First Mennonite Church
November 2, 2014
For All Have Sinned
Text: Romans 3:21-26
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus
In the last few Sundays, I spoke about the attributes of God. The first was about the holiness of God. Last Sunday, I said that today I would be speaking about God’s regenerative power in our life. But as I began to prepare, I noticed that we could only desire God’s regeneration in our lives if we know the seriousness of our nature as human beings. Therefore, today I would like to talk about the fundamental nature of mankind. And this fundamental nature about us humans is that we are all sinners. Yes, every one of us is a sinner, who stands silent, guilty, and accountable before God. Just as the Bible has abundant references to God’s holiness, it so also has about man’s sinfulness. In the book of Genesis 6:5 and 8: 21 God observes: that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The prophet Jeremiah makes the same observation, and he even add something more to it: they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward (7:24). The apostle Paul says it this way, “ Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5: 12).
Sin is the greatest tragedy of humankind. Sin is what has brought separation between God and Adam, and by extension between us and God. Sin is what has brought and still brings pain to humanity. Sin is what causes pain in the family, church and society. Sin has brought death and because sin is embedded in our DNA, death is the natural outcome of sin. Sin is what makes us reject God. Sin is what makes us try to hide from God. Why, because God’s holiness only makes us aware of our sinfulness. The good news is that God did not give up on us. He gave Jesus Christ to save us from our sin. Christ died for our sins and to give us life, and life eternal.
The Definition of Sin
What is sin? It is important for us to take notice how our modern society fights so hard to eliminate not only the word “sin” from our vocabulary, but even the very essence of its nature. The word “sin” seems to have become a taboo word or has been reduce to mean nothing but a personal indulgence on something. “I have sinned,” someone might confess. And when you ask him or her what the sin was, they’d say, “Oh, I just ate a whole chocolate bar” or “went shopping for myself” or “took a long rest”. The word sin is also avoided as much as it is possible. When wrongdoing happens, or when a wrong attitude, word or intention shows up, it is preferably to label it “a sign personal weakness.” Today it is preferable to talk about “anti-social behaviors,” or “personal imperfections and brokenness.” It is very often considered that when someone does wrong, it simply confirms the fact of his or her “being human.” When immorality, injustice, greed, violence, addiction, hatred, etc. are simply classified as anti-social behaviors or personal weaknesses, the power to overcoming these are thought to be found in some kind of psychological, moral or social adjustments. It is thought that if person would only learn certain human relations skills she will be able to overcome her hatred or anger toward others. It is believed that if the person would only practice certain keys of self-control, he will be able to overcome his addiction, or violence, or immorality. It is believed that if the person would only muster his inner strengths, kindness, consideration, or patience would flow from his heart. Yet the Bible tells us that all unrighteousness is sin. The apostle John says, “All wrongdoing is sin” (1John 5:17). Some claim that even churches and their leaders are trying to avoid the word sin or sinner because it is a hard word to the sensitive ears of today’s listeners. The truth is that calling sin something other than what it is, is the most dangerous thing we can do. By failing to acknowledge sin for what it is, we not only deceive ourselves, but also call God a liar (1John 1:10).
God is holy and cannot tolerate sin.
God is very clear about sin. In the book of Exodus, chapter 34, verses five to seven say: Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
And again, God speaking through the prophet Ezekiel said:
The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them (Ezekiel 18:20).
Sin is a serious problem that we cannot save ourselves from it. Therefore, when the angel of the Lord announced the birth of Jesus he said that the child to be born should be named Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). When Paul wrote to the Galatians He said that Jesus Christ gave himself to rescue us from our sin and from the present evil age (Galatians 1:3). Sin cost God his Son on the cross.
Therefore when Paul writes: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, he was making the point that even the Jews who had God’s laws were no better off than the Gentiles who did not have the Laws of God. All have sinned and are equally guilty before God. For Paul to sin is more than just having moral failures. He meant more than just doing what is wrong. For Paul to be a sinners is to share in the fall with and of Adam. To sin is to share in the rebellion against God. Paul affirms that sin is an internal power, not just an act. It enslaves any whom Christ has not liberated. Sin has poisoned us; therefore, we carry within our very being the sting of death from which we cannot cure ourselves. Because all have sinned, the consequence remains in us—we fall short of the glory of God. We all fail the approval of the holy God. Sin has caused us to be destitute and deprived from the beauty and honor of God created us for. Isaiah said that we are created to the glory of God (Isaiah 43:7). But the good news is the rich grace of God which was manifested in Jesus Christ. God who hates sin and condemns to death anyone who sins, set in public display the place of his compassion—the mercy seat of God. Paul was using imagery of what happened in the Day of Atonement according to Leviticus chapter 16. In the Tabernacle there was the Ark of the Covenant. This was an ornamented box in which were kept the rod of Moses and manna God fed the Israelites with in the wilderness. On the top of this box were two golden Cherubim. There between these two heavenly creatures, God was believed to be present on the Day of Atonement. When the penitent came to Moses to be sprinkled with blood as a sign of forgiveness, God was believed to meet the penitent from between the two cherubim. This was called the Mercy Seat of God—the propitiatory. This holy place of God’s Mercy Seat was hidden in the inner most part of the Tabernacle. It was in the Holy of Holies away from the sight of everyone except the High Priest and who could only see it once a year. But God has put forward in public display the place of his mercy toward us sinners. Christ was crucified outside the city. He was publicly displayed before the eyes of the world, even in the eyes before of those who despised him. God wanted the whole world witness his righteousness—his saving act, as intended from the very beginning.
Everyone has sinned, says the Bible. You and I are included among this group. Sin is what separates us from God and many times from each other. Sin in the form of acts brings pain, grief, and brokenness. But we must be aware that there are sins of commission, these are those acts that violate God righteous decrees. But there are also sins of omission. James says: If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them (James 4:17). Sin, therefore, is not only the wrong we do, but also not doing the good we should know we should do. And before God we are just as guilty for the bad things we do as well as for the good we fail to do.
Sin is, above all, the essence of our nature without God’s redeeming grace in Jesus Christ. In Christ Jesus, the righteousness of God—that is, God faithful working act of salvation is extended first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All of humanity is a slave to sin, who masters over us. But to everyone who set his or her trust in Christ, he or she is set free from the power and slavery of sin. Let me close with the words of Paul to the Romans again:
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:20-23). Amen!