The Seriousness of Sin—Breaking God’s Law

What sin is—and how we can be saved.

by Bodie Hodge on November 26, 2022
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To call something a sin that is not a sin is itself a sin. So be careful of what you call sin. God defines sin in his revealed Word—the 66 books of the Bible.

God defines sin in his revealed Word—the 66 books of the Bible.

Far too often, I’ve had church members and leaders tell me something is a sin that is not. I’ve had people tell me hate is a sin, anger is a sin, wine is a sin, listening to music with drums is a sin, denim jeans are a sin, and the list goes on.

Looking at God’s Word, God hated Esau (e.g., Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:13) and commands that we hate evil (e.g., Proverbs 8:13). Hate is not a sin—if it were, God would be a sinner, and we too would be sinners for obeying God.

God was often angered (e.g., Deuteronomy 32:21; 2 Chronicles 28:25). Clearly then, anger is not sin because God cannot sin.{% footnote_index 1 %} Jesus drank wine in Scripture (e.g., Luke 7:33–34; John 19:28–30), and wine is elsewhere positively mentioned (Psalm 104:14-15; Ecclesiastes 9:7).{% footnote_index 2 %} Timbrels/tambourines and cymbals are considered percussion instruments, as are drums (and cymbals are features on a drum set by the way) and were often used in godly worship and celebration (e.g., Exodus 15:20; 2 Samuel 6:5; Psalm 150:4–5) and are mentioned positively in Scripture. Denim jeans are merely a different way the thread is woven. It uses a diagonal ribbing that makes it more durable and rugged. Threading cotton or linen one way versus another is not sin.

Nevertheless, man sins in many ways. And it doesn’t end there—sin is all around us.

God Defines Sin Through the Law

God alone defines sin because God himself is the ultimate standard of what is good and right (and by contrast, bad and wrong). God’s revealed Word is the absolute source that defines sin for man. Sin is any thought, word, or deed that breaks God’s law by omission (not being or doing what God requires) or commission (doing what God forbids).

So, is God’s law important to know? Yes, it is essential to know “what is sin.” When God speaks, it is all essentially law because God is the ultimate Lawgiver—though what was preserved in the Bible is sufficient and the absolute standard on all matters.

By what authority can one object to God’s absolute authority? When anyone tries to do this, they are committing a faulty appeal to authority fallacy at the very outset of their argument. Thus, any following argument is fallacious.

God’s law is essential to know what sin is. God through Paul says,

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:8–11)

Does God have the power to change his laws to man at different times and for different circumstances?

Yes, and by the way, this does not affect the unchanging nature of God. But as an example, God originally only permitted man to eat vegetation (Genesis 1:29); then after the flood, God also gave meat as food (Genesis 9:3).

With Moses, the Israelites were permitted to eat only clean meats. But with Christ’s declaration in Mark 7:19, all foods have been made clean—which is not a problem for an all-powerful God. So we, as Christians, can eat all foods, but unlike in the time of Noah, they are all clean.

From the earliest pages of Scripture—from man’s fall into sin until Christ—man was commanded to give sacrifices to God to cover sin. Abel offered sacrifices (Genesis 4:4), as did Noah (Genesis 8:20–21), Abraham (e.g., Genesis 22:13), and the Israelites (repeatedly). However, after Christ offered himself as sacrifice (e.g., John 10:17; Hebrews 9:27), man no longer needed to sacrifice because Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient once for all (Hebrews 10:10). This is why sacrifice is no longer required of man.

So there are cases where God, by his own power and authority, could and did change laws assigned for man. The key is using Scripture to see what God changed and when.

What Is the Punishment for Sin?

The punishment for the first man’s sin and rebellion against God in the garden of Eden was death (Genesis 2:17, 3:19). Adam committed high treason against the Lord God who created him. Is sin serious? Yes.

The punishment for the first man’s sin and rebellion against God in the garden of Eden was death (Genesis 2:17, 3:19).

But look deeper at the big picture. The punishment from an infinite and eternal God would, by extension of God’s very nature, be an infinite punishment that would go on forever (this is called the “second death” or “hell”). Man, being made in the image of an eternal God would receive this limitless wrath of God as an everlasting sentence. This is what hell is—an eternal punishment with the full wrath of God on man forever.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

Those animal sacrifices, starting in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:21) and continuing through Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Israelites, were never going to be good enough. Directly to the point, God says this in Hebrews,

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:4)

Animals are not infinite or eternal. The best they could offer was a short-term covering for sin. What we really needed was an infinite sacrifice that could take the infinite punishment from our infinite Creator.

Can Ceasing To Sin Save You?

Some have thought that if they could just slow down their sinning or, if it were even possible, stop sinning altogether, that they would be okay and could be saved from God’s wrath. However, this doesn’t solve the problem of past sins and guilt. God, being perfectly holy, must punish sin. He must enact justice, being a perfectly just God—even for those sins already committed.

We have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and have all carried out high treason against God when we committed even one sin (breaking just one of God’s laws). We all sinned in Adam as well. When he sinned, we all sinned too. This is called “original sin”—rightfully, we all deserve God’s infinite wrath for just that sin alone!

You see we were all “in Adam” when he committed that sin. Each of our lives was wrapped up in Adam and Eve when they rebelled. Think of it in light of Levi and Abraham. Levi was Abraham’s great-grandson. Yet the Bible says that Levi was in the body of his ancestor Abraham when he paid tithes to Melchizedek.

One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. (Hebrews 7:9–10)

When Adam sinned, we all sinned because all of our lives were in Adam when he committed that sin. And we continue to sin. Even if it were possible to cease sinning, we would still need to be punished for the sins we already committed. So how is it that anyone could possibly be saved?

How Can We Possibly Be Saved from Sin Then?

Who is even capable of taking that infinite and eternal punishment for us? Who would possibly care that much for wretched sinners? Who could love us enough to do such a thing? And who is in a position of power to take such a punishment?

You might think there is nobody, but you’d be wrong. There is Someone. There is Someone powerful enough to take an infinite punishment from an infinite Being. There is Someone everlasting in his very nature who can take an eternal punishment and do it in a moment. And yes, there is Someone who cares and loves us enough to do this for us.

That Someone is God himself. God is love, and he is perfect love. The nature of God is triune—there are three persons of the one triune God. The love between those three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) is of perfect essence. By this love, the Father (the first person of the triune God) sent his Son Jesus Christ (the second person of the one triune God) to be sacrificed and take the infinite punishment we deserve for sin. The Father enacts the punishment, and the Son endures it—perfect justice for sin accomplished through the Son taking the full wrath of the Father upon himself on our behalf.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took on flesh and became a man (which is not too hard for an all-powerful God). He lived a perfect life, keeping the law without sin. It pleased God to punish Christ, and this satisfied the wrath of God once for all by Christ’s eternal nature.

When we believe in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross and his death, burial, and resurrection, we are saved. As a result of our salvation, we should want to turn from our sin in repentance and try to be obedient to Christ in his commands.

Christians don’t do good works to try to “earn” salvation, but we do good works because we love Christ (John 14:15). When people believe on him, Christ’s righteousness is transferred to them (imputed to them) so that they are now seen as spotless before the Father. Salvation is a gift of God, not by works, but by Christ’s work on the cross.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16–18)

Salvation is being saved from the wrath of God by his very grace that he bestowed on us. But it is so much more than that. It is experiencing the goodness of our good and loving God forever. We are made in the image of an eternal God, and we get to experience that great and eternal being forever.

But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NKJV)

Conclusion

Will we one day sin in heaven and fall from God’s grace? In the same way that Adam led us into sin, so Christ led us out of sin. And when Christ returns and consummates a perfect new heaven and new earth, Christ will forever be our head. So we will never fall into sin again in heaven because Christ our eternal head is God and he cannot sin. So we can rest assured that eternal life means eternal and everlasting life without the fear of falling back into sin.

Nevertheless, on this side of heaven, when someone calls something sin that isn’t sin, what that shows is that those individuals are elevating their own thoughts to supersede what God says is sin. It is a dangerous position to attempt what God alone has the authority to do.

When we, as fallible sinners, sin (even by calling something sin that isn’t), then we are in disobedience to Christ. We need to humbly acknowledge our sin before a holy God in repentance.

When you are in Christ, there is a joy and peace of knowing that God’s wrath no longer abides on you.

Sin is indeed serious. But don’t miss the best part! What God did to solve the sin problem is so much more. When you are in Christ, there is a joy and peace of knowing that God’s wrath no longer abides on you. The “sting of death” is taken away, and you can rest assured that your salvation is forever in Christ. May the Lord Jesus receive the eternal honor and glory. Amen.

Footnotes

  1. Of course, we should be careful that our anger does not lead to sin. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).
  2. However, we are commanded in Scripture not to be drunk: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

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