Soulbook: How Does Sin Relate to the Soul?
We are all made in the “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). Mankind was not created in the physical image of God, of course, because God, as a Spirit Being, has no physical image (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Matthew 16:17). Rather, mankind was fashioned in the spiritual, rational, emotional, and volitional image of God (Ephesians 4:24; John 5:39-40; 7:17; Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 7:15). But, we all have sinned, starting with Adam and Eve. So, what does sin do to the soul or our “image”? After all, we bear God’s image in our souls and our souls, as well as our physical selves, have been affected by sin in some manner, but how? There are several ways our souls are sickened and poisoned by sin. Most of these are self-inflicted, but there are others, as well. Sin is, unfortunately, ubiquitous in the world today and has been since the fall of man.
By sin and through sin, we have been divided from God. Behold, Jehovah’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:1-2). The apostle John wrote: “Every one that does sin also commits lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Thus, sin is defined as the act of transgressing God’s law. In fact, Paul indicates that “where there is no law, neither is there transgression” (Romans 4:15). Had there been no law, there would have been no sin. But God had instituted divine law. And mankind freely chose to transgress that law. Paul reaffirmed the Old Testament concept of the universality of sin when he stated that “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Ezekiel lamented: “The soul that sins shall die” (18:20a). Once again, the New Testament writers reaffirmed this concept. Paul wrote: “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned” (Romans 5:12). He then added that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Years later, James would write: “But each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, bears sin: and the sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15-16). As a result of mankind’s sin, the curse of death came on the human race. As we talked about previously, you can think of sin as a cancer. When people get cancer, what does it do to them? It separates their body’s ability to heal and maintain life from that life source. Sin is the same way, except it creates a separation between us and God, who provides life to our Souls. When our souls are sick with sin, they lack the connection of life and do not get what they need for life. We lack nourishment. We lack water. We lack air. As these soul-supporting resources are cut off from us, we begin to die and rot inside. The food of God’s Word, water of life, and air of God’s breath all become a memory and may even become detestable to the one who rejects them. Coming back to these assets may be harder than we think.
Yes, sin is a sickness. It has brought death and sickness and pain and sorrow from the beginning. Disease and death were introduced into this world as a direct consequence of man’s sin (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12). As a result, we have physical death and sickness. When Adam and Eve were created, God made them spiritually and physically perfect. They had no sin, no sickness, and would not have died. Through the introduction of the knowledge of good and evil, all of the suffering we see today were brought into the world. This is a direct consequence of sin. Fortunately, there is a cure.
Many features of the Earth’s surface that allow for such tragedies as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, violent thunderstorms, etc., can be traced directly to the Great Flood of Noah’s day (which came as the result of man’s sin; Genesis 6:5). So, not only are we sick, but the Earth and even the universe as a whole is sick. Not only do we see people dying and suffering as a result of storms and seismic activity, we can see animal populations catching and spreading diseases. Bird flu, mad cow disease, and swine flu are just a few examples of the continual entropy all around us. In addition to what we see here on Earth, there is an obvious breakdown in the universe at large. Stars explode, planets are bombarded by asteroids, comets, and other space debris, and the universe as a whole continues to expand ever more rapidly which indicates a running down and a running out of usable energy in the universe. All of this destruction and waste originated with sin.
The communication problems that man experiences, due to the multiplicity of human languages, are traceable to ambitious rebellion on the part of our ancestors (Genesis 11:1-9). Aside from the language differences that established communication issues early in human history, other societal problems are present today. Society is sick with sin, from our schools to our top levels of government. Daily, we see this sickness spread in the form of moral breakdown and hateful confrontation in every corner of our country and the world. Sin has reached into the hearts of mankind and has left its mark on his social consciousness. The “collective soul” of humanity has been poisoned such that we are surprised to see kindness and love in our society. Of course, a great deal of the reason for this lack of goodness stems from selfishness, which is one of the most pervasive types of sin seen in the world since the first sin. But, as souls who are connected to God, we can have an influence on society through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. The cure is here! Let’s be it!
In his book, Created in God’s Image, Anthony Hoekema addressed the chasm between God and man when he wrote: “Sin is always related to God and His will. Many people consider what Christians call sin mere imperfection—the kind of imperfection that is a normal aspect of human nature. “Nobody’s perfect,” “everybody makes mistakes,” “you’re only human,” and similar statements express this kind of thinking. Over against this we must insist that, according to Scripture, sin is always a transgression of the law of God…. Sin is therefore fundamentally opposition to God, rebellion against God, which roots in hatred to God…. [T]hough fallen man still bears the image of God, he now functions wrongly as an image-bearer of God. This, in fact, makes sin all the more heinous. Sin is a perverse way of using God-given and God-reflecting powers.” Our image is sick. As God’s image-bearers, we have to take seriously what our image says to the world, and to God most of all. Our souls are supposed to be free of blemishes and like God. However, we scar our images, our souls, with sin and sometimes don’t even have a second thought. Is this what it means to be an image bearer of God? The great advantage is that
we can be made pure and perfect again through Jesus. Then, we can bear that image again and take that image to the world. C.S. Lewis, expressed this fact well when he said: “[I]ndeed the only way in which I can make real to myself what theology teaches about the heinousness of sin is to remember that every sin is the distortion of an energy breathed into us…. We poison the wine as He decants it into us; murder a melody He would play with us as the instrument. We caricature the self-portrait He would paint. Hence all sin, whatever else it is, is sacrilege.” Sin has the deceptive “quality” of making us believe that some of it is alright, maybe even good for us. But, if we examine it more closely, we realize that sin is a malady that is made to look like a catharsis. It’s so easy to fall for it.
What is the cure for this awful sickness? How do we as individuals and as humanity move past sin to righteousness? There are several facts that show how sin behaves and how a cure must behave in order to destroy it. Interestingly, Angels have sinned, but have no recourse. Angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), and yet “not to angels does He give help, but He gives help to the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16). So, why do we have salvation, and what is the effect of that reunification? The answer lies in a history replete with amazing vestiges of love and forgiveness and patience from a God who never gave up on His Creation.
God already had the answer: “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20). God has had a plan since Eve and Adam ate the fruit. He made that evident when He spoke to Eve regarding the children she, and ultimately another women, would bear: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). The fact that Satan and sin were on the road to ultimate destruction was already in God’s mind. He knew, as He always does, what it would take to make mankind understand the depth and breadth, and height of His awesome love. He began right at the entrance of sin and continued until He established it for our vulnerable souls.
He sent Noah to preach, but ultimately destroyed the world with the flood (Gen 6-8). If you look at how God reached out to the sinful people of Noah’s time, God’s love and patience cannot be overstated. Not only did He send Noah to preach to the entirety of humanity for over 100 years, He provided a way for His creation to have a type of salvation through a baptism in the vessel of the ark. This ark was carried through a flood of sin and deposited safely, allowing souls to live and thrive and continue the plan He had for all of humanity.
Then God sent Abraham to bring His nation up and provided the promise of salvation through his seed. God used Abraham as a means for building a nation of people who would ultimately bring about the end of sin and death. God even had Abraham go to the point of sacrificing his only son of promise. The seed of Abraham today is everyone who has received that promise. All of us have that promise today, just as we did when it was first made.
After that, God sent Moses and gave the written law. Basically, this law-system had three purposes. First, its intent was to define sin and sharpen Israel’s awareness of it. To use Paul’s expression in the New Testament, the Law made “sin exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:7,13). Second, the law was designed to show man that he could not save himself via his own effort, or as a result of his own merit. The Law demanded perfect obedience, and since no one could keep it perfectly, each stood condemned (Galatians 3:10-11). Thus, the Law underscored the need for a Savior—Someone Who could do for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. Third, in harmony with that need, the Old Testament pointed the way toward the coming of the Messiah. He was to be Immanuel—“God with us” (Matthew 1:23). God left no stone unturned in preparing the world for the coming of the One Who was to save mankind.
God has had a plan for humanity from the start. He still has a plan today and will use it to our souls’ ultimate salvation. When we are in sin, we are separated from God by that obstacle of sin. The sin itself places the barrier there, and only by the cleansing of that sin can we be together with Him again. I was told a story once of a man and his wife who were on a road trip and were travelling through the mountains with their fourteen-month old baby in the back seat. During the trip, the baby had contracted a stomach bug and had diarrhea as a result. The baby was wearing a one-piece outfit that extended over her whole body, covering to her ankles and wrists. During one particularly disgusting ejection of waste, she expelled so much that it was literally oozing from her wrists and ankles. When the father went to check on the baby due to the obvious smell, the first thing the baby did was to put her arms out to her daddy in a gesture that basically communicated her desire for him to lift her up and give her a hug. The father did not give her a hug, as you might imagine. Instead, he carefully removed her outer garment, cleaned her thoroughly, and then held her close. All the while, the filth made Him not be able to be near her and have the closeness she desired. While this is not a perfect analogy for sin, it does communicate the distance placed between us and our Father when we sin. Sin is disgusting to God. It makes us sick and it makes Him sick; so sick that He would “spew us out of His mouth.” But, ultimately Jesus cleans that sin off of us and makes it where He can hold us close and we can have that relationship we need so much.