Brian Haines Index

The Nature

of Sin

Sunday, April 7, 2013


We who are Christians have come to see that the Bible contains some very complex and important ideas. We know that it is not always easy to understand what is written (II Peter 3:16), but require more in depth study to present ourselves as workmen approved to use the tools given to us.

Such is the study of the consequences and wages of sin. Let us consider for a moment two passages, which represent teachings on the nature of sin. In Ezekiel 18:20 God tells us that He does not hold accountable for sin a father or son of a sinner, if they were innocent of the sins in question. In Exodus 20:5 God says that He visits “the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me”. On one hand it seems God says He does not punish sons for their fathers’ sins; on the other, it seems to say just that. To understand this idea, we need to understand the difference between the wages of sin and the consequences of sin.

First, let us clearly show that Sin has wages (Romans 6:23) and that sin has consequences (Romans 5:18). From these and other passages, we can see that there is a difference in wages and consequences. From our own vernacular we would call a wage: something deserved or earned; something given at the end of the period in question; something only one person receives; something set as being absolute. In the negative, we know that we do not pay wages to one who has not earned them, nor do we pay them early, nor are they arbitrarily set.

Consequence is the term we will use to describe a subsequent event that is very different than a wage. A consequence is: something possibly deserved or earned, but not necessarily; something that can happen anytime; something that affects many people, or one person; something that may not happen at all. We now have a picture of two sets of results; one that is absolute and specific, one that is unspecified and abstract.

Sin has both wages and consequences. The Bible says that the wages of sin are death; this refers to the ultimately spiritual separation in Hell. We do not receive this penalty until the end of time, and it is reserved only for the one who sins. The Bible also tells us about the consequences of sin. Many people suffer the consequences of the sins of those around them, as well as their own sins. Sometimes those consequences are great, sometimes they are non-existent. They can happen at any time. They are NOT the punishment for sin.

One example is that of two men who drink at a bar one Saturday night. They both get into their cars and drive home. One of the men hits a van with a family in it, and all are lost. The other man arrives home without incident. We see here the consequences of sin being the car accident; it happened to more than one person, it was random, and it happened the night of the incident. At the same time, both men have broken God’s law (I Corinthians 6:10) and both will receive on judgment that same wage, eternal damnation. Just because one of the men also lost his life does not mitigate the wages of sin.

Why is this the case with sin? One point we might consider is that the consequences of sin teach us the nature of sin, even if we are ignorant of what the Word says (Romans 2:14-15). As well, it serves as a double reminder and source of fear for the violation of sin.  We see this in Genesis and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The Wage of the Sin of Adam and Even was that when they ate of the tree, they were dead to God. The Consequence was that they and their descendants were removed from the tree of life and the garden so that they would not live indefinitely, and thereby nullify the wage of sin.

We also can use the events in the life of David recorded in II Samuel 12. There David sinned, and when he repented with a contrite heart, he was forgiven, however, so that his sin was not seen as acceptable to God, his son died. Here again we see the differences between the wages of sin and the consequences of sin.

In application, we are often like Job and ask God why He is punishing us with the events in our lives. We must understand that there is no punishment spoken of in this life, but the next, which are the wages of sin. Too, when we are successful in life, it may not be that God has favored us, but we may still be in danger of the wages of sin.

The Wages of Sin are absolute UNLESS we repent. At that point Jesus’ payment on the cross pays the wages of sin. However, repentance may not affect the consequences of sin.  We may have many such consequences to deal with in our lives, even after the wages of sin have been removed. Where do you stand?