Friday, September 21, 2012

The Answer to Sin

Thank you for waiting my friends and readers.  The reasons some of my posts are so far apart are my health.  I prefer to write when I can give of my best to our Lord.  I have another blog where I write about my health issues Here.

My last post was about sin.  What it is and why we all are guilty.  As outlined in what was mostly a word study the situation appears quite hopeless.  But as I pointed out at the end all is not as hopeless as it seems.  We are told in the bible that God is love (1 John 4:8).  That being the case it would seem that he would do something about the hopeless situation of those who were created in his image (Gen. 1:27).  He did.    But how, how could this curse be lifted off us and salvation be made possible for everybody (2 Tim. 2:4).

The answer is really found in the Mosaic Law, where God’s standards for justice are outlined for us.  The foundational principle for God’s standard of justice is simply stated in the phrase “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Ex. 21:24).  This is a much misunderstood and maligned requirement which is often portrayed as barbaric today.  But in Moses’ day was nothing less than revolutionary in a Middle Eastern world where the penalty seldom matched the offense.  I’ll save the exposition on that for another day.

But the important thing to keep in mind as we progress in our study is the principle of equivalence.  Simply put punishment was equal to the crime.  In the case of theft the thief had to compensate the victim for both the value of what was stolen plus compensation for inconvenience and loss of income from his property in the case of that property, such as livestock, provided and ongoing income through shearing fur, birthing or fathering new livestock.  This was important in an agricultural society where such a loss over time wasn’t a minor inconvenience.

In other matters, such as if a man harmed his fellow in a serious way which impeded one’s ability to make a living or even killed them, an equal penalty was mandated.  All the way through the law this idea of an equivalent penalty is enshrined.  But the lesson for us is also driven home by another matter which God used to pave the way for our understanding of how our sins would be covered over for us.  That was in connection with Israel’s deliverance from bondage to Egypt.

The last penalty God imposed on the Egyptians in judgment for their failure to let the sons of Israel go was the death of their firstborn.  From the first born of the servants to that of Pharaoh himself, all died that Passover night (Ex. 11, 12).  Within the same three chapters of Exodus we find that the firstborn of the Israelis were spared death as long as their households held the Passover sacrifice and marked their doorways with the blood of the lamb.

After their liberation God reminded the children of Israel of what he did on their behalf and required that all firstborn, of both man and beast, as belonging to him (Ex. 13:1&2).  God required that every male firstborn Israeli be redeemed, that is a price paid to God to buy them back from him (Ex. 13:13).  God took the tribe of Levi as redemption for the firstborn of Israel (Num. 3:11-13), however, something curious happened.  When a registration and census was taken of Israel the tribe of Levi’s firstborn males were 273 less than the firstborn of the rest of Israel (Num. 3:14-43).  So God required Israel to pay five shekels to redeem each of the excess firstborn of Israel (Num. 3:44-51).  So in this little piece of history we see the principle of exact equivalence for redemption required.

That is what Jesus did for us and it is important for us to understand that in order to see how he redeemed us.  It becomes even clearer when we answer the question of what was lost.  That goes back to the Story of Adam and Eve and their fall from perfection (Gen. 2:4-3:24).  Another important thing to notice when you read that story, dear friend, is that the entire human sinful race, including Eve, came from Adam (2:21-25).  Although the rest of us don’t appear in the story we were still technically represented there as Adam’s potential unborn offspring in his loins since we all descend from him without exception.  So what was really lost was Adam’s life as a perfect human being.  That is why none of us could pay the redemption price for mankind, because none of us are the exact equivalent, the price required by God’s standards for justice.  That is where Jesus comes in.

In the last post I quoted a passage from Romans:

“So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” (Rom 5:18-19; ASV)

That, in a nutshell encapsulates God’s plan of redemption and the need for it as I just outlined.  It was through one man that sin entered the world, and one man had to pay the redemption price, the exact equivalent of what was lost.  That is what God’s justice has required, the life of an unblemished, sinless, perfect man to stand in for Adam and buy back the human race from sin.  Jesus’ life was miraculously transformed and transferred to Mary’s womb.  Jesus then became the second man exactly like Adam in every respect to walk the earth and he sacrificed his life to buy back humanity from its slavery to sin.

That this now applies to all of mankind, without exception, Paul mentioned to the young man Timothy in his second letter.  Earlier I pointed you, my dear readers, to 2 Tim. 2:4, which says “Who (That is, God) will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  Now lets look at the verses which follow:

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Ti 2:5-6)

This is a powerful passage which gets misused by some to argue that all will ultimately be saved.  But when verse four, the context, is added and Revelation chapter twenty along with what we’ve learned are all brought to bear on the subject of salvation we see that what all are saved from is Adam’s sin and raised to “come unto the knowledge of the truth” and have the chance they never really had to have life eternal.

This is the essential doctrine of Christianity.  Every time Paul expounds on basic doctrine this is what we get, what we read in Romans chapter five and elsewhere.  He also speaks of a second hope for some, but that is a topic for another post.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Sin, what is it and what does it mean for us?  Don’t worry; this is no diatribe against any particular group as you will see as we progress in our consideration dear reader.  But sin is an important subject, one which is uncomfortable for most for good reason.  Yet it is one every one who wants to be a footstep follower of the Master, Jesus Christ, must bring themselves face to face with because accepting the facts concerning it is the first step down the road to the prize of immortal and eternal life.

I count six nouns which Unger and White’s Hebrew section in my Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words Tells me are translated as sin at least part of the time.  Instead of trying to cover each and every one, some are more often translated other things such as “sin offering,” I will hit the ones most used for the concept and what they tell us since that will allow me to keep things within the limitations of space I try to keep to.

‘Awen (H205) carries the thought of “iniquity, vanity and sorrow” (all definitions for the Hebrew will be taken from Unger and White).  Unger also states that the word “’awen means the absence of all that has true worth; hence, it would denote ‘moral worthlessness’ as in actions of wrongdoing, evil devising, or false speaking.”  So what we see here is how God views the actions of mankind.  This word is used at Psalms 90:10 to indicate the futility of all our efforts to prolong our lives as our sinful natures bring our downfall into death anyway.

‘Asham (H817), means “sin; guilt; guilt offering; trespass; trespass offering.”  This word highlights two aspects of sin, that of trespassing and the guilt thereof.  What is it we trespass?  The answer is obvious, God’s righteous standards and laws.  While Gentile Christians aren’t under the Law of Moses, they are under another law, that given to Noah as part of God’s covenant with mankind in consideration of his promise never to bring a flood again.  Its requirements were articulated for us by the Council in Jerusalem in the first century at Acts 15:23-29.  But even were we to keep that covenant as per written for us we still fall short of God’s perfect standards, but more on that later.  So we are still trespassers and guilty before God.

‘Awon (5771) has the idea of being twisted or perverted in life.  Who can doubt that in this modern world it is nearly impossible not to live a life which is perverted in some way?  Most of the entertainment marketed to us through TV, books, music, magazine and other means is every bit as twisted as ancient Rome.  And throughout history such things have tended towards the lowest common denominator.

We think the sexual revolution of the sixties and the resulting immorality is something all that new.  Look around the world in all times at what was called “art" and even enters the hallowed confines Churches and temples and it’s easy to see our times aren’t really unique.  Read the records of punishment in the Colonies, or even Europe and other places of women being sentenced to public flogging for having children out of wedlock or being caught in adultery and about the only thing striking about our day is the availability of effective contraceptives to hide the conduct and the lack of penalties.  So our times are not so unique in people leading sinful and twisted lives on one level or another.

Chatta’t (H2403) is the last of the ones I will consider from the Old Testament Hebrew.  “The basic nuance of this word is ‘sin’ conceived as missing the road or mark.”  This will be important later on.  But this is another aspect of sin and why in the absence of a law code all are still guilt of sin.  God’s Standards are high and such that imperfect people just can measure up or hit the mark.  So no matter how good we try to live our lives we still “miss the mark,” or sin and fail.  This is probably the most important aspect of sin to understand and keep in mind.

In the New Testament the Basic word for “sin” is hamartia (G266) and this is the word around which all other words in the NT for "sin" are built.  It is the Koine Greek equivalent of chatta’t and means to miss the mark as well.  This is the concept around which the New Testament writers built their theology.  The whole idea is the truth that no matter how stringent and intense our efforts to live up to God’s perfect standard, or law, we just cannot make it and we need help.

Probably the best illustration of this I’ve ever seen is in the street ministry of both Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron.  They go out on the streets and pick those who will talk to them and using the Ten Commandments and some of Jesus’ teachings which touch on them they question those people, many of whom consider themselves to live righteous lives and they demonstrate just how far they “miss the mark,” and sin.  If you don’t have an idea what I’m talking about just go here and watch the movie 180, where you’ll get to see Ray comfort in action.  It’s worth your half-hour.

Paul wrote his letter to the Romans as an exposition on basic Christian truth.  He opens up his letter describing the condition of man, how fallen and twisted in life most have fallen.  It reads like today and what he had to say in the first chapter is often quoted by many to condemn one sin in particular, homosexuality.  But he was speaking of much, much more. In the second chapter he expounds on the fairness of the judgment on God’s part.  But we want to take particular note of chapter five.

In Romans Chapter five Paul brings home the point that all of us sin, all are lost.  He does this by explaining to his readers that we all sin because of the act of our father, Adam, in taking the fruit and sinning against God through his disobedience.  Thus, through his sin we all are dying because we sin (vs. 12, 14, 18, 19 and 21).  It can be stated no more plainly than this:

“So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” (Rom 5:18-19; ASV)

That, my dear readers, is the state we all find ourselves in.  The bottom line is that all of us are sinners.  Not the greedy, or homosexuals, or robbers, or fornicators, whores, people in the church pews, the synagogues, the mosques or whatever else we can think of.  ALL of us are sinners and all deserving of nothing but death without help.  There are no exceptions.  I wrote earlier that this is an uncomfortable topic.  But as you ponder that, dear reader, do know there is hope.  It is mentioned in the verses I quoted for you.  That is what I hope to start on next.