I’ve heard Christians say that pride is the essence of sin or all sins can be reduced down to pride in some fashion. When Christians say such a thing, what they mean is that at the root of all rebellion lies pride. God says “Do not commit adultery” and the sinner arrogantly and willfully looks up at the throne and defies the Word of the King. “No one will tell me what I can or cannot do. NO ONE!” A sinner seeks to remove the true authority from His place and put another there who is by far less deserving. Below is a classic summation of this truth from a true gem to the Church.
“Is the death penalty for sin unjust? By no means. Remember that God voluntarily created us. He gave us the highest privilege of being His image bearers. He made us but a little lower than the angels. He freely gave us dominion over all the earth. We are not turtles. We are not fireflies. We are not caterpillars or coyotes. We are people. We are the image bearers of the holy and majestic King of the cosmos.
We have not used the gift of life for the purpose God intended. Life on this planet has become the arena in which we daily carry out the work of cosmic treason. Our crime is far more serious, far more destructive than that of Benedict Arnold. No traitor to any king or nation has even approached the wickedness of our treason before God.
Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, ‘God, Your law is not good. My judgment is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.’
The slightest sin is an act of defiance against cosmic authority. It is a revolutionary act, a rebellious act in which we are setting ourselves in opposition to the One to whom we owe everything. It is an insult to His holiness. We become false witnesses to God. When we sin as the image bearers of God, we are saying to the whole creation, to all of nature under our dominion, to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field: ‘This is how God is. This is how your Creator behaves. Look in his mirror; look at us, and you will see the character of the Almighty.’ We say to the world, ‘God is covetous; God is ruthless; God is bitter; God is a murderer, a thief, a slanderer, an adulterer. God is all of these things that we are doing.’
When people join together in sin, they “speak of kings and things.” It is the ultimate conspiracy. We reach for the crown and plot for the throne, saying in effect to God, “we will not have You rule over us.” The psalmist out it this way: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (Psa. 2:1-3)
When we sin we not only commit treason against God but we do violence to each other. Sin violates people. There is nothing abstract about it. By my sin I hurt human beings. I injure their person; I despoil their goods; I impair their reputation; I rob from them a precious quality of life; I crush their dreams and aspirations for happiness. When I dishonor God I dishonor all of mankind who bears His image. Wonder then that God takes sin so seriously?
Hans Kung, the controversial Roman Catholic theologian, writing about the seemingly harsh judgments of sin God makes in the Old Testament, says that the most mysterious aspect of the mystery of sin is not that the sinner deserves to die, but rather that the sinner in the average situation continues to exist.
Kung asks the right question. The issue is not why does God punish sin, but why does He permit the ongoing rebellion of man? What prince, what king, what ruler would manifest so much patience with a continually rebellious populace?
The key to Kung’s observation is that he speaks of sinners continuing to live in the average situation. That is, it is customary or usual for God to be forbearing. He is indeed long-suffering, patient, and slow to anger. In fact He is so slow to anger that when His anger does erupt we are shocked and offended by it. We forget rather quickly that God’s patience is designed to lead us to repentance, to give us time to be redeemed. Instead of taking advantage of this patience by coming humbly to Him for forgiveness, we use this grace as an opportunity to become more bold in our sin. We delude ourselves into thinking that either God doesn’t care about it or that He is powerless to punish us.
The supreme folly is that we think we will get away with our revolt.”
R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God pgs. 116-117.