What the Bible says about
All Have Sinned
(From Forerunner Commentary)
This verse seems like a fairly straightforward statement of a truth repeated in various ways dozens, if not hundreds, of times throughout the book of Proverbs. Those who practice righteousness will ultimately succeed, while the sinfulness of the sinner will be his undoing. The way Solomon composes this proverb, however, brings out a few particular points.
First, the emphasis in the first half of the couplet is not necessarily on the godly man's success but on the fact that his practice of goodness shields him from adversity (compare Proverbs 2:11; 4:6; 13:3). A practitioner of God's way of life is protected by the fact that he does what is right. If a person does good things, avoiding what is evil, he will be drawn into adverse situations far less frequently than those who dance on the edge of the cliff.
For instance, the Christian who lives by the injunction found in the seventh commandment—"You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14)—will not put himself or herself in tempting situations; and on the rare occasion that a temptation of that nature presents itself, he or she will, like Joseph, run in the other direction (Genesis 39:12). Such a person's righteousness—his right doing—guards him from the destruction that sin causes, and "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). We could also understand this to suggest that a person who walks uprightly shelters under the protection of God, who is pleased with those who practice righteousness (Colossians 1:10; Hebrews 13:16).
The second half of the verse communicates the exact opposite: He whose conduct is determined by sin is bound to fall into destruction. The sinful way of living offers the sinner no protection at all; the course of sin will run unchecked through his life all the way to death (see James 1:14-15)—provided that God Himself does not arrest it through His calling. This is the course of the world that we see every day on the street (Ephesians 2:1-3).
We can take this principle to the bank. Even though we see in various places in Scripture (for example, in Psalm 10), and even in our own experience, that the wicked seem to prosper, we can be assured that their prosperity is only temporary (Psalm 37). The evil that they do will catch up to them in time and begin to take its toll. The corrupt always pay the piper.
The Hebrew text contains a pair of technical oddities in this verse's second half, making it difficult to translate into English but bringing out a significant point. The oddities are that both nouns, "wickedness" and "sinner," are abstract nouns in the original. The NKJV translators, as in many translations, chose to render only one of them as abstract, "wickedness," and changing the other to a concrete noun, "sinner." Literally, though, this part of the verse should be read as "wickedness overthrows sinfulness."
The point this brings out shows just how pervasive sin is once committed. There is no such thing as a partial sinner; one is either righteous or sinful. In practicing sin, the sinner is perfectly wicked—he is sinfulness, nothing but sin, a mass of evil and corruption. James puts it another way, writing that if we break one commandment, we break them all (James 2:10-11). Jesus, speaking both to His disciples and to His audience of Jews, calls them "evil" (Matthew 7:11; 12:34). Paul writes of all humanity, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). James states the simple truth that we all stumble (James 3:2).
Each time we sin, then, we become evil and require the gracious forgiveness of God through the blood of Jesus Christ to become clean once again. The lesson in this proverb is to make it our practice to do what is right and good in God's eyes, and that will greatly diminish our chances of falling into sin and straining our relationship with God.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The apostle John declares that sin is the transgression of God's commandments (I John 3:4, KJV), including the two great commandments Jesus spoke in Mark 12:28-31. The word translated as "sin" literally means "to miss the mark." Combining these principles gives us a very broad definition of sin: Sin is imperfectly loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and imperfectly loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Romans 3:23 declares that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." In other words, all have sinned in the past, and in the present all fall short in reflecting God's love, which is a major part of His glory. Godly love does not have to grow cold for it to be shown imperfectly. It will be shown imperfectly when it is demonstrated by God's still-imperfect children. We all are in this state.
This is not to say that we should give up trying to perfect God's love. On the contrary, we have every responsibility to do our utmost to perfect it (I John 2:5; 4:12, 17-18). At the same time, it should not shock us when our spiritual brothers and sisters show God's love to us imperfectly, for we are guilty of the same toward them—and toward God.
Perhaps we find ourselves in a situation where it appears that God's love in others is growing cold. Maybe we see God's standard of holiness being ignored or compromised, and some form of lawlessness is beginning to show up. We may see little evidence of sacrificial love, and relationships are beginning to be strained. What should we do?
There are two possibilities. The first is that our discernment is correct, and what Jesus Christ foretold in Matthew 24:12 is coming to pass, perhaps not in its ultimate fulfillment, but at least in type. The second is that our discernment is incorrect, and that God's love is actually present and not growing cold, but we are having trouble seeing it.
If our discernment is correct, and we truly are in a circumstance where agape love is waning, Jesus has already indicated what He wants us to do. Matthew 24:13 says, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved." When many are letting their relationships with God deteriorate, the emphasis is on patient, active endurance.
I Corinthians 13 gives a beautiful description of agape love, which parallels Jesus' exhortation to endure in several points. Verse 4 says that godly love "suffers long." It displays patience and endurance, even in the face of being loved imperfectly. Verse 7 adds that godly love "bears all things" and "endures all things." However, if we are not showing patience or endurance in response to imperfect love, then we are simply responding with carnality rather than with God's love.
Similarly, verse 5 says that godly love "thinks no evil." True love pays no attention to a suffered wrong, nor takes account of the evil done to it. It does not keep a running list of all the ways it has been offended or loved imperfectly. That, again, would be responding to imperfect love with carnality. So, if we find ourselves in the midst of a fulfillment of Matthew 24:12, we really have our work cut out for us because we will have to endure patiently and continue to display God's love rather than allow our own agape to also grow cold in response.
Conversely, God's love may be present, but our discernment may be incorrect, and we are missing it by looking for agape only in one application. We may be continually waiting for a specific type of sacrificial love, and if we do not receive it, we may suppose that God's love is absent. However, we are not all the same in how we show love or how we recognize it. We may need to take a step back and look for facets of God's love that are present, rather than focusing on what may be absent.
In addition, given that human nature is still present within us, we also have to remember that nothing inhibits or damages our ability to see things clearly like focusing on the self. That is, we tend to evaluate whether God's love is present based on how we feel or how we are affected, rather than on objectively looking for God's spiritual workmanship in the overall situation.
David C. Grabbe
Is the Love of Many Growing Cold?
This passage shows us the foundation of understanding justification by faith and thus where we stand in our relationship with God. Paul explains that, regardless of who one is and what he has done that might be considered as righteousness, God owes Him nothing but death because "all have sinned." Sinners are those under the law, and the law condemns them, making them subject to its power to take the sinner's life. Each person's own transgressions against the law and God place him in that position.
Sin is something each sinner is responsible for, and once the individual has sinned and earned the death penalty, the sin cannot be forgiven simply because he does good to make up for it. God did not make him sin. A clear example is Adam and Eve: God obviously did not make them sin; each of them chose to sin. Romans 3:20 clearly states that no sinner can justify himself through law-keeping. The law's purpose is to make known what sin is.
Once a person sins, everything is seemingly stacked against him. The sinner can in no way make up for what he has done. Therefore, since justification cannot be claimed as a right due to his keeping the law, if a person desires to be forgiven, the only alternative is that justification must be received as a gift.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace (Part Two)
In Romans 5:6, the apostle Paul declares that “Christ died for the ungodly.” The Greek word for “ungodly” is asebes, meaning “those without any reverence toward God.” The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, showed little reverence toward God. They were heedless when He warned them of the deadly outcome of their disobedience (Genesis 2:17; 3:3).
Since then, all humans have followed their example, falling from God's favor because of unbelief, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Essentially, man is unwilling or unable to recognize God's sovereignty and holiness, which causes him to fall short of being what God intends him to be.
The countermeasure for man's sinfulness is the perfect, sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, culminating in our opportunity for justification (Romans 4:25). The objective of justification is not merely to render a guilt-free verdict for the repentant sinner, nor does it provide a special certificate of eternal life to its recipient. Instead, it is a spiritual act—part of a spiritual process—with spiritual effects that open the way to salvation and eternal life.
Martin G. Collins
The Fruit of Justification
When Adam and Eve sinned, God judged them. Since they were the father and mother of all of mankind, and they were the only representatives of mankind at the time, all of mankind figuratively sinned in Adam and Eve. God's judgment was correct, because given the chance, every human has sinned.
What then happened to Adam and Eve? They were ushered out of the Garden, and God put cherubim at its entrance to guard the Garden and the Tree of Life so that nobody could get back in. This is why at times the Bible bids people to return to God when they had never seemingly turned away from Him. Yet, all of mankind did turn away from God in Adam and Eve, and He invites us to return to the place, symbolically, where everything started, back to the environs He occupies, where the Tree of Life is.
The relationship with God is everything to our salvation. Without what Christ did in dying for our sins, we would not be in the position to have one with Him. Christ's payment of our sins opens up the way for a relationship to be built and for us to grow in the Holy Spirit, because now we have access to the Tree of Life in a relationship with God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Seven)
We say that we are "in Christ." We say that there is "one church." We say that there is "one Body," "one Family," "one Kingdom." What is said here in Ephesians 1 is where God is headed with all this. He will unite everybody who has ever been born and makes it into His Kingdom into one—one family, the God Family—one kingdom, the Kingdom of God. The church is simply the beginning of an awesome process—a tremendous project—that will eventually cover the 50 or 60 billion people who have ever lived on the face of this earth.
We who are now begotten children of God are at the prow of the ship, as it were, cutting the water as we forge ahead. It is our calling to have gotten in on the ground floor, the very beginning of the process. We have entered the process even before all of the great men and women we have read about in the histories of the nations. They will get their opportunity, but we are way ahead of them.
Why has God had to do this? The basic cause is what happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve sinned. Sin is disruptive; it divides, and it divided our first parents away from the one Family. As Paul says in Romans 5:12, "All have sinned." We have all sinned—maybe not exactly as Adam and Eve did, but everybody has sinned. We have followed our parents in becoming separated from God. Sin divides away from God, and man from man. The world has been shattered by sin. One could say, then, that the central object of salvation is to reunite all mankind into one Family.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)
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