Our Estate of Sin

Our lives are characterized by sin, which John described in 1 John 3:4 as “lawlessness.”

What a weighty thing this natural state of ours is. We are “by nature children of wrath.” This does not mean that we are naturally angry with people, but it means that we were born under the wrath of Almighty God. When was the last time you, as those who trust in Jesus and who have joined yourselves to his church, meditated and reflected upon the reality of God’s wrath and judgment upon the unbelieving?

 
Quick; what’s the first thing you think of when I say the word “estate?” Got it? Now let me take a wild guess and say that you probably thought of the word sale, as in estate sale, right? To us materialist Westerners, an estate is the sum total of our lives that we can pass on to our children, with the help of a living trust or will. In a word, we think of an estate as what we have.

There is an older use of the word, though. We may have no doubt it even exists. The Oxford English Dictionary gives us this use of the word speaking of a condition of our existence. Our estate is not our accumulation, then, but our condition; not what we have, but what we are. The Westminster Larger Catechism explains the biblical data concerning the fall of Adam by saying it has placed us into a new condition of existence: “an estate of sin and misery” (Q&A23).

Our lives are characterized by sin, which John described in 1 John 3:4 as “lawlessness.” Our condition is to be lawless, meaning, both that we do not keep the law but in fact break the law. This is why the Catechism defines sin as a “want [lack] of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (Q&A 24). Not only was Adam and Eve plunged into this estate but “all that proceed from them” by means of “natural generation” (Q&A 26) also enter this state of existence. What does it mean that Our Estate of Sin is a condition of our lives?

The Guilt of Sin

To be in an estate of sin is to be under the guilt of sin. We know from Romans 5:12–21 that when Adam sinned, we sinned. In Ephesians 2:4 Paul says this in another way: we were “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:4). By “nature” Paul means the way we are.” Spiritually speaking, we are “by nature” sinners. This means that this is just the way we are. We were born this way.

What a weighty thing this natural state of ours is. We are “by nature children of wrath.” This does not mean that we are naturally angry with people, but it means that we were born under the wrath of Almighty God. When was the last time you, as those who trust in Jesus and who have joined yourselves to his church, meditated and reflected upon the reality of God’s wrath and judgment upon the unbelieving?

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