24 July 2007

Westminster Wednesday

Let's move on to question 14. Seems such a simple question and yet we need to be sure we have a full understanding of what sin is.

Q: What is sin?
A: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

James Fisher and John Flavel both do well explaining this Q&A for us. Let's delve into Fisher first:

Q. 1. In what consisted man's apostasy from God?
A. In sinning against him, Lam. 5:16.
Q. 2. How does it appear that there is such a thing as sin in the world?
A. The God of truth declares, that all have sinned, Rom. 3:23; the broken law cries for vengeance against transgressors, and by it is the knowledge of sin, Gal. 3:10; Rom. 3:20; conscience, God's deputy in every man's bosom, tells him he is guilty, Jer. 14:7; the reign of death, and the groans of the creatures round about us, Rom. 8:22, all bear testimony that there is such a thing as sin in the world.
Q. 3. Can there be any sin, where there is no law?
A. No; "for where there is no law there is no transgression," Rom. 4:15.
Q. 4. Of whose law is sin a transgression?
A. Of the law of God.
Q. 5. What may be understood by the law of God?
A. All the precepts, or commandments, God has given to man as a rule of his obedience.
Q. 6. Where is this law of God to be found?
A. There was a bright and fair copy of it written upon the heart of man in innocence; but that being, in a great measure, lost by the fall, God has written again to us the great things of his law, in the scriptures of truth, Psalm 147:19, 20.
Q. 7. Are all the laws of God mentioned in scripture, of binding force now under the New Testament?
A. No; the ceremonial law, which was a shadow of good things to come, is now abrogated since the coming of Christ in the flesh; and many of the judicial laws, in so far as they had a particular relation to the state of the Jewish nation, are laid aside; but the moral law is perpetually binding on all mankind, in all ages and periods of the world, Psalm 119:160.
Q. 8. Does God require a perfect conformity to this law?
A. Yes; for there is a curse pronounced against every one that continues not in all things written in the book of the law to do them, Gal. 3:10.
Q. 9. Why is the nature of sin expressed by a want of conformity to the law?
A. To let us know that our very natures, since the fall, are sinful, Isa. 1:5, 6; that we are now quite destitute of that original righteousness and holiness, which we had at our creation, Gen. 6:5; and that every swerving from the holy law, even in omitting what it commands is sin, as well as in committing what it forbids, Isa. 43:22.
Q. 10. Why is sin called a transgression of the law?
A. Because the law is the boundary of all our actions; and whenever we sin, we break the boundary and limit that God has set us, and so are exposed to the curse of the law, Eccl. 10:8; Gal. 3:10.
Q. 11. Does the law of God extend to the first motions of sin in the heart?
A. Yes; for, says the apostle, Rom. 7:7 -- "I had not known lust, except the law had said, `Thou shalt not covet,'"
Q. 12. How many kinds of sin are there?
A. Two kinds; original and actual.
Q. 13. What do you understand by original sin?
A. The sin of our nature, which is called original sin, because we were "shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin," Psalm 51:5; and because it was the first sin of man, and is the original and fountain of all actual sin, Matt, 15:19.
Q. 14. What do you understand by actual sin?
A. Every thing that is inconsistent with, and contrary to the law, in thought, word, or deed, 1 John 3:4.
Q. 15. How are actual sins divided?
A. Into sins of omission and commission.
Q. 16. What is a sin of omission?
A. It is a neglecting, or forgetting to do that good which the law commands, James 4:17.
Q. 17. What is a sin of commission?
A. It is a doing of what the law of God forbids, Psalm 51:4.

This is quite excellent. And now Flavel's exposition:

Q. 1. What is meant by the Law?
A. The commands and Rules flowing from God's Sovereignty, whereby his will is manifested, and the Creature bound to obedience.
Q. 2. Where is this Law written?
A. It is written either in the heart. Romans 2:15. Which shows the work of the law written in their hearts, which we call the law of nature. Or in the Bible, which we call the written Moral Law.
Q. 3. What conformity is due to this Law of God?
A. A twofold conformity is due to it. First, Internal, in our hearts. Secondly, External in our lives; and the want of either is sin. 1 John 3:4. Whosoever commiteth sin, transgresseth the also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.
Q. 4. How doth it appear that the want of internal conformity is sin?
A. Because the law requires it. Mark 12:30. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength; for this is the first commandment. And condemns the want of it. Romans 7:7. What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid: nay, I had not know sin but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Q. 5. Is nothing a sin but what is against God's law?
A. No, nothing can be a sin but what God hath either expressly , or by consequence forbidden in his word.
Q. 6. Wherein lies the evil of transgressing God's law?
A. The evil of sin principally lies in the offence and wrong done to God, whose sovereignty it labours to shake off, and despises his will. Psalm 51:4. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.
Q. 7. What further evil is sin?
A. It highly wrongs the Sinner's Soul, by defacing, defiling, and damning it. Proverbs 8:36. But he that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul, all they that hate me, love death.
Q. 8. Wherein is the evil of sin manifested?
A. It's manifested in the death of Christ, the Terrors of Conscience, and Torments of Hell.
Q. 9. What course must the sinner take to recover himself out of his misery?
A. Repentance towards God, Faith towards Christ; and both evidenced by new obedience. Acts 20:21. Testifying both to the Jew, and also the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
Q. 10. What may we infer from hence?
A. That we have infinite cause to bless God for Christ's Satisfaction of the Law for our sins.

It is crucial to understand sin as a Christian. Without a proper understanding of sin, it's history, it's nature, how it works in us and how Christ has saved us from it, we cannot truly know the joy of the Christian life as God would have for us. We need to meditate on the richness of the finished work of Christ on the cross so that we can fathom the depths of His mercy and grace.


Anonymous said...

The question of sin is critical, and the WCF's definition is a great one. So much of the modern church gets this question wrong. I've seen sin defined as "anything that hurts another person's self esteem", which is clearly a load of bunk. More commonly, people will say that this is a sin, that's a sin, when the things they're describing are never labeled such in Scripture. Christians can give themselves a useless load of guilt sometimes! (Or more importantly, quite frequently we'll give others a useless load of guilt.)

Reformed Renegade said...

Scrape - I absolutely agree! Nothing worse than adding to Scripture and when we define something as sin that Scripture does not we are certainly hurting others.