“The good news is your son is fine.”
If this is the start to a conversation and you weren’t aware there was a possibility of him not being fine, you may not fully grasp the good news. For that very reason, we’ll start with the bad news. The good news is that salvation is available to all… but the bad news is that we all need it. The bad news is sin. This third article in our series on Salvation Basics focuses on sin. Pull out your Bible and let’s get studying.
Romans 6:23 describes death as the wages of sin. If I go to a job and I work hard, I expect to get my paycheck—my wages—at the appropriate time; I earned it. God says that by sinning, we earn death. Note also that He says “sin”… not “sins”; it’s a singular word. One single, solitary sin earns death. So do you drop over dead the first time you commit a sin? No, clearly not. But you do die spiritually. Isaiah 59:1, 2 tells us that the problem isn’t on God’s end; it’s on ours. God’s arm isn’t too short to reach us and He isn’t unable to hear us. The issue is that we, by our sins, have separated ourselves from Him. Think of a flower. If I clip it, it is dead. Oh, it looks alive, and I can even keep it in a jar with some water for a while… but it’s dead. It’s the same for us. We walk around and continue our lives on earth despite having sinned… but we’re dead. Just as the flower is separated from its source of life, when we sin, we separate ourselves from our source of spiritual life: God. And there’s no getting back to that source of life. Again, just as the flower can’t be reattached to its root, there is nothing we can do to get back to God (at least not until we cover the good news).
So just who has to worry about this spiritual death? Romans 3:23 says that we all do. It’s a verse many can quote in their sleep. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Earlier on, in 3:10-12, Paul quotes from the Old Testament and says there is no one righteous, not even one. That is to say, of our own merit, no one stacks up to the glory of God. We all—each and every one of us—fall short. We simply can’t match up.
Some have asserted that even babies have sin to account for, but here I take issue and so does God. This isn’t an article on the false doctrine of original sin, but I will take a moment to address it briefly. In Ezekiel 18:3, God is on the edge of livid with the nation of Israel over a saying they’re repeating: “The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge.” God says He’ll hear no more of it. In verse four, He corrects the nation, saying, “Behold all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.” He expands on the thought throughout the whole chapter and makes the point particularly clear in verse 20. “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” There’s no mistaking what point God is trying to get across. The child is simply not guilty of his father’s sin; each stands or falls for himself. Until one reaches an age of understanding and chooses sin for themselves, they bear no punishment from the Father and stand pure before Him.
Even for those of us who don’t hold to the false doctrine of original sin, God’s point to Ezekiel and the nation of Israel deserves our attention. Our sin is on our own heads. There is no blaming our father, mother, brother, sister, neighbor, friend or preacher. Our lost condition is our own fault and we will bear the punishment for it. Did you know that Jesus talks about Hell more than anyone else in the Bible? Loving Savior though He may be, His stance is clear: Hell is very real and very unpleasant. Three times in Mark 9 Jesus describes Hell as a place where the worm never dies and the fire is not quenched (44, 45, 48). That, my friends, is where we are headed because of sin. No, this isn’t good.
In this article, we’ve addressed the consequences of sin as well as who is guilty of it. In next week’s article, we’ll cover some of what constitutes sin.
This series is based on evangelistic studies by Curtis Hartshorn.