The Doctrine of Sin

    What is sin? Lewis Sperry Chafer writes in Systematic Theology that it “is essentially a restless unwillingness on the part of the creature to abide in the sphere and limitation in which the all-wise Creator placed him. In general, sin is lack of conformity to the character of God.” (Systematic Theology, ed. by John F. Walvoord [2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1988], 1, 367.)

    The only standard for measuring sin is the holy character of God. Sin is sinful because it is unlike God. If we do not have a clear understanding of the character of God, we will never understand sin. The only way to come to an understanding of God is to listen to what He has to say about Himself—to study and meditate on His Word.

    How serious is sin? Again, the only way man can understand how awful sin is, is by hearing God’s own assessment. Sin is so terrible that the angels who sinned will never escape the Lake of Fire. Sin is so terrible that one act of Adam and Eve brought degeneration and depravity and unfathomable suffering to all humanity. Sin is so terrible that the perfect Son of God suffered to an infinite degree on the cross to redeem all mankind.

    All men have to deal with three kinds of sin:

Imputed sin is the sin of Adam placed to the account of every one of his offspring (Rom 5:12). Because of imputed sin, every member of the human race is born spiritually dead and under condemnation (Joh 3:17).

Inherent sin is the sin nature every human being inherits from his parents (Joh 3:6; Gal 5:17). Our areas of natural weaknesses and natural strengths—like our physical characteristics—are combinations of the tendencies of our parents. Sin natures are as individual as fingerprints—no two are exactly alike.

Personal sin is the result of choices we make and is the outward evidence that everyone has a sin nature (Rom 3:23). Personal sin is what is usually referred to as “sins” in the Bible. Sins fall into three categories: mental (thoughts), verbal (words), and overt (actions).

    But God has provided a solution. On the cross, Jesus Christ became sin for all men, that all who believe in Him “might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Co 5:21). Because He bore all condemnation, all men have the opportunity to be set free from sin and its consequences. But that freedom depends on a choice. Adam, who was free in the garden, looked at the tree and, knowing what the consequences would be, chose to partake of it. The result was death. We, who are dead in Adam, stand before another tree. We can look at the cross and, knowing what the consequence will be, choose to partake of it. The result will be life and freedom.

    In the cross is the solution to all three kinds of sin:

Imputed sin is dealt with by the fact that we are placed in Christ at the moment of salvation. While in Adam we were guilty, we are now seen as innocent in Christ. “Wherefore as by one man all died, in one man all are made alive” (1Co 1:30;1Co 15:21–22; Rom 4:22-24; Phi 3:9).

Inherent sin is dealt with by the fact that when we believe in Jesus Christ, we are given a new nature, a spirit which cannot sin, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature” (2Co 5:17).

Personal sin is dealt with by the fact that Jesus Christ paid for every sin ever committed (2Co 5:21; 1Pe 2:24; Isa 53:6). Because He paid the penalty for all sins, when we do sin and break fellowship with God, we can confess and be forgiven (1Jo 1:9; Eph 5:18).


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