What is the Greatest Sin?
By Herbert W. Armstrong
August 1969 Tomorrow's World Magazine Personal from the Editor
is THE GREATEST SIN that anyone could commit? The most
terrible sin of all is probably the very last one that most people
would name. In fact, most people might not consider it to be a sin at
I have known
what this sin is for 42 years, but the GRAVITY of this supreme sin was
given great emphasis as I was reading in I Chronicles 29, in the Fenton
It was 3,000
years ago. David was King over Israel in Jerusalem. It was in the heart
of David to build a Temple at Jerusalem for God, and God said to David
that he did well in desiring to build the Temple. But, because David
had been a man of war, and had killed many, he was not allowed to build
it. God decreed it should be built by his son, Solomon, after David's
In response to
David's request to the people that they contribute for the building of
the Temple, they responded with enthusiasm and great liberality. "Then
the people rejoiced," we read in I Chronicles 29:9, "for that they had
offered WILLINGLY, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to
the Eternal: and David the king also rejoiced WITH GREAT JOY!" They
were stirred, moved, inspired, fired up with anticipation of this
glorious HOUSE FOR GOD!
David also was
deeply moved! He knew all they gave had come from the Great God! He was
inspired to realize the GREATNESS, the MAJESTY, the SUPREME GLORY of
the living God! He was moved to an inspired prayer, publicly expressing
his gratitude and praise for the Great GOD.
So this is what I read, in the Fenton translation, beginning the next verse-the 10th:
"Blessed be YOU,
the EVER-LIVING, - The GOD of Our Father Israel, - From Eternity to
Eternity! With You LORD, is Greatness, and Power, And Beauty, and
Splendor, and Glory! For all the Heavens and the Earth are Yours, LORD!
The Government, and Exaltation, And Headship of all!"
The Fenton translation omits part of the next verse, so I continue from the Moffatt translation in modern English:
honor come from Thee, who reignest over all; in Thy hand lie power and
might, and in Thy hand it lies to make all great and strong. Hence, O
our God, we ever thank Thee and praise Thy glorious name. Yet who am 1,
what is my people that we should be able to offer such free will
offerings? All gifts come from Thee, and we only give Thee what is
Thine." (I Chron. 29:10-14).
As I read
David's inspired words I seemed to catch the vision of the GREATNESS,
the POWER, the BEAUTY, the SPLENDOR and GLORY of the Great God - and of
His Throne in Heaven! Did you ever stop to think of it? God is not the
author of ugliness, unsightliness, darkness, cheapness, inferiority!
God Himself dwells in brilliant SPLENDOR! From His throne in Heaven
brilliant lightning flashes forth! It is resplendent in beauty,
brilliance and GLORY!
inspired David, "Riches and honor come from thee!" Not poverty -
RICHES! God is the great GIVER of all GOOD THINGS! Poverty is not of
God. Filth and squalor do not come from God, but from disobedience to
His Laws! RICHES come from God, to those who UNDERSTAND and follow His
WAYS! For those who learn how properly to use them!
ALL - absolutely
ALL good things, wanted things, desirable things - come from GOD! God
is one who GIVES - not one who TAKES! He SHARES, and has given us
precious promises that, if we yield to Him and His ways, ALL THAT HE
HAS we may SHARE! If we are Christ's we are His own HEIRS - to INHERIT
what He HAS - to SHARE it with Him! Can your mind comprehend that?
God IS, and HAS,
the ULTIMATE ! The GLORY of God - His THRONE, ruling the universe - His
POWER - is the
Yet all His power and glory we may share! All this we may INHERIT.
Look at this life NOW! Every GOOD that is desired, wanted, craved, comes from God!
He gives, not
only to the deserving and the righteous, but to the unjust and
undeserving. "He makerh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45).
Yet, of course,
transgression of His laws (the CAUSE of desired results) brings
penalties and cuts one off from the extra blessings.
Then, in the
life to come, there is the PROMISE that we may inherit ALL THAT IS HIS
- that we may SHARE with Him all that He has!
What is the GREATEST POSSIBLE SIN?
It is that which
cuts one off from the GREATEST POSSIBLE GOOD - the SUPREME ACQUIREMENT!
It is that which separates one from the GIVER of all that is GOOD!
It is not only
in this life that the GOOD THINGS come from God. The good things we may
receive from Him here and now are only an earnest - a small portion of
a down payment - of what He wants to give us later.
But what of the desired things we may have from God here and now?
As I look back
on my 77 years up to now, I realize my own life illustrates the point.
As a young man I was ambitious. Desire to succeed - to accomplish - to
get to the top in life - was fired like a red-hot flame within me at
age 16. It was a selfish goal. But I began to study deeply and
intensively, apart from school studies.
Later, after a
self-analysis stimulated by a book titled "Choosing a Vocation," I
chose the advertising profession. I studied hard. I drove myself with
energy. I applied my mind to thinking about what I was doing while I
was doing it - something most neglect to do. Thus I gained by
experience as well as from books.
successful, probably the most successful young advertising man in
Chicago, between ages 23 and 30. At 28 I was making, in my own
publishers' representative business, the equivalent of $28,000 to
$30,000 per year measured by today's dollar-value. My business brought
me into constant contact with leading multi-millionaire executives of
the largest industrial and business corporations in the middle west,
and with Board Chairmen, Presidents and executive Vice Presidents of
the nation's largest banks.
My ambition - my
goal in life - was to achieve STATUS - to be looked upon as important.
By the time I was 45 or 50, I expected to be regarded by these
successful men as their superior. I was full of vanity and
self-confidence. 1 was completely self-centered, I was cocky and
conceited, yet I was also sincere, honest, and I had my own
well-meaning ideals. But even that was self-centeredness.
All this time I
was receiving the GOOD God showers on both the sinners and righteous. I
was receiving from God the breath that gave me life - the blessings of
the sun and the rain in the form of food to sustain life, and clothing
and shelter. But I was NOT enjoying real inner peace. I was not free
from fear and worry. I had not learned what real HAPPINESS is. I was
cutting myself off from the Great God who lavishes on those enjoying
contact with Him all the EXTRA blessings!
And all this time I was, without realizing it, committing this CAPITAL sin!
God was calling
me to a special mission but my swelled-up ego prevented me from seeing
it then. So - for my own good - God took away my business. Three
successive businesses! Through forces and conditions entirely beyond my
control. He brought me down to POVERTY spelled in capital letters! Then
by providential circumstances He angered me into a study of His
Instruction Book, the Bible.
I fought against
His truth. I delved into evolution to see if I could prove the
non-existence of God. This study proved, instead, the falsity of that
theory and the existence and the reality of God. Further research
proved the infallible inspiration of the Bible - in its original
When God began
to reveal Himself to me - when I caught a glimpse of His Almighty Power
and Glory - of His Truth - of His living REALITY, (even as King David
saw it in the prayer I have quoted,) I began to see myself for what I
really was - an egotistical, swelled-up piece of worthless HUMAN VANITY
The life ambition I had cherished, striven for, expended all my energy on, was only another god before the true God!
What is the
greatest possible sin? I repeat. It is that which cuts one off from the
greatest possible GOOD the supreme acquirement - it is that which
separates one from the GIVER of that supreme GOOD! It is to have
another god before the REAL God!
No one can gain
contact with God until his idol his false god - is DESTROYED! And the
true God had now shattered to bits my false god! I was humbled and
brought low. Low enough to be willing to give my life over to GOD - and
possessions alone do not bring happiness. Real happiness is primarily a
spiritual, not material entity. I gave up all concern relative to
status - to what "big men" thought of me. It was unconditional
surrender to God.
It was necessary
to remove entirely the setting of my heart on material things - letting
them, or vanity, be the god at whose shrine I worshipped. To this end,
God put me through 28 years of economic poverty. Stripped of good
financial income, I learned what HAPPINESS really is. I was now poor in
material goods - rich in having received God's Holy Spirit! I
experienced JOY - happiness brimfull and running over! I learned to
love and ENJOY digging out new truths from the Bible with others of the
yielding myself to GOD'S WORK, I was being prospered. Not financially -
not in personal finances. That didn't seem to matter. But THE WORK was
continuously prospered. Its growth averaged close to 30% each year.
Even today, I
own nothing - save such personal things as clothing. I own no home, no
automobile. But I am privileged to live in a College-owned home on each
of our three campuses. These fantastically beautiful campuses are my
lawns and gardens which I am privileged to enjoy - along with hundreds
of students and faculty people. And there is a car at each campus put
at my disposal, with a driver for each, since I now am able to see only
through one eye too dimly for safe driving. And further, since the
operations of the Work of God grew to such worldwide power and scope,
necessitating much travel to all parts of the world, there is a private
corporation jet plane and crew always at my disposal. After 28 years of
material poverty and spiritual wealth I had learned NOT to set my heart
on physical things. Now God allows me to use them.
Now I look back
on a life that has been used in helping many thousands to see and
follow THE WAY of peace, happiness, and abundant well-being. Actually,
I didn't do any of it - GOD DID! - but I was privileged to be used as
an instrument in His hands. I live on college campuses not only
beautiful in physical environment, but filled with happy, smiling,
wholesome, radiating and vigorous young men and women utterly unlike
those on the average university campus.
And yet, when I
say that I am the most blest man on earth, many of them and of the many
executives in this Work around me, will smilingly assure me that each
of them is the most blest! I rather like that kind of disagreement!
God blest me
with the loveliest, finest wife in the world - for fifty years - a full
half century. And when she died, more than two years ago, I did not
have to grieve as others who have no hope. Rather, I look back on those
50 happy years - and forward to a soon-coming resurrection when we'll
be together again.
Yes, when I tell you all the GOOD THINGS come from God, I am speaking from EXPERIENCE!
Recently, my son
Garner Ted was speaking about the protests, the rebellion, the violence
on hundreds of college and university campuses all over the world. They
are Communist inspired. But Communist rabble-rousers could not stir up
all this mass discontent unless something was really WRONG with modern
education. But at our own Ambassador College campuses there is no
discontent, no rebellion, no marches on the Chancellor's residence, no
protest, no violence.
Where there is
inflamed discontent it is aroused because of the absence of something -
students themselves do not realize what - but something that would
SATISFY! My son said what they really are crying out for, without
knowing it, is what our students do have on the Ambassador campuses.
It is two things:
The Missing Dimension in Education. Ambassador students have
learned what are the TRUE VALUES, and stopped pursuing the false! They
have learned the meaning and real PURPOSE of life - and THE WAY to
achieve it. And they are on THAT WAY, the true way of life!
They have - most of them (and the others not far from receiving)
- that which assures achievement of life's real goal - that which alone
really satisfies, God's Holy Spirit within, guiding and leading them.
And THAT is the
real essence of what discontented student rebels hunger for. The
missing true knowledge, and God's Spirit dwelling within, opening the
mind to God's TRUTH, showing them THE WAY, filling them with God's
LOVE, and with peace and joy! It is the only ingredient that can fill
that void of emptiness - that can really SATISFY.
That is God's
GREATEST of ALL GIFTS. It is the gift of God Himself coming into our
lives. It is the presence, conditionally, of ETERNAL LIFE. It is the
"living waters" that quench inner thirst - the spiritual food that
feeds inner soul hunger! It is Love, Faith, Power! It is what makes
life WORTH LIVING, NOW! It is what makes life here and now full and
rich and abundant. It is the SOURCE and BASIS of HAPPINESS!
But it is MORE!
I said God wants to share with us everything He has!
That includes His ETERNAL LIFE, His POWER and GLORY!
the fullness of abundance in this life, there is the life for ETERNITY
with God. In this present life we are HEIRS - IF His Spirit dwells
within - IF we follow, and are led by His Spirit. But following this
life we shall become INHERITORS! Inheritors of ALL
THAT GOD HAS.1
Notice! "But ye
are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of
God dwell in you . . , But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus
from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead
shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth
in you . . . For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they
are the SONS OF GOD. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage
again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of SONSHIP, whereby we
cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
that we arc the children of God: and if children, then HEIRS; HEIRS OF
GOD, AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST . . . For whom He did foreknow, He
also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He
[Christ] might be the FIRSTBORN among many brethren" (Rom. 8:9, II,
Study that! UNDERSTAND it!
If we are
Christ's - IF His Spirit dwells in us - IF we are following where His
Spirit leads - we are now His children, but now only HEIRS. Not yet
inheritors. But Jesus Christ then becomes our elder brother. He is the
first BORN of many brethren. We are His brethren and co-heirs. He has
now been BORN of God - and He IS God! Notice it!
In Romans, the
first chapter, "Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was
made of the seed of David according to the flesh [that is, as a human
Jesus was a son and descendant of David; BUT]; And declared to be the
Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the
resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:3-4).
plain! Jesus Christ, who was BORN of the human virgin Mary in the human
material flesh, was a descendant of David. BUT, He was declared to be
the Son of GOD "by the resurrection from the dead."
As such - a Son
of GOD WITH POWER, ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT OF HOLINESS - that is, of
divine SPIRIT, He was the first BORN of many brethren. Not the first to
be BORN of material human flesh. The first to be BORN of divine HOLY
SPIRIT, with POWER.
By a resurrection from the dead, He became the Spirit-composed divine Son of God, the first so BORN of MANY BRETHREN !
He was born
once, in the physical human flesh, of the virgin Mary. But not the
first to be born human. He was later BORN AGAIN - the first so born of
many brethren - by the resurrection, of divine Spirit composition, as
the divine Son of God. So by this second birth to divine Spirit - by
the resurrection - He was BORN AGAIN - born a second time even as we
may be. Born once of physical human flesh. Born a second time composed
of divine Spirit.
Not that Jesus
ever sinned. He didn't. Not that He needed redemption or salvation, in
the sense that we do - He didn't! Rut Jesus had possessed and shared
the divine GLORY of God through eternity, UNTIL He divested Himself of
that Power and Glory to be divinely begotten in His human mother Mary.
See John 17:5, 1:1, 14. He gave up ALL that He shared with God the
Father, in order to save the human race. But after His resurrection,
again He shared EVERYTHING- the universe - with the Father. Notice what
He has now:
Jesus Christ is
now "a Son whom He [the Father] has appointed heir of the UNIVERSE, as
it was by Him [Christ] that He [God the Father] created the world. He
[Christ], reflecting God's bright glory and stamped with God's own
CHARACTER, sustains the UNIVERSE with His word of POWER." (Heb. 1:2-3,
He now controls
every force, power and energy in the universe. He SUSTAINS the entire
universe. He ADMINISTERS the Government of God over the ENTIRE CREATION
And with all
this God promises we, too, are now heirs- IF we are Christ's - IF His
Spirit dwells in us IF we follow and are led BY His Spirit!
Jesus Christ has
now INHERITED ALL His Father has - all He shared with the Father before
His human birth - and has been set to administer God's Universe
Government! We are joint-heirs. He is the pioneer who lias gone on
before, inheriting what WE, if we are His, shiiU also inherit and
share! (Heb. 2: 6-11).
WHAT a heritage! WHAT a supreme potential! And all God's GIFT - the GIVER of ALL that is good!
What, then, is
the GREATEST, most terrible sin anyone could commit? It is that which
cuts one off from all GOOD - all blessings NOW, and the SUPREME the
ULTIMATE, for all eternity in the life to come! It is to have another
god before Him. It could be money. It could be excessive TV viewing of
the wrong kind of programs. It could be clothes, pleasures, one's
selfish ambitions (that was my false god in early life).
Many things could be another god before Him. Nearly everyone does have one or more other gods before Him. DO YOU?
Better face that question now, before it is too late!
Do YOU have some physical material idol?
How completely do YOU want ALL THE GOOD THINGS? Enough to give up whatever stands between you and the great GIVER ?