What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God asks the questions to impress them on their minds, allowing Adam and Eve to convict themselves with thoughtful and honest answers. Honest, yes, and very revealing. Both cast a measure of blame away from themselves. They plainly believe that they are not to blame and should not bear full responsibility for their transgressions.
Thus began mankind's practice of self-justification in defense of sin. But neither Satan nor anyone else made them sin. Nobody twisted their arms. Notice how the sin of self-justification intensifies the original sin. By attempting to dodge responsibility, claiming that circumstances made them sin, they compounded their sin by lying.
Adam's sin is particularly egregious, blaming God's gift to him, Eve, whom he had held in such high regard just moments before. In a somewhat roundabout manner, he is blaming God, essentially saying, “God, if you hadn't given me this woman, I wouldn't have sinned!”
Similarly, Eve says, “If You hadn't allowed that Serpent into the Garden, I wouldn't have sinned.” Today, we might say that it is in our genes to sin; that we grew up in a bad neighborhood; that our parents failed to teach us; or that our father or mother was a drug addict or alcoholic. Some of those circumstances may be true, but they do not make us sin.
God is teaching us that, regarding sin, circumstances offer us little assistance when under God's judgment. Should a situation that invites sin arise, it is our responsibility to exercise faith and control ourselves, remaining in alignment with God's righteousness. When he told his audience that he had done something wrong, comedian Flip Wilson claimed, “The Devil made me do it!” and everybody laughed. But that, too, is simply a backhanded way of blaming God, as He created the angelic being who became the Devil.
We can reach a couple of brief conclusions from our evaluation of Adam and Eve's experience:
First, if we do not honestly and fully accept responsibility for our sins before God, we will surely reap their grim effects. Sin's fruit, regardless of the circumstances in which it is committed, is always the same. When sin occurs in the course of history makes no difference. Adam's and Eve's sins occurred at the outset of mankind's history, and they are still affecting us. Not every sin has this level of power, but the potential exists. Besides the death of the sinner, like leaven, sin's effect is to spread from its initial point of origin.
Second, as shown by Adam's and Eve's excuses, self-justification tends to blind us to God's goodness, His gifts, because it intensifies what originally occurred. In our haste to absolve ourselves, we forget things that God has provided us: life itself, a mind that can gather information, the ability to reason, the ability to remember, and a spirit that, not only makes us human, but confers the potential to be like God. Adam's blaming of God for His gift of Eve reveals his horrendous ingratitude for what he had been given.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Seven)
2 Kings 21:19-21
When parents sin, they provide their children with an opportunity to justify sin. The impact of such sin is devastating to a nation when the sins of kings influence their heirs. Some of the kings of Judah probably made excuses similar to those parents use today. How often parents excuse bad behavior by saying, "It's okay, honey. You didn't have your nap"; "You're having a bad day"; or "Johnny next door is a bad influence on you." Our society has become so good at self-justification that people who cannot find any plausible excuse commonly plead "temporary insanity." In most cases, it really is only a justification to get away with abusing our fellow man. It might succeed in man's court, but not in God's.
Overcoming (Part 2): Self-Justification
Can a lazy person be proud? We have a saying: "Poor but humble." According to God's Word, all too frequently a reason that a person is poor is because he is proud. The truth is often just the opposite of the saying.
How do many wealthy people become so rich? It is because they are willing to take advice and apply it. They humbly listen to the counsel of those with experience, who are already successful, and in following that advice, they themselves become successful. Their humility leads them to seek counsel and follow the advice.
On the other hand, the poor are frequently poor because they either will not seek the advice, or if they do seek it, they find reasons not to apply it. God is referring to this inaction here. Laziness is a sign of pride.
We would not normally think a person who is out of a job and needs one desperately would do that. However, a lazy person thinks so much of himself that he believes that things should come to him without working. He thus justifies or excuses himself, saying:
"The conditions really are not quite right."
"If I am going to do that job, I first need a new car."
"That job is too far away."
"The pay is not enough for all that I would have to do."
"If I go there, I will have to move."
He is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who can render a sensible reason. At the root of his "wisdom" is pride.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)
What if a ruler, the one to whom we are to submit, is an oppressive person? What if he is just incompetent or stupid, and we know better how to do the job that he is supposed to be doing? What if the person is sexually immoral or financially greedy? Does God still want us to submit? What protection do we have in these kinds of circumstances?
Abomination that it is, those in authority often do evil. They might have serious character flaws that catch their victims in the effects of their flaws. What is so maddening is that they justify their ways—seeing them as good—and they will turn around and blame the innocent for the evils that occur.
For example, the proverb says that "all the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes." The incompetent man does not think to himself, "I'm really dumb, stupid, idiotic, and shouldn't even have this job." The sexually immoral person does not see himself as perverse. Most prostitutes will say, "Yes, I'm doing wrong according to the law, but I am providing a needed and wanted service. If it weren't I would have no customers." They justify themselves; they are pure in their own eyes.
Consider the enemies of Jesus. They felt justified in taking His life on the grounds that He was stirring up the people. No one on earth has ever been more innocent, yet they justified what they were doing because the people were being stirred up by Him. They accused Him of being a revolutionary, a threat to community stability.
If we are in a position like this—under an oppressive ruler who justifies the way he is doing things, and we are suffering the effects of his actions—we feel like powerless pawns being taken advantage of. We feel that he is denying us the liberty to do what we want. Should we submit or rebel?
To know what to do, we must look at what Jesus did in a similar circumstance. This is not an occasion in which the authority figure demands submission, and in submitting, we must break the law of God. The situation does not involve being forced to sin, but simply submitting to one who is unreasonable and oppressive.
John 19:10 is part of Jesus' trial for His very life before Pilate, and occurs after He was scourged: "Then Pilate said to Him, 'Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?'" He could choose to do either. Pilate was a corrupt official. His record, according to secular history, was not at all good. The Jews despised him for his harsh ways.
"Jesus answered, 'You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin'" (John 19:11). His response is very meaningful. It clearly shows His attitude, His approach, to every circumstance of His life.
To be in the same frame of mind, we must ask ourselves, "Do we see God?" Is He really a part of our lives? Is He really running this creation? Is He really sitting at the controls of things? Is He really aware of us as individuals? Does He have every hair on our heads numbered? Are we really the apple of His eye? Are our lives really in His hands? Have we really given them to Him, or are we holding part of ourselves in reserve?
"You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above." Jesus saw life very clearly and simply: that God was in complete control of everything going on in the universe. Not that everything was being directed by Him in the sense that He was causing it to occur, but that Jesus believed with every fiber of His being that God was with Him all the time, everywhere, and at every moment. He knew that His life was in His Father's hands and that Pilate could do nothing against Him unless God allowed it.
Would God have us submit, or be faced with submitting, to somebody who was cruel, hard-hearted, incompetent, sexually unbalanced, perverted, stupid, or financially greedy? Would He have us live and work under such a person? He put His own Son in that position! Everything at Jesus' trial and crucifixion looked as though it was totally stacked against Him. Carnally, it seems as if He had every right to rebel. He could have replied, "Do you not know to whom you are doing this?" Instead, He says, in paraphrase, "You would not have the power to do anything except that My Father passed on this. And He is now looking at Me to see how I am going to respond. Will I submit to the authority that He has permitted to be over Me right now?"
Do we see God in our lives like this? We have to begin to look at ourselves differently than the way people in the world look at themselves. We must decide whether we are in God's hand or not. Do we have the faith to trust that we are, and that these constituted authorities are also in His hand? Do we believe that He is aware of what is going on and that He deeply cares about what we will do in each situation? As He did with Abraham, He must know what kind of witness we are going to make (see Genesis 22).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) contrasts two different attitudes: self-righteousness and humility. The two men who go to the Temple to pray contrast in character, belief, and self-examination, representing opposite sides of the law. The Pharisee corresponds to the self-righteous, merciless worshipper of the law, and the tax collector exemplifies the humiliated lawbreaker. Both are sinners, although the outward form of their sins differs. Both men allow the judgment that they had already formed about themselves to determine the form and wording of their prayers.
As Luke comments, the parable's purpose is to expose those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." Despised, which literally means "to count as nothing," describes the religious egotism the Pharisees repulsively personified. Jesus' intention is to rebuke this self-righteous trust in the self, as well as self-righteous loathing of others. Not only do the self-righteous think they are safe from God's judgment, but they also habitually disdain others as not being as righteous as they are and therefore deserving of God's judgment. Although it involves prayer, this parable is not one about how to pray as much as it is on how to be justified before God.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
The word scripture refers to the Old Testament. Paul writes in a way where the Scripture is personified ("foreseeing"), but the intent is clear that the Scripture is being spoken of in terms of the Author. The One who inspired the Old Testament (Scripture) foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles through faith. This means that the doctrine of justification by faith is contained in the Old Testament (Psalm 130:3, 143:2; Exodus 34:7; Job 4:17, 9:2-3,29, 15:14, 25:4; Ecclesiastes 7:20), and is not something contained just in the New—if not directly, then at least indirectly by showing that we cannot justify ourselves in God's eyes. (God foretells of this Gentile justification in Isaiah 49:6, 22-23, 60.)
The phrase "would justify" is in the present indicative sense, which means that it is now, and at all times, God's one way of justification. Here it would better be translated as "justifies." God justifies through faith—He always has, and as long as the present order of things continues, He always will. There was never a time when a person could have been justified by their works or actions.
Faith in Christ is the means by which God would justify the heathens ("the nations"—the Gentiles), but that justification does not mean they were allowed to remain Gentiles (heathens) in a spiritual sense. Being justified does not mean we are told we have not done anything wrong. Being justified means we are brought into legal alignment with God and His law, so the sin-induced gulf between God and man can be overcome and the relationship can begin. The physical Gentiles are/were given the opportunity to repent (Acts 11:18), which coincides with justification, but even repentance means that a change in behavior (works) must be made. God saves us from our sins, not in our sins.
David C. Grabbe
We are involved in an awesome adventure, but we are blind to many particulars that will affect us. What is emphasized from Abraham's life is his trust in God. Trust is the most powerful fruit, the strongest, clearest evidence, of belief. Trust is faith in action, setting a truly converted person apart from one who believes only intellectually. The Christian must live his life by faith.
Lack of trust is a major reason why young people "go bad" in their teen years. They do not really trust their parents. Rather, they trust other teens; they trust what they see in movies extolling the popular culture; they trust what they hear songs saying to their emotions. They trust their own thoughts and their own experiences, but Mom and Dad are low on the influence scale.
Notice, however, what Jesus says of Abraham regarding this principle: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56). Abraham saw Christ as the Savior and Author of eternal salvation in his mind's eye and demonstrated his trust in this fact through his conduct. Abraham's proceeding on despite not knowing where he was going demonstrates that he put himself unreservedly in God's hands. He actually performed what he said he believed despite its potential cost. His feet, as it were, gave proof of what was in his heart by where and how he walked.
Jesus teaches this principle in Matthew 16:24-26:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Abraham did this to a degree few have even come close to matching. To deny ourselves is to set aside our claims on the day-to-day use of our time and energy in favor of another. Often God's commands seem demanding, even severe, but accepting God's calling has placed the burden of this responsibility squarely on our shoulders.
There can be no doubt that Abraham's neighbors thought he was loopy, even as Noah's neighbors undoubtedly thought he was crazy for building an ark. People of the world cannot truly understand the actions of one who walks by faith because their perspectives on the value of things are usually quite different. If confronted with similar knowledge and circumstances without God's gracious calling and gift of faith, the unconverted will adjust through compromise and self-justification. They will rationalize that under their "special" circumstances, God would surely not expect such things of them. The world of the unconverted is governed by its limited, carnal senses and feelings, not by faith in God's character. They walk by sight.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)
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