The Stupidity of Sin in the New Testament Saint

Michael Beck

“The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.
For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.
The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.
He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.” (Psalm 36:1-4)

Transgression is a type of sin which involves premeditation. It is not a sudden fall into sin. It is a deliberate foray into what one knows is forbidden. This does not mean it is without self-deception. The criminality of the transgressor very much involves calling evil good. God cries out: “Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.” (Jer. 44:4) But the transgressor says in his heart, “It’s not so bad.” At the heart of transgression is a failure to fear God. Proverbs 8:13 tells us what the fear of God is. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” (Prov. 8:13) David recognized that the “transgression of the wicked” was made possible because there was “no fear of God before his eyes.” “… He abhorreth not evil.”

Departing from evil requires us to fear God.

Until we hate what God hates we will not depart from it. We will continue to love our sin. Departing from evil requires us to fear God. “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.” (Prov. 16:6) Returning again and again to the same sins that we have been forgiven of reveals that we are devoid of the fear of God that hates and departs from evil. Even to Old Testament saints there was this warning: “I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.” (Psalm 85:8)

Yes, those who had been made holy and were called saints, who had been reconciled to God, could turn again to their folly. “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” (Prov. 26:11) This return to evil on the part of those who had received mercy was the reason God instituted a new covenant which would secure His people in a life of holiness and righteousness. “And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” (Jeremiah 32:39,40)

In God’s book, men depart from Him when they won’t depart from their sin. To remedy this problem, the New Covenant contains the provision of a new heart through which God may be feared “for ever” (i.e. continuously, without ceasing.) What an exceeding great and precious promise: “… but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” The impartation of a new heart and spirit means an impartation of the fear of the Lord which means God puts His hatred for evil in our hearts. It is this hatred for evil that enables us to depart from evil.

To think that the covenant of grace gives the saved a “free ticket” to sin is to misunderstand the whole purpose of the new and better covenant.

To think that the covenant of grace gives the saved a “free ticket” to sin is to misunderstand the whole purpose of the new and better covenant. “… Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” (Rom. 6:1,2) The New Covenant is greater than the Old Covenant because it contains greater provisions to please God. What those under the law, and in the flesh, could not do, those under grace, and in the Spirit, can do.

While we should rejoice in our “so great salvation” we should also understand that there are consequences for not walking in it. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Hebrews 2:3) The stakes have been raised because so much more has been given. The least New Testament saint is greater than the greatest saint under the old dispensation. “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28) Entering the kingdom of God requires a new birth. (John 3:5) One must be born again because without this new birth there cannot be complete submission to the King’s rule. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom. 8:7-9)

The same Jesus who “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity” lives within the heart of the redeemed.

The marvel of the New Covenant is that it provides for us the very Spirit of Christ to indwell us. The same Jesus who “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity” lives within the heart of the redeemed. Our hope of glory and righteousness is Christ in us. We are not sinners simply counted righteous, but left without the provisions to walk in righteousness. We are saints because we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and the Holy Spirit of Christ has been joined to our spirit. “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” (1 Cor. 6:17)

How much exponentially greater is the New Covenant from the Old? The law could tell us what to do but could not give us the power to keep it. The deceitfulness of sin continued to draw even the best of the Old Testament saints back to folly. So David heard what the transgression of the wicked said in his own heart. He knew what he should and should not do; but in the moment of temptation, the exceeding sinfulness of sin was greater than the law of his mind. And so, after the deed was done he cried out: “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6) Yes, he wanted immediate mercy and restoration to the presence of God; but he understood his problem was deep. He needed help from God in the deepest recesses of his mind and spirit. He needed God to create in him something that he didn’t presently possess. “Create in me a clean heart, O God …” (Psalm 51:10) The very thing David pleaded for is what every New Testament saint has – a clean heart, a holy heart, a heart within which is the fear of the Lord that hates and can depart from evil, even when it deceitfully beckons us from a rooftop.

Yes, we are to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling.”

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. (Jer. 17:9) But such was not the heart within the Son of man. Truth was in His inward parts, and He knew wisdom in His hidden part. He was not deceived by the tempter in the wilderness. He overcame the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. He was tempted in all points, like we are, but was without sin. He refused the evil and chose the good at all times. He fulfilled all righteousness. He always pleased the Father. His heart and Spirit is in every redeemed child of God. As they abide in Him they can walk even as He walked. They can refuse the evil and choose the good because they have been born of His Spirit and He indwells them. Our responsibility is to now work out our salvation with fear and trembling because our God works within us both to will and do of His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12,13)

Yes, we are to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling.” Paul and his fellow apostles not only heralded the provisions of the new and better covenant, founded upon better promises, but warned those who had received so much not to receive it in vain. Jesus was the first to establish this principle:

“And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
(Luke 12:47,48)

Peter had a solemn warning to those who had “escaped” their former sins:

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
(2 Peter 2:20-22)

And the most sobering warning of all comes in Hebrews 10, addressing the Lord’s own people who have been sanctified by the blood of the New Covenant:

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
(Hebrews 10:26-31)

The salvation offered us in Christ is not a mere ticket to heaven. It is present deliverance from the deceit and grip and habit of sin.

Those who fear God now do not have to fear Him later. They depart from iniquity, and their Lord knows them. (2 Tim. 2:19) He will not tell them to depart from Him in the day of judgment, because they did not depart from Him in the day of salvation. The salvation offered us in Christ is not a mere ticket to heaven. It is present deliverance from the deceit and grip and habit of sin. It enables us to walk in newness of life. It should not be received lightly. The Son of God paid an incredibly high price to purchase for us this great salvation. To have been given so much deserves a grateful response.

Let us live and walk continuously in the fear of God which hates and departs from evil. We who have been redeemed and “under grace” are under no necessity to sin. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) The essence of stupidity is doing something you didn’t have to do which brings upon you bad consequences. There is nothing stupider than sin in a New Testament saint.

We can still sin if we choose to, but the amazing “upgrade” of the New covenant is that we no longer have to sin.

David might have had an excuse in that he was still praying for a clean heart and truth in his inward parts, but what are we yet lacking? God’s “divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) Despite what your theology might tell you, sin, in a New testament saint, is entirely avoidable and unnecessary. If David’s transgression was the product of the absence of the fear of God before His eyes, we have no excuse because God has put His fear in our hearts that we should not depart from Him. We can still sin if we choose to, but the amazing “upgrade” of the New covenant is that we no longer have to sin. These are the better promises of a better covenant:

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:2)

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:6,7)

In light of these promises and the provision in Christ, our sin is a transgression of the law of God we are now empowered to keep.

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
(1 John 34-8)

The transgression committed by one who has been liberated from the power of sin and imbued with the Spirit of Christ is far greater than the transgression of any Old Testament saint or wicked heathen. We not only know better; we can do better.

The worst possible excuse for sin is a theological one.

The tragedy is that some sin because their leaders have caused them to go astray. (Isa. 9:16) They have not been instructed as to their great privilege in Christ. They have been told that they will sin more or less every day. Thus, they have the worst possible excuse for sin – a theological one. They blame their sinning on the fact that Christ did not do a good enough job on the cross to deliver them from their sin. They await a future salvation which will really remedy the sin problem in their life. They deem themselves sinners who must and will sin until the day they die because only then will their sinfulness be taken away.

Woe unto these who have been set up to fall, by being taught that sin is inevitable in their life. But even greater woe belongs to those who have been taught the truth and know they are free indeed, and continue to transgress the law of God. They have been taught and have received the knowledge of the truth and yet they willfully, deliberately continue in their sin, “against the light” and despite the provision they have in Christ. Surely, such high-fisted sin is worthy of “sorer punishment” for which there is “no sacrifice,” because there is no ignorance, only presumption and the cunning allowance of self-deception. (Numbers 15:27-31)

Hell will be horrible for all who enter it; but it will be most horrible for those who will kick themselves for all eternity. How stupid they were to continue in sin, when grace had set them free.

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.