The Controlling Power of Sin
By Don Ruhl
When the men of Sodom were angered by Lot’s refusal to hand over the men who had come to visit Lot, Lot’s visitors, who were really angels, smote the Sodomites with blindness. Notice what Genesis 19:11 says the Sodomites did after being struck with blindness, “And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.”
These men had just lost their sight and there appeared to be no concern on their part that they were blind, but, still wanting a homosexual encounter with Lot’s visitors, they labored to find the door, so much so that they wearied themselves to find it!
The men of Sodom fit the description that Peter gave of wicked men in Second Peter 2:14, because they had, “having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin…”
Notice especially, “and that cannot cease from sin.” This does not deny their responsibility, but as Jude, who was commenting on the same people as Peter, said, they were “sensual persons…not having the Spirit” (Jude 19). Since they did not have the Spirit they did not produce the fruit of the Spirit, which includes self-control, but as Galatians 5:16–26 reveals, they were sensual, or of the flesh and to lose control is a matter in which they glory. Additionally, Peter commented on these people who were controlled by sin, saying, “…they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage” (2 Pe. 2:19).
Likewise, the sexual lust in the Sodomites had been allowed to have free reign in their bodies, so that it became the most important thing in their lives.
Also in Second Peter 2:20 the apostle described people who are entangled in the defilements of the world and overcome. Speaking of Christians who had gone back into the world, the apostle wrote, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.”
Similarly today, the defilements of the world literally run these people’s lives, because they have become entangled or trapped in the world’s defilements, and being trapped they are overcome, giving in to the awesome power of sin.
Romans 6:12–16 expounds further on the controlling power of sin,
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, chose his words carefully, showing the awesome power of sin. He said that sin reigns in our bodies, and that if it does, we obey its lusts. Furthermore, he showed the possibility of presenting our members unto sin, as though we have presented our lives to a king for his service. Paul also said that we are under grace, so that sin should not have dominion over us, implying that sin can dominate our lives. Then in verse 16, Paul explained the principle that he was writing about: that we present ourselves as obedient servants to either sin or righteousness. If we choose sin, we have turned our lives over to sin and our lives become dedicated to pleasing our master, fulfilling all of its wishes, sacrificing anything to appease its hunger, so that it appears that we are no longer under control, leading the world to conclude that we are not responsible for our actions.
THE WORLD’S APPROACH TO THIS PROBLEM
The world does not recognize the veracity of the Scriptures, so the world does not use the Scriptures to analyze and handle the problem of sin. The world looks at the problem and sees a tremendous force at work in people’s lives, but not having been trained by the counsel of God, the world does not describe it as the Bible does, and because they analyze it differently, they propose different cures. They have a different understanding of how behavior enters people’s lives and why the behavior stays there, hence how the behavior can leave, if, in their judgment, the behavior can be eliminated.
Sinful behavior is not looked upon as sin, that is, as rebellion against God and His rule in a person’s heart, but the world’s philosophy is to analyze inappropriate behavior in such a way as to say that the person is not responsible and accountable for their behavior, but it is blamed on some other source.
One writer has put it like this in commenting on the world’s approach,
We are uneasy with what the Bible tells us about sinners and salvation and sanctification. Maybe that is why quasi-medical terminology has become so popular. People hurt. They have diseases. They are traumatized. They are addicted. They are dysfunctional. These words fit into a victimized world much better than the word sinner or rebel or wicked. They carry no sting of culpability. More and more we are substituting them for the word sin when we preach the Gospel (Jim Owen, Christian Psychology’s War on God’s Word: The Victimization of the Believer, Santa Barbara, California: EastGate Publishers, 1993, p. 109.)
The disease concept is one way of placing the blame somewhere else, especially when discussing intoxication, whether by strong drink or drugs, and it is also used when discussing other unacceptable behaviors, such as grotesque murders.
The biological or genetic argument is being used more and more. Homosexuality, which the world used to consider a disease, but never should have, whereas the world has now progressed to accepting it, is almost always discussed by the world in a context of genetics or some type of biological factor. All of the studies that supposedly have shown a biological factor to homosexuality have been flawed seriously.
Now the same thing is being done with violence. National Geographic in January 1991 presented the disease concept for violence (pages 129, 130). Time magazine (April 19, 1993, pages 52, 53) has also carried an article on the possibility of a genetic cause for violence and showed that Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, was serious enough about this concept that he, “proposed a $400 million federal research program on violence; 5% of the budget would have been devoted to the study of biochemical anomalies linked to aggressive behavior.” $20 million of your money, via taxes, would have been supporting research for discovering a link between violence and genes. If the government does become persuaded that biology is the root of violence, how will the criminal be treated? Certainly not as a criminal, but as a victim, which will lead to further crime as people see that they are not responsible for their actions.
Other approaches that the world takes in order to describe or analyze the controlling power of sin is to blame a person’s behavior on his parents, or his sin may be called an addiction, or poverty might be used as an explanation, and even evolution is used to explain unacceptable behavior, saying that it is rooted in our “pre-human” history.
The point is that sin will not be called sin, nor will the roots of sin be seen as rebellion against God, because the spiritual nature of man and God’s existence are rarely recognized.
This is why the world is getting away from punishment and repentance, but prescribes medication, psychotherapy, professional counseling, and other secular cures for behaviors that the Bible calls sin.
By renaming, or avoiding biblical terminology, a person is moved to take a whole different approach to the unacceptable behavior. If something is a disease, or has a biological basis rather than rebellion against God, think for a moment how that will determine the approach that is taken. It certainly will not occur to a person to seek Jesus Christ.
HOW THE SCRIPTURES HANDLE IT
For the reasons that we have listed above, we must shout: Let us go back to the Bible. Let us bypass all human-contrived notions of what is wrong with a person and how to change that person’s character, realizing that the Scriptures reveal the mind of God, and how He analyzes the problems of people, and how He says a change or conversion occurs. This means that in the area of the issues of life we must speak as the Bible speaks and be silent as the Bible is silent, and call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways.
Let us go back to Romans 6 where Paul told us of the controlling power of sin and see what he says, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as to how the monster of sin is conquered in a person’s life. Actually we begin in 5:20 where Paul said that, “…where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” A person must recognize that the grace of God is greater than any sin that might control a person’s life. Therefore, a person must bring himself under the dominating influence of grace. Paul explained further in chapter six that as Christians we have died to sin, therefore, we cannot continue to submit ourselves to sin (v. 2). We died to sin when we were baptized into the death of Jesus Christ (vv. 3, 4), and “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (v. 6). So we should reckon ourselves “to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 11). We are obedient, not to sin now, but we are obedient “from the heart [to] that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (vv. 17, 18). Listen to what the Holy Spirit said in verse 19, “For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” The same devotion with which you gave yourself to sin, now give yourself to God and to His righteousness. Sacrifice for Him, please Him, and do whatever the Scriptures teach must be done to satisfy the righteousness of God.
Another passage that names some of the sins that the world is struggling with right now, as far as how to handle them, is First Corinthians 6:9–11 (in the American Standard Version). [All comments in brackets are mine, D.R.]
Or know ye not that the unrighteous [refuting the disease, biological, evolutionary, and other concepts] shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived [because there will be deceptive doctrines, but not only from the religious world, but also from the secular world]: neither fornicators [not lovers], nor idolaters [not mere multi-culturalism], nor adulterers [not called love affairs], nor effeminate [not called harmless wearing of women’s clothing by men], nor abusers of themselves with men [God does not consider them gay or just born that way], nor thieves [kleptomaniac is not used in the Scriptures], nor covetous [not success-oriented], nor drunkards [not the disease of alcoholism], nor revilers [not rebellious attitudes blamed on poverty], nor extortioners [not just getting ahead], shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you [not merely recovering addicts, but total deliverance]: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God [not in the various sin-avoiding theories of men, but in the spiritual truth of God].
True help and deliverance, salvation from the death clutches of sin is found by accepting God’s word on the matter, which is accepting His solution Jesus Christ.
Earlier we read from Romans 6 concerning baptism, but baptism is not a magical process whereby your desire to submit to sin is taken away automatically. Before a person is baptized he reasons about his own condition, that he is a sinner and in need of salvation, and he reasons about the truth of the identity of Jesus, that he is the Son of God, Lord of heaven and earth. Moreover, a person makes a decision no longer to present himself to sin (Ro. 6:19), but to present himself to the commandments of God. Baptism does not take away the desire to sin, but takes away the guilt of past sins. Therefore, you are ready for baptism, if you have already done these things. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Ac. 22:16)
Don Ruhl • 220 NE Savage Street • Grants Pass • Oregon • 97526-1310 • 541-476-3100