It is not possible for the fallen human heart and mind to grasp the true magnitude of a single sin. Although believers tend to recognize that the world’s attempts to diminish the heinousness of sin—use of such terms as “white lie,” mortal v. venal sins, weakness, failure, foible are both unscriptural and dangerously ungodly—we still fail to give sin its due weight. And while acknowledging that Adam’s situation was unique because he was created innocent and with a capacity to refuse sin, lived in a perfect world, had fellowshipped with God face-to-face, and, so far as we know, had only one commandment that might test his heart and will, his one sin forever trumpets the infinite egregiousness of sin. When we are tempted to excuse one of our sins as a little thing, may we remember what follows here.
1. One sin separated Adam from God. It had pleased God to create a creature with whom He could fellowship and upon whom He could bestow the manifold blessings of His infinite love. In the Garden, and in one moment but for all of time, Adam forfeited his face-to-face fellowship with God.
2. One sin engendered God’ wrath. As terrible as was the loss of fellowship with God, the consequences of Adam’s one sin did not end there. Adam quickly learned that God has one judicial attitude toward sin: wrath. He must and will judge sin completely and without exception. And sin against an infinitely holy God exacts an infinite cost.
3. One sin caused his death. Following his sin, Adam saw the slaughter of an innocent animal to provide covering for his nakedness. Never before had he seen death—not in an animal, not in an insect, not even in a plant. Soon his yet-to-be-born son would die at the hands of another son. For the remainder of his long life, death, the product of his rebellion, would confront him at every turn.
4. One sin fully corrupted his nature. Depravity—a nature at enmity with its Creator-God. Adam immediately found himself living in a body antagonistic to God in will, thought, and desire. Once in harmonious concert with God and God’s will, Adam now faced a struggle against God every waking hour and with every breath.
5. One sin begot a curse on the entire earth. Adam’s sin polluted the planet on which he dwelt so that it was cursed because of him: “cursed is the ground for thy sake,” God solemnly declared (Gen. 3:17), and natural life forever became a struggle for every living thing on the planet.
6. One sin brought depravity upon all his progeny. For the nearly one-thousand years that Adam lived, everywhere he turned he saw the awful evidence of the depravity that he engendered in his children. He was forced to agree with God’s assessment of man just before the flood that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
7. One sin required the death of Christ. The God-Man died for Adam’s sin and Adam’s sinful race. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). Nothing other than the death of a perfect, infinite sacrifice would satisfy His holy demands and provide God with the means to be “just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
In this list we see some measure of the heinousness of just one sin from the perspective that counts: God’s. May we find sin as reprehensible as does God. May we remember the infinite horror of one sin, for one of ours separates us no less infinitely from our God. But ultimately, may it not be the horror of sin but our love for God because He first loved us “and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10b) that motivates our desire for righteousness. May it be immense gratitude for the deliverance that was provided at the cross. May it be rejoicing that “in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6), and that He “is not ashamed to call . . . [us] brethren” (Heb. 2:11).
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