Capturing the essence of sin is not easy, so Christian thinkers have suggested many different definitions. The Westminster divines, for example, define sin in terms of its relation to a legal standard: “Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God” (WSC 14). Dr. R.C. Sproul often speaks of sin as “cosmic treason,” emphasizing transgression as our personal betrayal of the One who could never deserve it.
As we return to our study of particular passages from the Old Testament Wisdom Literature today, we will consider sin from the standpoint of epistemology (the nature and grounds of knowledge): sin is irrational. To believe we can depose the Lord from His throne and become a law unto ourselves, inventing our own standards and rendering ourselves unaccountable to God, is the height of absurdity. There is nothing so foolish, so unreasonable, as the belief that creatures and law-receivers can take the place of the Creator and Lawgiver. Scripture constantly warns us that our plans cannot prevail against God’s, but we find it all but impossible to accept this truth. We find such a warning in Proverbs 21:30: “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD.”
It should be obvious that the creature cannot overcome the Creator, but only those regenerated by the Spirit of God believe this truth. It is not that the unregenerate entirely fail to understand that the Lord and His wisdom are invincible; rather, this truth cannot penetrate the heart apart from the Spirit’s work. God must bring us to our knees before we will embrace the superiority of the Creator’s wisdom to our own. Just as Jacob had to be wounded in his pride and strength before he would submit fully to the Lord (Gen. 32:22–32), we must be humbled and brought to repentance before we will begin to give up trying to take God’s rightful place as the Lord of our lives. Otherwise, we will spend eternity raising our fists against our Creator in the futility of rebellion against Him (Rev. 21:8; 22:11, 15).
Proverbs 21:30 focuses on the invincibility of the Lord’s wisdom in relation to His enemies’ wisdom, but verse 31 balances it with the reminder that even the wisdom of God’s people takes a backseat to the divine plan. People can wisely plan for success in battle, doing all they know how to do in order to improve their odds of winning; nevertheless, final victory comes only by the determination of the Lord. Even plans made with the godliest of intentions cannot come to pass if they are not in line with what God has ordained.