Persuasion and the Problem of Sin
In the process of reasoning, explaining, and proving that Jesus is who He claimed to be, people also need to be convinced that they are guilty of sin. This is not an easy task, for it requires that people have a basic understanding of what sin really is and why it is such a problem. People generally do not like to see themselves in the context of being “bad.” Yet that is exactly what must happen.
Sin first enters the picture in Genesis 3:1-6. The serpent (the devil, Revelation 12:9) brought the temptation to Eve and she ate of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She then gave to Adam, who was with her, and he also ate. God then explained to them the consequences and curses that would come as a result of the sin.
Sin is such a problem because it is a violation of the nature and glory of God (Rom 3:23). Sin is essentially the idea of humans trying to take God from His throne and usurp His authority for their own. Satan told Eve in Genesis 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” To paraphrase, he was essentially saying, “You don’t need God telling you what to do; you can decide for yourself what is right and wrong. You can be your own gods.”
This is why God cannot simply let sin go. His glory, His holiness, and His very nature is at stake, as is the image in which God made us. Sin is idolatry. If He did nothing, then it would be like showing that His glory and holiness mean nothing. This is simply not tenable.
Now why would Christians need to persuade people that they are guilty of sin? This is hardly the most pleasant of topics. After all, all have sinned and all short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). As it is written and repeated in Romans 3:10-12, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Would this not make people feel badly? Will it not make them feel guilty? Will it not sting and hurt to know just how much they have offended God and marred the image in which they are created? Who wants to be persuaded of this?
The answer to these questions is that people must first appreciate the nature of the problem before they can appreciate the solution to the problem. One of the grand themes of Scripture is how God responds to the problem of sin. This theme is marvelous, full of grace, and culminates in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If people are going to be persuaded that they need Jesus, they need first to be persuaded that they are guilty of sin. When confronted by the Pharisees for eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus pointed out in Mark 2:17, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” If people do not know they are sick, they will not know that they need a physician. Convincing people that they are sick and need the physician is half the battle.
A good illustration of this process is found in Isaiah 6:1-8. Isaiah first sees the vision of God sitting on His throne. He is overwhelmed by God’s glory and holiness, and he responds by recognizing his own sinful condition. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” All it took for Isaiah to be convinced was seeing God for who He is. At this point, one of the seraphim took a coal from the altar, flew to Isaiah, touched his mouth and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah experienced forgiveness of sins. He experienced God’s grace. Isaiah was then ready to respond to God’s commission to go preach. He was ready to serve only after he was convinced of sin and received forgiveness.
This is why people need to be persuaded that they are guilty of sin. In understanding their sin, they may then be in a position to receive the grace and forgiveness from God. Only then will they be ready to serve in God’s kingdom as God intended. Persuasion of sin will lead to their being persuaded that they need Christ, which will also convince them that they need to obey and serve God. This is a layered process.
In order to receive the blessings and benefits that come from fellowship with God, people first need to know they are not “good,” but instead are guilty of sin. They are sick and need of the Great Physician. The persuasion, therefore, is not about sin alone, but about how they can go from being sinners to saints fulfilling their God-given purpose.