Note: This paper was published to Colorado Christian University on September 9th, 2015. The material was written by Nicholas Campbell and protected by Copyright.
Sin is being hushed throughout our country and even in some of our churches and I believe this should not be. Christians should not be embarrassed by the doctrine of sin nor should we soften the scriptural truths regarding the human condition. In terms of evangelism or missionaries, the message is more sufficient than anything we could create in its place. This is to say; the solution to the modern world’s reaction to sin is merely finding a more creative and tactful approach of explaining these truths instead of changing the message.
The doctrine of sin is crucial for fully understanding the gospel, and that understanding becomes a matter of true saving faith. To diminish the blow of the human condition or the doctrine of sin we would find the value of the cross decreasing and we can easily question why we need a savior to begin with. Should Christians be embarrassed of the doctrine of sin? Of course not! The doctrine of sin is essential to the gospel; to show that we cannot fix our ways or be sufficient in fulfilling the law of The Lord, and this all shows us the true value in the work of Jesus Christ. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Grecian” (Romans 1:16, GNV). The truths of sin elevate our Lord by understanding what price He paid for us, and by understanding what punishment He took on for us. To humble our selves and recognize the truth of our low and underserving positions is reminiscent to the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Second to elevating Christ, so that we can recognize Him fully as Lord, comes the obligation to share the truth. Not only do we share the gospel because of the great things it does in our lives, but we also share the gospel so that others may be informed of the truth: that the life without Christ is futile. Understanding sin is a part of understanding our world, and it is also a part of understanding ourselves. For the well being of others we must include the doctrine of sin in the preaching of the gospel. Erickson (2001) notes,
“Not only are the problems of society blamed on an unwholesome environment rather than on sinful humans, but there has been a corresponding loss of a sense of guilt. We have in mind here that a sense of objective guilt has become relatively uncommon in certain circles” (p. 188).
Erickson’s observation has implications that are observed in our time and day, and this ultimately leads us to being doomed because of our willful ignorance. The doctrine of sin ensures that we understand that evil is primarily in the world because of ourselves. We are the primary cause, but we find ourselves shifting the blame on each other with the belief that we are “good people.” While, by man’s questionable standards we can be good people, we are holding a debt, acquired firstly from birth and secondly from our personal sins, that must be accounted for one day.
The entrance of sin in the world produced a result described by Enns (2008), “The result of Adam’s sin was passed on to the entire human race. All humanity now became subject to death” (p. 321). This death, being physical and spiritual leads us to a soul-rattling conclusion, our debt will be paid by the punishment of a holy, righteous, and just God. This truth is crucial and should not be withheld from any human being, but what follows of course is that grace is extended to us. Enns (2008) explains further that because of sin, “every part of man is affected: intellect (2 Cor. 4:4); conscience (1 Timothy 4:2); will (Romans 1:28); heart (Eph. 4:18); and the total being (Romans 1:18-3:20)” (p. 323). Erickson (2001) further describes total depravity, “Total depravity means that sin affects every aspect of our person, that our good acts are not done entirely out of love for God, and that we are completely unable to extricate ourselves from this sinful condition” (p. 206).
I believe it is crucial to spread these truths since the truth sets us free from such bondage in the long run. When looking at the missionary context, the approach of the doctrine of sin has been changed over the history of the church. In regards to our modern times, the “fire and brimstone” message has almost completely passed away, but instead a view of universalism has entered the church in order to “win souls” or fix bad feelings regarding the righteous judgment of God. I believe the approach is simply in the message of the doctrine of sin. What individual would want the effects of sin as described by Enns? Who would want corrupt intellect, will, and conscious? I believe it would be more beneficial to show people that sin is destroying them, killing them, eternally and physically and then raise the case, “why would you want to be anything other than what the creator of the universe designed you for?” We look at the beauty of Christ and learn that scripture tells us, this is how we were intended to be, why would one not want to be such?
In our depravity, only the truth of scripture can work in the hearts of men, faith comes by hearing and so we must preach the Gospel as a whole. The message is sufficient, and therefore changes need not be made to the truths, but possibly the approach. The doctrine of sin must remain lest we fail to truly grasp the work on the cross, and find ourselves being false converts. Sin is vital to understanding the world, and its evil, and it is vital to the spreading of the gospel. The appeal is that there is a solution to sin, to our debt, and the solution is the glorified and beautiful work of Jesus Christ. We owe it to our brothers and sisters to spread this bad news, for their benefit, so that they can understand the good news. In this particular case, the gospel of Jesus Christ will always require the sobering truths of the bad news.
1599 Geneva Bible: The Holy Scriptures Contained in the Old and New Testaments. (2014). Dallas, GA: Tolle Lege Press.
Enns, P. P. (2008). The moody handbook of theology. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
Erickson, M. J., & Hustad, L. A. (2001). Introducing Christian doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.