The Multifaceted Effects of Sin

I recently heard that when we do something wrong to another person, it is not only a sin against God but also a sin against the other person. Is this correct? Can we also sin against another man or woman?

That, I think, is a profound question. That is the kind of question I like to take on the Bible Answer Man broadcast. This is a profound question. When a man steals from another man in violation of the eighth Commandment (Exod. 20:15), we know from Scripture that he clearly sins against God. But, the answer to the question is he also sins against the individual in taking what does not belong to him. It is a sin against God. It is also a sin against humankind. This is why the Lord taught us to pray, “Forgive us of our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Matt. 6:12).

If you read Matthew 18 — the parable of the unforgiving servant — Peter comes to Jesus and asks, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Remember what Jesus said? “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21–22 NKJV). In other words, you always forgive. If you have been forgiven a debt that cannot be quantified, we should never consider withholding from those who sin against us. How many times shall I forgive? It implies that we do forgive our bother and our sister. Ephesians 4:32 is also, I think, a passage that underscores this point. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” There are many other passages.

We are told by the apostle Paul we ought to forgive because our sin is not only against humanity but also a sin against Christ. A sin against Christ is a sin against the body; a sin against the body is a sin against Christ. I think even more interesting in answer to a very interesting question is 1 Corinthians 6. You can sin against your own body. You think about humanity, it includes you. For example, “He who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit;” therefore, we are to “flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:17–20 NIV). This adds a whole new dimension to it. He who sins sexually sins against his own body.

The answer to your question is multifaceted. It is a great question. You also sin against a person when you sin against God. In short, you can sin against another man or another woman. You can sin against your body. You have the body of Christ, your own body, and you have Christ, who is the head of the body.

We daily ask God to forgive us of your sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). One of the reasons I think this is a particularly important question is that today we have all kinds of popular preachers who are telling you that when you sin, do not ever ask for forgiveness, because asking for forgiveness is tantamount to spitting in the face of God, so, please, please never ask for forgiveness. But, I have been absolutely astounded at how rapidly that perversion has become part of the ethic of the body of Christ, how quickly people have embraced that kind of spiritual cyanide. Well, what is the antidote? The antidote is to learn discernment skills. When someone says something like that, you do not look at the power of their radio or television platform; you test what they say in light of Scripture, and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; Acts 17:10–12).

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the July 20, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.


Ash Wednesday 2016

Bible-Rm. 5.8-AshWednesday2Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It is a time for Christians to remember their own sinfulness, and need for divine forgiveness.

Sometime ago Gretchen Passantino Coburn wrote a piece on the Lenten season. In it she offered these helpful insights on Ash Wednesday:

Ash Wednesday begins a forty day period during which Christians remember their sinfulness, repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and recognize that God’s forgiveness comes at an infinite price — the death of Christ on the cross on our behalf. It is not meant as a time of false humility or prideful self-sacrifice. It reminds us that our sin separates us from God, who “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The day before Ash Wednesday is popularly known as Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”). It has developed into a time of partying and carousing, exemplified by the extravagant celebration in New Orleans. Most people who celebrate Mardi Gras attach little or no religious significance to it. Although it is better known than the following day, Ash Wednesday, it is virtually irrelevant to the spiritual focus of Christian observances.

On Ash Wednesday, the historic churches mark the beginning of this period with a special service explaining the season, calling the people to repentance, signifying repentance with ashes, by which a cross is marked on the forehead of the penitent Christian.

Ashes (and “sackcloth,” or rough, plain clothing, usually of camel’s hair) traditionally represent mourning (2 Sam. 13:19; Gen. 37:34), repentance (Job 42:6; Matt. 11:21; Dan. 9:3; Joel 1:8, 13), and the judgment of God (Rev. 6:12). When King Ahasuerus ordered all Jews to be killed, Mordecai “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and . . . cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” The Jews throughout the land prayed “with great mourning. . . with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:1-3). This was for the dual purpose of mourning for their coming death and of demonstrating their repentance to God, pleading with Him to spare them from His judgment. When Jonah preached God’s coming judgment against Nineveh, the pagan king of Nineveh and his subjects understood that if a nation repents from its evil ways, God may withhold His judgment (Jer. 18:7-10), so they repented and prayed that God would spare them.

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it (Jonah 3:5-10).

Ash Wednesday should remind Christians that they are sinners in need of a savior, and that their salvation comes at the sacrifice of God’s Son.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-12).

Hope this has been helpful!

—Warren Nozaki