Part Two: How sin entered the world.

Confused teaching as to the nature of sin

     My general introduction concerning sin and salvation will have left many questions open in the minds of readers concerning sin’s nature. Here, I believe, the various theological schools have grievously clouded are understanding of sin and thus made it more difficult for us to understand salvation. There are two major reasons for this. First, sin has been analysed and dissected so much that we have lost an overall picture of what sin is. Most theologians distinguish between actual and original sin, as if the former left us guilty but the latter innocent. Others speak of intentional and unintentional sin as if the latter were less sinful than the former. Then we are told that there are Seven Deadly Sins as if the bulk sins were not deadly. Some theologians tell us that sin is merely a moral propensity or tendency and not a post-fall natural necessity. This leads them to teach that sin is in the will alone which our natural abilities can control. In short, most definitions of sin tend to explain away or ignore elements of sin which the Bible condemns. Others believe that certain rites and rituals can excuse or even remove certain sins. They attribute powers of forgiveness to baptism, the Lord’s Supper, martyr death, penitence, good deeds and so-called prayers of cleansing. Such ideas pervade all our institutional and denominational churches. As a right understanding of sin is fundamental to a correct knowledge of how Christ’s salvation is accomplished, it is no wonder that Christians are at sixes and sevens over the latter when there is so much disagreement about the former.


Sin seen in the right context

     The second major weakness of traditional definitions of sin is that they tend to be analytic and systematic and thus do not deal with sin in the context of Christ’s understanding of it. After all, Christ took upon Himself the wages of sin on our behalf, so sin must always be seen from two perspectives, the law that condemns it and Christ who fulfils it. Thus any treatment of sin which ignores either the condemnation of the law or the extent to which Christ went to fulfil it vicariously is not Scriptural and therefore cannot be effectual. This view is often criticised as being dualistic, i.e. it views salvation as dealing with two absolutes and opposites, the law versus the gospel, Moses versus Christ, Old Testament thinking versus the New. This is an unbiblical way of getting out of the dilemma in which sin leaves us. Christ is portrayed in the Scriptures as being Creator of all and Lord over all. He is the divine Lawgiver, fulfilling all the teaching of the Old Testament in Himself. Indeed, Christ does not regard the law as His opposite but as His own instrument in condemning sin in order to save sinners.

     The initial problem concerning sin is how it started and how it spread. Here we shall merely look at how sin arose and in a further article how sin marred all. Immediately, the traditional term ‘original sin’, comes to mind though its various definitions have caused the churches perhaps as much strife as the doctrines of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. From a Scriptural point of view, sin is neither original to man nor is man the originator of sin, nor was man the original sinner. However, as salvation from sin is designed for man alone, Biblical references focus more on man’s sin than what sin was prior to him.


Sin in Heaven

     Revelations 12:7-9 tells us of the war in Heaven where Archangel Michael and his angels was challenged by the dragon and his angels. The dragon was defeated and we read that he “was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” Thus, when we open our Bible at Genesis, after reading of the creation of Adam and Eve, we find them living in innocence and happiness as God’s stewards of Eden. Suddenly this idyll is broken by the appearance of Eve’s tempter, the devil. He tells her that if she obeys God’s rule not to eat of the fruit of the central tree in the garden she will not die, as God has warned, but she will become god-like and be given all knowledge. As we know, Eve saw how laden the tree was with good fruit, and the temptation proved too much for her and her husband. This alone shows that Adam and Eve initially knew what was good. It was evil of which they knew nothing. Now they wanted to know everything and become wise according to the devil’s standards. So they rebelled against God as Satan had rebelled in Heaven.

 

Wise in goodness and simple in evil          

     It is interesting to note that the gospel of salvation always refers back to this initial act when Adam and Eve became wise in a condemnatory way. They were not content to know good alone, they wanted to know evil. In Paul’s last chapter to the Romans and his last words before going over to the general greetings, the Apostle says, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” Here Paul is emphasising that where sin reigns, grace reigns all the more and those who have been captured by the devil’s evil power, can be rescued by Christ’s good and almighty power which can “make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” This is the wisdom of God and not that of the Serpent. Adam’s own  faith failed him, the faith of the Second Adam, Christ, imputed to us, never fails.