Hamartiology is a theological term that refers to the study of sin. Yes, I said the word sin and the word theology. This article will be heavy theology to some by wade through the waters if you can. I am just a student attempting to learn more about our Lord.
Sin means to miss the mark of God’s standard and perfection. I know it is an unfamiliar word in some circles but it is the most dangerous influence in the universe. The truth about sin is an acquired taste and it is definitely unpalatable to this generation and in times past. Sin is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). The Bible calls it the plague of the heart (1 Kings 8:38). People do not, cannot and will not become conformed to the will of God because they are deformed in their nature because of sin. Sin is not just a habit or an illness it is the punishment that has brought spiritual death. We need to study about the radical depravity of humans because unless we know about the nature, origin and consequences of sin we can never genuinely worship God for his mighty power to save and free us from its penalty, power and presence.
The book of Genesis records that God created our planet in six 24 hour periods or days (Gen. 1-2). God created human beings in his image and breathed life into them (Gen. 1:26; 2:27). Adam was a man who had a body which served as an earthly exterior and he was given “the breath of lives” and given a spirit and soul or heavenly insides. God made a garden paradise for them to live in (Gen 2:8).
Grace or Work in The Garden
Certain theologians insist that adhering to the belief that God and Adam had a covenant of works-based on the obedience of Adam to God’s command as a test of whether you really have pure doctrine. But John Murray says,
“Towards the end of the 16th century the administration dispensed to Adam in Eden, focused in the prohibition to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had come to be interpreted as a covenant, frequently called the Covenant of Works, sometimes a covenant of life, or the Legal Covenant. It is, however, significant that the early covenant theologians did not construe this Adamic administration as a covenant, far less as a covenant of works. Reformed creeds of the 16th century such as the French Confession (1559), the Scottish Confession (1560), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Thirty-Nine Articles (1562), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and the Second Helvetic (1566) do not exhibit any such construction of the Edenic institution. After the pattern of the theological thought prevailing at the time of their preparation, the term ‘covenant,’ insofar as it pertained to God’s relations with men, was interpreted as designating the relation constituted by redemptive provisions and as belonging, therefore, to the sphere of saving grace.” (John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray: 4, Studies in Theology, “Covenant Theology,” (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), pp. 217-18).
But there is too much evidence of grace and mercy in the Garden of Eden as God condescended to the first couple. Adam was not left to himself without help and and just because his decisions or his will were unfettered from evil desires does not mean he did not need God’s life and communion. He was made to fellowship with God. Because Adam fell was he more dependant on God for mercy? I do not think so. Adam needed God’s presence and life just in his glorious state of perfection as well. God was the Creator and He was still the created. Eventually, we see the root of his sinful pride was that he did not want to depend on God alone. But Adam, holy and innocent as he was stood out as a specimen of the Sovereign grace of God. His wife was a gift by grace. His home, work and title were all gifts of grace. He owed his very existence to God’s grace! The biggest problem with the Covenant of Works is that it misconstrues God’s dealings with Adam. Does God legally deal with Adam on the basis of his works and obedience and then make another covenant of grace later that deals with us in mercy apart from our actions? What did Adam fall from anyway? It was an awful apostasy and breakdown from the life, love and communion he had with God. He fell from grace!
Wanted: Adam Dead or Alive
Adam was promised life for obedience and threatened death for disobedience. He has to obey God or he could not enjoy fellowship with God. As many preachers point out that he was free to eat from every tree except that one. The emphasis was on God’s grace and Adam’s status. Adam was a representative or federal head of all human beings (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:22, 47). There is a biblical implication that God made a covenant with Adam but it was because of grace and steadfast love (Hosea 6:6-7). Then our first parents disobeyed God (Gen 3). When he disobeyed things changed. When Adam sinned he died spiritually (Ezek. 18:20; Eph. 2:5) and He became a slave to sin (Romans 6:16; 2 Peter 2:19) and the sin he sinned and the death he died was transmitted to all of humanity (Rom. 5:12). Simply put, total depravity means human beings are dead in sin and sold out to its power. Death and total depravity are synonymous.
The idea of God giving Adam the death penalty for his crime had somehow slipped our minds. But it is clear as day. God’s justice and mercy are woven through the tapestry of scripture. God sentenced Adam to slavery to sin and spiritual death. Was God unrighteous to enforce this penalty as Creator and Lawgiver? His perfection, holiness and justice are limitless! He hates sin. All sin is against God (Psalm 51: 4). This must never be forgotten. Adam countered God’s goodness, kindness and glory with violating his law! Adam was made for God’s glory and to serve him and Adam betrayed the God of heaven with what R.C. Sproul refers to as “cosmic treason.” Adam deliberately rebelled against God and defected to serve Satan and his lies. That is why God inflicted capital punishment upon him and sentenced him to death, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die!” (Gen 2:17). God takes vengeance upon Adam and repays him to the face for his deed with spiritual and eventually physical death and also slavery to the sin Adam loved so much (Deut 7:10; Rom 12:19).
Arthur Pink comments that man, “is like a murderer in the condemned cell awaiting execution…he is dead vitally, without a single spark of spiritual life. Thus he is totally dead to God and holiness, cast out of His favor, without any power to recover it.” That is total depravity in a nutshell. Adam was put to death by God. He was executed for his crime. The day he ate he died inside and he sat on death row until he died physically. The payback of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Human beings are so entrenched in sin they cannot produce anything that is equal to God’s standard for heaven. The heart and will are dead. This does not mean he cannot feel guilt or is unable to discern right and wrong. This does not mean they cannot make day to day decisions or feel affection for others. What this means is that men are incapable of loving God in and of themselves and in their mind hate the truth of God are defiant against it. In everything humans do is tainted with sin. This truth should humble us.
A Love-Hate Relationship
God was angry at Adam for what he did. American Christianity will avoid talking about God’s wrath or deny God has anger at all. They think it portrays God having some fault or blemish in his character. But he detests, loathes and has an aversion to evil and hates sin. God does not separate that anger toward those who live in sin either. People will say that God’s wrath was an Old Covenant issue, not in the New Covenant. Ridiculous! Right now God’s wrath is revealed from heaven (Rom. 1:18). There is a day of wrath coming (Mt 3:7; Luke 3:7; Rom 2:5). For people who do not believe in Christ God’s wrath is upon them (John 3:36), they are ominously called “the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).
God does love righteousness and hate iniquity (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1: 9). Let us be clear: God’s hatred for sin and the God’s passion for justice are divinely foreign and transcend human emotions and affections. He does not love as we love, he does not hate as we hate-He is perfect love and perfect holiness! Many people point out that God is love (1 John 4:8) but He is not all loving and all forgiving. He also is holy and just. There are scriptures that teach God hates the unrepentant reprobate (Hosea 9:15; Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Lev. 20:23; Prov. 6:16-19; Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13)! Does this shock you? How could this be? I know it is a lot to think about. We have always been taught that God does not hate anyone. The Bible teaches this in contradiction to much preaching today. This is the most difficult truth for anyone to swallow because the majority of people especially church goers under spin doctor preaching or pop theology want unconditional acceptance from God no matter what they do. God giving people over to their desires such as Romans 1:18-32 is another truth that sours in their spiritual stomachs.
They also think in humanistic terms because what they do is not as bad as others. Notice the comparison they use, “not as bad as others.” We hate (tolerantly, politely and sometimes angrily) those who commit awful crimes. The molester, child abuser or murderer are an object of hostility, abhorrence and revulsion. Whereas we know we should not take the law in our hands but when justice is served upon awful criminals, molesters, murderers-we loathe them and want to see justice served. Those who we appoint to represent us and to deal with crime, are called God’s servants, “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Rom 13: 4). But God’s wrath is free from anything tainted by sin and what are the sinful actions of we human beings contrasted with the thrice Holy God of the universe? Where angels since eternity involuntarily past spill out and never grow weary of crying out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!” (Rev. 4:8). What sin ticks God off? All sin whether in thought, word or deed (James 2:10). Even taking a piece of fruit in the Garden angered him, because He commanded Adam not to do it.
Christ is the Only Hope For Sinners
In Genesis chapter three Adam and Eve were unable to clothe themselves, hide themselves, excuse themselves and unable to save themselves. The flimsy leaves of their self righteousness could not clear them of their deeds (Isaih 64:6). I believe that God acted in mercy toward the elect first parents by slaying the animal and clothing them with animal skins. Sin had to be punished and at the same time he wanted to save his creation! But how could he justify the ungodly without violating his own laws (Prov 17:15)? Only Jesus, the eternal Son of God was the only One who could save them. His sacrifice was the only act that could save us. For Adam and Eve, Abel and others those who saw the shadow of the cross across their path were saved retroactively (Heb. 10:1).
Christ removes spiritual death and the last enemy to be destroyed has already been dealt a death blow (1 Cor 15:26). The God-man was the perfect once-for-all sacrifice (Heb 10:10). King Jesus, the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8) left his throne above to come and die in the place of sinful men, to satisfy a God who was offended at the despicable acts of man. This was a type of what the predicted “seed of the woman” would do (Gen 3:15). He would be sacrificed to appease the anger of God. That is the meaning of the word propitiation and atonement. Only in Christ can we be saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10).
Jesus Christ came into this world for lawbreakers and sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and they can only be saved by the power of the Spirit of God drawing them to foot of Calvary’s cross (John 6:44). Jesus died saying, “Father forgive them!” (Luke 23:34) in making covenant in his blood (Heb 13:20). he not only made the covenant but he was the Covenant (Isaiah 42:6) and he sealed these people as he died for them to give them eternal life (Eph4:30). Jesus could look at the people given to him by the Father and say, “because I live ye shall live also.” (John 14:19). The last Adam was a life giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45) who came and resurrected the lost souls of his elect people by his own resurrection. He is the first of the harvest of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:23). Jesus will resurrect human beings from their graves notonly physically (John 5:28) but he gives new birth to those whom he breathes on and speaks life to (John 3:5; 20:22; Eph 2:1, 5). He will give life, eternal life to believers, those ordained to eternal life (Acts 13:48). He sees people in their dead condition and he says, “Come forth!” (Luke 11:43).
Notice what Jesus says, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27). “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph 5:25). Jesus loves us, he comes as God’s answer not ours. He died in love for his church, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1). He stooped down to wash their sins away and to remove the reason for God’s wrath against them! He loves the justified sinner (John 14:21). The blood of Jesus Christ washed their sins away (Rev. 1:5). He lavishly, abundantly poured out the riches of his grace and forgiveness “in love” upon his own, those he has saved (Eph 1:4-7). We are rooted and grounded in that love (Eph3:17) and Christ is the sole hope of salvation.
Must God Kill Us?
Some of you bristle still at the fact that God executed Adam for his crimes and sentenced him to return to the dust. But there is a death we all must die that is not physical. It is through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that the Word of God must kill us (John 16:8; Heb 4:12). God says to Israel, “I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” (Hosea 6:5NIV). Real biblical preaching puts to death the pride of humans and exalts God! That is where surrender to God comes in the form of repentance. Why? Repentance is the death to self that we all must die so that we come alive in Christ clothed in his righteousness not the tattered rags of our self righteousness. We must take up our cross and follow Christ. Adam’s flimsy leaves, and taking cover behind the tree of his sins could not cover his sin. Like him we cannot hide. All the church of today offers with its self improvement, motivational psycho-gospel leaves us red faced and ashamed in the presence of the God whose piercing gaze cannot be bribed with the good works of man. Humans must take on the robe of Christ and hide behind or in the rugged wood of the cross of Christ!
Let me finish with the words of Charles Spurgeon:
“This downcasting and slaying is good for us. We take a deal of killing, and it is by being killed that we live. Many a man will never live till his proud self is slain. O proud Pharisee, if you are to live among those whom God accepts, you will have to come to the slaughterhouse and be cut in pieces as well as killed. “This is dreadful work,” saith one, “this dividing of joints and marrow, this spiritual dismemberment and destruction.” Assuredly it is painful, and yet it were a grievous loss to be denied it. Alas, how many are so good and excellent, and strong and wise, and clever, and all that, that they cannot agree to be saved by grace through faith. If they could be reduced to less than nothing it would be the finest thing that ever happened to them. Remember what Solomon said might be done with the fool, and yet it would not answer–he was to be brayed in a mortar among wheat with a pestle,-pretty hard dealing that, and yet his folly would not depart from him. Not by that process alone, but through some such method, the Holy Spirit brings men away from their folly. Under his killing operations this may be their comfort that, if Jesus Christ rose literally from the dead (not from sickness, but from death), and lives again, even so will his people. “