The Sinfulness of Sin

“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

- Romans 1:32

The Apostle Paul utters a scathing indictment of humanity in Romans 1:18–3:20, telling us that we are so radically corrupt that sin affects not only our behaviors but also our very thinking. It is not that we are sinners because we sin—we do not start life as basically neutral or basically good and then through a series of bad choices and misdeeds make ourselves corrupt. Instead, we sin because we are sinners—our corruption precedes our actions. Since the fall of Adam, all people born in Adam are born guilty of his sin and with a nature inclined to disobedience to the Lord (Rom. 5:12–21). As a result, sin is a “normal” part of human life apart from God’s saving grace. All people break the law of God in some capacity, and even at our best, apart from grace all we are capable of is external conformity to the Lord’s commands. Apart from grace, we are never motivated to do what is right out of love for God and a desire to please Him.

When Paul speaks of the sins of the gentiles in Romans 1:18–32 (note that in Romans 2, he says Jews are guilty of the same evils), he gives a rather full list, including heinous transgressions such as murder, malice, and hatred of our Creator (1:29–31). As bad as these sins are, Paul does not show the true depth of human depravity until verse 32, when he tells us that although we all know that those who engage in sin impenitently deserve to die, we not only continue in sin but give approval to those who sin. Here is true perversity: we encourage and applaud others when they violate the Lord’s standards.

It is bad enough that we break God’s law, but how truly wicked we must be to encourage one another in evil. And experience shows us how true Paul’s words are. How often, when others express reticence about repeating a piece of gossip, do we encourage them to share it in the interest of “spreading the truth”? How common is it, in our day, to see people who are engaged in wanton sexual sin show no shame but instead join public parades that call for pride in flagrant immorality? It is not enough for us to sin personally and privately. No, we want to fool ourselves that what we are doing really is not all that bad, so we surround ourselves with fellow sinners to whom we can express approval and who will approve of us in return.

In our fallenness, we attempt to normalize sin because we love sin and do not want to give it up. By nature, we would rather take people to hell with us than confess and forsake our transgressions. Such is the perversity of our present condition.

Coram Deo

Our radical corruption is plainly evident in our attempt to excuse the sins of others and to find people who will approve of our transgressions. Misery loves company, and unless God changes us, we would rather suffer condemnation together than recognize ourselves as sinners and turn to Christ in faith for forgiveness. Are you seeking approval for your sin or are you earnestly desiring, with God’s help, to forsake all evil?

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 32:1
Judges 19:22–24
Acts 7:54–8:1a
1 Peter 4:1–6

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.