Sin is a universal problem.
The apostle Paul taught, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” A little earlier in that chapter, to buttress this point he quotes from the first three verses of Psalm 14: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (ESV)”
Notice that while Psalm 14:1 teaches that sin is a universal problem, “there is none who does good,” verse 3 of the same points out that it is not an inherent problem. We are not born sinful, rather we are “turned aside,” and we “become corrupt.”
Sin is not a problem we are born with, it is a problem we create for ourselves.
This is what Jesus was teaching when He taught, in regards to young children, “to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:14)” Little children were going to be in heaven. It is reasonable to conclude this is because they have not yet, “become corrupt.”
The phrase, “become corrupt,” points us to a process by which soundness is replaced with corruption. Just as water causes iron to rust, weakening the metal, so too sin causes the soul to become weaker, slowly corrupting the conscience and the habits of the sinner.
Psalm 14 paints a picture of a world that rejects God. The Psalm begins with the line, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” The problem of sin is not inherent, it comes from a choice to deny God, or at the least to deny the authority of God. If there is no God, if there is no authority higher than self to which we must answer, then there is no ultimate brake upon what we can or should do.
It was a denial of God’s authority which started the whole mess. Eve in the garden listened to the serpent tell her that God was in the wrong, and she didn’t have to heed what God had told her (cf. Genesis 3:1-6). Eve knew that there was a God who had created her. She knew what He had said, but in that moment of time, she denied Him His proper place in her life. She said to herself that there was no God to whom she needed to listen, and she did according to her own desires.
All sin follows something of a similar pattern. And all sin leads us further and further from God. “They have all turned aside,” says the Psalmist, meaning that men choosing to turn away from God, and from His authority, turn aside as well from the path God intends them to be traveling. And once you get off the path, you are only going to get further and further away from where you are meant to be going. And this departure from the absolute standard of righteousness that God has given us, is a corruption. The more we fail to do good, the easier it becomes.
What is the solution to all of this?
God presents a solution.
If the problem is that we have “turned aside,” and gone in the wrong direction, then the solution is to turn back to God, and once more go in the right direction. “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. (Joel 2:12-13; ESV)”
If the problem is that we have “become corrupt,” then the solution is to go to God for cleansing and let Him wash the corruption out. “’Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord: ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.’ (Isaiah 1:18; ESV)” God in Christ is able and willing to cleanse the vilest sinner, so long as that sinner repents and comes to Him in obedience, for, as the Scriptures say, “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:32),” therefore, “arise, and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).”
If the problem is that we have learned to do evil, then the solution is to turn to God for instruction and learn to do good. Thus God says, “remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:16b-17; ESV).”
It was because sin was a universal problem that Jesus had to die, so as to offer a solution that was universally applicable. But jut as we chose to reject God, so too we must choose to accept His salvation. If we will not, the problem will remain and continue to grow worse, as men become ever more corrupt.
The church of Christ invites you to come worship with us, and study with us concerning the salvation Christ offers. We meet at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any questions or comments, please share them with us.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.