In Proverbs 5:22, Solomon talks about sin as a trap. He says, “His own iniquities shall take (entrap, NKJV) the wicked himself, and he shall be holden (caught, NKJV) with the cords of his sins.”
A man’s iniquities do trap a man. His sins hold and bind him like a cord. When sin gets a hold on a man, sin makes it difficult for a man to escape. Solomon is not the only writer of Scripture to warn us about the trapping power of sin. There are many warnings in the NT that sin can capture us, enslave us, and hang on to us. Romans chapter 6 is filled with references to the grasp that sin gets on a person. In verse 12, Paul says sin reigns over us. In verse 16, Paul lays out the two choices of servitude: we can present ourselves as slaves “of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.”
The Scriptures certainly warn us about the trapping, possessive power of sin. But, why is sin that way? How is it that when sin gets a hold on you, it does not easily let go?
One way sin holds on is that sin works on our spiritual side much like drugs affect our physical body. Addictive drugs inherently have a special danger. Once you even sample them, your decision powers are affected so that you more easily yield to the temptation to take the next dose. It is extremely important to know the danger before you experiment with drugs, because once you let those chemicals into your system, then the powerful affect they have on you begins to take control.
The same is true of sin. One sin encourages the next. Paul told the Romans (Rom. 6:19) that they had yielded their “…members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity…” The NKJV says, “…lawlessness leading to more lawlessness…”
Sin begets more sin—that’s one way it keeps its hold. Think of all the examples. If you lie to cover a failure, it can lead to lying again to keep up the cover-up. If you begin to have immoral thoughts and imaginings, they have the potential to take over your life. They can keep you from productive work—certainly from spiritual service. When you begin to enjoy the material things too much, they can consume you. The desire to have more is never satisfied (Eccl. 5:10).
So, one way sins gets a grip on you and ensnares you is that sin by its very nature is just that way. One dose leads to another: sin is addictive.
And, there is yet another way that sin gets a grasp on you that is hard to break. One of the most devastating binding cords of sin is the horrible guilt—that feeling of unworthiness that we have.
In Psalm 38:3-6, David describes how remorse has taken over his whole body. “There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. …I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.”
The guilt keeps our heads bowed down. We have trouble looking to those who can comfort and help. We definitely have trouble looking up to God, who is the true source of help. The guilt is one of the strongest parts of the trap. There is the hopelessness that comes from knowing we are in its grasp and the dread that comes because we know the eternal consequences that await us if we do not get out.
The guilt not only makes sin more miserable—it weakens our ability to get out of the trap.
We can now understand the horrible grasp and guilt of sin. We understand Jesus’ statement, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34).
So, we naturally ask the question, “How do we escape?” Jesus, only two verses away from His description of the enslaving trap, tells us about the escape. He says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Obeying the truth brings forgiveness that rids us of that guilt. Peter writes that, “…ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth…” (I Pet. 1:22). We are saved from the consequences of our sins when we obey the truth.
Paul explained it this way to Timothy. He urged Timothy to preach so that people could have repentance and know the truth, so that they could “…recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (II Tim. 2:26).
Here is the formula for freedom. There must be a repentance, a change in thinking that rejects the former sinful behavior and decides to follow God’s will for our lives. In II Cor. 7:10, Paul says that repentance is for, or unto, salvation.
Then there must be an obedience to what God has said will bring salvation. In Rom. 10:10, Paul writes that confession “is made unto salvation.” Jesus says that we must confess Him (Matt. 10:32). The early Christians confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Acts 8:37). There is one other command of God that involves forgiveness of sin. Peter commanded: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, …” (Acts 2:38).
Obedience to the truth removes the guilt. Obedience to the truth takes us out of the cords and takes us away from them—so that they should not ensnare us again, and it relieves that awful guilt that is so much a part of the grasping power of sin.