• Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.

Sinners Are Rebels, Not Broken

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. Titus 3:3NKJV


Question 25 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Wherein consisteth the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?” It gives the answer, “The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called Original Sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.”


I’m not surprised that sin is badly misdefined in so many of our cultural expressions. For example that sin-city is a compliment, or that ice cream that is sinful is understood to be very good ice cream, or even so-called sin taxes on alcohol, junk food, or sugary soft drinks. The attractiveness of sin and even a hint of its danger can be found in such sentiments, but in the midst of much error. Not admitting the truth of God, the self, and the world as it really is will always lead to great distortions of Biblical concepts by our culture. What is considerably more astounding to me however, is how badly much of Evangelicalism distorts the reality and meaning of sin. In a previous article we looked at sin considered as mistakes. Today I want us to contrast the sinfulness of sin, as stated so graphically in Question 25 above with the euphemism I so often see sin expressed as today: brokenness. Brokenness is being used by believers as a synonym or even substitution for sinfulness in sermons, books, Christian music, videos, Facebook posts, blogs, and just about every other form of communication. It’s not that I’m a sinner; a willful rebel against the law of God; it’s just that I’m broken. Notice the passivity of the word. The undeniable connotation is that I did not do something bad, but something bad happened to me. I’m like a broken toy that no longer is able to function in the way it was made. I would do good things, but I cannot because I’m broken. The gospel for such a condition is the message encouraging me to bring my brokenness to God and He will accept me and fix me. I must not allow myself to be too ashamed to come, or too fearful to think that because I’m broken God will reject me. No, God understands and has compassion on my brokenness and accepts me just the way I am, all that is required of me is to admit and bring my brokenness to God.


Beloved the Scripture verse at the head of this article describes a somewhat different picture of unconverted sinners. We are not victims, we are perpetrators. We did not have some unfortunate and unforeseen circumstance come upon us to break us; we willfully, joyfully, and wickedly broke and continue to break God’s Law. Scripture never uses the terms broken or brokenness to describe our sins or our sinful condition. On the contrary, in order to be accepted and forgiven by God, we who are rebellious evildoers must become broken over our sin! Brokenness in the Bible describes the state of repentance that God by His grace grants to sinners when he regenerates them and gives them saving faith in Christ. To say it clearly: it is not because I am broken that I need to come to God to be made whole; it is because I am a sinner that only when I become broken I can and will come to God and be forgiven! The following list and sample verses shows the different ways the word or concept of broken is used in the Bible:

  1. Broken physically, a bone or an object: Lev. 6:28; Luke 5:6

  2. Broken out as a disease or an infection: Lev. 13:20, 25, 39

  3. Broken in rebellion, broken my covenant, laws, statutes, my yoke: Num. 15:31; Ezr. 10:2

  4. Broken in judgment, walls, idols, people, bones, teeth shall be broken: Psa. 37:17; Isa 14:5

  5. Broken in defeat, despair, being overwhelmed: Ps. 60:1; 69:20; Pro. 15:13; 18:14; Jer. 23:9

  6. Broken in repentance and godly sorrow: Ezek. 6:9; Psa. 34:18; 51:17

There is no use of broken “in sin.” Christian it is not because you happen to find yourself broken that you need Christ to make you whole in your psyche or self-esteem. But we must continually be broken over our sinful acts of rebellion in order to rightly come to God trusting that Jesus’ blood will atone for our sins. Such brokenness is a gift of God’s grace, which we must diligently seek as the precious treasure that it is. As David understood and wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psa. 51:17). May the God who forgives wicked rebels cause us to seek the grace of being broken over our sins so that we would trust in Christ’s blood and righteousness and not in that we are pitiable.

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)

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