Hamartiology is the branch of systematic theology in which one studies the Biblical doctrine of sin. The problem of sin is the problem of Adam’s race throughout its history.
Many like to deal with sin in the way for which an ostrich is famous. Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counselors, and even pastors and theologians have in the past tried to deal with sin by lessening its, for lack of a better word, sinfulness.
But this has not worked. Neither has the strategy of “letting go of guilt and shame”, to gain better self-esteem. Conscience, by design, does not allow this. Sin does damage to the human soul, in the one that has committed it, and in the one that it is committed against. Sin leaves a sense of shame because it is shameful. Sin leaves a sense of guilt because the one who has committed it is guilty. Hiding from these facts is again, the “head in the sand” strategy.
Today’s culture, while not really realizing what they are doing, is turning away from this idea. This culture is teaching, indoctrinating, the idea of certain things not even being sinful, and even further the idea that anything said against them is, well, sinful. Not only so, but the things that today’s pop-culture does find sinful, they stand against with such tenacity that many cannot even deal with life. “Screaming at the sky” has become a sign of the times. “Liberals” have become just as legalistic as legalists. In fact, the only difference between the liberal and the legalist is the legal code that they follow.
So how do we deal with sin. Much of what the legalists spoke of as sinful is indeed sinful. Much of what the “new legalists” find sinful is also sinful. Much among both groups that they are willing to overlook is also sinful, and denial of facts will not change a thing.
The Word of God is the only source that will give us the truth about dealing with sin. But we must rightly divide the Word of Truth to properly understand how God is dealing with sins, even your sins, in the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2) in which we are living.
Under the former covenant that the Lord made with Israel, He had a way of dealing with sin. King David, when Nathan the prophet confronted him about his sin, after he had gone in to Bathsheba, felt the weight of his own awful sin. Psalm 51 is a Psalm of David illustrating the old covenant way of dealing with sin.
Psalm 51:1–19 — “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
“Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
“Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
“Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
“Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
“Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
“O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
“Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
“Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.”
Christians today will often try to deal with their sins in the way illustrated here. This is a beautiful Psalm, but, to be fair, David did not have what we have, and he did not know what we know. While many today go to this Psalm to teach dealing with sin by confession, contrition, repentance, and restitution, there are some things in it that are flatly ignored. Note that the contrite king stated “wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin”, and notice that he also was clear as to how the Lord would do that: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
That was indeed cleansing under the law. But the sinner under the law was never truly free from the guilt of sin:
Hebrews 10:1–4 — “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”
In God’s dispensation of grace, the sinner can indeed be free from the shame, the guilt, and the debt of his sins. He can be completely free, because he can be completely forgiven. He is not forgiven because of confession, contrition, repentance, and restitution, but “according to the riches of [God’s] grace”, because we have redemption through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7).
This is a complete forgiveness, not forgiveness that the Christian must complete. The apostle Paul, writing to the saints and faithful brethren in Colosse, wrote to them about the completeness of the forgiveness that they received by the cross:
Colossians 2:13–14 — “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross…”
The hymn-writer Horatio Spafford, in his well-known hymn on soul-health, understood the effect of sin on the human psyche, (the Greek word which we have translated most often as “soul” in our English Bible). It could, in no way, be well with his soul carrying his sin, but he gets his harmartiology correct in the third verse:
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
A healthy soul is a soul that is free from the weight of sin. Christian, do you feel free from the weight of your sin? You may not, but that does not make it any less of a fact.
Romans 8:1–2 — “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
You can enter into that soul health when you take God at His word. Do you remember when you believed the Gospel of your salvation, that Christ died for your sins and that He rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3–4)? The same word of God also stated as fact that we have redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7), and that He has forgiven us all trespasses (Colossians 2:13). The same word of God says that there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), and that God justifies (makes a judicial declaration of righteousness) the one that believes in Jesus (according to the Scriptures, of course), as we learn in Romans 3:26.
If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ according to the scriptures, then you are still bearing the weight of your own sins. There is no health in the soul bearing his own sins. He may feel healthy, but he is not. There is no reason to continue to carry them. The flaming sword that was once guarding the tree of life is no longer standing in the way, keeping sinners from their God.
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them”, (2 Corninthians 5:19) is the word of reconciliation that the Lord gave to the Apostle Paul and this is a wonderful message of good news for the sinner. Your sins are not keeping you from receiving the gift of God. All that you must do to enter in is to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Why carry your own sins any longer? You can be free from them today!