What really is sin: What it is in essence. (By A. T. Jones)

NOW I wish you to consider for a little while what really is sin: what it is in essence. You know the divine definition: “Sin is the transgression of the law.Now I wish you to consider what it is to transgress the law. Is it only the positive doing of something that is evil?—No; it is the COMING SHORT of positively doing that which is good. Is it not written that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all”?
In another word, sin is the coming short of the righteousness of God. To come short of the righteousness of God is to transgress the law. Then, whatever righteousness I may present, whatever deeds I may do, as obedience to the law of God as it stands in his word, which, in any sense at all, or to any degree at all, comes short of the righteousness of God, that is sin: it is indeed transgression of the law. This is emphasized by the fact that both in the Hebrew and in the Greek the word that God selected by which to convey to the minds of men the root-thought of what is sin, of what is transgression of the law, is the word that means to “miss the mark;” and to miss the mark by coming short.
It was in the time when they used bows and arrows that the word was selected. A man, with his bow and arrow, shooting at a mark, would aim most carefully, and would do his very best, to hit the mark: all his intentions were good; his purpose and his endeavor were of the best; but yet he could not reach the mark. He missed the mark by coming short. He was not strong enough to give to the arrow that impetus which would carry it so that it would hit the mark. Remember he did not miss the mark by overshooting, but by coming short of it. That is the root-thought in the word which God chose, both in the Hebrew and in the Greek, to convey to mankind the idea of what sin is.
Now no man in the world is strong enough, doing his very best, to hit the mark of the law of God, which is only the righteousness of God; for “all have sinned, and come short.” That mark is too high as well as too far away for us to hit it. But, bless the Lord, “when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” And in Christ alone we find the hitting of the mark. Therefore, “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13, 14. In Christ it is, only in Christ, that we find the righteousness of God, which is the keeping of the law of God. Only in Christ do we find the keeping of the law of God.
Come then, look with me at that law. By it is the knowledge of sin. That covers everything. All there is in sin is covered by that. Suppose you and I look into the law of God and get the brightest, clearest possible view that a man can get of that law. Suppose I see its demands, in the greatest breadth that a man can; and that we actually fulfill, to perfection, all the breadth of it that we see—have we really fulfilled it? Think of that. Have you? Have you then fulfilled the law as God fulfills it? as God would if he were in your place?—Oh, no. We have fulfilled only what we could see. But have we seen it all, in its intensity of righteousness?—We have not. No one but God can, for it is only the law of God.
That law being the law of God, only God’s righteousness is truly manifest in it: it expresses only that; so it is the reflection of what God is, in character. And that being so, nobody but God can see the true measure of the righteousness that is in the ten commandments. And there is the fallacy of our thinking that we can do true righteousness by keeping the ten commandments. We can not grasp the righteousness of the ten commandments. If we were able to grasp it, we might do it. But that would require that we be infinite in understanding. But there is none infinite but God. Therefore none but God can grasp the infinity of the law of God.
There is another phase of this: I look into that law, and I see to the greatest height and breadth that I can; and I do to perfection all that I see—whose is the doing?—It is only mine. I have done it to perfection according to my understanding. I have done all that I can see. But the seeing is only mine, not God’s; and the doing is only mine, not God’s; therefore all the righteousness of such doing is but mine, not God’s. Now put this with that. The only righteousness that any man can ever see in the law of God is his own righteousness. And God can see in the law his own righteousness.
Therefore, I state the principle in a broader way: The only righteousness that ANYBODY, God or man, can see in the law of God is his own righteousness. But when God sees in the law of God his own righteousness, it is all right: for it is the righteousness of God; it is holiness; it is the genuine. But when we see in the law of God our own righteousness, it is only “filthy rags;” it is only self-righteousness; it is only sin.
Therefore it is written, in the lesson that you will have for next Sabbath, and don’t forget it when you come to it: “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Gal. 2:21. To nobody in the wide universe does righteousness come by the law. Righteousness, to angels as to men, as the gift of God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the universe, with God. Consequently, there is no righteousness that comes to anybody but by the faith of Jesus Christ. And when the cross was set up on Calvary, it became the center of the universe. The cross of Christ contains the whole philosophy of the plan of salvation: it is the seal of salvation to the angels who never sinned; it is the sign and seal of salvation to men who have sinned. To the angels who never sinned, the cross of Christ is the seal of certainty that their righteousness will abide forever, that they will never sin; to sinful men, it is the sign and seal that they will be saved to the uttermost from all sin, and held in righteousness for evermore.
So, then, righteousness cometh to the world only as the gift of the Lord Jesus. “Now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, . . . even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ.” He is the One through whom it comes; he is the One who paid the price of it, who took upon him the curse; the One who bore the penalty and paid all the claims of sin and death, upon every soul. And to him belong the glory, the honor, and the majesty for all the righteousness of men who have sinned; and for the security in righteousness of angels who never sinned.
This is the gospel, and this is the salvation which the Lord Jesus brought. And this gives a glimpse of the mighty thing that sin is, and of what a fearful depth it is to which sin has plunged us, in plunging us into death—when it took such a gift, and such a price, to deliver us. But, thank the Lord, the deliverance in righteousness and life is as high on that side as the loss in sin and death is deep on that side. And so it is written: “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me”—may have, or maybe shall have, everelasting life? Is that it?—No, no. To you it is written; to me it is written; listen: “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, HATH everlasting life [listen more], and shall not come into condemnation; but [listen yet more] IS PASSED from,—what? All who know the word, say it. [Voices: “Death.”] “Is passed from death.” Then where was he before he believed?—He was in death. Where is the man who to-day hears the words of Jesus Christ, and does not believe them? Where is he, whoever he may be or wherever he may be? Suppose he belongs to the church? [Voices: “He is in death.”] And has his name on the church book; but does not believe? [Voices: “He is in death.”] Comes to meeting on Sabbath, hears the word of God which Jesus brought, and yet does not believe on him? [Voices: “He is in death.”] Look at it. And Again: “He that loveth not his brother abideth”—abideth, abideth—”in death.” 1 John 3:14. Where is he, then?—He is in death, in the power of death: death is his shepherd.
That emphasizes what we had at the beginning, and all the way through—that death is the only portion of anybody in this world who is outside of Jesus Christ. They are subject to death; death is their ruler, sovereign, and shepherd, who attends them as they go here, there, and everywhere. But, thank the Lord, there is salvation to every man in the world; for he who came CONQUERED DEATH. He conquered death; bless his name.
And note the power that is in him to conquer death, and the power that was displayed in him in the conquering of death. He gave himself up, bodily and wholly, to the power of death. He went into the enemy’s prison-house; he allowed himself to be locked up there, in the bonds of death, and a great stone was rolled unto the mouth of the sepulcher, and the sepulcher was sealed with the seal of the Roman Empire. So, both by the chief of the spiritual powers and by the chief of the temporal powers of this world, the Lord Jesus was locked in the power of death. But, being dead, he broke the power of death!
It is a little enough thing that one who is alive should break the power of death. But, oh, the majesty, the divinity, the infinity of the power of him who, being dead, could bread the power of death! That is the majesty of our Saviour, of the Lord who has bought you and me, and who is able to, and who does, set us free from the power of death. And when this “vapor” vanishes away, and we lie down, Christ will say, as of Lazarus, He “sleepeth.” True, he was, and we may be, locked in the bonds of death. But what does that amount to when our Lord has so completely conquered all the power of death? Therefore it is written: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I [I who was dead] am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of heel and of death.” Rev. 1:18. That is the power of our Saviour.
Look at it again. He came forth from death. Why?—”Because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” Think of it! All the power of death exerted to the fullest extent of all temporal and spiritual powers of this world,—all that power could not possibly hold in death him who was DEAD. Bless the Lord! [Voices: “Amen.”] What has he, the Mighty One, to fear from death even? Oh, death is conquered, and the victory is ours to-day, who believe in Jesus. For it is written: “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but IS PASSED FROM DEATH unto LIFE.” Thank the Lord!
Oh, then, rejoice in the life which is life indeed. Stand up as Christians, holding up the head. Take the long, deep breath that belongs to him whose life comes from the depths of the Eternal. This is the salvation which the Lord Jesus brings, and gives, full and free, to every soul. Then drink it in, and rejoice in it for evermore. Tell it to those who are dead. Carry the good news to those who are lost,—that here is salvation—salvation from sin—salvation from  death; for he, being dead, conquered death, and manifested the divinity of his power. And rejoice for evermore in it all.

And now let us sing that blessed hymn, never too old, never too familiar, No. 123.
“O could I speak the matchless worth,
O could I sound the glories forth,
Which in my Saviour shine!
I’d soar and touch the heavenly strings,
And vie with Gabriel while he sings
In notes almost divine.
[Would you not? Then, as we sing it, let the spirit that is in it be in you and in me, in thankfulness, in praise, and in gladness.]
“I’d sing the precious blood he spilt,
My ransom from the dreadful guilt
Of sin and wrath divine!
I’d sing his glorious righteousness,
In which all-perfect heavenly dress
My soul shall ever shine.

“I’d sing the character he bears
[It is his character that is my hope],
And all the forms of love he wears,
Exalted on his throne;
In loftiest songs of sweetest praise,
I would to everlasting days
Make all his glories known.
[It will take to everlasting days to do it; and, bless the Lord, we have everlasting days in which to do it.]
“Well, the delightful day will come
[when we shall have the chance. It begins now, it is true; but now, with our weak, harsh voices and trembling lips, we can not make all his glories known, and can not sing them becomingly. Yet, bless his dear name, “the delightful day will come”]
When my dear Lord will take me home,
And I shall see his face;
Then, with my Saviour, Brother, Friend,
A blest eternity I’ll spend,
Triumphant in his grace.”

 {October 23, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 676.13}

Article by A. T. Jones

 

Isn’t this the reason why we must confess the truth that every human being (babies included) is a sinner saved wholly by the grace and mercy of God? Amen!

 

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