Yesterday our adult Bible study group encountered this question in the study materials: How do human beings typically evaluate the gravity of sin?
There were many answers, but we could all agree that we underestimate it, and without the perspective of the cross, we will never truly appreciate the gravity of our sin until we come face to face with our Creator and give account for it.
Something that continually reminds me of how serious sin is to God is reading the Old Testament. While we are living in what’s called “the age of grace,” on this side of the cross, the people of the Old Testament also lived under grace.
Romans 3:23-26 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Acts 17:30-31 – Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.
Before Jesus entered our time-space dimension in human form (for God is transcendent, existing outside of the boundaries of our natural laws), the world and its inhabitants lived by God’s grace, just as we do. God looked at men knowing that for those who put their faith in Him, having believed God, accepted and obeyed His commands, and followed His statutes and laws, their sins would one day be covered by the sacrifice of His Son. The daily animal sacrifices were a reminder, an aroma that satisfied His wrath until such time as the once-for-all sacrifice was completed on the cross.
Yet, there are times in the past, and I believe, even today, when God says “enough is enough” about our sin and those whose hearts rebel suffer the immediate and final consequences of their sin. God occasionally reminds us of the gravity of sin for our own good and the good of mankind.
The rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and the events that immediately followed in Numbers 16-17 are an example. The sons of Aaron were chosen for the priesthood, but Korah and his descendants would also serve in the tabernacle. This was not enough for them; they coveted the priesthood and spoke rebelliously and disrespectfully against Moses and Aaron, stirring up dissension by questioning their authority over the people.
Korah was foolish enough to accept Moses’ challenge to appear before the tent of meeting with their firepans and incense to see if God would accept their offering. Dathan and Abiram refused, completely disregarding Moses’ position as their leader.
Two things happened. God supernaturally demonstrated that Moses and Aaron were His chosen leaders in an undeniable, terrifying way. Fire came out from the Lord and consumed Korah and his group of two hundred and fifty rebels, and the earth opened up and swallowed Dathan and Abiram and all their families and belongings. To emphasize this was no freak accident, the earth “closed over them” afterward.
God left no doubt as to the gravity of sin.
When I read these stories, I’m so thankful and humbled that God opened my eyes and showed me the truth about my own sin. I’m grateful for the conviction of the Holy Spirit that led me to repent and receive salvation and that continues to convict me when I fail to obey God now, as His beloved child. Jesus took the consuming wrath of God in my place, but that doesn’t diminish the gravity of it. The fact that God looks at His Son and accepts His sacrifice as payment for the sins of the world magnifies both the seriousness of sin and the matchless power of the atoning blood of Jesus, our perfect, sinless Savior!
The world doesn’t take sin seriously. Mankind has lost his fear of God and discarded His commands. Yet, as Paul told those in Athens who were caught up in their idols, there is a righteous judgment coming, and we are without excuse, God having furnished proof to all men of the gravity of our sin, by raising Jesus from the dead.
The writer of Hebrews warns the unbelieving world as well.
Hebrews 12:25-29 – See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.
A day is coming when all sin will be done away with, consumed by the righteous and holy fire of a holy God. Those who have put their faith in Jesus will stand victorious on the other side of that judgment, clothed not in our own holiness, but in the perfect righteousness of Christ that has been gifted to our account. Those who refuse Him who is speaking will have no doubt as to the gravity of their sin, for our God is a consuming fire.