• Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.

Aggravations of Sin – Part 4

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Matthew 11:21NKJV


Question 151 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?” The fourth section (the second under point 3) of the answer says, “Sins receive their aggravations, 3. From the nature and quality of the offence: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of consciousness, publick or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.”


To sin against “means” is to break God’s law when you have multiple opportunities, incentives, and reasons to keep it, like Chorazin and Bethsaida in the verses above. These cities saw the abundant supernatural proof that Jesus was the Son of God. He did many miracles in their presence, each one of which proved Him to be a teacher come from God, even as Nicodemus confessed, “”Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You are doing unless God is with him,” (John 3:2). That was the point of the miracles, they proved Jesus came from God. So Peter preached at Pentecost, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know,” (Act. 2:22). To have seen Jesus and to have yet rejected Him was a far greater sin than to have lived in Pagan cities, which never had the chance to see Him.


To sin against mercy and judgments is another great aggravation of sin. David aggravated his guilt this way when he committed adultery and had Uriah murdered. Thus God reminded David how He made him king, delivered him from the hand of Saul, gave him wives and great possessions, and then even added, “and if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!” (2 Sam. 12:17). David’s sin was so great precisely because God had shown him so much favor through the light of His mercies and judgments. God gives us light by revealing Himself or His truth to us in His Word or in nature (the creation itself). The more light we have, the more guilty we are when we transgress the truth clearly revealed by the light.


Sins against the light of nature would include incest, homosexuality (sodomy), and all other evils which reality itself tells us are wrong. As the Word of God says, homosexuality is the exchanging of “the natural use for what is against nature,” (Rom. 1:26-27). God has created us male and female, with corresponding sex organs that naturally join together, one male to one female. Though two people of the same gender are able to give each other pleasure they are not able, as an undeniable scientific reality, to physically join their bodies together and become one flesh biologically. They can make wedding vows to one another but they cannot consummate the marriage. Nature itself, in the form of their own bodies, teaches them that fact.


Likewise, to transgress my own conscience is to do what I believe is wrong, which is much worse than being deceived. If I do something evil that I wrongly believe to be good, I have still sinned, but when I am already convinced in my heart that it is evil and I still do it, that shows a particular hardness and determination towards wickedness. To sin against admonitions, censures, and punishments is a similar evil in that all of these things are society telling me that I should not do something. So also when I sin against my own promises, vows, responsibilities or duties, my actions are that much more to be condemned. The final items in the list are all self-explanatory: it is one thing to do evil, it is another to boast about it, or to continue in it with frequency or zeal. Everyone gets some initial pleasure out of a sinful act, but most feel some remorse later on. Consequently, it takes a hard heart indeed to actually delight in the evilness of a sin. May God give us the grace to fear His holy hatred of evil so that we would shrink from increasing our already great guilt before Him in any of these monstrous aggravations of sin.

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)

Reformed doctrine. Reverent worship. Real life.

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