Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE NATURE OF THIS THING GOD CALLS SIN”[1]

Genesis 4.7

 

Turn in your Bible to Genesis 4.7, where we see mentioned for the very first time in the Bible the word sin. When you have found that verse, please stand for the reading of God’s Word, among the words the LORD spoke to Cain after he murdered his brother Abel:

 

“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.”

 

We know that sin had been committed before God made use of the word sin, because we see the introduction of sin into the human race and God’s initial response to sin in Genesis chapter three, with the fall of Eve and Adam into sin by disobedience. However, here is the first time sin is actually labeled, identified, and tagged.

What can be said about this Hebrew word that is translated sin? Keil and Delitzsch write about it, “. . . sin is personified as a wild beast, lurking at the door of the human heart, and eagerly desiring to devour his soul. . . .”[2] Brown, Driver and Briggs inform us that the word literally refers to a crouching beast.[3] Imagine that. When God constructed human language for the purpose of communicating with His creatures, He selected for us as a concept of what sin is at its root the Hebrew word for a crouching beast. Of course, the imagery is that of a human being being the helpless prey and of sin being the predator leaping upon its victim to wrestle it to the ground, choke the life out by strangulation (since that is how lions, tigers, leopards and such subdue prey they have surprised and overwhelmed), and then feed off of its dead carcass. Sadly, this predatory and fatal aspect of sin is what is most casually ignored or otherwise dismissed by most of sin’s victims.

Adam and Eve were the first human victims of sin while in the Garden of Eden. Cain, of course, was the latest victim of sin when he murdered his brother Abel. However, be mindful how I use the word victim, since there is no sense in God’s Word of anyone overcome by sin in any way being sin’s victim in the sense of being blameless. Quite the contrary, what sin accomplishes it accomplishes by subterfuge and persuasion, never wrenching away from its victims either their wills or their personal responsibility. Whatever sins you commit are entirely your own responsibility. “He made me do it” carries no weight with God and shouldn’t carry any weight with moms or dads either.

I am two days returned from Jerusalem, the most religious city in the world, and this issue of sin is more pressed upon me than ever before. Recognize that there is no city in the world of greater importance to God. Jerusalem is the city that Christ prayed over, wept over, as well as the city in which He was unjustly condemned to die for others’ sins. It will be to Jerusalem that Jesus Christ, the king of Kings and lord of Lords, someday returns. As well, Jerusalem is the most important city of all to the Jewish people and to those who identify as Christians, ranking as the third most important city to the Muslim world though it is never mentioned in the Quran. Imagine a single city filled with religious convictions held by those who are so persuaded of the rightness of their convictions that they are willing to violently attack those who disagree with them. Religious Jews frequently throw rocks at anyone driving a car through their neighborhoods on the Sabbath. Muslims of the Sunni sect frequently kill Shia Muslims, with Shiites in turn killing Sunnis. Muslim atrocities toward non-Muslims are commonplace in some parts of the world. And while Christians are not presently waging war in the name of Christianity, Roman Catholics and Greeks have certainly done so in the past, with Protestant denominations not being entirely without guilt of such crimes.

May I say that I am grateful to God that there is no history of organized religious violence toward other Christians, toward Jewish people, toward Muslims, or toward any other religious group by Baptists? Therefore, while I do not claim pristine innocence of all sins by Baptists, organized religious violence toward those with whom we disagree is not among the sins we have been guilty of, praise be to God.

Those things said, it is time for us to narrow our focus with respect to this wild beast of sin, so we might come to a clearer sense of the nature of sin as it concerns each individual, making passing comment about sin as it respects God, and then settling in my message this morning on sin as it concerns each of us. Two brief comments about sin as it respects God, which I will not prove from God’s Word at this time, but will merely state what is obviously true and can be easily supported in scripture: First, sin seeks to dispossess God of that absolute supremacy which is His prerogative. In Romans 9.5, the Apostle Paul writes that God is over all and blessed forever. Yet sin quite obviously denies that. As well, sin smites at the essence of God, existing with the wish that God should not be at all. Psalm 81.15 reveals to us that the commission of a sin expresses hatred toward the LORD, and the Savior said in John 15.24 that those who do not embrace Him has Lord and Savior “have . . . both seen and hated both me and my Father.”

I will grant that those who deny Christ and have not obeyed the gospel may do so while insisting that they have no animus against either God or His Son Jesus Christ, though the Word of God, the Psalms in specific, and the Lord Jesus Christ in particular, show otherwise. Though you might not yet have developed your core belief system into a sophisticated expression of opposition toward God, the fact remains that if you could, or if you did, you would be seen to oppose the existence of both God and His Son Jesus Christ, while at the same time actually hating the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

Now I turn to the message I have for you this morning from God’s Word, a consideration of sin with regard to you personally, under four headings:

 

First, SIN IS WHAT MAKES A SEPARATION BETWEEN GOD AND YOUR SOUL

 

Sin broke the union and communion with our holy God for which we were made, and in the enjoyment of which we would be both blessed and happy.

 

Isaiah 59.1-2: 1    Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:

2    But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

 

Psalm 5.4:  “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.”

 

Since God is the LORD and He does not change (Malachi 3.6), the same will be true throughout eternity in the New Jerusalem.

 

Revelation 21.27:  “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

 

As Thomas Hooker wrote,

 

“The dogs to their kennel, and hogs to their sty and mire: but if an impenitent wretch should come into heaven, the Lord would go out of heaven; iniquity shall now dwell with sin. That then that deprives me of my greatest good for which I came into the world, and for which I live and labor in the world, and without which I had better never to have been born; nay, that which deprives me of an universal good, a good that hath all good in it, that must needs be an evil, but have all evil in it. But so doth sin deprive me of God as the object of my will, and that wills all good, and therefore it must bring in truth all evil with it. Shame takes away my honor, poverty my wealth, persecution my peace, prison my liberty, death my life, yet a man may still be a happy man, lose his life, and live eternally. But sin takes away my God, and with him all good goes. Prosperity without God will be my poison, honor without him my bane. Nay, the Word without God hardens me; my endeavor without him profits nothing at all for my good. A natural man hath no God in anything, and therefore hath no good.”[4]

 

What a terrible, tragic, damning, and fatal chasm between God and your soul is the produce of sin.

 

Next, SIN IS WHAT MAKES THE SOUL INCAPABLE OF DOING GOOD OR RECEIVING GOOD FROM GOD

 

Second Chronicles 24.20:  “And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you.”

 

Proverbs 29.1: “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

 

May I quote Thomas Hooker once more?

 

“He that spills the physic [medicine] that should cure him, the meat that should nourish him, there is no remedy but he must needs die. So that the commission of sin makes not only a separation from God, but obstinate resistance and continuance in it, maintains an infinite and everlasting distance between God and the soul. So that so long as the sinful resistance of thy soul continues; God cannot vouchsafe the comforting and guiding presence of his grace; because it’s cross to the covenant of grace he hath made, which he will not deny, and his oath which he will not alter. So that should the Lord save thee and thy corruption, carry thee and thy proud unbelieving heart to heaven, he must nullify the gospel.”[5]

 

Cling to sin and you cannot embrace Christ. Embrace Christ and you cannot cling to sin. Hebrews 5.9 states that Christ,

 

“became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

 

Not that salvation is the product of any sinner’s obedience, since it is

 

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” Titus 3.5.

 

However, the salvation that He in mercy provided for us is evidenced by the Christian’s obedience. To state it another way, precisely who will not be allowed to enter into God’s eternal rest, according to Hebrews 3.18?

 

“. . . them that believed not.”

 

Consider what King Saul said to his son Jonathan in a fit of rage concerning young David before he became king, in First Samuel 20.31:

 

“For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.”

 

The reality King Saul comprehended with respect to claimants for Israel’s throne in his oriental mindset is that certain factions cannot coexist. Therefore, as much as they loved each other, prince Jonathan and anointed David could not both remain alive without their mere existence fostering dreadful bloodshed between their respective families and tribes. In like manner does the same potential for conflict arise in each person’s soul. So long as sin reigns you are, in fact, waging war against your own soul in your heart. So long as this conflict between the consequence of sin and the concern of God exists without remedy in your soul the kingdom of Christ can never be established in your heart.

 

Third, SIN IS THE CAUSE THAT BRINGS EVERY OTHER EVIL INTO YOUR LIFE

 

Understand that certain things are simply not in themselves evil but for sin. The sting of a trouble, the poison and malignity of a punishment and affliction, the evil of any judgment, it is the sin that brings it, or attends it.

 

Jeremiah 2.19: “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.”

 

Jeremiah 4.18: “Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.”

 

These two verses expose the evil of experiences that are the product and the direct result of sin in a person’s life, creating bitterness in the heart of the individual who by sinning forsakes the LORD his God. However, the same experiences that are not the result of sin are said to be without a sting, the serpent without poison so to speak, as Paul indicates in First Corinthians 15.55-57 with death itself:

 

55    O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56    The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57    But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Have you not observed in your own experiences the great difference that can be seen when someone dies in his sins and another dies in Christ? Both experience suffering, yet the one is frightened, desperate, and harsh, while the other has peace of mind and heart through it all.

Consider our Lord’s own words on the matter, in Matthew 5.11:

 

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

 

There is a blessing even in persecution and reproaches when those afflictions are not brought on by sinning but by righteous conduct and service to Christ. When our brief afflictions are for God’s cause, and suffered with a good conscience, it results in the saint’s reward and works to God’s glory.

Thus, it is sin that brings evils upon us, and makes all painful experiences evil to us. Therefore, sin being the cause of evil is worse than all those evils caused by sin.

 

Finally, SIN IS THE CAUSE OF EVEN GOOD BEING TURNED TO BAD

 

Sin brings a curse upon all that should be to us a comfort, blasts all that should be to us a blessing, affecting the best of all our endeavors, and souring the beneficial use of all the choicest of God’s provisions for us. Sin is so evil and vile that it can ruin the usefulness to us of all good things, and the benefit to us of all the most glorious things God has given. Consider these passages from God’s Word:

 

Haggai 2.13-14:

 

13    Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.

14    Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.

 

Clean represents righteousness and unclean represents sin. Yet in this passage we see that something good (righteousness) is turned to evil by sin (uncleanness).

 

Proverbs 28.9:

 

“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”

 

Who would deny that prayer is a good thing? Yet even a good thing such as prayer is turned into that which is to God abominable when that good thing of prayer is tainted by the sin of turning your ear away from hearing the law. Oh, how this speaks to the person who fancies himself spiritual for praying but will not sit under the preaching of God’s Word in church. Absence from the meeting of God’s people is the sin that turns one’s prayers (good) into something abominable (evil).

 

Titus 1.15:

 

“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”

 

Here we see the contaminating effect of sin on things otherwise good. That thing done by someone without sin can be pure, while the same thing done by someone in sin can in no way remain pure, because sin contaminates everything with defilement, be it mind or conscience.

Consider prayer. Prayer is a good thing, right? What could possibly be wrong with praying to God? Yet notice what David declares by inspiration of God in Psalm 109.7:

 

“When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.”

 

God has provided prayer as one of the choicest means to prevent sin. Yet sin is so contaminating, so defiling, so destructive, that even prayer is turned into sin in the corruption of a carnal heart.

 

Therefore it follows: Sin is the greatest evil in the world, or indeed that can possibly be. For that which separates the soul from God, that which brings all evils of punishment, and makes all evils truly evil, and spoils all good things to us, that must be the greatest evil. However, we already know that this is the nature of sin. We learned that about sin a long time ago. What we see about the nature of sin today is that sin is not only opposite to God, and as contrary to the infinite goodness and holiness of God as anything can possibly be, but that the nature of sin is such that it even alters the essence of everyone’s experiences. We have seen that it is not the miseries or distresses that people undergo that is so troublesome but the effect of sin that troubles and grieves the soul.

Keep in mind that the Lord was with Joseph even while he was in the prison, was with the three Hebrews even when they were in the fiery furnace, was with poor Lazarus even when he was covered in sores, lying among the dogs, and gathering the crumbs from the rich man’s table, and was with Job during his great suffering when afflicted by Satan and covered with boils. God’s issue, you must understand, is with the presence of sin, and this is a reality appreciated by His dearest servants. The more of God is in them the more opposite they are to sin wherever they find it. It was what the Savior commended to the elder of the church in Ephesus, that he could “not bear them which are evil,” Revelation 2.2.

Consider David’s attitude when, noted to be a man after God’s own heart, he penned these words in the 101st Psalm:

 

3      I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

 

7      He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.

 

When he was right with God he guarded what his eyes would see, he cultivated a properly harsh attitude toward the conduct of those who committed sins, he would not allow those who worked deceit to live in his home, and he would not tolerate in his presence those he knew to be liars. He was a rightly narrow and opinionated man . . . who walked with God.

We see, then, how God looks upon someone’s faint and feeble opposition to sin. Sin dishonors God, yet the person who will not stand against sin seems to exhibit little concern that God is being dishonored by sin. Thus, God visits upon men the consequences of both sin and an anemic response to sin, as we see with the high priest Eli and his dealings with his own sons. When they took advantage of women come to worship God at the tabernacle in Shiloh, Eli’s response was “Why do ye such things?” Their response? “They hearkened not unto the voice of their father.”[6] What else did Eli do to curb his sons’ sins besides expressing his displeasure? Apparently, nothing.

Want to know God’s reaction to that particular father’s inaction? First Samuel 2.29-34, where God sent a prophet to speak these words to Eli:

 

29    Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?

30    Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

31    Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.

32    And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever.

33    And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.

34    And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them.

 

God ended Eli’s family line of high priests, cursed the remainder of the survivors with short life spans, and slew both of Eli’s two sons in one day.

Why did God respond that way to Eli’s lackadaisical attitude toward his son’s sins? He is the Holy One of Israel. Habakkuk 1.13:

 

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.”

 

God will not look upon the iniquity of such as profess themselves saints, nor of those most dear to Him, no, nor in His own Son the Lord Jesus Christ when He bore my sins.

In Amos 6.8 we read, “The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob,” referring to God hating their very best if their very best is tainted by sin. Whatever their excellencies, their privileges are, if they do not abhor sin, God will abhor them. God could not endure the appearance of sin when imputed to the Lord Jesus Christ, for when He served as our divine Substitute (though He had personally experienced no sin), the Father withdrew His comforting presence from Him, God’s wrath fell upon Him, and His infinite displeasure was poured upon Him, forcing Him to cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”[7]

Sin is so evil that there is no good in it, nothing that God will tolerate. However, in the evil of punishment it is otherwise, for the torments of the devils, and punishments of the damned in hell, and all the plagues inflicted upon the wicked, issue from the righteous and revenging justice of the Lord, and He owns such execution as His proper work, Isaiah 45.7: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” This assertion should not be taken as evidence that our holy God is in any way responsible for sin. Rather, the word translated evil refers to the Hebrew word for the calamity that results from God’s judgment of one’s sin.[8]

So, you see that sin is a beast too subtle for you to outthink and too powerful for you to successfully resist. Its effects are too contaminating for you to contain and to expansive for you to overcome. Being dead in trespasses and sins, you are helpless, impotent, futile, and utterly incapable of dealing with it. Sin separates your soul from God. Sin renders you incapable of doing good or receiving the benefit of good done by God. It is sin that brings every other bad thing into your life. And if all that was not enough, sin actually turns even good connected to you into bad. This is why you need someone who can do for you what you cannot possibly do for yourself, bring about your forgiveness of sin, deliver you from the consequences of your sin, and grant you mercy despite your sin. That someone, of course, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He bore my sins on Calvary’s cross, dying in my place and suffering God’s wrath on my behalf. He was then buried. Three days later He rose from the dead. When I was in Jerusalem I examined His tomb. It’s empty because He’s alive. He conquered death, showing that He conquered sin, showing that He is the Savior and beside Him there is none other.

You need Him, friend. You cannot live without Him. And He is yours, not for the asking, but for the trusting. Claim Him as your own by means of simple faith in Him. I urge you to do that now.



[1] I am deeply indebted to Thomas Hooker (1586-1647), The Application Of Redemption: The Ninth & Tenth Books, (Ames, IA: International Outreach, Inc., reprinted 2008), pages 41-49 for the main ideas of this sermon.

[2] C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, Vol I, (Peabody, MA: reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996), page 70.

[3] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 308.

[4]Hooker, pages 44-45.

[5] Ibid., page 45.

[6] 1 Samuel 2.23, 25

[7] Psalm 22.1; Matthew 27.46; Mark 15.34

[8] Brown, Driver & Briggs, page 948.


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