In the universe created by God, order and beauty depend on the conformity of each part to God’s will. He created all of them, and when the parts are rightly related to Him, they interact harmoniously with each other and the result is a realm of great magnificence. But what if some of the parts do not conform to the Creator’s will?
The only parts of the creation that can do that, of course, are the beings that are “personal,” that is, the creatures to whom God granted freedom of the will. They alone have the power to choose between obedience and disobedience.
Tragically, however, such a rejection of God’s will has taken place. One of the highest personal beings created by God rebelled against Him at some point in the distant past. Known in the Bible as Satan (a name meaning “Adversary”), this powerful being was joined in his revolt by many of the other beings in the heavenly realm (Matthew 25:41; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). And when God created Adam and Eve and gave them dominion over the earth, Satan tempted them to disobey God also. The account of that is in Genesis 3:1–24.
To make a long story short, the result was chaos. Where there had been harmony, now there was strife and suffering. And even though it was only the personal beings in God’s creation who rejected His rule, the rest of the creation was harmed by the rebellion. The world was disastrously disrupted — resulting in a creation that now groans under the burden of mankind’s choice and yearns to be “delivered from the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:18–22).
“Sin” is the word used in the Scriptures to describe this disobedience. The apostle John wrote that sin is “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). When all is said and done, that is what sin always comes down to. It is not just doing something that makes us feel guilty, nor is it the transgression of whatever social norms that may be in effect. It is the violation of the objective laws of the God who created us.
Now, sin is a problem that affects us all. Everybody who lives in the world suffers, at least indirectly, from the damage done by other people’s sins, some of which were committed before we even got here. But if we’re old enough to discern right from wrong, we have a problem far worse than that: we are guilty of sin ourselves. We know that we have disobeyed God, willfully doing things that were wrong. The apostle Paul put it succinctly: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
By God’s design, the penalty of sin is “death” (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). We fear it, as well we should. But God had a plan ready to deal with sin and death (Genesis 3:15; John 3:16) — and the Bible is the story of that plan: its growth and development, its historical fruition in Jesus Christ, and the promise of its consummation in eternity, when God has brought the present world to an end.
Of Jesus Christ, the writer of Hebrews said, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14,15).
On our own, we would be incapable of fixing the problem of sin. If it took the death of God’s Son to atone for what we’ve done and make our forgiveness possible, that is a gift only God could give. Paul wrote, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:6–8 NASB).
To a great extent, our appreciation of the gospel of Christ is determined by how seriously we view sin. Those who deny the existence of God and the objective reality of sin will have no use for the gospel at all. But even those who acknowledge God may underestimate the seriousness of sin, at least in their own lives. If so, the gospel will not be to them the life-changing “good news” that it should be.
So there is a great irony that confronts us. The gospel of Christ, if it is true, is the best news in the world — but its joy depends on our swallowing the bitterest medicine of all: the ugly truth that we’ve cut ourselves off from God by disobeying the laws that He designed for our government.