Survey in Basic Christianity
Lesson 5
The Problem of Sin

O.J. Gibson

Why is there wickedness, sorrow, suffering, war, and hatred in the world? Why is there greed, envy, pride, and cruelty? Why do even children act selfishly, lie, disobey and bring grief to those closest to them without having anyone directly teaching them to do so? Is this only due to a bad environment? The Bible tells us that the root of man’s condition begins from birth and is present before there are any outside influences on him (Psalm 51:5; 58:3). The problems of man cannot be properly understood without facing the problem of sin.

Common View of Sin

What is sin? A standard dictionary will tell us that it is an offense against moral law or the law of God. The definition is clear enough! Yet, men have departed from this simple definition to introduce various strange ideas. Examples include:

1. There Is No Sin
Right or wrong is only a matter of changing social practice. Some say if two people consent to wrongdoing, it is not a sin. Some believe there is no moral standard at all.

2. What Harms Someone Else Is Sin
Whatever you do personally is your own business.

3. Sin Has To Do With Various Bad Habits
Different groups view these in different ways.

4. Sin Is Wrong Thinking Or Bad Judgment

5. Sin Displeases God But Is Not Serious
Everyone does it, and we are only human.

Biblical View of Sin

The Bible teaches that sin is:

1. Turning To Our Own Way
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Sin is doing our own thing without caring about what God says. It’s following the crowd. It’s turning from God.

2. Breaking The Law Of God; Lawlessness
“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), the rebellion of the creature pitting his will against God’s will.

3. Knowing To Do Good And Failing To Do It
“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Sin is not only doing what is wrong but the failure to do what we know is right.

4. Acting Other Than According To Faith
“Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). If a person does not have a clear conscience about doing something yet does it anyway, he sins.

5. Not Believing In Jesus
“He will convict the world of sin…because they do not believe in Me” (John 16:8-9). The Holy Spirit of God actively works to draw people to the Savior so that they might receive forgiveness for their sins. Adam and Eve did not believe God but believed the lies of Satan and sinned. People do the same today. They refuse to believe in Jesus but eagerly accept the lies of Satan.

6. Anything Contrary To God’s Character
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Everyone continuously keeps on falling short of God’s standard of holiness and perfection. Jesus is “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3). God calls us to be like Christ. Daily we miss the mark.

7. All Unrighteousness Or Wrongdoing
“All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). Man’s inner being is sometimes called the heart (Deuteronomy 29:4; Psalm 40:8, 10, 12; Proverbs 14:10; Isaiah 44:18). Desires, perceptions, and inner attitudes come from this source. Sin begins in the heart and soon breaks forth in evil acts (Matthew 15:18-19).

8. Evil Thoughts Are As Sinful As The Act
A person is forbidden to murder another human being. Jesus taught that anger in the heart and abusive speech deserves the same punishment as murder (Matthew 5:21-22). A person may pride themselves in avoiding sexual acts of sin, but Jesus said, “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). The fact is that our hearts have an insatiable appetite for evil (2 Peter 2:12-14).

Mark 7:21-23 lists various evil things that come from within our hearts, such as “evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Our speech also betrays us, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34; cf. Luke 6:45). No sins are hidden from God (Psalm 90:8; Hebrews 4:13).

Sins spring from a sinful nature (Romans 7:18). “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). We are sinners by nature and by practice. Our sins are an offense against God because He is absolutely righteous and holy (Psalm 145:17; Isaiah 6:3-5; Habakkuk 1:13). God is a perfect Being, and His perfection is the standard for what is right (1 John 3:5). Every person falls short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness and is a sinner (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8).

The Origin and Results of Sin

The first recorded instance of sin took place in heaven. The angel Lucifer desired to be equal with God (Isaiah 14:12-14). His sin was pride (Ezekiel 28:15-17). He was cast out of heaven for his sin and became known as the devil (the serpent, Satan, the evil one). Through his temptation of the first human couple, he introduced sin into the world. Their sin was disobedience to God (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6). Adam and Eve were held responsible for their sin and judged accordingly (Genesis 3:16-24). Their sin nature was passed on to all of their descendants even to this day (Romans 5:12). All humans are born “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). This verse means that people are born spiritually dead. They are born with a sin nature. They are born separated from God’s presence and without a personal relationship with God.

Genesis 3 describes the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin. They immediately experienced spiritual death, which is the separation of the soul from fellowship with God. Their judgment was separation from His presence. Physical death would ultimately follow, which is the separation of the soul from the body. They discovered the truth of the classic Bible statement, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Wages are what we earn and deserve.

“The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). Death is the payment for sin. This death includes the second death (Revelation 20:14), which is eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. Men’s sins are recorded in heaven and will be used as a basis of judgment (Revelation 20:12). Confirmation, baptism, church membership, Holy Communion, trying to keep the Ten Commandments, giving to charity, being a good neighbor, or living a moral, respectable life can never pay the debt of sin. Good works cannot spare a person from sin’s penalty (Ephesians 2:8-9). Death is the only payment (Romans 6:23).

God Loves and Receives Sinners

It is amazingly true that a holy God, who hates sin, still loves the sinner. To us, there seems to be a dilemma because God is perfectly just and must punish our sin with the death penalty it deserves, including spiritual, physical, and eternal death. Yet, God is a perfectly loving “Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). He “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God resolves this dilemma for us through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. God demonstrates “His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). God is just. His law requires death as sin’s punishment. Jesus died in our place, and by shedding His blood, He paid sin’s debt, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission (forgiveness)” (Hebrews 9:22). Heaven’s praise to the Lord Jesus includes these words, “For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood” (Revelation 5:9). Because of His death on the cross, He can righteously justify (declare righteous) sinners who have faith in Jesus.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We were, in fact, His enemies when He died for us (Romans 5:10). It is “not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Through His Son’s death for us, God offers forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38; 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). The Lord Jesus Christ paid sin’s debt when He died on the cross for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-5; 1 Peter 2:24).

The acknowledgment of sin must precede any genuine desire for forgiveness. The psalmist cried, “I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3). He cried out for cleansing and freely admitted his sins against God. The prodigal son said, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you’” (Luke 15:18).

Jesus told a story of two men who prayed. One man would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but instead, he beat his breast and cried, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Jesus pronounced this man justified (Luke 18:13-14). God, the Holy Spirit, works to bring inner conviction of sin (John 16:8-11).

God Calls Sinners to Respond

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance,” said Jesus (Luke 5:32). The convicting work of the Holy Spirit brings men to repentance (John 16:8). Repentance means a “change of mind.” The Bible indicates that repentance involves a change of mind with the intent to turn from sin and turn to God. The Old Testament God calls people to “Return to Me” (Zechariah 1:3). When people consider God’s goodness, it should lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4) with genuine sorrow for their sin (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Repentance works to bring about real change, rather than empty words (Matthew 3:8; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 26:20).

Early Christian preaching commanded men to repent (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30). Repentance is not an action that earns our way to God but one that acknowledges our wretched condition. Repentance is not a meritorious work that earns salvation. Our response toward God acknowledges the seriousness of our sins and includes the desire to change with His help (Isaiah 55:7). “Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” are companion acts of a proper response to God (Acts 20:21).

Faith is our response to God’s gift of salvation, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Faith accepts God’s gift. The Bible uses various words to describe our faith in action. Some of the terms include: trust, accept, receive, believe, and confess (Matthew 12:21; Mark 4:20; John 1:12; 3:18, 36; Romans 10:9-10, 1 Timothy 4:10). Faith responds by believing in Jesus Christ as our only Savior. Faith believes “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Need for Self-Examination

It is essential to know that we are lost and that Jesus seeks to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). That lostness is due to our sin, which has separated us from God.

Check List:
1. Have you always been unselfish?
2. Have you always been free of envy and covetousness?
3. Have you unfailingly done every good you could do?
4. Have you consistently been kind and thoughtful to everyone?
5. Have you always loved God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
6. Have you persistently loved others just as yourself?
7. Are you as perfect as the Lord Jesus Christ?

If the answer to any of these is “NO,” the Bible says you are a sinner. To have kept the whole law and be guilty of one violation is to be guilty of all (James 2:10). One violation of the perfect holiness of God makes a person a sinner.

The Lord Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The penalty and power of sin are dreadful. The possibility of the second death is overwhelming. The psalmist writes, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity” (Psalm 32:1-2).

A person who professes to be a Christian, but continues to practice sin as a way of life, must consider this question: If a person is not saved from his sins, from what is he saved?

SBC Lesson 5 Study Guide
The Problem of Sin

The following questions may help clarify man’s greatest problem.

  1. Write a definition of sin in your own words after considering Matthew 5:27-28; Romans 3:23; James 4:17, and 1 John 3:4.
  2. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) Isaiah 53:6.
  3. What is God’s attitude toward sin (Habakkuk 1:13)?
  4. According to Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:15-17, sin originated in the heavens and had its roots in (select one)
    1. Pride
    2. Lack of good judgment
    3. A misunderstanding
  5. According to Genesis 2:17 and Genesis 3:1-6, the first recorded sin on earth had its roots in (select one)
    1. Unbelief and disobedience
    2. Lust and immorality
    3. Anger and frustration
    4. A misunderstanding
  6. What payment did God require for sin in Old Testament times (Ezekiel 18:20)?
  7. What payment did God require for sin in New Testament times (Romans 6:23)?
  8. What does the phrase “We are sinners by nature and by practice” mean?
  9. According to Romans 5:8, for whom did Christ die? There are two types of sinners, as illustrated by Luke 18:10-14: those who admit that they are sinners and those who do not. Why is it important to realize you are a sinner?
  10. How does the death of Jesus Christ pay for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-5; 1 Peter 2:24)?
  11. Repentance means (select one)
    1. A religious rite to be observed on specific days
    2. A change of mind that results in a change of action
    3. Telling God that you are sorry
    4. We are unhappy with the way things turned out
  12. To receive God’s forgiveness, we must (select one)
    1. Acknowledge our sin
    2. Admit our responsibility for sin
    3. Be willing to forsake our sin
    4. Trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
    5. All of the above
  13. What do you say? How and when were you first convicted of sin and your need for a Savior?
  14. We want to encourage you to memorize God’s word. The suggested memory verse for this lesson is:

1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV)
“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.”