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Bible verses about Sin
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Throughout the New Testament, God uses leaven as a symbol of sin. Jesus warns, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1). In discussing the danger of sin spreading, Paul uses the phrase "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" on two separate occasions (I Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

Any thought of an easy escape from sin's penalties should be quickly banished after reading these scriptures:

  • . . . and be sure your sin will find you out." (Numbers 32:23)

  • Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked. . . . (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13)

  • Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (Galatians 6:7)

To those walking more by sight than faith, it indeed may look as if they have gotten away with something. In reality, though, God is patiently using time to correct us in the most effective and merciful way. The broad principles given above let us know that the inexorable spiritual laws of God are working at all times, just like the law of gravity. We must understand that, because of who we are and what is at stake, God scrutinizes us much more carefully than others. He may, in mercy, mitigate the full effect of a sin or even delay punishment to give us time to repent, but in these occasions as in any other, He is just as much on the job and aware to supply what we need. To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

All—the immoral, the ethical, the religious, the self-righteous, the atheist, the agnostic, the king, the commoner, the businessman, the housewife, the young, and the old—are caught within the Scripture's web of confinement due to sin. "Man" in the Greek Scriptures is huph hamartian, man under sin. This means he is under the power of, in subjection to, under the control of or dependent upon, sin. Sin holds man under its authority, just as a child is under his parents or an army is under its commander. It is viewed as a living, active, forceful, and dynamic power that has man under its sway.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Mourning always precedes genuine conversion, for there must be a real sense of sin before the remedy, or deliverance from it, will even begin to be desired. But even here we must note a distinction because many people will quickly acknowledge they are sinners—some even with a measure of pride, a smile and a wink—who have never mourned over the fact. Sin, though, is serious business indeed when we consider that it is ultimately responsible for all the pain, disease, and death, including our own and our Savior's.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Although all sin merits the death penalty and requires the blood of Christ for expiation, God's Word reveals that some sins are indeed worse than others. Some sins have greater consequences to the sinner, as well as to those his sin affects. From the judgments God makes regarding certain sins, it is evident that some sins bring stiffer penalties and greater condemnation.

Martin G. Collins
Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?


 

If we are ever going to overcome sin, it will be because we are motivated to take strong measures against it. The fight is difficult because human nature sees sin as an alluring and appealing possibility. We must come to see it as a pernicious, persistent, and destructive enemy that desires to leave us without hope and to inflict us with as much pain as possible along life's path. To hate it, we need to see why we must come to respect its power, so we can be motivated to fight it with every fiber of our being.

The Bible views sin as a malignant power absolutely possessing mankind. So basic and pervasive is its grip that it is not merely an external power, but it resides in our every fiber and deceives a person into thinking he is in control when, in reality, sin is! Talk about being brainwashed!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

The biblical examples of divine justice may anger or offend us. At the very least, they are sometimes confounding in the face of what we have learned about a merciful and patient God of love. Perhaps we have difficulty because we do not understand the linkage between four vital, biblical concepts: holiness, justice, sin, and grace.

We may not grasp the seriousness of holiness by failing to see the purity God requires; we may have an unbalanced perspective of justice; we may misunderstand the deadliness of sin; and we may see little need for grace for ourselves. The stories of Nadab and Abihu, Uzza, and Ananias and Sapphira are clearly not examples of divine mercy.

Before we can understand divine mercy, we must first understand the seriousness of sin and the necessity of divine justice. Divine justice is linked to righteousness: God's justice is according to righteousness. Evil justice in God does not exist because His every judgment is according to His righteousness, for there is absolutely no unrighteousness in Him. The justice of God is always an expression of His perfect, righteous, holy character.

Biblically, justice refers to "conformity to a rule or norm." If life and salvation were a game, we would say that God plays by the rules. He sets them and never deviates from them. The norm of justice is His own holy character. What God does is always consistent with who and what He is. His righteousness is absolutely pure; there is no shadow of turning in Him (James 1:17). He is utterly incapable of an unholy, unrighteous act. We call people "crooks" because they are crooked. God is absolutely "straight." Genesis 18:23-25 speaks of this very issue:

And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

Never did a man ask a more rhetorical question. Abraham had no idea how far such an act was from God. There was never even the most remote possibility that God would kill the innocent along with the guilty! For God to do that, He would have to cease being holy and righteous—He would have to stop being God! God is the Supreme Judge of all the earth. As man's sordid histories show, if He is unjust, there is no hope that justice will ever prevail.

We know human judges can be corrupt, take bribes, and be partial. God, though, is never corrupt, cannot be bribed, refuses to show partiality, never acts out of ignorance, has every fact necessary for judgment, and never makes mistakes. Nadab, Abihu, Uzza, Saul, and Ananias and Sapphira all got what they deserved. There is no injustice with God.

God's justice is never divorced from His righteousness. He never condemns the innocent; never clears the guilty; never punishes with undue severity; never fails to reward righteousness. His justice is perfect justice.

What Abraham fails to address in his question is sin. Mankind utterly fails to appreciate the seriousness of sin. God's Word clearly states that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and that sin is the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4, KJV). From the beginning in the Garden of Eden, God proclaims to mankind in the persons of Adam and Eve, ". . . in the day that you eat of it [sin], you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17).

He does not say they would die immediately, but die they did. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have all earned this judgment by the way we live. Is God unjust because He warns Adam and Eve? No, the problem is that man in his pride thinks he deserves better.

However, God does not always act with justice—sometimes He acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but neither is it injustice, since injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace, doing no violence to righteousness. We may see non-justice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

Genesis 3:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Earlier, God had informed Adam and Eve that sin exacts a penalty, death - the cessation of life - and, if a person will not repent of sin, this means total death - no chance for eternal life. This threat God has held over mankind's head from the beginning. Notice, however, how the Devil replies:

Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (verses 4-5)

Here is the lie: "Look, Adam and Eve, you have an immortal soul. God cannot enforce His threat." In its various forms through the centuries, this doctrine of man having eternal life already has appeared time and again.

In theological terms, this belief is the basis of the "Doctrine of Eternal Security." What is worse, this heretical doctrine has resurfaced in the church, having been part of the latest apostasy. It cannot stand, however, before the light of God's Word. God has a far superior way of dealing with humanity - both righteous and incorrigible.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

Genesis 3:7-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This account of Adam's and Eve's reaction to their sin demonstrates that sin destroys innocence.

Were two people ever more innocent at the beginning of their lives than Adam and Eve? Immediately after sinning, though, they felt shame because of their nakedness, and they doubly showed their guilt by hiding from God. Do the truly innocent have any need to hide? Do the innocent need to feel shame?

Sin leaves a tarnish on a person's mind so that he does not look at life in quite the same way anymore. David expresses how this tarnish affected him in Psalm 40:12, "My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up." Paul later explains, "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15).

A well-known series of scriptures, beginning in Matthew 18:1, touches on innocence and its destruction. It starts with a question from the disciples: "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Jesus replies that unless we become as little children, we will not be in the Kingdom of Heaven. Is not the beauty of their innocence and the harmless vulnerability of little children a major reason why we find them so adorable? They produce no harm, shame, or guilt. But what happens as they become adults? They become sophisticated, worldly, cosmopolitan, cynical, suspicious, sarcastic, prejudiced, self-centered, cool, uninvolved, and many other negative things. They also seem to lose their zest for life. Sin does that.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Genesis 3:7-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Genesis 3:7-10 illustrates how no one is ever quite the same after sinning with knowledge. Notice Adam and Eve's sin occurs after God had instructed them (Genesis 2:16-17). Nobody had to tell them they had done wrong—they knew! Now they looked at things differently than they had before; a sense of wrong rushed in on them immediately. Just moments before, all had been friendly and joyful. All of nature seemed obedient to their every wish, and life was good. Suddenly, however, they felt guilt and fear, and it seemed as if every creature in the Garden had witnessed their act and condemned them. Feeling exposed, they sought to hide, illustrating that separation from the purity of God began immediately. The virtue of their innocence began to lose its luster.

David writes in Psalm 40:11-13:

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me!

Sin creates a sense of estrangement from God, leaving a tarnishing film on a person's mind. Paul reminds Titus, "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15). Sin perverts the mind so that one does not look at life in the same way as before. Jeremiah 6:15 describes a sickening end to repeated sin:

"Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down," says the LORD.

Some children are adorable because we love to see the beauty of their innocence. But what happens on the trip to adulthood? Sin alters the way a person looks at life and the world. With maturity, people become distrustful, sophisticated, competitive, cosmopolitan, cynical, suspicious, sarcastic, prejudiced, self-centered, and uninvolved. It is sin that drives people apart and creates fear.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

Genesis 3:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Adam and Eve knew that they were naked. A change in their thinking—in their perspective, in the way they looked at things—occurred. As long as they were united to God (before they sinned), as long as they were at one with Him, they looked at God, at things, and at the processes of life in a way that was not offensive to Him. Yet, as soon as they sinned, their minds changed. Their formerly innocent and pure perspective changed; they began to see evil in things. They felt shame in their nakedness. In addition, "Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden" (verse 8).

This encapsulates the effect of sin. It separates from God. Adam and Eve wanted to hide themselves from Him. Their perspective on life had changed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Genesis 3:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The curse is in two parts, each composed of two parallel clauses. The first part deals with childbearing and the second with marital relations. With two quick strokes God illustrates the bane of women throughout the ages.

On the surface, this verse seems fairly straightforward. However, the word-for-word translation obscures a great deal of its meaning. Because the Hebrew wording includes so much more than the words' literal meanings, both curses give translators fits. They do not want to stray too far from God's exact words, nor do they wish to leave out underlying ideas expounded by Paul in the New Testament. In the end, most choose to translate the passage word for word.

God's pronouncement on Eve stands in stark contrast to the positive tone He had given to childbearing and marriage in earlier chapters. He expresses His command in Genesis 1:28 in glowing terms: "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.'" Likewise, Genesis 2:18, 24 paints a positive picture of a woman's role in marriage:

And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." . . . Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

When sin becomes a factor, however, childbearing and marriage lose their God-intended luster, and if human nature takes its course, pain, suffering, and bitter subjection are inevitable.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)


 

Genesis 3:23-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin was introduced and destroyed man's relationship with God, so God drove man out of the Garden. Practically every picture or painting of this scene shows God leading them out. But this is incorrect! He “drove them out,” implying a punishing anger. Their relationship was broken. A major principle is shown at the very beginning of the Bible: Sin destroys relationships and produces separation.

To understand this further, it is good to understand that at the heart of sin is the concept of failure. It is a specific kind of failure, producing a specific result and a specific fruit. Genesis 2 and 3 teach that sin is the failure to maintain a relationship, first with God, and secondly with man. Sin produces separation, first with God, and secondly with man. Eventually, sin produces death—the first death—and then the ultimate separation from which there can never be another relationship, the second death.

In addition to being separated from fellowship with God, Adam and Eve were also separated from the Tree of Life and access to the Holy Spirit.

A very clear progression is shown in the breaking of Adam and Eve's relationship with God:

1. They became convinced that their way was better than God's.

2. They became self-conscious, and they hid from God.

3. They tried to justify and defend what they did.

In order to build a relationship with God, those steps must be reversed:

1. We must drop every excuse and every justification.

2. We must drop our pride and stop hiding from God, thinking He is unaware of what is going on.

3. We must become convinced that God's way is better than ours.

Genesis 3:24 says that the Tree of Life is guarded. The Holy Spirit is guarded. We understand this symbolically, making it clear that our way back to the Tree of Life and access to the Holy Spirit is not going to be easy. In fact, it is impossible! No human being is going to get past a cherub.

There is no relationship possible with God until He removes the barrier. He then personally and individually invites us to come back. But how do we "come back" when we never had a relationship with Him before? We were separated from Him through the sin of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had a relationship with Him, and Adam and Eve represent all of mankind. Therefore, in God's mind, we had a relationship, but we wrecked it in the persons of Adam and Eve. God invites us back into a relationship with Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 6)


 

Genesis 4:6-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because God had not accepted his offering or because He had accepted Abel's, Cain was angry and depressed. God tells him that if he changes his ways, he will indeed be accepted. But if he does not change, sin—pictured as a slave crouched just outside the door of his heart, awaiting the bidding of its master—would spring to action. God is describing sin's persistent nearness; it is always ready to extend its dominance by increasing iniquity. Sin strives to pile iniquity upon iniquity, even as one lie usually produces another to keep a facade of deception from crumbling.

God's warning is clear. Repent of sin at once, or it has a powerful tendency to grow and thoroughly dominate one who does nothing to stop it. This thought is reinforced in the final sentence of verse 7, "And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."

In paraphrasing God's words, James G. Murphy in Barnes' Notes, gives an insightful comment:

Thy case will be no longer a heedless ignorance, and consequent dereliction of duty, but a willful overmastering of all that comes by sin, and an unavoidable going on from sin to sin, from inward to outward sin, or, in specific terms, from wrath to murder, and from disappointment to defiance, and so from unrighteousness to ungodliness. This is an awful picture of his fatal end, if he do [sic] not instantly retreat. ("Genesis," p. 151)

In modern terms, God is saying, "Practice makes perfect." Sin's desire is so persistent and its appeal so subtle that, if it is not consciously stopped, one will become a master, a "pro," as we would say today, at sinning. It becomes a way of life. Jeremiah 4:22 makes this principle even clearer. "For My people are foolish; they have not known Me. They are silly children and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge."

Did not God's warning prove true in Cain's life? We cannot afford to ignore sin's pervasive influence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Genesis 4:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In all its forms, sin is marked as mankind's enemy. It must be defeated to God's satisfaction for Him to accept us. If not, our relationship with Him will not be continued for eternity.

Because sin is an ever-present reality of life, it is essential that we have sufficient knowledge to recognize it before its fiery darts strike us down. This requires consistent, thoughtful study of God's Word and effort to build an awareness of its presence, enabling us to beat it to the punch, so to speak.

Overcoming sin is indeed a formidable task, but not a hopeless one. One reason why it is not hopeless, when rightly thought through, is quite encouraging. Jesus teaches in Luke 12:48:

But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

We are admonished to be alert because our enemy is at the door (Genesis 4:7), stalking us as we make our way through life. However, we are also encouraged to understand that we are all judged individually. God judges everyone against the same standard, yet He judges individually according to our natural talents, gifts, dedication, faithfulness, discipline, time sacrificed, and energies exerted to overcome against what God knows we are capable of.

We stand alone, as it were, not measured against any other person. Though the ultimate standard is the holy, righteous character of the Father and Son, we are neither measured against their performance nor any other human's performance. We are not in competition against others.

Though not measured against the performance of the Father and Son, we are nonetheless urged to strive to be at one with them. They are in complete and total agreement with each other. It is to this oneness that God wants to bring us, not merely intellectually, but also in attitude and conduct. They do not sin, and imitating this sinlessness becomes our great challenge in life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sin, Christians, and the Fear of God


 

Exodus 13:8-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Days of Unleavened Bread are a memorial to God's law and to His powerful deliverance from Egypt and bondage. Paul explains this significance to the Corinthians and the urgency attached to cease sinning. He says we should not even keep company with a brother involved in flagrant sin! Also, by ridding our homes of sin, we realize that overcoming sin is hard work!

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One of the Bible's greatest principles is "choose life." God sets before us two ways of life—His way and the wrong way—and gives us the freedom to choose which we will follow. He commands us to choose life so that we may live fully, both now and in His Kingdom, but we can opt for the other way of sin just as readily.

With the receipt of the Holy Spirit, we truly have free choice or free-moral agency. Before conversion, as the apostles wrote, we simply lived like everyone else, that is, according to the course of this world (Ephesians 2:1-3; I Peter 1:18; 4:3). Now, able to judge between the two ways of life more accurately, we have the power to decide to go God's way.

It is in our choices that we sin or live righteously. James is very clear that we do not sin when tempted but "when desire has conceived" or when we choose to act on it (James 1:14-15). The sin begins with the choice and continues with the act. Thus, all sin has a spiritual basis.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

2 Samuel 12:9-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

King David's excursion into adultery reveals that, regardless of one's state in life, one cannot commit it without damaging relationships any more than murder. II Samuel 12:9-14 describes the cause-and-effect process.

Sin produces two overall effects: First, because of the breach of trust, it creates division between us and God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Second, it produces evil results in the world. Upon true repentance, God's merciful forgiveness cancels out the first. However, the second remains, and the sinner must bear it and - tragically - so must those caught within its web. As a result of David's sin, five people, including four of David's sons, died directly or indirectly: Uriah, the illegitimate baby, Absalom, Amnon, and Adonijah!

But the punishment did not end there. II Samuel 16:20-22 relates another step in the unfolding of this sin's effect:

Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, "Give counsel as to what we should do." And Ahithophel said to Absalom, "Go in to your father's concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; and all Israel will hear that you are abhorred by your father. Then the hands of all who are with you will be strong." So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel.

II Samuel 20:3 adds a final note on this event:

Now David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten women, his concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in seclusion and supported them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.

God prophesied it, and Absalom and Ahithophel used it politically to discredit David and elevate Absalom. It illustrates Absalom's disrespect for his father, which was at least partly rooted in his father's notorious sex life. Did the adultery make the concubines' lives better? "Can a man take fire to his bosom and . . . not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27). No, he cannot. Not only is he burned, but those close to him also suffer because this sin's penalty reaches out to destroy what should be very dear and cherished relationships.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)


 

Psalm 103:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The parallelism in verse 3 inextricably links the two clauses together so that they are nearly equal. Healing us of sickness is to God forgiving us of sin (see Mark 2:3-12 for the New Testament equivalent).

Even in His original promise to heal in Exodus 15:25-26, God shows a direct link between sin, disease, obedience, and healing (see Leviticus 26:14-16; Deuteronomy 28:15, 22, 27-28, 35; Psalm 107:17-20; Isaiah 19:22; Hosea 6:1). This, too, has a New Testament counterpart, James 5:14-15.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

Psalm 119:165  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Human nature is enmity against God, and it rejects God's law (Romans 8:7). The result is continual warfare with God and between men. No one who breaks God's law as a way of life can have peace, at least not the kind of peace God gives. Jesus says in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you."

The world can produce a level of tranquility from time to time, but it is not the peace of God. When a person sins, it seems as though there is a feeling, a natural fear, that wells up. Even before the sin occurs, one invariably seeks to make sure no one else sees it happen. This does not display a mind at peace. Immediately following a sin, the fear of exposure arises, and the sinner begins justifying, at least to himself, why he has done such a thing. If caught, he justifies himself as Adam and Eve did before God.

In simple terms, God is showing us the consequences of breaking His laws. If one were at peace with God, he would have no need to hide himself. With a clear conscience, he need not lie, justifying and shifting the blame on to others. No one who breaks God's laws can have peace. However, one who loves God's law will not only keep the peace he already has but will add to it as its fruit and reward.

Psalm 119:165 promises another wonderful benefit: Nothing causes those who love God's law to stumble. "To stumble" indicates faltering along the path to the Kingdom of God or even to fall completely away from God. This provides great encouragement and assurance regarding security with God, meaning that we will not be turned aside by the difficulties along the way.

Instead of fear of exposure and a guilty conscience, we will be assured because God's Word says so, as I John 3:18-19 confirms: "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." What a confident life we can live by following God's way!

Another New Testament passage, I John 2:8-11, parallels the psalmist's thought:

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Consider these verses in relation to the meal offering, representing the devoted keeping of the last six commandments. Hating a brother would be breaking those commandments in relation to him. It might involve murdering him, breaking the marriage bond through adultery, stealing from him, lying to or about him, or lusting after him or his possessions.

Verse 10 parallels Psalm 119:165 exactly when it says, "But he who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him." I John 5:3 defines love: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." The New Testament strongly affirms that loving one's brother is keeping God's commandments in relation to him, and this provides us strong assurance and stability along the way.

I John 2:11 then shows that the blindness of darkness envelops the eyes of one who hates his brother, that is, breaks God's commandments in relation to him. This blindness produces stumbling and fighting, and thus he has no peace.

It is particularly disturbing if the brother spoken of in these verses also happens to be one's spouse, father, or mother. Old people today stand a high chance of being shunted off into a convalescent or old-age home, if only for the convenience of the adult children. Is that honoring a parent, or is it in some way contemptuous? Are the children unwilling to make sacrifices even for those who brought them into the world? Will this course of action produce peace? Will it produce a sense of well-being in either party?

John says, "He who loves his brother abides in the light" (verse 10), implying that love produces its own illumination. Illumination is what enables a person to see in the dark. Light contrasts to the darkness, blindness, and ignorance of verse 11, which result in stumbling. Illumination indicates understanding and the ability to produce solutions to relationship problems. The difficult part is laying ourselves out in sacrifice to express love. If we fail to do this, we may never see solutions to our relationship problems.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Five): The Peace Offering, Sacrifice, and Love


 

Proverbs 21:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This confirms that pride gives birth to more tangible sins. As plowing prepares the earth to produce crops, so pride prepares the way to produce other sins. Some Bibles translate plowing as "lamp," indicating lighting or guiding the path into other sins. Haughty look shows comparison is taking place and reveals the very essence of pride: perverted comparison, a wrong judgment regarding the value or importance of self, skill, intelligence, etc.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Contention, and Unity


 

Proverbs 21:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The relationship between pride and sin is easily seen, but none seems to exist between either pride or sin and plowing. However, there is a link. Solomon is saying that just as surely as plowing precedes the produce of the earth, so does pride prepare the way for the produce of sin.

In some Bibles "plowing" may be translated "lamp." In this case, pride is depicted as a lamp that guides or lights the way into sin. In his poem, The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri listed pride among the seven great sins. In fact, he lists it first because, he concludes, it is the father of the others. Because of what the Bible reveals of Satan and his rebellion, he is probably correct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Proverbs 23:19-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses are among those often quoted by those who believe that it is wrong to drink alcoholic beverages. They claim that this passage proves it is sin to drink wine, and by extension, any drink containing alcohol. However, this scripture does not say these things. What then does it say?

It warns that:

» The excessive drinking of alcohol is a sin. The winebibber drinks too much and too often.

» Improper use of alcohol is as poisonous as a snake's venom (verse 32).

» God's children should avoid company with winebibbers (verse 20; see also Matthew 24:49; I Corinthians 5:11).

» Poverty is just one potential negative result of drunkenness (verse 21).

» Other potential—even probable—negative consequences of chronic drunkenness include woe, sorrow, contentions, complaints, bloodshot eyes, hallucinations, nightmares, addiction, lack of self-control in speech and other matters, and bodily injuries without apparent cause—the cause being forgotten because of drunken stupor (verses 29, 33-34).

» We should not tarry long at wine (verse 30).

On this last warning, we know that a person who lingers where alcohol is consumed can so easily become a winebibber, or in plain, modern English, a drunkard. God, through Paul, lists drunkenness as one of the works of the flesh, warning that no drunkard will inherit God's Kingdom:

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, . . . envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19, 21; emphasis ours)

Staff
Is It a Sin to Drink Alcoholic Beverages?


 

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Word of God clearly acknowledges that men, even those seemingly well-deserving, will meet with unforeseen, chance setbacks, including death! This may not seem just. It may be worrisome to contemplate and very painful to experience, but we are admonished through Solomon that such things will occur. Such possibilities must be part of our thinking if we are going to face the trials of life in a mature manner that will glorify our Father in heaven.

A closer examination of this in God's Word, however, reveals that in reality there are no innocent victims! There are victims who did not trigger the tragedy that brought about a sudden and unexpected death. In that sense they are innocent. But who can stand before God and say, "I am pure and do not deserve death"?

Earlier, Solomon says, "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin" (Ecclesiastes 7:20). His father, David, writes in Psalm 14:2-3:

The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.

These verses are a stinging indictment of each of us! The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and God, as the Sovereign Ruler of His creation, has every right to execute that penalty—or allow it to occur—on anybody at any time He deems appropriate. And in so doing He is perfectly just.

On some occasions in the Bible, God executed the death penalty with dramatic and terrifying suddenness. He struck down the sons of Aaron, probably with bolts of lightning, when they offered profane fire on the incense altar (Leviticus 10:1-7). God cut Uzza down when he stretched out his hand to steady the ark, which David was bringing to Jerusalem on a cart (I Chronicles 13:5-10). In the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira fell dead at Peter's feet after lying about their offering (Acts 5:1-11).

In each case, their sin was directly and quickly connected to their death, giving vivid testimony of what God has every right to do. The only difference between these events and other seemingly random occurrences is the time lag. God can claim our lives for any unrepented sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Innocent Victims?


 

Isaiah 52:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus had to die a death that was excruciatingly painful. Why? To depict the horrible pain that sin causes. It would not have served God's purpose if He had died a painless death. The picture would have been incomplete.

Any criminal of that time would have despaired to learn he was to be crucified. Crucifixion was not only an execution, but also a method of torture. The Romans usually gave the victim an excruciating scourging first. Jesus was no exception. Before He ever touched His cross, He was scourged, beaten, and insulted.

Over the years we have heard quite a bit about the Roman lictor, the soldier charged with dispensing this dreaded punishment. He used a whip, often with imbedded pieces of metal, bone, or other sharp objects. Romans did not limit their lictors to the Israelite practice of "forty stripes save one," nor to striking just the victim's back. He would let the whip strike and wrap around every inch of the person's body until he was within an inch of death.

The prophet Isaiah prophesies how Jesus appeared after the scourging: "Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage [appearance, margin] was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" (Isaiah 52:14). He goes on to say that He was "wounded [pierced through, margin] for our transgressions, He was bruised [crushed] for our iniquities" (53:5). Is it no wonder that the apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:8, "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."

Imagine yourself in Christ's situation, with the skin flayed off so that you could count your bones. Add to that the searing pain of huge nails being pounded into your hands and ankles as soldiers pinned you to the stake. Now add the emotional pain of being denied and forsaken by all your friends. Thank God for the many women who stood by Jesus at that moment of horror—Mary His mother, Mary Magdalene, and others (Matthew 27:55-56). On top of everything else, He had to endure the taunts and ridicules of those for whom He was dying.

Then Jesus experienced yet another horror for the first time: being forsaken by God in heaven. God dumped all the obnoxious sins of the world on Jesus and had to turn His back on Him who became sin for us (Isaiah 53:6, 10-12; I Peter 2:24). How hauntingly mournful it must have sounded to hear Jesus cry out, "'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?'" (Matthew 27:46-47). At this point, Jesus learned what it felt like to be cut off from God because of sin.

The pain grew so great that when Jesus said He thirsted, the Roman soldiers at the foot of His cross offered Him a brew of "vinegar" or sour wine mixed with myrrh as a sedative (John 19:28-29; Mark 15:23). Jesus refused it, knowing He had to suffer pain as part of the picture of what sin does in our lives: It causes a lot of gruesome pain!

After a while on the stake, the condemned person found it difficult to breathe. He could help himself a little by bracing his body upward with his legs and knees, but once he could no longer do this, he slowly died by asphyxiation. To hasten death, the Roman executioners would sometimes break the victim's legs with a club—which they did to the two robbers (John 19:31-32). When they came to Jesus, they found Him already dead and so did not break any of His bones (verse 33; Psalm 34:20).

Jesus did not die of a broken heart, as some Protestants believe. He bled to death from dozens of wounds from the scourging and from the spikes driven through his limbs. A gaping spear wound in His side, delivered postmortem by a soldier, produced a flow of blood and water. He truly poured out his blood like water to cover our sins (Psalm 22:14; Ephesians 1:7; I John 1:7).

Jesus gasped, "It is finished" (John 19:30), and finally to the Father, who gave Him to us because He loved us so much, our Savior prayed, "Into your hands I commend My spirit" (Luke 23:46). So Jesus died with a quiet confidence that He had finished the work His Father had sent Him to do.

Staff
Why Did Jesus Have to Die by Crucifixion?


 

Isaiah 59:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin or iniquity or lawlessness, however we want to read it, is what has caused the need for atonement or reconciliation. Iniquity, sin, and lawlessness produce the opposite of atonement. They produce separation, not coming together. Sin separates and builds barriers between us and God and between us and other people.

He says that He will not hear. We have to understand this. It is not that He cannot hear, but because of sin, He will not hear. God does not sin, so if there is a separation between a man and God—between us and God—then it is because we have done something. We are the ones who are drifting away. However, to the human being, it seems as though God has gone far away, when He has not moved at all.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 59:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin involves man's relationship with his Maker. According to this verse, sin damages and can even sever that relationship: "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." Crime is offense against man's laws, enacted by human legislative bodies. Which law, according to God's Word, has precedence? In the Bible, God clearly establishes His supreme position, as well as the individual's and human government's relationships to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Jeremiah 17:9-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Clearly, there is something radically wrong with man. The Bible discloses the seat of man's problem as being his heart, his inner being, including his reason. We are full of falsehood, duplicity, and contradiction. We conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves.

Perhaps it is in this area that the heart performs its most destructive work; it conceals the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its tragic consequences and seriousness. It deceives us into thinking that it is not so bad or that God is so merciful that He will overlook it. Was it this kind of thinking that preceded the sudden deaths of Aaron's sons, Uzza, and Ananias and Sapphira?

Do you suppose He can overlook an attitude that so casually takes for granted sinful acts that caused the horribly painful and ignominious death of One who was truly innocent, His Son? Does He merely ignore an attitude that cares so little for its own life that it deliberately attempts to bring that wonderful gift of life to an end? Does He just avert His eyes when we do something that forms a part of our character that will prevent us from being in His image? Some people seem to think so, but is there innocence in this kind of reasoning?

Our own heart deceives us into taking sin lightly. But, believe the Bible, God is NOT taking sin lightly because He loves His creation. Sin has caused all the emotional and physical pain and death that mankind has experienced since Adam. Each of us is suffering to some degree from it right at this moment. Does this bring us happiness? Do we love sin so much that we want it to continue? Are we fully aware it may destroy us? Do we want our sinful way of life to end?

There is only one way it will end, and that is to follow Jesus' advice: "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). When we repent and begin controlling ourselves so that we do not sin, it will not stop sin in the world. But unless WE stop sinning, sin will never be stopped. EACH PERSON has to come to see that he is personally responsible for stopping sin in his own life. He cannot wait for others to stop before he stops. The government will not do it for him. Nobody but the individual can stop his sinning unless God takes away the person's chance to repent by putting him to death.

We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived into taking this casually as the world does. They say, "Everybody's doing it." Millions cheat on their spouses. Who knows how many have literally "gotten away with murder"! Many cheat the government of their income taxes and never get caught. But we cannot cheat God. How could we escape the gaze of a Being so acutely aware of what is happening that He sees even a sparrow falling? David writes, "Where can I go from Your Spirit?" (Psalm 139:7). God not only sees the acts, but discerns what is "going on" in the heart (verses 1-4, 23-24).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Innocent Victims?


 

Jeremiah 17:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse is among the best known of all verses in the Bible. Though we know the words, could we perhaps not grasp some of the depth of what Jeremiah is trying to convey, particularly its practical, everyday application?

It is interesting that the Hebrew word translated "deceitful" (Strong's #6121) comes from exactly the same root as the name "Jacob" (which gives a bit of insight into the mindset of that famous Bible character in his pre-conversion days - God has a habit of naming things what they are). This word is used only three times in the Old Testament. It indicates "a swelling," "a humping up," and thus a knoll or small hill.

When used in relation to traits of human personality, it describes an inflated, prideful vanity, a characteristic that is distastefully useless, corrupting, and intensely self-serving. According to Strong's, it also indicates something fraudulent or crooked. In other words, it suggests an intentional perversion of truth intended to induce another to surrender or give up something of value. What Jacob twice did to Esau gives a good idea of its practical meaning.

Today, we might say our heart is always attempting to "con" us into something that is not good for us in any way. Its inducements may indeed appear attractive on the surface, but further examination would reveal that its appeals are fraudulent and risky. In fact, its appeals are not only downright dangerous, it is incurably set in this way.

In Jeremiah 17:9, the Hebrew word is translated "deceitful," but in the other two usages, it is translated "corrupted" and "polluted." This word should give us a clear indication of what God thinks of this mind that is generating our slippery, self-serving conduct and attitudes. In His judgment, it is foul in every sense, to be considered as belonging in a moral sewer or septic tank.

The King James translators chose to use "deceitful," and since it is a good synonym, just about every modern translation has followed its lead. Deceit is a cognate of deceive, which means "to mislead," "to cheat," "to give a false appearance or impression," "to lead astray," "to impose a false idea," and finally, "to obscure the truth." "Deceitful" thus indicates the heart to be brim-full of these horrible activities.

The term "desperately" (Strong's #605) also needs definition. It indicates something so weak, feeble, and frail as to be at the point of death. Thus, most modern translations, including the KJV margin, have opted for "incurable." Elsewhere, God calls it "a heart of stone," as if rigor mortis has already set in despite it still being alive. In other words, nothing can be done about it, as it is set in a pattern of influence that cannot be changed for the better. God promises, then, that He will give those He calls a new heart, a heart of flesh, one that will yield to Him and His way of life.

It is good to understand all these descriptors, but they only give us what amounts to book-learning on this vital topic. It is what its problems are in everday, practical situations that makes God so dead set against it that He declares it "incurable." It cannot be fixed to His satisfaction and is therefore unacceptable for His Family Kingdom.

We can understand why from this brief illustration: What are the two great commandments of the law? First: We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38). In other words, we are to love Him above all other things. We are to respond to God's wonderful, generous love toward us with a love that employs all of our faculties to match His love toward us.

Jesus says in Luke 14:26, "If any one comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Do we grasp the practical application of this? He means that we are to make whatever sacrifice is necessary, even to giving up our lives, to submit in obedience to any, even the least, of God's commands. If at any time we put ourselves on equal footing to Him, we have actually elevated ourselves over Him and have committed idolatry.

The second great commandment is to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Though not quite as stringent as the first, it still is a very high standard. Jesus says that on these two commandments everything else in our response to God hangs (verse 40). Love and law are inextricably bound together in our relationship with God.

Yet, herein lies the problem. Keeping them is impossible for man as he now is, encumbered with this deceitful heart. Our heart will not permit us to do this because it is so self-centered it absolutely cannot consistently obey either of these commandments. Thus, no character of any value to God's Kingdom can be created in one with a heart as deceitful and out of control as an unconverted person. It is incurably self-centered, self-absorbed, and narcissistic in its concerns about life's activities.

This deceit has many avenues of expression, but none is more effective than to convince us we are far better than we actually are - but far better as compared to what or whom? Our hearts have an incredible ability to hide us from the reality of what we are spiritually and morally. It does this so effectively that it can harden us to the extent that we can be blinded to any and every failing in our character! It lures us into sin, hiding its seriousness from us and making us believe it to be a rather minor affair. It convinces us that "nobody got hurt" or "everybody's doing it."

In Hebrews 3:12-13, Paul issues a warning just as applicable today as it was in the first century: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.'" Sin promises more than it can deliver. It assures us of pleasures it never imparts. Sometimes it does deliver some pleasure, but it conceals the boomerang effect that will surely come. It also obscures its addictive power, invariably leading us beyond our original limits. When we first sin a specific sin, we are under delusion, and it will lead us step by step until we are enslaved to it.

It can put on plausible appearances, even the mantle of virtue, convincing us we are doing ourselves and others a favor. Sin deludes us with hope of happiness, but what does the gambler feel when he loses his bankroll, or the drunkard after he is burdened with a death caused by his drunk driving, or the fornicator who discovers he has AIDS, or the adulterer who must live with the fact that he has destroyed a marriage and family?

Human nature will generate any number of excuses - self-justifications, really - to avoid any sacrifice, no matter how small, or to admit any guilt that might damage its self-assessment of its value. It sometimes manages to produce narcissism so strong that all activity must have it as the center of the universe, and it will work hard to make sure it controls virtually everything. Pride and self-gratification are its driving impulses.

By insisting on "tolerance" over the last several decades, human nature has deceitfully managed to produce an open-minded acceptance of what was once commonly known to be sinful behavior. It has succeeded by maintaining that no absolutes exist regarding conduct, thus one morality is just as good as another. The nation has been bulldozed into accepting this deceitful concept by cooperative media, good-looking celebrities, savvy politicians, and liberal judges.

Thus, a polite, secular paganism has overtaken our nation, and many have become convinced that the gods and ways of the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, occultists, or whatever religionists are all the same. In one way, they are correct. They all do have the same god, but it is not the God of the true Christian religion and the Bible, One who adamantly insists on purity, chastity, and integrity of life in harmony with His commands.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Two)


 

Lamentations 2:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Breach" has a very interesting usage in the English language as it pertains to our relationship with God and the church's present state. Here is a list of synonyms for "breach" taken from The Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Word Finder: "break, gap, opening, rupture, split, alienation, schism."

The first definition for breach is unusually appropriate as far as the situation in the church is concerned: "the breaking of, or failure to observe a law or contract or standard." We have a covenant, a contract, with God, and He has given us a standard, the Ten Commandments. This sounds a great deal like I John 3:4: "Sin [which separates, creates a breach] is the transgression of the law."

The second definition of breach is also rich: "A breaking of relations; an estrangement; a quarrel, a broken state."

Together, these describe almost exactly what has happened to the church as a result of breaking the covenant (as a result of breaking laws, as a result of sin). There has been a breaking of relations with God because of the church's failure, as a body, to live up to the contract that we made with Him.

Spiritually "a repairer of breaches" is one who restores the right way, beginning with himself. He may have no influence or control over what others do, but he does have control over what he does, and when he repairs his own personal breach with God, the breach in the wall closes a bit. It is as if a stone or a brick were added to the wall—another person is again in a good relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Hosea 4:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Undoubtedly, the fount of Israel's despicable behavior is what Paul concludes in Hebrews 3:12: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God."

Israel, despite the fact that God voluntarily revealed much about Himself to her, simply does not believe what He says. The fruit of unbelief is betrayal expressed as departing from the relationship. However, an "evil heart of unbelief" is quite general. To begin, we need to explore one particular step in the process of sin beyond the "evil heart of unbelief."

In addition, we need to understand that our subject is not women who have been forced by their cultures into prostitution. Such a circumstance is far more understandable; women trapped in such a situation are truly victims and elicit our pity. We will be exploring those women who were free to pursue other courses in life yet deliberately chose to prostitute themselves, whether in service at a pagan temple as part of the worship of a god or in making a living. Israel deliberately chose to prostitute herself.

A prostitute is "a person, usually a woman, who provides sexual activity in exchange for material security." Dictionaries also define prostitution as "debasing oneself for personal gain," and this usage applies to either gender. Additionally, it is "a misuse of one's gifts, talents, or skills," and this too applies to either gender.

Because of these usages, in its broadest sense, prostitution is not confined either to sexual activity or to women alone. The selling of sex by a woman is only its best-known form. A prostitute is anybody who, as we would say today, "sells himself out" or makes compromises for personal gain. The gain does not have to be in the form of money. However, biblically, its descriptions and examples are confined to the illicit sexual activity of women because of Israel being symbolized as a woman.

A female prostitute is generally distinguished from an adulterer due to her lack of discrimination in choosing her partners. This lack of discrimination is important because it reveals a mindset, an attitude, that approaches what we today might call an "airhead," one who seriously ignores the harsh realities of sin. The attitude also exposes a stubborn addiction to gambling on sin's outcome. The prostitute usually justifies the sin because of her immediate needs.

All sin follows a pattern. The actual act is the next to the last step in a process that, once it starts, often does not take a great deal of time to complete. James 1:13-15 shows:

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Here, simply stated, is the process of sin:

1. Temptation triggers desire.

2. Desire stirs the yearning for gratification.

3. Failure to consider the end and to discipline oneself prompt the sinful act.

4. The sinful act brings forth death.

Repeated frequently enough, this process becomes habitual. The Bible pinpoints the source of sin in another way in Matthew 15:18-20:

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.

This is another way of saying that it is within mankind's nature to sin. However, this does not justify sin because man's nature can be disciplined far better than mankind exhibits.

If sin is to be stopped, these two areas simply must be dealt with, or sin will continue unabated. The carnal mind—man's normal nature—is at war with God (Romans 8:7), and it is not subject to God's law because, out of sheer unbelieving stubbornness, it will not permit itself to submit completely. This is why God says that He will give us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26).

The Bible uses the word heart to represent all the internal intangibles of human personality. Today, we might say this heart is what makes us "tick." It is the spirit in that heart that lures us—indeed, drives us—to conduct ourselves in a way that is hostile to God. The Bible shows the prostitute having a specific spirit or heart driving her.

God says in Hosea 4:12: "My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God." He adds in Hosea 5:4, "They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God, for the spirit of harlotry is in their midst, and they do not know the LORD." In a context like this, the Bible uses spirit to indicate an immaterial force or power, an attitude, leaning, inclination, outlook, position, propensity, or proclivity to move, act, or conduct oneself in a certain manner or direction.

In Hosea 5:4, the conjunction "for" shows the direct connection between the people's sinful, idol-worshipping conduct and "the spirit of harlotry." This spirit is one of the intangibles that comprise human nature, and its direction of conduct is to be disloyal and unfaithful to Israel's commitment to God ratified in the Old Covenant, in which she vowed, "All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient" (Exodus 24:7).

Remember, what we are considering is something the entire nation is guilty of, both men and women. We are looking at the streetwalker-type of prostitute only because the Bible provides a clear picture of what motivates her. Once we grasp her motivations, we can extrapolate them to illustrate the whole nation—and ourselves individually because we have participated in the same system, and its drives linger in us.

This, of course, is not to accuse anyone of being a streetwalker. Recall that two of the definitions of prostitution are "abasing oneself for personal gain" and "abusing one's gifts, talents, and skills" for the same. For instance, biographers of famous personalities, especially of artists, occasionally write that their subjects felt they had prostituted their gifts to become wealthy.

This is what God implies in Amos 3:2: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." He expected more and better from them than from any other nation. In terms of the knowledge of God and their access to instruction in the way of life that would produce the most and best toward physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, no other nation came even close to what Israel had because God had chosen them to be His people. Nevertheless, in following the examples of pagan nations who did not know God, Israel frivolously prostituted herself for what she considered personal gain.

Have we not all debased ourselves by indiscriminately accepting the personal gain of the immediate gratification of an unlawful desire, and in the same process, ignored or consciously shoved aside our knowledge of the truth of God? Once we have knowledge of the truth, thus removing our ignorance of God, His way, and His law, if we did not prostitute ourselves, there would be no sin in our lives. The sad truth is that we do not discipline or control ourselves, but instead, we indulge ourselves, and sin occurs. We have prostituted ourselves. We must do better.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great


 

Amos 2:13-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The wording of verse 13 provides two possibilities. The first is that God, in exasperation, refuses to carry His people any longer, as one might put down a burden that is too heavy. The second possibility pictures a heavily loaded cart with a broken wheel that carves deep ruts in the road and throws its occupants into ditches. The context implies that the heavy load is the crushing burden of sins that impede Israel from staying on "the straight and narrow" (Matthew 7:14).

This second meaning seems to fit the best, as He proceeds to foretell Israel's destruction. Israel had reached the end of her greatest period of prosperity since the time of Solomon. The nation was rich, powerful, and well-armed, proud in her might, abilities, wisdom, wealth, strategic advantages, and courage. Who could stand against Israel? But God thunders the warning that all the nation's natural abilities (Amos 2:14), acquired skills (verse 15), and outstanding qualities (verse 16) would not help her.

Men see the strength of a nation in its wealth, population, armaments, technology, and knowledge. But where does God look? "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). The Bible reveals that the cause of the rise and fall of nations is moral and spiritual. As Amos shows, no nation can rely on its strength, power, and wealth to save it from the devastating effects of moral decay. Moral, ethical, and spiritual problems cannot be resolved by money, strength of arms, "Star Wars" projects, social programs, intelligence, or humanitarian goodwill.

Since Israel had forfeited her privileged status, God promised to destroy her as He destroyed the Amorites and the Egyptians (Amos 2:9-10; 4:10, 12). The people of Israel had gone so far that God expected no repentance from them. Like Ecclesiastes 3, Amos shows there is a time of opportunity and a time when opportunity is gone. Evidently, Israel's opportunity to repent had faded away. It was too late!

As He had fought their battles for them in the past, now God would fight against them. Whatever their courage or expertise, nothing would go in their favor. The things that had formerly given Israel strength in war would be turned against them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Matthew 5:19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

By a careful reading of what Jesus says here, we can see that He was not speaking about whether God considers breaking these lesser laws to be sin—He does—but about how our keeping of God's law affects our future position in His Kingdom. Transgressing any commandment—even the least of them—can reduce our reward in the Kingdom. On the other hand, if we are faithful to God's Word and teach it, our reward will be great!

Martin G. Collins
Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?


 

Matthew 6:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our sins are debts to God, which we, the debtors, cannot pay. God is willing to wipe our slates clean if we humble ourselves before Him. We ask for forgiveness for our sins, and by so doing, we acknowledge that there is no other way to get rid of sin but through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we forgive others, God can see His own image reflected in us. As His children, we must be willing to forgive no matter the affront. Jesus gives us the example to follow, as He was able to ask the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34)!

Ted E. Bowling
Sticks and Stones


 

Matthew 7:21-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These people profess Christ's name. They take it for themselves and do these so-called works, in which they seem to preach, prophesy, do good works like casting out demons, and perform wonders. Yet, what does Jesus say? "I never knew you."

What did they profess? They professed to know God and have a relationship with Him, but He says, "I never knew you, because really you never knew Me." How does He know that? They were practicing lawlessness!

What is lawlessness? Sin! These people lack obedience. They may have the knowledge, but they lack putting this knowledge into godly practice. They believe that they know God's will, but they do not do it. Failing to practice God's will, Jesus says, is sin. Why is failing to practice God's law sin? Because, if we are not doing God's will, we are certainly doing something else!

What is not of God is sin (compare Romans 14:23)!

They have not hit the mark, which is one of the definitions of sin. Obviously, their problems originate in the way they think. If their thoughts were godly, they would behave in a godly manner. However, since they do not behave in a godly manner, their thoughts must not really be godly.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is God in All Our Thoughts?


 

Matthew 16:6-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus warns His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Seeing their puzzlement, He explains further. "Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (verse 12). Both testaments use leaven as a symbol of sin because of what it does to a lump of bread dough. Once yeast enters the dough, it immediately begins to spread by breaking down in reaction to the dough's sugars and producing a gas that puffs the bread up.

Like leaven, when sin enters a person's life, it begins to corrupt and fill him with vanity. A person enslaved by habitual sin will have a difficult time growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ because of sin's corrupting influence. Sin defiles and can permanently destroy relationships with God and man.

Throughout the year we hear frequent exhortations to produce fruit and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. During Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we give special emphasis to "getting the leaven out." These three actions are all parts of the same process. Though not technically the same, they are related closely enough to say they are simply different ways of describing the same process. "Getting the leaven out" is the most negative, "growing" is the most general, and "producing fruit" is the most specific. All three emphasize that a Christian should not stand still after entering the New Covenant. God expects him to take steps to ensure that these actions will occur in his life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Matthew 24:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle John declares that sin is the transgression of God's commandments (I John 3:4, KJV), including the two great commandments Jesus spoke in Mark 12:28-31. The word translated as "sin" literally means "to miss the mark." Combining these principles gives us a very broad definition of sin: Sin is imperfectly loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and imperfectly loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Romans 3:23 declares that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." In other words, all have sinned in the past, and in the present all fall short in reflecting God's love, which is a major part of His glory. Godly love does not have to grow cold for it to be shown imperfectly. It will be shown imperfectly when it is demonstrated by God's still-imperfect children. We all are in this state.

This is not to say that we should give up trying to perfect God's love. On the contrary, we have every responsibility to do our utmost to perfect it (I John 2:5; 4:12, 17-18). At the same time, it should not shock us when our spiritual brothers and sisters show God's love to us imperfectly, for we are guilty of the same toward them—and toward God.

Perhaps we find ourselves in a situation where it appears that God's love is growing cold. Maybe we see God's standard of holiness being ignored or compromised, and some form of lawlessness is beginning to show up. We may see little evidence of sacrificial love, and relationships are beginning to be strained. What should we do?

There are two possibilities. The first is that our discernment is correct, and what Jesus Christ foretold is coming to pass, perhaps not in its ultimate fulfillment, but at least in type. The second is that our discernment is incorrect, and that God's love is actually present and not growing cold, but we are having trouble seeing it.

If our discernment is correct, and we truly are in a circumstance where agape love is waning, Jesus has already indicated what He wants us to do. Matthew 24:13 says, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved." When many are letting their relationships with God deteriorate, the emphasis is on patient, active endurance.

I Corinthians 13 gives a beautiful description of agape love, which parallels Jesus' exhortation to endure in several points. Verse 4 says that godly love "suffers long." It displays patience and endurance, even in the face of being loved imperfectly. Verse 7 adds that godly love "bears all things" and "endures all things." However, if we are not showing patience or endurance in response to imperfect love, then we are simply responding with carnality rather than with God's love.

Similarly, verse 5 says that godly love "thinks no evil." True love pays no attention to a suffered wrong, nor takes account of the evil done to it. It does not keep a running list of all the ways it has been offended or loved imperfectly. That, again, would be responding to imperfect love with carnality. So, if we find ourselves in the midst of a fulfillment of Matthew 24:12, we really have our work cut out for us because we will have to endure patiently and continue to display God's love rather than allow our own agape to also grow cold in response.

Conversely, God's love may be present, but our discernment may be incorrect, and we are missing it by looking for agape only in one application. We may be continually waiting for a specific type of sacrificial love, and if we do not receive it, we may suppose that God's love is absent. However, we are not all the same in how we show love or how we recognize it. We may need to take a step back and look for facets of God's love that are present, rather than focusing on what may be absent.

In addition, given that human nature is still present within us, we also have to remember that nothing inhibits or damages our ability to see things clearly like focusing on the self. That is, we tend to evaluate whether God's love is present based on how we feel or how we are affected, rather than on objectively looking for God's spiritual workmanship in the overall situation.

David C. Grabbe
Is the Love of Many Growing Cold?


 

Matthew 24:37  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some feel we have reached a time in history that parallels the period just before the Flood. God recorded what conditions were like as Noah was building the ark: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). What a horrifying thought! What danger and oppression must have lurked at every turn!

Yet Jesus predicts in a prophecy regarding the time of the end—the time we live in today, "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." In a larger, more general context, Jesus meant that, despite the dangerous, portentous events occurring all around them, people will be going about their normal routines without seriously considering the meaning of these events (Matthew 24:38-39). They will not take the time to wonder if these cataclysmic events are affecting them personally.

How about you? Even though we are living in momentous times, we are easily distracted from their importance by our high standard of living and convenient access to just about anything we desire. The nations of western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States are, for the most part, wallowing in unprecedented technological luxury. Much to our spiritual detriment, our lives are caught up in our possessions and keeping our noses above water economically.

But we must not allow this to happen any longer! Time and prophecy are relentlessly marching on. The book of Amos records an almost exact parallel account to what is happening in our day. It chronicles the social, political, economic, military, and religious conditions and attitudes prevalent in ancient Israel in about 760 BC. This was about forty years before Assyria invaded and completely devastated the nation. So awesome was Israel's defeat that, as far as the world is concerned, her people disappeared from history! Today, they are known as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

Amos is not a happy book to read. It does not contain the encouraging, soaring, and hope-inspiring prophecies of Isaiah. No, Amos speaks of almost unending gloom and doom. This presents an interesting contrast when seen against Israel's surging power, wealth, and influence. During the days of Amos' ministry, the nation was undergoing a burst of prosperity second only to Solomon's time. On the surface, it appeared that Israel's prosperity indicated God's pleasure, but Amos' words prove beyond any doubt that God was not pleased at all! He was deadly serious! If the people would not repent, they were doomed!

The Israelites did not repent. They suffered war, famine, pestilence, and captivity as a result. Tens of thousands died. They learned the hard way that God means exactly what He says through His prophets (Amos 3:7).

Though Amos describes what was literally happening in ancient Israel, God intended the message for us, the physical and/or spiritual descendants of Israel. It was written to stir us to action, seeing that the times indicate Jesus Christ will return soon.

Amos clearly shows that our nations are headed along the same path to destruction as ancient Israel. There is still hope that we will turn around and avoid the wrath of God, but as each day passes, it becomes more unlikely. We have many lessons to learn, and we seem determined to learn them the hard way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Matthew 26:39-44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Perhaps it was not just the approaching physical torture that Jesus dreaded as He made this plea to His Father. For every microsecond of eternity (with the possible two exceptions of His time in Mary's womb and His human babyhood), He had enjoyed a level of consciousness, involvement, control, and communication with God the Father that no other human could even begin to comprehend. It must have been almost intolerable for the Son of God, the great YHWH of the Old Testament, to contemplate being totally unconscious and "out of the picture," even for a mere 72 hours.

Jesus' agony no doubt included the foreknowledge of the spiritual torture of billions of sins committed throughout human history being laid on His innocent head. Jesus knew that His mind would soon become besmirched, infected, and injected with every filthy sin that man had ever committed in the past and would commit from that time on.

God tells us in I Corinthians 15:56, "The sting of death is sin." Most of us have been stung by a spider, bee, wasp, or hornet. The pain of an insect sting increases rapidly as its poison spreads through the blood vessels, deep into the body part that has been stung, and it can sometimes be almost unbearable. Nevertheless, it is impossible for us to imagine a fraction of the spiritual agony that those billions of "stings of death" caused our Savior as all the sins of the world were laid upon Him.

With all His might, He strove to dwell on better things (Philippians 4:8). He struggled to look beyond those hours of torture, despite His foreknowledge of their severity. Jesus knew what would happen after this day of agony and shame that was just beginning. More than any other human being who ever lived, He understood what lay beyond the split second of death and His short stay in the tomb. Just hours before this prayer in Gethsemane, He had spoken joyfully to His Father about their approaching reunion and regaining His former glory (John 17:5, 11, 13).

How did King Nebuchadnezzar feel when God gave him back his status as a real human being and a great king after living the existence of the lowest, slinking animal in the wild (Daniel 4:29-36)? How much more did Jesus look forward to waking after three days and three nights in the tomb as the Eternal God!

Did Jesus look forward to His death? No. He looked beyond His hours of suffering and beyond the instant of His death. He looked forward to life!

Staff
Death of a Lamb


 

Mark 3:3-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Mark 3:3-5 reinforces Jesus' attitude toward Sabbath activity. By Jesus' example, His reaction (anger, verse 5), and His words, God very clearly not only intends us to do good on the Sabbath, but also to fail to do good when the opportunity arises implies evil and killing!

Jesus does not appear to have gone out of His way to find people to heal on the Sabbath, but these were incidental occurrences as He went along His way. If a sick person came to His attention, He healed him. But someone unconcerned for the physical and spiritual salvation of others on the Sabbath is automatically involved to some degree in destructive efforts and attitudes, for failing to do good when we have opportunity is sin (Proverbs 3:27-28; James 4:17). God is preparing us to assist in the salvation of others, and it behooves us to begin thinking along these lines.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Mark 10:17-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Mark 10:17-24 tells the tragic story of a wealthy young man who greatly desired to become part of Jesus' following. Because he wanted eternal life and to be in God's Kingdom, he asked Jesus what he must do to obtain them. When Christ replied that he would have to get rid of all he had, his high ideals came crashing down. A sin smashed them because his sin was stronger than his ideals. Jesus says in verse 24: "And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, 'Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God!'" The young man's covetousness destroyed his ideals, and he was willing to settle for less.

Sin destroys ideals. A tragic process begins when we become involved in sin. At first, we regard sin with horror. If we continue to commit the sin, we will still feel ill at ease and unhappy about it, but gradually our consciences will adjust. Each sin makes the next one a bit easier. Over time, the conduct will become entirely acceptable, and we will sin without a qualm. Sin is addictive like a drug. As the addiction becomes stronger, the ideal depreciates until it is completely gone.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Luke 8:14-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Growth requires an honest and noble heart. We deceive ourselves through rationalizations and justifications, allowing our appetites to overwhelm what we know is true. Sin engulfs the mind with a cloud of alibis and cover-ups to hide from ourselves the wrongness of what we do. Sin promotes twisting and distorting of truth. We reason, "This isn't so bad"; "I'll do it just one more time"; "I'm too weak. God will just have to take me as I am"; "God will just have to do it for me." We have all reasoned ourselves into transgressing.

Have we been deceived into thinking of sin only in the sense of breaking one of the Ten Commandments? While sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4), its biblical usage is much broader. When we fail to think of sin in its broader sense, we stumble into a trap. It is far better to think of sin as falling short of the glory of God. The central concept of sin is failure—failure to live up to a standard, God Himself. The glory of God includes His attitudes, intents, and His very thinking processes, all of which produce the way He lives. For us to fall short in any of these areas is missing the mark—sin.

We are deceived, lured into actually transgressing, through neglect, carelessness, laziness, irresponsibility, ignorance, bull-headedness, fear, shortsightedness, and ingratitude for forgiveness and the awesome potential that God has freely and graciously handed to us on a golden platter of grace. We are detoured from progress to holiness and are enticed into sin by failing to see God and by not considering seriously the subtle influences on the fringes of actual transgression of the law. At the foundation of both spiritual and physical health is how we think and what we think about.

James 1:13-16 confirms this:

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

The way to stop sin, as well as to improve health, is to change our thinking. Between what God does and what we should do, we can do it. This is real conversion!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)


 

Luke 13:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The problem of human suffering and sin raises serious questions, and in His reply to such a question, Jesus' speaks of repentance and judgment (Luke 13:1-5). He continues with the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (verses 6-9), which refers to tragedy among the Galileans (verse 1). History fails to record the exact incident, but the revolutionary activities of that time made anything possible. Galileans, says Josephus, were especially susceptible to revolt.

In His discussion, Jesus does not attribute tragedy or accident directly to any person's sin as the Jews did—instead, He affirms the sinfulness of everyone. A person who flagrantly sins can expect judgment to come eventually, though it may be long delayed (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13). Victims of calamity die physically, but anyone who does not repent faces spiritual death.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Barren Fig Tree


 

John 17:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Adam and Eve sinned, they, representing all mankind, were expelled by God from the Garden of Eden. The Garden represents being in God's presence and thereby having easy access and communication with Him. In Genesis 2:17, God had warned Adam and Eve that in the day they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. Once they sinned, it became evident that God did not mean they would die immediately, but that, if they ate of that tree, they were as good as dead.

Their human life went on, but God, to emphasize the serious effect of their sin to later generations, placed a flaming sword to guard the Garden's borders. This portrayed that mankind, though still alive, was cut off from any relationship with Him. Thus, sin, which demonstrates a lack of love and fidelity for our Creator, not only seals the death penalty on each sinner, but it also denies an individual access to and thus communication with God while they live on under Satan's continuing influence.

When Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, and we, by faith in that sacrifice, became justified, God legally cleared us of guilt before Him. It is as though the barrier of the flaming sword between us and Him were removed, opening the way for communication with Him and for the growth of a relationship with Him that never before existed for us.

The relationship we have with the Father and the Son through the work of Jesus Christ, both as the payment for our sins and as our High Priest, is everything in terms of salvation. Why is this true? Because we can now communicate with Them! Having access to God furnishes an opportunity for a relationship with the Father and the Son. The relationship is the medium of communication - holy, righteous, spiritual communication.

This communication is more than a mere counterbalance to the evil spiritual influence of this world. It decidedly tips the scales in our favor in this war for our spiritual survival, if we will but continue to believe and trust Them by taking advantage of the contact, communication, and influence freely given to us. What Jesus does ever so briefly in John 17:3 is to tie quality of life, called "eternal life," to a person's relationship with God.

Even though many in it may be religious, the world does not have a relationship with God. There is no communication from Him to them. Undoubtedly, a lot of people know many things about God, but they cannot actually know Him without access to Him. It is like a person knowing of someone from across town by reputation but really knowing nothing about him through personal contact.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)


 

Romans 3:19-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some ministers would like us to believe that justification and salvation by grace through faith just suddenly appeared when the Son of God lived and died in the first century. They imply that God changed His approach to saving men—that He was either losing the battle to Satan, or the way He had given man was just too hard. It also implies that men under the Old Covenant were saved by keeping the law.

Once a person has sinned, they are under the penalty of the law, and their righteousness is not sufficient to justify them before God. Since all have sinned, the whole world is guilty before God. It takes a righteousness apart from lawkeeping to do this.

Then Paul says that this righteousness is revealed in the Old Testament Law and Prophets! The teaching has been there all along, all through the centuries from Moses to Christ and down to our time! God never changed His course. In the first century, He only openly revealed the means, Christ, through whom would come the righteousness that will justify one before God.

Men have always been justified and saved by grace through faith. People who were saved during Old Testament times looked forward in faith to this being accomplished. We look backward at it as a promise and as fulfilled prophecy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God a False Minister?


 

Romans 3:20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To be justified means to have our past sins forgiven and to have righteousness imputed to us. The apostle is saying that there is no way anyone can receive forgiveness of past sins by obeying the law. Present obedience does not do anything to wash away past iniquity. There has to be some other manner for sinners to receive forgiveness of past sins if they are to have hope of entering God's Kingdom.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Bible displays the Father's and the Son's standard in a multitude of word-pictures that reveal their nature and characteristics in word and deed. Just in case we have difficulty understanding clearly what sin is from the word-pictures of God's attitudes and conduct, He provides us with specific and clear statements. For instance, Romans 3:20 reads, "Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin." He has made it even simpler by inspiring I John 3:4 (KJV): "Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."

At its simplest, sin is a deviation from what is good and right. However, within any given context, the deviation and especially the attitude involved in the conduct are often revealed more specifically by other terms. It helps to be aware of these terms so that we can extract more knowledge and understanding.

The most common verbal root in Hebrew for the noun sin literally means "to miss, to fail, to err, or to be at fault," and it is often translated by these terms depending upon context. It is chata' (Strong's #2398). Job 5:24 does not involve sin, but chata' appears in the verse: "You shall know that your tent is in peace; you shall visit your habitation and find nothing amiss." Here, chata' is translated as "amiss": Nothing is wrong; the habitation is as it should be. Chata' is also used in Judges 20:16, translated as "miss." Again, no sin is involved.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 8:36, "But he who sins against me [wisdom personified] wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death." Here is a context that involves moral or ethical issues, requiring chata' to be translated as "sin." The person is failing to live up to the moral or ethical standard.

Genesis 20:9 also contains it:

And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, "What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done."

The word "offended" is translated from chata', and "sin" is translated from a cognate. Abimelech charges Abraham as having missed the standard of behavior against him and his nation.

Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 5:7, "Our fathers sinned and are no more, but we bear their iniquities." Here, the fathers missed achieving God's standard, that is, the level of conduct He would have exhibited were He involved in the same situation as they. "Iniquities" is translated from the Hebrew avon, which suggests "perversity."

Leviticus 4:2 presents us with a different situation: "If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them. . . ." Chata' appears as "sins," but it is modified by the Hebrew shegagah (Strong's #7684), which means "inadvertently, unintentionally, unwittingly, or by mistake." It can also indicate that "wandering" or "straying" is involved. These suggest weakness as the cause of missing the standard. The descriptor defines the sin more specifically, helping us to understand that God's judgment includes more than the bare fact that a law was broken. It more clearly delineates the deviation.

David writes in Psalm 58:3-4: "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent; they are like the deaf cobra that stops its ear." Also, Ezekiel 44:10 reads, "And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity." In both contexts, the people sinned through ignorance, wandering, and other weaknesses. Even so, it in no way tempered the effect of them as minor. The sins wreaked destructive results, even though they were committed by simple carelessness, laziness, indifference, or not considering the end.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sin, Christians, and the Fear of God


 

Romans 3:21-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here Paul explains that God has provided a means whereby we may receive forgiveness of sins and be accounted righteous in His sight. It is separate and distinct from obedience to the law. This forgiveness comes by having faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin is universal, and perhaps this is one reason why the term is so frequently ignored. So many are sinning so frequently that it is a way of life! It has become acceptable because everybody is doing it!

Sin is not like a disease that some contract and others escape. Some may self-righteously think they are better than others because of outward appearance - living by sight - but we have all been soiled by it. "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10). Perfection is gone. Because of sin, we have all come short of the glory of God.

The phrase in Romans 5:12, "And thus death spread to all men" can be translated into more modern English as, "When death entered the race, it went throughout." It means death indiscriminately affected all because all sinned. It almost seems as though sin is like an amoebic blob whose tentacles reach out to encompass all in its path, absorbing and sweeping everything to its death.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Romans 3:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The glory of God" in this context is the way He lives. Hamartia, sin, is to fall short of the ideal, to miss the mark in the way we live. Combined with sin's definition in I John 3:4, hamartia ties what we might think of as rather minor, unimportant, and secondary issues directly to the law of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Romans 3:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Every human being who has ever lived - except Christ - has broken God's laws. Therefore, everyone needs to be saved from sin's consequences.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 3:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin is an overwhelming reality throughout the entire world. Regardless of location, race, ethnicity, or gender, nobody escapes committing sin because all are encumbered with a nature at war with God and thus not subject to His law (Romans 8:7). In fact, mankind commits so much sin that it seems that he is barely able to keep it contained. Satan's deception is so thorough that most people on earth commit sin without being aware that they are doing it!

The churches of this world have abandoned the law of God and are badly divided by sectarianism. Buried under an avalanche of false doctrines, they give no indication through the witness of their church members that it can rise to offer any effective defense against sin's pervasive influence. The churches have lost their power.

The world is filled with violence resulting from sin. We are frequently assaulted by lies that are fully intended to mislead us from the truth. Government, business, and individuals try to squeeze every dime out us to increase their profits. We could examine each of the Ten Commandments in this manner, but these few examples give an overview of the undeniable fact that morality - of which God's laws are the standard - is almost completely swamped by a veritable ocean of sin, with our own among the rest of mankind's.

That God has not blown up the entire planet is certainly a testament to His confident vision that He can bring something beautiful and good out of what He has made, despite man's tireless and unrelenting efforts to destroy it. Above all, it speaks superabundantly of His grace. Is there anything in God's great creation we in our enmity against Him have not attempted to befoul, corrupt, and destroy completely through sin?

This situation cannot get any better unless sinning stops or is stopped. History reveals that life in general can be made marginally better in a given culture for brief periods, which happens occasionally after a devastating war. Early on during a period of peace, when people are too disgusted and exhausted to make war any more, they turn their attention to the far more positive labors of reconstruction. Thus, the quality of life rises because not as many people are sinning so egregiously.

Even so, no government or religion has enough spiritual, moral, or physical power to stop sin in its tracks. Overcoming sin is a very personal problem. It is not just the other person who sins: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). In this context, the glory of God is that He, by way of contrast to us, is holy. He does not sin - ever!

Each person must take it upon himself to stop sinning. Nobody can live life for another; the strong godly character of any person cannot be transferred to another. Because of human nature's deceitful self-centered pull, imitating another's evil example is relatively easy. All one has to do is to go along with the flow of the crowd. But following true moral instruction and imitating the good works of another so that one does not sin are exceedingly more difficult. Each person must face the truth about his own flawed character, allow himself to be convicted of his need to stop it in its tracks, and then put righteousness into action.

One human cannot stop sin in another, for a person can sin within himself in his lustful thoughts, and no one else even knows it has happened. Overcoming sin is an individual burden each must strive to achieve before God.

Many, having some knowledge of sin, sincerely want to do this. However, the Bible reveals there is a major "catch." It can be accomplished only in a close, successful relationship with God because the enabling power to overcome sin must be given by God within that relationship.

Once one becomes more thoroughly aware of the exceeding sinfulness of sin within himself - so aware and concerned about what God thinks of him that he wants to do something about its very real existence in his life - it elicits the question, "What must one do?" Notice the word "do." Does this not indicate activity of some kind? In other words, are we willing to expend some measure of energy - work - to begin stopping sin in our lives?

The person who experiences a deeply felt guilt regarding his sinful nature and broken relationship with God comes to understand from his study of God's Word - a work in itself - that it frequently appeals to the disciple to keep the commandments of God - another work. Yet, the world so often objects that works are not required for salvation, that one could become confused.

Obviously, something or somebody is wrong somewhere along the line. God's Word contains no contradictions, and in many places, it definitely commands the doing of works. At least eight times the Bible says we will be judged or rewarded according to our works. Since the Bible does call for works, could people be confused as to precisely when they are to be done?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Three)


 

Romans 3:28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This concludes Paul's entire discussion begun in Romans 3:10. The only way we can be justified—that is, have our sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—is through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. This justification is something that is imputed to us once we meet God's conditions of repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). We cannot earn it through lawkeeping or doing good works.

However, what many do not understand is that being justified is not the same as being saved. Justification is only one step on the road to salvation. Someone who has been justified cannot break God's laws with impunity and expect to receive salvation anyway. To have our sins forgiven, we must repent from having broken the laws of God (Acts 3:19). To repent means "to turn around"—to stop sinning and orient our lives to obeying God's law. Paul explains it plainly in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law."

The true Christian, having repented from sin, has been given the gift of God's Holy Spirit, which is the love of God that enables him to keep His laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose. He has been justified and has received God's undeserved pardon. He realizes his sins caused Jesus Christ to have to suffer and die. Because of all of these things, the true Christian strives with all his might to resist the pulls of the flesh and to put sin out of his life.

Paul makes it very clear that the true Christian must not continue to live a life of sin. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). The true Christian understands that the way he lives and conducts his life has a great bearing upon whether he will inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

To receive salvation, we must not only be justified, but we must live a life of obedience to the laws of God, developing the fruits of His Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Then—and only then—will God give us the gift of eternal life.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 4:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If we take to its logical conclusion the statement that "justification by grace through faith does away with law," then there is no such thing as sin any longer, for the law defines what sin is (see also I John 3:4). If that is true, Christ died in vain.

In addition, it violently flies in the face of two clear facts: 1) Two thousand years after Christ shed His blood to pay the penalty for sin—providing the means for justification—we still must repent of sin to be forgiven. That has not changed, so sin must still exist and law still exists. Thus, the Ten Commandments still exist, as sin is the transgression of that law. How can this be if there is no law to transgress? 2) The New Testament record of Jesus Christ's and the apostles' exhortations to Christians not to sin, especially after one is forgiven.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

Romans 5:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin was introduced and death spread. Adam and Eve never thought that the episode in the garden would have such impact! But it was the crack in the dike that has led to the flood of sins in every facet of man's life.

Our acts may not be as important as Christ's, Abraham's, or Adam and Eve's, but the principle is there and working. We do not live in a vacuum. As part of a body, our actions affect many others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

Romans 6:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What is behind this argument? Paul is saying, "How do we involve Christ in our sins?" Because we are in Him! To someone who is less mystical, this does not make any sense at all, but this is something that a Christian knows by faith - that he is in Christ, and Christ is in him. We are sharing life together so the Christians can come to know Christ, be in the resurrection, and live with Him and all others who are living His way for all eternity. Does not Christ say to His disciples in John 14:23, "We will come to him [one who keeps His word] and make Our home with him"? This is what Paul is talking about: He is exhorting us to live as They do. Thus, how can we continue in sin, if we are dead to sin?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead


 

Romans 6:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul presents this as a condition. One cannot conduct his life any old way he thinks after he repents and believes. He must continue to meet the conditions that God lays down. Of course, God understands - and we all know - that we are not going to meet those conditions perfectly. We are going to sin, but that does not mean that we should not strive to fulfill the responsibility that God gives us: to remain faithful and loyal in keeping His commands. Thus, one must remain faithful and loyal to God, as shown through the way he lives. This is why Peter says that we are to be holy because God is holy (I Peter 1:16). It is a responsibility, an obligation, a condition of our covenant. It is plain that Paul says that we should not sin, which is to break God's law.

Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins, not in our sins. Do we understand what from means? We use this word constantly, every day. We are so familiar with it that we probably never stop to think what it means. From means "a word indicating separation beginning at a certain point." We are being saved from - separation beginning at a certain point - our sins. This indicates we are to come out of sin, the transgression of God's law. It is a qualification we must meet.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

Romans 6:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). This means that there will not be contradictions in God's Word. Jesus says that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law (Matthew 5:18). Paul says here, "Do not sin," and sin is the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4). Nonetheless, Protestants say that the law is done away. This raises a contradiction.

If Jesus' death combined with the New Covenant does away with the law, then there is no such thing as sin, and Christ died in vain—especially as far as those who have lived since His death are concerned. Romans 6:1-2 states plainly that Christians are not to sin, that is, break God's laws. Therefore sin—and thus God's law, which tells us what sin is—must still exist.

It cannot be both ways. If they say that the law is done away, then in the biblical context, it is logical to conclude that there can be no sin. It is therefore illogical for them to claim that it is still wrong for a person to murder or to commit adultery because those sins would not exist without the laws that determine they are immoral or illegal acts.

But the true answer lies elsewhere: Their conclusion that the law is done away is wrong!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Romans 6:14-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What does it mean to be "under the law"? The apostle Paul says that we are "not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). "Sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4, KJV), and every human being who has ever lived—except Jesus Christ—has sinned (Romans 3:23). Once the knowledge of the law comes, there is no excuse, and the law condemns all who break it to eternal death. Paul personifies the law as the instrument that points the finger of condemnation at each of us: "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Romans 7:9). Therefore, to be "under the law" means to be "under the condemnation of the law."

The phrase "under the law" is also used in Romans 3:19; I Corinthians 9:20-21; Galatians 3:23; 4:4-5; 4:21; 4:18.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was Jesus Christ Born Under the Law?


 

Romans 6:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Not a single person would be alive if God responded to sin as carnal man wants to respond to sins that directly affect him. Consider that, in the scenario of killing in self-defense, the one killing is judging that his life is more important than the life he is willing to snuff out. One sinner accounts his life to be of more worth than the life of another sinner. Would God make the same determination?

David C. Grabbe
Does Scripture Allow for Killing in Self-Defense?


 

Romans 7:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul states that the law has "dominion" over a man only as long as he lives. Some have interpreted this to mean that, now that we have died with Christ, the law is no longer binding on Christians. Indeed, some modern translations of the Bible translate this verse to say just that. However, note how Paul uses this word "dominion" in other places.

In Romans 6:9, Paul speaks of Christ's immortality now that He has been resurrected, saying, "Death no longer has dominion over Him." During the period that Christ was a flesh-and-blood human being, He could die, and He did die on the cross. Now, however, death no longer has any power over Him, because He is an immortal Spirit Being.

In Romans 6:14, Paul uses the same word to describe our relationship with sin. "For sin shall not have dominion over you." Here he shows how our past sins have been forgiven, and we have access to Christ's atoning grace for forgiveness of future sins. Therefore, sin no longer has the power to condemn us to death.

Throughout Romans 6 and 7, the Greek word translated "dominion" is kurieuo, meaning "exercise lordship over." Paul uses this term in the context of having power over something. In Romans 6:9 and 14, he states that death and sin no longer have power to harm us or to cause any adverse effect in our lives.

Now we can better understand Paul's meaning in Romans 7:1. In this verse, Paul explains how the law has "power" over a human being only while he lives. He means the law has power to condemn us as a sinner and, consequently, condemn us to death only as long as we are alive. Once we have died, the penalty for sin has been paid, and the law has no more power to condemn us.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle Peter admits that many of the things that his fellow apostle Paul wrote are hard to understand, and because of this, he warns, some people distort Paul's writings to their own destruction (II Peter 3:15-16). This is still happening today. People—some sincerely and some not—are constantly twisting what Paul said in an attempt to show that the law of God is abolished.

A favorite target of the "no-law" advocates is Romans 7:4. In this scripture, Paul writes that a Christian is "dead to the law" and is now "married to another." From these statements, some conclude that God no longer requires a Christian to obey His laws. Unfortunately, those who force such an interpretation on this verse fail to understand the profound truths that the apostle is explaining.

In verse 4, Paul further explains the marriage analogy (Romans 7:2-3) and how this relationship of a woman to her husband bears upon our relationship to the law and Christ. "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ." Just as the woman in his example cannot be condemned by the law as an adulteress if her first husband dies, so we cannot be condemned by the law because our "old man of sin" has died (Romans 7:1).

In other words, we have become dead in the eyes of the law! At the time of our baptism, the old man of sin was put to death and buried in a watery grave (Romans 6:4). Because Jesus Christ died in our stead, and we have been buried with Him in baptism, the law regards us as having died. Therefore, the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23) has been paid, and the law no longer has power to condemn us to death for our sins.

Paul continues in verse 4, "...that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God." In the analogy of the woman and her husbands, the first husband is the old man of sin to whom we were "married" prior to conversion. After the old man of sin died at baptism, we are now free to marry Christ. Just as He died and was resurrected, so our old man of sin has died, and we have been raised out of the watery grave of baptism a new man, empowered to bear righteous fruit in service to God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul explains how that before we were converted, our sinful natures brought us under the death penalty. He shows that the carnal, sinful mind is so hostile toward God (Romans 8:7) that knowledge of God's commandments actually stirs a desire in an unconverted person to commit even greater sins.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We have now been delivered from the power of the law. The law no longer has authority to condemn us to death because our old man of sin has died, and Christ has paid the penalty for sin in our stead. Now that God has given us His Holy Spirit, we now "serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." In other words, we now keep not just the letter of the law, but we also keep God's laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose as Jesus Christ magnified them throughout His ministry (Matthew 5:17-20).

Far from being abolished, the laws of God are now even more binding on Christians. Because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, our sins have all been forgiven, and we now live transformed lives in which we keep God's laws of love through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:14-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul is not confessing that he continually practiced sin in his daily life, but that the threat of practicing it was always with him. He always had to be on guard against it to keep it from breaking out. And, at times, it did indeed break out, reminding him not only of its presence, but also its strength. There is no doubt Paul was a mature Christian. Therefore, this serves as a reminder to us that, no matter how spiritually mature we become, human nature will still always be with us.

Paul died spiritually and was buried in the waters of baptism. Therefore, baptism and the receipt of a new nature by which we are to conduct life do not take human nature away. We, like him, sincerely desire to do the right thing. We believe God's Word. We love God and aspire to glorify Him. Nevertheless, because human nature is always present, we do not always follow through. Instead, human nature overpowers us; we are taken captive, as it were, and revert to following its drives instead. This can be very disturbing, piling guilt upon us and making us fearful of separation from God.

Thus, because we are similar to Paul, and despite the wretchedness we may feel, we have assurance, knowing we will be delivered from this peculiar situation, one that is somewhat akin to having a dual personality. Our deliverance is through Jesus Christ; there indeed is an end. However, unlike many Protestant groups that proclaim that we do not have to keep the law because all is done for us, we know that we must strive to walk even as Christ walked—and He never sinned. I John 2:3-6 emphatically states:

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

Though we are under no condemnation, we still must yield to the Spirit of God to our utmost abilities. We are to "go on to perfection" (Hebrews 6:1), endeavoring to grow "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). Paul says, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). Despite the difficulties involved, any failures that occur, and any feelings of guilt that arise, we are still required to strive to keep God's laws as Jesus did.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

Romans 7:15-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Though converted for about twenty years when he wrote Romans, Paul comments in verse 17 that sin sufficiently strong enough to pull him in the wrong direction still remained in him. In verse 18, he leaves no doubt that sin was still in him. In verse 19, he admits to occasional sin, and in verse 20, he again states that sin still existed in him, and in verse 21, that evil was present with him. In verse 23, he says that a war raged within him between the law of sin and the law of his mind, and he mentions these two again in verse 25.

The evil that lived in him was the remnant of what he had absorbed of Satan's world before his conversion on the road to Damascus. The law of his mind was his new heart from God that he desired so strongly to rule his life. The war was between the remnant of Satan's world and his new heart. Galatians 5:16-17 confirms this last thought:

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Each influence on his mind was communicating to him. This is why we cannot physically escape Babylon. It has left its mark on our perspectives, attitudes, and characters; we carry it with us regardless of our location. Nevertheless, our escape from Babylon can be accomplished because, if it could not, God would not have commanded us to do it.

We achieve it by choosing to allow the law of our mind to triumph against the law of sin and death, even though to do so may require many painful sacrifices during the battle. Where does one find the strength necessary to make the sacrifices required? What might we need to supply us motivation?

First, we need to consider a vital promise. Paul proclaims in Philippians 4:19: "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ." This assurance could just as easily been read as, "He shall supply all our need gloriously!" It is full of exuberant expectation.

What do we need? We need faith in the fact that God is, that He is indeed with us personally and individually, and that His Word is true and absolute. In addition, we need vision and hope regarding the value of what is to be gained or lost through making the right choices. We need much more, but certainly not least, we need God's love for Him and fellow man.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)


 

Romans 13:11-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Spiritually, darkness is brought on by sin. Darkness gratifies the sinful nature, lulls a person to sleep spiritually, and provides a cover for evil. But his darkness is so thick, man cannot find his way around it, through it, or out of it. The solution to this dilemma will come at "daybreak," "in the morning," "when the day dawns." Even as nothing can prevent the coming of dawn, neither can anything prevent the coming of Christ!

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!


 

1 Corinthians 5:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Corinthian church's coddling of this perversion gave the people of Corinth the appearance that God's people would allow this sin—a sin even unbelievers would never tolerate! Inside the church it gave the appearance that one could continue in sin and still remain part of the body. The apostle warns them that, just as a pinch of leaven will puff up a whole loaf of bread—or as one rotten apple will corrupt a whole barrel of them—so this sin, if allowed to continue, would ruin the entire church.

John O. Reid
Abstaining From Evil


 

1 Corinthians 5:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Just as a little leaven in bread quickly spreads completely through the dough, one "little" sin affects our whole being. As James points out, if we break one commandment, we are guilty of breaking the whole law. One sin begets another unless the chain is broken through repentance.

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

1 Corinthians 5:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul plainly instructs that the purpose of keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread is to remind us of our need to remove sin from our lives. Because of the serious sins that a Corinthian member had committed, and the congregation's general acceptance of this situation, Paul advises them to use the Days of Unleavened Bread to "purge out the old leaven." They should examine their attitudes and put these sins out of their lives and out of the congregation. He reminds them that the Passover is a memorial of the death of Christ, who died for us that we may receive forgiveness of sins. They "truly are unleavened," he says, in the sense that they had repented and been justified through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. However, since they had allowed leaven to return into their lives, they needed to get rid of it.

This is the heart of why we are still required to put leaven out of our homes. Leaven represents sin, and deleavening our homes symbolizes purging sin from our lives. However, cleansing our lives of sin is a lifetime process that will not be completely fulfilled until we are resurrected and transformed into spirit. As long as we are still flesh and blood, we will never be absolutely perfect—we will never free ourselves completely and totally of sin. This constant struggle to overcome human nature and put on God's nature is called sanctification. Nevertheless, we must continually strive to conform to the image of Jesus Christ, that is, to be a truly perfect human being (Philippians 3:12-14).

God wants us to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread year after year to remind us that we are not perfect and that our lives are a constant struggle against sin. When we deleaven our homes, we find that, no matter how hard we try, we cannot find every tiny crumb that may be imbedded in carpet or hidden behind an appliance. This illustrates how deceitful sin is and teaches us that we must constantly examine ourselves to purge it out of our lives. Removing sin is hard work! The Days of Unleavened Bread remind us annually of this constant warfare that all Christians must wage throughout their lives.

Why then must we remove leaven from our homes but need not be circumcised? The answer is that physical circumcision no longer has a purpose under the New Covenant. Its symbolism is fulfilled in the process of repentance, baptism, and receipt of the Holy Spirit. However, the object lesson of deleavening our homes still has great meaning and purpose for us. The symbolism of putting sin out of our lives will not be completely fulfilled until we are born into the Kingdom of God and become like Him who cannot sin (I John 3:9).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

1 Corinthians 6:9-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Adulterers will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But God will forgive an adulterer if he genuinely repents, and He can still give him eternal life ( II Samuel 12:13-14; John 8:10-11). However, the consequences of sin still have their harmful effect, as we see in the death of David and Bathsheba's child. Although forgiven, David and his household endured violence from that point forward because of his adultery and murder.

Martin G. Collins
The Seventh Commandment


 

2 Corinthians 4:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No matter how thoroughly we were counseled for baptism or how vividly we were told that Christian life might prove difficult, very few are dissuaded from being baptized. This is, of course, good. However, most of us are also full of misplaced confidence. Though none of us is ever sure of what we will have to experience to be prepared for what God has in store for us in His Kingdom, we are sure God will be there for us in our times of trial. He will indeed, but will we be ready to face our discouragement over what we come to see in ourselves?

As we become educated in God's way, as we grow and become more discerning, sin becomes more apparent everywhere we look. The discouraging aspect is that the sin is not necessarily in others but that we see it in ourselves. We may even reach a level of outright despair because, everywhere we turn, every angle we view ourselves from, we see "little" deceits. We become aware of envy rising, jealousy, anger, and sometimes even rage and hatred. We attempt to bottle them up to keep them from breaking out.

Yet, they always seem to be just below the surface, ready to leap out in a foolish act. Sin is like a cancer, invisible most of the time but silently working to destroy us. Sin desires to return us to our former state. We may have even imagined that, when we began to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, life would become continually easier - we would grow in holiness, and life would become an unending pleasure. Too frequently, it seems to work in the opposite direction.

This course, however, is good. First, the older and more mature we become in the faith, the more of the filthy corruption of sin we can discern. Our discouragement can turn to thankful encouragement because, even though we perceive the filthy corruption in ourselves, our ability to discern it more clearly is evidence of growth.

Second, it is encouraging to understand that for us to overcome sin and grow, we must first be aware of the corruption.

Third, it is wonderful to understand that our merciful God has covered even all this accumulated sin that we have been completely unaware of. Christ's blood is sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world! That we can see more of the evil aspects of human nature should help us also discern of the implications of Christ's sacrifice.

Fourth, these things should motivate us to cry out to God, "Your Kingdom come! Your will be done!" and help us yearn for the time we will be free of the pulls of the flesh.

The removal of ignorance is a wonderfully rewarding gift. Even so, despair sometimes comes easily because we have allowed ourselves to be deceived into trusting our own works to keep us in good standing with God. If we fail to conduct ourselves properly even according to our own standards, it is not difficult to become guilt-ridden and full of despair.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

2 Corinthians 5:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It does not matter how much prophecy we know, whether we can recite from memory large portions of Scripture, or know perfectly every doctrine's technicalities (I Corinthians 13:11-3). In terms of judgment, what matters is whether we are striving to live what we know to be the way God lives because it is how those in His Kingdom will live. His way is the way of love, and love is something we do.

Humanly, the opposite of love is hate. This is because we judge things largely according to the senses. Love, therefore, is a strong feeling for a person or thing; hate is a strong feeling against. However, this definition is not biblical. Biblically, the opposite of love is sin. Like love, sin is also something we do. According to I John 5:3, love is keeping God's commandments, and sin, then, is the breaking of His commandments. Though feeling is certainly involved in biblical love, the will of God and truth play a far larger part.

Seriously consider this: If we sin, then biblically, we do not love God, our fellow man, or for that matter, ourselves, because sinning means we have taken steps toward committing spiritual suicide! If we do this, it also means that we do not appreciate that God has given us life and has given His life so that we can claim His awesome promise of living eternally with Him.

Stripped of all possible nuances that might affect God's judgment, this is the stark reality of what faces us once God has opened our eyes and revealed His purpose to us. It brings to the fore that, if we love what He has revealed, then we must hate sin because it destroys everything God's wonderful revelation stands for.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

Galatians 1:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We easily recognize that Christ died for our sins. But why? ". . . that He might deliver us from this present evil age."

The word translated "deliver" does not just mean being delivered from bondage, the way the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt. It means instead, "rescued from the power of." The meaning "delivery away from" may be implied, but that is not the primary meaning here. The power of this present evil world lies in its ability and power to make an impression upon us or make us conform to its ways.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:10, "I didn't mean that you should go out of the world, but rather that you should not fellowship with one who is a brother and who has this sin." He is not talking about leaving a place but about being rescued from the power of this world to impress its ideas, manners, ways, customs, and traditions upon us. Paul reiterates this in Romans 12:2: "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold" (Phillip's). That is what we have been delivered from—not God's law, but the power of the world to squeeze us into its mold.

John W. Ritenbaugh


 

Galatians 2:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To paraphrase, Paul says, "If I repent and am mercifully forgiven by God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, thus killing or destroying the old man who did all of those sins, and then I go back to that way of life again, I am the one that is at fault—not Christ. I make myself a transgressor. It is not Christ or His way of life that makes me this way or promotes sin in me. Not at all!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Galatians 3:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Galatians 3:22, Paul adds to the Bible's teaching of the universality of sin. "The Scripture" is the Old Testament; it is man's jailer, condemning and confining him because he has sinned. This shows the uselessness of trying to be justified by lawkeeping. How can one expect the very thing that declares him to be guilty and condemns him to death also to pronounce him innocent? We would no more expect the law of our land to declare a murderer guilty and at the same time acquit him!

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Galatians 4:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verses 1-5, Paul draws an analogy in which he likens the Jew to a child who is waiting to come into an inheritance and the Gentile to a slave in the same household. He explains how, before the coming of Christ, the spiritual state of the Jew was no different from the Gentile because neither had had their sins forgiven nor had they received God's Spirit. Prior to the coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles were "in bondage under the elements of the world" (verse 3).

The word "elements" is the Greek stoicheion, which means any first thing or principal. "In bondage under the elements of the world" refers to the fact that the unconverted mind is subject to the influence of Satan and his demons, the rulers of this world and the authors of all idolatrous worship. Satan and his demons are the origin, the underlying cause, of the evil ways of this world, and all unconverted humans are under their sway. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles had been in bondage to sin and Satan.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?


 

Galatians 4:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God the Father determined when the time was right for His Son to come to earth, as man and God. Revelation 13:8 says that the Lamb (Christ) was slain "from the foundation of the world." This world, the cosmos, is the world apart from God, and that world was founded when Adam and Eve sinned. When sin entered into God's creation, given God's purpose for mankind to be made into His image, it was necessary that there be a method of reconciliation between man and God. This reconciliation was only possible through the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

Galatians 3:22 says that the scripture has concluded all under sin. The totality of mankind is enslaved by sin and does not have the means to break free from its grasp. By "concluding" that everyone is under the bondage of sin, or under the curse of sin, the scripture shows that something external to mankind has to act in order that there be a solution to save man from himself and his sinful nature. This "conclusion" also demonstrates that none of the paths which man has embarked on—primarily, justification on the basis of one's own works—are of any lasting worth.

So when the "appointed time" (Galatians 4:2) had come, the Father decided to begin releasing mankind, in part, from the grasp of those controlling him, and the means of doing this was through the redemptive work of His Son. Roughly 4,000 years had passed since Adam and Eve's sin, and during this time there was ample evidence that mankind did not have it within himself to come up with a lasting solution which would bring about peace, harmony, and true unity with God or man. Sin was rampant, and mankind was destined to continue in sin and to reap the consequences. After 4,000 years of human history, nothing had changed in man's fundamental nature. God determined that this was a long enough period of time and sent forth the pre-existing Word as a man.

Paul emphasizes Christ's humanity when he points to the fact that He was "made of a woman." This attribute is universal for everyone else on earth, so we typically do not use it as a descriptor. But this descriptor illustrates that Jesus Christ was fully human. It also shows that Christ fulfilled various prophecies by being born rather than by coming to earth in all of His glory (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-9; Jeremiah 31:22; Micah 5:3).

Like all other men, Christ was "under law." This is not a reference to the Old Covenant; there is no definite article before "law" in the original Greek. He was not subject to the "Mosaic law," as some have assumed, but to the natural laws that God set in motion with the creation of man: He became hungry and thirsty when He went without food and water; He was wearied from physical exertion and lack of sleep; His physical body had limits in terms of the abuse it could take before it quit working; His body was subject to gravity, inertia, decay, and so forth. He was subject to every physical cause-and-effect situation that everyone else who has ever lived has been subject to.

Some modern translations render verse 4 as "born of a woman, born under [the] law." This is misleading, because Paul was not meaning to draw attention to the birth but of the supernatural conception. Paul uses the word ginomai for "made," and it means "to cause to be" or "to come into being." The emphasis is on the means or the action that something comes to be the way it is. The Greek word for "born" is gennao, which Paul did not use. Jesus Christ was "made of a woman" when He was miraculously conceived.

Christ was not "born under the law," in the sense that He was duty-bound to keep all of the ceremonies, washings, and sacrifices. However, He was "made under law." To be "under law" means to be subject to the condemnation of the law, which comes into action when one sins. Christ clearly never sinned, but nonetheless He was made [caused] to be "under law" when He was crucified and all of mankind's sins were laid upon Him, and He paid the death penalty which the law required.

Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made [ginomai] a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." This does not mean that the law is a curse, but that the law has a curse, and that curse is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Christ was caused to be "under law," under the condemnation of the law, when He accepted the death penalty for all of our sins.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:9-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The common, traditional explanation of Galatians 4:9-10 is that Paul is reprimanding the Galatians for returning to Old Testament observances that were a form of "bondage." Insisting that Paul taught that the Old Testament law was "done away" (Colossians 2:14), they conclude that Christians should not keep the days that God had commanded Israel to keep. In verse 10, Paul mentions observances of "days and months and seasons and years." Some contend that these observances refer to God's Sabbath and holy days commanded in the Old Testament. But this interpretation overlooks many foundational points.

Galatia was not a city but a province in Asia Minor. The church membership was undoubtedly composed mainly of Gentiles, and the males were physically uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13). In looking at Paul's initial dealings with these people, we find that they had a history of worshipping pagan deities. In Lystra, a city in Galatia, God healed a crippled man through Paul (Acts 14:8-18). The people of the area were so astonished at this miracle that they supposed Barnabas and Paul, whom they called Zeus and Hermes (verse 12), to be pagan gods! They wanted to sacrifice to them, and would have, if the apostles had not stopped them (verses 13-18). This shows that the people in Galatia were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan deities.

The major theme of the Galatian epistle is to put them "back on the track" because someone had been teaching "a different gospel," a perversion of the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). The Galatians had derailed on their understanding of how sinners are justified. False teachers in Galatia taught that one was justified by doing physical works of some kind. The majority of evidence indicates that the false teachers were teaching a blend of Judaism and Gnosticism. The philosophy of Gnosticism taught that everything physical was evil, and that people could attain a higher spiritual understanding through effort. It was the type of philosophy that its adherents thought could be used to enhance or improve anyone's religion. In Paul's letter to the Colossians, we read of this same philosophy having an influence on the church there. It was characterized by strict legalism, a "taste not, touch not" attitude, neglect of the body, worship of angels, and a false humility (Colossians 2:18-23).

What, then, were the "days, months, seasons and years" that Paul criticizes the Galatians for observing? First, Paul nowhere in the entire letter mentions God's holy days. Second, the apostle would never refer to holy days that God instituted as "weak and beggarly elements." He honored and revered God's law (Romans 7:12, 14, 16). Besides, he taught the Corinthians to observe Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (I Corinthians 5:7-8), and he kept the Sabbath and holy days himself (Acts 16:13; 18:21; 20:6; I Corinthians 16:8).

When the scriptures in question are put into context, the explanation of what these days were becomes clear. In Galatians 4:1-5, Paul draws an analogy in which he likens the Jew to a child who is waiting to come into an inheritance and the Gentile to a slave in the same household. He explains how, before the coming of Christ, the spiritual state of the Jew was no different from the Gentile because neither had had their sins forgiven nor had they received God's Spirit. Prior to the coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles were "in bondage under the elements of the world" (verse 3).

The word "elements" is the Greek stoicheion, which means any first thing or principal. "In bondage under the elements of the world" refers to the fact that the unconverted mind is subject to the influence of Satan and his demons, the rulers of this world and the authors of all idolatrous worship. Satan and his demons are the origin, the underlying cause, of the evil ways of this world, and all unconverted humans are under their sway. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles had been in bondage to sin.

In Galatians 4:8, Paul brings up the subject of the idolatry and paganism that they had participated in before their conversion. "But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods." This obviously refers to the worship of pagan deities (Acts 14:8-18). He is making it clear that God had called them out of that way of life. Paul continues this thought in verse 9, where his obvious concern was that the Galatians were returning to the way of life from which God had called them. The "weak and beggarly elements" were demon-inspired, idolatrous practices, NOT something God had commanded. "Elements" here is the same word, stoicheion, translated "elements" in verse 3. An extension of stoicheion can refer to the heavenly bodies that regulate the calendar and are associated with pagan festivals. The apostle condemns the practices and way of life that had been inspired by Satan and his demons, the principal cause of all the world's evil. Paul recognized that the Galatians had begun to return to their former slavish, sinful practices.

It is evident that the "days, months, seasons and years" Paul refers to in verse 10 were the pagan, idolatrous festivals and observances that the Galatian Gentiles had observed before their conversion. They could not possibly be God's holy days because these Gentiles had never observed them before being called, nor would Paul ever call them "weak and beggerly." Rather, they were turning back to their old, heathen way of life that included keeping various superstitious holidays connected to the worship of pagan deities.

Far from doing away with God's holy days, these scriptures show that we should not be observing "days, months, seasons and years" that have their roots in paganism, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and any other days that originated from the worship of pagan gods.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?


 

Galatians 5:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The context in which these verses appear is important to understanding the production of the fruit of the Spirit. This immediately precedes the listing of the fruit of the Spirit, showing that Paul means that they will be produced through much internal conflict.

This is true because obedience to God's Word is required to produce the Spirit's fruit, and the Christian is being pulled or led in two directions. The one tries to make us satisfy the desires of our old nature, and the other leads us toward producing the fruit of the new. Paul expresses his experience with this in Romans 7:15-19.

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Christians, as Martin Luther stated, "are not stocks and stones." As humans, we are creatures of desires, drives, and emotions. Certainly, as we learn to walk in the Spirit, we increasingly subdue our flesh. But flesh and Spirit remain, and the conflict between them is fierce and unremitting.

We need not become discouraged over this conflict, though, because Paul also gives us a very hopeful solution. In Romans 7:24-25, he exclaims: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."

Every Christian striving to produce the fruit of God will experience this combination of lamentation over sinfulness and joyous expression of gratitude over the certainty of deliverance. The unconverted do not feel the agonizing struggle against sin with the same intensity as the converted. The converted have their peace disturbed and can feel wretched in their conscience.

But this has a good side to it as well. We know it is degrading to the divine nature, and it humbles us to know full well that we have succumbed to evil passions. We then realize more fully that the law cannot come to our aid, neither can other men, and our strength has already betrayed us. Therefore, if we really desire to glorify God and produce spiritual fruit, this conflict will drive us to God in heartfelt prayer for the strength only He can give. God's Word and eventually our experience prove that without Christ, we can do nothing!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit


 

Galatians 6:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What a man sows follows the universal law of "kind reproduces kind." We cannot get cabbage from brussels sprout seeds, nor carrots from radish seeds—no matter how much the seeds may look alike. They are simply not of the same kind.

If we planted corn and got pumpkins, we would be greatly surprised. Similarly, if we gossip about our friends, we should not be surprised to find that we do not have as many friends as before or that people are more guarded in their relationships with us. The seeds of gossip can produce only one kind of fruit—bad! Every action produces results, and every result tends to be of the kind that was sowed.

Jesus confirms this principle in human conduct:

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. (Matthew 7:16-18)

A second principle is at work on this earth among living things. In the reproductive process there is a powerful tendency toward increase. Simple observation of our lawns establishes this truth—weeds!

When we put these two principles together, we find that no matter what a man sows, unless something intervenes to interrupt the cycle, more will be produced than was sown. One can fake living according to Christian standards and morals for a while, but no matter how careful a person is, the fruit produced by his life will betray him. As Numbers 32:23 says, "But if you do not do [as God commands], then take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out."

No one knows how long it will take and how much fruit will be produced, but sin will produce spiritual weaknesses, even though they are concealed with great energy and hypocrisy. Bitterness, divisiveness, weak understanding, confusion, and spiritual lethargy will surface. Many variables affect how much and how soon the fruit will appear, but because of the principle of increase, it is certain that more will be reaped than was originally sown.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

Ephesians 2:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses link together many things regarding sin:

  • All have been involved in sin.
  • Sin is the force that drives this world.
  • This driving force emanates from Satan.
  • It motivates conduct involving flesh and mind.

Sin does negative things to us and others. If it were positive or even neutral, a loving God would be unconcerned about it. He would not lead us to repentance or demand that we repent of it. He would not command us to overcome it and come out of this world.

Satan is at the crux of sin. His name means "Adversary." He is against God and anything godly. In Revelation 9:11, he is called "Abaddon" and "Apollyon," and both of these names, one Hebrew, the other Greek, mean "Destroyer." Satan is a destroyer, and the spirit that emanates from him, that drives this world and produces sin, is a destroying spirit. We can broadly say that sin does two bad things simultaneously: It produces negative results and destroys.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Ephesians 4:11-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus Christ is the standard and example, the pinnacle of all things a human should be. Not only was He legally sinless, He was also humble, meek, merciful, sacrificial, kind, encouraging, positive, and patient. When considering what He was in His total personality for the purpose of comparing ourselves to Him, we need to recall Romans 3:23: "All . . . fall short of the glory of God." None of us measure up to His standard in any area of personality, and this is what hamartia ("sins") and paraptoma ("trespasses") describe: falling short of the ideal. Together, hamartia and paraptoma directly tie what we might think of as minor, unimportant, and secondary issues of conduct and attitude into the Ten Commandments.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

Ephesians 4:26-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Has Paul not said, "Do not give Satan an opportunity to get a bridgehead, a toehold, to induce us into sin"? Sin brings death, and that is Satan's aim—to bring about death.

In this context, not giving place to the Devil is directly tied to a feeling—anger. Anger of and by itself is not sin. There is an anger that is godly, which we call "righteous indignation." But nursing an anger for the wrong reason—the selfish fulfillment of a desire—gives Satan the toehold that he needs. He can easily turn it into bitterness or a sinful conduct.

Having a desire is not ungodly or a sin in itself. God gave us feelings, even ones we might consider to be somewhat negative. Even something like anger is not by itself sin. Life would be terrible and bland without feelings. What we have to understand is that these are areas that Satan, if we are not alert, vigilant, and on guard, can turn what is a blessing from God into a toehold or bridgehead to sin. We must be careful of this. When the emotions get worked up (even positive ones), we can be pushed in the wrong direction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 5)


 

Ephesians 5:27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The problem of sin is in man's thinking, which is why God says the problem is in the heart—in the mind. Humans are limited to thinking what is in their minds. If we have God's Word in our minds—along with the Holy Spirit—then there is a good chance that our minds will begin to change, to become circumcised, as it were—to be purified, to become holy as God is holy. God says, "My thoughts are higher than yours, better than yours—greater than the east is from the west." Yet, we have to take steps in that direction to begin thinking as He does.

A person who is not holy will not see God because they will not think as He does. Along the same lines, He will not recognize Himself in any of them! So, until the heart is changed, nothing will change. The change begins by taking in the Word of God on a daily basis and applying it in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 8)


 

1 Timothy 1:12-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This proves that late in his life as an apostle, Paul was still keenly aware of the enormity of what he had been forgiven. He probably purposely kept this memory alive so as not to take any chance of losing his sense of responsibility. He understood human nature well, not wanting to risk losing the proper perspective that Christ had given him at the beginning. Rather than carry it about as a burdensome load of guilt, he used it as a realistic recognition of his indebtedness to Christ for what he had been forgiven and what had been accomplished since that time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

1 Timothy 2:3-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If it is God's will that we be saved and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, why is it so hard? If God is working with us, should this not be easy? Our first response to this is very likely, "Well, I guess it's just that I am so evil"; "It must be human nature"; or "I'm so bad God must not be hearing my prayers." Some get so weary with the difficulty that they say, "God will just have to take me as I am."

All these justifications may indeed be factors, but they are not precisely correct because most of us have some besetting sin or sins that we fail miserably to overcome time after time. Why, if it is God's will, do we not overcome them more easily?

The sin need not be easily recognizable by others, as Paul writes to Timothy that "some men's sins are clearly evident" (I Timothy 5:24). It can be a hidden sin, though we are well aware of it, know it is evil, and feel constant guilt and self-condemnation because of our weakness before it.

It can be a sin of omission and not a sin of commission, in which one is directly guilty of bringing loss or pain upon another. Perhaps the failing concerns acts of kindness or mercy that we have frequently and consistently failed to do to relieve another's burden, but we know of it and are convicted of its seriousness.

This is the key to understanding why spiritual growth is so hard. Consider one's original conversion. Why did this even occur? Romans 2:4 says, "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance." This happened only because God was revealing Himself and making us conscious of factors of life we had never before felt with that force. It moved us to repent and throw ourselves on His mercy. In reality, it was the only option He held open to us because we felt powerless to go in any other direction. Can we overcome death? The key is our awareness of powerlessness as the first essential element to spiritual growth.

In II Corinthians 12:10, Paul makes this point. "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." In chapter 13:4, he adds emphasis to this by saying, "For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you." Just as a prerequisite to conversion is recognizing and acknowledging our utter failure in the face of sin and death, so also is a deep consciousness of our frailty required in the face of overcoming and growth in following God's way and glorifying Him.

Without this overriding sense of dependence, we will never turn to God in the first place. Without this sense of need, we will not continuously turn to Him because our passivity in this will declare that in reality, like the Laodiceans, we think we need nothing and are sufficient unto ourselves. We will be like the confident Peter, who, boasting that unlike others he would never desert Christ, immediately fell flat on his face in spiritual failure. The secret of growth in Christian character largely lies in realizing our powerlessness and acknowledging it before God.

Perhaps John 15:5 will now have more meaning. Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." It does not mean that without Him we could never design an automobile or send a rocket to the moon. It means that we could produce nothing of a true, godly, spiritual nature within the calling of God that truly glorifies Him.

Just in case we think He is saying more than He really means, think about the following commands. Jesus says in Matthew 5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." He adds in Matthew 6:31, "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'" If these are challenging, try I Corinthians 15:34: "Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."

We have a long way to go. It is time to stop playing church—realizing that judgment is now on us—and turn to God with all our heart. He promises that, if we do this, He will hear from heaven and respond. We must constantly keep in mind that God is the Potter with the power to mold and shape as He wills. As the clay, our job is to yield, realizing even the power to submit comes from Him.

To understand this from an even broader perspective, we must consider how mankind has acted in its relationship with God beginning with Adam and Eve. They said, "God, stay out of our lives. We don't need you. We will do this ourselves." Therefore, rather than choosing from the Tree of Life, they chose from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. All mankind has copied this approach down to the Laodiceans, who say they are rich and increased with goods and need nothing. It will continue even to those who will curse and blaspheme God during the final plagues in the Day of the Lord (Revelation 16:21).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility: Part Eleven


 

2 Timothy 3:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Men are not improving; they are growing increasingly worse! Here God is acknowledging that human nature is prone to progressive degeneration. There are two related reasons for this:

1. Sin has a drug-like addictive quality in that the sense of relief, satisfaction, or pleasure derived from it does not last. Thus, to receive the same amount of pleasure as before one has to sink deeper and deeper into the perversion.

2. Closely related is that a person must commit the sin more frequently because the duration of satisfaction decreases the longer one continues in a sin.

Because of this inclination toward increase, social and religious barriers to immorality within the individual and community gradually come down. Therefore, each new generation provides a more fertile breeding ground for sin because human nature provides no real impediment to it. As sin becomes more acceptable in a society, the people have more difficulty recognizing it.

To the Christian, this sets up a disturbing possibility. Suppose twenty years ago we were fifty percent more righteous than society, and today we are still fifty percent more righteous. But because standards in society have declined steeply, we have slipped far ourselves! People who do not understand sin call evil good and good evil until society reaches the point illustrated in Genesis 6:5: "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." In cultures all over this globe, mankind is rapidly approaching conditions that are just like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

Hebrews 3:12-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The deceitfulness of sin"! In this context, to be deceitful is to be seductively and enticingly misleading. Sin promises what it cannot deliver. It promises pleasure, contentment, fulfillment—life—but its delivery on these things is fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying. Its deceitfulness is the very reason why it has addictive qualities. It lures us on to try to capture what it can never deliver.

The pleasure is never quite enough to produce the contentment and fulfillment one desires. Thus, people are forced into greater and deeper perversions until it results in death. All along the way, from its inception to death, sin quietly produces hardness of heart. Like a callus that forms over a break in a bone or stiffens a person's joints, sin paralyzes right action.

"Hardness" is translated from skleruno, from which name for the disease multiple sclerosis is derived. In a moral context, it means "impenetrable," "insensitive," "blind," "unteachable." A hardened attitude is not a sudden aberration, but the product of a habitual state of mind that reveals itself in inflexibility of thinking and insensitivity of conscience. Eventually, it makes repentance impossible. The will to do right is completely gone.

The will is the power or faculty by which the mind makes choices and acts to carry them out. An old adage says: "Sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny." At first, against his will, a person engages in some forbidden pleasure out of weakness, curiosity, or sheer carnality. If the practice continues, he sins because he cannot help doing so; he is becoming addicted to it. Once a sin becomes a habit, he considers it to be almost a necessity. When it becomes a necessity, the destiny is produced.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Hebrews 4:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God willed that they possess the land of Canaan as He had promised the patriarchs. However, many of the people chose to die in the wilderness through disobedience. They did not have to die there. They chose to sin with the Golden Calf, to complain bitterly, to rebel with Korah, to commit fornication with the daughters of Moab, and so on. The Bible never indicates that God predestined they do these things and die before reaching the Promised Land.

On the contrary, Numbers 14 shows that He wanted them to be in the Promised Land by the end of the second year. But because of their lack of faith and the resulting fear of the Canaanites, they chose not to enter it, so God switched to "Plan B." They condemned themselves to wander 40 years. An entire generation - those over 20 who left Egypt, the fearful and rebellious, those too deeply impressed with the nature of Egypt - left their bodies strewn across the wilderness.

If God permits something, we should not automatically assume that He predestined it from the foundation of the world. The Bible does not support such a view. At best, it only indicates He decides to use such a circumstance for His purpose, perhaps to see what we will do with it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

Hebrews 10:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Those sacrifices" identifies the body of laws being talked of here - the sacrifices, of which the law is just a shadow. They were not a part of the original covenant, but were added later (see Jeremiah 7:22-23).

Verse 3 tells us why it was considered to be a schoolmaster. God had a good reason for them doing these things: They were to remind people of sin. They did not define sin. They were commanded because people were sinning; He made them give sacrifices to remind them that they were sinning!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 17)


 

Hebrews 10:26-31  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Most Protestants believe their salvation is assured once they accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Many call this doctrine by the very familiar phrase, "once saved, always saved." To them, this means that God's grace eternally covers them, and thus they have eternal security that God will save them. God is bound to accept them and to give them salvation no matter what occurs after they accept Jesus. In his worldwide crusades, evangelist Billy Graham has popularized the Protestant hymn, "Just as I am, Lord," which sings the praises of this doctrine.

To us, this idea of "eternal security" is a completely ridiculous concept. God is pure and holy (I Peter 1:15-16). He will not accept people who are not as He is. He forsook His own Son, Jesus Christ, when the sins of the world were placed on Him (Matthew 27:46)! Why would He accept us, who are far more personally sinful, if we failed to repent of our sins and came before Him demanding Him to save us "just as we are"?

An analogy from the real world may be helpful. Just because a criminal is absolved of committing a certain crime does not mean that he will never again be guilty of another crime. For example, if the governor of a state commutes a murderer's sentence, but the criminal commits another crime later in his life, he is not innocent. The law says he is guilty of the later crime.

In the same way, a Christian who commits sin is guilty even though God's grace has covered him in the past. If he continues in the sin until it becomes a habitual way of life, he is in danger of losing the salvation promised to him. Notice Paul's quite concise statement in Hebrews 10:26: "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins."

This is plain. If we sin in rebellion against God, setting our will to go against God and His way of life, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ no longer applies. In essence, we have spit in His face. Paul continues by telling us what applies at that point (Hebrews 10:27-31).

Peter says, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17), and if we live a life of sin, we will reap the punishment that those sins deserve. Our God is a God of justice. The idea of "eternal security," then, is foreign to the Bible. It is puzzling how theologians could develop such a doctrine when the Bible repeatedly comments, warns, and advises that we can lose it all through sin.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

Hebrews 10:26-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To whom is this written? To Christians, to people who have received the grace of God and are justified. And Paul is warning them: "Don't sin!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

Hebrews 10:26-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first thing to note in Hebrews 10:26-27 is the word "sin." Paul is not speaking of sin in general but the specific sin of apostasy from the faith that was once known and professed. The apostasy he has in mind is not so much an act but a state brought on by many individual attitudes and sins, reproducing the original, carnal antagonism a person has toward God before conversion.

Some commentaries insist that the Authorized Version is not quite correct in translating the term in verse 26 as "willfully." These argue that the Greek word, hekousios, will not permit this translation. It appears only one other time, in I Peter 5:2, where it is translated as "willingly." The commentators insist that it should be rendered "willingly" in Hebrews 10:26.

The American Heritage College Dictionary supports their conclusion. To do something willfully is to do it purposely or deliberately. The commentators say all sin is done purposely because human nature is set up to do so, even though weakness, ignorance, or deception may be involved as well. To do a thing willingly is to be disposed, inclined, or prepared to do it. Its synonyms are "readily," "eagerly," "compliantly," "ungrudgingly," "voluntarily," and "volitionally." This sense is contained in the context because, by the time a person reaches the apostate stage in his backward slide, where he has forsaken God and His way, he has no resistance to sin.

The sinner is deliberately, even eagerly, determined to abandon Christ, to turn away from God and His way, having completely become an enemy once again. He sins with barely a second thought, if with any thought at all. He sins automatically, as there is none of God's Spirit left to constrain him. His conscience is totally defiled; he has forsaken God.

Who is in danger of committing this sin? All who have made a profession of faith in Christ but are now neglecting their salvation.

The message of Hebrews is that it does not have to be this way. If the person takes heed and stirs himself awake, if he truly seeks to overcome and grow once again, if he returns to being a living sacrifice and seeking to glorify God, if he truly denies himself and takes up his cross, if he keeps God's commandments to live life as a Christian, he will not apostatize.

He may fall back from time to time, but as long as he repents and honestly seeks God when sin occurs in his life, the sin is readily forgiven. I John 1:9 confidently proclaims, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." John 14:23 assures us that as long as we are keeping His Word, we are safe.

Hebrews 12:5-10 explains that God is faithfully working in our behalf, even chastening us if He sees fit, to get us turned around and headed again in the right direction and attitude. He does this faithfully because He does not want to lose us. Christ died for each child of God, thus each child He loves - and He loves them all - represents a substantial investment. Christ did not die in vain for anybody. In Hebrews 13:5, He charges us with the task of putting to work His promise, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Power: Our Shield Against Apostasy


 

James 1:12-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

James 1:12-16 lists the steps leading to sin, beginning with temptation. People rarely stop at just one sin, however, and it is often not long before they add another and another to the chain. Jeremiah describes this course of sin in his day—the same process that is likely to occur in anyone's life: "'And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth. For they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,' says the LORD" (Jeremiah 9:3). This is a major reason why God uses leaven to symbolize sin. As leaven spreads and does its work in flour, so sin spreads and corrupts the lives of all it touches.

For example, a tragic sequence of events begins in Genesis 37 with one sin whose impact reverberates to this day! Jacob's favoritism (respect of persons) for Joseph irritated his brothers. Their irritation grew to jealousy and flared into hatred. They conspired to commit murder, sold Joseph into slavery, and deceived Jacob to hide their complicity and guilt. What happened to their relationship with their father after this? Did they live in fear that one of the brothers would "squeal" on the others? Did they ever feel guilty for the pain they brought upon Jacob? Did their actions honor him? Did these events intensify his over-protectiveness of Benjamin and, in reality, make things worse for them than when Joseph was with them? Sin produces more sin unless someone stops it by repenting.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

James 1:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Temptation" is from the Greek noun peirasmos, which can refer to trials or tests with a beneficial purpose or effect—or to trials or tests designed to lead to wrong doing. The outcome depends on how the tempted person reacts. Temptation of itself is not sin; one must accept it before it results in sin. Thus, it is a forerunner of sin, warning us that the potential for sin is not far away.

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

James 1:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Temptation is an appeal to think or do something contrary to God's law. We are drawn away from truth, virtue, and God's standard of righteousness.

In this context, desires are forces of attraction in the wrong direction: We long for it, crave it, covet it, want it. We are enticed or attracted when we are offered hope of reward or pleasure (e.g., food, drink, sex, money, drugs, entertainment).

The verbs "drawn away" and "enticed" derive from the activities of fishing and hunting. "Enticed" usually describes the drawing of fish out of their original retreat. We are tantalized, as fish are with bait. What is on the end of a fishing line? A LURE! James pictures man's desire first attracting his attention and persuading him to approach the forbidden thing, and second, luring him by means of bait to yield to the temptation.

Another analogy that illustrates the force of enticement is that of a magnet. If one places a small piece of iron close to a magnet, invisible forces reach out from the magnet to attract the iron. By moving the piece of iron a little closer, the attraction intensifies. Nudge the iron still closer, and the magnet will draw it all the way to itself. The closer one moves to a desired thing or the more one's interest grows, the greater and greater the pull becomes.

Who does the luring and enticing? Who does the tempting? Paul calls Satan "the Tempter" in I Thessalonians 3:5: "The tempter had tempted you." "Tempter" is the present participle of the Greek word peirazo, which basically means "to tempt." When preceded by an article, it literally means "the (one) tempting." Satan uses temptation to entice us into sin (Matthew 4:1). James 4:7 says, "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Following Christ's example in Matthew 4:1-11, we should strongly resist the temptations of Satan, causing him to flee from us.

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

James 1:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In James 1:15, the apostle changes his description from a snare to conception and birth. Notice the reference to the growth of a person from fetus to adult—from complete innocence to corruption by the world.

First, temptation comes when desire, like a mother, conceives and "gives birth to sin." Then sin, the child of desire, develops until it is full-grown. When sin is full-grown, it becomes a way of life that without repentance ends in death. Paul concurs in Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death." God says through the prophet Ezekiel:

The soul who sins shall die. . . . When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. (Ezekiel 18:4, 26)

"Brings forth" in James 1:15 is a phrase Greeks used to refer to an animal giving birth. It means that sin "spawns" death. This suggests that man, once conquered by desire, becomes less than human, sinking to the level of a beast. He has not progressed to be more like God but has regressed to the moral level of animals.

To summarize, temptation begins the process to sin and ends in death. God plays no part in tempting us; to the contrary, we are either drawn away by our own desires or enticed by Satan. Illicit desire begets sin, which in turn spawns tremendous destruction and—eventually—death.

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

James 4:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin is missing the mark of what God wants us to do. II Timothy 3:7 speaks of "always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." This verse is the negative way of phrasing the same concept. We have all the knowledge about what to do and how to live righteously, but if we fail to do it, to put it into practice, it is sin to us. It becomes a selfish pursuit of knowledge, and we are missing the reason that God gave it to us. The word sin is hamartia: missing the point, missing the mark. James 1:27 says, "Pure and undefiled religion . . . is . . . to visit orphans and widows in their troubles, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." Notice what he puts first: Pure religion is helping those who are in need, showing your love to them, and then it is keeping oneself pure. Remember, the knowledge God gives us is predominantly and ultimately practical, useful, helpful, outgoing.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church


 

1 Peter 2:24-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The most brutal example of divine justice is found in the New Testament, not the Old. We see the most violent expression of God's wrath and justice in the crucifixion of His own Son. If anybody had room to complain that He was not being treated fairly, it was Jesus Christ, who was not guilty of even one sin! He was the only innocent person who ever lived, yet He suffered a horrible, cruel death. If we were to become upset or offended at something that seems to be unjust, this would be it.

The crucifixion, similar to the Flood, the casting out of the Amorites, and so forth, is simultaneously the most just and the most gracious act in history. It would have been absolutely diabolical of God to punish Jesus if His Son had not first voluntarily taken on Himself the sins of all the world. Even though He was innocent to that point, once He took upon Himself that concentrated load of sin, He became the most repugnant thing that ever existed on earth before God. He became an obscene and accursed thing, and God executed His wrath. He acted in total impartiality. God could not overlook sin, even when it touched His Son.

Jesus Christ did this for us. Christ took the justice that was to fall on us, and He paid for it with His priceless life. It is the "for us" aspect that displays the majesty of the grace of God.

We cringe at God's justice because it is so unusual, since most of the time He is so gracious. Human nature deceives us into taking it for granted, but we need to keep it in mind because it just as integral to His character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

2 Peter 2:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God is unbending in regard to His law. Peter shows this by illustrating that it does not matter who sins or when he sins. Before God ever created man, angels broke the law of God. God, being just and holy, could do only one thing. Because He cannot permit sin to abide in His Kingdom, He had to follow through with the punishment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

1 John 1:8-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

John is instructing us about the obligation we have due to receiving atonement through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness does not remove from us the obligation to keep the commands of God. The law of God is not done away once we are under the blood of Jesus Christ. His death paid for our past sins. Though His death will pay for sins committed after our original forgiveness, we are urged not to break God's laws. Sinning without serious regard and deep appreciation for Christ's death brings us into danger of committing the unpardonable sin (Hebrews 10:26, 28-29). A disciplined and robust effort to obey God's commands witnesses to Him the depth of our appreciation for the grace He gives through Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering


 

1 John 2:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). Do we want to know God and do His will at the same time? Keep His commandments. Do not sin. Overcome and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). To do this, we have to desire to live the eternal life given us by the Father through Jesus Christ. This does not come easily. Our Savior describes this way as difficult and narrow, for human nature stands ever ready to throw stumbling blocks in our path.

Sin destroys ideals. As we sin, the high standards of eternal life are gradually eroded away, and we become willing to accept just about anything. Sin destroys innocence, and in the process creates fear, cynicism, guilt, and restlessness. Sin destroys the will, gradually removing the barriers to sin more and the incentive to do well.

Sin produces more sin, sickness, pain, slavery, and finally, death. This cycle will never change unless each person, as God summons him, takes it upon himself to allow himself to be motivated to use the gifts God gives. It takes a great deal of effort to do this. Jesus warns it will be difficult.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Six): Eternal Life


 

1 John 2:10-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Remember that John's epistle is written to church members. Therefore, he frames matters in absolute terms, offering no middle ground regarding sin and one's relationships with God and fellow man. It must be this way because this is our one and only opportunity for salvation, and sin was what cut us off from God in the first place, causing us to need salvation. We do not want to fall into that position again. Sin is serious business!

Regarding our moral and spiritual conduct, we must recognize that there is no twilight zone, especially in our relationship with God. A Christian cannot muddle around morally or spiritually, thinking that sin is a rather minor affair. It cost Jesus His life! In this relationship, which is in reality preparation for a marriage, love and loyalty are extremely important.

John spells matters out as either light or darkness, love or hatred, all absolutes. Where love is absent, hatred rules in darkness. Where love prevails, there is light. Through the word "darkness," John is disclosing that, because of the sin or hatred, a lack of love for a brother, the relationship with God declines. Notice in verse 11 that the sin John mentions is against a brother, meaning a fellow church member. Hatred is not a trifling matter! Later, in I John 3:15, John says that one who hates his brother is a murderer. What is the result? A relationship is broken, and communication with the brother ends.

Even more serious, we find that the sin also involves one's relationship with God because the effect of that sin is a measure of spiritual blindness. The hater grows insensitive to or hardened against spiritual truth.

Paul reinforces what John teaches, writing in Hebrews 3:12-13, "Beware brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." He warns that sin has a deceptive quality. It promises so much even before it actually becomes an act of conduct, but it delivers far short of its promise. Its truly sneaky aspect is its powerful tendency to lure us into further sin, enslaving us and hardening our minds against righteousness. In other words, it shares characteristics with drugs in that it is addictive or enslaving, destroying one's well-being.

Herein lies the cause of the apostle John's concern in I John 2. God is the source of spiritual truth (light), and we are sanctified as His children and to His service by it because we believe it. However, under the sin of hating, communication with God begins to break down, and consequently, the sinner puts himself in peril of falling completely away. Notice in I John 2:13-14, John mentions that the fathers - those in the congregation older in the faith - have known the Father. He appeals to them to exercise their longstanding, mature leadership within the congregation in a right manner.

The word "known" ties John's thoughts directly with Jesus' words in John 17:3. Knowing God, having an intimate relationship with Him, is the key to living a life - called "eternal life" - which will be acceptable for living in the Kingdom of God. Hating a brother actually cuts the sinner off from the Source of the gifts and strengths necessary to live that quality of life. In other words, the sinner is not properly using what God has already given him and is showing disloyalty both to God and to another member of the Family.

Beginning in verse 15, John pens three of the more notable verses in his writings. When considered in context, they should be scary stuff for a Christian. Why does he command us not to love the world? Because the sinner's conduct exhibited in his hatred of his brother reveals the source of communication prompting his sin! John exposes the communication to which the hater is responding.

Under no circumstance would God ever communicate the sin of hatred toward a brother. Besides, James confirms that God tempts no one (James 1:13). John is warning that the person's affections are drawing him away from God and toward the world, and he had better do something about it before he slips completely back into the world.

This also connects to John 1:5. "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Darkness symbolizes the spiritual blindness of Satan's unconverted world. In the book of Revelation, this blindness is represented by Babylon the Great. Satan's world simply does not get it, that is, spiritual truth. Because it cannot grasp God's truths, the only spirituality the world can ultimately communicate is inducement to sin, which it does insistently and attractively.

This leads us back to God's illustration regarding Adam, Eve, and Satan. Satan is the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4), and thus its spiritual leader and governing principle. He persuaded Adam and Eve to sin. So the only way we can come out of the world is to reverse the process that placed us in the world in the first place: to stop sinning. One can phrase it more positively as to yield to God's will rather than Satan's or to God's communication rather than this world's.

We could never leave the world on our own. God must mercifully deliver us by calling us. We do not understand the mechanics of what He actually does in our minds, but in calling us, He miraculously does something to begin leading us to think of matters in relation to God with a clarity of understanding and intensity that we never before experienced. It is almost as if we suddenly understood a foreign language.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)


 

1 John 3:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this seemingly straightforward verse, God defines sin (hamartia) as anomia, rendered "lawlessness" (NKJV, RSV, NIV, REB, NAS) or "the transgression of the law" (KJV). Other translations use the words "evil" (Peshitta), "a breaking of God's law" (Phillips) and "iniquity" (Diaglott). The Greek word anomia literally means "being without law." To get a sense of what John writes, we can express it as, "Whoever does hamartian also does anomian, and hamartia is anomia."

The King James and Phillips versions imply that sin is strictly the breaking of God's law, whereas the other translations consider it more generally. However we may understand it, John certainly implies God's involvement as both Lawgiver and Judge. God will judge each person according to the standards expressed in His law.

In I John 3:4, John argues against the Gnostic idea that the things done in the body are inconsequential because only the spirit counts. Gnostics following this school of thought often fell into licentiousness. Some in John's area of ministry seem to have believed that they could not sin in their flesh. Since their flesh, matter, was ultimately evil anyway, it could not be redeemed and was worthless. Thus, they concluded, anything done in the flesh had no bearing on one's salvation.

They played a semantic game with the words hamartia (sin) and anomia (lawlessness). They considered hamartia to identify the transgressions of moral law, particularly sins of the flesh, such as sexual immorality, gluttony, drunkenness, and stealing. Anomia, however, categorized sins of the spirit, like rebellion, pride, vanity, and greed—the sins that Satan committed. They believed God, the eternal Spirit, would look the other way if one committed hamartia, but committing anomia put one under judgment.

They also made no connection between them; they did not recognize that one could affect the other. Gnostics would not admit that sins of the flesh had their origins in the mind (James 1:14-15) or that such sins could in turn cause their character, their spirit, to degenerate (Jeremiah 7:24). They saw a total and irreconcilable separation between flesh and spirit.

Thus, John tells them hamartia and anomia are the same; they are both sin! It does not matter to God whether the sin is committed in the flesh or in the spirit—to Him it is sin! If God says not to do something, and we do it, it is sin. He has said not to eat pork and shellfish; if we do, it is sin. He has said not to commit sexual immorality; if we do, it is sin. He has said not to hate our brother; if we do, it is sin. He has said to keep the Sabbath; if we do not, it is sin!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

1 John 3:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is easy for us to think of sin only in terms of I John 3:4. It is, however, a good place to begin. Sin is directly connected to breaking laws. "Law," especially in the Old Testament, frequently means the broader term "instruction." Thus, we have more to consider as sin than just the breaking of a specific law. However, sin is not a complicated concept.

Numerous terms in both Old and New Testaments describe sin, but collectively they all give the same sense: to deviate from a way, path, or law; to fail to live up to a standard. We find two of these words, translated as "trespasses" and "sins," in Ephesians 2:1: "And you He has made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins."

Trespasses, from the Greek paraptoma, means "to go off a path, fall or slip aside." When it is applied to moral and ethical issues it means to deviate from the right way, to wander. Sins, the Greek hamartia, is generally associated with military usage and means to "miss the mark." It indicates failing to make a bull's-eye. In moral and ethical contexts, it means to fail of one's purpose, to go wrong, or to fail to live according to an accepted standard or ideal. Sin is the failure to be what we ought to be and could be.

The Hebrew equivalents of hamartia and paraptoma are chata and asham, respectively. In Hebrew, asham comes closest to meaning the actual breaking of a law; in Greek, it is anomos. Both of these will sometimes be translated "iniquity" or "lawlessness." (See E. W. Bullinger, The Companion Bible, appendices 44 and 128.)

When we understand the terms God inspired to describe sin, we can easily see why sin is so universal. Because the robber, murderer, drunkard, rapist, and child-abuser are so obviously evil, we readily agree that they are sinners. In our hearts we consider ourselves to be respectable citizens since we do none of these things. These terms, though, bring us face to face with the reality of sin—that it is not always obvious. Sin is not confined to external conduct. Sometimes it is buried within one's heart and very cleverly concealed from all but the most discerning.

The ministry has not invented sin; it is part of the territory Christianity covers. Christianity is a way of life from God that reaches into every facet of life. The central idea of sin is failure. We sin when we fail to live up to the standards of this way of life that God established and revealed through His prophets, apostles and Jesus Christ, the Chief Revelator.

As such, sin reaches into marital relationships, childrearing, cleanliness, clothing, hospitality, health, employment—even how we drive our automobiles. It involves itself in the entire gamut of human attitudes such as pride, envy, anger, hatred, greed, jealousy, resentment, depression, and bitterness. In the New Testament, the biblical writers always use hamartia in a moral and ethical sense, whether describing commission, omission, thought, feeling, word, or deed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

1 John 3:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Although many ministers condemn sin vehemently, most do not understand what it is! In I John 3:4, God gives us a clear definition of sin: the attitude and practice of breaking God's laws. These laws, summarized in the Ten Commandments, define what is right and wrong, and the breaking of them constitutes sin.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

1 John 3:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle John defines sin as the breaking of the law (I John 3:4). Paul states that the effect of sin is death (Romans 6:23). He also shows that both sin and death have been a factor in human existence since the start (Romans 5:12-14). The inescapable conclusion is that God's law, His definition of right and wrong, has been in effect since the very beginning! Because His law was in effect, God has ascribed sin to man from the beginning. Without law, there would have been no sin, and thus no death.

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

1 John 3:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Word came as a man to die for the forgiveness of our sins (hamartia) without regard to classification! Hamartia is the general word used throughout the New Testament to describe sins of all kinds; it means "to miss the mark" or "to fail to reach a standard." Thus, John is saying that Christ's sacrifice covers all transgressions of law, whether or not we consider them to be physical or spiritual in nature.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

1 John 3:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sometime in the past, one may have heard that "cannot sin" applies to Christians when resurrected as spirit beings. This is probably not correct because the whole context of the passage involves the here and now—today, during our physical lives. John is describing a situation in which we have opportunities to sin or not.

"Cannot sin" does not mean that it is impossible for us to sin, but rather, it is an act that we will not permit ourselves to do. Many of us have likely said to a child, "You can't do that!" Yes, they could do it, but we have determined that it is totally unadvisable. This is the gist of John's meaning: A person who is born of God is unable to sin habitually.

Why? Because of the divine nature being within him! This does not mean that he will not slip or that he will not even sin willingly and willfully from time to time, knowing full well what he is getting into. There is still weakness in human flesh. However, the converted person will repent and fight the weakness tooth and toenail. He will not live in sin! God will not abide in sin, and if His Spirit is within us, and we choose to continue in sin, then He will withdraw His Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 8)


 

1 John 4:20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We cannot be right with God unless we are also right with men. Make peace quickly; do not let the sun go down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26). Hatred is sin, and sin separates us from God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

1 John 5:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"A sin which does not lead to death" is one that is genuinely repented of and for which forgiveness is available because the attitude of the sinner is meek and truly sorrowful. A person may have this attitude, yet still sin on occasion out of weakness, ignorance, bad judgment, or even inadvertently. Both greater and lesser sins can fall under this category. Earlier in the book, the same apostle writes:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8-9)

Our genuine confession admits to God that we are guilty of breaking His law and seek to be cleared of it by Christ's sacrifice. This true repentance leads to a fierce desire not to sin and to building righteous character. God thus lifts the penalty of the second death, and once again, we, by His grace, are back on the road to salvation.

The sin that John calls a "sin leading to death" is what others know as "the unpardonable sin." Again, both greater and lesser sins can lead to the attitude that causes someone to commit an unforgivable sin. Such a sin is deeply reinforced by the attitude of the sinner—an attitude that denies Jesus Christ as Savior, that flagrantly hates his brother, and refuses to obey God's laws and statutes. Rebellion and defiance set this sin apart from others!

Martin G. Collins
Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?


 

1 John 5:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The concept in these two verses provides a foundation for showing that the Bible clearly categorizes sin in a number of different ways.

First, we must define a few terms. Psalm 119:172 says, "All Your commandments are righteousness." What does the word righteousness mean? It is an Old English word that we still use today, especially in religion. It is slowly being replaced by the word rectitude. Righteousness is a combination of two words, right, meaning "correct," and wise, although it is not spelled anything like our modern word wise. Wisdom is "right application," that is, "right doing." Righteousness, then is "right doing." "All Your commandments are right doing." All unrighteousness—all wrongdoing—is sin.

I John 3:4 reads, "Sin is the transgression of the law." We need to define transgression. Transgress means "to go beyond the limit," "to violate," giving us a broad foundation for understanding this. Sin, then, can be defined as "going beyond the limit of what the law allows." Righteousness is applying the law's letter and/or its intent!

Quite a number of words—Hebrew and Greek—are translated into this single English word sin. A general element that is present in all sin, regardless of which word is used, is failure. Sin equals failure. It is failure to apply or to live up to the standard of what is right. This is why John says that all wrongdoing is failure, but some failure is much more serious than others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Find more Bible verses about Sin:
Sin {Nave's}
Sin {Torrey's}
Sin {Nave's}
Sin {Torrey's}
 




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