This brings us to Dan's discussion of the meaning of sin. He has shown some of its effects (a lot of death for sure - and Dan went through defining death in the last chapter), but we need to get a grasp on what sin itself is. I think he does a great job of showing us that we must define sin by looking at the perfect standard of God in order to get a true meaning. That means we have to look at God and then ourselves, not others. He then takes us back to Scripture to answer the question "How far does it go?" with regards to the "natural addiction to lawlessness passed on through his (Adam's) children". And the picture painted isn't very pretty.
Dan walks us through the history of the Old Testament to show us that all of mankind is stained with sin. Sadly, as Dan notes, "It is sometimes said that the notion of 'original sin' or 'total depravity' (i.e., that every part of us is warped by sin) was either invented by the apostle Paul, or was made up later by Christian theologians." Dan shows how the Bible itself backs up the concepts of original sin and total depravity way back in the Old Testament. He pulls from much of Old Testament Scripture to show that there is not one single good person...that not one person can say they've cleansed themselves from sin and has a pure heart. This is seen in the lives of all the people that are thought of as great men of God in the Old Testament.
And then Dan references what I consider the strongest portion of Scripture regarding just how stained by sin all of mankind is...Isaiah 64:6: "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." This verse doesn't talk about our sins, but our righteous deeds. As Dan points out, "deeds done in religious service are tainted with self-love, self-seeking, self-worship." He also gets to the depth of our sin by showing the true meaning of "a polluted garment" in the original Hebrew text. I'm sure many of you know it already, but for those of you who don't, it isn't pretty. That is another detail I will leave for you to read in the book.
So now that Dan has demonstrated that the Old Testament teaches of our depravity, he moves on to the New Testament. Before even getting into the epistles, Dan reminds us that Jesus Himself affirmed the truthfulness and authority of the Old Testament. Jesus says that we must repent and Dan shows that this indicates "a change of mind so fundamental, so root-to-branch, that the life changes as a consequence." He then lays out the following as what is not "the premise of such a command":
- Jesus wouldn't say this if we were right with God
- Jesus wouldn't say this if we were OK and just needed to do more or do better
- Jesus wouldn't say this if we just needed to fix a thing or two
So now that we have seen how nasty and sinful we are, how do we deal with that? Dan moves on to show us that "Jesus gives two extreme prescriptions, for what we need in the face of His teaching." The first of which is "the cross". There are many wrong ideas of what this involves, but Dan does a good job of explaining what it really means to carry our cross daily. The second prescription is "new birth". Dan also does a good job of explaining this from Scripture so that we have a good understanding of what it means to be born again.
We are then taken from the words of Jesus to the words of Peter. And we shouldn't be surprised that Peter, like Jesus, said the people needed to repent. This was his message at Pentecost, and it was also what he affirms in 1 Peter. Dan also demonstrates that "Paul also confirmed and developed the teaching of Jesus". He takes us to Romans, where Paul demonstrates that we are all guilty, that there is no good person seeking after God, and "sin came to hold us all in its vice-like grip". Dan then takes us through Paul's comparison between Jesus and Adam and shows that Paul shows that Jesus is "head of a new subset of humanity" and "what He did affects all of those whom He represents." He also lays out Paul's description of man's condition from Ephesians 2 and gives us some humorous concepts of what Paul does not say about us...concepts that (sadly) many seem to hold as being true. He also goes through his own personal dealings with the "illusory" thoughts that he had about death and relates that to how many Christians have illusory thoughts about the concept of their spiritual state. Again, he inserts a bit of humor to really give us an idea of how out of line we are with reality before salvation. And he shows how Paul is in line with the same ideas that we saw in the Old Testament with regards to the sinful state of man.
So Dan has laid out the bad news for us. He summarizes by laying out a few bullet points showing how "we have seen ourselves as God sees us". He walks us through a summary of these first three chapters, which make up Part One of the book, and tells us that "We must deal with the fact: The Gospel is offensive to human pride. If what we preach as "Gospel" is not offensive, we're doing it wrong." This is important to keep in mind because, as Dan states, "the only Gospel that saves is the Gospel that offends." He ends the chapter, and Part One, by saying "It is time we understood that offensive, saving Gospel." And he does so in Part Two (Chapters 4-6).
Before closing out this chapter review, I want to say that I can not understate how well Dan uses word pictures and humor in this book. He really brings to life the thoughts and concepts that he is trying to explain from the Bible. And it is so readable that I can't think of anybody who would not be able to read through it easily. I can't overstate how sorely this book is needed in the post-Christian culture today...I hope that it finds its way into many, many hands.
Thanks for writing this book, Dan...I know that God is working through your efforts to spread the "offensive, saving Gospel".