John 3:16 is one of the most well-known bible verses. I’ll bet you probably even know it by memory. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This is known as the “core” of the gospel. It is the central theme of the “good news.” The problem is that most Christians stop here. While the base of the gospel is that Christ has died to save us from our sins and that with him there is forgiveness, there is more to it. True Christians are not John 3:16 Christians: They are entire bible Christians.
The gospel “core” as I mentioned previously is that Jesus died for our sins. Part of the problem originates in a misunderstanding of what sin is. I asked several people to tell me what sin is. I received responses that included, “mistrust in God”, “knowing what is right and doing the opposite”, “separation from God”, and “a state of being which is not God’s ideal state.” While all of these are true, none of them give a scriptural definition of what sin is. God sent His son to save us from our sins (Matt 1:21). Just as a condemned man has the right to know what the charges against him are, God has revealed to us (through His word) the charges against us.
Sin Is Disobedience
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
–1 John 3:4
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Gen 1:1, 31) When God finished creating the earth, everything flowed together in harmony. There was no sin. There was nothing wrong. Everything was perfect.
God told our first parents, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen 2:16) God commanded Adam and Eve that they not eat of the tree. Verse 16 says God commanded the man not to eat of the tree. It wasn’t a suggestion.
Unfortunately, we all know how this story ends. Adam and Eve both eat the forbidden fruit and are expelled from the Garden. Why were they expelled? They were expelled because they disobeyed the word of the Lord; they disobeyed a direct commandment.
“The soul that sins, it shall die.” (Ez 18:20) God banished our first parents from the Garden for their sin. God’s law specified that the soul that sins shall die. Thus, God removed Adam and Eve from the garden “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” (Gen 3:22) The only person who promised that Adam and Eve could be disobedient and not die was Satan. It’s interesting how popular that lie still is today.
Sin is presuming
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
A well-known author said:
“Faith is not feeling… True faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption, for presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith.
Faith claims God’s promises and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims the promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequences of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures.” (Gospel Workers, 1915, page 260)
Faith claims promises that God has made. Presumption assumes. Presumption assumes that God meant or implied something that He has not revealed.
In Genesis chapter 4, we have the story of two brothers. Abel did what God required and brought a lamb as a burnt offering. Cain brought a fruit offering. Why was Abel accepted and Cain rejected? God said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen 4:7 NIV)
Abel brought his offering through faith. Cain did not. Cain presumed that God would accept his offering even though God had not specified He would do so.
1 Samuel chapter 15 gives us another example of presumption and its consequences. In this chapter, God, through Samuel, tell Saul to “go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (1 Sam 15:3) Faith would have Saul do as he was commanded. Faith would have told Saul to go. It would tell him that he would be victorious because God had commanded him.
Instead, what do we find? Saul goes to battle, but spares the best oxen (for a burnt offering to the Lord) and also spares the Amalekite king, Agag. When Samuel confronts Saul, Saul claims he kept the livestock for burnt offerings. He assumed that they would make good sacrifices. However, he did not do as God had commanded, and that presumption on his part cost him his kingdom. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Sam 15:22 – 23)
Oftentimes we presume things and think that we are “stepping out in faith.” We need to ask ourselves if what we are claiming is really something God has promised or revealed.
Sin is selfishness
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.”
-1 John 3:8
Scripture tells us that Satan, or the devil, is the one who sinned from the beginning. Fortunately, God has revealed to us what this entailed.
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not… And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth.” (Rev 12:7-9)
“Thou has been in Eden the garden of God… Thou are the anointed cherub that covereth… Thou was perfect in they ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of they brightness: I will cast thee to the ground.” (Ez 28:13-15, 17)
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground. For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Is 14:12-15)
Satan caused a rebellion when he decided that he deserved to be where God is. He coveted those things that only belonged to God. Because of this, he was cast out of heaven.
God’s law is love. The two great commandments are to love God with every fiber of your being and to love your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments sum the entire law. (See Matt 22:40) Christ tells us, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) God says (as we studied earlier) that to break His law is sin. This law is shown to be summarized in love to God, and love towards our fellow man. Therefore we can logically conclude that to sin is not to love. To sin is to be selfish.
In part two, we will discuss God’s response to the sin problem by walking through what the Gospel really means.