"Natural man is a fallen creature, morally corrupt, and hell-bent on autonomy (i.e., self-government). He hates God because He is righteous and hates His laws because they censure and restrict His evil."
Paul Washer from The Gospel's Power and Message
“Unless people are truly convicted of sin, if they do not fully see that they are totally condemned by the requirements of God’s Law, then it is virtually impossible to show them the need for a savior.”
Let's look at a video:
The Depravity and Condemnation of Man:
I. The Significance of Sin
II. Why We Study Sin – So We Will Turn to Christ
III. Our True Nature – Sinful, Depraved
IV. The Law – Exposes Our Sin
V. Holiness Provokes Hatred
I. The Significance of Sin
"The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all."
Before we look at the awfulness of sin we will look at the One against whom we sin. Psalm 103:19 says that God is sovereign over heaven and earth. He rules over all, and He created all things with just a word. He tells the planets to align and move in a certain way and they obey, He tells the sea to come no further than this line and it obeys, but man does not obey—he shakes his puny fist against God and persists in his defiant rebellion against the God who created him.
If we jokingly tell a friend that we could kill them for doing something, we laugh and it's not a big deal. But try to say that to the President of the United States and the Secret Service men will have you eating asphalt with your hands cuffed behind your back before you can blink! The person that we say this to makes all the difference in the world. While there is a big difference between your friend and the President, there is an even bigger difference between mankind and the God who created the universe with just a word and whose sovereignty rules over all of creation. Sin against God is a huge deal because of who God is. It is because of the greatness of God who is so far above us that our sin is so great. Sin is an act of rebellion against a sovereign God. Sin is a way that arrogant man tries to throw off the sovereign rule of God and to assert himself as the sovereign ruler of his own life. The problem is that man's life is not his own—his life and every breath are a gift from God, and sin is a treasonable offense against the Most High God that is worthy of death.
Man's life is not his own—his life and every breath are a gift from God, and sin is a treasonable offense against the Most High God that is worthy of death.
Sin is evil first because of who God is, but also because of what God has done for us. He has created us, given us life, breath, and blessed us with every good thing that we have in life! He is faithful even though we are unfaithful. 1 Kings 8:56 says, "Not one word has failed of all His good promises." Deuteronomy 7:9 says, "The LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments."
God created man perfect, but man sinned and rebelled against Him. Hosea 6:7 says, "Like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; there they have dealt treacherously against Me." God is more than faithful, and yet His trust was betrayed by treacherous, treasonous, and unfaithful Adam who did not keep his part of the covenant and deserved to die immediately according to the terms of the covenant. Yet God the Father shows His amazing love that went so far as to send His Son to die as a sacrifice for sinful mankind. He gives even the most wicked, rebellious, and ungrateful the chance to repent of their sin, yet they defiantly refuse and trample on His goodness and grace.
Paul Washer in The Gospel's Power and Message says this about sin, "First, although sin may be committed against our fellow creatures and even against creation itself, all sin is first and foremost against God. Secondly, sin is heinous not merely because of the devastation it might bring upon other men or creation as a whole, but primarily and especially because it is an offense committed against an infinitely glorious God who is worthy of the most perfect love, devotion, and obedience from His creation. Therefore, the more a man comprehends something of the glory and supremacy of the God against whom he has sinned, the more he will comprehend the atrocious nature of his sin....If the bravest and most hardened infidel understood even the smallest portion of who God is, he would immediately collapse under the weight of his sin."
"Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.'"
"I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me."
Exodus 20:20 and Jeremiah 32:40 show that it is the fear of God that keeps people from sinning. Sinful man does not know God; and therefore since he does not know God, he cannot fear Him. Without the fear of God restraining him, all sinful man can do is sin. God tells the Israelites in Hosea 4:6: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." They had a lack of knowledge about God, so they did not fear God, and they did not see sin as all that big of a deal. Today we see the same problem; not just in society, but unfortunately in our churches. People in church today do not know God—they are ignorant of His attributes, which causes them to know nothing of the awfulness of sin. We have preachers who say great things about the love, grace, and mercy of God but are silent regarding sin as well as the sovereignty, holiness, righteousness, and justice of God.
We must know that God is sovereign and rules over all mankind. He is holy and hates sin. He is perfectly righteous and just, which means He will punish and destroy all sin and rebellion against His creation. We tend to take His righteousness for granted since He is gracious in giving man time to repent, but make no mistake, a sovereign, holy, and righteous God will not tolerate sin in the least bit! Unfortunately, we prefer to think of God as being more like Santa Claus—someone who can let our sin slide as long as we go to church every week and do mostly good. Sadly, this is the prevailing modern view because of man's ignorance of God as He reveals Himself in His Bible.
We have no idea how awful sin truly is and how costly are its consequences. Romans 6:23 says that, "The wages of sin is death," and that we deserve death when we sin just one time against a holy God. But God, in His mercy, allowed a way for our sins to be forgiven. However, He did not lessen the penalty of sin. God was able to forgive us but...someone still had pay the price and die for our sins; and that person was God Himself, Jesus Christ.
All sin is significant, although modern man tries to take comfort in that he doesn't sin that much. James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." It does not matter if you sin one time or if you sin a million times, you are still guilty before God. Modern man also deceives himself that his own sins are not bad as others. 1 Samuel 15:23 says, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry." We don't think of rebellion as being all that bad, yet God views rebellion the same way He does someone performing satanic witchcraft, and He views insubordination is the same as worshipping a false god. Although the consequences of some sins are worse than others, all sin is offensive against God.
Sin is hatred against God because it is man trying to assert his own will against Him. John 14:15 says, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Those who love God, obey Him. The converse is also true: those who do not love God, do not obey Him. Our disobedience shows not only our lack of love for God, but our hatred of Him. All sin is rebellion, insubordination, and hatred for God and for His sovereign right to rule over you.
God lets us know from His Word that all sin is an abomination to Him. Abomination is the strongest negative word used in the Bible. Webster's Dictionary defines abomination as something worthy of loathing or hatred, something abhorrent, revolting, or causing extreme disgust. Our sin is an abomination that is worthy of hatred by a holy and righteous God. Not only is our sin an abomination, but we ourselves are an abomination according to Deuteronomy 25:16: "Everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the LORD your God." There is a popular saying that, "God hates sin but loves the sinner," but it ignores what this verse says. If we sin, we are an abomination against God, and a perfectly holy God must hate those who commit the sin as well as the sin itself. The Bible says in John 3:16 that, "For God so loved the world," but it also reveals that he hates those who do sin in Deuteronomy 25:16. Sin is not just something we do, it's a part of us, it's who we are, which will be discussed in part III.
If we sin, we are an abomination against God, and a perfectly holy God must hate those who commit the sin as well as the sin itself.
God has revealed Himself to all man so none are exempt from His judgment. Romans 1:19-22 says, "Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks...Professing to be wise, they became fools."
Jesus said in Mark 10:30 that the first and greatest commandment is this: "AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH." There is no one who does this. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whether then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." Our main purpose in life is to love God and glorify Him and we have all fallen short of that. Our life and all that God has gifted to us is to be used for His glory. We sin when we do not do that, and we will be miserable until we fulfill this chief end for which God made us.
Man willfully chooses to not glorify God and becomes a fool by thinking God does not exist. Man hates God and tries to glorify himself instead of his Creator. This is a treasonous offense, and Romans 1:28 says, "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." Paul Washer remarks in The Gospel's Power and Message that failing to glorify God is, "the birth mother of all other sins," and even calls it "the one great sin above them all" because it is unjust to refuse to give the glory and honor that is due God. Psalm 53:1 says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice." The Righteous Judge of all the earth will most certainly hate and punish this abominable injustice of all who fail to acknowledge and glorify Him who rules on high; who creates us, sustains us, and loves us.
II. Why We Study Sin – So We Will Turn to Christ
Man's only hope against the death sentence of sin is Jesus Christ. The problem today is that man is blind to the problem of his own sin because he is ignorant of God. Man has been deceived to think of himself as basically good, and he has no idea of the abominable nature of his sin and of himself, nor the sovereign, holy, and righteous God against whom he sins. He believes that all of the problems in society today are due to social and political issues outside of himself. Man's problem is not external but internal, and all the ruin in the world today is due to his own sinfulness.
Paul Washer in The Gospel's Power and Message says, "The center of the gospel is the death of Christ, and Christ died for sin. Therefore, there can be no gospel proclamation apart from a biblical treatment of sin...Men have only one problem: they are under the wrath of God because of their sin." If men are not convinced they have a problem, they will not seek a cure. We must preach sin just as the farmer must plow the field before he can begin sowing his seed. Sin must be preached so men see their problem and turn to Christ as the only means of being saved from the wrath of a holy God. Washer adds, "Our goal is to paint a picture of sin in the hearts and minds of our hearers so horrid that it cannot be removed except by the blood of the lamb."
"Our goal is to paint a picture of sin in the hearts and minds of our hearers so horrid that it cannot be removed except by the blood of the lamb."
Sin must be preached in order to restrain man's wickedness. Men must know that they will one day be judged by a holy and righteous God who hates any and all sin. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained. But happy is he who keeps the law." This vision is the preaching and revelation of the law of God. God told Isaiah to tell men of their sin in Isaiah 58:1, "Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins."
False teachers are false because they do not follow God's specific and direct command in Isaiah 58:1 to tell men of their sin. They instead choose to ignore God and follow their own human wisdom by avoiding the concept of sin so as to not offend anyone. They are more interested in the money that comes from filling their pews with carnal men than in obeying God. God warns the false prophet that men's blood will be on their hands in Ezekiel 33:8, "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand." These false prophets who fail to preach sin to a dying world are not preaching a message of love—on the contrary, they are letting people die in their sin without even warning them! That's not love at all.
Lost mankind desperately needs one thing and one thing only: they need the message of the gospel preached to them to let them know the greatness, holiness, and righteousness of God, to expose them of their sin, and to lead them to repentance and belief in Christ. This is the only way men can be saved from the penalty of their sin, and there can be no gospel message without teaching the holy character of God in contrast to the sinfulness of man.
There can be no gospel message without teaching the holy character of God in contrast to the sinfulness of man.
Secular humanists try to ignore God and make themselves the center of the universe. Many of today's false prophets are religious humanists who also make themselves the center of the universe with their emphasis on self-fulfillment and having "their best life now." Although much of their teaching is Biblical, it is man-centered instead of God-centered, so that now God exists to serve man's needs instead of the other way around. These people do not know God, so they do not fear Him, and they are ignorant of the consequences of sin since they think of themselves as mostly good and religious. Though they talk much of grace and the love of Jesus, they have little appreciation of Christ Jesus since they are unaware that their own sinfulness and lack of repentance demands punishment by a holy and righteous God.
Hebrews 4:12 says that the word of God is "sharper than any two-edged sword." Charles Spurgeon said, "Scripture is like a lion. Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose; it will defend itself." Yet ignorant preachers in their "worldly wisdom" leave out the parts of the gospel that are harsh and offensive to its hearers. They are not interested in preaching a biblical gospel that would offend sinful men; they would rather pad their stats and their own pockets by preaching a "gospel of love" and getting men to "say a little prayer and let Jesus in their hearts." Modern-day false prophets promise forgiveness without repentance in order to get hearers to make these unbiblical, meaningless, and worthless decisions.
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:17 said he came "to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void." We can conclude then that those who do rely on cleverness of speech do make the cross of Christ void with their faulty preaching. 1 Corinthians 1:18 then says, "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the word of God." Those who do not understand the gospel find it to be foolishness and in their "wisdom," they attempt to present a "better" version of the gospel that is less offensive to man. This is absurd because 1 Corinthians 1:21 tells us that the gospel message is exactly what God uses to save: "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe."
Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:1,4-5 let the Holy Spirit and the simple message of the gospel do the work for him when he preached: "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God...my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." Contrast this message with the "used-car sale gimmicks" that are used today to get men to make unbiblical decisions and you will see that there is a problem with much of today's evangelism.
(From the Paul Washer sermons True Gospel – Part 1 – Man Apart from God and Ephesians 1 – Part 2):
Our motivation as Christians is what God has done through Jesus Christ based on a biblical view of the gospel. The only way we can go on to greater love and growth is to discover in a greater way what God has done for you in Jesus Christ. We need to know who God is and understand what we are apart from the grace of God. And we need to understand what God has done for us.
We will begin by looking at man apart from the grace of God. I have found that when a carnal man hears about his sin, it will insult him and make him think that his toes are being stepped on. But, when a spiritual man hears about the sin of men apart from the grace of God, the only thing he can think of is the joy of knowing Jesus, the pleasure of what God has done for him, of the great hope that is ours in Christ.
The stars in the sky, where do they go during the day? We cannot see them, for there is no darkness for them to be set upon. There is nothing to highlight their glory. When a man goes to buy an engagement ring; the jeweler, the crafty fellow that he is, will lay that tiny spec of a diamond on a piece of black velvet, and when he does, it will sparkle like it will never sparkle any place else.
That’s the purpose of what we will do here—to set the glory of Christ on the backdrop of our own darkness, causing the grace of God to be exalted all the more.
Another thing you need to see—the reason I study sin is to realize the lovelessness of my own heart. It is so hard to sing, “How I love Jesus.” I’m ashamed at how I love Jesus. It hurts me when I think of my love for Jesus. Now, is it biblical to sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus?” Of course it is, but I want you to see the point.
My lovelessness and the coldness of my own heart need something to move it. Jesus pointed to a lady and said, “She loves much because she’s been forgiven much.” I’m afraid we don’t love much today because we don’t realize how much we’ve been forgiven, because we don’t realize how wicked we are apart from the grace of Christ. And that’s the fault of preachers.
I’m afraid we don’t love much today because we don’t realize how much we’ve been forgiven, because we don’t realize how wicked we are apart from the grace of Christ.
The only way to truly love Jesus Christ and to appreciate what He’s done for you is only in the light of what we are, and what we are is unspeakable. So, that’s where we will begin.
III. Our True Nature – Sinful, Depraved
(Continued from the Paul Washer sermons True Gospel – Part 1 – Man Apart from God and Ephesians 1 – Part 2):
In Romans 3:23, we find something that the world hates, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I automatically know that you don’t understand this text…and neither do I. Because if we truly understood this text, and understood who God is, and understood the meaning of sin, we would all fall on the floor and tremble.
You see, we can’t understand sin. It is so hard for this wicked and perverse generation to understand any of the great concepts. We don’t understand things like sin, we don’t understand things like justice, we don’t understand things like holiness; so when those words are put before us in Scripture, we just have blank stares. There’s no emotion, there’s no pounding of the heart, there’s nothing, just deadness.
Today, we interpret this verse as, “God made you for a glorious purpose and because of sin you have not achieved that glorious purpose.” That is just a tiny, tiny fraction of what this text really means. This text is not about you and you purpose. It is not about you and self fulfillment. It is about God.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned.” The greatest archangel in glory did this. And he’s condemned to an everlasting hell with no hope for salvation, and God never even sent him a Savior—sin is that devastating. Adam and Eve took the bite of a fruit and were cast out of the presence of God, and yet you sin so many times you could not count them in the world’s greatest supercomputer. We cannot calculate the measure of our sin, the number of our sins, or the way our sins are an offense to God…“All have sinned.”
What you need to understand is that prior to coming to Christ, it’s not that you were basically a good person who at times sinned. What you need to understand is that prior to coming to Christ, the only thing you ever did was sin. Even your most righteous deeds before God were sin—all sin, every thought, every movement, every word—sin, and rebellion against God. As Scripture says in Isaiah 64:6, “All our righteousness is like filthy rags.”
Many people think that they are called sinners because we sin; and that’s not true. You are not a sinner because you sin. You sin, you commit acts of sin, because you are a sinner. And you are a sinner by nature, unless you have been born again. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” We sin because we are born with this sinful nature.
You are not a sinner because you sin. You sin, you commit acts of sin, because you are a sinner.
“What a man is determines what he chooses. Choices of the will always reveal the character of the heart, because the heart determines the choices. Men are not sinners because they choose to sin; they choose to sin because they are sinners.”
I once preached on this and a man came up to me afterwards and was furious and said this was not true. I told him it is not what I think that matters, it’s what God’s Word says. He said, “I disagree, that’s not true.” I said, “If I could take out your mind and take out every thought you have ever thought and put it on a video clip and show that video, you would run out of this building in shame and never show your face here again. Because you have thought things so vile, so perverse, so wicked, that you could not even begin to share them with your closest friend, and you know that’s true.”
So, imagine what it would be like to stand before a holy God who is not wicked like us and who knows every thought of your heart. You would be more than ashamed.
I have a little boy that I dearly love, a gift from God. I will not have to teach that boy how to lie, I won’t have to teach him how to be self-centered, I won’t have to teach him to be mean-spirited and selfish. I won’t have to teach him all that—he knows that already. I’ll have to teach him just the opposite. Every child that’s ever been born, no matter how precious to the parent, is living proof of what God teaches in His Word about radical depravity.
Radical Depravity - as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person is born into the world with a sinful and evil nature and is born enslaved to sin and to the devil. This moral corruption completely pollutes every part of man—his body, mind, and will. Man is therefore spiritually dead. He is totally helpless and powerless to save himself due to this radical depravity. He cannot save himself, he can only be saved by God. Man has absolutely nothing to do with his salvation: it is the grace of God the Father in choosing a person to be saved, and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating the heart.
“…as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person is born into the world with a sinful and evil nature and is born enslaved to sin and to the devil.”
L.R. Shelton Jr. said, “HOW is a man going to cry after liberty if he does not know he is in bondage?” He added, “Each one of us lies buried in the grave of sin, held captive by Satan at his will; and therefore we must, of necessity, be resurrected by a power greater than our own and greater than Satan if we are ever to be saved.” Only God the Holy Spirit has the power to bring to life one who is spiritually dead.
Biblical support for the doctrine of total depravity
"The intention of man's heart is evil from his youth."
"No one living is righteous before You."
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."
"These wicked people are born sinners; even from birth they have lied and gone their own way."
“How then can man be right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!"
“Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For it flatters him in his own eyes concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it.”
"Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins."
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil."
Jeremiah 13:23 (NIV)
"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags."
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.”
"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil."
"Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”
"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because such knowledge comes only through the Spirit."
1 Corinthians 2:14
“If perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
2 Timothy 2:25-26
"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God."
Note: This is the problem with "seeker-friendly" churches—there is no one who seeks for God! Man is born spiritually dead and cannot seek God.
“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”
"The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
Depraved means that man’s original state or form has been thoroughly twisted or perverted. Man has fallen from his original state of righteousness and his very nature has become thoroughly corrupt. Our sin is only an outward symptom of the vile, wicked, and God-hating nature that lies within us. All of mankind—including children and infants—are tainted by this sinful nature and are not innocent.
(Paul Washer continued):
We don’t mind using words like ‘sinful,’ because everybody’s sinful. But we do not like using the word ‘evil’ to describe ourselves. “Evil? What, I’m not like Hitler!” Yes you are. Yes you are. “Well I’m not that bad!” Yes you are.
Have you ever wondered why Hitler was as bad as he was? Have you ever wondered why he was not worse—he loved his mother. Have you ever wondered why you have not done the things that Hitler did? Do you want to know why? There’s only one reason. The grace of God has hindered you, stopped you, and restrained your evil.
God even restrained Hitler. Did you know that? If God would have pulled back even farther from Hitler and given him more freedom, he would have shown himself even more wicked than he was. If God were to pull back from you completely, you’d make Hitler look like a choir boy. That’s what we mean when we say, “All have sinned…” That’s what we mean when we teach the concept of depravity: that men are born with fallen natures.
When you hear of crimes on the news that shock us because they are so evil, you must realize that that is you, and apart from God's grace you would do the same things and even worse. The grace of God is the only thing that restrains evil and keeps wicked mankind from completely and immediately destroying itself. Those who want nothing to do with God take pride in the fact that they do good to help others and do not kill and commit blatant sins like some people. This is a wicked sin because they try to take credit away from God for their own morality. The only reason they have any morality to speak of is due to God's grace restraining their evil nature—this same God that they deny. It is an unspeakable crime that man tries to glorify himself and his own morality apart from God by taking credit for God's grace.
John MacArthur's commentary on Philippians 3:2 says, "The Judaizers prided themselves on being workers of righteousness. Yet Paul described their works as evil, since any attempt to please God by one's own efforts and draw attention away from Christ's accomplished redemption is the worst kind of wickedness." The key part of that verse is pride, they wanted the glory for themselves instead of unto God. They were wicked for seeking to steal that glory from God.
The inherent evil nature of man is so hard for us to understand, because we live in a culture that laughs about sin, tells jokes about sin, snickers about sin—sin is not that big a deal. But when a preacher stands up and says, “You are evil,” that’s worth fighting.
Yes, Jesus manifested love toward the sinner. But what you need to understand, it’s not because of some value in you. The Cross is not a sign of man’s great worth or your great worth. The Cross is a sign of your great depravity; that you were so evil, the only way you could be saved is by God’s Son being crushed under the full force of the wrath that was due for you.
The Cross is not a sign of man’s great worth or your great worth. The Cross is a sign of your great depravity; that you were so evil, the only way you could be saved is by God’s Son being crushed under the full force of the wrath that was due for you.
We don’t like that, because it doesn’t fit into our humanistic idea that all men are basically good, but it’s true. And the only way you can understand the love of God is if you understand what you were before Christ came into your life. You have to understand.
Have you ever wondered why so many prostitutes and thieves and drug addicts and others of the sort, when they get saved, they seem to be so radically passionate for God? Do you ever wonder why? They know what they are. And because they know what they are, they know what they have received, they know what they have been given. It’s fine, upstanding people who are difficult to deal with. It’s difficult to build a fire in such a heart.
Romans 3:12 says, “There is none who does good, no, not one.” The problem with man is that we think that we are good. We have a hard time understanding our sin and the concept of hell because we would rather believe that man is good. Most people think they are good and that they are going to Heaven. Why? “Because I am good.” We can deceive ourselves in thinking we are good by comparing ourselves to others. Other people are not the standard, God is the standard, and none of us even come close to His standard, which is perfection.
We think if we have more good works than bad works that we will get into Heaven. Isaiah says that our works that we think are good are really filthy rags. And then some people think that they are good because they haven’t sinned much. How many times did Adam and Eve sin before they were cast out of the Garden? One time. There truly is no one who does good and is good, but God.
IV. The Law – Exposes Our Sin
“Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
“…by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight…”
So many people think that the law is a means of salvation. And some don’t even go that far. If you ask them if they’re going to Heaven, they say, “Yes.” Why? “Because I’m trying to keep the law.” They believe you don’t have to keep the law anymore, you just have to try, and if you get just one of them down, you’re okay; like, “I’ve never killed anybody, therefore I’m going to Heaven.”
But the purpose of the law has never been to save. The purpose of the law is to expose sin, so we’ll turn away from hoping in ourselves and hope only in the mercy of God.
The purpose of the law is to expose sin, so we’ll turn away from hoping in ourselves and hope only in the mercy of God.
"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”
"Sin is not forgiven for fulfilling the law, for no one is able to satisfy the law. Rather, the law shows sin, accuses and terrifies the conscience, declares God's wrath, and drives people to desperation."
“The Law must be preached—not as the way of salvation, but as a searchlight put on the sinner’s heart, so he can see how utterly rotten he is, compared to the way God requires him to be."
"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
God's law condemns us because it demands a perfect standard that is impossible for man to attain. If we can't perfectly obey God's law, we are doomed. John MacArthur says, "Christ sets an unattainable standard. The law demands that we be perfect. Though this standard is impossible to meet, God could not lower it without compromising His own perfection. He who is perfect could not set an imperfect standard of righteousness. The marvelous truth of the gospel is that Christ has met this standard on our behalf."
The old preachers, when they talked about repentance, talked about repentance from good works. What does it mean? We understand what repentance from sin is: it’s loathing and hating your disobedience and turning to God.
But what does it mean to loath our good works? When you finally see the holiness of God, then the good works that you were holding on to, you now see as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We then repent of hoping and trusting in our filthy rags; we repent of our good works.
When you finally see the holiness of God, then the good works that you were holding on to, you now see as filthy rags…
Romans 3:20 says about the law: “for through the law comes the knowledge of sin,” and that “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”
Justified doesn’t mean “just as if I had never sinned.” That’s a really cute thing to say, but it doesn’t work. Justification is a legal term that means to be declared right before God. It’s not that we are made right, as some people are teaching. If we are a Christian, God has not made us righteous, to where we never sin any more. We obviously still sin, so we are not righteous. However, the moment we believed in Jesus Christ, we were justified—we were legally declared to be righteous. We are not righteous based upon our own merit, but on the merit of Jesus Christ our Lord.
V. Holiness Provokes Hatred
Man cannot come to God on his own due to his depraved nature. There are those who would argue that if men can't come to God on his own, then God is wrong in judging them in the same way it would be wrong to judge a blind man who cannot read a sign on the road. What's the explanation for why such a man should be held guilty? Man cannot come to God because man will not come to God. And he will not come to God because he hates Him. And he hates Him because He is good. Have you ever heard a person say, "I cannot forgive that person." It's not that they cannot forgive, it's that they will not forgive because of their hatred and bitterness.
Man cannot come to God because he will not come to God, and he will not come to God because he hates Him.
Another example is a person who has been imprisoned for treason against the king. If the king should open the door and offer to let him leave if he would only bow down and acknowledge my sovereignty, the prisoner would leap up and slam the door and say, "I would rather rot in jail than to bow my knee to you." That is man.
Man hates God and has such a radically depraved and evil nature that he cannot come to God unless God specifically calls him. Jesus said in John 6:44 that, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." Man is not a victim who wants to come to God but can't because he does not have the ability to do so. He has absolutely no desire to come to God and he will reject every offer of redemption from God because he would rather spend a miserable eternity in hell than to have to submit to His authority. Again, he cannot come to God because he will not come to God, and he will not come to God because he hates Him.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Falling short of the glory of God—this is the worst part of this text. To fall short of the glory of God must be interpreted in the light of the first three chapters of Romans and what follows them. Romans 1:21 says: “Although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God.” Romans 1:30 then describes man as “haters of God.” Prior coming to Christ, I want you to know who you were; it’s the same thing I was. You hated God, and that was your number one problem.
We’re all quick to admit to that I was a sinner, but a God-hater? What do you mean? That’s exactly what the Bible teaches in Romans chapter 1. People think they love God, but they really love a “god” who looks more like Santa Claus than the God of the Bible. They have created an idol that does not punish sin, who is loving, will tolerate sin, and will forgive everyone, regardless if they repent or not.
People think they love God, but they really love a “god” who looks more like Santa Claus than the God of the Bible. They have created an idol that does not punish sin, who is loving, will tolerate sin, and will forgive everyone, regardless if they repent or not.
The presence of a holy God causes us to be aware of our own unrighteousness:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
If ever there was a man of integrity, it was Isaiah. He was respected as a paragon of virtue. Then he caught one sudden glimpse of a Holy God. In that brief moment all his self-esteem was shattered. As long as Isaiah could compare himself to other men, he was able to sustain a lofty opinion of his own character. The instant he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed. He was undone. He came apart. His sense of integrity collapsed.
Sinful man has a different reaction than Isaiah to the holiness of God. Instead of humility, there is hatred. If man were holy and righteous, he would love a holy and righteous God, and he would love and obey His commands. Since man is not holy, he does not love a holy and righteous God, and he does not obey His commands.
Man loves his works and good deeds but the Bible says that our good deeds are as filthy rags, and the world hates a God who says his works are evil. Man hates a holy God and opposes His truth because it convicts him of his depravity and rebellion:
"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
“The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.”
God is righteous and man is a lawbreaker, a hostile enemy of God:
“The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.”
“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works...”
Colossians 1:21 (NKJV)
Since man hates God and is His enemy, he will not seek God anymore than a criminal would seek a police officer. Fallen man hates God because he loves sinful pleasures rather than God. He holds on to a form of godliness that helps him to think good of himself and blinds him of his sinful nature and his need of a Savior:
“Treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.”
2 Timothy 3:4-5
(R.C. Sproul’s book, The Holiness of God, talks about man’s hatred of God):
There is a special kind of phobia from which we all suffer. It is called xenophobia, which is a fear (and sometimes a hatred) of strangers or foreigners or anything that is strange or foreign. God is the ultimate object of our xenophobia. He is the ultimate stranger. He is holy and we are not. We fear God because He is holy. It is a servile fear, born of dread. God is too great for us; He is too awesome. He makes difficult demands on us. He threatens our security. In His presence we quake and tremble.
Luke 5:1-7 tells the story of Jesus telling the disciples to throw their nets. The disciples, having fished all night without catching anything, reluctantly obliged. To their surprise, they caught so many fish that their nets began to break.
“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’”
At that moment Peter realized that he was in the presence of the Holy Incarnate. He was desperately uncomfortable. Why did Peter want Jesus gone? Because he said, “I am a sinful man!” Sinful men are not comfortable in the presence of the holy. The cliché is that misery loves company. Another is that there is fellowship among thieves. But thieves do not look to hang out with law officers, so also sinful misery does not love the company of purity.
Sinful men are not comfortable in the presence of the holy.
One of the strange facts of history is the consistently good reputation Jesus enjoys even with unbelievers—even people who are openly hostile to the church and critical of Christians. With all the applause Jesus gets from modern man it seems difficult to understand why His contemporaries killed Him.
The Old Testament prophets also had a good reputation in Jesus’ day. They were great folk heroes from the past. Yet when they were alive they were hated, scorned, rejected, despised, persecuted, and killed by their own people.
St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, who was killed by a furious mob after he rebuked the Jews for killing the prophets and Jesus. We might expect the stinging words from Jesus to pierce the hearts of the hearers and bring them to repentance, but they became angry and killed him instead.
People have an appreciation for moral excellence as long as it is removed a safe distance from them. The Jews honored the prophets, from a distance. The world honors Christ, from a distance. Peter wanted to be with Jesus until he got too close and then he cried, “Please leave.”
We might argue that the Pharisees hated Jesus because He was so critical of them. But the venom of the Pharisees went deeper than that. Nothing exposes the counterfeit faster than the genuine. When authentic holiness appeared, the counterfeiters of holiness were not pleased.
The Sadducees had the same problem with Jesus. Sadducee was taken from the Jewish word for “righteous.” If the Pharisees considered themselves to be the holy ones, the Sadducees claimed to be the righteous ones. With the appearance of Jesus, their righteousness took on a luster of unrighteousness.
The threatening power of Christ’s holiness is now transferred today to His people. As the Jews at Mt. Sinai fled in terror from the dazzling face of Moses, so people today get uncomfortable in the mere presence of Christians. People feel trauma in the presence of the holy. Holiness provokes hatred. The greater the holiness, the greater the human hostility toward it. It seems insane. No man was ever more loving than Jesus Christ. Yet even His love provoked men to anger.
Holiness provokes hatred. The greater the holiness, the greater the human hostility toward it.
The struggle we have with a holy God is due to our conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness. He is just and we are unjust. This struggle creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God. Criminals do not want to be in the company of a just judge, and so we are fugitives fleeing from God whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us. We are at war with God until we are justified and are only able to hate a holy God who exposes our unrighteousness. Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.