By Tom Moody
There, have always been those who have tried to minimize sin and its effect. Looking to the Bible we see that the rationalizing of sinners has not changed over the years. There were Adam and Eve who tried to justify themselves by “passing the buck” (Gen. 3:t2-13). Eve might be credited with coining the popular expression (or at least its sentiment) “The Devil made me do it,” but that did not excuse her.
Then there is the age-old notion that “The end justifies the means.” One rarely admits that this is what he holds to, but rather points to the “good” that has been done, attempting to divert attention from the sinful means by which it was accomplished. A classic example of such “justification” of sin is seen in the case of King Saul. In 1 Sam. 15 we read that Saul had been told, “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Verse nine says, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the failings, and the lambs, and all that was good . . . .” in blatant rebellion against God’s command, Saul offered the defense that this was done that they might sacrifice unto the Lord (vv. 15, 21). Samuel’s reply was simple and direct, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
In “defense” of their unscriptural projects and schemes our apostate brethren have trumpeted the phrase, “I would rather do it wrong that to do nothing at all.” They should not be so proud to have such an attitude for three weaknesses are therein revealed:
1. The apparent admission that what they are doing is wrong (or, if it be wrong they do not care).
2. The fundamental fallacy that the end justifies the means.
3. The idea that we have no choice but to do wrong or to do nothing.
After having been exposed to such teaching for a generation, is it any wonder that some would develop a philosophy that God will simply turn his eyes and overlook certain sins? If would seem the general thought among such people is that being human, it is simply expected that we will sin. We all understand that, God understands it, therefore sin, or at least “little sins,” or perhaps “sins of ignorance” are not really so bad. When we are tempted to adopt such an attitude regarding sin, we should remember that we are faced squarely with two Bible facts about transgression of God’s law whether it be out of blatant rebellion or ignorance:
I. One’s Commission of Sin Affects Others
When we have a tendency to think lightly of sin, we should always remember the effect of sin is felt by those who may not even be guilty of it. If I commit a sin, I very likely will bring hurt upon others in some way, or worse, lead them into sin.
The results of the sin of Adam and Eve are too painful to be forgotten. Each time a friend or loved one passes from this life we should be reminded that because of “one little sin” death entered the world and passed upon all men (Rom. 5:12-21).
In the case of Achan in Josh. 7, Israel was defeated bv a handful of men from Ai. A family was not only d:Isgraced but slain and their bones burned, because their was “sin in the camp”-the sin of Achan, a man momentarily overcome by a weakness of the flesh.
All right thinking people immediately see the folly of those who try to justify their immoral behavior on the premise that “It harms no one but me.” Drinkers slaughler thousands on the highways each year. Drug addicts not only remove themselves as productive citizens in society, but also beg, steal, and kill in order to maintain their habit. Those who argue that “free love” involves only those who participate are naively inconsiderate of family and friends who must live down the shame; Parents and taxpayers who bear the burden of treating venereal disease or seeing that illegitimate children are taken care of; and of course the child itself with the problems inherent in being born into such a situation.
For some reason people do not see the matter so clearly in spiritual matters. Perhaps this is because we do not see immediate effects of spiritual sins as we often do with sins of immorality. The bad influence of such sin in nevertheless causing others to stumble. Jesus said of false teachers (not necessarily immoral people) “. . . Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:13-14).
No matter what your wrong doing, whether in the realm of immorality or in deviation from the spiritual laws of God, your action has an adverse effect upon others. “Woe unto the world because of offences! For it thus needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matt. 18:7). The offence of evil people brings woe to the world.
Even in doing things which may not be sinful in themselves, we must be careful lest we wound the conscience of a brother and thus sin against him (1 Cor. 8).
II. Sin Without Repentance Meets Just Punishment
A second principle we must remember is that without repentance, sin must be recompensed. Again this is clearly illustrated in the case of Adam and Eve. Had they been tried in our courts today they may have gotten off with a reprimand or light sentence. After all, it was their “first offense” so we might feel that we should make allowances for them. But just as surely as God had told them that they could eat of all the other trees of the garden including the tree of life, He had told them that they could not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and that the day they ate thereof they would surely die (Gen. 2:16-17).
We see Uzzah in 2 Sam. 6, whose only desire was to steady the precious ark of the covenant and keep it from crashing to the ground. Yet he was met with severe punishment. Why? Because God had forbidden anyone but the high priest to touch the ark. Uzzah, despite good motives, violated God’s law and had to be punished.
It may be argued that these cases and others which might be cited are found in another age and under another covenant, but today we are under grace, therefore, punishment will not be as stringent. What does the Bible say? Heb. 2:1-3: “Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation . . . ?”
The Hebrew writer is simply saying that if those in other ages were punished for every sin, certainly we shall be. Notice again, Heb. 10:28-29: “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
Where Does Grace Come In?
If we are faced with a stricter judgement and punishnient for our sins than were those in other ages, how can we talk about living under grace? In Rom. 5:6-8 we are told that God commended his love toward us in sending Christ to die for us though we were or are yet sinners. By God’s grace we are given certain conditions we can meet and have our sins washed away. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him . . . ” (Hebrews 5:9). The effect of God’s grace in our lives is initially accomplished when we, having faith, repent of our sins, and are immersed in water to have our sins remitted (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).
But if some of our sins, especially sins of ignorance, are not just overlooked are we not in a hopeless condition? John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). This problem is answered in the previous verse, But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin (v. 7).” How does the blood of Christ cleanse us (christians) from sin? Verse nine: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But would that not mean that we must be repenting, confessing, and asking forgiveness continually? Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). If the Lord expects his disciples to be this merciful, surely we can have confidence that God will not be displeased with us if we turn to him even “seventy times seven” asking for forgiveness as we truly repent.
When reflecting upon our human weakness and sinfulness, rather than taking comfort rationalizing that surely God will let us off the hook since “we are only human,” let us turn to God and ask for strength and wisdom, not being ashamed to confess our sins and ask forgiveness of our heavenly Father.
Truth Magazine XX: 40, pp. 636-638
October 7, 1976