Why is Sin a Problem?
As stated in the thesis statement of this paper, and it is always the position of the author, sin is and always has been the ruling principle behind every trouble that humanity has been experiencing since the beginning of time - Why is Sin a Problem? introduction. Although, of course, many would point to other causes, the Bible nevertheless, plain and straight, has put its blame on sin.
Since the Holy Scriptures provides its own version of the commencement of earthly life, and almost all religions and cultures embrace its narrative and ethical standards as their authority, it would be of much help to begin the discussion using its authoritative pages as reference material. As often stated by theologians, “the Bible is all about God, and His redemptive plan, and work,” from Genesis to Revelation. Now, why would God needs to devise a plan of redemption in the first place, and afterwards initiate a work which He consummated in Christ, if humankind does not need such a plan and work?
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Apparently, humanity needs redemption. This fact is presupposed all throughout in the Holy Scriptures. And if the next question to be raised is: “From what does man need to be redeemed? ” The obvious answer will be “from sin. ” When the angel Gabriel divulged to Joseph the identity of the child in Mary’s womb, he also gave him the name by which the child will be rightfully called. “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Thus, sin is the problem that needs to be removed to clear man’s way to the presence of God or the slavery from which man needs to be rescued.
Three scriptural truths are dealt with in this paper: 1. Sin had its entrance in the Fall of man. 2. Sin is a living principle that enslaves every man. 3. Sin was effectively dealt with in Christ. III. Problem & Solution of Sin A. The Entrance of Sin Sin had its entrance in the Fall. The Bible is the only source of what might be called properly as established and objective truths. What does it say with regards to sin? First, sin has had its initial access in human life at the Fall, when Adam and Eve committed the first sin – that first act of violation against God’s command.
In the Garden of Eden everything was perfect, as the book of Genesis attested in its narrative of the Creation. Just in the first chapter alone, several times the words “it was good” was repeated stressing the fact that all of creation was fashioned in such a way that would allow for a Divine expression of satisfaction. One Christian theologian took notice of how a Jewish scholar by the name of Casuto observed the frequency of the use of the number seven just in the first chapter of Genesis, and how significant that was in Hebraic culture during the time of Moses.
The number seven symbolizes “completeness” and “perfection. ” And so, seeing the use of the concept of the number seven in the creation account would not and could not escape the attention of the original addressee of the Torah – the Israelites in the wilderness (Lindsay, 2005). God’s creation was initially perfect. And God placed the first man and woman into a perfect environment which was called the Garden of Eden. The scenario was all pleasant and the first couple lived in a paradise-like world created by God for them to cultivate and maintain as God’s vice regents.
Things were idyllic until it was disrupted by the committal of sin by the woman (Eve) which was later shared by her partner (Adam). If looked at the surface, it seems like what Adam and Eve had just committed in Genesis 3 was a simple exploratory act which could be expected to human beings created in the image of God. But, juxtaposing Genesis 3 with other portions of the complete canon of the Scriptures will put the Fall in its proper perspective. What took place in the Garden was immense in terms of its actual effect.
That act of disobedience by the first couple was actually the first in a series of sins which would later be committed by every human being who will ever live in this planet. Since it was from Adam and Eve descended all of the human species (biologically speaking), all of the generations that follow after them – including this present modern day generation of man and the coming future generations – will have partaken of the first couple’s genetic make up. No human being, therefore, will be able to truly say that he or she is innocent, nor that the influence of sin has not become familiar to his/her earthly existence.
To quote Apostle Paul’ words, it is “through one man” (Adam) that “sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 1:12). The biblical record traces all of the problems of humanity to the Genesis account of the Fall. Paul would say, “It was through Adam that sin has gained its entrance to the world, and it was because of his sin that death spread to all men. ” Bear in mind that Adam was the first man and thus, being the first man, all humanity was practically contained in him in his loins.
So, it’s not a case of exaggeration or stretching the issue too much beyond its proper bounds when Paul said that “all humanity has sinned. ” As the federal head of humanity, when Adam sinned, all humanity sinned in Adam . Even though people between Adam and Moses did not sin in the same sense like the sin of Adam – which was violating a direct command – they all received the punishment of Adam’s original sin (they all died). Why is this the case with them? The answer is because death spread from Adam. The same answer is appropriate if question is raised in behalf of people who presently are plagued by fear of death.
Today, no one questions the reality of death. It is a grim certainty that every person is coping every time life’s existence is overshadowed by life-threatening illness or any form of physical weakness. Why is it that death is one looming prospect in life that no one can escape? Again, the answer is because of “Adam’s transgression. ” In today’s individualistic culture, the idea that one pays for other person’s crime is unimaginable. Thus, this biblical diagnosis of sin’s history can be unacceptable and even repulsive. Nevertheless, it is what it is.
Adam’s descendants are all inheritors of the consequences of his revolt against God. Anybody might indignantly protest, “But we were not yet even in the picture nor conscious when Adam committed his act of sin! ” Yes, that’s all true, but, we were all “in Adam” when he carried out that seemingly harmless act of disobedience. He consciously defied the word of God. And because all human beings descended from him biologically, that choice of his to yield to his own desire and the desire of his wife (Eve) rather than to the clear prohibition of God, has affected all his descendants in real profound ways.
This is what theologians would call “federal headship. ” This means that “all of the descendants are deeply affected by the actions of their ancestor. ” Three Consequences of Adam’s Sin In Apostle Paul’s treatment of the subject in the book of Romans, he mentions three things which consequently have become the result of Adam’s sin in his offsprings. In the above discussion, death was already cited as the direct result of the first couple’s sin. There needs to be some sort of clarification though with regards to “death” which according to God would be the immediate consequence if His command is violated.
Death as the outcome of sin is not primarily physical but spiritual – although both are true. Theologically, it is the separation that presently exists and is the gap between God and man. To speak of it in less technical terms, this spiritual separation is the reason why it is difficult for the rank and file person to grasp the biblical teachings, which the Bible itself calls “spiritual things” (1 Cor. 2:14). This “spiritual death,” also, which has pervasively affected the whole of humanity, is the reason behind why people in general feel some sort of “distance” in terms of a relationship with the Creator.
Moreover, the fact that man is spiritually dead explains the reason why people generally are not responsive not only to the idea of God, but to God Himself. And finally, this spiritual death that plagues humanity manifests its ugly reality in its physical manifestation when someone dies. And even physical death in its very nature is separation. It separates the dead person from his/her loved ones, as well as it separates the soul of that man (which is the real person in that body) from his fleshly body. God’s warning is absolutely true: “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. :17). The “death” there when it occurred to the first couple happened immediately in that it – then and there – separated them from God (spiritual death) and it was followed by their eventual death as recorded in Genesis 5. The second result of Adam’s original sin is condemnation (Rom. 5:16-18), said Paul. This simply means that because all men are born spiritually dead, that is, separated from God and with sinful nature inherited from Adam, the common tendency of all is to resist the rule of God and inevitably these results in the actual transgressions which eventually leads to condemnation.
The third outcome of Adam’s original sin is the living principle of sin in every man. The Bible calls this the “sin-nature,” sometimes “flesh,” or the “old man. ” This sin-principle in every man is something that Adam has passed on to the succeeding generations. There is an in-born predisposition within each living person to always go along the direction that is opposite to godly path. This makes for an explanation why all godly parents are instructed and should begin early in their instructions of the statutes of God. The urgency to initiate children to the laws of God do not allow for any form of procrastination.
For minds shaped and immersed in today’s culture, the directives given in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 appear nonsense and outright fanaticism. The command to teach the laws of God is challenging enough for it presumes the fact that those very laws are treasured primarily in the hearts of those who have given the responsibility to teach. And if these laws are indeed esteemed, the task of “talking of them,” that is, discussing with them the things of God will become less taxing. The conversation will flow naturally and without much difficulty. The setting inside the house will surely become one that is close to the picture painted in Deuteronomy 6:6-9.
Again, why is it necessary to teach the laws of God in that manner? Is the need that critical? Well, as proofs point to the real state of affairs, yes, the urgency is grave. Children needs to be taught early, or else, the competing ideas and perspectives and trends which are being advertised around for free, will take their residence in the hearts of younger generation, and if there are no efforts at home for godly instructions, time will come (without notice) when it might be very difficult for the rising generation to absorb biblical teachings.
The “sin-nature” can be understood and curbed in ways that God alone in His predetermined counsel has ordained (1 Cor. 1:21, 2 Tim. 3:14-17). But basically, it must be properly understood that while environment has its place in matters of influence, man, because of the inherited sin-nature has an innate inclination to rebel and resist the rule of God. The sin-nature is not incurred by the outward environment upon us but rather bequeathed to us in our hearts from birth (Mk. 7:20-23). This might be a diagnosis that is hard to swallow, but it is realistic and true.
B. Sin: A Living Principle Sin is a living principle that enslaves every man. Apostle Paul tackled the issue of man’s, or more precisely, the Christian’s struggle with sin in Romans 7, and he comes to the conclusion that sin is a principle or law that resides at the very core of man’s being. This sin principle and all of the evil inclinations that it entails are just there dwelling, ruling, and manifesting from time to time in differing degrees. Paul says that one of the basic uses of God’s law was to teach man of the sinfulness of sin.
The law’s basic function was to put a label on particular sins naming them so as to convict the greedy of covetousness (Rom. 7:7). The moral laws of God have the power to stir the otherwise dormant sin-principle in a person, which, if not brought to the surface, would convince the individual of his/her own self-righteousness, rendering that person blind to personal moral accountability. Actually, this law that the Apostle calls sin caused every human born into this life spiritually dead and thus incapable of truly living straight within the bounds of morality without failing or falling from that straight line.
For years, the belief that criminal behavior results mainly from environmental factors was held by many. Thankfully, this perception was challenged and somehow changed by researchers Samuel Yochelson and Stanton Samenow in the book that contains the fruit of their diligent labors. The Criminal Personality is a three volume work, and is said today to be like a Bible to law enforcers. The book is a yield of years of meticulous clinical study of criminals.
When those engaged in criminal investigation would analyze the behavior of certain criminals, they use the research of Yochelson and Samenow for insights into the criminal mind. The treatise of The Criminal Personality is that criminals are not criminals in their actions and behavior because they were influenced primarily by the environment in which they were raised. If what was learned from the research is true, which certainly is the clear indication of the gathered facts, to continue to hold on to the old idea would be to dwell on feeble explanation of why certain men have turned into full blown criminals.
Yochelson and Samenow discovered that criminals “come from a broad spectrum of homes;” there are those who come from wealthy and cultured background, as well as from the disadvantaged . In both privileged and less fortunate groups were found offenders of many kinds, although of course within these communities, majority – as in all of the populations in any given culture – are restrained and do not fall to the category of violators. But the point is, to attribute the cause of criminal behavior among criminals to their poor, or uncultured, or disadvantaged backgrounds, is to misdiagnose the illness.
Why do some people have grown to notoriety as violators – sexual offenders, murderers, serial killers, frauds, and perverts? Environment certainly has its share, but it is not where the bulk of the blame lies. Criminals do what they do because they have faulty thinking. Their actions are traceable to erroneous thinking patterns which are characteristic of the criminal. Look at the status of the mind of the criminal in the words of these two researchers; first, they said in page 52 of their book , “We probed the criminal patterns of thought. . .” And afterwards, they concluded that the criminal’s thinking processes are out of their control. The reason why many of the criminals or serial killers appear harmless is because they are not, as many would like to think, always focused on particular antisocial activity. “The criminal’s thinking patterns operate everywhere; they are not restricted to crime” . The making of a criminal starts early in life. The series of choices that a person picks along the path of his/her growing up years contribute to the molding of the mind.
The criminal is not a victim of his/her circumstances, and therefore according to the said researchers , it will not help to change the criminal even if the environment is altered. It is the unchecked choices (bad choices done in mischief) that a man makes early during childhood which are carried along to adulthood with the idea that one can always get away with the crime without being caught, this whole scenario makes for a criminal. Fundamentally, environment is not to be blamed.
Nothing could be more accurate than stating it in exactly the same manner that the Apostle has echoed the true state of affairs. It is somehow true to say, “It’s all up in the mind. ” People violate neighbors because first they have violated the laws of God. And so, “In the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Eph. 4:17-19).
As daily news in the headlines air everyday, and practically speaking, people have made it their daily business to work driven by greed, never minding what they leave behind in their wake. Because the fight has long been lost – which is in the level of consciousness – everyone now is at the mercy of chance, relationally, in this world. And it goes both ways. C. Sin’s Death Blow Sin was effectively dealt with in Christ. In the same chapter where Apostle Paul talks about the bitterness of the reality of sin-principle in his own life, he also talks of its only solution.
No matter how wretched the condition of man had become because of sin, there is still a solution and liberty from this wretchedness. The possibility of serving the law of God in the mind is good enough when juxtaposed against the dark picture of criminality today. Keeping in mind that perversions and all behavioral problems originate from wrong thinking patterns, it is significant to realize that the Scriptures address the mind frequently. In every instance that the Word of God would propose the education of the mind, the underlying problem of sin is presumed all along.
This is so, because the law of sin inside of every person cannot be truly dealt with by just addressing the mind alone. This kind of approach would still be insufficient, although it might help to some degree. The only reason why the instruction of the Scriptures is prescribed all throughout the Bible is because “it is able to make one wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15). In other words, the possibility of deliverance from the grip of the power sin is always imminent upon those who embrace or follow its advice to be instructed from its pages.
In the message of the Holy Scriptures, the power of God is inherent (Rom. 1:16, 1 Cor. 1:18). The gist of the whole canon of the Scriptures is to point every man to the solution of the sin problem. Thus, Paul raised a rhetorical question which answer is presumed all along: “Who will deliver me from this wretched state? Thank God, it is through Jesus Christ alone” (Rom. 7:24-25). He did not just prescribe the study of the Scriptures as the goal, it is the means through which the antidote to the sin problem might be found.
It is in the Person of Christ. Hence, all diligence that one may apply in the noble activity of studying the Scriptures would be to no avail, if it does not lead the student to the Scriptures’ focal point – Jesus Christ. Paul, before he got hold of Christ, served God in his mind. It means that there was somehow in him a restraining power that prevented him from becoming a criminal in his time. He had the prestigious reputation of being zealous to the law of God which acquired him the title of “Pharisee” (Phil. 3:4-6).
But what did it made him with all of his zeal? Although in the esteem of his culture he was blameless, yet, in the light of the right convictions which come only along with the knowledge of Christ, he is a criminal (Acts 8:1-3, 1 Tim. 1:12-13). Paul’s occupation, when he came to the true knowledge of God, had a complete turn around. He advocates the study of the Scriptures mainly for the reason that it is only when its message is grasped properly that it truly transforms the minds and lives of those who value it for what it is – the Word of God.
Conclusion Options are available to anybody where to find his/her answers to the hard questions. To the question whether sin is the problem or not, or why is sin a problem, I have chosen to consult primarily what the Bible is saying about the issue. Like other sources of knowledge, it offers its own diagnoses of the true state of things. Moreover, it has a lot to say about the problem of sin. In my treatment of the issue, I have merely scratched the surface.
My hope is that somehow, the discussions, and all of the arguments which have been argued in this paper, may help to enlighten the readers who may happen to stumble upon this thesis. The insights of the Bible, for centuries now, have been available for all. It has its own perspective of things in the world and life in general. In my observation, almost everyone respect its teachings – except those who are outspoken atheists. Although in their conversations they are betrayed by the fact that in their papers and discussions, they could not avoid squaring off with the ultimate truths of the Bible.
Indeed, all of the troubles that we see in this world are traceable to sin – to the Fall of man – as recorded in Genesis 3. As one scholar has put it, in Genesis 3:1-7, we have the Bible’s explanation “why our doors have locks on them, why we have insurance policies, why we have hospitals, why we have police officers, why we have nightmares, why we cry, why we get angry, why we hate, why we are sad, why we go to funerals, why we are afraid, why we are ashamed, why we lie, and why we hide. ”