Stages & Climax of Sin

by Frank Jones


“Notwithstanding the variety of its forms, the sin of Israel is all of a piece. From comparatively small beginnings it advances step by step to its utmost height. From the most innocent forms, in which it still has a pleasing aspect, sin goes on growing till it openly boasts of its devilish hostility to God. It commences with sinful feelings in the heart, which even the good and pious still experience (e.g. Ps. 73:2; Prov. 4:23 ff.); with the sins of youth which are chargeable to human frailty—for ‘stolen waters are sweet’ (Job 13:26; Pss. 25:7; 19:13; Prov. 9:17). It commences with that rather innocent ignorance which God is still able to excuse. ‘They are foolish, and know not what is right’ (Pss. 19:13; 90:8; cf. Jer. 5:4). There is a sinful state in which the sinner still feels his sin a burden, a misery from which he seeks restoration and deliverance (Ps. 51:5; Prov. 9:4). But out of this rather animal state of nature, sin does its best to grow. It keeps firm hold of the will, until it ceases to struggle. It saturates with its poison the innermost parts of the Ego. It turns sinners into enemies of God, men who do evil habitually, and who yield themselves up wholly, with all their personal faculties and gifts (Pss. 6:9; 14:4; 37:1–7), as instruments of evil (Ps. 37:20; Deut. 5:9).

The highest stage of sin is likewise shown by the shamelessness with which it flaunts itself openly. The fool, the scorner, despises rebuke; correction only makes him worse (Prov. 1:7; 9:7 ff.), he knoweth not shame (Zeph. 3:5). The boldness of its countenance testifies against God’s people when, like Sodom, it openly proclaims its sin (Isa. 3:9; Hosea 5:5; Jer. 3:3; 6:15; 7:12). This is shown in wanton disregard of a neighbor’s interests, when one considers everything allowable that one has the power to do (Micah 2:1). But the most terrible display of the real nature of sin is when a man delights in evil because it is evil, and loathes good because it is good (Micah 3:2, 9; Ps. 52:5). Then bitter is called sweet, and darkness light (Isa. 5:20; Amos 6:12; cf. Matt. 12:31). Then whosoever eschews evil is declared an outlaw (Isa. 5:15; cf. Prov. 29:27). Then men hate light and truth (Job 24:13), and rejoice over the misfortune of a neighbor (Ps. 35:11 ff.; 41:6 ff.). Nay more, they have no longer even the natural instinct of a brute beast for what is wholesome and good. They seek after their own hurt (Isa. 1:2 ff.; Jer. 8:4 ff.).

At this stage, when a man takes delight in doing mischief, and cannot rest without doing it, when he is wise to do evil and ‘exults the more, the greater the evil is’ (Prov. 2:14; 4:16; Jer. 4:22; cf. Isa. 29:20), he is of course irretrievably lost. When one has grieved God’s Holy Spirit (Isa. 63:10; 65:3), has, as it were, bidden God adieu (Job 1:11; 2:5, 9; 12:6; Ps. 10:3), the heart has then become insensible to every saving influence. Then it has to be said: ‘As the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots, so this people cannot do good, because it is accustomed to do evil’ (Jer. 13:23; cf. 4:22; 7:24 ff.; 9:2, 4; Isa. 6). The soul of the wicked desires evil; he makes a jest of infamy (Prov. 8:23; 21:10; cf. Ps. 11:5).”

Quoted in Robert Culver, “Systematic Theology”, 347.