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ONLY ONE HORRENDOUS SIN?
by Philip Owen

          God is in the business of magnifying sin.  That is, unlike man, who naturally minimizes the offense of sin by redefining it, excusing it, or blaming it on a poor environment and deficient upbringing, God reveals the magnitude of horror that is sin.  It might surprise some to note Paul’s explanation that one of the primary reasons God gave the Law to Israel through Moses was “so . . . sin would become utterly sinful” (Rom. 7:13).  God always knew that the heart of man is so darkened by sin that man cannot see himself or his sin clearly and will invariably minimize both its nature and its consequences.

          But we need look no further than the early chapters of Genesis to discover the true nature of sin.  Have you ever considered that first sin?  If we were brutally honest, many of us would confess that it seemed to be an inconsequential thing that the first pair did.  After all, it wasn’t one of the “Seven Deadly Sins.”  Adam murdered no one, injured no one, robbed no one—acts most people would view as wrong.  In fact, he ate a piece of fruit—a fruit that seemed to have much to commend it:  it was “good for food,” “a delight to the eyes,” and “desirable to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6).  With such a recommendation, we might naturally wonder why God forbad rather than encouraged the eating of it. What Adam could not appreciate was that he could not obtain a knowledge of evil apart from discovering it in himself as a consequence of his initial act of sinful rebellion.  The simple truth is that “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (2:16, 17). 

          And therein is the essence of sin.  An act is not sin because it injures a second party; it is not sin because it injures me—though injuring another or myself is wrong. But an act is sin if it rebels against God, if it violates His holy nature as He defines it.  Adam’s eating of the fruit was sinful for only one reason:  God said, “You shall not eat,” yet Adam ate.  So indescribably horrendous was this act that it brought havoc upon the entire universe: all living things, man and beast, were cursed with death and all inanimate nature was imbedded with impediments to man’s successful existence.  Should we be tempted to think that God responded too harshly, we only reveal the inveterate nature of the sin that has separated us from a God whose infinite holiness we can neither fully grasp nor entirely appreciate.  And we are demonstrating the reason God must magnify sin, why the Bible gives so much space to it, and why His Word is full of warnings, reproofs, and rebukes.

          But have you considered this?  Had all mankind somehow escaped sin until this present moment (absurdly impossible, I know), your first sin, or mine, would have plunged the world into the same hellish morass that Adam’s sin produced.  That little white lie that was intended to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, that brief flash of anger that was immediately suppressed, that moment of jealousy when a co-worker got the promotion you wanted, or even that impatience that I felt when someone made me wait in line would have been sufficient to bring God’s curse on us and everyone else. 

          Just a little sin, we think, maybe a small character flaw, a faux pas, really just a natural human weakness to be expected.  With it all, we diminish the nature of sin.  But God does not do so.  Nor was the curse the full or ultimate expression of the horror of even a “little” sin:  that is to be found at Calvary, where a Man marred beyond recognition by what He had endured, suffered and died in order to satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God with regard to sin.  Adam sinned first it is true.  But our smallest sin is no less infinitely horrendous.  May we take true measure of the holiness of God and the awful weight of sin that we might better appreciate the magnitude of God’s grace.

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