Summary: This sermon explores one part of how God removes the barrier of sin, brings us into fellowship with himself, and grants us eternal life. This teaching is summed up in the Apostles’ Creed in which we affirm our belief in "the forgiveness of sins."
As we continue our series in The Apostles’ Creed I would like to examine today what it means to believe in the forgiveness of sins. Please listen as I recite the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
The most important issue in this life is where we will spend eternity. Therefore, one of the most important questions a person can ever ask is the one asked of Jesus by the rich, young ruler. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).
The Bible teaches us that God created the first man, Adam, without sin (Genesis 1:31). Eventually, however, Adam disobeyed God (Genesis 3:6; cf. 2:16-17). This disobedience resulted in broken fellowship and enmity between God and Adam. The barrier between God and Adam was Adam’s sin. Each of Adam’s descendants has inherited Adam’s sin, and the barrier between God and each individual is sin.
The entire message of the Bible from Genesis 3 onwards can be described as the way in which God removes the barrier of sin between himself and certain individuals, and brings them into a right relationship with himself.
Today we want to explore one part of how God removes the barrier of sin, brings us into fellowship with himself, and grants us eternal life. This teaching is summed up in the statement of the Apostles’ Creed in which we affirm our faith in “the forgiveness of sins.”
I would like to examine “the forgiveness of sins” by first defining sin and then by examining forgiveness.
I. What Is Sin?
First, what is sin?
The Bible tells us that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).
The Westminster Shorter Catechism expands on this definition and defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”
According to this definition, sin falls into two categories. On the one hand, we have sins of omission, consisting in “any want (an old word for “lack”) of conformity unto the law of God.”
When we have a duty to perform and do not perform that duty, we lack conformity to the law of God. For example, God commands us to honor our father and mother (Exodus 20:12). If we do not honor our parents, we are guilty of a sin of omission. We are guilty because we have not done that which God requires us to do.
We are guilty because we have not conformed unto the law of God. Many people never think of sins of omission when they think of sin. When they think of sin they are more likely to think of sins of commission. They think of stealing and swearing and murder as sins (which they are), and because they think they are not guilty of such sins, they imagine that they are not great sinners.
This is illustrated in a funny scene from the series All in the Family a few years ago. Edith, in her own inimitable way, is kind of a saintly person. Archie is complaining, as Archie commonly did. He says to her, “That’s you all right. Edith, the Good. You’ll stoop to anything to be good. You never make nobody mad. You think it’s easy living with a saint? Even when you cheat you don’t cheat to win. You cheat to lose. Edith, you ain’t human.”
Edith says, “That’s a terrible thing to say, Archie Bunker. I am just as human as you are.”
Archie retorts, “Oh, yeah? Then prove you’re just as human as me. Do something rotten!”
The fact is that sins of omission make us just as guilty before God for transgressing his law.
On the other hand, we have sins of commission, consisting of “transgression of the law of God.” An example of this sin is the sin of Adam. God clearly commanded Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
But sin has other aspects too. Sin is lawlessness in relation to God as a lawgiver.