Taking the Emotion out of Sin


“[T]he wages[1] of sin[2] is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.

We tend to view sin in moralistic terms, but we don’t need to view it that way. The adage, “we are what we eat”, is an apt description for sin, though we tend to view it in moralistic terms as reaping what we sow. [3]

Although sin is at the heart of morality, the emotion of morality in this modern, post Christian age in the US may cloud a clear view of sin and the relationship between sin and death. Men have tried to hijack morality and claim it as their own, but, if God exists, He is the moral standard; further, without God, there is no such thing as objective morality.

But that’s not what this piece is about. Let’s put aside the issue of morality and take the emotion out of the equation. Let’s take the emotion out of sin and see what is left.

If we view sin simply as a natural progression, death flows from sin like the oak grows from the acorn. Sin and death go together because they are of the same substance. Death is the natural and inevitable consequence of sin.

From a different angle, the Greek word translated as “sin” means literally “no part of” or “not part of” and conveys the idea of losing out, forfeiting or missing the mark. The thing of which sin is not part is God. God is the mark.

Further, God’s substance is eternal life. He exists outside of time, space and matter and created it (caused it all to be). Our substance, however, is temporal. We exist within time and space and are comprised of matter, except that God has also made us in His image[4] and put eternity into our hearts[5].

We are made in the image[6] and likeness[7] of God, but we are not God. We are like God in some respects, but not in all respects, the most fundamental of which is that we are the creature and He is the Creator.

What that means in very fundamental terms is that God is the standard, the mark. Though we are like God, we are not like God all respects. We are made in God’s image, but we miss the mark, and, as a result, we do not have eternal life within us, though God has put it eternity in our heart.

Missing the mark means more than shooting an arrow and falling wide of the mark. It means, if God is an arrow, we are not and arrow. Or if God is an arrow, we are merely the image of an arrow. We are not the real thing. But that is obviously an imperfect analogy.

Forget about moralism for a moment, or the idea of original sin. That we are sinful is merely to say we are who we are, and the natural product of who we are is that we will die.

It is not that God created us imperfect and corrupted. This is where we get confused. We speak in terms of sin (something we have) and sinlessness (something God does not have), but it is really the opposite! Sin is actually a state of missing something God has!

We are creatures, not the Creator. We are made of time, space and matter, while God, the Creator, exists outside time, space and matter. We are limited in our substance because we are a creation and do not have all the attributes of God.

God is not limited in His substance. That is to say that God’s substance is eternal, while man’s substance is temporal. The substance of man and death go hand-in-hand.

Another way to say it is that our natural state leads to death. Though we bear the image and likeness of God in some respects, we are not of the substance of God in all respects, which is God’s character. That we are sinful is simply to say that we are who we are, and the natural product of who we are is that we will die.

What we are missing is God’s character – God is who He is[8]. God cannot be anything other than who He is, and we are not God.

This is not as difficult as we make it out to be. If we want what God has (which leads to eternal life), we must receive that substance from God because we do not have it.

We are overjoyed to find out that God offers the substance of His self freely to us! But he leave us some small part in the transaction – we must receive what God offers.

Receiving who God is means becoming what we lack in our natural state – that means exchanging sin (our natural state) for God’s character, which is sinless, so that we might have the product of God’s character, which is life.

We cannot have what God has and remain as we are. We must repent, which means to turn from sin, our natural tendency, and we can cannot do this ourselves because we are missing the mark (the character of God). We must obtain this character from God.

That is why Jesus said we must be born again.[9] Whatever is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of spirit is spirit.[10] The spirit is the substance of God that we lack. The spirit is the seed from which eternal life is the natural product, and we receive this seed by believing in the only Son of God[11] who is Jesus.[12]

God is spirit[13] who animated us when He created us. He also inserted His self in the flesh in the man Jesus, who also was God (in character). In doing this, God was born in the likeness of man![14]

Notice the parallel to the creation of man! God did not become exactly the same as us, but He took on the likeness of us (the flesh, the natural substance of who we are), but in doing that God was perfectly God in character (spirit) while taking on the form of man (with the limitations of time, space and matter). He was not like man in the sense of sin.

Jesus did not miss the mark. He was sinless, as God is sinless, which is to say that Jesus had what we do not have – the very character and spirit of God.

This character (spirit) of God in Jesus is what God freely offers to us along with the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23) because the natural product of the character, essence and spirit of God is eternal life!

When we believe in Jesus, we accept into our lives the Spirit of God, which is the very character of God that Jesus demonstrated for us in His life and offers to us. This Spirit of God will come to dwell in us if we are willing to receive it![15]

When we take the morality out of the equation and look at what is left, we may get a clearer picture. Sin is simply the substance of who we are in absence of the character and spirit of God. In our natural state of sin, we fall short of God’s substance and character.

God offers us freely His substance and character which we only need to accept by believing in His only Son who is God inserted into the time, space and matter of the world in which we exist. By believing and submitting to God, He will come to dwell within us – his character and substance will take root in us – causing us to be born again, and the natural result of this is transformation culminating in eternal life.

Like the acorn becomes the oak, we become sons of God when we receive Him and are born of Him in Spirit. In doing so, we will begin to become like Him as He works in us.[16] It is not us, but God, who authors this change, and God will finish that work He begins in us as we fix our eyes on Jesus.[17]

“He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”[18]

The result of this work that God does in us is that we shed sin and are transformed into the character of God, the character of Christ, and god works to grow within us the very character and spirit of His self, the natural product of which is eternal life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] Opsōnion – in the Greek (from opson, “meat” and onemoai, “purchase”) – meaning literally, the purchase of meat (food) and later, “ration-money paid to soldiers”; hence, wages (“fitting compensation”).

[2] Hamartía – in the Greek (a feminine noun derived from A “not” and méros, “a part, share of”) – meaning literally, no-share (“no part of”); loss (forfeiture) from not hitting the target; sin (missing the mark).

[3] Galatians 6:7 (“…whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”)

[4] Genesis 1:27 (“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female….”)

[5] Ecclesiastes 3:11 (“[God] has also set eternity in [man’s] heart….”)

[6] Elem – in the Hebrew, translated as image, meaning “something cut out” – a representation.

[7] Demuth – in the Hebrew from other Hebrew words meaning suddenly, out from (out from within), and meaning likeness, similitude (or pattern, resemblance).

[8] Exodus 3:13-14 (“Then Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?’”) 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

[9] John 3:3-8

[10] John 3:6

[11] What it means that Jesus is the Son of God.

[12] John 3:16

[13] John 4:24

[14] Philippians 2:7

[15] John 14:15-31

[16] Philippians 2:13 (“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”)

[17] Hebrews 12:2 (“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”)

[18] Philippians 1:6

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