The World’s Trouble: Chapter 3
There is no human consensus on sin. Throughout history different civilizations have viewed right and wrong differently. Today we hold very loosely to the collective idea of defining right and wrong. We’ve evolved beyond a majority decision to a much more individual decision. What’s right and wrong for you may not be right and wrong for me. Such philosophy has disastrous effects for society, but my purpose in this book is not confined to life on earth. I am concerned about that future judgment, which will not be based on any human definitions of sin, but will be measured against the holy righteousness of God.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
– Romans 3:23
We looked at some biblical definitions of sin. Theft, adultery, and murder are straightforward violations of God’s law. But we also noticed that something more is going on. Proverbs 21:4 states that the pride and plowing of the wicked is sin and Proverbs 24:9 states the thought of foolishness is sin. There doesn’t seem to be a straight line between those things and a particular law—Thou shalt not. This is where we need to look beyond a strict, technical definition for sin and look at the bigger picture.
When we think of sin, we think of the “bad stuff” that “bad people” do. Romans 14:23 presents a different picture, stating: “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Faith refers to saving trust in Jesus Christ and therefore everything unbelievers do is sin. Everything a person who does not believe and trust in Jesus Christ does is sin. This means not only the bad things like murder are sin, but everything like plowing their field is sin.
That’s a sweeping statement. Can it be true? Not only does the Bible define sin, it also defines good. God’s survey of every human being in their natural-born condition is that none are good nor do good.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Their feet are swift to shed blood:
Destruction and misery are in their ways:
And the way of peace have they not known:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
– Romans 3:10-18
There is nothing an unbeliever does that comes from faith, and therefore they do no good. Romans 14:23 said, “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” An unbeliever is a person who does not have biblical faith in Jesus Christ. Not having faith constrains them in different ways according to the Bible.
• Without faith it is impossible to do anything good or acceptable to God. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for the that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
• All the works of an unbeliever are judged as sin. “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:8-9).
• All sins of the unbeliever will stand against them in the judgment because they have not believed in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).
This all seems a bit thick. How could everything a person does be considered or counted as sin? You might accuse me of only focusing on bad things and ignoring the good things that people do, such as helping the poor, loving their family, or being honest in business. It is good to help the poor and suffering. It is good to love your family and to be honest in business. Those things are good and so are a thousand other things we could suggest.
You probably do those things and many more. I am not suggesting that you’re insincere in doing them. I’m comparing against God’s standard in the Bible and see that even the best works an unbeliever does fall short of that standard. But how do they fall short? It is easy to see that if you steal from your neighbor it is sin, but how is it also sin if you give to your neighbor out of kindness? Remember that God’s righteousness is the standard of measure and let me give you three ways the good works of an unbeliever, person without faith, falls short.
1. A person without faith in God does not have an eye to God’s glory in everything they do. Sometimes we talk about a person’s conscience or internal moral compass. They have an intuitive sense of good and bad and most generally follow it. That conscience is the remnant of the stamp of God’s image from creation (Romans 2:13-15) but it is defiled and falls short. We are commanded, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Without faith we do good as prompted by our inner sense of good, but we never do good to glorify God, and therefore fall short.
2. A person without faith does not love God and does not act out of love for God. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment of the law is, He responded, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). When a person does a good deed, they may be acting selflessly but their actions are not motivated by love for God. So in everything an unbeliever does, they break the first and greatest commandment of the law and are sinning.
3. A person without faith does not believe on Jesus Christ, and regardless of what they do or don’t do, they are already under condemnation. “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). There is no good deed that we can do to get out from under that condemnation (Romans 3:20; John 3:36), and therefore everything an unbeliever does is sin because it is not of faith (Romans 14:23).
What happens next? If everything an unbeliever does is counted as sin against them, what is the consequence?
This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.