Sermon Notes: Understanding Sin



The Problem with it

The Consequences of it

The Cure for it



Scripture Readings: 1 Timothy 1:12-17 / Romans 5:12-21


1  THE PROBLEM: In 1988 – Dr. Karl Menninger, a renowned secular Psychiatrist wrote a bestselling book” “Whatever Became of sin?”

In it, he argued that the scientific community, including Psychologists and Psychiatrists have been abandoning the idea of moral responsibility by trying to locate all sorts of aberrant behaviors in things like genetics and environment.

Following Freud’s lead that guilt is at the bottom of most mental and emotional distress – the scientific community sought to eliminate guilt altogether.

This has been approached 2 main ways.

Greatly simplifying, Freud’s main approach was to teach his patients that guilt is a purely social construct. Since guilt is man-made, we simply help people realize that everything they do is natural to them, or conditioned upon their upbringing, and so not to feel guilty about any of it.

Others have tried to eliminate guilt for moral responsibility by investing everything in our being nothing more than highly evolved animals, and so our “sinful” desires are simply part of our genetic make-up.

This is why there has been so much attention given to the supposed genetic factors for everything from drunkenness to homosexuality.

If it’s all in your genes, moral questions simply cease to exist.

Menninger was arguing – as a secular mental-health professional no less, that guilt is real, moral responsibility is real – and we feel guilty because we actually sin and need some means to be forgiven and cleansed from our guilt.

He wasn’t a Christian, but he understood this truth.

The sad reality today is that even in the Church, this medical model of dealing with guilt has crept in more and more. And so we hear precious little of “sin” as though it has something to do with our moral responsibility before God and man, and just talk about our errors, mistakes or brokenness, and not the need to confess our sin, repent of it and look to the forgiveness of real cosmic crimes against God in the cleansing blood of Jesus.

When we think of sin – IF we think of sin – in today’s world, the thought that comes most often to mind is merely imperfection or error.

What does not strike most of us is that sin is first and foremost a personal affront to God.

When we fail to acknowledge our sins before Him, we begin to follow a thought pattern that treats sin lightly, and fails to account for sin being a personal affront to our Lord and Savior.

We treat it like the World does – as some sort of mere “legal” matter.

But sin is not first and foremost a legal matter.

Sin, above all other things, is a personal offense to our God’s holy nature.

We offend Him when we sin – personally.

And that issue needs to be addressed.

It might be helpful here to give a definition of sin from the Biblical descriptions of it.

1 John 5:17a – “All wrongdoing is sin,”

Westminster Larger Cat. Question 24 – What is sin? Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.

Martin Bucer: “Sin is the Scriptural name for our going astray by forsaking the only God, who is man’s highest good, in order to pursue unsubstantial and ruinous phantoms of the good.”

SIN IS: Any violation of God’s will, or of His created order, and the corruption that follows because of it.

To let sin go, is to ignore Him – to treat Him as though He does not matter.

As though our slaps to His holy face are inconsequential.

As though our denials of who and what He is by failing to display His glory – mean nothing.

As though the cross, means little.

That Jesus died for nothing, after all – sin is such a little deal, we don’t even need to make amends when we commit it against Him.

I heard it argued a while back that it seems odd that God would bring such judgment upon the human race simply for stealing an apple.

Of course that thought completely misses the picture.

The taking of the forbidden fruit in Eden was not in and of itself merely an act of disobedience – which is the 1st definition of sin – though it was – even if considered by some to be a minor one.

The real issue is that Adam was trying to dethrone God by eating the forbidden fruit. He was trying to be like God himself.

What made Adam’s sin, and consequently all of ours so heinous, is that in them, in each one of them, from the smallest to the greatest we are saying to God “you have no right to rule me, and I will make myself the rule of all right and wrong – I AM GOD for me. I displace your authority, with my own.

As Morgan Freeman put it when asked about playing God in the movie Bruce Almighty: “I am God. So it’s easy to play him. They say God is in all things. So if God is in me, then I am in God. Therefore, I am God. God does not exist without me.”

It is as R. C. Sproul is wont to say: “Cosmic Treason.” NOT, some mere infraction or error.

This is the 1st aspect of sin – in that it is located in our ACTS.

But the Bible paints sin as going deeper. As the older theologians used to say, “We aren’t sinners, because we sin, we sin, because we are sinners!”

In other words, we commit sinful acts in opposition to God’s laws and the nature with which we were created, but we are also constitutionally sinners as a result of being joined to Adam.

We have Sin as ACTS of disobedience or neglect, and

 We have Sin as CONDTION – what the Bible terms “iniquity” – inner warpedness.

We are infected with this plague of self-government. And every place it shows itself, it is one more place we are attempting to remove God from His rightful throne, and install ourselves there.

Now the finer points of this reality get teased out throughout the Bible, but in no place better than in the healing miracles of Jesus.

We’ll explore those in a moment, but let me add the 3rd way the Bible speaks of sin and sinners to clarify a common misunderstanding.

  1. Ours sinful ACTS – Isaiah 53:5–6 “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
  1. Our sinful CONDITION – inherited from Adam – Ephesians 2:3c “and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
  1. Our sinful STATUS – Condemned as sinners – 1 Timothy 1:15 “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

In salvation:

  1. Our sinful ACTS are forgiven: Colossians 1:13–14 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
  1. Our sinful CONDITION is impacted (as we’ll see below) but not yet fully changed: 1 Timothy 1:15 “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” I AM, not I WAS!
  1. Our sinful STATUS is radically different: Galatians 3:26 “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

Some have thought because our acts have been forgiven, and our status changed from enemies to sons, that we also no longer identify in any way as “sinners”.

What they forget is that our CONDITION, while greatly impacted, is not yet fully changed. This is why Paul writes as he does in 1 Timothy 1:15

What is still needed is the resurrection: 1 Corinthians 15:42–45 “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

True, all believers are even NOW, “sons of God” – and yet we still possess a sinful nature which we must own, that causes us to be both saints and sinners at the same time. Denying our sinfulness and condition as still sinners, who still commit acts of sin, fails to account for our real situation and brings confusion.

This brings us back to our main consideration for this morning – what has sin done, and what has God done about it in Jesus Christ?


2   THE CONSEQUENCES: Why is sin so bad? A survey of Christ’s healing miracles helps us immensely here in grasping this.

Since all pain and suffering and disorder came into the world because of sin – we can use the healing miracles to give insight into the effects of sin in the soul as well as in the body.

When each is viewed as a type, as another way in which sin impacts us as God’s image-bearers, it really begins to open the fullness of our need of a Savior in graphic reality.

In each one, a display is made of how sin corrupts us in every way, and why we are then in such dire need of a true Savior, who can save us not only from the guilt of our sin, but from its effects and mastery in our lives, and one day, from its very presence.

FEVER: Sin is CONSTITUTIONAL: We have a good picture of this in Jesus twice healing someone of fever: Nobleman’s Son (John 4) – Peter’s Mother-in-Law (Mark 1)

What does sin in us do?

a  –  It affects all ages of men, and appears on the surface in greater and lesser degrees.

b  –  It impacts the whole being, and especially, how it brings on delirium and a loss of reality. Sin infects our thought process so as to no longer perceive reality from God’s perspective – it distorts all.

We cannot know God while under its unchallenged influence.

BLINDNESS: Jesus heals 2 men (Matt. 9 ) – 1 Man (Mark 8) – 1 Born Blind (John 9) – Bartimaeus (Mark 10)

Sin robs us the ability to see truth. Much like fever but even worse. So Jesus says in John 8 that those who follow Him are no longer in darkness. The implication being that those who do not follow Him are in darkness – are blind!

Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 4:3–4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

LEPROSY: 1 Man (Mark 1) – 10 at One Time (Luke 17)

Sin is both incurable, and fatal, it infects each man, and all men

And as everywhere in Scripture, Leprosy is represented as defiling the sufferer – making them unclean to God and man.

It separates in this way – from God, from Others, from Love, from Nature.

PARALYSIS:  Withered Hand (Mark 3) – Centurion’s Servant (Matt. 8) – At Home (Mark 2)

Sin completely robs us capability to serve God Christ.

Isaiah 64:6a “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”

IMPOTENCE:  Weakness (38 yrs.) – At Bethesda (John 5) & Lameness

Sin does not always appear on the surface, Unapparent & Long Term

And because of it we cannot walk in holiness.

ISSUE OF BLOOD:   Woman (12 yrs.) (Mark 5)

Sin is Internal & Chronic – again, uncleanness is emphasized.

Humanly incurable – she spent all her living on doctors.

DROPSY:  – (Luke 14) Edema

Sin is Disfiguring. It distorts the image of God we were created in.

HEARING AND SPEECH:  / 1 Man (Mark 7)

Our inability to hear God anymore, and a complete inability to worship Him in any capacity.

INJURY: / Malchus (Luke 22)

Man was made brutal in the fall and inflicts wounds on others, visible and invisible.

DEMON POSSESSION: Matt. 4, 7, 8, 9, 12, 15 17

Man left to himself is prey to the evil spirits, the fallen angels and the Devil himself. So Paul says Ephesians 2:1–3 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

DEATH: Jesus raised 3 from the dead in His earthly ministry – to show the truest and worst example of our condition in sin.

This is why cannot take sin lightly in any way.

Its treasonous rebellion against God and His right rule

Its manifest destruction of the bodies and souls of those made in His image

And its utter and just condemnation by our Holy God.


III. THE CURE:  But then, as we have looked at all of these examples of what sin is and does – think then what a great Redeemer Christ is – and how great this salvation is that the Believer is a partaker of!

In Christ the delirium of our FEVER has been lifted that we might know God in Truth

BLINDNESS: Christ heals our blindness that we might behold the glory of God in His face

LEPROSY: The defiling and incurable leprosy of our souls is cleansed that we might have fellowship with God and His people once more.

PARALYSIS:  We are set free to do the good works He prepared for us to walk in.

IMPOTENCE:  He empowers us that we might walk before Him in holiness.

ISSUE OF BLOOD:  He overcomes the internal raging infection which makes us unclean in all we do.

DROPSY:  He removes the soul-dropsy and begins conforming us once more to the image of His own character that had been so distorted.

HEARING AND SPEECH:  We can begin to hear His Word and praise His glory – bearing witness to His goodness and grace.

INJURY: He grants us a forgiving spirit to heal the wounds others have inflicted upon us.

DEMON POSSESSION: He frees us from the dreadful influence of the World and the Devil.

DEATH:  And He raises us up from the dead!  Ephesians 2:5 “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—“

Oh what a redeemer Christ is!

What a wicked and destructive thing sin is – but what an amazing Savior we have who overcomes its every vestige.

  LXII. The good Physician – John Newton


HOW lost was my condition, Till Jesus made me whole!

There is but one Physician Can cure a sin-sick soul!

Next door to death he found me, And snatch’d me from the grave,

To tell to all around me, His wond’rous pow’r to save.


The worst of all diseases Is light, compar’d with sin;

On ev’ry part it seizes, But rages most within:

’Tis palsy, plague, and fever, And madness, all combin’d;

And none but a believer The least relief can find.


From men great skill professing I thought a cure to gain;

But this prov’d more distressing, And added to my pain:

Some said that nothing ail’d me, Some gave me up for lost;

Thus ev’ry refuge fail’d me, And all my hopes were cross’d.


At length this great Physician, How matchless is his grace!

Accepted my petition, And undertook my case:

First gave me sight to view him, For sin my eyes had seal’d;

Then bid me look unto him; I look’d, and I was heal’d.


A dying, risen Jesus, Seen by the eye of faith,

At once from danger frees us, And saves the soul from death:

Come then to this Physician, His help he’ll freely give,

He makes no hard condition, ’Tis only—look and live.

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