21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts…28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
~ Romans 1:21-28 (NIV)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 6:23 (NIV)
8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. ~ Romans 7:8 (NIV)
Sin is idolatry and rebellion against God. More precisely, sin is rebellious idolatry against God, where we exchange the truth of God for a lie and serve created things instead. Sin places things other than God at the forefront of our lives, resulting in sinful desires, shameful lusts, and a depraved mind.1
It is important to understand the heart that lies behind sin rather than look at individual actions and attitudes that we may deem ‘sinful’. That’s because sin is ultimately a moral problem that touches our entire nature and existence. Disobedience to parents, murder, lying, stealing, envy, and sexual immorality are manifestations of a heart of rebellious idolatry that seeks to serve created things instead of the Creator. Often, we are serving ourselves and our selfish desires for satisfaction.
Romans details the problem of sin as a universal condition of humanity. Both Jew and Gentile are under the power of sin.2 As a result, all of humanity deserves the wrath of God and the eternal death that comes with separation from Him.3 This is the great problem of the human condition that is in need of saving from. We need to be saved from the wrath of God.
A distinctive way in which Paul speaks of sin in the letter of Romans is to personify it. Paul speaks of how sin is active, ambitious, and produces evil actions. For example, Paul says that sin in him produced coveting once he realised that there was a law against coveting.4This is because we are rebellious idolaters and, when we realise how we can rebel against God, a whole new world of opportunity awaits us and our capacity to do evil. Sin is not just a character flaw that some of us have; sin is a potent and deadly power that needed to be defeated. This is why the death of Jesus in condemning sin is spoken of as a triumphant deliverance and rescue.5
The righteous requirement of justice against sin is death, and so Jesus took that requirement to satisfy the demands of God’s righteousness and render sin powerless.6 In Christ, the judgement is already paid! Nothing more needs to be punished if we are in Christ. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians are to put sin to death in their lives.7 Yes, Christians are free from the consequences of sin, but God’s desire is that we would also become free from the practice of sin. Sin is not dead in our lives yet, but one day it will be.
Paul calls Christians to count themselves dead to sin, meaning that Christians should not let sin continue to have a place in their lives.8 The call is to remember that sin is no longer a master, so the Christian need not obey its call and desire. But, even when we do, we can rest assured knowing that there is no condemnation in Christ since He already bore the punishment we deserve.