Posts Tagged ‘Forgiveness’

So, What about Sin?

So, What about Sin?

© C. O. Bishop 1/5/2018 Cornell Estates 1/7/2018

Introduction:

We have been working our way through the book of Romans, and the first three chapters are nearly entirely given over to explaining the bad news of the wreckage of the human race in Sin, thus making the “Good News” of the Gospel of Christ entirely appropriate for every human…real good news, in response to real bad news.

So, What is Sin, Anyway?

What is sin? Why is it even an issue? Is it strictly a matter of opinion, and interpretation, or are there some solid truths involved?

The New Testament Greek word “hamartia” reflected a “miss” in spear-throwing, specifically, and one of the primary Hebrew words for “sin” (the Hebrew word chattaah), reflected an archery term meaning to “miss the ‘gold’ (bulls-eye) with an arrow.” But the English word “sin” goes back to various Germanic roots all carrying the idea of “moral wrongdoing, injury, mischief, enmity, a feud, guilt, crime, offense against God, misdeed, etc.”

The various words translated “sin” are used hundreds of times in the Bible, in varying forms, and always treated as something serious. The first warning as to the result of wrongdoing (simple disobedience, in this case, having to do with eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) is in Genesis 2:17, where the Creator warns Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”  We find out later that spiritual death, separation from God, was the primary fulfillment, and it occurred the very moment Adam ate that fruit.

Three thousand years later, an important general comment is made regarding Sin: Ezekiel 18:4 states that “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” This answer was given against the human charge that God is punishing children for what their parents did.

Romans 5:12 has another important idea: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Yes, sin entered by one man. Sin was introduced to the entire human race in its progenitor, Adam. Think of it as a “genetic code modification,” if that helps: we all became sinners, the moment Adam ate of that fruit. But, we all individually sin, and press home God’s point about the whole human race: Every single one of us, at one level or another…no one escapes that stigma, because we all prove it true on an individual basis. Romans 3:23 makes it abundantly clear: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” We all have missed the mark!

How Can We Identify Sin?

As New Testament believers, there is no need for us to go through lists of “Seven Deadly Sins,” “Five Felonious Foul-ups”, or “Nine Nasty No-nos,” or any such thing: we can learn principles by which we can examine our lives, and which cover all those “lists,” plus things we might not have thought of before, and can’t find on any lists. There are four such definitions in the New Testament:

#1 … Transgression of the Law

God gave the Mosaic Law in Exodus 20, and again in Deuteronomy 4. We will not reflect upon it today, because it was specifically given to the Jews, who were never able to keep it, by their own confession (Acts 15:10), and the New Testament specifically forbids placing that yoke on the necks of Gentiles, to whom it was never given in the first place. All that being said, the value of the Law remains unchanged: it is an eternal standard of righteousness. Romans 7:13 says that it “…makes Sin exceedingly sinful.” In light of that fact, over in 1st John 3:4, the apostle states that “…sin is the transgression of the Law.”

All right! There is one clear definition of sin, given in the New Testament, and specifically addressed to New Testament Believers, in spite of the fact that it reflects on Old Testament Law! “Sin is the Transgression of the Law!” Bear in mind that it is definitely talking about the Mosaic Law, not any particular civil law. It is possible (not at all common) for civil law to be contrary to God’s Law, but we will not address that today. How about another?

#2 … All Unrighteousness

In Romans 1:18-32, God addresses His revealed wrath against “…all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men….” This is a good place to read carefully, because, though the list He proceeds to lay out sounds fairly exhaustive, it is not, and it leaves room for other items not specified. Verse 32 says …”they which do such things…”, not ”those things.” The list is not exhaustive. That is important, because He does say that His wrath is ”revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.” So what can we say, when the condemnation is universal, but the list is not?

1st John 5:17 states that “all unrighteousness is sin….”  All unrighteousness is sin! So, everything on that list over in Romans 1 as well as everything in those categories, named or unnamed, is still sin. Galatians 5:19-21 gives a short list (not the same as the one in Romans, but similar), and the list ends with the phrase, “…and such like”. It means “things like these.” All unrighteousness is sin. It doesn’t have to be on anyone’s list, necessarily. How about another definition?

#3 … If a Man Knows to Do Right and Fails to Do So

James 4:17 really makes it personal: “Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” To him it is sin! We always say that ignorance of the Law is not an excuse for breaking it, but there is a law that reaches beyond that: knowing the GOOD thing to do, and failing to DO it, is just a wrong as knowing the law and breaking it.

And, quite frankly, even law-enforcement officers sometimes extend mercy to someone who is doing something that is perfectly legal in their home state, and which they had no way to know became illegal when they crossed the state line. I have had mercy extended to me in that specific instance on at least two occasions. One for a vehicle equipment deficiency, and another for hitchhiking in a state where it was illegal. (That is how I got into that state!) An unmarked car pulled up and the officer politely asked me whether I was aware that it was illegal to hitchhike in the state of Tennessee. My shoulders slumped, and I blurted, “No, I didn’t know that! That’s why everyone is staring at me, then!” He smiled and asked where I was headed. I said I was headed into Mississippi, to see my Grandparents for Christmas. He smiled again, and said, “Hop in! I’ll take you across the state line!” And he did! That was Grace and Mercy at work! He gave me what I had not earned, which is the very definition of Grace; and he did not give me the citation I had unwittingly earned. That is Mercy! He made a judgment based on my response. He was satisfied that I had no intent of breaking the law, and he extended both Mercy and Grace.

But God takes it a step further, and says that if I know the GOOD thing I should do, and decide not to do it, then I am guilty because of a sin of omission. That becomes pretty personal. We do not all have the same gifts or abilities, and God does not hold us equally accountable. A small child, for instance would not be held accountable for failing to render aid at an accident. But an adult very well may be. A non-swimmer may not be held accountable for failing to try to rescue someone struggling in the water…but a trained lifeguard, who simply decided his or her shift was ending, and couldn’t be bothered could very well be charged with criminal negligence. Good laws! That is how God sees those things, too! How about one more?

#4 … Whatsoever is Not of Faith

Romans 14:23 makes it not only personal but internal to the individual. It is checking the heart-motivation, not just what was done or not done. It says, in conclusion of a lengthy treatise, “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” That really caps all the others, in my opinion. There are no loopholes, no excuses…It is between you and God. In the context, the issue being discussed was open either direction: any believer was free to go either way. But! God says that if you are convinced in your own heart that something is wrong, and you go ahead and do it anyway, then it IS sin, for you , because you thought it was wrong and chose to rebel!

By the way, we can do right things for wrong reasons, too, and break this one just as fully. Jesus pointed this out in the Sermon on the Mount, as well as other places, saying “Don’t be like the scribes and the Pharisees,” …who make long prayers for show—who give very publicly, to gain social status, who want the robes and honors of ministry, but don’t have the heart for service. We can do what our conscience tells us not to do, or fail to do what our conscience tells we ought to do, and find that we have sinned, even though the thing in question was not a transgression of the law, nor unrighteousness (by human standards), nor, perhaps would we admit that we “really knew” what to do.

This one almost approaches the mystical, as it is harder to pin down. The only way I know to respond is to keep pretty short accounts with God, and never allow our soul to become calloused. A tender spirit goes a long way toward avoiding this sort of sin.

How do WE Deal with the Question of Sin?

As far as I can see, the religions of the world are divided into four clear groups by their answer to this question:

  1. Those who deny the existence of sin, saying there is nothing that is intrinsically right or wrong, but those concepts have been drummed into us by our respective societies, and that there simply is no such thing as sin, nor guilt for sin. There are not many churches which teach this, because there is an inborn sense of right and wrong, that virtually all people admit to, unless they are specifically taught otherwise. We certainly see things as wrong when someone does them to us! Maybe not so much when they happen to others.
  2. Those who admit there is such a thing as sin, but insist that “God is so loving that He (or she) would never punish a sinner! We are all children of that loving God, and we just need to get along as best we can, and we will all go to heaven eventually!” This isn’t really common either, because along with a sense of right and wrong, most people have a strong sense of retribution built into them. We believe that good people ought to get good things, and bad people ought to get bad things. Revenge is a very common drive in humans across the globe. Of course our ideas about who is good and who is bad are terribly skewed, in many cases, and our ideas about what the human race deserves, is usually pretty mild…at least toward ourselves and “our kind of folk”. (Funny how that works…)
  3. Those who not only admit there is such a thing as sin, but also agree that God hates sin! And then they say that “You need to do lots of good things to overbalance all the bad things you have already done.” And they will definitely tell you what all you need to do: There might be special prayers to recite, or penances of various types. Money gifts are always appreciated; burning incense, lighting candles, cutting your hair in a specific way, wearing certain special clothing…etc. Oddly enough, virtually all the world’s religions fall into this group: why? Because it appeals to our old sin nature! We want to believe that we can DO something to make God accept us! It makes us feel good about ourselves: “I must be good! Look at all the good stuff I do!” and finally,
  4. The ones that agree that sin exists, that God is Holy, and He hates sin, but then go on to admit that every single human is a sinner, and that there is NOTHING we can do to undo the bad things we have already done. That is what the Bible teaches, and, in this regard it stands alone! We are left guilty and with neither defense nor excuse.

    Jesus’s blood at the Cross is the only payment that God has ever accepted, and we can add nothing to that sacrifice!

Our choices, then become pretty clear: if I try to change the game, and redefine sin, I am in trouble with God. But, if I try to deal with sin in some other way than via the Cross, I add insult to injury, as He says in Hebrews 10:29 that I am treading under foot the Son of God, counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and doing despite unto the Spirit of Grace! Wow! Rough stuff!

Make it Personal…God takes it that way!

God has made it clear that Sin is a pervasive problem, and that it effectively permeates every facet of human existence. He has made it clear that He hates sin. And He has offered us a way to regain a right standing with Himself.

So, the question becomes, since I now know how God defines Sin, how will I deal with it?

  • Will I brush it away, denying it exists?
  • Will I say, “Oh, yeah, I know, but God will forgive me! He’s a great guy! He isn’t concerned about this sort of thing!”
  • Will I grovel in my guilt, and slavishly try to earn God’s favor through my own works?
  • Or will I accept the simple fact that, apart from God’s Grace, and His Mercy, I am completely helpless against the enemies of my soul, and that my only hope is through Jesus’s finished work at the Cross?

That is the choice each of us faces, when we first become believers, but it is also the choice we face as believers: I cannot go back to being lost, but I can act as if I did! I can still rebel, and deny that my behavior is sin. And it will be very costly!

When I do such things, I put myself beyond God’s reach for fellowship and blessing, and I open myself to the attack of the Evil one. Everything I do during that lapse will be worthless to God, even when I am “trying to do good things to get on God’s good side.” I can’t lose my salvation, but I can definitely waste my life, and lose the opportunity to serve with Jesus, and be rewarded with Him.

So what can I do? I can confess to God that my sin is exactly what God calls it: Sin. Not a “personality conflict” or a “genetic trait”, or “my Irish blood”, or whatever excuse I would like to use. I confess it as sin…and what does God do? 1st John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” How can you beat a deal like that?

Take that one to the bank! God already signed the check; all you have to do is endorse it by faith!

Lord Jesus, teach us Your Mercy and Your Grace. Teach us to rely upon your mercy and Grace, by faith, as you show us the sin in our lives. Let us repent of our sins, and confess them to you, so as to be fully restored to fellowship.

 

 

 


A Better Redeemer

A Better Redeemer

© C. O. Bishop 8/7/17 THCF 8/13/17

Hebrews 9:11-28

Introduction:

Last time, we saw that Jesus is our Mercy Seat…our atonement…and that the Throne of Grace is His throne: that the Mercy Seat covers all of our sins, and, in fact, all of the sins of the human race from beginning to end.

Finally, we saw that, today, we are invited to approach His throne with confidence, knowing that our standing with Him was made perfect at the Cross. We have entered into this relationship by faith, and we are to continue to walk by faith.

Now the writer is making even more powerful statements concerning the Person of Christ

Jesus is Better than the Old Testament Sacrifices.

11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

This is an astounding statement: Jesus, in contrast to every priest of the Temple who ever lived, has accomplished what those priests could only dream of:

  • In the first place, the Temple into which He entered was not the Old Testament structure, nor did He enter into its priesthood at all.
  • Secondly, the sacrifice He brought was not the blood of animals which were in no way connected to our guilt. Those animals served as a temporary substitute for the sinner, down through all the ages. God ordained the Law of the Substitute, in Genesis chapter 3. The animals in the garden, whose blood covered the sins of Adam and Eve, were substituted for the fallen pair. All the sacrificial animals, under the Law, served as substitutes; but only until the chosen Lamb of God appeared. There was a substitute involved in every sacrifice for sins, because the Law of Sin and Death demanded the death of the sinner. Jesus took the place of (substituted himself for) every human who ever lived, when he went to the Cross. He is our substitute… and there is no substitute for him.
  • He has provided a permanent, eternal redemption for us. In this particular passage, the Greek word for “redemption” is “lutruosin”. It carries the idea of being “set free.”

There are three words used in Greek, to complete the concept that we call “Redemption:”

  • Agorazo: to be “bought in the market (the agora)”
  • Exagorazo: to be “bought out of the market…taken off the market, not be re-sold”, and
  • Lutroō: to be set free.

So, the whole meaning of the concept of Biblical Redemption begins with the “bad news”: the fact that we have been sold into sin: so that is where God had to go to rescue us—to the slave-market of sin. That is where Jesus went as our redeemer. We have been bought out of that market-place, never to be sold again. And, finally: we have been set free. He bought us for the purpose of setting us free.

Now: with that in mind, consider the importance of verse twelve: it says that Jesus, at the cost of his own life-blood, being tortured to death by the barbaric people for whom He died, has bought eternal redemption for us. It says we have been eternally bought out of the marketplace of sin, to be eternally set free. It simply cannot be stated in stronger terms! Your position in Christ cannot be more secure than it already is. You have been eternally set free. Read verses 13 and 14:

13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Whatever effect the Old Testament sacrifices had upon the believer, the effect of the sacrifice of Christ is far superior: His death and burial and resurrection brings eternal redemption. Notice, too, that it says that he did all this “through the Eternal Spirit:” He lived a sinless life by the Holy Spirit, and he sacrificed Himself by the Holy Spirit. His whole life was lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the result is that we are permanently bought out from our former slavery to sin, and have been permanently set free to serve God.

 

The Mediator of the New Testament…the New Covenant

15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Notice the tenses, here: he sacrificed himself (past tense), and because of that, He is (present tense) our High Priest—the Mediator between God and Man. Bear in mind that a mediator is always a “go-between” of some sort. God says in 1st Timothy 2:5 that “…there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” In this specific case (the mediator between God and Man), the mediator is the priest; the one who represents God before men and Man before God. So Jesus is identified clearly as the High Priest of the New Covenant.

This serves as a reminder that, in the truest sense, the New Testament did not begin with Matthew chapter one. Jesus himself said, “…this is the New Covenant in my Blood….” So, the real beginning point of Jesus’s ministry as the Mediator of the New Covenant, (in spite of what we refer to as his “high Priestly prayer”, in John 17and that is what it was) was the sacrifice he brought as the High Priest: his death at the Cross. He appeared in the real tabernacle with that sacrifice, once for all, and consummated his eternal position at the right hand of God the Father.

So, when our Bibles start the New Testament with the four Gospels, it is only because the Gospels introduce the New Testament. It actually began with the crucifixion, and really got rolling at the day of Pentecost, 50 days later. The Church-age is the beginning of the New Testament. The full New Covenant as promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34, will be ushered in after the Lord’s return.

16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.
19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,
20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.
21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

These are perplexing things to read, unless you remember that every blood-sacrifice in the Old Testament was, in one form or another, a picture (or pre-figuring) of Christ and His one sacrifice that was to come. Some are more clearly stated than others. But the closing comment on that passage is this key statement: …without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

This is a clear explanation of what was wrong with Cain’s offering, in Genesis chapter four by the way. I have heard several preachers make the statement that “there was nothing wrong with Cain’s sacrifice—it was his heart attitude that was wrong.”  They were pretty adamant about it, too, saying that to claim otherwise was to insert doctrine that just wasn’t there.

Well—sorry, but this passage says that the non-blood character of the sacrifice was what was wrong…that, apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. No forgiveness! And, if we skip ahead to Hebrews 11:4, the same writer clearly states that “by faith, Abel brought a more excellent sacrifice…” It does not say, “God liked Abel’s attitude better”: it says the sacrifice was better.

Abel obeyed by faith, and brought the blood sacrifice about which he had apparently learned through Adam’s testimony. (Remember, God attempted to reason with Cain, and effectively reminded him that he, Cain, also knew what the problem was, and that if he obeyed, he too would be accepted. But Cain chose to rebel…and we know the result.)

 

A Better Sacrifice

23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

The logic, here, is that while it was necessary for “all things to be purged with blood”, here on earth, it was even more necessary in the heavenly tabernacle. But, as the heavenly tabernacle is infinitely superior to the Earthly one, so the sacrifice also had to be infinitely superior. And it was! The Sacrifice which Jesus brought was eternally ordained by God (see Revelation 13:8…Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth.”) Jesus is “Plan A”, and there is no “Plan B!”

24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

I have a hard time picturing this, because, honestly, I realize that I have no idea what the presence of God is like beyond the very limited descriptions in God’s Word. Perhaps someone might say I lack imagination; but, in this particular case that is a good thing. God says (1st Corinthians 2:9) “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  In another passage we are told that we are to cast down “…imagination and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” It seems to me that if God is silent on a subject, then we ought to be silent, too; but there are many books available today giving glowing, detailed description of heaven, and the throne room, the angelic hosts, etc. It leaves me to wonder about the real source of such things.

25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Jesus made a once-for-all sacrifice, to take away the sins of the World (John 1:29), and we look for his second coming; not hoping that we may be good enough, or that our works will be sufficient, but knowing that He was “good enough”: knowing that His one sacrifice is eternally sufficient.

Some churches teach that, through the Eucharist, Jesus is continually suffering for the sins of the World. This passage flatly states that to be the worst form of falsehood. That teaching denies the truth of God’s Word, and relegates Jesus to a continual “victim of God’s Wrath”, rather than the valiant and victorious Lord of Hosts, Lion of Judah, and conquering Lamb of God that he truly is. He voluntarily stepped forward to be our savior, and his Sacrificial work was completed once for all, at the Cross.

This is how we know that Jesus is not physically (or mystically) in the Eucharist…that the bread and the cup are only representative of His body and blood, and are emblems of how we have been born again.

They are not the means of salvation, nor are they in any way effective to put us in a right standing before God. They are strictly a reminder of how we entered into a right standing with a Holy God, and of who we are as a result. Living in a world that is antagonistic toward the Creator, it is easy to forget who we are in Him, and struggle along in our flesh, instead of trusting Him day by day, allowing Him to live through us.

This has been a fairly persistent false teaching, and many otherwise sound apologists have been snared by it, because it is an attractive idea. I enjoy the writings of C.S. Lewis, but in his early book “Mere Christianity”, he states that one becomes a Christian by taking communion. That is absolutely false. I hope that C. S. Lewis later realized his error, but I still have that book, and there have been millions of copies sold over the years.

One becomes a Christian by coming as a guilty sinner, and placing one’s personal trust in Jesus’s blood as full payment for one’s own personal sin. His literal blood at the Cross is what paid for sin, not the commemorative ritual. We enter in by placing our faith in his real shed blood: his real death, his real burial, and His real resurrection. We commemorate that reality in the Lord’s Supper.

By the way, this is also an important passage in refuting all teachings of “reincarnation:” do you see it? (Hebrews 9:27) It says we are appointed to die once…and after that the judgment. That rules out “coming back for seconds”, so to speak. You get one life, here on earth: no “do-overs”.

Jesus also had one life—and it was given to him specifically for the purpose of going to the cross in the place of the whole human race, to provide the way for us to have eternal life.

 

Conclusion:

So how do we respond? What do we do with all this information? Is it just “fun stuff to know and tell?” Or is there a practical response involved? What kind of response is Jesus looking for?

Let’s go back to verse 14:

14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
There is your “Purpose clause” for all that we just read. Jesus did everything for the Glory of God, and in so doing, He freed us from Sin– so that we could do the same.

He finished His work in order that we might be eternally set free from sin and so that we can join Him in glorifying the Father through service. In John 14:21, we see that the mark of one who loves Jesus Christ is that they obey Him, through faith…and the result is that God, in the person of Christ, engages in a continuing love-relationship with the believer, and deliberately makes Himself known to the believer, in an ongoing, living experience, as that person continues to serve the living God.

We frequently quote Ephesians 2:8, 9, in regards to how we are saved. But we seldom quote Ephesians 2:10, which suggests why we are saved:

  • We are his workmanship
  • Created in Christ Jesus
  • Unto good works, which God has before ordained
  • That we should walk in them.

If you have trusted in Jesus as your savior, then you have been born again; and your new nature is created in the righteousness and holiness of God. (Ephesians 4:24) Because of that, you are free to serve Him. God has things for you to do! Don’t miss out on the opportunity! We only get one life, and it is our one opportunity to serve the King.

Lord Jesus, stir our hearts to serve you. Change the way we see life. Help us see it as our one chance to walk with you and to work with you. Strengthen and encourage our hearts to follow you. Draw us along as your flock, and teach us your way.