The Gospel 4: Sin
By: Deji Yesufu
In 2014, Peter Uka was appointed by a local church in Lagos to come to Ibadan once every month to share the gospel message with a group of about five of us. He did this for six months. This was a period when we were trying to kick-start a discipleship work in this city. Peter is one of the greatest preachers in the world – he knows how to make difficult subject easy to understand[i]. To make a point in one of his messages one evening, he gave us a vivid example of something that happened to him when he was younger. Peter had a domestic accident once when a relative poured hot soup on his body while he was sleeping. Because his family was very poor, they could only afford to use a quark nurse down the road. After some weeks, they visited a friend of the family who was a senior matron and this woman was literally crying when she saw Peter. She said if something was not done fast, he would never be able to move that arm again. This woman carefully removed the old gauze on the wound and then treated the wound properly. The process of removing the gauze involved having to tear the cloth off surfaces of skin. It was very painfully but Peter knew that he would not know healing except the wound is properly exposed and treated.
Sin as Trouble Within
Many times Bible teachers like me accuse a genre of theology that pervades much of our land of making light of sin. We say these people do not preach sin and so on and so forth. The affected ministers respond by saying that their job is not to guilt trip people; they say they are sent to comfort God’s people with the gospel and not to condemn them. The sad reality is that there is no way a person will find the healing balm of the gospel of Christ except the truth of that person’s sins are unveiled to him. While I understand that there is a kind of preaching that is very unhealthy, where the preacher spends all his time talking about obvious sins while neglecting the inner ones, the truth remains that there is no gospel preaching until the Holy Spirit unveils the sins of men to them. This is why if we must discuss the gospel in these series, we must also paint clearly the horrors of sin and man’s rebellion against a holy God.
Paul the Apostle, while writing to the Romans, stated this: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is possible to read this scripture and forget that the “all” in this context includes everyone, both sinners and saints. When Paul wrote that scripture, he had just described the futility of Gentile thinking (Romans 1:18-32) and the uselessness of the Jewish religion (Romans 2). Paul was saying in essence that whichever way you cut it, we are all sinners and we cannot of ourselves enter God’s glory. Naturally, we all deserve hell.
In even more graphic terms, Paul talks about the sinfulness of man in his epistle to the Ephesians: “And you were dead in trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1). Here the great Apostle is describing the man without God and without Christ. He calls him “dead in trespasses and sins”. It is scriptures like these that made our reformed fathers say that unsaved man is totally depraved; or human beings, naturally do not have any tendency for good, for righteousness, or for God. The natural man’s mind is wicked continually and his thoughts are far from God. The man who is not born-again by the power of God’s Holy Spirit is dead in sin and cannot choose righteousness. The perfect picture here is like asking a corpse to rise up and carry out a task. It is dead; it can do no other but continue to be dead.
John the Apostle drives the point even further by describing the natural state of every human being: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). John is here writing a letter to Christians and telling them that they should not even entertain the thoughts of some “sinless perfection”. Even as Christians, we are sinners.
The Holiness of God
We might, however, not comprehend our sins better until we put it next to the concept of the glory of God, or what some call the holiness of God. Paul in Romans 3:23 say we come short of the glory of God. We get a picture of what God’s glory is when we read of Isaiah the prophet’s experience when he saw God in Isaiah 6. Isaiah was God’s mouthpiece to the nation of Israel. He was supposed to be their epitome of holiness. In fact, from chapter one to five, we see him continually denouncing everyone and everything with woes. But in chapter six, when he saw the glory of God he confessed: “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…” If we are to see God in our natural state, we would gladly choose to go to hell than to remain in his presence.
One cannot sufficiently describe the concept of God’s glory in a short blog like this except to say that God’s glory is a description of his perfect holiness. Even the holy angels that dwell in God’s presence cannot but proclaim him as “holy, holy, holy” – he is so holy it must be described three times in one breath. God’s holiness is so profound that even if a man were to have committed only one sin in his lifetime, that sin is sufficient to damn him for all eternity. God’s holiness reflects his glory and there is no man living that can behold this glory and live (Exodus 33:20). God is supremely holy and we cannot earn our righteousness to enter into his presence. If sinful man will see God, he must find grace before a supremely holy God.
If the gospel will do us any good, our sins must be revealed to us – we must come to that point when we say with Isaiah “woe is me”. And the only person who can bring us to a perfect contemplation of our sins is God the Holy Spirit. Jesus said of the Spirit: “When he (the Holy Spirit) is come, he will reprove the world of sin…” The trouble that we have with a lot of gospel preaching is not allowing the Holy Spirit do a work of conviction in people. Evangelists are so eager to portray numbers of people that may have “come to Christ” that they eagerly urge them to come forward and say some sinners’ prayers. This is not gospel preaching. If a true work of grace will be done in the hearts of men, the Holy Spirit must awaken dead sinners to the reality of their sinfulness. This is the reason why as ministers of the gospel we spend time to pray to God to convict men of their sins and bring them to comprehend their need of a Savior. It all begins with sin. We must know our sins. We must detest our sins. We must see our sins. We must abhor our sins. It is the one whose sins have been painfully unveiled by the power of the Holy Spirit that can find the balm of grace for healing.
Christ Alone as Answer to Sin
When we realize this, we discover that preaching on sin is actually a pathway to the gospel of grace. The truth of the matter is that there is so much deficient preaching in the churches because the ministers themselves have not found grace to heal themselves of sin. I would always be thankful to a minister under whose ministry I served for many years. He was earnest about healing the sick because he was once ill himself. But by utilizing faith healing, this man had been healed from migraine headaches and he would always say proudly that God had so healed him that he has never had to return to the hospital again for any medication, either for migraine headaches or for any other ailment. I realized that this man was passionate about bodily healing, like many in the Word of Faith movement, because he had been healed of a sickness. I, on the other hand, understood what it meant to be healed from my sins and thus I am passionate about preaching the gospel that alone brings healing to sin. I also realized that the falsehood in the Faith healing movement is to reduce God’s redemptive work to healing of physical bodies. The true work of grace is God making a sinner realize his sins and bringing forth healing to him in the process.
When our Lord Jesus Christ was born, this message was said about him: “And she (Mary) shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Halleluyah! Jesus Christ came to the world; he lived, died, and rose again that he might save his people from their sins. That scripture did not say he would save them from sickness and diseases; it did not say Christ will save them from poverty and lack; it said he would save his people from their sins.
When we realize the sinfulness of sin; when we discover the glory of God; when we understand the holiness of God; we would realize why we need saving from our sins. It does not matter who we are: whether we are Christians or unbelievers, we are sinners. And there is one whom God has sent to save us from sin: his name is Jesus. Amen.
In my next blog post, I would examine the matter of redemption. If you are earnest about the gospel and desire to see men come to living faith in Christ, kindly share these truths with them and pray that God will bring men to understand their sinfulness and thus their need of a Savior.
All images from Google Image.
[i] Peter Uka has continually denied my labelling him the greatest preacher on earth. I tell him it is because he is too modest and this is my own opinion which I hope I am still entitled to.