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Sin

Man with his face in his hands
Though made in God’s image, we are flawed by sin.

We have fallen very far from God’s intention. Though made in God’s image, we are flawed by sin. We are at war with ourselves and with each other, between the sexes, and amongst races and cultures. We turn away from God.

This evil that troubles us is found not only in individual lives but is also built into the very structure of society.

The origin of sin

Sin was not originally present in human nature. Our slavery to sin started with the disobedience of God’s command.

Adam and Eve were tempted to usurp God’s lordship. Their sin resulted from giving in to temptation; but it was human will which chose to disobey. The role of Satan indicates the power of evil in our world, though it does not absolve us from our responsibility of sin.

The nature of sin

Sin is failure to believe and trust in God, and a desire to be independent of him. God gives commands and establishes moral laws for our good.

In the Genesis account, the serpent undermined belief in God’s commands. The serpent assured Adam and Eve that rebellion would elevate them to a position of equality with God. This rebellion represents an attempt to place ourselves and our own will in the place of God. It is an attempt to attain abundant life by following the path of self-will. The result is that, instead of rising into a state of godlike independence, we decline into a condition of spiritual slavery and moral destitution.

Because our desires are corrupted by self-centredness, we miss the mark. We grieve God. We fail one another.

The common definition of sin is anything contrary to the known will of God. Sin impairs our sense of what is right and our ability to understand God’s will. Repeated acts of disobedience, together with the influence of a godless society, deaden the conscience. Only by the power of the gospel can we hope to recover an awareness of God’s will and the desire to do it.

Sin, however, relates to more than what we do. It arises from what we are.

Original sin

The term ‘original sin’ reminds us that, although originally an intrusion, we are ‘born in sin’. We have been subject to an invasion of evil from which no one is exempt.

We are sinful in nature, so even attempts at righteousness are tainted with sin. Human freedom to respond to God and to make moral choices is therefore impaired. But God is gracious, and through his indwelling Spirit, the tendency to sin can be overcome by striving to live according to the will and purpose of God.

The Consequence of sin

Sin leads to separation from God and loss of fellowship with him.

Though God seeks us, and we are sometimes aware of his presence, there remains a separation caused by our disobedience, with resulting guilt and fear. Only a desire to turn to him will result in an encounter with the living God.

The wrath of God

In his wrath, God judges and condemns sin, while in his love he seeks to bring us to repentance.

The wrath of God is purposeful and disciplinary, designed to lead us toward repentance. But although restrained now, in the final days that wrath will be complete when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed to the unrepentant.

The Bible links our sinful state, our separation from God and the wrath of God, with the sting or anguish of death. It warns of the possibility of spiritual death resulting in eternal separation from God.

Salvation through the grace of God

Our only hope is in the grace of God that issues from God’s will to overcome the separation caused by sin.

Unaided human nature is unable to achieve righteousness on its own. A saving relationship with God is not earned by good works. But what we cannot do for ourselves, God has done for us as a work of divine grace.

  • Source: abridged from ‘Salvation Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine’, Salvation Army International Headquarters, London 1988