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sinful

The Sinfulness of Sin: Lawlessness

sinful
It is of the utmost importance that we understand exactly what sin is and what makes it so wicked. A clear understanding and firm grasp on this is essential to biblical Christianity; it humbles us by reminding us of just how rebellious we are, and it brings to our consciousness the transcendent holiness and perfection of God Himself.
 
 
 
Nobody likes being told about their weaknesses. Nobody likes having their flaws pointed out, or their bad habits brought to light.  As Christians, we often times tend to shy away from talking about sin in a straightforward manner. We’re concerned about offending people, about turning them off; after all, who wants to hear that they’re a rebel against God who cannot possibly do any spiritual good?
 
And, truth be told, we ourselves don’t like to think about just how sinful we are. In fact, we’ll often try to minimize our sin, and to make light of it; we don’t want to spend a whole lot of time considering our crimes against God. Because of this natural aversion to sin, we don’t typically study it deeply, which is why we’re going to do a brief five part study on just how sinful we really are.
 
As Christians, it is of the utmost importance that we understand exactly what sin is and what makes it so wicked. A clear understanding and firm grasp on this is essential to biblical Christianity; it humbles us by reminding us of just how rebellious we are, and it brings to our consciousness the transcendent holiness and perfection of God Himself. Apart from a clear understanding of sin, we are incapable of really understanding redemption, and therefore, we will never worship and magnify God the way we ought to. It will always be infected by pride (Lk. 7:47).
 
So to understand sin, we first need to know what sin is. The Apostle John gives us a clear definition of sin in his first epistle: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn. 3:4). The Bible couldn’t be more clear than that. Sin is lawlessness.
 
And yet, while we may want a more comprehensive definition, this simple one gives us a profound truth, and that is, that sin can only be defined by God’s law. For there to be lawlessness, there must be law, and that law comes from God. Therefore, in order to gain an understanding of sin, we need to understand the law.
 
God gives us a transcendent moral law that applies to all people for all time. We find it in written form in Exodus 20-23, but we’re also taught in Romans 2:15 that the law is in everybody’s heart – meaning all of us, as Image bearers of God, have an intrinsic knowledge of the moral law. The problem is that, as sinful rebels, we not only suppress and distort that law which God has put on our hearts, but we also seek to redefine and replace his standard with our own.
 
This “false standard” was introduced by Satan in the Garden (Gen. 3:4-5) when he suggested that for something to be morally wrong, it needs to do “harm” to a person; if something makes you feel good, or seems beneficial, it can’t possibly be wrong. Sound familiar? This man-centered, man-defined standard is alive and well today, and no matter what, it is always opposed to God’s standard. Either God determines right and wrong for all people at all times, or the standard varies based on what men consider to be harmful.
 
Sin is not a matter of personal preference, but of absolute right vs. wrong. It does not change with the time and cannot vary from person to person. It cannot change, and this is because God does not change. The moral law is not subjective. It’s not unfair, it was not conceived by God in some arbitrary way – it flows out of His character! The law is an expression of who God is! It isn’t simply some “moral code” that gives us good principles by which to live a decent life. It is, in part, a revelation of who our God is – His attributes, His person.
 
We are taught in Scripture that God is love, He is righteousness, He is holiness, justice, truth, and so forth. Notice, that some of the very same descriptions are given to His law (Ps. 119:172, Rom. 7:12, Ps. 19:7, Rom. 13:10). This is because the law is inseparable from God because it is an expression of who He is. It describes God. This is vital for us to grasp because it gives us a different perspective of what lawlessness is. Lawlessness isn’t simply the failure to obey some code of ethics, but rather, it is a violation of the very character of God. When we break God’s law by sinning, we are attacking His holy, perfect Person. This is why David could say to God “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:4). Our sin is always directed, first and foremost, against God Himself.
 
This also refines our perspective on the punishment of sin. Again, if sin is nothing more that breaking a subjective moral code, than eternal torment and separation from God does seem excessive. But if every sin we commit, no matter how small it seems, is a violent assault against God – well, we start to feel the weight. And we see the justice in the punishment.
 
As difficult as the doctrine of sin is, it is one that we must look at if we’re going to understand how helpless we are, and how great a Savior we have in Jesus Christ.
 
 
Luke Griffo is a member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA.  Click here for more RCSH Blog posts. 
 
 
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