Two Ways We Misunderstand Sin

woman reading bible
Because we are now united with Christ, we hate the sin that remains in our lives and we actively fight against it.

I recently enjoyed reading Suzanne Hadley Gosselin’s excellent post, “Why ‘Living in Sin’ Is No Laughing Matter”, and resonated with what she sees as a growing problem among young adults. Unfortunately, I know many people on the road toward marriage who gave into various temptations to sin.

Almost more concerning than the sin itself is their confusion about (or, worse, disregard for) what the Bible actually teaches about sin. I’ve had too many hard conversations with couples who looked at the clear revelation in God’s Word and tragically decided, for one reason or another, to remain in their sin. I’ve heard the words, “God has bigger things to worry about” or “We aren’t hurting anyone” more times than I’d care to admit. This demonstrates a lack of understanding of the nature and consequences of sin.

Here are two ways we misunderstand what the Bible teaches about sin.

1. We misunderstand our sin in relation to God

Sin is serious because it violates the law and character of God. The God who created and rules over the universe has the right to command how we, His creatures, live in it. He has graciously revealed His law, given to Moses as The Ten Commandments on two stone tablets at Mt. Sinai. In the law, God revealed how He requires we live before Him in His world. Sin is any failure to do what God has commanded.

One place we see the awful nature of sin is in the punishment sin deserves, namely, Christ’s suffering on the cross. It’s difficult to fully comprehend the agony and anguish Christ suffered on our behalf, but this suffering shows us that the just punishment for sin is horrible. Scripture teaches, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

On the cross, God took the punishment our sins deserved and laid it on Christ so that we might be made righteous as we put faith in Christ. It was reflection on this truth that made Charles Spurgeon preach, “If Christ has died for me, I cannot trifle with the evil that killed my best Friend.”

When we think of our sin too lightly, we are actually demonstrating our own disregard for God and the sacrificial death of Christ for us. Sins against a God who is small to us won’t seem like a very big deal. But sins against a holy, incomprehensible, glorious God will rightly be seen as a great offense. And this is the God we meet in Scripture. The Bible reveals an incomprehensibly glorious God, who when offended warns of an equally incomprehensible punishment for sin. It is a terrible mistake and great deception to think sin isn’t a big deal. It’s always a big deal.

2. We misunderstand our sin in relation to the gospel of grace

As we saw above, our sinful rebellion against a holy God is very bad news for us. We have offended a great God and are helpless to fix the damage done to our relationship with Him. We are left facing an unthinkable punishment that we rightly deserve.

This bad news is the context in which we find the wonderful good news of the gospel. While we were in our rebellion against God’s good law, God sent Christ to suffer and die in our place, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18a).

One of the ways we misunderstand the gospel is in thinking that sin is no longer serious because Christ died for us and paid for all our sin. We think we’re off the hook because “Jesus took care of it, right? I’m free to do as I please!” The Apostle Paul answered this very assumption (sometimes called “cheap grace”) with, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2).

The gospel teaches that salvation from sin comes through our spiritual union with Christ. We are united with Christ in His death and resurrection, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). A Christian is one who has died to sin and is made alive to righteousness. We are united to Christ in His death and we are united to Christ in His resurrection — a wonderful gift we are given as we put faith in Christ for salvation.

This union with Christ doesn’t make us perfect, but it does significantly change our trajectory. Because we are now united with Christ, we hate the sin that remains in our lives and we actively fight against it. We regularly turn from our sin and the false beliefs that lead us to sin. We take up God’s Word and the weapon of prayer, and fight to become who the Bible says we already are in Christ.

And so, when Christians choose sin as a lifestyle and make peace with sin, whether sexual sin, greed, anger or anything else, it is tragic. It might reveal an immature faith in Christ, hypocrisy, or even self-deception regarding true salvation. If you find yourself in this precarious situation, find a mature brother or sister in Christ to come alongside you in your fight against sin. Most of all, run to Christ. Go to Him in prayer, confess your sin, and recommit yourself to the fight to live a holy life. Remember, Christ came to seek and save the lost. If we come to Him and confess our sins, we will find Him faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9).

Copyright 2021 Andrew Hess. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Andrew Hess

Andrew Hess is the director of content at the White Horse Inn and editor of corechristianity.com. He formerly served as the editor of churchleaders.com. His writing has been featured on The Gospel Coalition. He lives in San Diego with his wife Jen and their young son. Andrew and Jen met at the very first Boundless Pursuit conference at Focus on the Family in 2014.

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