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The Reality of Our Sin

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 11, 2024 12:01 am

The Reality of Our Sin

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 11, 2024 12:01 am

How serious is the problem of sin? Today, R.C. Sproul explains that sin isn't merely an external blemish--it goes to the very core of our being.

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R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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The portrait that we get in the Scriptures of man in his fallen condition is that sin penetrates massively to the whole of the fallen person. In other words, sin is not a simple external blemish, but it is something that goes to the very core of our being. We've said over the past few weeks that the world, those in the world, are struggling with an identity crisis.

They don't know who they are, and R.C. Sproul has spent time considering the reality that each of us is made in the image of God. There is another reality that we cannot ignore, and one that people seek to downplay, that we are also sinners. It's good to have you with us for this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. Just as everyone has dignity because they're made in the image of God, outside of Christ, everyone is under the wrath of God because of sin. So we can't answer the question, who am I? Who are we as humans without dealing with the topic of sin?

And to help you answer those questions and help those around you who may be asking them, we're offering this complete series along with R.C. Sproul's book, The Hunger for Significance, when you give a gift of any amount at Well, here's Dr. Sproul from his series, A Shattered Image on the Reality of Our Sin. There's one word I think that crystallizes the essence of the Christian faith. I'm going to begin this session by calling your attention to that word, and it is the word grace. In fact, one of the great mottos of the Protestant Reformation was this Latin phrase, sola gratia, by grace alone.

Now this phrase wasn't invented by the 16th century Reformers, but has its roots in the theology of St. Augustine, who incorporated this phrase to call attention to the central concept of the essence of Christianity, that our redemption in the presence of God is by grace, sola, alone, that the only possible way a human being can ever find themselves reconciled in the presence of God is by virtue of grace. Now, that concept is so central to the teaching of Scripture, you would think that by now to even mention it would be an insult to people's intelligence because it's so, so elementary. And yet, if there is any dimension of Christian theology that I think has become obscured in the 20th century, it is this core notion of grace. I've already mentioned in the process of this series that one of the most important series that I regard in Ligonier's catalog of education is that one that focuses on the holiness of God. And I've said on many, many occasions the two things that every human being just absolutely has to come to understand is one, the holiness of God and two, the sinfulness of man. Those seem to be the two poles of thinking that we have done everything in our power to obscure.

We simply don't want to face them, and they go together. If we understand who God is, if we catch the slightest glimpse of His majesty, of His purity, of His holiness, then we are instantly aware of the extent of our own corruption and then we'll fly to grace because we will recognize that there's no possible way that we can ever stand before God apart from grace. The prophet Habakkuk was upset during one period in Jewish history because as he looked around himself he saw the enemies of the people of God triumphing. He saw the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering. In a word, ladies and gentlemen, he saw manifest injustice, and his complaint was a complaint we all utter from time to time, that's not fair. And he raised this lament saying, where is God in all of this? How can a holy God, a righteous God, a just God allow these injustices to go on unchecked?

And here's how he states his lament, and I want you to listen to it carefully as it comes from the first chapter of the book of Habakkuk. Oh Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. Oh Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgment. Oh Rock, you have ordained them to punish. And then he goes on to say, your eyes are too pure to look upon evil. Your eyes are too pure to even look at evil. God, you are so holy that you can't stand even a cursory glance at anything that is impure, that anything that is unholy. And so he goes on to say, you can't tolerate wrong. Now let me just back off of this passage for a second and say, this is anything but characteristic of our human situation. We can tolerate what is wrong. In fact, we can't survive unless we learn how to tolerate what is wrong, because if we don't tolerate what is wrong, we can't tolerate each other, and we can't tolerate ourselves.

I mean, have you ever asked this question, how do you live with them? Or how do you live with yourself in order for me to live with myself as a sinner I have to learn how to tolerate something that is evil. If my eyes were too holy than to behold iniquity, I'd have to shut my eyes to speak to you here in this studio, because what I'm seeing before me is a group of people who are fallen.

And what you see standing before you is a man who has besmirched the image of God. And so Habakkuk goes on to say then, why do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? Habakkuk couldn't fathom how God could endure and be patient with human evil.

We can't tolerate any thinking of being upset about human evil. I mean, we become antagonistic toward the idea of a God who is so holy that He might turn His back from looking at something or someone that is sinful. And yet that is the dilemma the Scripture set before us. We have a holy God whose image we bear.

Our fundamental responsibility as human beings is to mirror and reflect who His character is, and yet we are not holy. So now, though we're made in the image of God, that which is so basic to our humanity that it becomes part of the definition of man is that man is a sinner. You've heard this expression repeatedly, no one is perfect or to err is human and to forgive is divine.

Now, you've heard that comment, haven't you? When we say to err is human, to forgive is divine, we again go back to the idea erare humanem est, which means to err is human. We've heard that little phrase so many times that we begin to see that the idea to err is human, what is unspoken, what is assumed when we make the comment is, well, to err is human, so it's perfectly what? Okay, to err, because what could possibly be more human than to make a mistake?

And we have grown at ease in Zion here and comfortable with the fact that we are disobedient. To err is human, and to err comes under the judgment of God. When we sin, we want to describe our sinful activity in terms of a mistake as if that sort of softens or mitigates the guilt involved, because we don't think it's wrong for a child to add two and two and come up with five. We know the answer is wrong, but we don't spank them and say, you bad boy, you know, you made five instead of four out of two and two. That's what we think of mistakes as being simply part of the human condition. We can't help it. To err is human, which is to say it's okay. It's like how many times have you heard people say this? Well, you know, everybody's entitled to one mistake.

Have you heard that? You said it. We live in a country of entitlements where we have our inalienable rights, and one of those inalienable rights that we assume now has been given to us by our Creator is the inalienable right to make a mistake. Everybody's entitled to one. My question for you is this.

From whence cometh that entitlement? Where did God ever say, well, you're allowed to sin once. I'm not going to be happy if you sin twice. If you sin three times, you're really in trouble, but everybody gets one. Did God ever say that?

No. You're not entitled to one mistake, but even if you were, how long ago did you use it up? We are so accustomed to our fallenness, to our corruption, that yes, our moral sensibilities are offended when we see somebody involved in gross and heinous criminal activity, somebody who's a serial murderer who goes out and butchers people. Then all of a sudden we have a moral protest that we're feeling vehemently, but the normal everyday casual disobedience to God doesn't bother us because to err is human and to forgive is divine. Now again, the second part of that comment, to err is human, to forgive is divine, suggests it must be God's nature to do what? To forgive. We sin, God forgives. To err is human, to forgive divine. And again, the unspoken implication is if He doesn't forgive, if He withholds that forgiveness, then there's something wrong with His very deity because it is to be the nature of God to forgive. Dear friends, it is not necessary to the essence of deity to forgive.

Forgiveness is grace, and we define grace as undeserved or unmerited favor. But what I'm trying to get at today are some of the theories that have been expounded to explain what it means for man to have fallen. How is sin to be understood in our anthropology?

What factor does it play? Is sin something that we look at the human species and we say, well, here is a creature called man, and we'll use that circle to represent man. Is sin something accidental or tangential to our humanness? Now when I say accidental, I don't mean accidental in the sense of a tree falling in the woods and happening to fall on somebody's head, but rather I'm speaking philosophically now.

In the ancient Aristotelian categories, anything that was an object or a substance was understood to have both an essence, what it really is, and are there things qualities that are accidental, that is on the periphia, that may or may not accompany the thing. Here's Bob Ingram sitting here in front of me, and he has a mustache. Now is that mustache essential to his humanity? If he shaves that mustache, will he be less than a man? He may think so, and so he'll guard it with his life. If he shaves his mustache, would he still be Bob Ingram?

We would say that the mustache, though it adorns him beautifully, is not essential to Ingram. It's accidental, even though it's on purpose. What we mean by accidental is that it is on the periphia of it. Now my question is, is sin in our humanity accidental or essential?

Now here's where I have to play with your heads a little bit and say yes and no. Sin is not essential to humanity as such unless we believe that God made man sinful at the beginning. If sin is absolutely essential to our humanity, then that would mean Jesus was what? Either sinful, or if he was sinless, he would not be human. He would not be a man because to err is human, and if Jesus didn't err, he wouldn't be human.

So we don't mean that sin is essential in the sense that it is an absolute precondition, a prerequisite for humanity. Adam had no sin when he was created. He was still human. Jesus had no sin during his life.

He was still human. You will have no sin if and when you get to heaven and you will still be human. So sin is not essential in the sense of necessary for a person's being human, but neither do we want to say that sin is merely something tangential, accidental, or on the surface of our humanity. Rather, the portrait that we get in the Scriptures of man in his fallen condition is that sin penetrates massively to the whole of the fallen person. In other words, sin is not a simple external blemish, but it is something that goes to the very core of our being.

Now, the tendency in philosophy and the tendency in our daily lives is to minimize as much as possible this human condition of sinfulness. I remember when I was in seminary and I had to learn about various theories of sin. The things that I would hear most often in the seminary to explain human sin included three. One, sin was defined as finitude. Two, sin was defined as inauthentic existence, the existential failure. And three, it was seen as a psychological distortion.

I'm not going to go into all of these, but let's look at the top one because this is the one that we hear most frequently to explain why it is that human beings sin. To be finite means that we are creatures. There is a limit, an extent to our powers and to our beings.

God is infinite, meaning that He is eternal in time and He's boundless in space and so on. But finitude goes with anything that is created. Anything that is created is weaker than that which creates it. The Creator exists by His own power. You can't exist by your own power. You are dependent, derived, contingent, fragile.

It's part of just being a creature. Now, what happens in philosophy and theological things is that evil is regarded as being necessary, a necessary component of finitude. Found this in nineteenth-century liberal philosophy. We find it in politics, existential theology in the twentieth century where we sin because we are finite. Let me just give a brief exposition of that in one of the most important treatments of it in philosophical history, and that's with the philosopher Leibniz. Have you ever heard of Leibniz? Some of you have heard of Leibniz, the rational philosopher who's famous for producing a very intriguing theodicy.

A theodicy is a rational attempt to justify God or to exonerate God for the presence of evil in the world. It's like the philosophers say, I am going to be God's defense attorney. Everybody's mad at God because this world is ruined. It's marred.

It's blemished. It's His principle creation. Man is the most corrupt of all. Now, what's wrong with a God who has botched the job so severely? We're going to try to defend God and shift the blame from God to some other place where it belongs.

And Leibniz came to this theory. He said there are three kinds of evil in the world. There's moral evil, which we understand.

We call it sin. There is physical evil, which we understand. Physical evil would be disease or a calamity that befalls us because of the wind or the fire and the storm, what we call an act of God.

Earthquake swallows us up. That's physical evil. And then thirdly, Leibniz spoke of what he called metaphysical evil. Metaphysical evil, meaning that to be finite is less great than being infinite, and to be finite is to be metaphysically imperfect. Only that which is infinite would be metaphysically perfect. So anything that is created is by its very nature finite. And then he goes on and says that moral evil flows out of physical evil and or metaphysical evil. So that what's wrong with the world is simply that the world is finite. Now do you remember Voltaire's writing the little book Candide?

How many of you studied Candide? Remember Dr. Pangloss and he had this sanguine view of the world. There had been a terrible earthquake in Lisbon that had taken countless lives, and at the time some of the Portuguese people were singing Que Sera Sera.

You know, what will be will be. This is the hand of God. Other people were shaking their fists against heaven saying, how could a good and righteous God allow this terrible national calamity to take place? And so there were philosophers like Leibniz who were trying to answer that question, and Voltaire was poking fun at him. Dr. Pangloss in Candide is simply the fictional representation of the philosopher Leibniz, because Leibniz said this, the only way God can make people is to make them finite. The only kind of a world God could ever create is a finite world, because even God couldn't, I want you to think now, even God couldn't possibly create another God. Why couldn't God create another God, a second God?

It's kind of easy, isn't it? Because the second God would be a creature. It would be dependent upon the first God for its very existence.

It would be finite, dependent, and derived. There can only be one self-existent eternal God. You can't have two of them where the second one is created by the first one. The second one is disqualified by the very word creation, because it's finite. And so Leibniz says the only way God could create man, the only way He could create a world is to create a finite. And so bottom line it says God has done the best He could possibly do. This is the best of all possible worlds. And that was the message of Dr. Pangloss in Candide. This is the best of all possible worlds.

Remember Pascal? Pascal says, I can conceive of a better one. You can conceive of a better world than the world you're living in now.

It's not the best of all possible worlds. But the biggest problem with finitude is that this explanation for man's fallenness and man's sinfulness places the blame for sin ultimately where? On God. And it absolves all of us from any kind of responsibility. This is the ultimate moral cop-out whereby I say, not that the devil made me do it, but even worse than that, the Creator made me do it because He made me finite. And to err is human, and now since I'm just being human, God is obligated to forgive me. Ladies and gentlemen, we are fallen, and we are finite, and we do everything in our power that we can to destroy any authenticity there may be to our existence.

And yes, we have psychological disturbances and so on, and chemical imbalances, all of which may contribute to mitigating circumstances to our behavior. But the problem with man's being in the image of God is that we transgress His law. God will never judge us for being finite, but He will justly judge us for being disobedient. Now what I want to do in the next two sessions is to explore even more deeply what it means to be fallen, what it means to have lost the image of God in the narrower sense. How fallen are we? Is there such a thing as original sin?

And we'll look at that the next time. God will justly judge us for being disobedient. That's a truth that the world needs to hear so that by God's grace, they would flee to Christ for forgiveness. And you can hear more about the forgiveness that is available for sinners at slash gospel.

You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was R.C. Sproul from his series A Shattered Image. Knowing what it means to be human is hotly contested today, and so to help you, we're making two resources from Dr. Sproul available for your gift of any amount at You'll receive lifetime streaming access to today's series, A Shattered Image, plus we'll send you his book, The Hunger for Significance, Seeing the Image of God in Man. This offer ends at midnight, so give your gift today at, and know that your support enables the spread of trusted teaching and the proclamation of the gospel to the nations. Thank you. Just how sinful are we? How bad is our condition? Join us next Saturday as R.C. Sproul explains here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-11 02:54:14 / 2024-05-11 03:02:53 / 9

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