by James Paterson Jnr., Scotland.
Essentially, the Biblical concept of sin is a wrong relationship with God resulting from an offence against Him. Anything in thought, word, or action, which disturbs man’s relationship with God, is sin. This broken relationship with God may be the result of wilful transgression, or a failure to appreciate God in accepting His salvation. This is emphasised in the basic meaning of the term for sin; to fall short, or to miss the mark as the word is translated some 200 times. Sin is anything that disrupts one’s relationship with God through our failure to attain the Divine standard. Sin is also expressed as man turning aside or deviating from the correct path. Isa.53.6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way …”. The correct path is that which is centred on God, and leads man to Him. Man in his natural state as a sinner cannot adhere to this way and turns aside to his own way and so suffers the consequences. Prov.16.25, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” We will see that in Lucifer and also in the temptation of Eve, there is the idea of competing with God, Lucifer with regard to place for himself, Isa.14.13, and Eve in the temptation, to have knowledge like God. Gen.3.5, “and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
The essence of sin is seen in the Word of God as the whole mind, heart, and will of man set in active rebellion against God; Jer.17.9 states, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately [incurably] wicked,” showing the deep seated, corrupting, concentration of sin. The Lord Jesus said “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” Matt.15.19.
This is evidenced in man through the Scriptures as:
- Walking contrary to God, Lev.26.21;
- Despisers of God, Num.11.20;
- Refuting the existence of God, Ps.14.1;
- Rebelling against God, Isa.1.2;
- Striving against God, Isa.45.9;
- Rising as the enemy of God, Mic.2.8;
- Resisting God, Acts 7.51;
- Hating God, Rom.1.30;
- Blaspheming God, Jms. 2.7.
Dr C.Ryrie quoted by Lehman Strauss in “The Doctrine of Sin” has given a helpful list of Hebrew and Greek words that describe sin.
“In the Hebrew of the Old Testament there are at least eight basic words:
Sin in man evolves and develops, blighting the life, destroying the body, causing the unbeliever to perish, until “sin when it is finished bringeth forth death” Jms.1.15.
However did this awful contagion manifest itself and bring about a condition that would separate man from his Creator? Was not man created in innocence? While sin would make its dramatic entrance into the world, “by one man” Rom.5.12, where was its dreadful presence first displayed?
The Expression of Sin in the Universe – “I will”
Were we to look back into heaven, and see the hosts of God, created angelic beings, one angel would stand out from the others. According to Ezekiel chapter 28, Lucifer (as he is called only in Isaiah chapter14) is the highest of God’s created beings. This chapter is one of the few passages in Scripture that gives us the origin of the Devil and of evil, portrayed through the illustration of the King of Tyre. What a picture of created perfection and beauty, “every precious stone was thy covering” Ezek.28.13. The dazzling display in this creature must have been a majestic evidence of the creatorial power of God. His name means “brilliant star” and he is referred to as “Lucifer, son of the morning!” Isa.14.12. Not only a visual display, but audible as well! Ezekiel writes of the perfection of his tabrets and pipes, in fact it seems from this description that Lucifer was not only musical, but also music personified!? He was the anointed cherub that covereth, [protected] the throne of God, perfect in his ways from the day of his creation, Ezek.28.14,15.
All this glory, position, power and presence, and yet the Lord Jesus describes an event that He witnessed when sin reared its head. Lk.10.18, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven”.? Cast out of heaven in the past, (R.V.), “I beheld Satan fallen”, (as having fallen); however this may have a prophetic application in the day of Rev.12.9.? Whatever caused such an irrevocable action to take place? Ezekiel records the change, 28.15,16, “til iniquity was found in thee … thou hast sinned”. What was the sin of this creature created higher than any other?
In Isa. 14.13,14 we have the five records of “I will” spoken by Lucifer. He set his will over against the will of God. “I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High.” The evidence points to Lucifer as having had a free will – he could choose, as he desired. He desired to be like God. Like as man would eventually follow, Isa.53.6, he “turned to his own way”. The overwhelming sin of Lucifer was pride. He wilfully went against God’s will. He was created as an angel of light: he was the “son of the morning”, but the darkness of sin permeated the realm of heaven, and he fell.? He was lifted up to such an extent that his real desire was not only to be like God, but really, to be God. In putting his own will above and beyond the will of God, he desired to put himself in the place of God, and therefore under the judgment of God.? Added to the sin of pride could be that of covetousness – inordinate grasping after that which was not his, and lying – claiming to be what he was not.
For the one who would seek to ascend higher than his allotted state, God has only one judgment, “thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” Isa.14.15. The one whose desire was to dwell in the recesses of heaven, (sides of the North), will dwell in the recesses of the pit. From the “son of the morning” before the creation of man, to the role of the great dragon, the old serpent, Satan, that is, the adversary of all that is of God, the Devil, being the accuser, the deceiver of the whole world, Rev.12.9. Cast out but still to bear the title of “Prince of the power of the air,” Eph.2.2. Cast out of the presence of God. Cast down to “go to and fro in the earth, and walk up and down in it” Job 1.7, to be bound for one thousand years, Rev. 20.2, loosed for a little season, but ultimately cast into the lake of fire to be tormented for ever and ever, Rev.20.10. “The prince of this world is judged” Jn.16.11. Destruction resulting from that rampant desire. That desire developing and becoming his decided ambition, “I will”.
In Ezekiel chapter 28 there seems to be an answer from God to the self will of Lucifer. Six times God records His will in judgment against Satan, finally leaving him in ashes upon the earth.
- “I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness” Ezek.28.7.
- “I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God” v.16.
- “I will destroy thee, O covering cherub” v.16.
- “I will cast thee to the ground” v.17.
- “I will lay thee before kings” v.17.
- “I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth” v.18.
In addition to the mighty Lucifer, there was clearly a group of angelic beings that followed his example or engaged in sin, which caused God to act. “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” 2 Pet.2.4. To this Jude adds, “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” Jude 6.
The Entrance of Sin into the World – “by one man”
From Satan’s own admission, his movements as described in Job 1.7, depict an almost patrol-like character to his actions in the earth.? The use of the preposition ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ the earth is interesting, giving the idea of involvement in the affairs of men. It is in the earth, in the garden, where he is first mentioned in Scripture.
Again the scene is idyllic, perfection this time on earth. Six days of creation resulting in a profusion of plant life, an abundance of every beast of the field, the potential of the human race in the man and the woman, God’s commendation of it all, and His day of rest.? The perfection would be blighted, the rest shattered, the earth cursed, man ruined, relationship destroyed, death passed upon all.? Why such a catastrophic change to a perfect condition?? The answer is found again in the one cast down, who rears his head in the Garden of Eden, and who in his subtlety begins a work of temptation that will bring man down, ruined through his sin of disobedience, Rom.5.12,19. Sin appears in the earth in its hydra-headed display.
It is of value to note that the fall of man refutes the evolution theories of men. While, for example, Darwinism theorises that man began in a low form and has evolved upwards, Scripture shows, in Genesis chapters 1–3, that man started in perfection directly from the hand of God, and has fallen downward. These early chapters of the history of man also show that it is not the social environment of man that causes his straying, but rather it is his sin that causes the deterioration in his social environment. The Scriptural record of the fall is the only possible explanation for the condition of the human race. What other reason could be given for the universality of sin, when regardless of background, education, and guidance, we are reminded every day that “there is none that doeth good” Ps.14.1. “For there is no man that sinneth not” 1 Kgs.8.46. “There is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” Eccl.7.20. “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” Rom.3.12.
This entrance of sin into the world is directly linked to Satan. He approached the woman, denied the Word of God, diluted the Commandment of God, and in effect doubted the Authority of God. While the word sin is not mentioned in the account given in Genesis chapter 3, the fact of sin certainly is, thus Rom.5.12. The result is a process that has appeared down through time since the initial action of Eve:
She “saw that the tree was good for food” Gen.3.6. It is interesting to note that it was only after her conversation with Satan that it is recorded “she saw”. The subtlety and beguiling effect of Satan, seems to have stirred something in her innocent mind to question what she knew, and to germinate the seed of doubt. Was there the hint of the same ambition of Satan planted into the mind of the woman when she heard his words, v.5, “and ye shall be as gods”? There was nothing inherently evil in the tree or the fruit, but God had said, “thou shall not eat of it” 2.17. While she knew the Word of God and could have repeated it to Satan, there seems to be an alteration made from what she had heard, whether with her husband, directly from God, or passed on to her from her husband. This is seen in the five-fold alteration of God’s word in Genesis chapter 2.
- She alters the Capability of the provision by omitting ‘every’ 3.2.
- She reduces the Capacity of the provision by omitting ‘freely’ 3.2.
- She relocates the Centre of the garden – The tree of Life was in the midst 2.9.
- She adds to the Communication by including “neither shall ye touch it” 3.3.
- She relaxes the Commandment in omitting God’s Word “thou shalt surely die” 2.17.
While she knew what God had said, she was not prepared to adhere to it, and her look developed to desire, “and a tree to be desired” 3.6. Her desire develops into action, “she took … and did eat, and gave also unto her husband (first mention of husband) with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew …” 3.6,7. Although it is the woman who is tempted, Adam willingly shares with her the forbidden fruit. There is a strange passive quality to his behaviour in v.6 and again in v.12.
The sin of covetousness is evidenced, which always starts with a look, then desire, then appropriation, and ultimately death. This principle is seen through Scripture with regard to covetousness. For examples the reader should consider Lot, Achan and David.
Adam ate of the fruit in total disobedience to the instruction of God, and as a result began to die. How tragic! This is the one who had received the very breath of God as an inanimate object and, “became a living soul” Gen.2.7. However, the entrance of sin into man and therefore into the world, caused that relationship to be broken and the process of death to ensue. Adam became the possessor of a fallen nature. Not only was he a sinner, but also each of his descendants inherited the same. Rom.5.12 is clear, “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”.
However, some might ask the question, “How could there be sin when the law has yet to be given?” Strictly speaking, there could be no individual sin until there was a law to be broken, even though there is the evidence of conscience in Adam, and he knew that there was an effect from his actions. Before the institution of the law, it is obvious that death prevailed, which is the proof and the consequence of the presence of sin. So Adam’s sin, as one man, brought death upon all mankind. 1 Cor.15.22, “For as in Adam all die …”. The sin that then prevailed, with such far reaching and disastrous effect, was Adam’s.
Therefore we understand Rom.5.12, “for that all have sinned” is really, not the act of the individual sinner, but the implication of all in Adam’s sin. Paul, in Rom.5.15-19, states that the universality of sin and death is due to the single sin of one man. As the representative head of the race, the contagion within him is distributed through all who follow, “so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (in Adam). We see the confirmation of this in the fact that innocent babies, who have never consciously sinned, die. This is a result of Adam’s sin being imputed to his progeny. The effect of this is further graphically described in Scripture, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” Ps.58.3. Again, “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” Eph.2.1-3. What a definitive description of unregenerate man! Man cannot change this condition and so the Lord Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” Jn.3.6. Job understood the progressive problem of sin. “What is man, that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman that he should be righteous?” Job 15.14.
The good news developing from this subject is that while the single act of one brought sin and death upon all; the single act of the one Redeemer brought life and grace upon all who believe. Again, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one many shall many be made righteous” Rom.5.19. The Redeemer would come, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity …” Tit.2.14.
Sin in the world not only affects the world of men, but also is seen in the physical world, i.e. the earth on which we stand. Perfection has gone; the earth is under a curse, “cursed is the ground for thy sake” Gen.3.17; the heavens are unclean in God’s sight, “Yea the heavens are not clean in His sight” Job 15.15; the best of humanity is vanity, “verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity” Ps.39.5; the whole creation groans, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” Rom.8.22. All of these conditions being the direct effects of sin in the world.
The Effect of Sin on the Sovereign
Sin in essence is wickedness. It is contrary to the holiness of God, for God is holy, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” 1 Jn.1.5. His holiness means that He Himself cannot sin, nor is He the cause of sin in any other. He does not command sin to be committed, for to do so would be contrary to His nature. He does not approve of any man’s sin when it is committed; in fact He hates it with a holy hatred. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity” Hab.1.13. Sin therefore is against the very character of God and His holiness. He hates it, so He must punish it, therefore He must put it out of His sight for ever. Apart from the sacrificial work of Christ, God cannot deal with sinful man except to cast him out of His presence eternally into the Lake of Fire.
Sin Causes God to Suffer in the sense of grief to His holy character.
God shows His hatred of sin by threatening severe punishment against it. God said to Adam, “thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” Gen.2.17. The sin of disobedience was so severe in the sight of God that He issued a most severe threat, which was implemented immediately on the sin of man. At this time man separated himself from God and was banished from the Garden. How grieving to God the Creator to look upon His creature now blighted by sin and exiled from His presence. At the time of the flood it was the wickedness of man that so grieved God that He repented that He had ever made mankind, “And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart” Gen.6.6. There are four words that seem to emphasise the condition of man to cause such feeling in the heart of God. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” Gen.6.5. Such was the depravity of mankind because of sin, and the grief of God is seen in the deluge that followed. We must never forget in this context the long-suffering of God, even in a world of such sin. As long as Enoch’s son, Methuselah lived, the world would be safe and God would stay His hand. Nine hundred and sixty nine years, what a demonstration of God’s mercy!
Sin Causes God to Seek Sinners
Seeking the sinner is the position of God. It cannot be otherwise. “There is none that seeketh after God” Rom.3.11. It was not Adam that sought God, but God that sought Adam, “where art thou?” Gen.3.9. It was God that sought and called Abram while he was still an idolater, Gen.12.1. He called Moses while in Midian from the midst of the bush, Ex.3.4. Christ sought out the disciples from their various locations, and sought us all, until we came to Him. “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” Lk.19.10. So He can say “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” Jn.15.16. While God seeks, man is still responsible to respond to the overtures of God.
Sin Caused God to Provide A Saviour
More will be written about this Blessed One, the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, but we cannot but mention the One Who is God, yet came from God “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” Gal.4.4 (R.V.). The purpose of that coming, as we shall see in greater detail, was, “to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” Heb.9.26. Paul again thrills at the purpose of the One provided, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” 1 Tim.1.15.
The Effect of Sin on the?Sinner
The Presence of Sin
After Adam sinned the eyes of both the man and the woman were opened and they saw themselves as their disobedience had made them to be, naked and ashamed. They had succumbed to the temptation of Satan and the notion of them being “like gods” which will rather propel them into the depths of destruction. What a realisation of shame they must have felt. Their immediate thought was to cover their nakedness with the apron of fig leaves. However this attempt to restore purity was a useless substitute for that state in which they were created.? Not only did they feel shame, but they understood for the first time that they were guilty of disobeying God. Genuine guilt springs from the known violation of God’s laws.
The sin that plunged mankind into sin was that of disobedience. It shows that man was not capable of determining what was good and evil, but that he must trust God in the matter.
God as Creator has the right to establish laws, both spiritual and material. To break or uphold these laws is the choice of man, given his free will. In this first instance man chose to disobey the Law of God. He must therefore take the consequences.
Immediately on sinning the effect of sin is evidenced, first in their knowledge, then in their separation from God, Gen.3.8-10. When God came in the cool of the day, as was His practice, man hid. The effect of sin is not that God removed His presence from man, but rather that man removed himself from God. “I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” Gen.3.10. It is clear that man cannot divorce himself from the Creator. The sinner coming into contact with God face to face is left with no defence. Isa.6.5, “Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
The Problem of Sin
The Results of Sin
The results of sin in the world are seen early in the history of man. Gen.3.10, the first mention of fear; self-justification, 3.12,13; sorrow multiplied to the woman even in the bringing forth of children, 3.16; her subjection to her husband decreed by God; sorrow too for man as he toils on the earth, 3.17-19; man is driven out by God from that pristine garden, 3.24, and the resultant separation which will last not only for all time, but for eternity, unless reconciliation is made.
The Release of Sin
This is seen in the display of the mind, the mouth and the moral intent of the heart, “but those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies” Matt.15.18,19. Indeed the physical faculties of man are engaged in the practice of sin. Man curses with his voice, deceives with his actions, looks with lust, has pride in his heart, closes his ears to the Word of God, does wicked deeds with his hands, walks into evil paths with his feet. The description given in Rom.3.10-18 is conclusive; “There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.” When Paul writes of Antinomianism in Phil.3.19, he records, “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”
The Repulsion Caused by Sin
This is all around us in the world. We would hardly need to go into detail to describe the obnoxious nature of sin in the world, practiced and enjoyed by man. The lack of moral standards in the world is an evidence of rampant sin and man’s complacency in such a condition. The attitude of the age causes concern to the true believer, but how much more is God repulsed by this blatant sin. Rom.2.21-32 is sufficiently descriptive to stand alone as a description of the reprobate character of man rising to a climax in v.32, “… not only to do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them”. Nothing can exceed the enormity of this concluding statement of the preceding list. Men enjoy sin simply because it is evil, and they delight to see others in the same state of condemnation as themselves. “Who delight to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked” Prov.2.14. “For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth” Ps.10.3.
In the Gospels the picture of the leper is used to show the repulsive nature of sin. A condition that required the cleansing power of the Lord Jesus, and which under the law had to be seen to have been effected, pointing to the work of sanctification which He Himself would effect. The importance of cleansing will be developed later in the book; however, in our day, it is worth asking if a life of unclean practice could ever have experienced initial sanctification?
The Remote Position of the Sinner
This was first seen, as referred to above, in the Garden when Adam hid from God, Gen.3.10. Paul refers to those who were “made nigh” or reconciled, but they were those who had been “sometime far off” Eph.2.13. The cause of this distance between God and man being the condition of the sinner, “dead in trespasses and sins” Eph.2.1. The distance from God is not only due to man’s sin, but God’s anger against sin. “God is angry with the wicked every day” Ps.7.11. The effect of sin then is that sinners are cut off from close contact with God. There can be reconciliation through repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but outside of Christ, sinfulness cuts a man off from relationship with God.
The Reward to the Sinner
Sin’s reward is the sad portion of death. We have already seen that sin brings death. This death is spiritual as well as physical. When man sinned he died spiritually, being cut off from the source of life, which is God. In time sin works its course and all men eventually die. “For the wages of sin is death …” Rom.6.23. Following death is the judgment of God, “as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” Heb.9.27. This judgment, under the righteous gaze of the One Who sits upon the throne, Rev.20.11, is followed by the “second death” Rev.20.14, which is eternal loss, separation from God and all that is good, and suffering in the lake of fire. However there is a sense that man’s continual practice of sinful actions and resultant addictions, brings a recompense into their lives. Sin’s repulsiveness is seen in the lives of so many who have rejected God’s mercy and rather wallowed in the sins of the flesh which has resulted in their physical destruction.
The Progression of Sin
Sin in the human race is evidenced quickly in the next generation. Cain’s sin began as all other sins begin, with a hostile attitude towards God. When Cain saw that Abel was worshipping God properly he became angry and jealous. He hated his brother and murdered him, 1 Jn.3.12. While his cry was that of remorse it was not true repentance, and was a result of his selfishness and fear of reprisal, Gen.4.15.
Each generation passed and sin abounded on every hand. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth… For all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” Gen.6.5,12.
So down through 6,000 years sin progresses, touching and tainting all, “for all have sinned” Rom.3.23, passing death upon all, “so death passed upon all men” Rom.5.12, until at last there is the judgment, “And after this the judgment” Heb.9.27. See also Rev.20.15. The theme of judgment for sin can also be traced through Scripture, from the garden, through the flood, in the flames consuming the cities of the plains, and on through many examples, including judgment upon sinning believers, Acts 5.1-11; 1 Cor.11.30, until at last death, hell, the unbeliever and Satan himself are cast into the Lake of Fire, as we have already described. “Sin when it has finished, bringeth forth death” Jms.1.15. This is ultimately, The Penalty for Sin.
The Effect of Sin on the Saviour
We must carefully emphasise the fundamental truth that our Lord Jesus Christ, did not have the capacity to sin. It is critically weak to state that He did not sin, without adding the fact of His impeccability. Scripture is clear, “who knew no sin;” 2 Cor.5.21, “in Him is no sin” 1 Jn. 3.5, “He did no sin” 1 Pet.2.22.
We follow His pathway through the Gospel accounts of His life and see Him come into contact with, death, disease, demons, and those in the depth of sin. These were circumstances, which under the law would have constituted a man unclean, but our blessed Lord drew no contamination from His surroundings because of His holy, sinless character.
If reconciliation has to be effected and righteousness imputed, then it will have to be by His work accomplished on the cross. Constantly before the Lord in His pathway on earth, was Jerusalem and “the death of the cross” Phil.2.8. “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” Lk.9.51. The awful thought that sin would have to be dealt with and the fact that He would be made sin was His, every step of the pathway. After the work of Calvary was completed Paul wrote, “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” 2 Cor.5.21. So the One Who “knew no sin”, “became sin”. The sufferings of Christ had long been foretold in types and by the prophets, and the event would take place when the hour was come. Although He was made sin, the Saviour maintained in Himself the intrinsic perfection that He always had as God.
He Became Sin – 2 Cor.5.21
There is great depth to this statement that He became (was made) sin.
- He became sin – this was for God’s satisfaction.
- He became sin for us – this was for complete substitution.
The Lord Jesus is presented in Scripture as One Whom God contemplated as being free from sin. The assertion made in this verse is the fact that He was without sin. This is an indispensable condition of His being made sin for us. The only sense that He became sin is that He bore the guilt of sin. The great contrast in the verse is between sin and righteousness. He became sin, whereas we are made righteous. He was condemned that we might be justified. The only sense, in which we are made the righteousness of God, is that we are constituted righteous in Christ, therefore the sense in which Christ became sin is that He was looked on and treated as sin. The sufferings of Christ had been foretold long before, by type and prophetic word, but these came to fulfilment as “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” Isa.53.6.
Through this work, believers are now made righteous, and become the righteousness of God in Him. The righteousness of God, here and in Rom.3.21,22 is not only the righteousness which He gives, and that which He requires, but also that which belongs to Him as His essential character. We, as believers in Jesus Christ are made sharers in this righteousness supplied by God.
Emphasised in 2 Cor.5.21 is the truth of the work of Christ as Substitute, “for us” i.e. on behalf of / instead of. The truth of substitution is, that which is done by one in the place of another and avails as though that other had done it himself. He was condemned that we might be justified. He was forsaken that we should be forgiven. The blessed truth is that the purpose of God in the sin bearing death of Christ was not only that men should escape judgment, but that they should become righteous.
- Oh, hear that piercing cry! What can its meaning be?
- My God! My God! Oh! Why hast Thou in wrath forsaken Me?
- It was because our sins on Him by God were laid;
- He Who Himself could never sin, for sinners, sin was made.
- (T. Haweis)
He Bore our Sins – 1 Pet.2.24
“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes we are healed” 1 Pet.2.24.
We have seen that sin is in the nature; however the evidence of a sinful nature is sins in the life. As the source is corrupt so then everything that proceeds from that source will be tainted with that corruption. So just as Christ died to deal with sin, He “suffered for sins” 1 Pet.3.18, and, “bare them on the tree” 1 Pet.2.24. This explicit statement is a fundamental truth of the Gospel. The fact that Christ bore our sins means that God counted our sins against Christ and “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” Isa.53.6. “He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bare the sin of many” Isa.53.12. The purpose of Christ’s bearing our sin was that we, having died to sin, might live to righteousness.
The truth that Christ bore our sins is echoed in the New Testament in many places. “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” Heb.9.28. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” Gal.3.13. How personal is the language of 1 Pet 2.24, “His own self … in His own body”, and “our sins”. As surely as it was Christ’s Own Self that suffered on the cross, so truly was it our own sins that He bore in His Own Body on the tree. In this verse, Peter seems to be reminding his readers of the curse associated with judicial punishment for sin in Deut.21.23, “for he that is hanged is accursed of God”. The curse of the sin bearer is emphasised by Paul, “cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” Gal.3.13, and preached by Peter, Acts 5.30; 10.39; 13.29.
This sin bearing is final and complete. He bore, but bears no more. The sinner and the sinner’s Surety are both free. The Law is vindicated. God is satisfied. The substitutionary sacrifice has been completed in its entirety. He has ended His work. The cry “It is finished” Jn.19.30, has been emphatically made. Sin has been dealt with once and for all.
He Suffered for Sins – 1 Pet.3.18
“Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” 1 Pet.3.18. His suffering on the cross for sins was once, that is, one time only. Christ suffered to deal with the separation and alienation caused by sin, and so to bring us to God. This is made more explicit when Peter adds “the Just for the unjust”, or more literally, the Just One for the unjust ones. Being righteous, Christ had no guilt of His own to pay for, therefore He could be the substitute Who died in our place, bearing the punishment that we deserved.
His suffering for sins is an essential subject of our preaching, as Paul states, “Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” Acts 17.3. The position of His suffering was outside the gate, that is separate from the political world, and outside the camp, that is away from the religious world, the totality of both spheres that had rejected Him. “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate” Heb.13.12.
The beneficial effect of His suffering is echoed in 1 Pet.2.24, “by whose stripes [weal] we are healed”. The word “stripes” used here and in Isa.53.5 is in the singular, emphasising that God administered judgment for sin, during the awful period of darkness from the sixth until the ninth hour. This judgment is prophesied in the Old Testament. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him” Isa. 53.10. Peter draws this thought of the healing effect of the stripe from Isa.53.5, and applies the word morally: by Christ’s stripe we have been made whole from sin. Here again is the idea of the punishment of a substitute. Christ took upon Himself the punishment due to us, and thus made us spiritually and morally whole.
- Jehovah bade His sword awake;
- O Christ it woke ‘gainst thee!
- Thy blood the flaming blade must slake,
- Thy heart its sheath must be;
- All for my sake my peace to make,
- Now sleeps that sword for me.
- (A. R. Cousin)
The Effect of Sin on the Saint
While as believers in Christ we have our sins forgiven, have been justified by faith, reconciled to God, sanctified, constituted righteous, and redeemed by His precious blood, we still have to contend with the problem of sin. As far as sin is concerned we have come into the benefit of Christ’s judicial work, and because of His sacrificial work, will never be condemned, “he that believeth on Him is not condemned” Jn.3.18. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” Rom.8.1. However, as Scripture reminds us, sin is still a force to be reckoned with in our daily lives. Paul sums it up thus, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” Rom.7.18-20.
Confessed sins are forgiven sins, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 Jn.1.9. Sin in the life of the believer warrants the chastening hand of God, as detailed in Heb.12.1-11. The lack of discernment in the Lord’s Supper is sin, the judgment of which in Corinth was; “many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep” 1 Cor.11.30.
Sin in the life of the believer must also be dealt with as we gather locally. Examples are given. Moral sin, 1 Cor.5.1-8: Doctrinal sin, Heb.3.12,13: Sin on a personal basis, Matt.18.15-20.
Sin then is a problematic force in the universe, in the world, and in the souls of men. It has been present in the world of men since Adam sinned, and has wreaked havoc from generation to generation leaving a permanent consequence in man and in the universe. God will expose sin in the lives of men, and will judge the unrepentant sinner in His own time. How then can the problem of sin be alleviated? How can man escape from the power of sin, avoid the penalty for sin that is death and judgment, and ultimately be free from the presence of sin?
The answer can only be found in the Saviour of sinners, God’s blessed Son. Through Him God can be just in the justification of sinners. A full, complete, meritorious work for sin has been accomplished, and now not only is the believer pardoned, but justified, which gives us, “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Rom.5.1.
- Because the Sinless Saviour died,
- My guilty soul is counted free,
- And God, the Just, is satisfied,
- To look on Christ and pardon me.
- (C.L. Bancroft)