Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 10, 1951

"Where Are The Sinners?"

Robert F. Turner, Prescott, Arizona

From I Peter 4:17-18 we read, "For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, WHERE SHALL THE UNGODLY AND SINNER APPEAR?" I believe I am aware of the meaning of these questions. They are asked rhetorically, with the obvious answer understood; viz. They shall NOT appear in a favorable light before God, but may expect His just condemnation.

God is unalterably opposed to SIN. He defines SIN. He deplores SIN. He tells us of the consequences of SIN. He condemns the SINNER. I wish to emphasize that God calls SIN by its right name, and expects us to do likewise. We defeat, or at least hinder, the purposes of God and His work to save man from sin, when we attempt to hide our sin beneath pride, vain philosophies, or any other cover.. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked—"

Consider the case of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15) A young man obtained his portion of his father's goods, and left home. He squandered his substance with riotous living. (vs. 13) Later, stirred to his true condition by extreme want, he determined to return to his father, and to say, (vs. 18f) "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants." The young man recognized his moral responsibility to God, as well as to his father. His SIN, while extremely hurtful to his earthly father—and a violation of his moral responsibility to his fellowman, was more than that. He had "SINNED AGAINST HEAVEN." ALL sin is against heaven.

The first, and great, commandment given by Jesus (Mark 12:28-31) was that we must recognize the ONENESS (and consequent perfectness) of God, and love Him with our whole being. The second commandment was to love our neighbor as ourselves. Thus we are taught moral responsibility to God, and to man. But this necessary moral responsibility is being greatly ignored. Even among those who yet cry for legalistic responsibilities, we note a tendency to treat lightly, or laugh at their moral responsibilities. The conscience is rusting away—badly abused, or unused. It is considered "corny" to blush, and "there are no bad boys" is a catchy phrase, readily accepted.

Suppose the prodigal son were living today? (As if he were not!) Does he SIN? Oh, horrors, NO! He is young —has never known responsibility. Perhaps he is an extrovert, and the restraint of his early childhood, the multiplied frustrations, warped his better judgment temporarily. He simply had to sow a few wild oats. Actually, this was the best thing that could have happened to him, for the adjustment is now positive, not negative, and he is thus freed from the shackles of the past. Hmmm!

What has become of the sinners? Can you name one SIN—point out one single SINNER? You try it, and I'll tell you how terribly "old-fashioned" you are. Do you suggest the "liar?" Oh, NO! He simply has an inferiority complex. In order to take his place in the world, he must cover this with a shell—his imagination. Especially is this sort of imagination necessary in business these days, and after all, he must make a "living." His imagination is such that, given a paintbrush, he would no doubt show great talent. He is a creative worker—like a poet, or a preacher, or a lawyer.

So you try again—"A drunkard!" This reminds me of the panhandler who, when remonstrated for his drunken condition, replied, "Why governor, haven't you been reading the papers? This is a sickness. I'm to be pitied!" If he beats his wife, wastes the family money, starves his children, wrecks the home, he is only a victim of circumstances, needs understanding.

Do you suggest "Adultery?" That might be a sin if we read about it in the papers, preferably a paper from a distant city. But in the cases of our immediate knowledge—well, it is simply a case of biological maladjustment. The sex pervert was denied "free discussion" at home. His parents were old-fashioned. We can put a lot of the blame on parents whose only error (?) was common decency. Perhaps a movie touched off the actual sin—er—excuse me, I mean "mistake;" but then the movie only featured the "unvarnished truth." Life is like that.

The murderer—well, perhaps psychoanalysis would show that he had been inhibited to such an extent during childhood, that this caused a social maladjustment. He was never allowed to push his oats from the table, so now "self-assertion" causes him to push his wife off of Brooklyn bridge. That he is morally responsible, both to God and man, to exercise control of himself—to curb unlawful thoughts, lest they become unlawful acts—that is just too much to expect. When Peter asked, "Where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?" he intended to point clearly at the SINNER, and pronounce just condemnation (through God' Word) for the SIN. But today we could "pun" a bit on the question by asking, "Where are the sinners?"

Let us look at God's definition of SIN. From I John 3:4 we read, (A.R.V.) "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness: and sin is lawlessness." Transgression of law—that is sin. But what law? There are two types of law, moral and positive; and we have responsibilities to God and to man through each of these types. Our very existence as the created of God, being made in His image, being free moral agents, argues our obligation to God. Our existence as members of Adam's family, as units of human society, argues our obligation to our fellowman. Little wonder then that Christ declares full and complete love for the ONE God, and love for our fellowman, as the GREAT commandments. This is LAW, and violation of law is SIN.

The Mosaic dispensation, as a "schoolmaster" to lead us unto Christ, does much more than give types and shadows of the Christian system. It presents us with an elaborate "case history" of God's dealing with man. The people were held individually responsible to God's moral and positive precepts. God sought to instill in them a feeling of individual responsibility. "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted." (See I Cor. 10:1-12) The man who worshipped an idol was a SINNER. If he lied to his neighbor, he was a SINNER. If he violated the Sabbath law, he was a SINNER. If he failed to present sin offerings, i.e., to make use of the remedial system of that dispensation, he died in his sins, to be thus judged of God. The same principle is certainly no less true under the Christian system.

The drunkard may now be a sick man, scarcely responsible for his present condition. But there was a time when he violated both positive and moral responsibilities to God and man. He SINNED, and now reaps the consequences of that SIN. The men and women who fill their lives with sensual pleasures, who read lust-provoking books, who make little or no attempt to restrain these lascivious desires—these people SIN. Even before the overt act takes place, they SIN. (Note Matt. 5:21f; Gal. 5:19f) They may later plead that circumstances were such, that temptation was so strong they could not overthrow it. But all the psychological, physiological, biological, and philosophical excuses of the world can not remove the fact that they have failed their moral and positive responsibilities to God and man, they have transgressed law, and are therefore SINNERS.

And what is the remedy? The science of man may analyze the sin, and reconstruct the pattern of sin, but it cannot remove the sin. Jesus Christ is the great physician needed here. He is the only hope of sinful man. Christ's blood was "shed for many, for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:28) The apostle Peter divinely inspired, tells us how to make use of the saving blood of Christ when, speaking to some who believed in the resurrected Lord, he said, (Acts 2:38) "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,—." Man further SINS when, recognizing his obligation to God as here stated, he refuses to obey.

. The Word of God states the laws of God... We are individually accountable to God, and our obligation is assumed only when we hear His Word, and obey it. How to become a Christian, how to live as a Christian—the moral and the positive responsibilities of man toward God and his fellow man—this is LAW, clearly stated in the Word of God. Transgress law, and you are a SINNER.

Where are the sinners? They are all around us. We are sinners. The longer we attempt to hide sin beneath pride, psychology, or any other curtain, the longer we will remain SINNERS. Only by recognizing our condition, appealing to Christ, the great physician, and accepting our obligation to obey His law, can we escape the terrible consequences of SIN.