Astonished by Sin… and Grace
March 21, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
How great and astonishing is the grace of God? How can we grow in our astonishment of God’s grace?
The Puritans had an answer to that question. Joel Beeke and Mark Jones share, “The Puritans had a high view of the grace of God in the salvation of sinners because, in the first place, they had a high view of sin.”
A high view of sin? Leading to a high view of grace?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, co-written by many Puritans, helps us understand the power of sin. Question 18 asks, “Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?” The Answer:
The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
Sin’s power is highlighted in two effects: guilt and corruption. Because of Adam’s first sin, every single human being is counted guilty in sin, deserving of the just condemnation of God. Sin, as rebellion against a holy and just God, carries no soft punishment. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The guilt and penalty of sin cannot be ignored.
We are not only counted guilty because of Adam’s first sin, but we are also corrupted by sin. J.I. Packer helps explain how the Puritans explained this devastating effect, “They saw sin as a perverted energy within people that enslaves them to God-defying, self-gratifying behavior, and by distraction, deceit, and direct opposition weakens and overthrows their purposes of righteousness.”
Sin is a perverted energy that enslaves and weakens and overthrows.
That’s a high view of sin. Powerful guilt and corruption.
How does this high view of sin help us be astonished by God’s grace? As powerful as sin is in its guilt and corruption, God’s grace is more powerful to overcome both dynamics. The Puritans and the Shorter Catechism highlight this power of grace by emphasizing that both justification and sanctification result from God’s grace.
WSC Q. 33. What is justification?
- Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
WSC Q. 35. What is sanctification?
- Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
Justification removes the guilt of sin. Sanctification reverses the corruption of sin. All by God’s grace. The higher view of sin you have, the more astonished you will become with God’s grace in overcoming your sin.
 Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, page 208.
 J. I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God, page 99.