By Allen Palmeri
JEFFERSON CITY—Sermons on the seriousness of sin need not be dark, dreary, and depressing.
“Jesus came to save His people from their sins,” said Vic Borden, pastor, Red Bridge Baptist Church, Kansas City, and member, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board. “I think you’re on pretty good footing if you deal with sin, because the Gospel has to do with dealing with sin. It’s the crucifying of the sin nature, and it is the bringing to life of the new nature. It’s all important. Systematic theology is comprehensive in that not only does it deal with the bad, it addresses the remedy.”
Hamartiology is the study of the doctrine of sin. When Borden took Red Bridge through about a dozen messages under the heading of systematic theology, one of the messages carried this heading. It probed the serious nature of man’s separation from God, his positional guilt due to the transgression of Adam, and the personal sins that can beset believers.
Sermons on hamartiology may be rare in Missouri Baptist life, but the term (which comes from the Greek word, hamartia, for sin) also may contain some wisdom and relevance for 2010 in terms of personal cleansing.
“I don’t know that it’s necessary to throw around terms such as hamartiology and other theological terms, but we probably don’t give the person in the pew enough credit to be able to handle and chew on the weightier things,” said Borden, who has served 23 years on staff at Red Bridge, including the last 16 as senior pastor. “We need to move on from milk to the meat of the Word. By virtue of a believer having the Spirit of God dwelling within him, that person has the capacity to receive, to ingest, to digest, complex truth.”
According to the Bible, sin is nasty. Borden said that when you dive into this particular topic you really will get a feel for how despicable it is.
“We dealt with the origin of sin, even going back to the fall of Lucifer, and then the temptation in the garden when sin entered into the human race, the consequences of sin, both immediate, namely the fall of man and the expulsion from the garden, as well as the ultimate consequences of sin—death and judgment,” he said. “We then spoke on the only remedy for sin and the resurrection of the dead sin nature to a position of life in Christ.”
By including a sermon on hamartiology in a series of teachings on systematic theology, the set will not lack integrity. The goal for a pastor like Borden who attempts to do this is to present an overview of Bible material that is whole, full, and complete.
“It systematizes the basic, orthodox doctrines of the church,” he said. “Jesus said, ‘The truth shall make you free,” and, of course, theology is what liberates the soul.
“Everything has its root in theology—what I do, what I don’t do, what I say, what I don’t say, where I go, where I don’t go.”
Borden, who earned his master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Luther Rice Seminary in Lithonia, Ga., emphasized that there is a very real upside to hamartiology.
“It can certainly give you the information of the detrimental effect of walking in sin, entertaining sin, and I can see that in my own life,” he said. “I know that when I am distant from the Lord, when I am at odds with a brother, when I am argumentative or agitated in spirit, I need to be looking for sin.”
Missouri Baptists are entering a period of Biblical Reconciliation Seminars and Prayer Summits that are designed to address, among other things, the seriousness of sin in denominational life.
“We’re fairly quick to admit sin, confess sin, but that’s only half the job,” Borden said. “When there is sin, there must be repentance, and repentance is a turning from that.
“It’s not enough to simply say, ‘I’m sorry, I did bad, I had a boo-boo, I made a mistake,’ or something along that line. That’s just simply saying, ‘I’m human, so sue me.’ In order to truly be back in a state of where God wants us spiritually, there is the need for repentance. And repentance is just as viable a dynamic for the believer as for the unbeliever unto salvation.”