it in ignorantly in unbelief“ (I Timothy 1:13). But his did not excuse Paul in his sin, for, in this same connection, he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15). The Jews had every opportunity and every responsibility to know the will of God, for to them the oracles had been committed. They had a full and detailed description of the Messiah and His kingdom, and they were without excuse. To treat the sin of ignorance in the mildest possible light is but courting danger—the danger of eternal damnation. Men are ignorant now, as they were then, because they choose to be ignorant.
They have shut their eyes and stopped their ears and hardened their hearts. Like the blind man,they, “there is not sun” because they cannot see it. Truth in our time and in our land is available. To close our minds against it does not lessen its veracity, nor is our responsibility to know it taken away. “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware [ignorant] ...” (I Corinthians 10:1). Ignorance of truth does not determine whether a proposition is true or not. I did not see the red stop light and ran it inadvertently, but I violated the law nonetheless.
It is our business to “search the Scriptures” and diligently apply ourselves to the receiving of the word of God which we have heard (I Thessalonians 2:13). And be not ignorant either of it or of the devises of Satan.
DIMINISHING OF THAT WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN
RENDERED IN FULL MEASURE
“Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you ...” (I Corinthians 6:7). The word in this instance is hettema, and is defined by the language authorities as, “to be less, inferior, default, failure, shortcoming.” Their fault was their failure to give the full measure which belonged to God.
These Corinthian Christians had been very well taught. The right kind of example had been set before them. They had been fully instructed in their treatment of, and conduct towards, their fellow Christians. And they had sinned in that they had not measured up. They were acting more like the heathen from whose com–
pany they had come when they obeyed the gospel. They knew what was right. There was no doubt about the steps they should take in dealing with their brethren, and they knew quite well what God required and expected of them, but they did not render him the full measure.
This was the sin of Cain. God taught the sons of Adam about worship and sacrifice. He required of them an offering. Abel's sacrifice was acceptable; a more excellent sacrifice than Cain's because he offered it by faith. The divine record does not indicate that God was displeased with Cain's sacrifice because it was the wrong kind. God had taught them not only the kind of offerings to make but how much he required of them.
In reference to Cain's sacrifice the Septuagint reads, “Hast thou not sinned if thou has brought it rightly, but not rightly divided it” (Genesis 4:7)? This reading suggests that the kind of sacrifice he made was acceptable, but he had not apportioned God His part. His sin, therefore, was the “diminishing of that which should have been rendered in full measure.” He withheld from God what belonged to Him—keeping for himself what belonged to another.
This was also the sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–10). And it is the sin of men in the church today. Undelivered time and talent, unbestowed life, unrendered service, and ungiven goods involve us in the sin of robbery from God (Malachi 3:8). Our sacrifices are not sufficient, our giving is not in proportion to our ability. God has taught us to do much better. The potential power the church in this country possesses, developed and rendered in full measure in the discharge of Jehovah's assigned task to us, could well mean the spread of New Testament Christianity across the world in one generation. But, like the one talent man, too many of us never develop nor deliver our talents to God for use in His service and glory to His name.
NON–OBSERVANCE OF LAW
“Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (Acts 2:23). “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4). The word wicked in the first verse and the word transgression
in the second derive from the same New Testament word, anomia, which means “lawlessness, without law, not subject to law; violation of law; iniquity.” It applies to those who violate God's law and who hold it in contempt. Among these people there is no allegiance to government and no respect for law.
This spirit of lawlessness is exemplified in the story Jesus told in Luke 19:12–14: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man reign over us.’ ” Respect for God's law is essential to our acceptance of Him. The most fundamental principle of the religion of Christ is expressed by James in these words: “Therefore submit to God” (James 4:7). There must be a resignation of our own will and a complete transfer of allegiance from self to God. Arrangement of ourselves under the dominion and control of the Lord is the requisite to divine approbation. One cannot obey God acceptably in anything until respect for His law and authority permeates the heart.
Although “Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt” (I Samuel 15:7) and came very near to destroying the entire nation of these people who had been the implacable foe of Israel on their way out of bondage, “Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good” (I Samuel 15:9).
For his contempt of God's law, Samuel said, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king” (I Samuel 15:23). You cannot trample under foot the word of God with impunity.
There are about one billion Moslems in the world. Their sacred city is Mecca in western Arabia. Each year hundreds of thousands of these Moslems from many parts of the globe make their pilgrimage to this spot, the birthplace of their prophet, where they believe the greatest blessings of Allah will be showered upon them.
Several years ago, when Aziz ibn–Saud was king of Saudi Arabia, a Muslim pilgrim who had landed at Jiddah was making
the forty–six mile journey from the coast to Mecca on foot. A brigand, seeing this well dressed businessman traveling alone, attacked him, robbed him, and left him injured by the way. King Saud, hearing of the despicable deed of this lawless plunderer ordered all the headmen in the villages about Jiddah imprisoned.
When this, after several weeks, failed to reveal the bandit, he ordered the headmen released and their sons imprisoned until the culprit should be found. It was not long until the criminal was brought before the court, tried, and the sentence passed. The King's soldier, authorized to discharge the punishment, took the guilty party to a large block of wood and, with a sharp ax, lopped off his right hand. Since that time, I am told, greater respect is had for the law of the land and the Hadji pilgrims are safe on their journeys.
Respect for the authority of God and observance of His law, are greatly needed. If our lives do not comport in any of these ways with the will of God, let us make them right now ere it is too late.