To read Part One click here.
What are the principles of sin & punishment in the bible? What does it mean to sin? What is the consequence? How does God punish sin? Does He punish sin? or Does man punish himself? I believe that when we sin the consequence goes far beyond ourselves. I believe this to be true because of what God gave us dominion over. Sin in my definition is stepping out of the best that God has for you. In turn it is a separation of relationship between God and man. The first time that we see the word sin in the bible it is the Hebrew word "chatta'ah" which simply means sin. It is from the Hebrew root word "chata" meaning to miss the mark or wander from the way. So all together sin is wandering from the plan and relationship of God.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden it affected everything that they had dominion or rule over. What do we have dominion over? Psalm 8:6 says "You made him (man) ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet." Man has dominion over all creation, all humanity, the devil and ourselves. Now this isn't to say that God isn't sovereign, He is. But he chose to give us rulership of these things. Not that God doesn't have His own plan for these things but so that we could work His plan together in relationship. At least that was the hope before we chose otherwise. So when we sin it effects that which we have dominion over. It separates us from God, creation from God, humanity from God and the devil from God. Now with the devil it gets a little interesting. The devil wants to be separate from God. He chose that before man first sinned. So when we sin it further separates the devil and we come in line with his will instead of God's. So our sin gives the devil allegiance in his separation and we end up by default glorifying the devil instead of God.
Let's look at Adam and Eve and what fell prey to their sin. After they sin God says to Eve your pains in childbirth will increase and man will rule over you. (Gen 3:16) This is the consequence over humanity. Physical pain, disease and death. On an emotional level He says you will seek mans rule instead of God's. God was not saying men will now rule women. (Though it has been interpreted incorrectly that way) It was broader than that. You have chosen humanity to rule you instead of God. Your desire is humanity and not God.
To Adam God says "cursed is the ground because of you..." Gen 3:17. This is the consequence over creation. This is natural disasters, global decay, drought etc. I even believe that some of the carnage and suffering that we seen in the animal kingdom is due to our sin. If you think in the simple terms that sin=death and prior to sin there was no death...then our sin has had a huge affect on the animal kingdom.
To the devil God said "cursed are you...I will put enmity between you and the woman." Gen 3:14 God goes on to say that the seed of the woman will crush his head. This being the first prediction of Jesus. I also want to note here that in the original Hebrew of these verses God only personally curses the devil. To both Adam and Eve he is just stating fact. That because of their sin things are going to change. Not God's curse/consequence the sin's curse/consequence.
Finally sin separates us from God personally. Notice the first words out of God's mouth after Adam and Eve sin. "Where are you?" Now why is an all-knowing God asking where someone is? Because sin had brought separation. This was further illustrated by Adam and Eve being sent forth from the garden. God didn't banish them. The Hebrew word is "shalach" which means to let go, set free, or send away.
So when we sin it effects all humanity, all creation, the devil and ourselves. It effects that which we have God given dominion over. And the effects are from the sin not from God. Remember sin is stepping out of God's plan so the result of sin is not God's plan. Sin is the punishment. More on this in a bit.
Let's see if our little formula works with the next recorded sin in the bible. The murder of Abel by his brother Cain. What I first want to point out is that God did not stay in the garden after Adam and Eve left. God came out of the garden because of his longing for relationship with man. And now that sin has entered the world He comes out of the garden to protect us. So God sees that Abel's heart isn't in his sacrifice the same way that his brother's is. He isn't giving God his best, not offering wise but relationship wise.
So what does God do? Well he doesn't curse him or cause him to burst into flames. God comes to Cain and sits down for a little chat. A heart to heart if you will. "Why are you angry?" God asks "And why has your countenance fallen?" Countenance meaning face. Since we are created in the image of God our countenance is the reflection of God in us. See with Cain God can feel the same separation as He did with his parents in the garden. "Why has your countenance fallen?" is similar to "Where are you?" God already knows that Cain has sinned in his heart. So God is desperately trying to intervene before this sin goes any further. God is trying to protect Cain. God goes on to say "If you do what is right will you not be accepted? But if you don't do right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." Gen 4:6-7
This is a wonderful visual of the battle that the devil has wages for mans dominion. It is also a fantastic showing of God's longing to protect us from the destruction of sin, that is the devil. See it is sin that is crouching at the door with desire to destroy man. It is not God waiting for us to screw up so He can punish us. The sin is the punishment. Just as God is trying to save Cain from that punishment so it is through the whole old testament. The battle of good vs evil.
Cain then by his own freewill chooses not to listen to the warning of God. Cain murders his brother. Then God comes back to Cain to have another little chat. "What is this you have done? Your brother's blood cries out from the ground. Now you are under a curse...the ground will no longer yield crops...you will be a restless wanderer on the earth." Gen 4:10-12. Now lets check our formula. What has Cain's sin affected?
Creation-"the ground will no longer yield crops".
Humanity-"your brother's blood cries out".
The Devil- his desire has been fulfilled.
Cain himself- "will be a restless wanderer" a wander from God
Woo Hoo it worked!
Now where is God in all this? I mean He must be pretty pissed since this is the first murder in all history. He should probably make an example of Cain so man will know not to piss off God by sinning. Nope! Not our loving, gracious God. Cain comes to God and says "My punishment is more than I can bear!" This is exactly what mankind does. We blame God for the consequence of the sin that we chose over the better advise of God. God is no more sending Cain from His presence than Cain has chosen to leave His presence by sinning. Just like in the garden. But God sees Cain's heart is in a place of repentance. So God puts a mark on Cain to protect him from the death he fears in wandering the earth. This is the loving, gracious God of the old testament.
Now let me point out in this little chat between Cain and God it is the first time that we see the word "punishment" in the bible. The Hebrew word used here is "avon" (no not the make up lady) which means iniquity or guilt. The root word is "avah" meaning to bend, twist or distort. What does iniquity mean? Websters says "wickedness or evil". Does God heap guilt on us? No, the devil does. Does God twist or distort his beloved creation? No, the devil does. So see the sin is the punishment. Punishment is the will of the devil, not of God. So when Cain is saying "My punishment is more than I can bear". What he is really saying is this wickedness and distortion of the devil is not what I wanted. He is repenting and that is why God accepts his heart and puts a mark on him. A mark that takes Cain out of the will of the devil and back into the will of God.
Click here to read part three...