The Nature of Sin
"for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law."
~ Romans 5:13
The scripture has this description of sin:
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
~ 1 John 3:4)
So, what if there’s no law in the first instance?
Then there will be nothing to transgress.
If there’s no law, there would be nothing to transgress.
And if there’s no law to transgress, there would be no transgression of the law.
And if there is no transgression of the law, there should be no sin.
So, how come the Apostle writes that even before the law was given, sin was in the world? He writes that it was present, just that it wasn’t being taken into account, that is, folks just weren’t aware of it.
If sin was in the world before the law, and present in people who did not commit any transgression against any specific and known divine law, it must be deeper than just acts of transgressions.
And it is.
You see, sin is not just an act; it’s a nature.
You could describe sin as a force or a power.
And as we will learn, sin is like a disease; like a virus.
The Transmission and Wages of Sin
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 6:23
The wages (consequences, rewards) of sin is death. God made that clear to the man in the garden in Genesis 2:16,17. As we know, the first man transgressed that direct and specific commandment of God and so qualified for the wages of sin – death.
We can understand that.
But how come his descendants – between Adam and Moses – died too? They didn’t break any direct and specific commandment of God. Why should they reap the wages of something they never did?
"Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come."
~ Romans 5:14
Let me help you understand what’s going on here:
Before God gave the law to the Israelites at Mount Sinai through Moses, there was only one specific divine commandment given to all men of any point in time, that which was given to Adam, "You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
And it was only Adam and Eve that broke that Law in the garden. All their descendants came into the world outside that garden and so were in no position to break that law individually. Meaning that, as far as breaking the specific universal divine commandment of their time was concerned, Adam’s descendants didn’t commit any act of transgression.
So, if they didn’t transgress the law individually, why were they suffering the wages of that sin (death)?
The answer is simply that you can liken sin to a transmittable disease or virus!
Stay with me…
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-"
~ Romans 5:12
It was ‘something’ that ‘entered’. So, it was not in the original design of the man. This transmittable stuff entered into the human DNA when the first man ate the forbidden fruit in disobedience to a direct and specific commandment of God.
It corrupted the human DNA (nature) and began to flow through the human blood, and turned the perfect man into the sinful man.
So the descendants of Adam didn’t need to transgress the law individually anymore to ‘receive’ the sin nature. They got it by default, by nature, right there in their DNA and blood stream at the very point of conception!
Descendants of the first man didn’t therefore need to break any more laws to be sinners and suffer sin’s wages. Whether or not they broke any specific divine commandments didn’t matter anymore. They were now sinners by nature, by birth, by virtue of their connection and relationship with Adam.
So, whereas the first man became a sinner by transgressing a specific divine commandment, his descendants inherited it from him by nature.
Sin and death were Adam’s free gifts to his descendants!
The Nature Of Righteousness
Now flip it all around.
Here comes another man, Jesus Christ.
Like the first man, He too was perfect.
And like the first man, He too was given a specific divine commandment:
“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
~ John 1:18
Unlike the first man, however, He kept the commandment given to Him. And by so doing, unleashed a different kind of virus, a positive virus if you may, called righteousness.
One act of disobedience from the first man — eating the forbidden fruit — unleashed the force of sin upon humanity.
One act of obedience — dying on the cross — unleashed the force of righteousness upon humanity!
"Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."
~ Romans 5:18
Transgressing a direct divine command ushered in sin.
Obeying a direct divine commandment ushered in the righteousness of God.
The Transmission and Wages of Righteousness
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
~ Romans 6:23
The offspring of the first man didn’t need to transgress any law to sin. They got it by nature.
In the same way, the offspring of the second man didn’t need to keep any single law to be righteous. They too got it by nature, on the basis of their connection/relationship with him.
"For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous."
~ Romans 5:19
So this second group enjoys the wages of righteousness without having to have kept any laws!
This is just awesome!
The Gifts of Natures
Adam broke a specific divine commandment and so earned his death.
His descendants, however, didn’t earn theirs. They got it as a gift of their nature from Adam!
Adam’s descendants died without having ‘earned’ death. After all they didn’t break any specific divine commandment. So death was their inheritance from Adam.
Jesus Christ obeyed a specific divine commandment and so earned His eternal life.
His descendants, therefore, no longer have to earn theirs! They will get it as a gift of their nature from Him!
When we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and are baptized into His name, we become His descendants, or offspring.
As a result, we receive His nature of righteousness, and its reward which is eternal life.
This is called justification. It means that God regards you as sinless!
Through the natural birth human beings receive the gift of the sin nature which is condemnation and death.
Through faith in Jesus Christ the believer receives the gift of God’s righteousness which is justification and eternal life.
So, today, because I’ve believed the gospel of Jesus Christ, and been baptized into Him, I am as righteous as God, and have eternal life. Not because of anything I did, or will do, but because I’m His descendant by faith, and a partaker of His righteousness nature!
I am righteous!