From Image-Bearers to Sin-Bearers (A Study in the Magnitude of Sin)

There’s a bit of a folk tale told in the realm of science; one that goes back almost three centuries before Christ. It’s a story about a Greek king, Hiero, who had commissioned a goldsmith to create a golden crown in the shape of what’s called a laurel wreath (which is two branches crossed over one another, and leaves on each side going all the way up to the end). And Hiero had given this goldsmith a certain amount of gold to create the crown, but when the job was completed, and he received the crown, he heard rumors that the goldsmith had actually cheated him, and kept some of the gold for himself, and instead replaced it with silver. Naturally, the king was furious, but he didn’t just assume he had been cheated. He wanted to know. But how do you determine that? How do you find out if this crown was indeed pure gold, and not mixed with silver? It weighed as much as it should, as much as the gold the king had given, but there was no way to determine what was on the inside without melting it down, and the king refused to do that.
Luckily, the king knew a man that he was sure could help him. His cousin, in fact, a young man named Archimedes. Archimedes was a young scholar at the time, having been known for his work in math and science. But even Archimedes was at a loss when asked to solve the king’s problem. There was no way to tell how much gold was in the crown without determining its volume, but the shape of the crown made that nearly impossible. Yet one night, as the story goes, Archimedes went to take a bath, and he noticed that as he got into the tub, the water rose up and spilled over the sides. In that moment, he had an epiphany. He jumped out of the tub, and ran all the way home shouting, “Eureka!” the entire way there. He realized that even though the crown might weigh the same as the gold; that gold, in any shape, will always displace the same amount of water. So he immersed the weight of gold in water, and then the crown, and crown had caused the water to rise higher because it did indeed have silver mixed inside. The king had been cheated. Archimedes was rewarded, and we can only assume what may have happened to the goldsmith.
Our problem is not all that dissimilar. In an attempt to determine the magnitude, the weight, the scope of sin; there’s no one formula that we can use. Even this lesson on its own will not accomplish the task. That’s why we’ve already been talking about sin for the past two weeks, and here we are, still trying to better understand it. This is merely the culmination, the conclusion to our study in The Doctrine of Man & Sin, and even the study itself is actually an extension of our study in The Attributes of God. We needed to define God first so that we can define holiness and perfection. We needed to establish what the standard is. Then we look at man; we see how he was created, and we see the results of sin change that creation into something corrupted. And now, we’ve been looking at sin. At its inception, and introduction at the fall, as well as its implications for mankind; as those who were created to bear the image of God. And last week, Pastor Paul took us through all the ways that sin has seeped its way into the lives of men.
And now, in our study today, I want us to start looking at sin on a more personal level. It’s easy to talk about sin in broad strokes, as we’ve been doing, but if we want to see the full scope of sin then we also have to get specific. We can’t just look at it from the outside. We have to submerge it in the water so that we can tell what’s on the inside. It’s one thing to say that sin affects all men; it’s quite another to say that sin has affected every part of you. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to take an in depth, though not exhaustive, look at how sin has affected you, an image-bearer of God. Then, we’re going to look at how God responds to that sin.
This is a biblical concept; the idea of coming to a full understanding of the sin that corrupts us. We see it many times throughout scripture. Job implored God to show him his sin when he asked, “How many are my iniquities and sins? Make known to me my rebellion and my sin” (Job 13:23). The Psalmist, David, certainly knew the importance of knowing the depths of his sin,
Psalm 51:2-4
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
4 Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when you judge.

In another instance David again asks the LORD, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24). Even the Apostle Paul tells us to, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5). This is an important topic for us to consider.

So, as we begin, let’s first talk for a moment about ‘Total Depravity’. ‘Total Depravity’ is the first of what are known as The Five Points of Calvinism; those being ‘Total Depravity’, ‘Unconditional Election’, ‘Limited Atonement’, ‘Irresistible Grace’, and ‘Perseverance of the Saints’. More commonly, they’re referred to by their cumulative acrostic, “T.U.L.I.P.” Now, I don’t have nearly enough time today to even speak briefly on the “U.L.I.P.” portion, but instead want to focus on the “T” portion. That’s because, essentially, our study in the Magnitude of Sin is rooted in this doctrine that man is totally fallen. That’s not to say that every act of sin is as sinful as it can be, or even that every fallen man has fallen as far into sin as he can; but instead, that sin has infected every aspect of man.
R.C. Sproul puts it this way,
“The total or whole person is corrupted by sin. No vestigial “island of righteousness” escapes the influence of the fall. Sin reaches into every aspect of our lives, finding no shelter of isolated virtue.”
– R.C. Sproul, What Is Reformed Theology?
Pastor Bob taught a few weeks ago on the constitutional nature of man, whether it be that man is made up of both body and soul, or possibly and alternatively body, soul, and spirit. Whichever the case, the doctrine of ‘Total Depravity’ teaches that the entire constitution of man has been corrupted by sin. And you are no exception. Sin has corrupted every aspect of you; your physical body, your attitude, your desires, even your deeds are all affected by sin.

So now let’s start to look at some of the ways in which sin affects you. And as I said earlier, this is not an exhaustive list, but just those things that I thought would be the most helpful. But I just want to quickly remind you of what we discussed in my last lesson, on man being made in the image of God. If you recall, we went into a great deal of depth as to how the image of God has been represented in man over time. How it was a “good” image at its creation, and then after the fall, was changed into almost an empty shell of that image. Through redemption, some of us, now bear a different image. One that is no longer acting only through sin, yet is still an image that falls short of that perfect image of God. In all of these characteristics that I’ve listed here, and there are seven of them; I make no distinction between the fallen image and the redeemed image. Sin affects all men in all of these instances but one, and I’ll make that known when we get there.
But I just want us to keep in mind that, as we said in that study, when God placed man on the earth, He finally called His creation good. He did so not just because the completion of creation was good, and not because man was good, but because His image was finally present on the earth. HIS image, HIS goodness was finally being reflected into His creation. And instead of bearing that image as we ought, instead, we now bear sin. We bear sin in many ways. So let’s look at some of them now.

…In the Indwelling of Sin
Just as all of us, no matter our heritage, all share one distant ancestor, Adam; so too all of our sin finds itself birthed from a common ancestor, the sin of Adam. Romans 5 tells us, “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men” (Romans 5:18).
The sin which still indwells you has been there from the start. You are more familiar with it than you could ever fully realize. You had an intimate relationship with it years before you started to create memories. Sin has surrounded you and permeated you and filled you to the brim before you started eating solid food. Don’t think that sin is something new. Don’t act as though sin wasn’t there all along. Those of us who have been saved tend to see sin as something that we began to struggle with the moment we were born again. But the truth is that we have been struggling with sin our whole lives. And I’m not just talking about the consequences of sin that we may have seen as good or pleasing, be it drugs or alcohol or sexual debasement. But we have struggled with sin with everything. Every sickness and ailment; that was sin. Every terse and foul word both spoken by you and to you; that was sin. Every broken heart, every failed relationship, every tantrum; all sin. To try and reevaluate our lives through the lens of sin is both depressing and impossible.

…In the Allure of Sin
Next, we’ll look at the allure of sin. We’ve had more than a few conversations about those things that we desire above God. Pastor Paul has told us on a few occasions of his need to deal with love of sports. I certainly can’t hide my struggle with food, or action movies. Men tend to struggle with lust, women with conversation. Things that can be good if they’re done the way God has designed them, but we twist them and we indulge in them. But they have to long standing value if they’re done outside of the will of God.
Hebrews 11:24-25
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,

Not all sin comes in the form of a viper, but all sin is just as venomous. Even King Solomon writes about the pleasing frame of sin in his proverbs, but also warns of its fleeting returns.

Proverbs 5:3-4
3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey
And smoother than oil is her speech;
4 But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two-edged sword.

I saw someone post online one day that they knew why Christian movies weren’t any good. He said that it was because Christian movies don’t show people as they are. That they don’t show people in a real way, and that the people are portrayed as sexless and without vice. And that if Christian movies were simply a little more honest, then they’d be better. I wrote back to him and said, ‘Is that how the Apostle Paul would feel about this? Would Paul tell us that the characters in our fiction should do a better job of reflecting the world? No! The truth is, that we like movies that are violent and provocative and vulgar because we are sinners and we are attracted to smut. So should we reflect that more, no, Paul tells us in Philippians 4 that, “whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).’ As sinners, we call far more evil things “good” in this world than you might think.
…In the Intensiveness of Sin
We need to see that sin is cumulative. In how it affects us, and how it grows and intensifies through us. Sin is not something to be tolerated or entertained in the slightest. Sin has one goal, and one goal only, your absolute destruction.
1 Peter 5:8
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Your adversary, and yes you do have one, seeks not to offend you or hurt you or cause you to stumble, but to devour you, swallow you up, overwhelm you to destruction. In his book Of the Mortification of Sin In Believers, John Owen gives us this terrifying notion:
“Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its [ultimate outcome].”
– John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin In Believers
His point being that sin has no desire to simply get a foothold in your life; don’t get me wrong, it’ll take whatever it can get. But it wants everything. It wants to corrupt you as far as it can. It wants to devastate your existence, and reduce it to a smoldering twig in the fire. And in some, it succeeds. Paul says that there are some whom God has completely abandoned to such an end.
Romans 1:28
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,
Don’t turn your back on sin, not even for a second. Because if you do, in the same amount of time that it takes a lightning bolt to fall to the ground, you may very well give sin a permanent place in your heart.

…In the Sorrow of Sin
Next we see the sorrow of sin. I don’t think this requires much in the way of explanation. I’m sure many of us have some first hand knowledge of sorrow in our lives as a result of sin. I know that because there are so many examples of it in the Bible. Time and time again we read of men, even godly men who sinned and suffered on account of it. Let’s look at a couple of examples. First in the book of Isaiah:
Isaiah 6:5
5 Then I said,
“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Just the sight of God caused Isaiah to see not only his own sin, but the sin of all the people. He saw all men as being deserving of wrath and judgment because of their sin. But others in the Bible have had to deal with sin that was much more personal. Such as Peter’s denial of Christ in the Gospel of Luke:
Luke 22:60-62
60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was speaking, rooster crowed.
61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.”
62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

I might go out on a limb and hypothesize that every single person in this room has, at one time or another, in some fashion, denied our Lord Jesus; and yet, I seriously doubt that we have all wept as bitterly as he did. That should tell you something.

…In the Depths of Sin
Next, we come to the depths of sin, and I’d like to start with this quote by Paul Washer:
“Sin is a crime against the person of God… we must do more than simply define terms. We must regain a biblical understanding of the sinfulness of sin. We live in a world and worship in churches that, for the most part, no longer understand the heinous nature of sin and so we must endeavor to rediscover what has been lost. Our understanding of God and of the greatness of our Salvation in Christ depends upon it.”
– Paul Washer
The Apostle further illustrates this point in his epistle to the Colossians where he wrote, concerning their relationship with God:
Colossians 1:21
21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
To think that we were ever at a point where we thought it okay to show hostility toward God is almost unfathomable. I’d sooner contend with a falling asteroid than show any aggression toward God, and still, that’s how proud we are. We think ourselves to be very big, and we think God to be very small. Should any of us dare to think that it’s okay to keep on sinning against God? Would anyone here think that they’d get away with it? Would you want to if it means that you make God your enemy?

…As the Slaves of Sin
Next, sin is demonstrated in men as being the slaves of sin. Now this is the point where we are only dealing with fallen men. Those redeemed by the blood of Christ are not slaves to sin, we are servants of Christ. Yet we still bear sin, and at times that sin can show itself and get quite ugly. But those who don’t know Christ are slaves to sin. They can not help but sin in every deed and every word. They produce nothing but filthy rags, and they do so at the command of their master. Still, Christians are given the warning when Paul wrote the Romans in chapter 6:
Romans 6:16
16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
For those of us who serve and obey our Lord Jesus Christ, we have nothing to fear. But others, who do not obey, who do not seek after God; they serve another master. If Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church, then he would be the cornerstone of Hell. I’m talking about Satan. Our adversary, the one who seeks to devour us. There are men and women and children who love sin and serve him.
John 8:44
44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
And he is not only the father of lies, but the father of theft, and murder, and deceit, and foolishness, and depravity, and drunkenness, and slander, and greed. He has won many with the promise that they can be like God, and he assures all that there is no death to fear. The devil is crafty and he is vicious, and we have all suffered through his craft.

…To the Extent of Sin.
Here we look at the extent of sin. And we have no choice but to pull out our broad brush again to see how sin has affected every man. There are many passages that speak to it, but let’s stick to the classics.
Romans 3:23
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Genesis 6:5
5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Every man, all men are sinners. And there are many of them. In fact, the current estimates tell us that there have been nearly 108 Billion people on this planet since it was first created; 7 and a half Billion living right now. And every single one of them is a human being that was created in the image of God, but instead bears the weight of a sin, save our Lord Jesus. That means that over 100Billion people have already felt the sting of death through sin, and over 7 Billion others are well on their way.
But we’re not just talking about the results of death, but also the results and consequences of sin itself. Let’s put it this way. Remember when I pointed out that as Adam and Eve were placed on the earth that the earth now bore the image of God. Well, now add 108 Billion people to that. You shine a flashlight in a dark room it gets brighter, but if you turn on another it gets even brighter. Turn on enough of them and there wont be a single shadow in the room. It will be a room filled with light. That’s what the earth should look like. Billions and Billions of people, all bearing the image of God, none of whom would have died because there’s no sin to corrupt them. This should be a world of light. But instead, Adam sinned, and instead of creating another source of light, he created children who bore his own image, and murdered each other, and defrauded each other, and hated each other. That’s why God is going to remake the world, because this one is filled with sin. It’s not useful anymore.

Sin is truly a remarkably horrid thing to behold. It has infected and infested and it still continues to grow. It sounds a lot like a horror movie. But God is not passive. God responds to sin, and He does so in many ways, but I’d like to point out just three of them.

…As God, the Father, the Restrainer of Sin
Psalm 27:1-2
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.

As we said earlier, man is not as sinful as he can be. Without God’s restraining grace, Cain would have killed Able, then Adam, then Eve, and then himself. End of story. But God, although He is not the author of sin, allows only the sin that He’s decreed would be carried out to be carried out. No sin comes to pass that has not been predetermined to pass in order to bring glory to God.

…As God, the Holy Spirit, the Convictor of Sin
John 16:8
8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;

God shows much grace towards us in the way His Spirit testifies that sin is indeed sin, stirring up our conscience to repentance. And all men are capable of repentance, but only God’s children repent as a response to godly sorrow for their sin. Worldly men repent merely to change their circumstances. Even so, God uses that selfish desire in men to restrain them from being as sinful as they’d otherwise be.

…As God, the Son, the Defeater of Sin
1 Corinthians 15:56-57
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;
57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What more glorious truth is there in the world; what more merciful sight is there than the cross. The cross upon which the curse of sin, that covered me, was removed from me and placed instead on this man who never sinned. My God, who only ever loved and served and obeyed. He took the wrath of God upon Himself and defeated the sin that had all but destroyed me. No sentence or page or book could ever describe what a gift, what a work that was. Instead, it will require a study all on its own. And when we begin that study, Jesus Christ will be front and center.

So here we conclude our study, not just in the Magnitude of Sin, but in the Doctrine of Man & Sin. It’s not an easy subject, but it’s an important one. To know that God created us specifically to bear His image in this world is a beautiful and sobering thought. But to see how we’ve taken that image, and allowed it to be marred with countless endeavors of selfish pursuits; desires of lust and greed and murder and outright hatred for the God whose image we bear, well, it just goes to demonstrate all the more just how remarkably merciful He is. He is a God who is worthy of praise. A God who is worthy of affection. And He is a God who is worthy of our seeking to now pursue those things which do truly reflect His image. Deeds of truth, and righteousness; holiness and love. May we do this with thanksgiving; for His glory, and may we do all in the name of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

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