The “Way Of Evil” And “Deep Darkness” In This Fallen World

Nov 11th, 2023 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

Psalm 1 is one of my favorite Psalms, for it makes clear that life is about choices and, in effect, there are only two paths to choose in life—the path of a walk with God or the path of rejecting, defying God.  Each choice has profound, eternally significant consequences.  I have returned to this Psalm many times over the years—but especially now in 2023 when things seem to be in such a mess.  Even though the human race has amassed immense knowledge, now accessible via the Internet, we seem incapable of stopping the pain we inflict on ourselves and on one another.  Wars, dysfunction, disorder and chaos describe our culture, our world—and even many of our families and communities.  We cannot halt “the path of the wicked,” this repetitive path that leads to the “way of evil” and “deep darkness.” [See Proverbs 4:14-16, 19]  Proverbs 4:19 even implies that we do not even know what causes us “to stumble” our way through life.

Consider a small sample of the “path of the wicked,” with no boundaries and no “guardrails”:

  • Social media is filled with videos of breakdowns, murders, kidnappings, let alone the shocking availability of pornography.
  • Large retailers (e.g., CVS, Walgreens, and Target) are pulling out of American cities because shoplifting has been “effectively decriminalized.”
  • Many urban areas seem to “surrender their streets” to bullies, pot-heads and untreated mentally ill people.
  • James Bowman, a Congressman from New York, recently pulled an alarm in the US Capitol during debates over the possible government shutdown.  Even school children are taught not to do that!
  • A former president called for the execution of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for his communications with China after the January 6 insurrection.
  • The political decadence and institutional decay of America politics, where the Republican Party for the first time in history has caused the House of Representatives to be without the Speaker of the House for over two weeks!
  • Demonstrations on American university and college campuses supporting Hamas, despite its genocidal evil on 7 October 2023.
  • The moral confusion when it comes to Vladimir Putin, who, for some, remains a hero in his stand against the decadent West, overlooking and/or excusing his war crimes against civilians in Ukraine.

I could go on!  But it important for us who name the name of Jesus Christ to go back to the basics. And the basics of Scripture remind us that the “path of the wicked” that leads to “deep darkness” begins with an understanding of sin.  So, let me give all of us a refresher course on the cause of all this disorder and dysfunction—human sin:

  1. The Bible defines sin as “lawlessness” [anomia] (1 John 3:4).  Sin is defiant, intentional, deliberate disobedience of God’s revelation to humanity (be it in creation, conscience, His moral law or Jesus).  There has always been a clearly understood standard against which sin is committed.
  2. Sin is inherited: In Ephesians 2:3 Paul says we are “by nature children of wrath.”  In Romans 5:12 we read: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  Adam’s sin is imputed, i.e., charged to the account of every human being.  Thus, every human being is born with the guilt and corruption (nature) of Adam.  [This is also sometimes called total depravity.  There is nothing in the human condition that can merit God’s favor.]
  3. The sinful corruption of the human being is comprehensive.  It distorts and perverts everything about the human being:
  • Intellect (2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 1:28)
  • Conscience (1 Timothy 4:2)
  • Will (Romans 1:28)
  • Heart (Ephesians 4:18)
  • The totality of what it means to be human (Romans 1:18-3:20).
  1. The penalty for sin is death—physical separation of the body and the soul and complete separation from God (see Genesis 2:17 and Romans 5:12-14 and 6:5-11).
  2. What is the origin of sin?

The Bible connects its origins with the rebellion of Satan.  Ezekiel 28:11-15 describes the privileged position of Satan before his rebellion:  “full of wisdom” and “perfect in beauty” (v.12), dazzling in appearance (v. 13), an “anointed guardian cherub” at God’s throne (v. 14)—until “unrighteousness was found in you” (v.15).  Satan was a created being with astounding beauty and power, but the Bible assigns pride as Satan’s fundamental sin (1 Timothy 3:6).  Isaiah 14:12-15 is a rich poetic image of Satan empowering the king of Babylon:  “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God.  I will set my throne on high . . . I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  Thus, the rebellion of Satan had begun.  If we understand Revelation 12:4 correctly, one-third of the angelic host joined Satan in this rebellion (see also Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4).

Genesis 3 brings humanity into this rebellion.  Will God’s image bearers join Satan?  The tragic answer is yes, and all the devastation, dysfunction and hurt of a fallen, broken world began.  Wayne Grudem argues that two devastating results followed:

  • Sin struck at the basis for moral/ethical standards —i.e., “What is right?”  In the Garden, God defined what was right and wrong.  The test of that standard was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, from which they were not to eat.   Adam and Eve were moral creatures and, when faced with an ethical standard, had the capacity to choose obedience or disobedience.  Satan knew that and successfully challenged God’s goodness and His ethical standards; Adam and Eve joined the rebellion.  As God’s revelation continued to unfold throughout history, humanity has persistently defined “what is right” its own way; ignoring the standards that God as Creator and Sustainer of all life had revealed.
  • Sin also gave a different answer to the question, “Who am I?”  The correct answer was that Adam and Eve were created persons:  Of value and worth as God’s image-bearers, yet dependent on Him and subordinate to Him as dominion stewards (Gen.1:26ff).  But once they sinned, the answer changed— a declaration of independence from God.  Since Genesis 3, humanity has been pursuing autonomy from God—a rejection of Him personally and of His standards.  In the Postmodern world of today, humanity has embraced a thoroughgoing pursuit of autonomy, defined as a rejection of authority and ethical standards, all in the name of individual rights and liberties.  [“Every man is doing what is right in his own eyes.”]

I cannot end this Perspective without the reminder of the solution to the “way of the wicked” that leads to “deep darkness.”  Ephesians 2:1 declares that we “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked . . . .”   All of humanity enters the world separated from God, totally unable to merit His favor.  Unable to earn favor with God and clearly guilty before Him, we are in a hopeless condition.  But God’s plan to rescue us was hatched as soon as Adam and Eve had sinned.  Genesis 2:15 is what we sometimes call the first announcement of the Gospel: That the “seed” of the woman would one day “bruise the head” of Satan, the serpent (see Revelation 12:9).  As Scripture unfolds the redemptive plan of God, it centers on identifying who this “seed” is.  The Bible clearly identifies it as Jesus, whose death, burial and resurrection overcame and defeated Satan.  But how thorough and complete is this defeat?  How thorough is this victory over sin, evil, Satan, and death?

Because humanity is “dead in its sin,” and because God is perfect, righteous and holy, God must remake us; He must do something that will permanently deal with our sin, for He can have nothing to do with sin, evil or unrighteousness.  Someone had to pay the price, suffer the punishment, for humanity’s sin.  Since death is the judgment for sin, someone had to die!  Someone had to be the Savior of the human race.  But the worth of salvation depends on the worth of the Savior.  If He were sinful like every other human being, then His death could only pay for His own sin.  He had to be perfect and He had to be sinless.  For salvation to be complete, the Savior had to be both fully and completely human and fully and completely God; He had to be humanity’s perfect substitute.  This is the message of Isaiah 52:13—53:12, and this is what John the Baptist meant when he declared, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Since Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection provided a permanent, substitutionary atonement for sin (a “once-for-all” atonement—see Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10), how does God apply this finished work to our lives?  What now makes us acceptable to Him?  Ephesians 2:8-9 declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast” (ESV).  If salvation is by grace through faith, what has God done with my sin and why am I now acceptable to Him?  The answer is found in the doctrine of justification by faith.

Justification is the event whereby, when we place our faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work, we are “born again” (regeneration) and declared righteous by God.  Justification is forensic and involves the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

  • Justification is forensic:  It is a legal declaration by God, a verdict of acquittal, excluding all possibility of condemnation.  This declaration is accomplished on a just basis, namely that the claims of God and His moral law against the sinner have been satisfied.  Christ perfectly fulfilled all of God’s demands through His perfect life of obedience and through His atoning death, burial and resurrection.  He paid the penalty so that we can be pronounced not guilty!
  • Justification is the imputation of righteousness:  Because of the forensic nature of justification, God can also declare us righteous.  The righteousness of Jesus Christ is “added to our account” so that His righteousness becomes our righteousness.  Our sin was “added to Jesus” on the cross and His righteousness was “added to us” when we place on faith in Him.  Because we are sinners, the righteousness that God imputes to us is an “alien” righteous; it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

How then are we justified?  The ringing declaration of the Bible is that we are justified by faith.  We appropriate all that Jesus did for us by faith.   The wondrous result of this marvelous doctrine is assurance, confidence and certainty of our position in Christ.  As Paul triumphantly declares in Romans 8:39—nothing “can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

See Matthew Hennessey on “No Guardrails” in the Wall Street Journal (3 October 2023).

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