The Sinfulness of Sin
Our reminder: the primary focus of Romans 6/7 is - how can we live our lives here on earth in a manner that approximates our righteous standing before God in heaven? So the real issue in these chapters is Change or how to move from where we are to where we ought to be.
We have organized our thoughts around four questions:
A. What then, should we sin habitually so that God’s glorious grace is lavishly displayed? 6:1-14. The answer is “no” - sin is never a good thing even if it results in God’s glory.
B. What then, should we sin with impunity given that grace presently rules over us rather than Law? 6:15-7:6. The answer is “no” - we are now slaves to righteousness rather than sin.
C. What then, should we conclude that the Law itself is sinful because it brings awareness of personal sin? 7:7-12. The answer is “no” - the Law is supremely good. In other words, because the Law is so closely associated with sin is it a bad thing? Can the Law be held responsible for our failure to keep it?
We are now ready for the fourth macro question: What then, should we give up the pursuit of spiritual maturity in light of our constant struggle with sin (7:13-25)? The answer is that ultimate victory is found in Jesus Christ.
Let’s remember that the larger subject still is sanctification or living a godly life. We have chosen to state it like this: How we can live our lives here on earth in a manner that approximates our righteous standing before God in heaven? So the real issue we are dealing with in these chapters is change – how to move from where we are to where we ought to be. How can a genuine believer make lasting change - change that sticks?
Illust: One day God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the evil that was going on. He decided to send an angel down to Earth to check it out.
When the angel returned she told God, yes it is bad on Earth, 95% is bad and 5% is good. Well, God thought for a moment and said "Maybe I had better send down a second angel, to get another point of view."
When the angel returned she went to God and told Him yes, the Earth was in decline, 95% was bad and 5% was good. God said this was not good.
So He decided to text the 5% that were good. He wanted to encourage them; give them a little something to help them keep going.
Do you know what that text said? You didn’t get one either, huh?
Let’s look at Romans 7:13
A. Sin became death for us 13a.
Verse 13 is a repeat of the previous section and a transition to what follows. It begins with the question – “did the good (referring to the law) become death for me”? In other words, is law the problem? His answer is absolutely not. He vindicates the law.
In fact, in stark contrast (alla) he identifies the culprit; it is sin. He does this with a simple blunt statement that literally is “but the sin” (NAU is “Rather it was sin…” In other words the sin principle is death for Paul.
Again, this is all very personal as “for me” indicates. There is nothing abstract about this. Paul is giving us a glimpse into his own struggle with the principle of sin.
So this verse also acts as a transition to what follows. He establishes the truth that sin is “sinful”. In fact, sin dominates him; this is the real problem.
He does this by use of two purpose clauses (ivvna). The first is…
B. Sin became death for us so that sin would be shown to be sin 13b.
1. Sin is sin. In the phrase “in order that it might be shown to be sin”, “it” is part of the verb and there is no stated subject. “Sin” is the predicate nominative position and must also be supplied as the subject. In other words, we should understand it as follows “in order that sin might be shown to be sin.”
I know this sounds like double talk – we don’t normally use the word to define the word - but this is a vivid way to expose sin for what it is.
2. The fruit of sin confirms that sin is sin. Something is very clear – it is brightly shining - so much so that there can be no doubt about it (“shown” = fanh). Sin is being exposed for what it is – sin. The flavor of this term is seen by Jesus use of it in the famous Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:5 ¶ "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full… 6 ¶ "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full… 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
So similarly in Romans 7:13 it is in neon lights, flashing brilliantly - “Sin is Sin”. Perhaps the reason it is evident that sin is sin is that sin produces death through the good (law). It uses the law – that is what we learned in v 8-11. So sin is sin and we know so by looking at its fruit – death.
C. Sin became death for us so that sin would be shown as sinful 13c.
Divided opinions as to whether this is a second purpose or just a further expansion of the one purpose - a way to restate it (Lenski 471)?
1. Sin is worse than sin. How is “sin is sinful” different from “sin is sin?” Being “sinful” (adjective ἁμαρτωλός) is an escalation of sin. To be sinful is to be totally devoted to sin and supremely wicked. Though this is a universal term describing all sinners (Mat 9:13 et al) it does describe specific criminals. For instance, this term describes those who crucified Jesus (Luke 24:7) as well as corrupt tax collectors (Luke 19:7 – Zacchaeus).
Perhaps if we look at it from the standpoint of the Jewish audience of the day it might make more sense. For the religious leaders the term alluded to “… to persons who were irreligious in the sense of having no concern for observing the details of the Law. Such people were often treated as social outcasts.” (Louw-Nida Lexicon 88.295). Thus they applied this term to Gentiles (Gal 2:15).
The principle of sin is devastating…
2. Sin is not only perverse, it is also pervasive. It is even worse than we might think – it is “utterly” sinful (cf ESV sinful “beyond measure”. This is a visual term meaning literally “to throw above” (u`per bolh,). Hence, we get the meaning of “excess” or to an “extreme degree” or perhaps best is “an extraordinary amount ... of anything” (Friberg Lexicon 27419). Though this can be used in a positive sense (Eph 2:7 of God’s grace) it is not so here! It is basically a comparative term. Imagine the worst wickedness you can. Is it Nazi Germany (1933-1945) under Adolf Hiltler - 20 million civilians including 6 million Jews; or Communist Russia (1917-1990) primarily under Joseph Stalin - 61 million civilians; or Communist China (1949-present) primarily under Mao - 35 million civilians? (Website of Brad DeLong, Cal Berkley, 1997) Sin is far beyond what we can imagine. It is beyond all comparison, no matter what atrocity you pick!
And here is the kicker; sin uses good to accomplish devastating results – “through (διὰ) the commandment”. Twisting the good is sin’s mode of operation. NAU Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
So here’s the deal regarding the sin principle:
- It is vicious. It is unrelenting as it drives men to unimaginable wickedness. It does not stop until it accomplishes eternal ruin.
- It is deadly. It uses any means to kill us – even the good law of God, the one that God designs to reveal the perversity and power of sin. “…it turns … that which was ordained to life, into an instrument of death.” (Murray 253)
- We can only be delivered from this pernicious wickedness by means of the gospel of Christ. Even though the law exposes our sin and shows us our need of salvation, the law is powerless to deliver us. Gal 3:19-22.
D. An honest look in the mirror is in order. Do we really believe that sin is sinful? I have noticed several disturbing trends in the Christian community.
Illust: A girl confided to her pastor that she needed forgiveness for the sin of vanity. “Twice a day I gaze at myself in the mirror and tell myself how beautiful I am." The pastor took a good look at the girl, and said, "My dear, I have good news. That isn’t a sin - it’s only a mistake." Brian Eatock/Sermon Central
- We tend to call sin everything but sin. There are now church sponsored Alcoholic Anonymous groups that adopt the disease model without question. Disease sounds so much softer than sin! It can’t be helped. Cheating is called an error in judgment. Deception is called a difference of opinion or semantics (remember President Clinton). Fornication is labeled as a moral lapse while viewing pornography is labeled an addiction. We are not angry; just frustrated. We are not lying; just stretching the truth. And so it goes ad nausea.
- We are adept at excusing our sin. There is always a reason. For starters, it might be that Billy did it so it must be okay for me too. Or it might be that I’m just learning as I go so you will have to cut me some slack. Or, it’s not a big deal because I am turning over a new leaf tomorrow.
- And in a related vein, we routinely default to blaming someone or something else for our sin. It is the neighborhood in which I was raised was drug infested so what do you expect from me. My father was a slacker so that accounts for my laziness. My lousy education is the reason I do what I do. My genetic disposition means I must engage in homosexual conduct. And then there is the ultimate blame shifting – God made me this way or God brought certain circumstances into my life so somehow it is God’s fault.
- We easily minimize our sin. You’ve heard people say in one form or another that everyone has a little sin lying around. It is no big deal. Back off. Or you have yours and I have mine. Mine happens to be gossip, at least I didn’t murder. What is yours? Or, no matter, God won’t kick me out of his family; He forgives, that’s his business.
- There seems to be little place for sin in the language of today’s church. The church prefers feel good themes such as “something good is going to happen”, “think positive thoughts”, “how to make a bundle”, “your best life now”, “how to have perfect kids or a perfect marriage” or fill in the blank. I’ll not name names, but it’s rampant. Speaking of sin doesn’t attract consumers. One pastor I know eliminated “should not perish” from John 3:16 in his advertisement. Check most mailers or websites from churches attempting to attract attendees and you’ll see what I mean.
Quote: Billy Sunday, evangelist of 1900s: "Listen, I'm against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot. I'll fight it as long as I've got a fist. I'll butt it as long as I've got a head. And I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth, and when I'm old, fistless, footless and toothless, I'll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition." Aaron Goerner, Utica, New York
Do you find yourself, like so many professing Christians, insensitive to sin? When is the last time you were broken over your sin? Or, you were angry that you could be so stupid? Or, when did you last beg your heavenly Father for forgiveness?
The truth is that sin is ugly – it is eternally debilitating. Further, it is personal rebellion against God himself. Because of sin, the words “worthy of God’s wrath” are stamped across my forehead. Yes, even the tiniest bit of sin is “utterly sinful.”
The good news is that God, through Jesus Christ, solves sin. But that is the point. Men and women are sinners and desperately need a savior!
Further, the good news is that God forgives believers when they sin. But that too is the point. At last check 1 John 1:9 still reads, NAU 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness
And our ongoing assignment: Chose one personal specific issue/area that you want to change. Then work out how to use this week’s tool to help bring about change with the chosen issue. (This will be the issue/area that you will focus on for the duration of the class unless you arrive at the point of making satisfactory progress on the issue. If so, then tackle another issue.)”
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.