Sin and Sins.

In the first part of Romans, what we have done - our sins, is the chief subject, and Christ delivered for them in grace, so that they are gone for ever for those who believe. But there is another question to be settled - not only what we have done, but what we are. These two questions are raised in Genesis 3. God said to Eve, in verse 13, "What is this that thou hast done?" and to Adam (v. 9), "Where art thou?" God has, so to speak, asked the question in the first part of the epistle, "What hast thou done?" And when everything is brought to light, and all that we have done is nothing but sin, in His love and grace He has given His Son to put it away. This is up to Romans 5:11. Now the question of what we are by nature is taken up, "Where art thou?" Then, how God delivers us, not only from our sins, but from what we are as children of Adam, from our sinful nature - which is a much deeper thing. Why do we commit sins? Because we are all born into this world with a corrupt, fallen nature, as in Psalm 51: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Yes, a little infant is born in sin; and how soon the sinful nature begins to manifest itself! How soon does a child begin to have a will of its own, to show temper and to be disobedient! The testimony of Scripture is plain as to this evil nature, that it is utterly bad, and not only so, but unimprovable (a fact which many of us are slow to learn).

Let us look at a Scripture or two that speak of it. Our Lord, in John 3:6, says: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh;" and this flesh means, not the body, but our sinful nature. Whatever you may do with it, it is unchanged. You may educate the flesh, take every possible pains with it, even make it religious, but, after all, it remains what it began with - flesh. And in Rom.8:7 we have what this flesh is, or rather what the mind of the flesh is - "Enmity against God;" and as "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," and never will be anything else, if the flesh lived for a thousand years, at the end of the time it would be still "enmity against God" as at the beginning; "for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." In Eph. 4:22 we find that the old man is "corrupt according to the deceitful lusts." It is evident that, if we are to be happy in the presence of God, we must not only have our sins forgiven, but this corrupt nature of ours, which is enmity against God, must be got rid of. Many think and speak as though the forgiveness of sins was the only thing that was needed in order to fit us for God's presence; but it is not so. Supposing that a man were on his death-bed, and every one of his sins were forgiven him, would he then be fit for the presence of God? No; because he would still have a sinful nature that hated God; and how could he be happy in His presence?

It is because we have this sinful nature that we find the expression in Eph. 2:3, "By nature the children of wrath, even as others." If I have a nature that hates God, and does nothing but sin, I am always, so to speak, drawing down the wrath of God upon me. It is because we have this sinful nature that we are not only guilty, but lost. Guilty, refers to what we have done; lost, to what we are. Thus a little child that is born into the world is lost, but could not be said to be guilty till responsibility begins. An infant, if it dies, requires the death of Christ to save it as much as a grown-up person. We find this in Matt. 18:10-14. The Lord says "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost." A little child is lost by nature; but it is not the will of the Father that it should perish. (v. 14.) And the Son of man is come to save the lost, therefore it is unmistakahly plain from this passage, that little children who die are saved on the ground of the death of Christ. When we think of our lost condition, and our sinful, corrupt nature, we might easily say with the disciples, "Who then can be saved?" With man it is impossible; but with God all things are possible. As it is shown how God delivers us from our sins in the former part of the epistle, we see in the latter part how God delivers us from sin, the evil nature. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:12.) We are here led back to the one through whom we got this sinful nature - Adam, the head of this sinful race; and in the following verses we have first, what Adam was, and the condition in which the whole race was involved through him; and then, Christ is brought in as the head of a new race, and the results of what He has done are also extended to those who belong to Him. From the beginning of verse 13 to the end of verse 17 is a parenthesis entering more into detail upon the subject. It was then by "one man" that sin entered into the world. Adam sinned, and became a fallen creature, and subject to death, as God had forewarned him. Then he "begat a son in his own likeness, after his image." (Genesis 5:3.) And his son inherited his fallen nature; and his son's son, and so on; and that is why you and I were born into this world fallen and with a sinful nature. And mark, it is not sins entered into the world, but sin, the principle, and with it death; "and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Thus by one man all this sin and death came in; and all through committing one offence, transgressing one command that God had given him; but (omitting the parenthesis), as by this one offence all were brought under condemnation, so by one act of righteousness (see margin), i.e. what Christ has done, justification of life is held out to all. (v.18.) Here we have contrasted the effects of what Adam has done, and what Christ has done. For "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (v. 19) It is not the question here of our sins being forgiven, but of being made righteous; not of our actions, but of our state before God.

The parenthesis from verse 13 to 17 enters more fully into the contrast between the two heads, Adam and Christ; also bringing out a very important fact, which we may look at for a moment - "For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law." (v. 13.) Many think that the law was always given to man, but it is not so; the law was not given till four hundred and thirty years after Abraham; but "until the law was given sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed where there is no law;" that is, it is not put to the account of the person, but sin existed before the law was given. I dwell upon this point because of the passage in 1 John 3:4 - "Sin is the transgression of the law." It should read, "Sin is lawlessness." It comes from the same word as is translated "without law" in Romans 2:12. If sin was the transgression of the law, there would be no sin before the law was given; but there was, for we read in Romans 5: "For until the law sin was in the world." Besides, it lowers the standard of the holiness of God. Sin is lawlessness, insubjection to God; the very fact of having a will of our own in opposition to God is sin.

The proof that sin was in the world before the law is that "death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come;" i.e. Christ. In verse 20 we find why the law was introduced: "The law entered, that the offence might abound." Sin was there before; but the law by forbidding the sin made it an offence. For instance, we will suppose a man born in sin, and lusting in his heart, not knowing that it is sin, although in the sight of God it is so. The law comes and says, "Thou shalt not lust;" that is the very thing he is doing. The lust now becomes a positive act of disobedience and transgression; "for where no law is, there is no transgression" (Rom. 4:15); "but where sin" (not offences) "abounded, grace did much more abound;" and "as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."

Adam had sinned, and had involved the whole race in ruin, and all that came into the world were sinners by nature; and death, the just judgment of God, was the result. But now grace reigns instead of sin; grace reigns triumphant. God is Sovereign, and does as He wills; and although all seemed hopeless, and sin seemed to have gained the mastery, He is above the sin, and grace reigns. God has come in, and, in spite of the sin, He can act in pure love towards the sinner, although there is nothing in Him to deserve it. But what about righteousness? Christ has died, and accomplished a work upon the cross; and God is so glorified by His work that He has raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in glory, and His righteousness was shown in doing it; so that now, on the ground of the death of Christ, God can and does act in pure grace, but through righteousness; and the greater the sin, the more it magnifies the grace of God that can put it away. If sin abounds, grace much more abounds. The more the sin, the more the grace to meet it; and you can never exhaust the grace of God. Bring together all the sin in the world, and all the sins of men, the failure of Christians, and of the Church as a whole, and there is grace superabounding over it all. Thus grace reigns through righteousness. Truly He is "the God of all grace," and it draws the soul out in praise when we think of it.

But now we have to meet the perverse reasoning of the human mind in Romans 6:1: "If our sin does but magnify the grace of God, we will go on sinning that grace may abound." Such is the flesh; but it is much more sad when professing Christians speak thus. How often, when the blessed truth of the believer's security in Christ is spoken of, we hear such expressions, "Dangerous doctrine; if you know you are saved, you can go and sin, and do just as you like!" But how does the Spirit of God meet such objections? In a way that at once completely refutes the wretched reasonings of the flesh, and at the same time, brings out a most blessed truth which many believers even have never laid hold of. "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (v. 2.) It is a contradiction of terms. How can you live in a thing to which you have died? The very profession of their faith as Christians denied such a doctrine: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?" It is to a Christ that had died to sin (v. 10) that they were baptized, and we are buried with Him by baptism unto death. John baptized to a living Messiah on earth; Christian baptism is to a Christ that has died and risen again. For this reason the disciples of John in Acts 19 had to be baptized again in the name of the Lord Jesus - the one who had died and was risen, and that God had made Lord and Christ. It is not "we that ought to be dead to sin," but "we that are dead to sin." If you were to ask the majority of Christians the question, "Are you dead to sin?" what would be the answer? "Oh, no, I am sure I am not dead to sin! I find it in me every day, and it is a great trouble to me." But this verse states the fact: "We that are dead to sin."* Scripture always looks at a Christian as having died to sin, and this is how we are delivered from the sinful nature - from ourselves and the apostle goes on to speak of it in this chapter. In Romans 4 we see how we are delivered from sins; in this chapter how we are delivered from the old nature - sin: F. K.

*This is so far correct; but the apostle is speaking of what is true before God, and hence of what is true to faith. But when we come to the application, we are exhorted to reckon ourselves dead to sin (v. 11), showing that we are not actually so. - [Ed.]