Are you a sinner? According to LifeWay Research, two-thirds of Americans (67%) admit they are, but only a minority (28%) relies on Jesus to overcome that sin. Around one-third (34%) say they “work on being less sinful,” while 18% say sin doesn’t exist or that they aren’t sinners. But what do most of these people mean by “sinner”? I suspect a lot of people don’t actually have a correct understanding of the word—and without the history in Genesis chapter 3, they would not be able to.
In many of my talks, I note how here in America we’ve changed from a “Jewish” culture to a “Greek” one. Let me explain. In Acts 2, the Apostle Peter preached a sermon to a group of Jews, focusing on Christ and the Cross, and thousands were saved. This group of people understood creation, Adam and Eve, the temptation, sin, and our Creator God. They didn’t need a foundation laid. They needed to hear about the one who fulfilled their Old Testament Scriptures, the Lord Jesus.
In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul preached a very different sermon from Peter’s. He was speaking to a pagan Greek audience who knew nothing of their Creator, the Fall of Adam, or their own sin. So Paul started at the very beginning and, once the foundation was laid, preached the gospel to them.
Our culture today is very much a “Greek” culture. Most people no longer believe that God is the Creator and that they are accountable to him. And most have no understanding of the history in Genesis and what sin is. The executive director of Lifeway Research notes,
To some Americans, saying you’re a sinner is a way of admitting you are not perfect. . . . To those folks, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re evil or should be punished for your sin. That’s something the church should pay attention to.
This is far from a biblical view of sin. We aren’t sinners because we make mistakes sometimes. We are “dead in [our] trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and “slaves of sin” (Romans 6:20). Every sin is serious (James 2:10), and we are accountable before God for these sins (Romans 14:12). We sinned in Adam, which means we committed high treason against the God of creation. We are in rebellion against a Holy God!
Sin isn’t something we can get rid of on our own. We need Jesus Christ, the God-man, who stepped into history and died on the Cross, taking our penalty for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). It’s because of his sacrifice on our behalf that God can justly forgive our sins and grant us new and eternal life (2 Corinthians 5:17). And, once Christ has redeemed us, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us fight sin as we live in this fallen world.
When you’re sharing the gospel with others, keep in mind that they probably don’t understand what sin is . . . or why they need a Savior.
When you’re sharing the gospel with others, keep in mind that they probably don’t understand what sin is . . . or why they need a Savior. We need to take them back to Genesis, explaining that, as our Creator, God sets the rules; because we broke those rules in Adam and continue to do so (Romans 5:12), the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). But, praise God, Jesus paid that penalty and we can have new and eternal life in Christ by believing on his name (Romans 10:9).
And that’s the glorious message of the gospel that everyone needs to hear!
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.