A Biblical View of Sin – Part 10

A Biblical View of Sin – Part 10

A Biblical View of Sin
Part 10

Paul teaches in Romans 6-7 that the power of sin is broken, but the presence of sin remains. In Romans 8 the power of the Holy Spirit brings the practice of the believer (Romans 7), through the process of sanctification, into alignment with his position in Christ (Romans 6).

Paul ends Romans 5 with these words: “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”[77] This establishes the theme of his next chapter: the reigning or rulership of sin in the life of the believer. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”[78]

Note the Paul’s use of “reckon” (v. 11) i.e. “impute,” “reign” (v. 12), “yield” (v. 13), “dominion” (v. 14), and “yield…servants” (v. 16). Paul does not argue for the eradication of sin in these chapters, but against its ruler-ship in the life of the believer. Sin may be present, as Paul points out in Romans 7, but the rulership of sin in the life of one for whom Christ died is a contradiction of terms.

John’s View of Sin

John and Paul agree in their view that Jesus, as the Lamb of God, came into the world to save sinners. In his first epistle, John argues that God is love and sin the opposite of love. The rulership of sin in the life of one born of God is impossible. This is the same basic argument Paul makes in Romans 6.

None can consider themselves sinless or dispense with the need for forgiveness: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”[79]

Sin separates man from God so that God will not hear his prayers: “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”[80]

Sin is servitude to demonic power: “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.”[81]

Man is bound with Satan in opposition to God: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”[82]

How the Early Church Viewed Sin

The church fathers didn’t deal with the subject of sin, except in general terms, so long as the truth of Scripture was affirmed. They had to deal with the two prevalent heresies, Gnosticism and Manicheism. Both see sin as a necessary evil having its origin in a cause independent of God and beyond the control of the creature. They saw sin as both necessary and eternal.

Briefly, the church refuted these heresies by teaching that: 1- All men are, in their present state, sinners; 2 – The sin of Adam was imputed to the human race; 3 – Salvation from sin comes only through the propitious death of Christ; and 4 – Even babies need regeneration and the redemption of Christ.

General Observations and Applications

1 – In the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, hamartia is always understood as an individual act. Neither Jesus nor His followers in Acts concerned themselves with the nature of sin. They saw people in the reality of their individual sins and the work of Christ based on this reality. It was Paul who raised the theological question of sin as a power, which determines the nature of man and the world. John touches on the nature of sin, but is more like the Synoptics than like Paul.

2 – Three forms of sin can be distinguished in the New Testament:
A – Individual acts of sin as illustrated by the words of James: “But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”[83]
B – The defective nature of man, illustrated by the words of Jesus: “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.”[84]
C – A personal power, discussed only by the Apostle Paul: “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.”[85]

3 – Paul frequently ties his awareness of sin to his persecution of the church. Writing to the Corinthians, he says, “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”[86] This persecution was simply the final result of his attempted self-justification through the works of the law. Paul did not violate the law in persecuting the church. He learned that he could be the enemy of God without actually breaking any particular law. His conversion brought him to realize that his whole activity in Judaism was opposition to God’s will. This may be why he was so hard on himself.

Paul applied the law according to his own will when persecuting the church in opposition to the will of God. Once this became clear, he was insistent that sin is not merely violating the law (he already knew this as a Jew). Rather, it was resistance to God’s will, a desire to be autonomous in the application of God’s law. This was the antithesis of what he professed as a Jew, and it appreciably shaped his concept of sin as something intrinsic to man.

The law could not help. Law now had the very opposite function from that ascribed to it in Judaism: “Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.”[87]

Once Paul saw sin as a condition rather than just an act, the law was voided. Seeking to live by the law gives the fallen nature its occasion to sin. Freedom from sin, for Paul, includes freedom from the law.

4 – You do far greater damage to your conscience, as well as your relationship with God, if you seek to establish your own standard of sin, rather than accepting God’s standard. Most of what God disallows, your conscience condemns, as illustrated by the Ten Commandments. On the other hand, much of what the conscience of many prohibits, God allows, such as smoking, drinking, and gambling. Often you will find God easier on a person than you are. For example, you become angry when a person cuts in front of you, while God may not judge him; he may not have even realized that he did it. You must decide on whether you want to be judged by God’s standards, or your own. Think carefully before making the decision.

5 – Hatred is an expression of anger, and anger is the product of frustrated expectations. When a person hates God, it is because God did not measure up to his expectations. As part of the Decalogue, God says: “You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.”[88]

God says that people worship idols because they “hate” Him. Paul says essentially the same thing: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”[89] You cannot be angry and grateful at the same time. Ingratitude is the fountain of all sin.

Yours for a life of obedience,


[77] Romans 5:20-21
[78] Romans 6:11-16
[79] I John 1:8-9
[80] John 9:31
[81] John 8:34
[82] I John 3:8
[83] James 2:9
[84] John 15:22, 24
[85] Romans 7:11, 13-14
[86] I Corinthians 15:9
[87] Romans 7:13
[88] Exodus 20:5