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Sin - 1John 2:1

What's so bad about sin? Here is a brief biblical recounting of the badness of sin and the hope of sinlessness

1John 2:1; Genesis 2:9-3:24, 6:5-7,11-13, 19:27-28; Isaiah 3:8-9; Matthew 12:34-37; Romans 8:19-23; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; 2 Peter 3:10-13

Feb 16, 2014 12:00 PM


I would like to begin with a word of explanation concerning the title of today’s sermon which is the single word “sin”.  I want to be certain you understand that is a noun.  Not a verb.  It is bad enough as a noun, but if it were a verb, it would certainly be the worst sermon title in all of Christian history.

So let me remind you of John’s words which we looked at last week: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And I am preaching this sermon to you brethren, so that you may not sin.  But in the theological wasteland in which we live, it is not hard to imagine someone asking the question, “What is sin?”  And the second question which would be asked before we could give an answer to the first would be, “And why shouldn’t we sin?”

Thus the topic of sin.  Not the command, but the topic.  What is sin, where did it come from, and why is it so bad?  And why does John go to the trouble to state the obvious to a group of Christians?  “Do not sin.”  Do they not know they should not sin?

Let me answer the first two questions rather quickly: What is sin?  Sin is whatever is against God.  Anything that presents itself as against or contrary to God, whatever form that may take, is sinful.  That includes more than deeds done.  It includes anything in any form that is opposed to God or the things of God.  Sin is whatever is an offense to God.  We’ll look at that in more detail in a bit.

Secondly, where did sin come from?  The origin of sin is found in the rebellion of Satan and his demons.  That is a particularly foggy subject.  How it happened, and when it happened, and how it could be possible for it to happen is, as they say, way above the pay grade of theologians.  We have very little scriptural support for a detailed explanation of the origin of sin.  It did not begin with Adam or Eve.  And the case is easily made that Hell was created specifically for Satan, not for human beings.  We’ll stop there for now.

Then we come to the third question.  First, what is sin.  Second, where did it come from.  And thirdly, why is sin so bad?  Well, we’ve already answered that.  Sin is bad because it is against a good God.  It is an offense against the holiness of God.  But another reason why sin is bad is because of the eventual and inevitable and immeasurably awful consequences.  I want to walk through a brief biblical history of human sin with you.  And you say, “Why didn’t I stay home this morning?”

I think this is necessary.  As Christians, we seem to think the sin of unbelievers is terrible because they are terrible.  Those people are evil.  Therefore sin is evil.  But what about the sins of Christians?  Do Christians somehow commit sanctified sins?  Are our sins somehow less evil because we are inherently better people than unbelievers?  So our sins are “better” than theirs?

Sin is against God.  When we sin, we are acting against God.  Every sin, even the least sin, is the worst form of rebellion.  But I digress.  Look with me at Genesis 2.

[9] And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.  The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

[16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, [17] but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” [Or “you will die the death” LXX]

God issues the first command and a threat for non-compliance: You will die.  To defy the command of God is to die.  That is the first direct effect of sin.

It is striking how easy it seems it would have been for Adam to obey God and not sin.  Adam is surrounded with a garden filled with every kind of fruit imaginable.

A positive command like this, not to eat of a particular tree, was the simplest and easiest trial to which his fidelity could have been exposed.  He lived in inexhaustible abundance.  His Creator had provided for him with divine liberality.  He had bestowed upon him all that was either useful or necessary for his happiness; and the only limit set to his range of enjoyment was one thing, and that a trifling gratification at the best.  (Jaimeson, Faussett & Brown)

This was the simplest, easiest, and only test which God put to Adam: Don’t eat from this tree.  And yes, it was a simple test.  But then enters Satan.  Now the test becomes more complex.  Because now the test is a matter of faith.

[18] Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

[3:1] Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

[6] So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

[23] therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. [24] He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.  (Genesis 2:9-3:24 ESV)

Adam’s sin is not a matter of simple disobedience to a simple command.  Adam’s sin is the result of what he thinks of God.  Eve doubts God’s word.  She takes and eats of the forbidden fruit and nothing happens.  So now Adam follows her lead in an act of overt unbelief.  He thinks, “We will not die!  God lied to me.”

Adam’s eating of the fruit was the evidence of the unbelief in his heart.  In his heart he did not believe God.  Adam was faithless.  In spite of all that God had given him, and in spite of all that God had promised would happen to him if he ate from a single tree among a forest of trees--neither the present blessings of God nor the promised punishment of death was sufficient to move Adam to obedience.

Consequently, through Adam’s sin, death is introduced to the world and the curse of physical and spiritual death is brought upon all of us because we all die.  Adam forfeited Paradise in exchange for death.  That was one of the immediate affects of sin.

Sin is not just doing something bad, something contrary to God’s will.  Sin is thinking something bad about God, then doing or saying something that makes God a liar.  My sin is evidence that I do not believe what God says about sin and I make God out to be untrustworthy.  Sin is faithlessness based upon wrong thinking about God.  Bad theology leads to sin.

Turn with me to chapter 6.

[5] The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. [6] And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. [7] So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7 ESV)

Q:  According to these verses, why did God regret making man?  Why was God’s heart grieved?

A:  Because of the condition of the hearts of men.  Because of the thoughts of men.  Because of bad theology which led to bad living.

[11] Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. [12] And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. [13] And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:11-13 ESV)

Bad thinking, bad ideas about God, faithlessness toward God, leads to violence and corruption.  So much so that God destroyed the entire human race except for Noah and his family.

So when someone says, “Well how bad can sin be?”, within six chapters of Creation, paradise has been lost, the entire human race has been placed under a curse, death has been introduced, and the world destroyed.  In six chapters.

In chapter 18, God speaks to Abraham concerning the city of Sodom.  If His angels find ten righteous men in the city, in spite of its abhorrent wickedness, He will relent from destroying it.  Then in chapter 19 we read:

[27] And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. [28] And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. (Genesis 19:27-28 ESV)

This is the price men pay for their sin against, and unbelief toward God.

But God later chooses a people set apart, sanctified for Himself, to be a light to the rest of world.  They would worship God correctly, according to God’s own instructions to them.  They would build a temple to Him which would become the most glorious place on earth.  Then we read the words of Isaiah:

[8] For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen,

because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD,

defying his glorious presence.

[9] For the look on their faces bears witness against them;

they proclaim their sin like Sodom;

they do not hide it.

Woe to them!  For they have brought evil on themselves. (Isaiah 3:8-9 ESV)

The most obvious effect of sin is the evil it brings upon the sinner.  Sin is bad for many reasons.  First, it is against God.  Our sin makes God out to be a liar.  We are saying we know better than He does when we defy His will.  We are saying He is untrustworthy when we ignore what His word clearly says.  The worst thing about sin is it reveals the faithlessness of our hearts toward a God who is good and glorious and worthy of all our trust and love.

Sin’s secondary effect is its deadly power.  Sin kills the sinner.  Maybe immediately, maybe later, but always without fail.  Sin is the sting of death (1Corinthians 15:56).

Sin also provokes the wrath of God.  And just how often is God provoked by our sin?

[34] You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. [35] The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. [36] I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, [37] for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34-37 ESV)

This verse doesn’t just apply to those vipers, the Pharisees.  It applies to all.  All will give an account, even for the careless words we speak.  Because our words reveal the condition of our hearts.  And that day of judgment is coming when, because of sin, God will destroy the earth a second time, with fire.

Sin has ruined the entire universe which groans as it waits for the return of he Lord Jesus to restore, and rebuild, and renovate this world into a new creation.

[19] For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. [20] For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope [21] that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. [23] And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23 ESV)

The sin of Adam, and the continuous sinfulness of the entire human race has ruined everything that God said He made good.  The world is ruined, lives are ruined, our physical bodies have been subjected to death and decay, and spiritually speaking, we are born dead to God, enemies of all that is holy and good.

That brings us to 1John 2: My little children, do not sin.  And now you know why he says that.  But for us who believe, even if our faith is not always perfect, we have a sure hope.  Paul speaks to Timothy of this hope that is ours:

[6] For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [8] Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV)

Paul does not look forward with eager anticipation to the day when he arrives in heaven and receives a crown of gold and jewels.  He waits for the day when God will award him with a crown of righteousness.  Sinless at last!  And not just Paul, but all of us who have loved the appearing of the Lord Jesus.

[10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. [11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [12] waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [13] But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10-13 ESV)

Beloved, do not sin.  It is the spiritual cancer that has infected all creation.  It is the cancer of unbelief.  Do not even for a moment join the ranks of those who do not believe God and ignore His word.  Our sin as believers is no different than the sin of Adam.  It is the result of bad thinking, of bad theology, of thinking less of God than we ought.  It is the result of thinking sin is not such a bad thing when the truth is sin is deadly.  It is an offense against the God who saved you FROM your sin.

My little children, do not sin.


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