In our current series we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. In previous weeks we’ve seen the creation of humans and then their fall into sin. This week I want us to look a little further at what precisely sin is.
‘Sin’ is a word that is dropping out of the vocabulary of many people. They don’t like to hear mention of sin, let alone an accusation that they might actually be guilty of sin and therefore a ‘sinner’.
But what is sin? Sin is a breaking of the law. John tells us: ‘Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4). Whose law is John talking about? God’s law. Whenever we transgress God’s law we sin and are rightly called sinners. So Paul agrees with John and rightly says that there has to be a law if we are to be sinners: ‘where there is no law there is no transgression’ (Romans 4:15) and ‘But sin is not taken into account when there is no law’ (Romans 5:13). If we live in a situation where there is no law, then we cannot be guilty of sin.
I think this is part of the reason why people hate the word ‘sin’ so much. They don’t like laws. We are naturally rebellious and we’d like to think that we are not under any body’s thumb. So if we get rid of the sin category, then we have naturally gotten rid of the law too. And most importantly, we have gotten rid of the God who made the laws. Or maybe we take the top down approach. If we get rid of God, we can get rid of his law, and we can get rid of the idea that sin exists and that we are sinners.
But sadly such thinking is delusional. As much as you might like to get rid of sin, the way to remove sin is not to foolishly try and get rid of God and his law. That is impossible. God and his law are here to stay. God is eternal. Jeremiah says: ‘But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King’ (Jeremiah 10:10). And his law is eternal: ‘All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal’ (Psalm 119:160).
So how are you to get rid of sin? Not by feeble attempts to eradicate God, but by repenting and trusting that Jesus Christ has paid for your sin at the cross. John says: ‘the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7)
Do you recognise you have broken God’s law and are a sinner? Do you trust in Jesus’ death at the cross to cleanse you of your sin?