The Destructiveness of Sin – Romans 3:9-19

 
I have been debating with myself on how to approach the next paragraph in our study. As I pointed out last week, I consider it to be the Bible’s definitive statement about sin. Although rebellion against God – sin – is seen from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, and that it is even hinted in Genesis 2, and although we have declarations and definitions, as well as horribly visible illustrations everywhere, I consider Romans 3:9-19 to be the clearest and most concise statement on sin in the Bible. But because this is one of the simplest scriptures on this subject, it is also one of the easiest to understand. There is no way for the preacher to dazzle his listeners with his exorbitant knowledge on this scripture. Other than defining some uncommon words, all he needs do is read or quote this passage again and again. There would be nothing wrong inserting these verses in every sermon that he ever preaches. The Sunday School teacher could do worse than put them in every one of her lessons. They are that important and that easy to understand. But I have been wrestling with myself on how to present them to you once again.

Finally I came up with a simple, thirty-six point message. Usually, my sermons have three points lasting about ten minutes each. Extrapolating those numbers into my thoughts for today, it means that this could be a six hour sermon. But I decided that would not sit very well with most of you – or to put it another way – you might not sit very well with them for six hours. So I’ve decided to alter my usual method of operation. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to stick pretty close to my thirty-six points – or at least thirty-six descriptions.

But before we get to that I should point out to you that those thirty-six aren’t really Paul’s primary point. The thing that he was really trying to tell us is that sin is universal and ubiquitous. Sin isn’t confined to the ungodly Gentile nations who have cast aside the Name of Jehovah. Nor is sin restricted to the hypocrites among the Jews, who hate and slander everyone but themselves. Sin is more common in humanity than human noses or human ears – it is absolutely universal. And it is also pervasive, creeping into every aspect of our being and societies. Sin is ubiquitous – it is as omnipresent as anything not of God can be. All those big words mean that sin is found everywhere, and it is in everyone.

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” “All, none, not one, none, none, all, together, none, not one.” In four verses Paul declares sin to be universal nine times. And then in the rest of our text that universality is implied and reaffirmed. “Their throat (universally) is an open sepulchre.” All “their feet are swift to shed blood.” “Destruction and misery are in (all) their ways.”

Even though I may be leaving Paul’s theme at this point, I need you to know that what he is saying is that sin is to be found in absolutely everyone – the sons of Abraham – and the sons of Ham and Japheth too. “That EVERY month may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Say with me, ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Say it! Say it again…… Again…… Now say it again with more practical purpose, “I have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Again…. Now, leaving Paul’s primary message, let’s move on to some of the details of that message.

One of the many tools that I have in my study is a hard-bound copy of “Roget’s Thesaurus.” It is a book which lists alphabetically a gazzilion English words with most of their synonyms. That book enables me to run my finger down the page to find word after word all beginning with the same letter or two, or three, depending on what I’m seeking. And Thursday I was looking for words that expressed some of the destructive characteristics of sin.

After Paul leaves his primary subject – that is was he did – he described sin theologically and practically. He says, “Sin is absolutely universal, AND it is absolutely deadly.” That is what I want to repeat this morning, but more verbally than theologically. Perhaps in another six hours you’ll be able to tell me if I succeeded or not.

For example, sin is DEBILITATING – it is devitalizing, weakening, sapping and destroying.

Sin does not and cannot make anything or anyone righteous, better or stronger. Sin can strengthen other sins, but it can’t strengthen godliness, holiness or righteousness. “They are ALL gone out of the way, they are together become UNPROFITABLE.” This Greek word “unprofitable” is found only once in the Bible and it means “useless” or “unserviceable.”

And sin is DEGRADING – it is shameful, humiliating, insulting and repulsive – it is disgusting. “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable.” For example, the Christian, in truth anyone, who smokes doesn’t look “cool” – he looks like a “fool.” Smoking is disgusting and in the eyes of millions of people makes the smoker look stupid. And anyone who is caught in a lie should be embarrassed not proud; He should be avoided like the plague because he cannot be trusted. At that point he becomes unprofitable to his employer, his family and certainly to his church.

Sin is DECEITFUL – it is dishonest, distorting, and dividing. Not only is deceit sinful, but sin is deceitful. It promises good things, but it can deliver only in the short-term at the very best. It promises success, for example, but because it is sin, it may also be a crime – and then what? “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Destruction and misery are in their ways.” For those who are unfamiliar with the word, or if you are using one of the corrupt modern versions of the Bible a “sepulchre” is a tomb – a burial place where the decaying bodies of the dead are placed.

Sin is also DANGEROUS – it is dangerous to the sinner and it is dangerous to those who stand close by. Every can of beer, every puff of marijuana, every snort of cocaine is like eating glass or breathing the fumes of burning plastic. Every lottery ticket or every toss of the dice and turn of the card weakens a man’s character. And when that man high on marijuana gets in his car, he doesn’t become a better driver, he becomes infinitely worse – slower to react and more quick to take chances. “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Destruction and misery are in their ways.”

Sin is DEADENING – it numbs, it dumbs, it corrupts and eventually it kills. I doubt that there has ever been a teenager, drinking his first beer, who planed to become an homeless alcoholic, but for thousands of them that is the path that they have taken for themselves. And the more they drink the more numb they become to the effects of their sinfulness. Furthermore the more that they imbibe the harder it becomes for that person to quit their sin. Every act of immorality puts them more at risk for disease or an unwanted baby. And yet every act of immorality encourages the sinner to more immorality, simply because lightning didn’t fall from heaven the first time – or the second.

Sin is DEBASING – It’s defiling, depreciating and devaluating. How many times has a young couple met and “fallen in love.” But one or the other of them has had some secret sins that he or she successfully kept secret. During the courtship all that either can see are the stars in their eyes, and they agree to marry. After that things change, because it’s impossible to keep the secret sins secret for very long. Under those circumstances the “value” of the sinner, the character of that person, falls in the eyes of the spouse. Sin has a natural debasing tendency.

Sin is DECAYING – it eats away at the sinner like a cancer, and it eats away at those around him.

“Destruction and misery are in their ways.” This inability of sin to maintain an even keel is one of its common traits. By that I mean that it rarely stays constant for any length of time. Soft porn eventually demands hard-core pornography, then it usually grows into addiction. Pornography addiction destroys marriages, and may develop into sexual predation. Playboy Magazine may have been one of the most destructive single things ever introduced into American society, because it opens the door to more and more dangerous sins. There is a reason why the Bible uses leprosy as an illustration of sin. Leprosy first deadens the nerves to some place in the body. It becomes insensitive to danger and unresponsive other diseases. Then slowly that ear, nose, finger or eye dies and decays away. And literally, like leprosy, sin is defacing – it makes beautiful things ugly, deformed and disfigured.

Sin is DEFAMING – it robs relatively good people of what little good name that they possess. It is disreputable, disgusting and disgraceful. History is littered with people who accomplished good or great things, but who later ruined their reputations through some stupid sin. William Bennett, whose book on “Virtue” I promoted a decade ago, has defamed his own name with sin. Richard Nixon was a reasonably good President, but he defamed and shamed himself, until today his name isn’t much better than mud. Samuel was a great prophet of God, but when he permitted his children to run sinful and wild, his name was besmeared. Noah, was a man who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, but his drunkenness brought down his good name.

Sin is DEPRESSING – it sucks the joy out of our lives like a vacuum – it is dissatisfying and disturbing. But one of the problems with it is that it often temporarily substitutes other emotions for that joy. Sometimes there is a thrill that comes with sin, which feels better than the satisfaction of joy. And sometimes sin creates a false pride which some fools confuse with joy. Sin can produce physical titillation, so pleasurable that the sinner can’t see the danger nearby. But then after the surface sensations are gone, like an alcoholic hangover, the residue of sin remains. Then comes the distress of bad memories and the depression of regret. “Destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way peace have they not known.” Sin is discouraging, because many sinners eventually reach bottom and wish to climb out, but their addiction has become so dominant in their lives that they think there is no hope for escape. And the truth is that they are right, barring the miraculous power of God. Yet at the same time that sin usually convinces them to avoid God – the only means of escape.

Sin is DEPRAVING – it is debasing, debauching, degrading and just plain dirty. “Depravity” is one of the theological words which sound, fundamental Baptists are apt to use. The Bible teaches “total depravity,” which is to say that sin has infected every aspect of our being. It has changed God’s original good creation into something degraded, corrupt and worthless. Depravity is another way to say that “There is none righteous, no, no one.” It’s another way to say we “are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” The Bible clearly declares that there is nothing that the sinner can do which is pleasing or acceptable in the sight of the holy God. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

Sin is DESTRUCTIVE – it is desolating and devastating. “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways.”

And as we said last week, sin is DICTATORIAL – it is despotic, driving, domineering and dominating. Once the nose of the camel is inside the tent door, you can be sure that whole camel is coming in. Once sin is imbibed, inscribed and comes inside, it starts making unreasonable demands. For a while we may be able to tell it to sit down and shut up, but eventually it will become more forceful. Why can’t that smoker quit? Because there is a tyrant – a despot – who has taken up control of his heart. And that wicked dictator knows no fear – it especially has “no fear of God before its eyes.”

Sin is DISOBEDIENT – that is one of its definitions, and that is one of its results. When you see a child who refuses to listen to his parents or who defies his parents, remember that it is due to his sin. That child needs a new heart – he needs to be born again. – regenerated. And the same is true of an adult rebel – the one who disobedient towards lawful authority – disrespectful. Of course the ultimate example of disobedience is toward the Lord and His Word. “As it is written” – as it has been revealed in the Word of God, but rejected by the sinner…. “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” No fear of God? How can there be no fear of God? Sin has so numbed their senses, their conscience, their minds and their reason that they think there is no cause to fear God. Think again, sir, there is very great reason to fear God, and your sin lies at the root of it. The Lord has never missed a payday – “the wages of sin is death.” “And so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.”

Sin is DISTRACTING. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” The exhortation of the prophet of God is: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” But sin in the heart of a man forbids and distracts him from the One that he needs – the One whom he absolutely must have. The Lord Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness,” but the Apostle honestly points out that there are none that seek after God. God cries out in Ezekiel – “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die.” Why will the sinner die? For one reason, because he has been distracted by his transgressions.

Here are thirty-six words, beginning with the letter “D” that describe the effects of sin.

But let me close with one more – Sin is DAMNING.

“Let us do evil that good may come. (Their) damnation is just” – verse 8. I mentioned to someone a few weeks ago, that may father’s favorite form of profanity was the simple explicative – “damn.” When he was really excited he might have added the name of God. He was not prone to all the filthy vulgarities which are rampant in our society today, but he did say “damn.” And growing up with that term, it was firmly planted in my brain, just as so many neighborhood children today might uselessly and stupidly say, “Oh, my God.” I hate those words and shudder when I hear them, because I believe that I know what God thinks when He hears them. Having grown up with the word “damn” before I knew what the word meant, and as a result of that having a propensity to use it myself, When I was saved and learned what it meant, I also had to fight against my heart’s dictatorial desire to use it unadvisedly. So I confess to not often saying it often or appropriately even in my preaching, and for that I apologize.

In verse 8 Paul used the Greek word “krima” (kree’-mah). “Krima” can be found 28 times in the New Testament, and it is most often translated “judgment” with “damnation” and “condemnation” following. Our Lord Jesus used that word – “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. “And Jesus said, For judgment (damnation) I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” In Acts 24:25 as Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled.” Paul has already used this word in Romans 2 – “But we are sure that the judgment (damnation) of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.” “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” In chapter 5 where Paul compares what our human father, Adam, has done to us all, with what we can possess in the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, he said, “And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.”

Sin is DAMNING in that it brings about the judgment of God – even the condemnation of God. As I’ve said, “the wages of sin is death” – the wages of sin is eternal death. “The soul that sinneth it shall die” – Ezekiel 18. Someone is going to die for your sin and your sinfulness – whether you agree with the idea or not. Either that will be you, or it will be the only God-proscribed Substitute available to us. The Son of God didn’t become a human being – incarnate…. He wasn’t born in order to give you a holiday and a reason to throw a party or to get drunk. The Son of God became incarnate in order to die – to “die as a ransom for many .” Jehovah became Jesus in order to provide the means of deliverance for our destructive sins. And if you don’t repent of your sins before God and believe on Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, then you will be destroyed by, and for, your sinfulness. As I say, someone is going to die for your sins – either you or Christ Jesus on your behalf.

What sinners are required to do is to trust Christ as their sin-bearer and as their substitutionary sacrifice. He died for me when he died on the cross. “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Christ Jesus, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” Sinners must believe that Jesus died specifically for them, when he died on the cross.

And they must repent, part of which involves believing the things that I have said about sin this morning. Repentance is a change of mind – a recognition of the devastating effects of sin. It is an agreeing with God about personal sinfulness, including the fact that I deserve eternal death and punishment in Hell for each and every one of my sins. Then repentance is a willing refusal of those sins and a turning from those sins. Without repentance of sin and faith in Christ we can have no deliverance or hope of Heaven.

You are a sinner, and you will die because of those sins. Will you repent and trust Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour?