What is the Gospel? Part 2

MAN AND SIN

Everyone has his own opinion about mankind, but what really matters most is what God has to say about mankind.

Many modem philosophies consider that man is basically good and wants to do the right thing if he has a chance. But his environment, society, peers, and family hinder him from acting right. This kind of view fails to consider what God has said about the nature of man. To understand why we need salvation, we must see what the Bible says about man and his sin.

1. Man was created in the image of God and expected to obey God completely

We have already noticed that God created everything in the world. The crowning point of creation came on the sixth day when God created man in His image. And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him: male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27). While God created many magnificent creatures, only one creature in all of His creation was made in God’s image: man. Being created in God’s image does not mean that physically we are like God. God is a spirit (John 4:24), so He is not limited by a physical body like humans. Instead, this means that man has been created with a spirit just as God is Spirit. God made man a moral creature with a conscience that recognizes right and wrong. As a moral creature, man was to be governed by the law of God. God’s perfect righteousness is and always has been the standard for man’s conduct. In the Garden of Eden, God gave our first parents one law— 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 shall surely die (Genesis 2:16-17). The law was given so that man might completely follow God’s righteousness and perfectly mirror God’s holiness. Yet, Adam, the first man, who is representative of all humanity, chose to eat of the forbidden fruit and consequently, died spiritually and fell under the sentence of condemnation by violating God’s law. Adam’s breach of God’s law was a direct assault upon the honor and glory of God. His sin infinitely offended God’s holiness. Though Adam had walked in fellowship and communion with God in the Garden, that relationship ended — His communion with God died. The gravity of Adam’s sin can be seen in the fact that a relationship of perfect delight with God dramatically changed into one of eternal separation from God and the sentence of God’s wrath. Adam’s fall affected the entire human race as well, because we all descended from Adam. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12). This same sentence of death (both physical and spiritual death) fell upon all humanity. For the wages of sin is death. . .(Romans 6:23).

Did God’s requirements and expectations for man change when Adam fell? Absolutely not! God still expected man to fully obey Him. But since the first man, every person in the human race born of man has failed to satisfy God’s righteous demands of him which are expressed clearly in the Old Testament Law. Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them (Galatians 3:10). Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20).

God’s moral law can be summed up in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). These divine commands affect our relationship to God and man. The first four commandments (Exodus 20:1-11) make it clear that God alone is to be our God and He is to be honored above everything. Yet man has bowed to gods of his own making: pleasure, sensuality, materialism, recreation, self-indulgence, etc. Because of man’s violation of God’s laws regarding man’s relationship to God, the eternal judgment of God falls upon him.

The last six commandments govern man’s relationship to his fellow man (Exodus 20:12-17). Jesus Christ clarified the intention of these commands to show that they refute not simply man’s actions towards others, but even his thoughts and attitudes towards others (see Matthew 5:17-48). While a person may refrain from overt acts of dishonoring his parents, murdering, adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting, in his mind he violates all of these commands. His overt and covert breaching of God’s law brings him under the sentence of divine wrath. A holy, just God cannot fail to judge man’s sin.

2. Man is dead in his spirit apart from Christ

Not only has man failed to fulfill what God demanded of him, because of his fallen nature, he is spiritually dead. And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3). In this, God declares that because of our sin nature, man is totally dead in his spirit, lives his life naturally along the pattern of a world that is anti-God, finds himself under the dominion of Satan, and consequently, God’s awful wrath looms before him. As a matter of fact, this puts man in a hopeless, helpless estate apart from God’s mercy.

3. Man, by his nature and actions, is a sinner

This fact is plain in Scripture. As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one… .for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:10-12, 23). Think of the best person you have ever met. He or she is still a sinner. As sinners, mankind cannot claim to be righteous, because there is no righteousness in our natures. Man does not understand spiritual things or even seek after God (see also I Corinthians 2:14) unless God first seeks him. Man is incapable of doing anything on his own of making himself right with God. The sad assessment is that all of us have sinned and because of that we fall short of God’s glory [a term which describes the radiance of God s nature].

4. A man dead in his sin cannot do anything to save himself

Because of man s fallen nature, he cannot lift himself up to God. He cannot save himself by being religious, or practicing the Golden Rule, or joining a church. He may give great effort at trying to keep the Ten Commandments, but if he offends just one of these in action or thought he is guilty of breaking the entire law of God (James 2:10). These kinds of things might improve a man’s appearance before other men, but they cannot do anything to improve his standing with Almighty God. He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy….For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast….Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight…. (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:20).

5. Apart from God’s intervention of mercy and grace, man cannot be saved

This means that every man faces God’s judgment for his sin without any ability or hope to save himself. This puts all humanity in the distressing situation of being destined for God’s wrath. But the good news is that God has intervened in saving grace!

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith… (Ephesians 2:4-8a). Note the two terms that express God’s intervention: mercy and grace. Mercy implies God’s disposition of kindness and compassion toward someone who is undeserving of such kindness. God’s mercy has its roots in His character. This was demonstrated by God giving His Son in order that sinful men might be forgiven. Grace begins with God, not man. In grace, God actively initiates His saving work in the sinner, who is himself dead in his trespasses and sins. While mercy is God’s disposition of kindness and compassion toward a sinner, grace is God’s action to bring the sinner to life (i.e., regenerate him, see Ephesians 2:5; Titus 3:5), save him, declare him to be righteous, and to secure him for eternity.

Grace is the activity of God based upon the satisfying of God’s justice through the death of Christ, now effectively applied to bring about the salvation of a sinner. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7). You see, it is not what a man does that can save him from his sin or God’s judgment; instead, it is what God has done for him in Jesus Christ according to His mercy and grace.

THINK IT OVER

  1. What does it mean when the Bible says we are “created in the image of God?”
  2. How does Adam s sin affect you? See if you can support your answer with Scripture.
  3. Has man satisfied God s righteous demands of him by obeying the Law? Explain the consequence of your answer.
  4. Some people believe that man can save himself. Tell some of the ways people try to save themselves and explain why none of these ways can justify a person before God.
  5. Why is man dependent upon God s intervention for salvation?
  6. Explain what is meant by the terms “mercy” and “grace.”
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About John
A follower of Christ and sinner who needs his grace everyday.

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