The World’s Worst Archer

From Paul Tripp Ministries


Did you ever go to summer camp when you were younger and participate in an archery activity? You’re young and small, the muscles on your body barely developed. Your camp leader hands you this big bow, almost as long as your body, and the target seems a mile away.

But you’re convinced you can do it! You’ve seen other kids do it, even if they’re older, bigger, and stronger. Plus, you’ve watched enough movies to know it can be done, even riding full speed on a horse! So with all your might, you pull the string back and close one eye … only to watch the arrow fall a few yards before your feet.

That is a word picture of what sin does in our hearts, even to the most mature believer in Christ.

As we consider the doctrine of sin and study the trinity of words found in Psalm 51—transgression, iniquity, and sin— the final word David uses for sin is the word sin itself.

“Cleanse me from my sin […] My sin is ever before me […] Against you, you only, have I sinned […] In sin did my mother conceive me […] Hide your face from my sins.”

A popular definition of sin is “missing the mark.” The picture is of an archer aiming at a target and missing it to the right or left every time. I think a better and more biblical way of defining sin is that every arrow of the archer falls short of the target.

Imagine you’ve paid top money to fly to the Olympics so that you can watch the archery final. You get there, sit in the front row, and prepare to watch the best in the world compete for the gold medal and glory for their nation.

But it’s the most disappointing, embarrassing sporting event ever televised. Lying in front of every competitor’s target are hundreds of arrows, representing hundreds of attempts to reach the standard, and every single one of them falling short.

Such is sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sin has left us morally weak, unable to be what we are supposed to be and do what we have been created to do. The effect of sin on us is total. This doesn’t mean that we are as evil as we possibly could be, but rather, that the damage of sin corrupts every aspect of our being and personhood.

Because of sin, it’s not just that we will choose to rebel or transgress; we simply cannot do what is right, even if we desire to. The words of Romans 7:15-24 come to mind:

“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (vv. 18-19).

The doctrine of sin would leave you so discouraged, but Romans 3 and Romans 7 do not end on a discouraging note.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (3:23-25).

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:24-25)

The doctrine of sin reminds us of the war that continues to rage within us, a war that will not completely cease until the King puts the last enemy under his feet.

God bless,

Paul David Tripp

Reflection Questions

1. Consider every “arrows” in your life—marriage, parenting, spiritual disciplines, finances, purity, etc., as you attempt to hit the moral target. How have those arrows fallen short for you? How many times have you made a promise to never do that sinful thing, say that sinful thing, or think that sinful thing again? Take a moment and consider your morally weak areas. Reflect on your inability to do the right thing, follow through every time, always say the right thing, and consistently live sacrificially.

2. Re-read Romans 7:15-24 and Romans 3:23-25. How does the despair you feel because of the fact that you’re a sinner become transformed into something glorious because of Romans 3:24-25 and Romans 7:24-25? How can the hopelessness caused by your sinful nature highlight the transforming power of God’s grace toward you? How does your awareness of sin get you excited about grace?

3. Recognizing that there is a war raging inside you should make you long for the day when the war ends. Take a moment right now and pray for the return of our King, Jesus Christ. He alone will completely end the war against sin when the last enemy, death itself, will die. Pray that he will end the war soon, and name the specific areas of sin in your life that you deeply desire to be rid of once and for all. Now praise him for the fact that he will destroy all of the sin that wreaks so much havoc on your life.

The World’s Worst Archer

New Hope Presbyterian Church Bridgeton, NJ

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