What the Bible says about
God's Standard of Morality
(From Forerunner Commentary)
After Jacob's ten sons sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery in Egypt, they spent two decades haunted by an ever-present feeling of guilt. Whenever Egypt was mentioned, they experienced a pang of culpability for what they had done. The English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, poignantly expresses the mood of this menacing memory: “From the body of one guilty deed a thousand ghostly fears and haunting thoughts proceed.”
Most people believe sin occurs only between themselves and some impersonal, arbitrary law made up in former times to keep people from enjoying themselves. The only reason today's youth seem to have been given for moral integrity is “because the church says the Bible tells us so.” For this reason, many waste their time trying to undermine the credibility of Scripture and the authority of the church. If they can overturn them, they reason, they will be free to have all the fun non-Christians supposedly have.
In this progressive culture, people believe that morality changes from age to age and culture to culture. Society decides what is right and wrong. Under this reasoning, sin depends on the circumstances of the moment. Through the media and entertainment, the world promotes quite a different level of moral acceptability than God's standards, illustrating Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
What happens to our sense of sin when God's standards seem no longer to be valid? For an answer, all we need to do is take a look at our global society—its violence, sexual immorality, greed, stealing, and lying resulting in mass deaths, horrible diseases, rampant fraud, massive distrust, and misery. Why is it like this? “Where there is no revelation [divine vision], the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). This is why the standard of right and wrong can only come from one who is perfect—our Creator, the Almighty God.
The apostle Paul writes in Romans 7:14 that God's law is spiritual. The average person, however, considers laws as strictly physical guidelines that were invented to restrict him. But in the widest sense of the word, man's relationship to God, affected by sin, is what constitutes guilt. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and guilt is the result of that separation.
Martin G. Collins
Should We Ignore Our Feelings of Guilt?
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
1 Corinthians 11:3
The apostle Paul states an order of authority established by God that we need to understand. By means of the parallel between deity and mankind in God's order, Paul shows that a wife's submission to her husband in marriage does not imply her inferiority. How? In the parallel, Christ is not inferior to God the Father. All that God's order defines in this case is subordination. As the Father and Son are equally divine, the husband and wife are equally human. Even as the Father and Son have different roles in their relationship, so do the husband and wife in God's purposes for the family.
In terms of government, there is a distinctive and deliberate similarity between the two organizations. Government is merely a system of operation, a means of directing and controlling so that the purposes of an organization are achieved. Though the Son is one with the Father, being of the same substance, power, and glory, He nonetheless voluntarily submits to the Father. In human marriage, husband and wife, like the Father and Son, are also essentially the same. In marriage, the submission of a woman to her husband is also intended to be voluntary.
It is at this juncture that Satan, using men he controls through subtle deceits, has dealt a devastating blow to our culture.
“Humanist” is a descriptor given to those who have abandoned a belief in God and religion. Some people refer to such people as “secularists.” Most of them claim atheism. Many of them are university-educated and earn salaries that place them in upper-middle-class income brackets. They also tend to be in positions of authority in government, business, education, and entertainment. Their reputations in the community often carry a great deal of influence. However, having abandoned God, their true spirituality and morality are terribly skewed, making their influence anti-God.
Satan, using the humanists' influence, has convinced a large percentage of the public that sex and love are the same, a major departure from what was once generally believed in American culture. Sex and love are not equivalent. Love is so much greater in importance than sex that there is no adequate comparison.
Humanists have also managed to convince many that everything is morally irrelevant. This, too, is untrue, but many fail to think it through. In reality, moral irrelevance actually drives marriages apart.
In God's standard of morality, He is quite specific. For example, within marriage, sex is totally, completely, and absolutely limited to one's legal partner in that specific marriage. There are no exceptions.
We find another restriction in I Corinthians 7:3-4:
Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
Even before marriage, both the man's and the woman's body belongs to their future spouses. Their bodies are not theirs to “just play around with.” This teaches us that fornication contributes to weakening a marriage that has not even occurred yet! Each partner in a marriage belongs to the other even before the marriage takes place. It is therefore each person's responsibility to preserve the body's sexual purity for the one he or she will marry.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Six)
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