What We Hate to Hear: Sin (Part 2)
Last time we talked about the fact that everyone is affected by sin. But what does that sin look like? How does it actually affect us? Look again at what Paul says. He’s mining the Old Testament, quoting verse after verse, and he says—
No one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16in their paths are ruin and misery, 17and the way of peace they have not known.” 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
These verses help us understand at least three things about our sin. First, we can see the pervasiveness of sin. Did you notice the kind of verses that Paul quotes here? They have to do with parts of the body. He talks about throats, tongues, lips, and mouths spewing forth hate and deception. He talks about feet running towards sin, and eyes looking away from God to other things. Why is he doing this? It’s because he wants us to understand that the totality of who we are has been affected by sin. All of our being, from our desires and loves to the way we think and reason and live is corrupted by sin. Now some will not go that far. Some way to say that if given the right kind of information, we can make good decisions, so much so that we can even believe the gospel by ourselves. But what does Paul says in verse 11?
“No one understands.” Paul is saying, everything, even our minds is tainted by sin. Our sinfulness extends to everything that we are. Our wickedness doesn’t just kind of lay at the surface, where bad behavior is seen. No, our sinfulness goes much deeper than that. It’s our very nature that is sinful, making us at it were, rotten to the core. This is why the theologians can talk of humanity’s total depravity, or radical depravity. I’ve heard some people misunderstand that and say that total depravity is wrong because some people can do some pretty good things. But saying we are totally depraved as sinful people doesn’t mean that we are as bad as we can be.
In fact, we can trace throughout the Bible, where God has specifically worked to restrain sin. And in his common grace, some are more inclined to be more generous, or more caring. We seen that all the time don’t we? Even as think about those who weren’t just drafted, but we willingly join up in our military to defend their country and die if they have to. Nevertheless, what we see on the surface, God sees on the inside. And when he looks at the heart of man, even when he is at his best, he sees one who is a sinner. God sees those whose very attempts at being good are tainted by sin.
Second, from these verses we can see the destructiveness of sin. Did you notice that as he’s describing the sinfulness of humanity, he’s describing it in relational terms? Instead of speaking truth, and blessings, and words that build up, humanity speaks lies, curses, and hatefulness. Instead of displaying love for others, we are quick to shed blood and cause pain and misery. Instead of peace, there is conflict.
Let’s be clear that I’m not saying that if we were by ourselves, we wouldn’t be sinful. No, I’m not saying that, and the opposite will be clear in a just a few minutes. But I am saying that our sin is most clearly when our lives come in contact with others. Why do nations rage in war, why do marriages break apart, and friends come to blows on the playground? It’s because sin destroys relationships. We can see that from the very beginning when after the first sin, Adam immediately blames his wife for his sin, and Eve in turn blames God, who after all made the serpent who told them to eat of that which God has forbidden. Sin destroys relationships and that is no more clearly seen than in our relationship to God.
Last, we see the ungodliness of sin. The conflict we see between people is an echo of the larger, more foundational, conflict, sinful humanity has with God. In fact, here we are getting at the root of our sin. Paul ends his description of sinful humanity similar to how he began it—by speaking of our rebellion against God. “No one seeks for God,” he says, because “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (3:10, 18). This, in the end, is the root of our sin.
You know when we think of really bad sins that we find repugnant and shameful, we usually think along the lines of the last point—sins against other people. But when you read the Bible, you see that those kinds of sins are not the ones that raise the ire of God the most. The sin that arouses God wrath the most is idolatry. Why? Because, as D. A. Carson says, this is what sin is all about—the de-godding of God. At the deepest level, sin is about rejecting God as God. We don’t like him as God, so we make our own gods. Or worse yet, we worship ourselves as God. This is why when David has committed adultery, murder, and he can still praying, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps 51:4).
Our sin—any sin, whether it’s embezzling money, getting drunk, not loving our spouse, bowing down to an idol in a pagan temple, hating another person, watching porn, disrespecting a parent, or punching a dude in the mouth for being lippy—all of our sin is ultimately an affront to God. It’s a sin against him. The result is nothing but the experience of his just and righteous wrath. We sin against the One perfect, morally pure Being in the universe—the One who made us and deserves our worship. Therefore, the punishment must be fitting of the crime. And the only punishment fit for rejecting the authority, integrity, and provision of God is an eternity of torment in hell.
When we stand back, to think about sin, the definition offered by Cornelius Plantinga fits well:
“The Bible presents sin by way of major concepts, principally lawlessness and faithlessness, expressed in an array of images: sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold. Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck. Sin is blindness and deafness. It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it—both transgression and shortcoming. Sin is a beast crouching at the door. In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling. These and other images suggest deviance: even when it is familiar, sin is never normal. Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony. Above all, sin disrupts and resist the vital human relationship to God.”
Such is sinful our state before God–every part of who we are is corrupted by sin.