Sin is More than a Legal Problem
One of the easiest ways to explain the problem of sin is through a legal
analogy. This is one of the ways the Bible describes the problem of sin.
When we break God's law, we owe a debt that we cannot pay because we
forfeit what God has given to us, which is life. Jesus redeemed us from
sin by giving himself as a ransom for our sin (Mt 20:28) and paying our
debt with his own blood (1 Pet 1:18-19). With his blood, he cancelled the
certificate of debt that was against us (Col 2:14).
We need to remember, however, that this is not the only way the Bible
describes the problem of sin.
Sin is an intellectual problem. Those who turned away from God, though
they professed to be wise, became fools (Rom 1:22). They walk in the
futility of their mind (Eph 4:17). They become darkened in their
understanding (Eph 4:18). In their pseudo-wisdom, they are likely not even
aware of what sin has done to them. Their conscience has become calloused
(Eph 4:19; 1 Tim 4:2). Thinking without God at the center of our
philosophy is wrong thinking (Col 2:8). This is why our renewal is not
merely in morals, but a renewal of the mind (Eph 4:23).
Sin is a slavery problem. Jesus said that everyone who commits sin is a
slave to sin (Jn 8:34). Only Jesus can truly release us from the bondage
of sin. Without the freedom that comes in Christ, trying harder is an
exercise in futility (Rom 7:7-24). We may want to do good, but without
Christ we are a prisoner of the law of sin. Sin produces wrongful desires
in us that we cannot overcome apart from Christ.
Sin is a corruption problem. Sin reigned in death even before the law was
given (Rom 5:12-21). This indicates that sin is more than merely a legal
problem. Even though men did not inherit the guilt and condemnation of
their parents (Ezek 18:20), they nevertheless have the weakness of the
flesh and corruption from sin. This is why the Bible tells us that the old
self is corrupted (Eph 4:22). It has to be God at work in us both to will
and to work for his good pleasure (Phil 2:13). We were totally helpless
until Christ died for us (Rom 5:6). This slavery to corruption is why all
have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
Therefore, simply trying harder is a futile effort. We cannot lift
ourselves out of the mess of sin. This is why David asks God to create a
clean heart in him (Ps 51:10). It is God who purifies and refines his
people (Mal 3:3). Only Jesus can truly purify our evil conscience (Heb
9:14; 10:22). We are not saved by our own righteous deeds, but according
to God's mercy through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the
Spirit (Tit 3:5). Baptism saves us in that it is an appeal to God for a
good conscience through the resurrection (1 Pet 3:21). Only our crucified
our risen Lord can purify and wash our defiled conscience when we submit
to him in baptism. Then, as we remain in fellowship with our Lord, he
continues to transform and renew us (2 Cor 3:18).