“God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Eccl. 7:29).
The Bible says much about sin. It tells of its origin and nature as well as its consequences. It describes the punishment of sin which enables us to know just what it is to sin against Him in whom “we live and move and have our being.” It gives the only solution to the problems occasioned by sin, which means the plan of salvation from sin. Upon His own terms “the Lamb of God taketh away the sin of the world.”
Men sin against God today, as Adam and Eve did, by transgressing His law, “for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). We know God’s law by the proper division of His word. We are not responsible to God for what Adam did. We do not inherit his sins, nor those of any other. We are accountable for all our violations, and for ours only, which is quite enough responsibility. “Each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12 ASV). Again, “Jehovah’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:1-2 ASV).
But notice that the one who “transgresses” the law is a sinner, which means those who are in the denominations about us are sinners, for they had to transgress God’s law to get into them. They went beyond His law to get their organizations, their names, their doctrines, their worship and manner of life. They trampled under foot the word of God to form the denominations, but cannot overthrow His judgment to uproot them (Matt. 15:13).
Denominational churches go down as sinful when sin is again defined: “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). We anticipate the question, “How is it that the denominations are unrighteous?” That should be easily seen. They are no part of the gospel—the New Testament, and whatsoever is not of the gospel is no part of the righteousness of God, “for therein (the gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed” (Rom. 1:16-17). That which is not of the gospel is not right—it is sinful. It means that they who go by what they think or by what the creeds decree, and not by what the New Testament says, are sinners.
Under this definition of sin, as under other quotations defining it, the practice of using mechanical instruments of music in the worship takes a licking. The practice is without Gospel authority and is, therefore, classed with things unrighteous. Hence, it is sinful. The same conclusion is reached when the Bible defines sin as “the transgression of the law.” Let this emphasis on the music question be uncompromising, and let it illustrate the sinfulness of any addition to God’s word.
We often hear the question, “Can a good man be saved outside the church?” Of course not, unless he can be saved without Christ, for He is the Saviour of the body—the church (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23). But is the man a good man who knows his duty and will not do it? No! If he does not believe in Christ, he has “an evil heart of unbelief” (Heb. 3:12). He is a sinner, for Jesus said, “Except ye believe that I am, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24 ASV). Unbelief is sinful. Negligence of duty is sinful. “To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17 ASV). Church members sin against God when they refuse to meet for worship as He has commanded, when they fail to give as they have been prospered, and when they fail to help the needy—when they know to do good and leave it undone.
Temptation And Sin
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man; but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (Jas. 1:13-15).
Beware of the devolution of sin. It is a “rolling down”—from lust down to sin, on down to death. “Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
There are certain avenues through which men are tempted to sin. The apostle John says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). It was through these that Adam and Eve were tempted. The forbidden fruit was seen to be “good for food”— lust of the flesh; “pleasant to the eyes”—lust of the eyes; and a “tree to be desired to make one wise”—pride of life.
These are the same avenues through which Jesus was tempted. He was tempted to “make bread of these stones”— lust of the flesh; “cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple”—pride of life; and to worship the devil to obtain the kingdoms of the world—lust of the eyes (Matt. 4). Against each temptation, Jesus fought back with the “sword of the Spirit, the word of God.” With each pricking rebuttal, He exemplified for us how the fight is to be made. This sword is mortifying to sin. Use it against all errors, “isms,” and schisms. Try it suicidally sometime! We are encouraged to know that “there hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful…who will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13 ASV). May our wisdom be equal to seeing and our desires strong enough to pursue the way of escape from every temptation.
The Punishment For Sin
Sin is deceptive. The pleasures of sin—the devil’s only picture of it—have blinded our eyes to its consequences. He makes us ask, “What is the harm in the things we want to do?” If you insist in doubting the rightness of some sin, he will insist that it is “a little sin” or a “respectable kind of sin.” “Be not deceived…he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:8). You had better “Put…on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14).
The Bible pictures God’s hatred of sin, His love for the sinner, and the punishment for sin from which He offers the way of escape. But “because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11). Do not mistake God’s delay in punishing sin for His tolerance of sin. Peter says the delay in judgment is to give men time to repent (2 Pet. 3).
Did you ask for a change of the word of God on the punishment of the wicked? I would not if I could, nor could if I would change His word on any subject. If I should think the punishment that is in store for the wicked too severe, it would only be what I think about it. And who am I? Am I not a sinner, saved by God’s grace? Shall the sinner say what his punishment will be.
Are you among that class of infidels who say they believe the Bible, but question the justice of God who gave it, because He says the wicked shall “go away into everlasting punishment”? To belittle the punishment for sin is to belittle the Bible and its Author, and encourages sin and man’s ruin because of it. We love the only Saviour when we know it is from eternal destruction that He saves us. The enormity of sin is measured in terms of the sinners’ punishment. Salvation is sought as a pearl of great price when we know the cost of being lost.
It cannot be denied that men suffer directly or indirectly for sin in this life. Variations of nature’s laws lead to suffering. But the question is asked, “Is there a punishment for sin after death?” The Bible says, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?” (Heb. 10:28-29). This is something worse than “dying without mercy”—the capital punishment of this world. Jesus said, “Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell” (Luke 12:5 ASV). After death, at the judgment, Jesus said “These (the wicked) shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46 ASV).
Don’t enter eternity unprepared and in your sins. Hear the Saviour, believe His word, and “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.” Or, if you were once faithful and have again become entangled in sin, will you not repent of your sins, confess your faults, and pray God for forgiveness?