Galatians 1:4 -- How great is the harm from sin?

I may be beating this to death, but I think it is important. Galatians 1: 3-5 reads:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

How great is the harm from sin? As part of an earlier series (which I intend to wrap up on Thursday, God willing), I wrote short essays on "What is Sin?" and "Against Whom Do We Sin?" Understanding these ideas are absolutely essential from an apologetics point of view because one of the biggest problems with our message to society is that people don't understand that they have sinned. Sin in equated in their minds with committing evil that can be punished under the law. To paraphrase Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason, somewhere we have gotten the idea that all we need to do to get into heaven is be cordial to our neighbors. We think that if we are friendly (we waive at them as we go out to get the morning paper) and don't directly harm them we are being basically good people who deserve to get into heaven.

But God didn't see the sins that we incurred so lightly. In fact, God saw sin as so serious that, as Galatians 1: 3-5 reports, he gave Himself to rescue us. This verse also shows that God viewed sin as a debt which we humans could not pay. This was no small thing. As stated by Martin Luther:

This sentence [Galatians 1: 3-5] also defines our sins as great, so great, in fact, that the whole world could not make amends for a single sin. The greatness of the ransom, Christ, the Son of God, indicates this. The vicious character of sin is brought out by the words "who gave himself for our sins." So vicious is sin that only the sacrifice of Christ could atone for sin.

As my friend John says of this commentary: "Could this be any clearer? Here is Luther, (not Melanchthon or any of the post-reformation apologists) in what he himself considered to be his greatest treatise, the very epitome of his teaching. * * * If it is true that Luther’s teaching on Christ’s death did not emphasize that Jesus paid a debt that we owed, why in this passage does Luther specifically emphasize this?"

The sin model is not the only model for the atonement, but it does give an analogy that explains that sin is considered more serious than a mere social faux-pas. It explains that sin is not just a harm to other people but also to God. It explains why Jesus had to be born part God and live the sinless life and die on the cross to have the spiritual credit to pay the sins of others.

Let's not shy away from the teaching of sin. Let's not allow society to tell us that being "cordial folk" is sufficient to get into heaven. If we buy into those ideas, I would be inclined to agree that there is no reason to become Christian.


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