By Shawn McMullen
The God that holds you over the pit of Hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful, venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment.
Edwards did not delight in such preaching. He didn’t enjoy denouncing sin and depicting the torments of Hell. Instead, he preached out of a concern for the lost—out of a determination to call sin, “sin,” and a consuming desire to bring people to repentance.
We could use some of Edward’s straightforward preaching today. We need to tell people that sin separates them from God, and that those who continue in their sins apart from Jesus Christ will spend eternity in Hell, an unquenchable lake of fire. We need to call sin, “sin.” Not with vindictiveness, but with tears.
What can we say about sin?
Sin is real. It is objective and absolute. We sin by breaking the law of God. First John 3:4 tells us, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” When we sin, we enter into a wrong relationship with God and his law.
Sin is universal. It affects everyone. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10).
Sin leads to death. “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news.
God has made provision for our sins. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In dying for us, Jesus became our “sacrifice of atonement” (3:25). On the cross, Jesus took our place and received our punishment.
Anyone can accept God’s provision. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (3:23, 24).
Accepting God’s provision frees us from sin and condemnation. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
There is no greater promise.
Let’s tell the world about sin. But let’s not stop there. Let’s tell them about God’s grace, too.
This article first appeared in the August 3, 2003 edition of The Lookout.