I. Sinner's Relation to God
Sin has its most significant result in its effect upon the sinner's relation to God. Sin is primarily against God. The lost son confessed, "I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight." Although David had committed adultery and murder, he acknowledged, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" (Psa. 51:4).
Sin separates man from God. God in His holiness cannot approve sin. Because of its anti-God nature, sin naturally separates the sinner from God. Sin is a barrier, a blockade, a black iron curtain thrown across the path of fellowship between man and God. In consequence of their sin Adam and Eve were separated from the Tree of Life, their Edenic home, and God's blessed fellowship. They had no vital contact with God. They were "dead in sin."
Sin results in guilt. The sinner is responsible and chargeable before God. Sin calls forth God's disapproval and condemnation. The sinner deserves punishment and must satisfy the requirements of God's justice by paying the penalty of sin. Sin results in the sinner's becoming a debtor, a criminal, an enemy, a slave, defiled and unholy, dead, and a poor stranger. Sin disrupts the relationship between God and man.
II. The Wages of Sin
The final result of sin is death and destruction. "The wages of sin. is death" (Rom. 6:23). Adam was warned, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). Adam the sinner was told, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3:19). Sinners deserve death. Paul said, "They which commit such things are worthy of death" (Rom. 1:32). Because all men sinned, death passed upon all men. (Rom. 5:12.)
The results of sin must be death, the opposite of life, because sin is anti-God and God is life. Sinners will pay the penalty of sin by being destroyed in the second death. Sinners will be raised for judgment in the final resurrection. (Rev. 20:12-15.) He who has lived in sin during this life (Rev. 21:8) and he whose name is not written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15) will be cast into the lake of fire to be destroyed. In His sacrifice Jesus took the believer's place. He paid the wages of sin in their behalf. Instead of eternal death, therefore, Christians look forward to eternal life. They will be raised in the first resurrection. The second death will have no power upon them because they will have been made immortal. (Rev. 20:6.)
III. Sin's Results Within the Sinner
Sin has tragic results within the sinner himself. Severed from God, the sinner exists in an abnormal state. He is incomplete. Life is filled with emptiness. Without God, he is like a circle without a center, a solar system without a sun. Under the despotic rule of self, the sinner's normal, God-given instincts of self-preservation, self-expression, hunger, love, and self-improvement are twisted and perverted. To sin may be natural for the sinner, but sin itself is abnormal. It is contrary to the way that man was intended to be. Man is so made that he is incomplete apart from God. As the planets in the solar system revolve around the sun as their center, so man is made to be centered in God. As flowers reach maturity, beauty, and fulfillment of purpose through their response to the sunshine, so man finds heart satisfaction, life sufficiency, and completion of personality through his relationship with God.
The essence of sin is selfishness. Sin equals self versus God and self apart from God. Sin is the affirmation of self in antagonism to God's authority and contrary to His law. Man sins because he is self-centered instead of God-centered. Self within man usurps God's position of authority. Man's personality is ruled by self, the tyrant, instead of by God, the King.
In the center of the word sin is the word I. Remove the I -- the egotism, pride, and selfishness -- from sin and no word is left. Count the personal pronouns (I, my, me) in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:15-21) and the parable of the elder brother (Luke 15:25-32).
That which produces sin within man is the human self existing apart from God, independent of God's authority, and in antagonism to Him.
Misery of Selfishness. Man's unhappiness results from the fact that he is self-centered instead of God-centered. Man's inward life is filled with misery because the tyrant, self, is on the throne. Sin is abnormal. It is foreign to God's original plan for man. The tyranny of self results in chaos. A disrupted divine relationship produces perverted human relationships. Man cannot have a proper horizontal relationship with mankind unless he has a right vertical relationship with God. Man cannot live righteously until he is living godly. Sociology must result from theology. Man's right relationship with his neighbor should be the social expression of his redemptive relationship with God. One can love his neighbor as himself in the proper way only when he loves the Lord his God supremely.
The misery of selfishness can be removed only through the dethroning of self and the yielding of life to the rulership of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. This transformation cannot be produced through a mere human effort or a psychological adjustment. Salvation originates in God's grace; it is based upon Christ's sacrifice; it is effected through Christ's power. One must enter into Christ before Christ can enter into him. One must establish the proper redemptive relationship with Christ through conversion before Christ can enter into his life and become Lord and Ruler.
IV. Sin's Relation to Environment
Man is dependent upon his environment for continued life. Man's needs for oxygen, water, food, and protection are met through his relation with the physical planet. After Adam sinned, God placed a curse upon the earth. God said to our guilty ancestors, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee" (Gen. 3:17, 18)." We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Rom. 8:22). The earth has suffered because man has sinned.
Man's normal life span has been shortened from nearly one thousand years (before the Flood) to less than a century. The fertility of the earth has been decreased. Weeds, thorns, and thistles form a handicap in cultivating the soil. There is fear among animals and between animals and men. Disease, sickness, and physical limitations plague the human race.
God subjected the earth to the Adamic curse as an indirect punishment of man. This curse also serves as a safety check to limit man in sin. Consider the possible extent that a sinner could go if he did not have these limitations.
The fact that Christians are subject to these limitations is not an indication that they are sinners. A believer may find weeds growing in his garden, contract a disease, or have his home destroyed in a storm. These adversities, however, would not mean that he is a sinner or suffers tragedies as punishment for personal sins. Even Christians experience the effects of the Adamic curse.
The earth will be redeemed from the curse and restored to the purity and perfection of Eden through the work of Christ when He returns to earth. "The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:19, 21).
The earth will be restored to its fertility (Isa. 35:1, 2, 6, 7; 55: 13; Amos 9:13, 14). Animals will become harmless (Isa. 11:6-9). Sickness and sorrow will be removed (Isa. 35:5, 6; Rev. 21:4). "There shall be no more curse" (Rev. 22:3).
V. Penalty, Power, and Presence of Sin
The penalty, power, and presence of sin are related. The penalty of sin is condemnation and death. The power of sin is the influence that sin and a sinful habit exert upon the sinner. The presence of sin is the evidence of sin in one's environment. Three additional words beginning with the same letter of the alphabet as the trio we now are considering are the pollution, the perversion, and the practice of sin.
The gospel contemplates a threefold salvation for the sinner. There is a past salvation which is an accomplished fact; there is a present salvation which is a progressive process; and there is a future salvation which is a promised hope.
1. Salvation From the Penalty of Sin. Through His sacrificial death, Jesus has saved us from the penalty of sin. He paid the wages of sin for us. He removed our guilt and condemnation in relation to God. When the sinner accepts the sacrifice of Christ through conversion, he is saved from the penalty of sin. He has, therefore, now no condemnation; he is justified before God.
2. Salvation from the Power of Sin. When Christ dwells in our lives through His power, He progressively saves us from the power of sin. The power of Christ counterbalances the power of self, the carnal mind. By walking in the Spirit, the believer does not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16.) Only the power of Christ can liberate from the power of sin. As one- surrenders to Christ's transforming power and lives in obedience to Him as Lord, he is progressively saved from the power of sin.
3. Salvation From the Presence of Sin. When Jesus returns to earth and begins His new earthly ministry, He will save us from the presence of sin. All evidence of sin eventually will be removed. He will redeem our bodies, changing us from mortality to immortality. Through His rulership, He will transform our environment so that "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9).
(Adapted from Systematic Theology, by Alva Huffer, published by Church of God General Conference, Oregon, Illinois 61061, U.S.A.)
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