In other religions, such as Buddhism, the concept of sin is regarded merely as “bad habits” that are “unskillful or unwholesome,” but, in the Christian worldview, sin is the cause of everything that is imperfect in the world (Dhammananda 255). The Bible records in the first chapter of Genesis that God created the world and “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). After Genesis 3, the world is not called good anymore by God and by Chapter 11 He completely destroys it except for 8 people. What caused God to view the world differently?
Christians would point to Genesis 3 as the point where God’s view of the world changed. Christian theologian Dr. John MacArthur says,
If you don’t understand this chapter, you don’t understand the rest of the Bible. You cannot understand the solution to the problem unless you understand the problem. You can’t understand the cure unless you understand the diagnosis. You will never be able to understand God’s remedy for this world if you don’t understand the malady under which this world lives and functions. (MacArthur, “What is Sin?”).
In this chapter, Adam and Eve simply disobeyed God after being tempted by a serpent “more cunning than any beast of the field” (Genesis 3:1).
The Bible explains that this first act of disobedience in the garden caused a disruption in the very nature of God’s universe. According to Romans 8, “the creation was subjected to futility” and “the whole creation groans” because of this first act of sin in the world (Romans 8: 20, 22). God appears to the first couple and explains to them that their sin will now cause the world to suffer. Romans 5 later explains that “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). So, according to the Christian, the world and everyone in it are suffering under a “disease” that has spread to all people called sin. All humanity falls to this sin nature because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Christians say that this is clearly seen when one looks outside their windows:
The universal moral depravity of human beings is abundantly clear. G. K. Chesterton wryly referred to the doctrine of original sin as “the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.” He goaded modernist theologians who “in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. [Sic](MacArthur 195)
Even though it is seen in the streets, Christians do not all agree on what sin is. For example, Southern Baptists would find any connection with alcohol to be sin while some other denominations would use wine in their worship service (“On Alcohol Use in America”). The Baptists would point out that 1 Corinthians 6 says that “drunkards… will not inherit the kingdom of God” while other denominations would point out passages that say that “wine makes the heart of man glad” (1 Corinthians 6:10, Psalm 104:15). This is an important debate to every Christian, because the proper understanding of what can be defined as sin relates to their understanding of it as a curse and “disease” upon mankind. Who would desire to bring more of a curse or disease upon themselves?
The Greek word for sin, ἁμαρτία, is one of the most common found in the New Testament (Walvoord, “Thirty-Three Words for Sin”). It basically means to “miss the mark” in English. What is the mark? According to John the Apostle, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). The Law is considered to be the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). “Through the law, the Israelites learned how they were to honor and imitate God’s holiness. The law is part of God’s revelation of himself” (Walton et al. 16-17). So, sin is not reaching the moral perfection of God.
Throughout the history of the church, Christians have used the Law as a way to diagnose and recognize sin in an individual’s life. The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Martin Luther (1483-1546) later echoed, “The true function of the Law is to accuse and to kill; but the function of the gospel is to make alive” (Comfort 119). Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) made it clear when he proclaimed, “The only way we can know whether we are sinning is by knowing His moral Law” (120). Looking back on this, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) explained:
The trouble with people, who are not seeking for a Savior, and for salvation, is that they do not understand the nature of sin. It is the peculiar function of the Law to bring such an understanding to a man’s mind and conscience. That is why great evangelical preachers 300 years ago in the time of the Puritans, and 200 years ago in the time of Whitfield and others, always engaged in what they called a preliminary Law work. (122)
It is through this “law work” that the diagnosis is given. The individual who measures him or herself next to the Law sees that there is no way to earn salvation as every other religion in the world basically teaches. Other religions say “You do this and this and the god or the universe will give you eternal life or you will become one with the universe or something of that nature.” Only Christianity recognizes the terrible state that mankind is in and points humanity to the solution: a God who loves them enough to live the perfect life that they cannot and then take the punishment that they deserved. This will become clear in the next few posts…
Comfort, Ray. The Evidence Bible: Irrefutable Evidence for the Thinking Mind, Notes. Ed. Kirk Cameron. Orlando, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2003. Print. The Way of the Master Evidence Bible.
Dhammananda, K. Sri. What Buddhists Believe. Malaysia: Buddhist Missionary Society, 2002. Print.
MacArthur, John. The Battle for the Beginning: The Bible on Creation and the Fall of Adam. Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group, 2001. Print.
MacArthur, John. “What is Sin?” GTY.org. 13 Jan. 2000. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/90-233/what-is-sin>
“On Alcohol Use in America” 2006 Resolutions. Southern Baptist Convention, 2006 Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/1156>
Walvoord, John F. “Thirty-Three Words for Sin in the New Testament Part 1” Bible.org. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. < https://bible.org/article/thirty-three-words-sin-new-testament-part-1>