What is the evidence for sin? There are several primary pieces of evidence left in the trail of everyone bent by sin. Since God requires man recognize sin in self and the world He commands the evidence remain obvious. His declaration of sin as rebellion against Him is all the verification for sin He needs. He always tells the truth and demands His creation live in truth declared. Man is created in the image of God. It is this image, even corrupted by sin, which gives us the tools to know truth, the difference between right and wrong, and the reality of physical death pointing toward spiritual death.
Even if we don’t know the word “sin’ we do know the feeling “guilt.” In the New Testament the word “guilty” means to owe or to be in debt. In the Old Testament the word “guilty” means to commit an offense and be held responsible for it, either by self or an authority. Whether in the Old or New Testament the guilty person is held and judged against a specific standard. This recognition of “guilt” points to sin and the intellectual acknowledgment of its reality, not the emotional realization of the consequences which follows. Emotions are subjective, influenced by many uncontrollable and unpredictable external and internal circumstances. Both the mind and the emotions, as parts of the image of God, are corrupted by sin and so cannot see, or will not see, and understand sin’s reality.
No one can live with a guilty conscience for long. They must do something with the guilt. For sinful humanity one of the prevalent means for easing the shame brought on by sinful actions and attitudes is to change the standard which judges those actions and attitudes rebellion against God. We say what we have done is not rebellion and has violated no law and then we convince ourselves the lie is true. Doing this gives us permission to continue living out the lie. Or, we can do something to absolve ourselves of the guilt. We offer restitution and pay for our sin using our own means and then feel better. Doing this never changes the truth of history and the reality of what has been done. Nor, because of the doctrine of total depravity, will we adequately pay for our own sin, either actively or passively. Doing this is another way of changing the rules. So, we either ignore the rules and our rebellion against them or we explain away our rebellion and alleviate our feeling of guilt.
But wait. Our heads, the intelligence, tells us “guilt” is real. Our heads, our minds, tell us we have done something to produce guilt. If we are honest we will recognize there is an objective standard existing outside of self which is absolute and which we have violated, producing guilt. We know, intellectually, the difference between right and wrong. This is the second piece of evidence for sin. Admitting one is guilty is as vitally important as recognizing the truth of sin. Ignoring the guilt will compel the person to begin viewing the created world, governed by the absolute laws of God, to believe a lie which is insane.
It is not a great leap to realize a standard, a measurement of the distance between right and wrong, must have a Standard Giver. Since God, the Standard Giver, has created people in His image are capable of recognizing both the standard of right and wrong and the One upon whom the standard is based. We know, intellectually as well as intimately, the boundaries of that standard. We may ignore them, rationalize them away, say they do not nor have never existed, call them something else, but we know, even with a corrupted image, the difference between right and wrong. We also know we always want to choose that which is wrong. In order to abrogate our responsibility to do what is right by choosing to do the wrong we must redefine truth, saying it is something it is not. When we do this we say God is something other than what He is truly.
Truth, and right and wrong, are as absolute as mathematics. Evidence for the reality of sin is the recognition of what is right and what is wrong based upon the intimate knowledge of the intrinsic, objective standard of God, the truth, known because of the tools given within the image of God carried by all.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [Romans 1:18-21 ESV]
One unconditional piece of evidence for the reality of sin is the absolute certainty of death. Death is the separation from that which sustains life. Physical death occurs when the body is no longer sustained in the physical world, through the natural laws, standards emplaced by the Standard Giver. So, spiritual death is separation from the absolute One who sustains spiritual life, as well as physical life. Separation from the Life-Giver happens when there is known and deliberate rebellion against the Standard Giver.
We die. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” [Genesis 2:16-17 ESV]
God uses the word death twice in this restriction. On the day Adam ate from the tree he began dying. Adam did not immediately die but the process of physical death begin. He would die. This suggests two things. First, God created those in His image to live and not die. Second, He told Adam what death was. We know death as separation from that which gives life. So for Adam death separates from God since God created him and breathed life into him. But, he would not be separated immediately in physical death. We do see God separating Adam from the garden immediately. Death is a consequence of sin but it is also the definitive evidence for the reality of sin.
We can no more ignore the truth of death than we can ignore the truth of sin than we can ignore the truth of God. To do any of this is to lessen God and everyone made in His image. Believing there is no sin or reason for guilt elevates self to God’s place and replaces His standard with the individual’s unreasonable expectations. Such an attitude shows contempt for God and for those made in His image. This attitude is called pride. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. [Proverbs 16:18 ESV] If being poor in spirit builds the desire of a love for the truth and expresses a complete hatred for sin then the hidden sin facing all but especially those who are poor in spirit is pride.
In the Old Testament the word “pride” means to exalt, to have majesty or excellence, coupled with arrogance. In the New Testament there are several words translated “pride” and used only a few times. “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” [1 John 2:16 ES] John uses a word which means “empty words,” “empty assurances” or” empty trust.” Everything the person says implies an empty belief and misplaced trust in an object which cannot deliver what is promised. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up (proud) with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” [1 Timothy 3:6 ESV] Paul uses a word which means “smoke” or “mist,” having the outward appearance of substance but with nothing inside. Pride blows hot air into a person until they are so big they can see nothing but themselves. Pride is essentially a self-righteous, self-absorbed excuse to view self as not sinful or beyond sin. Pride expresses itself in self-righteousness.
Those who are poor in spirit recognize sin has separated them from the riches of a personal relationship with God. Pride hides truth and inflates self shutting off every personal relationship. Once one begins working with God there is a continual trial to not place self ahead of Him. It is easy to begin viewing all which has been done, or said, to see the successes and failures, and to attribute them to personal effort. While we live in this world God does not erase the corrupted image given us through Adam as we acknowledge sin and relinquish control. We must continually fight the tugs and pulls of the world, continually acknowledge sin in ourselves and continually relinquish control. Even John, at the end of his life when he saw Jesus, fell on his face because he recognized his sinfulness.
However, the internal understanding or knowledge of truth shown by God may become a source of pride. Look at Elijah. Here was a man willing to stand alone before a hostile leader in the power of God and defeat the opposition, do miraculous and mighty things, and speak boldly and truthfully. He is the only person in the Bible we can say with certainty was taken into heaven without dying. Yet, he became exhausted with his battle and ran to the mountain of God to speak with Him.
“The word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”
“He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’” [1 Kings 19:13-14 ESV]
Elijah thought he was the only one speaking for God, that all others had deserted God or been killed. He points out to God his attitude toward the direction given. He was “jealous” for God. Elijah showed how passionate he was for declaring truth and hating sin. He was not afraid of standing alone even against the prophets of Baal whom he had just killed. He knew the people had killed God’s prophets and were out to murder Him. God did nothing to stop the murder of those prophets. Elijah told God when they killed him no one would be left to speak for God. He was telling God to do something. He has done everything he could for God and it seems as if God has done nothing.
Notice God does not rebuke Elijah. He has protected him, given him food miraculously, listened to him and given him dominion over rain and life. He enabled Elijah to outrun horses. He killed 400 men and would have killed 850 had the rest of the false prophets showed up. God sustained him as he walked for days without food. Elijah’s focus upon God waivered with physical exhaustion. He had to see himself before God and worn out before he would see God utterly and finally in control. Though there is no mention of pride in Elijah his words before God about himself and what God has not done are self-important.
Even the godliest men will succumb to pride when they focus upon themselves and not on God. Pride, which is sin, focuses upon personal accomplishments and not on God. Even focusing on failures and not on God makes proud. Anything which elevates self above the station specified by God is rebellion. Though God blesses those who are poor in spirit there is still a tendency to view self in a way which places self where God never intended.