Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST0005/7 The Consequence of Sin.


The Consequences of Sin.

(a) The Immediate Consequences of the Fall.

Wiley's paragraph on this is so good that it is transcribed here:

  1. "The immediate consequences of man's sin were estrangement from God, enslavement to Satan, and the loss of divine grace. By this loss man became subject to physical and moral corruption. Man no longer possessed the glory of His moral likeness to God. Having lost the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, he began a life of external discord and internal misery.                                                              The earth itself was cursed, and man compelled to earn his bread by the sweat of his face. Within man`s sin resulted in the birth of an evil conscience and a sense of shame and degradation. Deprived of the Holy Spirit as the organizing principle of his being, there could be no harmonious ordering of his faculties, and hence his powers became disordered.                                                                                   From this disordered state there followed as a consequence: blindness of heart or a loss of spiritual discernment; evil concupiscence or unregulated carnal craving; and moral inability or weakness in the presence of sin. But even the heinousness of his sin and the shame of his fall did not result in the utter destruction of his being. The unseen hand of the promised Redeemer prevented it. Thus the mystery of sin and the mystery of grace met at the gate of Eden," ( Christ.Theol.pp.164,l65).

(b) The More General. Consequences of Sin.

There are three realms of thought in which the consequences of sin can be considered. If we think of our relationship to God along the line of a family or natural relationship, then sin resulted in estrangement between man and his creator; if we think of it from a legal point of view, then sin involves guilt and penalty; if we think of it from a religious point of view, then the consequences of sin are defilement and depravity.

We are thinking particularly of the second in this section, and the third will be considered more fully in the next section when dealing with the question of original sin. It is essential to differentiate clearly between guilt and penalty. Guilt infers personal blameworthiness and carries with it responsibility for the act. Penalty, however, refers to the continuing results and consequences of the act and may affect others not personally responsible.

(i) The Nature of Guilt.

Guilt arises from the transgression of law. The guilt of man before God arises from the transgression of God's law and rebellion against and opposition to a personal holy and loving God. Guilt immediately brings liability to penalty.

Careful distinction must be made first, between the fact of guilt and the consciousness of guilt; sin deceives and hardens the heart and we may get to the place where we sin without consciousness of guilt, but that does not mean that our guilt is in any sense lessened: second, between liability to penalty and the penalty itself; the penalty is sometimes deferred.

(ii) The Nature of Penalty.

Its surely as thrusting the hand in the fire results in the hand being burned, so sin brings its own penalty. Any breaking of God`s natural, moral or spiritual laws brings its own penalty, and the penalty varies with the sin. In addition to this, the penalty of sin sometimes comes by the direct decree or command of God.

Penalty, therefore, is the punishment which follows sin in whichever way it comes. There has been much discussion as to whether punishment is retributive or reformative. Neither rules the other out, nor is it correct to think that if penalty and punishment are merely retributive, they are therefore wrong.

God must uphold the righteous government of His universe and the holiness of His own character, whether He sees in His foreknowledge that it will result in the reformation of those concerned or not. He, of course, always desires the reformation and salvation of His creatures. Penalty in all its forms is God's reaction to sin.

(iii) Death as the Chief Penalty of Sin.

Henry Drummond has pointed out that death is a lack of correspondence, a lack of mutual response between a person and his environment. Thus at physical death a person ceases to correspond with the earthly environment by breathing and being able to live on the food and atmosphere around, the person is cut off from it.

There are three ways in which death is considered in the Scriptures and all of them are said to he the result of sin. The first is physical death as mentioned above. Genesis ch.2 and Romans ch.5 make it clear that death was the result of sin. Man separated himself wilfully from God, and as the branch separated from the vine dies, so did man.

The only reason that death did not ensue immediately was that God already had His plan and purpose of redemption. The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. Spiritual death, which was far worse, and was the basic reason for physical death, was the result of the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit.

Immediately man separated himself from God, God withdrew His Holy Spirit. He could not remain where there was rebellion. With the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit man lost his fellowship and communion with God, and thus also his state of primitive holiness. Likewise his moral powers became depraved.

It is this fallen human nature in separation from God which is called the "flesh", and it includes the whole being of man i.e. body, soul and spirit. The fruits of this depraved condition are seen in man's idolatry, selfishness, inordinate desire and inclination towards increasing ungodliness. (Romans.7:14,23, 1 John 2:16; James 1:14,15).

It is important to note that this condition is not an essential part of man's nature. In the words of Wesley, "It must he remembered, however, that sin is but an accident of man`s nature and not an essential element of his original being. He retains his personality with all of its powers, but these are exercised apart from God as the true centre of his being, and are therefore perverted and sinful.

Sin is not some new faculty or power infused into man's being as the special organ of sin. It is rather the bias of all his powers, a darkening of the intellect, an alienation of the affections and a perverseness of the will," (Vol.2 p.95).

Eternal death is the final judgment of God on sin. It is wilful separation from God made final and permanent. If the soul of man persists in its attitude of unbelief and rebellion against God, then eventually God`s mercy must end, and the separation must become final and irrevocable, the wages of sin is death (Romans. 6:23) This is eternal death, the second death of Revelation ch.20 and the awful consummation of sin.

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