Harmartiology: The Doctrine of Sin
We title the study of the Doctrine of sin as Harmartiology. The root word harmartia is a Greek word for sin; it comes from a word that literally means to miss the mark and not share in the prize. The suffix –ology identifies a ‘science’. It is called a science because it consists of systematically and logically arranged facts.
As a context for our study on what the Bible says about sin, let us consider in detail the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.
- The Scene of the Fall
- The Fact of the Fall
- The Results of the Fall
The Scene of the Fall
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
In the midst of the garden was placed two trees of destiny. The first was a tree of life, but the second was the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why did God place such a horrid tree in the midst of Eden’s blissful paradise? It was a test for man.
In his temptation of the Crown of God’s Creation, satan employed the agent of a serpent. The outstanding characteristic of this serpent was that it was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. The serpent, satan, was that eternally damned and rebellious angel of God. Why would he be allowed to put one foot into the garden, or be allowed to operate in that blessed place? It was a test for man.
The preceding answer leads us to one ultimate question of purpose—Why was it necessary for man to be tested?
First, God’s desire is to fellowship with a people that chooses to love Him. He is not content to have the admiration of mindless robots. Second, in order for there to be a ‘choice’ there must be at least two options or there is really no ‘choosing.’ Therefore, the Tree of Knowledge was placed in the garden to test man’s devotion to God.
Let us consider two other relevant questions:
1) Did man’s failure reflect at all on God? No. God is infallible. God created and designed man, but He also gave man the freedom of choice. Man’s fall does not expose some flaw in God’s design, but emphasizes the wonderfulness of God’s design. God designed it so that man could choose God, but he also had the liberty to not choose God and His ways.
2) Did Adam HAVE to sin? No. If Adam HAD to sin, there would still have existed no true ‘choice’ for Adam simply would have had ‘no choice’ but to sin. With every test from God comes also the grace to overcome! We can pass the test by the grace of God. There existed for Adam and still exists for us the potential of not falling.
Jude 1:24—Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
The Fact of the Fall
The most tragic event connected with man is his fall into sin. Genesis 3:1-6 reveals that the first man fell. The steps in the fall were:
Listening to slanders about God. vs. 1
Hath God said…?
Doubting God’s Word and His love. vs. 4,5
“God is keeping something wonderful from you!”
Looking at what God has forbidden.
And when the woman saw…the tree v. 6 (Compare with Joshua 7:21.)
Note the steps of sin:
Lusting for what God has prohibited. v.6
Here we have the “Lust of the flesh”, “Lust of the eyes” and the “Pride of life” spoken of in 1 John 2:16. (Compare with Luke 4:1-15.)
The Results of the Fall
Upon Man’s Physical Nature
The ground was cursed, so that henceforth it would not yield good alone. Gen. 3:17
“How often are all the fruits of man's toll destroyed by blasting, by mildew, by insects, wet weather, land floods, etc.! Anxiety and carefulness are the labouring man's portion.”—Adam Clarke
Multiplied sorrow and pain to the woman in childbearing and labor, and subjection of the woman to her husband. Genesis 3:16
…I will multiply…could also be rendered “in multiplying, I will multiply” as it is rendered in Genesis 22:17. Here is a figure of speech expressing a multiplication ontop of a multiplication. What pain the woman experiences in childbirth since the fall is in the very least much greater than was ever intended.
…and he shall rule over thee. In the beginning a great responsibility was given to Adam to care for, have dommionion over and protect God’s creation. God looked down on Adam’s solitude and said it was not good for man to be alone. This is why God created Eve. She was to be a ‘help meet” to Adam in his great charge. At her creation, the woman had probably as much right to rule as the man, but subjection to the will of her husband is one part of her curse.
Exhausting physical labor in order to subsist. Genesis 3:19
This hard labor should serve as a reminder to man of his sin. Sin is a hard master and the labor of sin is difficult. In years gone by, hard labor was a more common part of a criminal’s sentence. The hardness of the labor, combined with the amount of time served, proved to be an effective deterrent to crime. If we choose to do things our way in rebellion to God’s will, we are destined to great toil. God’s way and method is ALWAYS best. (There remains a rest to the people of God! Hebrews 4:9)
Physical and spiritual death. Genesis 3:19; 3:2; 5:5; Romans 5:12
Of course, with all this came also a fear of God, a shame of sin, a hiding from God’s presence, and finally, an expulsion from the garden. Genesis 3:8-11,22-24
Adam and Eve suffered from a guilty conscience. The evidences of their guilty consciences were they ran, hid, and tried to cover themselves. There is shame, as well as death, in sin.
The Fall Perverted Man’s Instincts
The works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) are a perversion of man’s instincts.
WORSHIP — IDOLATRY (Matt. 4:10; Isa. 14:12-14;)
PRESERVATION — SELFISHNESS (Gen.2:17; 4:8)
ACQUISITION — COVETOUSNESS (Gen. 2:15; John 10:10;)
APPETITE — GLUTTONY (Gen. 1:19; Isa. 56:11;)
REPRODUCTION — LUST (Gen. 1:28;2 Sam. 11:2;)
DOMINANCE — TYRANNY (Gen. 1:18; Luke 2:1)
Upon Man’s Spiritual Nature
All men, without respect of condition or class, are sinners before God. Romans 3:9,22,23; Psalm 14; Isaiah 53:6
There may be differences in the degrees of sin among people, but never in the fact of sin—ALL have sinned.
The whole world sits under condemnation, wrath, and a curse.
Rom. 3:19—That every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.
God’s law demands perfect obedience, but no sinner can yield such obedience; hence, the curse of a broken law rests upon those breaking it. John 3:36; Gal. 3:10; Eph. 2:3
Unregenerate men are regarded as children of the devil and not sons of God.
1 John 3:8-10; John 8:44 “Ye are of your father the devil.”
1 John 5:19—And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. (RV: in the wicked one)
The whole human race is in hopeless captivity to sin and satan.
Romans 7:14; John 8:31-36
Ephesians 2:3—Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
The entire nature of man—mentally, spiritually, morally, and physically—is sadly affected by sin.
The understanding is darkened. Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:14
Ephesians 4:18—Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
I Corinthians 2:14—But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The heart is deceitful and wicked. Jer. 17:9,10
Jeremiah 17:9—The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…
The mind and conscience are defiled. Gen. 6:5
Titus 1:15— Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
The will is enfeebled. Rom. 7:18
Romans 7:18— For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
The flesh and spirit are defiled.
2 Corinthians 7:1—…let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.