The Plight of Man and the Power of God

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:21-23).

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).  

The English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) once wrote,

“The proper study of mankind is man.” 

Without question the favorite study of mankind is man.

History is the written record of what man has done.

Law reflects what he does.

Medicine reveals what man is according to science.

Ethics reflect on what ought to be.

Many of the current best-selling books in the nation concern some aspect of man whether it is an autobiography, a manual on relationships, or a self-improvement guide.

Mankind is absolutely in love with itself.

An objective view of man reveals some startling contradictions.

Man can be extremely cruel and brutal. The English poet Abraham Cowley (1618-1687) said,

“Man is to man all kinds of beasts; a fawning dog, a roaring lion, a thieving fox, a robbing wolf, a dissembling crocodile, a treacherous decoy, and a rapacious vulture.”

The willingness to use massive weapons of destruction upon men, women, and children at any given moment in the name of national interest reflects how brutal individuals can be.

There is always a justification for the slaughter of others.

Adolph Hitler said Germany needed more breathing room for an expanding population. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor because they were running out of raw supplies.

For twenty-two years Americans dropped bombs and napalm on countries in South East Asia in order to stop the spread of Communism. The result of this horror was over 50,000 names engraved on a black monument called The Wall in Washington, D.C. Sadam Hussein said that Kuwait was merely a lost providence he had a right to reclaim.

In more recent days, China has released a plague upon the world from Wuhu in southeast Asia, a city that sits on the banks of the Yangtze River. 

This is not the first time a pandemic orientated in China.

In 1855, from Yunnan, in southwest China came a major bubonic plague leading to 12 million deaths in India and China.

From under the rubble of mankind’s uncivil war with itself individuals crawl out and stand upright because though man is of the Earth his thoughts still reach beyond the stars.

“Mean and petty his wants and desires; yet they serve a soul exalted

with grand, glorious aims—

with immortal longings—

with thoughts which sweep the heavens, and wander through eternity.

A pigmy standing on the outward crest of this small planet, his far-reaching spirit stretches outward to the infinite, and there alone finds rest” (Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881)

The Bible explains this dual nature of man who can be at once so good and so bad.

The Bible tells us what has happened to transform man from the image of God to act worse than the beasts of the field.

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

The one man referred to is Adam. The Book of Genesis tells the simple but tragic story.

By a special act of creation God made man and he was very good. Though not confirmed in righteousness Adam was made in the image of God with will, emotion, and intelligence.

To man was given the headship over all nature.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

To man was given the Garden of Eden which was a paradise. 

“And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

In the garden man was to provide names for every living creature.

“And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:19-20).

Not only was man to work he was to establish a home with love.  “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

According to the divine will our children are to grow up, leave home, love their spouse, and become united in one essence.

Man was to reproduce himself and populate the earth. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

Man was to enjoy the fruits of his labor. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat” (Genesis 2:16).

With all of his goodness, abilities, position and privileges Adam arose from the red earth to stand as a Federal Representative of the human race.

God looked at Adam and saw the totality of humanity the same way the world looks at the president of our country and sees embodied in him the will of the American people.

The decision of the Leader of the Free World affects the future and behavior of every citizen he represents.

For an indeterminate period, Adam enjoyed fellowship with the Lord.

But then the time came for Adam to be confirmed in righteousness through a test of obedience. But something went wrong. The Bible says that Adam failed the test. He ate of a forbidden fruit.

Adam consciously decided not to obey God but to rebel against His Creator who had also been a Friend for in the cool of the evening the Lord had appeared to walk with Adam in the Garden.

Why Adam ate of the forbidden fruit is beyond comprehension. The Bible calls it the mystery of sin.

The word sin is a new word created after the Fall of man as are the words “pain” and “suffering.”

The word sin means, “to miss the mark.” Adam missed the mark of being confirmed in holiness. He plunged his soul into the abyss of death for it was decreed that the soul that sinned would die.

In the moment Adam ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Adam died spiritual. A part of his soulish essence ceased to function. There was a separation between himself and God.

It soon became apparent that something was wrong for suddenly no longer did Adam want to have fellowship with God. When the Lord came to walk with Adam in the Garden, Adam hid himself.

And the voice of God called out,

“Adam? Where are you?”

It was a haunting inquiry full of great significance.

Adam was hiding from God because he had fallen from an exalted state of grace to the lowest sphere of human existence–a life without God. But there was something else.

Not only had Adam sinned but he doomed all of his posterity as well. Every son of Adam is now born with the nature of Adam after the fall.

You and I were born in the sight of God physically alive but spiritually dead.

The stench of death is ever present. The sin of Adam has become our sin by birth and then by personal choice. If the truth were told we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.

We have not kept God’s commandments. We have not honored the teachings of Christ summarized in the Sermon on the Mount. We have sinned and we are guilty.

Some years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger wrote a book titled, Whatever Became of Sin. Dr. Menninger tells the story of a man who stood on a street corner in Chicago. As people walked by the man pointed a finger at them and shouted, “Guilty!”

That was all he said. Another person walked by and the man cried, “Guilty!”

The street prophet told the truth. Every person is guilty before God for “there is none righteous no, not one” (Rom. 3:23). 

Like our father Adam we have not honored the known will of God and our soul wants to run from Him and hide. And when we are caught and confronted we still want to hide the truth and so we begin to lie. The plight of man is desperate.

And the wages of man’s sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Because man has sinned against God he must die not only spiritually but also physically until the Lord says enough.

There is no escaping physical death even if its reality is denied as the founder of Christian Science taught her followers. It is appointed unto men once to die and after that, the judgment (Heb. 9:27).

Relentlessly does God state this fact that sin has entered into the world and with sin death, both spiritual and physical. Moreover the Moral Law of God summarized in the Ten Commandments also entered into human consciousness that the offenses of sin might abound. 

Now a question comes. “Have you ever felt the burden of sin?” In the opening scene of the Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, the main character is man called Christian. He is living in the City of Destruction. Christian has come upon a scroll which warns him to flee from the wrath to come.

He is determined to leave the City of Destruction and seek for the salvation of his soul. Christian sets forth to find the way of salvation but on his back he carries a heavy burden called Sin.

Today many people carry a heavy burden called sin.

There is the burden of the imputed sin of Adam that they carry by birth.

There is the burden of shame and guilt because of personal sin produced by willfully wrong choices.

There is the added burden of the Law pressing down upon the soul.

These burdens are real and they will sink the soul down into the fiery flames of eternal damnation.

The controversy that God has with individuals is their effort, like Adam in the Garden of Eden, to minimize the evil they have done and are doing. God wants people to comprehend how desperate their situation is.

It is only by the magnification of the awfulness of transgression that a heart can come to appreciate the grace of God that brings salvation.

So, we ask again, “Have you ever felt the burden of sin?” 

If the answer is “Yes,” then there is yet hope for God has good news for you. There is Someone who can take the burden of sin from your life and restore your soul to a state of righteousness in the sight of God. That Someone is Jesus Christ.

It was at a place called Calvary that Christ bore the sins of the elect in His own body.

Christ died a substitutionary death for others and now that great work of redemption can be applied to your heart and mine.

Perhaps there is a young person who would like to live in harmony with mom and dad and God.

The Bible commands children to honor their mother and father. This has not been done. Come to Christ. Do not perish.

Perhaps there is someone who longs to be free of secret sin. Come to Christ.

Perhaps there is someone who is burdened by the memory of a transgression. Come to Christ. Just as you are, come to Christ.

“I hear the Savior say,

‘Thy strength indeed is small,

Child of weakness watch and pray,

Find in Me thine all in all.’

Lord, now indeed I find

Thy pow’r and Thine alone,

Can change the leper’s spots

And melt the heart of stone.

For nothing good have I

Whereby Thy grace to claim;

I’ll wash my garments white

In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

And when, before the throne,

I stand in Him complete,

‘Jesus died my soul to save,’

My lips shall still repeat.

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.”

The plight of man becomes the place for the power of God to be made manifest. Where sin has abounded mercy can much more abound so that there can the reign of God’s sovereign grace in the heart.

The reign of grace is manifested by renouncing sin in principle and in practice, by loving what Christ loves, by being a student of the Bible, by engaging in private and corporate prayer, by thinking often of the Savior.

Salvation through Jesus Christ is the firm foundation on which the Christian faith is built.

 “How firm a foundation,

ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith

in His excellent Word!

What more can He say

than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge

to Jesus have fled?”