Sin And The Saviour
By Dr. M.R. DeHaan
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Rom. 6:23.
Sin. S-I-N. Just a little, three-letter word, yet within those three letters we have comprehended all the sorrow and grief of the world and the reason for all the suffering, pain, heartache, disease and death from the beginning of human history until now. Until there was sin, there were no death and pain and tears. And when sin is finally put away forever, it is written:
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”—Revelation 21:4.
Sin is an extremely unpopular subject in these days when men tell us that we are slowly evolving into a better and better race and that ultimately we will conquer disease and finally even death. But the Word of the Lord tells us that “the wages of sin is death,” and as long as there is sin in the world there will be suffering and death. Pain, disease, trouble and sorrow, sickness and death are only symptoms. The real disease is sin, and until the cause is removed, the symptoms will never disappear.
The Bible, therefore, is the only authoritative and reliable textbook; for man throughout all his history has never yet been able to give a satisfactory answer as to where death came from. What is the cause of all this grief and pain? Why do men get old? Why do we not always stay young? Why do our bodies deteriorate and after a few brief years return to the dust from whence they came? Only the Bible tells us the story in the words of our text.
The Wages of Sin Is Death
To understand the true nature of sin, therefore, we are entirely confined to the revelation of Scripture, and we shall stick very closely to it.
To understand the awfulness of sin and to explain the severe penalty (death) pronounced upon it, we must first recognize the nature of God. The awfulness of sin stems from the holiness of God.
God is so holy, so righteous and perfect in all His attributes of justice and righteousness and holiness that He cannot condone the smallest sin. He cannot overlook the least transgression or iniquity. To do so, be it ever so little, would prove Him unrighteous and imperfect in His holiness.
But the holiness and the righteousness of God are absolute terms and therefore cannot admit of the least flaw or sin. Since this holy God has said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” and again, “The wages of sin is death,” God must punish even the smallest sin by death or prove Himself untrue and unfaithful to His Word.
This is what makes sin awful. It is committed against God, a holy and a righteous God, who will in no wise clear the guilty.
Sin — Not Sins
God therefore says the “wages of sin is death.” One single sin is enough to condemn a man or woman eternally in the sight of God, for God is infinite in His holiness; therefore, sin against an infinite Being calls for infinite punishment.
In the record of the first human transgression as given in the account of the Fall in Genesis, we are told that God said to Adam, the first man:
“For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” —Genesis 2:17.
And that one sin, eating once of the forbidden tree, was sufficient to call forth the infinite judgment of God. Though many sins were committed by Adam afterwards, this one and only first sin was sufficient to call down the judgment pronounced in the words, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Three Aspects of Sin
In Scripture we have several words used to describe sin, such as sin, iniquity, transgression, evil, etc. The words in the original Hebrew and Greek give us a most comprehensive picture of sin as God sees it.
Though we would not weary you with these Hebrew and Greek words, we must mention the six most prominent ones to give you an idea of what sin is according to Scripture. There are many sincere people who think that sin is an evil act such as immorality or theft or murder or lying. While this is all true, it covers only a fraction of the Bible picture of sin. Sin is not so much an act as an attitude. Too many people believe that because they do not curse or steal or get drunk or live in definite acts of immorality that they are not guilty of sin. But the Bible goes much deeper. In Bible terms these acts are but the result of the real sin which is in the heart.
Before a man steals, he covets, and covetousness is the real sin. The stealing is but the natural fruit and result, the outward expression of the sin of lust.
The same is true of murder. To murder your fellowman is not the real sin. The real sin is hate, and the murder is the result of that hatred, so that the Bible says, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.” That makes murderers out of a lot of folks who would seriously resent being called murderers, but that is what the Bible says.
The same is true of immoral acts. Before these acts are committed, there is lust; and lust is the real sin, whether or not it is ever translated into action. This is the Bible picture of sin.
Sin in the Old Testament
Among the several words used in the Old and the New Testaments for sin, there are three Hebrew and three Greek words that seem to sum up the whole Bible picture of sin as God sees it, and these three words agree with one another. The three words to denote sin in the Old Testament are:
Chata—missing the mark,
The three corresponding words in the New Testament are:
Hamartano—a missing of the mark,
Adikia—perverseness or crookedness.
In these words we have God’s revelation concerning the true nature of sin, and we shall see that this involves far more than the actual committing of sin.
Let us first examine the three aspects in a little more detail. First, we have the word chata in the Hebrew and the word hamartano in the Greek, and they mean the missing of the mark.
Now it makes no difference how far a man may miss the mark as long as he misses it. We have a saying: “An inch is as good as a mile.” To miss the mark by a hairbreadth is missing the mark.
When I shot at a crow in my backyard and missed him by a split hair, I missed him as completely as though I had been shooting in the opposite direction. I have missed the mark.
Now God has put up a mark in the Old Testament. That mark was the law. Israel was delivered from Egypt’s bondage by grace, but they were not satisfied by grace. They wanted to do something themselves to have a part in making themselves worthy of God’s favor and blessings.
And so God gave them the law, the perfect expression of His holy and perfect will. And so God, in essence, says, “You think you can be perfect; you think you can meet My standards by your own works. Well, here is My standard.”
He gave them the perfect Law of God written on tables of stone, and said, “Do this and live.” But the least infraction of the law was missing the mark and was sin. They did not have to break all the commandments or even most of them. If they missed one by a hair, they were guilty before God. James tells us:
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” —James 2:10.
The Negative Side of Sin
This missing of the mark is the negative aspect of sin. It is failing to do that which is commanded, and because all have sinned and failed, all are condemned by the law of God.
We need to emphasize this aspect of sin in these days of false holiness when men think they are perfect just because they do not commit outward overt acts of sin. Just because they do not steal and lie and murder and live immoral lives, they think they are without sin.
But this first definition of sin throws quite a different light on the subject. If you have failed to do all that is required, you are guilty. If you have had one unclean thought, if you have spoken when you should be silent, if you have been silent when you should have spoken, if you have failed to help someone when he needed help, you are guilty.
If for one second in your life you have not loved God above all and your neighbor as yourself, you are guilty. If you have not loved your enemies (for God also commanded this), then you are guilty.
The Law Condemns
You see, then, that the Law was never given to save a man. It was given to condemn us that we might flee to God for grace and mercy. No Adam’s son ever can keep the law of God. Yea, moreover, God never expected that a depraved sinner, born and conceived in sin, would ever keep the Law. He gave it only that men might see how far they come short of God’s perfect standard, how far they missed the mark, and flee to Him for mercy.
“For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”—Galatians 2:16.
“By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20) but not salvation from sin. For the “law worketh wrath” (Romans 4:15).
In the New Testament
Now the Law, of course, was fulfilled in Christ; so, after the cross, God gives us another standard whereby to measure ourselves.
Until the children of Israel came out of Egypt, there was no Law of Moses. They were under the law of conscience. In the giving of the Law, we have an added revelation of God’s standard which conscience alone could not give. But after Calvary, God gave a still clearer revelation in the Person of Christ.
The standard of perfection now is not only the Law but the Person of the Son of God. He is the divine standard of divine perfection. Failure to measure up to the standards of perfection found in Christ is to miss the mark and makes you a sinner.
Until you are as perfect and flawless and sinless in thought and act and word as Jesus was, you still miss the mark, and so the New Testament word for sin, hamartano, emphasizes once more this much disregarded aspect of sin. For this reason Paul sums up the definition of sin in Romans 3:22,23:
“For there is no difference:
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
Paul says that sin is coming short of the glory of God. And none else but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the “glory of God.”
To come short of the perfection of Jesus Christ is missing the mark. Dare anyone stand before this standard of God and claim, “I am as perfect and holy in thought and word and deed as the blessed Son of God”?
That, my friend, is God’s first definition of sin—missing the mark and coming short of the glory of God. Before God can save you, you must acknowledge this estimate of yourself as the true and correct one. Until you are willing to do this, God cannot save you, for He died for sinners, not good folks.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”—
1st Timothy 1:15.
All Have Sinned
Let me repeat that you cannot be saved unless you are a sinner. Jesus said, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick” (Luke 5:31), and again, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (vs. 32).
I have dwelt at length on this aspect of sin because so few realize this definition of Scripture concerning coming short and missing the mark. There are left the two other words describing sin from another angle: the word meaning “crookedness” and the word translated “transgression.” The word avon in the Hebrew and the word adikia in the Greek both emphasize in a different way the same nature of sin.
God has made a straight line. First He revealed it in the law and then later gave it to us in the Person of Christ. To deviate in the minutest detail from this straight line, to depart from it one iota, to step aside from this straight line of God’s perfect standard is to make the line crooked, so you have again missed the mark.
The line need not be badly twisted with many curves and defections; all you need to do is make one little deviation from the straight course, and you are guilty. You are a sinner, and you need a Saviour. That is what Paul refers to when he says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and “There is none righteous, no, not one” (vs. 10), and “There is none that doeth good” (vs. 12).
The Positive Angle
In addition to these two words in the Hebrew and the Greek, there is another word translated “transgression” which gives us the positive aspect of sin. We do not have time to take it up thoroughly in this message, but, to be sure, while sin is a transgression of the law positively, to miss the mark is to sin as surely as to transgress the law.
But now comes the personal question. Do you realize from what we have covered that you are a sinner? Will you acknowledge that according to God’s standard you are a sinner and under the sentence of God?
He said, “The wages of sin is death”—the “wages of sin”; not sins, but sin. If you have failed but once, you are guilty. The sin of Adam, transmitted to the race, was taken care of on the cross, but how about your personal coming short? Your only hope is to measure yourself by God’s standard.
According to the standards of men and morals and the standards of the church, you may be blameless and yet be lost. Before men, even in your own home, no one may be able to lay upon you a finger of accusation; but unless you have measured yourself by God’s standard and confessed that you have missed the mark, you are as surely lost as though you had been the worst sinner in the world. Paul learned this. Listen to him:
“If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
“Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” —Philippians 3:4–7.
Yet this moral, law-abiding, religious zealot, when he measured himself by God’s perfect standard, had to cry out, ‘I am the chief of sinners’ (I Timothy 1:15).
Ah, friend, face the issue; admit you have missed the mark and flee to Christ. Christ died for sinners—only for sinners. Come as a sinner, cast away your filthy self-righteous rags of religion and accept salvation through the righteousness of Christ.
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