What is sin? It must be something exceedingly grave, or it would not have exacted the sacrifice God made to save man from the death penalty. This indicates its seriousness. The New Testament defines sin thus: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4. Paul declares: "Until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law." "For where no law is, there is no transgression." Rom. 5:13; 4:15.
Many have defined sin; but it ever is "the transgression of the law." It has been set forth as "revolt against God and His will;" a "forensic failure" on the part of man; "transgression of the boundary line of right and wrong." In its workings in the human heart, sin begets selfishness, rebellion, hatred of righteousness, the choosing of that which God's law prohibits. It engenders hatred toward God because of His goodness, and contempt for those who choose to obey His law.
Doctor Guthrie thus graphically depicts sin:
"Look not at sin. Pluck off that painted mask, and turn upon her face the lamp of God's word. We start—it reveals a death's head. I stay not to quote texts descriptive of sin. It is a debt, a burden, a thief, a sickness, a leprosy, a plague, a poison, a serpent, a sting; everything that man hates it is; a load of curses and calamities, beneath whose crushing, most intolerable pressure, the whole creation groaneth. Name me the evil that springs not from this root, the crime that I may not lay at its door. Who is the hoary sexton that digs man a grave? Who is the painted temptress that steals his virtue? Who is the murderess that destroys his life? Who. is the sorceress who first deceives and then damns his soul?—Sin. Who with icy breath blights the fair blossoms of youth? Who breaks the hearts of parents? Who brings old men's gray hairs with sorrow to the grave?—Sin. Who by a more hideous metamorphosis than Ovid even fancied, changes gentle children into vipers, tender mothers into monsters, and their fathers into worse than Herods—the murderers of their own innocents? —Sin. Who casts the apple of discord on household hearths? Who lights the torch of war and bears it blazing over trembling lands? Who by divisions in the church rends Christ's seamless robe?—Sin. Who is this Delilah that sings the Nazarite asleep, and delivers up the strength of God into the hands of the uncircumcised? . . . Who turns the soft and gentle heart to stone? Who hurls reason from her lofty throne, and impels sinners, mad as Gadarene swine, down the precipice into a lake of fire?—Sin."
Not all sin is crime; but most crimes are sin. Crime is a violation of the laws which govern human society. Sin is rebellion against God, and often involves wrong to man. It is so hideous that could we but see it as it really is, with its final consequences, we should hate it and flee from it. But sin is deceptive. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jer. 17:9. Paul, writing of his experience, says: "Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me." Rom. 7:11. Sin allures with specious promises which it never fulfills. In its wake are sorrow, trouble, and pain, and its end is death.
Sin defiles a man. According to Christ it is that which comes from the heart that makes a man unclean. "And He said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Mark 7:20-23. No man is clean who cherishes these sins. Dress, education, position, ability,—none of these counterbalance these sins. The sinner is defiled and unclean in God's sight.
Man has never discovered a remedy for sin. Philosophy has not been able to suggest one. Neither statesman nor physician, neither clergyman nor layman, can offer a cure for sin. It is an incurable malady, and there is not a place on earth where man can go to find freedom from its power. Only God has a remedy. This He gave in the life and death of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. "She shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins." Matt. 1:21. The prophet declared: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."
This remedy for sin is the preacher's message to a lost world. Sin means eternal death and ruin, while faith in a crucified and risen Saviour means eternal life. The "everlasting gospel"
is Gad's announcement to perishing sinners that His only begotten Son has borne the penalty of sin for all who will believe. God has committed the work of reconciliation to His ambassadors. It is their ministry, their calling, their work. Sinners must be arrested from their rebellion, and be persuaded to believe that God can save them from the awful consequences of sin. The binding claims of the law of God must be made known; the death penalty for sin must be preached with power, under the influence of the Holy Spirit; sinners must be persuaded of God's love for them manifested in the giving of His Son Christ Jesus to bear the sin of the whole world, and must be assured that through faith in His name they may be saved. And this is all to culminate in the second advent, now so near.
To preach this saving gospel is the work of a true minister. Those who persuade sinners to repent and believe in Christ, preach the "everlasting gospel," while those who busy themselves about other things, and neglect to win souls to love and obey the Lord, fail in the discharge of the great commission, and miss the most precious privilege ever committed to man.
I. H. E.