We take sin too lightly and do not fully appreciate the gravity of our condition in the sight of God. In this lesson we are going to consider why we need Jesus and what sin has done to our lives. We will also look at why sin matters and why we must avoid sin at all costs.
I. Why We Are Answerable to God
A. He is the giver of life
Society tells us today that we are answerable to no one but ourselves. No one can tell us what to do, but that we are our own person. I would like to begin by showing us that this is simply not the case. There is the very obvious premise that the things which are created are answerable to the one who created it. As I grew up, I enjoyed playing with Play-Doh and I still like to play with it. The dough comes out the can as a big ball of nothing and you and I have the power to make it what we want it to be. I, as the creator of the clay, can make the clay be anything I desire it to be with any question.
Thus, God is such in this universe. Because He has the power to create and chose to create all things, He is the one that all of creation is answerable to. Genesis 2:7 says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” God, in His desire for created beings who would love Him, decided to make men and women in His own image. Isaiah put it this way when he says, “Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?” (Isaiah 29:16).
This is the option we must accept unless you are interested in putting your faith that excited gases created you. Either God gave each and every person life and we are accountable to Him or every person has no meaning in life because gases created us and we are accountable to gases. Logic and reason tell us that there is a God and that we are subject to Him for creating us.
B. He is the giver of law
Since God is the giver of life, He has the power and right to make demands of His creation. Just as we have the right to make the clay whatever we wish it to be, so God has the right to make demands that we conform to His wishes. Therefore, not only is God the giver of life, but He is also the giver of law. God has chosen to make a covenant with all mankind.
To understand this, we must recognize that there are two kinds of covenants that God makes with people. Some covenants are bi-lateral and some are unilateral. A bi-lateral covenant is the one we are used to the most in which two people are required for the covenant to be ratified. The marriage covenant is a bi-lateral for both parties must agree to the terms. It can be reasonably argued that in becoming a Christian we enter into a bi-lateral covenant with God. We are agreeing to submit to God and in return we receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Israel was in a bi-lateral agreement which God says Israel broke their part of the covenant. Most of God’s covenants are unilateral, meaning that He makes the covenant and does not need the agreement of the other party involved. Humans did not have the option before their birth whether they will choose to obey God or not be born. By the nature of birth, immediately each person is under a covenant with God.
Before we argue against the validity and fairness of a unilateral covenant, we must recognize that there are many unilateral agreements that we are entered into today. The parent/child relationship is a unilateral covenant. The child is to obey the parents and was not given the choice before birth whether or not he or she wanted to agree to the terms of the contract. The child has legal obligations and requirements to the parents though they never consented on their part.
This is the nature of the covenant that God has made with every person who has ever lived. Every person is in a relationship as the Creator/creature and Father/child covenant with God. In the divorce and remarriage controversy, some teach that the sinner is not in a covenant with God and therefore has the right to many spouses. While it is true that the sinner is not in a covenant that the Christian has made in baptism, every person is still in a covenant with God.
In Genesis 2:17 we see that Adam was in a unilateral covenant with God, for God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This covenant was not negotiable, nor could Adam decide not to enter into it. In Romans 1:18-32 Paul speaks of the Gentiles being under a covenant with God, though not having the law of Moses, because they were in violation of God’s law. Paul would later say in Romans 4:15 that where there is no law, there is no transgression. Therefore, to be in sin and transgression, there must be law and there must be a covenant framework of that law.
II. God’s Covenant With Man
A. What was the covenant?
So what is the covenant that every person is under from the very beginning? While the full answer would probably probe into deeper theological questions that this lesson does not have time to address, I believe we can get a feel for what God required in His covenant with all people.
As we go through the scriptures we will notice that there is a general theme for what God is demanding in His covenant. In Leviticus 19:2 we read, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Paul says in Ephesians 4:32, “…forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” Again Paul says in Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us…” John says in 1 John 3:3, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” The number of these kind of commands are staggering. What is God commanding for all people to do? While this is certainly an oversimplification, I believe the point is accurate: to be like God.
Notice in all those commands how God says that we are to do something because God is that particular characteristic. God is pure so all people are to be pure. God is love so all people are to love. God is righteous so all people are to be righteous. God is holy and therefore all are to be holy as well. Jesus said that the greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. But Jesus and the writers tell us that to love God is to act like God by developing the characteristics of God in our lives.
B. Why is this God’s covenant?
The reason this is the covenant that God made with all people is because this is the nature of God. John says in 1 John 1:5, “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” God made man so that God could be in fellowship with man and there would be mutual love for one another. But what happened in the garden of Eden? Man sinned forcing God to cast man out of the garden because God cannot have fellowship with sin. It is against His nature and against His character.
For us to be with God and live with God, we must become like God. Let us be sure to reemphasize that every person is under this covenant to be like God. No one at the beginning of life was able to say that they are not part of the terms of the covenant and have the right to live how they want without penalty. All of us under contract made unilaterally with every person because He is the life giver and lawgiver.
We are not dealing with a cosmic God who looks to try to make people obey difficult commands to see who can really do it. This is a matter of the character of God. He wants all people to live with Him. God is light and cannot have any fellowship with darkness at all. Therefore, all people need to be like God if they want to live with Him.
C. Who has kept God’s covenant?
This is really ought to be the end of the story. God has said that He loves every person He has created. To have eternal life and abide with God, every person needs to act like God. Our sermons become very simply now: all people must be righteous, pure, holy, and abide in love to be able to be in heaven with the Lord. So be like God and do not sin or live in darkness.
Who has lived up to the standard of being like God? Has anyone here made every decision in the likeness of God? Has every action you ever made been holy and righteous? Every person has fallen into temptation and has violated the covenant of being like God. Paul lays this condemnation upon us all in Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become worthless; there is none who does good, no, not one.”
Romans 3:23 very succinctly yet very directly makes the point: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul makes the problem evident to all people. We are to reach the glory of God and become like His character, but every person has fallen short. God wants us to be like Him and His laws are a reflection of who He is. When we sin, we are not acting like God and have fallen short of His glory. No one has kept the covenant, no one has been like God, no, not one.
III. The Penalty of Violating the Covenant
A. Separated from the tree of life
When a person violates God’s covenant to be like Him, the person must be separated from the tree of life. In Genesis 3:22-24 Adam and Eve were separated from the tree of life. They had corrupted their souls with the stains of sin. The great implication of this is that we are now guilty and deserving of the penalty. Paul says in Romans 3:20, “No flesh will be declared righteous in His sight by the works of the law…” We are brought into the courtroom with God as the judge and the gavel comes down with the verdict that we are guilty.
With the guilty verdict in place, we stand before God to be sentenced. Paul says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death…” Death is the sentence that is decreed for each and every person. This is the reality of where we stand in relation to God.
B. Separated from the presence of God
Further, the penalty for violating the covenant means that we must be separated from the presence of God. God is light and He cannot have fellowship with darkness. Therefore, our penalty is greater than the fact that no one deserves to lives because we have become useless to God (Romans 3:12). The death we experience is an eternal separation from God.
David said in Psalm 16:11, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Without God, there is no joy and there is no pleasure. The devil makes us believe that he can offer us joy and pleasure that we desire. However, the devil cannot offer us these things. The devil can only offer us the pleasures of God that are misuse for evil and pleasures that are robbed from their proper fulfillment. For example, sexual sin is not a pleasure of Satan but a misuse of the pleasure God has given to be found in marriage. Separation from God is separation from all that is good, right, and joyful.
C. Cast away in hell
With the devil and his angels. Matthew 25:41 says, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'” Not only is the penalty of violating the covenant a loss of all things that are good, but it is also the association with all that is evil. All of us are to be cast into the everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.
With all the other lawless in hell. We are also cast in with the most horrible people who ever walked the earth. We will get to spend eternity with most vile, evil people who ever lived. Will it be nice to be with the murderers of the earth? Will it be wonderful to be with adulterers, sorcerers, idolaters, wrathful, divisive, gossipers, drunkards and the such like? Consider where we are destined to go because each of us have violated God’s covenant. As we noted earlier, this should be the end of the story for each of us. Once we have sinned, we are separated from God and have no chance to do anything to make it up. There is nothing we can do to cure our sins. One violation is a permanent mark against our record. We all deserve judgment and death.
IV. Salvation By Grace (Ephesians 2:4-5)
A. God still loved us
Paul says in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you have been saved!” Only because of God’s love are we not allowed to pay the penalty for our sins. God has every right to judge every single person as guilty and send them to their just punishment in hell. In fact, this judgment is what we deserve. But, as we noted at the beginning of the lesson, God made us so that we could be in fellowship with one another, exhibiting mutual love.
Something would need to be done for God to have His creation live with Him. Envision with me the scene that would exist in heaven as God would recognize that man would need a Savior, someone who would redeem man from the curse of violating the law of God. According to Ephesians 1:4-5, before the foundations of the world, we were chosen to
be adopted through Jesus Christ.
B. Jesus pays the ransom for our sins
In some way, the justice of God would need to be paid. The blood of animals is not sufficient to take away sins (Hebrews 10:2). Animals are not of the same value as a human being. We cannot die for one another because that is what we deserve. One man on death row cannot die for another person on death row since both are condemned to die anyway. We needed something greater. Jesus, before the foundation of the world, volunteered to pay the price for our sins so that we could be in a right standing with God. Paul says in Romans 5:6, “For while we were still helpless, at the appointed time, Christ died for the ungodly.”
In speaking of Jesus, Paul also said in Titus 2:14, “He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a special people, eager to do good works.” The key words for what Christ did for us are found in the words “redeem,” “redemption,” and “ransom.” We understand redemption in our language today that something is bought back to its owner. The definition according to Thayer is, “a releasing or liberation effected by a payment of a ransom.”
We are the reason Jesus died on the cross. Because God loved us so much and did not want the possibility of no person ever being able to be in fellowship with Him, God sent Jesus to earth to be murdered by the very people He was saving. This death purchased us from the grip of sin and death that we had plunged ourselves into by our own actions. Thus it was proclaimed that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
C. Accessing the grace of God
How do we receive God’s grace? Colossians 2:11-13 tells us, “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the sins of the flesh, in the circumcision done by the Messiah. Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses.”
It is the same answer that Paul gave to the Ephesians in Ephesians 2:4-5, that is by faith. In Colossians, Paul says that we must have faith in the working of God to take our sins away and declare us innocent, that is justified, in the sight of God. We must put off the sins of the flesh and be baptized to have our sins cut off. When we show our faith in God through repentance and baptism, God’s mercy and grace is applied to us. I hope we see how much we need God’s grace and mercy because we all stand under the condemnation of sin. But God can make you alive and ready to stand in the presence of God, if we will only submit our lives to the will of God.
What this means for you today is that if you will set your mind and purpose yourself to serve the Lord with all your heart and mind and submit to the waters of baptism, God has promised that your sins will be taken away.