THE FALL OF MAN Genesis 1:26-31, Genesis 2:7-9 & 15-17, & Genesis 3:1-24.
SIN & GOD'S LAW Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 5:21-22 & 27-30, Exodus 34:7,
& James 2:10.
SELFISHNESS & SIN Philippians 2:3-4, James 3:14-16, II Timothy 3:1-5,
James 3:2-10, & Isaiah 64:6.
THE END RESULT OF SIN James 1:13-15, Hebrews 9:27, Psalm 9:17, Luke 16:19-31,
& Revelation 20:10 & 15.
GOD'S SOLUTION TO SIN Mark 1:14-15, Isaiah 55:6-7, I Thessalonians 1:9,
& I Peter 3:18.
THE NATURE OF SIN Bible study is copyrighted ©1989 by William C. Nichols and is a part of a larger Bible study series. For further information on obtaining the entire series The Knowledge of God contact International Outreach, Inc whose address appears at the end of this study.
INTRODUCTION When we use the word "sin" many people have very different ideas about what sin actually is. Most people think of sin only as committing very evil crimes. Others don't use the word sin when talking about their own deficiencies, but instead refer to their sins as "mistakes". If we are to know God, it is of utmost importance that we understand His definition of sin and see our condition through the eyes of the Almighty One.
1. Turn to Genesis 1:26-31. In what likeness or image was man created (vs. 27)? Was man created higher than or on the same level as the animals (vs. 28)? How do we know this (vs. 27-28)? After God saw all that He had made, what does the Bible say He felt about His creation (vs. 31)? Is there any mention of anything evil being a part of God's creation in these verses (26-31)?
Genesis 2 tells us more about the creation of man. Let's look at verses 7-9 and 15-17. How did man become a living soul or being (vs. 7)? What two trees are specifically mentioned as being a part of God's creation (vs. 9)? What was the job of the first man (Adam) according to verse 15? What command does God give to Adam (vs. 16-17)? Does God warn the man about the penalty or consequences of disobeying this command (vs. 17)? What is the penalty?
Genesis 3 is one of the most important chapters of the entire Bible. We must understand this chapter in order to understand the nature of sin. In Genesis 3 we are introduced to an evil being who uses the body of one of God's creatures, a serpent, to speak to Eve, the woman God had created. This evil being is called Satan or the devil throughout the rest of the Bible. Satan was originally a created angel who refused to submit to God's authority and attempted to overthrow God as King of the Universe. In rebelling against the authority of God, the devil became a completely evil being and sin came into the world. Many other angels joined the devil in rebellion against God and became evil spirits.
Does the woman understand the penalty for disobedience to God's command (vs. 2-3)? How does the devil speak against or contradict what God has told Adam and Eve about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (vs. 4)? What good things does the devil tell the woman will happen to her if she eats the fruit (vs. 5)? What clear choice is the woman now faced with? What choice do she and her husband make (vs. 6)? Thomas Watson has written: "Eve gave more credit to the devil when he spake than she did to God."1 What do Adam and Eve do when they hear God approaching them (vs. 8)? How does Adam answer God's direct question about whether he has eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (vs. 11-12)? Who does Adam attempt to blame for his sin (vs. 13)? A. W. Pink has written: "Here was the fifth consequence of the fall: self-justification by an attempt to excuse sin. Instead of confessing his wickedness, Adam tried to mitigate (soften) and extenuate (lesson) it by throwing the onus (guilt) upon another. The entrance of evil into man produced a dishonest and deceitful heart. Rather than take the blame upon himself, Adam sought to place it upon his wife. And thus it is with his descendants. They endeavor to shelve their responsibility...by attributing the wrongdoing to anyone or anything rather than themselves, ascribing their sins to be the force of circumstances, an evil environment, temptations, or the devil."2 Does Adam's disobedience or sin bring any consequences or results (vs. 14-19)? Adam and Eve are immediately punished with spiritual death and they also begin to die physically as well. What else does God do to punish Adam and Eve for their sin (vs. 22-23)? How does God prevent the man and woman from reentering the garden (vs. 24)?
Often people don't understand why such severe punishment should result from so little a thing as eating a piece of fruit. Again the words of A. W. Pink are helpful: "But they can see no harm in so trifling a matter as eating of a little fruit. Nothing, however, is more fallacious than such reasoning: the essense of sin is the transgression of a law, and whether that law forbids you to commit murder or move your finger, it is equally transgressed when you violate the precept. Whatever the act of disobedience is, it is rebellion against the lawgiver: it is a renunciation of His authority...The injunction therefore to abstain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a proper trial of our first parent, and the violation of it deserved the dreadful punishment which was denounced and executed. He (Adam) was put to the test whether the will of God was sacred in his eyes, and he was punished because he gave preference to his own will." 3
2. Adam's disobedience to and rebellion against God had drastic consequences for all mankind. Adam either stood or fell before God as the federal or legal head of the human race and all mankind would either stand or fall with him. The results are seen all around us every day in the sins of men everywhere. Because of Adam's disobedience (he being the federal or legal head of the race) his guilt was imputed (transferred) to the entire human race. When Adam fell his very being or nature also became corrupt and wicked. All of the children of Adam and Eve (since they had none before they fell) would be born both legally guilty before God and born with a corrupt heart or nature as well.
In order to reveal to men God's holy and righteous standards and at the same time show men their guilt before Him, God gave to us through Moses, a prophet of God, His moral laws. Moses lived about 3400 years ago and received from God what has come to be known as the Ten Commandments. These commandments are found in Exodus 20:1-17. The first of these commandments deal with man's relationship to God. The latter commandments deal with man's relationship to man. What do verses 4-5 tell us not to do? What other things do people worship instead of God? Do people ordinarily think more about themselves or more about God? Jesus summarized the first part of the Ten Commandments by saying, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). Have you always done this?
What commandment is given to us in verse 12? Have you ever not honored your father and mother? Carefully examine each one of God's laws in verses 13, 14, 15, and 16. What is prohibited by each command? What does it mean to give false testimony or bear false witness (vs. 16)? In many societies today it is considered all right to lie in order to save face or help your own self interests. God's laws are very different from man's laws. God considers all lying to be sin. How do you feel about the demands made by God's laws? When you compare your own life to God's laws, what is your reaction? In your opinion, what should God do to those who break His laws? What commandment is given in verse 17? What does it mean to covet? Have you ever desired to have something for yourself that a friend or neighbor had?
God's laws affect not only our outward actions, but our inner thoughts as well. Therefore, when we think what is wrong, we commit sin also. Jesus explained the inner, spiritual meaning of the law of two of the Ten Commandments in Matthew 5:21-22 & 27-30. Turn to Matthew 5:21-22. What does Jesus talk about here (vs. 21)? What does Jesus say is a violation of the command not to murder (vs. 22)? In verse 27 Jesus talks about another commandment. What does this commandment deal with? How does Jesus define adultery (vs. 28)? After seeing the extent of God's laws as defined by Jesus, now how do you feel about God's laws? Do you feel you have ever violated or broken any of God's laws? What do you feel God should do to you because of that? Jesus gives us a warning in verses 29-30. What does He say? What does this say about the seriousness of going to hell? We will examine the results of sin more fully in section 4.
Most people seek to ignore God and His laws. By breaking God's laws we are guilty of fighting God. Until we are willing to acknowledge the wickedness and evil of our own sins, God cannot help us. Turn to Exodus 34:7. What does this tell us that God will do to those who are guilty of breaking His law?
James tells us more about God's perfect standards in James 2:10. What does James say about the person who keeps all of God's laws except one? So if a person commits just one sin in their entire lifetime, in God's eyes, they are just as guilty as if they had broken every one of God's laws.
3. There are many other things which God considers to be sin also. One of the best definitions of sin is found in the concept of selfishness. Selfishness is really one of the primary roots of sin in our lives. Most people do not realize that selfishness is sin. Selfishness is operating my life on the principle that I will do whatever is best for me. When I am faced with two choices, I will choose the one which helps me or benefits me the most. Let's look at what the Bible says about selfishness and sin. Turn to Philippians 2:3-4. What does verse 3 say we are not to do? What should our attitude be toward others (vs. 3-4)? How often do you live that way?
Each person primarily lives to satisfy his or her own selfish desires. Our attitude is "I am going to do my thing. I am going to have my own way." But the Bible says that this is sin, because I have made myself king of my life instead of God. I have denied God His rightful place as Ruler and Lord of my life and exalted myself in the place of God. James speaks more about selfishness in James 3:14-16. When we are jealous and selfish, what does James say we are guilty of (vs. 14)? What three words does James use to describe jealousy and selfish ambition (vs. 15)? Wherever we find jealousy and selfishness, what else does James say will be present as well (vs. 16)?
In II Timothy 3:1-5 God gives us some characteristics of people in the last days before Jesus Christ returns to earth. How accurately do these verses describe people today? What three things does Paul tell us people in the last days will be lovers of (vs. 2 & 4)? According to the Bible, when we love ourselves, money, or pleasure more than God we are guilty of idolatry (transferring to another object the worship due only to God). Idolators are among those whom the Bible says will not enter the Kingdom of heaven (I Corinthians 6:9-10). In essense, what the selfish person does is to totally ignore the God who made him and enthrone himself as the "god" of his own life. Many people who love themselves, money, pleasure, or something else more than God may seem to be very religious. Verse 5 tells us that such people may hold to a form of godliness, but it is not the real thing. (See the tract True Godliness from International Outreach for a closer look at these verses).
People not only sin by breaking God's laws outwardly, by thinking evil thoughts inwardly, by honoring themselves above God, but also in what they say as well. James 3:2-10 talks about this. What does verse 5 tell us about the tongue? How does James describe our tongues (vs. 6 & 8)? What example does he give of how we misuse our tongues (vs. 9-10)? Is God pleased when we do this?
Often when we see things which we have done which are wrong, we tend to compare ourselves with other people we know who are worse than we are to settle our consciences. This may help us to feel better, but it does nothing to change our guilty condition before God. Some people imagine that God grades on the curve or weighs our good deeds against our bad deeds and therefore, will not punish us, even though we have grievously sinned. Both of these concepts are wrong, according to the Bible. Turn to Isaiah 64:6. What does the first part of this verse say we are like? What is God's view of the things we do which we consider to be good?
4. We have looked at how sin came into the world, at the law of God, the inward spiritual meaning of the law, our own selfishness, and the way we misuse our tongues. When we break God's laws in either our actions or our thoughts, we are guilty of rebellion against God's authority over us. We are guilty of fighting God. When we selfishly choose our own desires and ways instead of God's, we thus honor ourselves above God and are guilty of playing God. Each man's guilt before God is very great. Now we will look at the end result of sin within our hearts and lives. Turn to James 1:13-15. Does God tempt us to do evil (vs. 13)? What is the real cause of our temptations (vs. 14)? When sin has occurred, what is one of the results for man (vs. 15)?
Some people feel that death means the extinction of or the end of everything for man, but the Bible teaches that death is a transition to a different stage of life. The Bible also tells us that at death the soul and spirit are separated from the body and continue to live in either one of two places--heaven or hell. Hebrews 9:27 tells us of one thing which will happen to every person after death. What must every man face after death?
Psalm 9:17 says, "The wicked shall be turned back unto hell, even all the nations that forget God." (KJV) The term "wicked" as used in the Bible refers to all who have not fully committed their lives to God and had their sins forgiven. Thus all who have not surrendered their hearts and lives to God and lovingly submitted to His authority will be cast into hell. This includes many people who would be considered by the world to be "good people" and even many who are "very religious". Jesus often spoke about hell and warned of the dangers of going there. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus told about two men who died. One of the men went to heaven and the other went to hell. We can learn much about the end result of sin from this passage. How is hell descibed in verses 23-24? What does the man say about his own condition (vs. 24)? What physical senses (hearing, seeing, etc.) does the man in hell still possess (vs. 23-25)? Can the man who has gone to hell get out of hell (vs. 26)?
Hell is described in the Book of Revelation 20:10 & 15. Turn to these verses. What words are used to describe hell (vs. 10)? How long will those who go to hell be there (vs. 10)? What will be their physcial condition (vs. 10)? Who are those who go to hell (vs. 15)?
In one of the most famous sermons ever preached, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", Jonathan Edwards said, "God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless with many of those who are now in this congregation, who may be at ease, than He is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell...The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of this world are innumberable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and those places are not seen...the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them, the flames do now rage and glow." Hell is indeed an awful place. "Hell is a furnace of unquenchable fire, a place of everlasting punishment, where its victims are tormented in both their bodies and their minds in accordance with their sinful natures, their actual sins committed, and the amount of light given to them, which they rejected. Hell is a place from which God's mercy and goodness have been withdrawn, where God's wrath is revealed as a terrifying, consuming fire, and men live with unfulfilled lusts and desires in torment forever and ever."4 More is recorded about what Christ said about hell while He was on earth than what He said about heaven. Christ constantly warned men about the danger that awaited them in hell if they did not turn to God. Again from Jonathan Edwards' sermon: "Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures...The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: His wrath toward you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; He is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in His sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in His eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours." Do you believe that you have experienced that great change of heart that Edwards and the Bible speak about? If not, do you realize that God is fiercely angry with you at this very moment? Does that bother you? Hear the words of God: "Now I will arise', says the Lord, 'Now I will be exalted, now I will be lifted up. You have conceived chaff, you will give birth to stubble; My breath will consume you like a fire. And the peoples will be burned to lime, like cut thorns, which are burned in the fire. You who are far away, hear what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge My might.' Sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling has seized the godless. 'Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with everlasting burning?" (Isaiah 33:10-14). Do you really think you will be able to endure hell? But Christ also, with His warnings, instructed men on God's remedy for sin. That is what we will look at next.
5. God could have done nothing about our problem of sin and justly sent all humanity to hell, but instead, out of His great love and mercy, He chose to help men. Some of Jesus Christ's first recorded words when He began to teach people about God are found in the Book of Mark 1:14-15. What does Christ call on people to do (vs. 15)? The word "repent" may not be very familiar to people today. Isaiah 55:6-7 helps us to understand what it means to repent. What instructions are given to those in verse 6? Seeking God must become the top priority of those who would find Him. Jesus once told a group of people, "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24). What further instructions are given (vs. 7)?
In I Thessalonians 1:9 Paul reminds the Thessalonian Christians of the process by which they came to know God. What three things does Paul say happened to the Thessalonians when they came to know God? A. W. Pink has defined repentance as "a supernatural and inward revelation from God, giving a deep consciousness of what I am in His sight, which causes me to loathe and condemn myself, resulting in a bitter sorrow for sin, a holy horror and hatred for sin, and a turning away from or forsaking of sin. It is the discovery of God's high and righteous claims upon me, and of my lifelong failure to meet those claims. It is the recognition of the holiness and goodness of His law, and my defiant insubordination thereto. It is the perception that God has the right to rule and govern me, and of my refusal to submit to Him."5
Repentance is a deep recogniton of the wickedness of my heart and life. The truly repentant person hates and abhors all sin, especially his own. It is a turning away from or forsaking of all sin with a corresponding desire to turn wholeheartedly to God and to love and serve Him forever. Unless a person is convinced that they personally are guilty before God and of the dreadful seriousness of their sin, they will not see any need to repent.
The purposes of God in His solution to sin come together in the Person of Jesus Christ. Christ came into the world offering God's forgiveness to those who would repent and turn to God. But Christ did far more than just urge men to repent. Turn to I Peter 3:18. What is the only way a person can come to God, according to this verse?
Jesus Christ is the focal point of God's plan of salvation from sin. If Jesus Christ had not come into the world, there would not have been any possibility that man could be redeemed or saved from his sin. Since the work of God in providing for those who truly repent is through Jesus Christ, it is very important that we understand more about Christ, His life, His death, His coming alive again from the dead, and His teaching about Himself, and why it was necessary for Him to come. Please continue on to the next study entitled, "The Person & Work of Jesus Christ".
©1990 by William C. Nichols
1 Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House,
2 A. W. Pink, Gleanings From the Scriptures: Man's Total Depravity, (Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Institute, 1969), p. 65.
3 A. W. Pink, Gleanings From the Scriptures:Man's Total Depravity, (Chicago, ILL: Moody Bible Institute, 1969), p. 25.
4 William C. Nichols, The Narrow Way, (Ames, IA: International Outreach, Inc., 1993), pp. 25-26.
5 A. W. Pink, The Doctrine of Salvation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1974), p. 58.
Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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