"Sin is not
only a major theme of the Word of God, but is the
subject of almost endless human speculation."
Being one of the
greatest and most determinative facts in the world, sin,
like the other important facts in its class, is not only a
major theme of the Word of God, but it is the subject of
almost endless human speculation. Sin is a fact to be
accounted for. The failure of human speculation as compared
to the finality of divine revelation on this theme should be
familiar to all. Since the fact and effect of sin reach back
into the unknown past and on into eternity as qualifying
factors of all human experience, we should not be surprised
to discover that, even with the aid of divine revelation, we
confront some mysteries which are insoluble to the finite
It was the belief of the Ancients and continues with many
until now that sin is merely sensuousness. The body was
thought to be the occasion of all temptation and the
executor of all evil desire. This was a feature of Plato's
philosophy, and the suggested cure of sin was to weaken its
instrument; hence it was taught that the body should be
despised and neglected. But the worst of human sins -
avarice, envy, pride, malice, cruelty, self-righteousness,
unbelief and hatred of God - are wholly sins of the soul and
are not related to the body.
2. It is claimed by so-called modernists that sin is merely
finiteness, or that which is incident to imperfect
development. As men creep before they walk, so they sin
before they learn righteousness. The fall, therefore, was
upward. If this theory were true, the cultured and civilized
would be more righteous than the ignorant; a world war could
not be begun by the most educated nation on earth; and
Satan, who is full of wisdom
(Ezk. 28:12), must be as holy as he is wise. By this theory,
the blame for sin is subtly transferred from man to God.
3. That sin is merely selfishness is the claim of others. It
is true that selfishness is sin; but it is far from
sufficient to say that sin is merely selfishness. Those who
seek to establish this theory - and it is often presented by
earnest advocates of God's truth - say that since the chief
commandment is to love God, so the chief sin, and root sin,
must be to love self. But, again, there may be no
selfishness in unbelief, malice, or hatred of God.
II. THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF
various sins are defined in the Word of God, we conclude
from the teaching of the Scriptures that sin is any want of
conformity to the character of God, whether it be in act,
disposition, or state.
Sin is sinful because it is different from what God is; and
God is holy because holiness is infinitely desirable.
Holiness is an eternal fact. Should God desire to be sinful
He would not thereby make sin to become holiness nor
holiness to become sin. However, though holiness is an
unchanging virtue, we are not dealing with an abstract
virtue, but rather with the living God who has caused these
things to be. Sin is always against God (Psa. 51:4; Luke
15:18). To sin is to be unlike God, therefore it is to
Sin cannot rightfully be limited to those things merely
which are contrary to the revealed law of God; at best we
can know but little of all that God is. Sin, therefore, goes
beyond all laws and includes all that is not in conformity
with the character of God.
There are four distinct classifications of sin, which, in
turn, form the basis of the divine condemnation of mankind.
1. Sin Which Is Imputed (Rom. 5:12-18)
Imputation means to reckon over to, or to attribute
something to, a person. The original Greek word occurs
eleven times in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the
Romans. There are three major imputations set forth in the
(a) the imputation of Adam's sin to the race, on which fact
the doctrine of original sin is based;
(b) the imputation of the sin of man to Christ, on which
fact the doctrine of salvation is based; and
(c) the imputation of the righteousness of God to those who
believe on Christ, on which fact the doctrine of
justification is based.
Again, imputation may be either (a) actual, or (b) judicial.
Actual imputation is the reckoning to one of that which is
antecedently his own. Though He might righteously do so, yet
because of the reconciling work of Christ, God is not now
imputing to man the sin which is antecedently his own (2
Cor. 5:19). Judicial imputation is the reckoning to one of
that which is not antecedently his own (Phm. 1:18). Though
there has been disagreement as to whether the imputation of
Adam's sin to each member of the race is actual or judicial,
Romans 5:12 clearly states that the imputation is actual,
since in the federal-head representation, Adam's posterity
sinned when he
sinned. The next two verses are written to prove that this
is not a reference to personal sins. (See Heb. 7:9, 10.)
However, verses 17 and 18 imply that this imputation is also
judicial where it is stated that by one man's sin judgment
came upon all men. Only the one, initial sin of Adam is in
question. Its effect is death - both to Adam and directly
from Adam to each member of the race. The divinely provided
cure for imputed sin is the gift of God which is eternal
life through Jesus Christ.
2. The Sin Nature (Rom. 5:19)
Adam's one initial sin caused him to fall and in the fall he
became an entirely different being, depraved and degenerate,
and only capable of begetting posterity like his fallen
self. Therefore, every child of Adam is born with the Adamic
nature, is ever and always prone to sin, and, though this
nature was judged by Christ on the cross (Rom. 6:10), it
remains a vitally active force in every Christian's life. It
is never said to be removed or eradicated in this life, but
for the Christian there is overcoming power provided through
the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16, 17).
Though both imputed sin and the sin nature are the direct
result of Adam's one, initial sin, it is important to
distinguish between imputed sin which is the immediate cause
of death in the case of each individual person, and an
imparted sin nature which is received by inheritance and
remains a vital force for evil throughout this life.
3. The Judicial State of Sin
By a divine reckoning the whole world, including Jew and
Gentile, are now "under sin" (Rom. 3:9; Gal. 3:22; Rom.
11:32). To be under sin is to be divinely reckoned to be
without merit which might contribute toward salvation. Since
salvation is by grace alone and grace excludes all human
merit, God has decreed, as regards their salvation, all to
be "under sin," or without merit. This judicial reckoning is
evidently limited to this age of grace, since of no other
age could it be said that there is no difference in the
divine estimation of Jew and Gentile (cf. Eph. 2:12, 13,
with Rom. 9:4, 5). This estate under sin is remedied only
when the individual, through riches of grace, is reckoned to
stand in the merit of Christ.
4. Personal Sin (Rom. 3:23)
This form of sin includes everything in the daily life
which is against, or fails to conform to, the character of
God. It is that form of sin concerning which men are
conscious and, being also universal, there is but one cure -
divine forgiveness and justification through Christ.
1. What importance should be given the
fact of sin?
2. Of what value is human speculation regarding sin?
3. Name and define three human theories respecting sin.
4. Why do these theories fail?
5. What is sin?
6. Why is sin more than a violation of God's law?
7. Name the four major aspects of sin.
8. Name the three great imputations.
9. What is actual imputation?
10. What is judicial imputation?
11. Is the imputation of Adam's sin actual or judicial?
12. What is the penalty of Adam's sin?
13. Define the beginning, character and cure of the sin
14. Define the phrase "under sin" and explain its present
application to Jew and Gentile alike.