What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
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 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
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
The same thought is expressed in Genesis 6:5-7, when the Lord repented that He had made man to live on the earth. It never occurred to God that humans could become so wretched that every imagination, every thought that came to mind was only evil continually. The only thing He could think to do to preserve these people for their time of visitation (salvation) would be to wipe them out before their minds became so abominably corrupted, their conscience so defiled, their character so set, their heart, mind, and spirit so evil, that repentance would be impossible. The only thing to do would be to put them to death, to set them apart for a time when they would have an opportunity for salvation, when the kinds of temptations that were in the world at that time would not be present.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part Five)
In Hosea's time, landowners had a system of surveying in which they used stone pillars to mark out the boundaries of their farms. These princes of Judah came out at night—when nobody could see them—and move the pillars so that their properties would get a little bit larger.
We can apply the principle here to real life in relation to sin. The princes of Judah did what we call today "pushing the envelope," pushing the boundaries of what was considered to be safe, right, and within the law. A person will push repeatedly on the edges of what he considers to be acceptable and not sin until the conscience adjusts, and what he formerly would not be caught dead doing—because it would smite his conscience and he would feel terribly guilty—now he can accept as being not so bad
Are we keeping the Sabbath in the same way we kept it twenty years ago? Have we pushed the envelope so that what we would not be caught dead doing twenty years ago we will now do without even thinking about it?
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part Three)
Before Amos gives specific reasons for God's judgment on Israel, he explains His judgment on the surrounding nations in Amos 1:3—2:3. Some may question God's punishment of nations to whom He has not revealed Himself. But God's response is that every human being knows—to one degree or another—what is moral and immoral (Romans 2:14-15). Abimelech, a pagan king of the Philistines, knew that it was wrong to commit sexual immorality (Genesis 26:10). In like manner, God holds these surrounding nations guilty.
Man has learned to silence the voice of his conscience (Romans 1:18), which has led to his sinking into total depravity (verses 20-32). Though God does not hold man accountable for understanding every detail of Him and His way, God does judge him for suppressing the knowledge of Him that he does have.
God does not unfairly accuse anyone. When He judges the Gentile nations as guilty, He does it with good cause. David writes poetically in Psalm 19:1-4 that man has ample evidence in the creation to conclude that a great and awesome Creator God exists. In Lystra, Paul and Barnabas preached that God witnesses to the Gentiles through the many things He provides for them (Acts 14:12-17). Paul writes similarly in Romans 1:19: "What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them." If he follows his conscience, man should bow down in reverence and awe to his Maker. Instead, mankind has worshipped things that God has made.
God's impartial judgment is important to this book. The nations around Israel in 760 BC had one negative common denominator: They had no revelation of God or His law, no priests or prophets from God. Yet Amos shows them as nations under judgment. Even without special revelation, they had a moral responsibility to God and to one another.
They were accountable to God to be good men, not depraved animals. He does not hold them responsible for their horrible and erroneous religious ideas, but He judges them for what they did or failed to do to other men. No human being can escape the obligation to be humanly moral as God intended, not even the Gentiles. Though God has never dealt directly with them, they know enough of His moral standards to be accountable to God.
If God requires this of men who have no revelation of Him, what does He require of us as Christians? The sobering fact is that we are held accountable for our relationship with both God and man. This underlines our need to listen to Amos.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)
In one way or another, these Gentile nations took vengeance in retaliation for injustices that they believed other nations committed against them. God promises to judge their barbarity, but He does not say when. Many years may pass before He takes action because His overriding goal is repentance and a change in character.
He will execute proper judgment—true justice, and it is our responsibility to have faith in that. Fifty years passed before God avenged the depredating acts of Hazael, king of Syria, against Gilead (Amos 1:3; II Kings 10:32-33). God waited for the right time and place to act. But He did act with a punishment from which He will not turn back (II Kings 13:22-25). When He decides to act, He acts!
When He says that He knows our sitting down and rising up (Psalm 139:2), He is not speaking metaphorically. He is involved with His people. We must learn that sometimes God may not take action within our lifetime, but when He says, "I will repay" (Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35), He means it!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)
In Romans 14, the subject is not clean and unclean foods but eating meat versus vegetarianism (verse 2). Paul admonishes Christians not to pass judgment on others for eating meat or for eating only vegetables (verse 3).
The question that confronted Paul was not that God's people were suggesting that somehow unclean animals had now been made clean, but the belief of some that no meat—even meat that had been created to be eaten with thanksgiving—should be eaten at all. The apostle points out that it would be wrong for the vegetarians to eat meat if they had doubts about it, as it would defile their consciences (verse 23). He concludes, "For whatever is not of faith is sin."
Verse 14 is a proof text used by the world to conclude that all meat is now fine to eat: "I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean." This is another verse that has been poorly translated to conform to preconceived notions.
The problem is with the word "unclean," which does not appear in the Greek text. To mean "unclean," Paul would have used akarthatos, but instead, the text reads koinos, which means "common," "ordinary," "defiled," or "profane (as opposed to holy or consecrated)." Peter uses both "common" and "unclean" to describe meats in Acts 10:14, so there is obviously a difference between the terms.
We know that the Bible defines "unclean" meat in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, but when is meat considered "common"? The only circumstances in which clean meats are common or defiled are when a clean animal dies naturally or is torn by beasts (Leviticus 22:8) or when the blood has not been properly drained from the meat (Leviticus 17:13-14; 3:17). Such animal flesh was called common because it could be given to strangers or aliens in Old Testament times if they wished to eat it (Deuteronomy 14:21). Similarly, in Acts 15:20, 29, the apostles forbade the Gentiles to eat the meat of a strangled animal or meat that had not been drained of blood.
In the case of Romans 14:14, it is likely that "defiled" would be the best term, as the meat under discussion was probably that offered to idols then sold in the marketplace for public consumption. To paraphrase, then, the verse should read: ". . . there is nothing defiled of itself; but to him who considers anything to be defiled, to him it is defiled."The meat was not defiled in fact, just in the minds of various church members, whom Paul had earlier called "weak" (verse 2). These "weak in the faith" Christians believed that, because the meat had been offered to a pagan idol, it had become spiritually defiled.
Paul explains in I Corinthians 8:4-7 that the demon behind the idol is nothing, for "there is no other God but one" (verse 4). Thus, there is no "spiritual" taint to the meat.
However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (verses 7-8)
So we see that in these verses that Paul is not in any manner doing away with God's laws concerning clean and unclean meat. The topic does not even come up! He is discussing meat defiled or profaned due to its association with a pagan idol.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Did God Change the Law of Clean and Unclean Meats?
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
1 John 3:20
This is vitally important to us because we of all people are subject to intense feelings of self-condemnation and guilt from knowing that we are not living up to God's standard. We truly care about what God thinks of us because we know more than most about Him.
Our faith is not to be blind and unthinking but based on truth. Our application of faith in light of this verse necessitates a fascinating balance between two extremes that arise from our more precise knowledge of God's way. Both extremes are wrong. The first extreme is that we live life in constant guilt and fear that God's hammer will fall and smash us to smithereens at any moment due to our imperfections.
The second is a laissez-faire, God-is-very-merciful-and-tolerant, He-understands-my-weaknesses attitude. In this extreme, sins are accepted as part of the normal course of life, and no determined effort is made to overcome them. Some have given in to a particular sin, exclaiming, "God understands my needs." God also understands rebellion.
But whatever happened to Jesus' strong admonition, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out," or "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off" (Matthew 5:29-30)? Certainly, He does not mean this literally, but it illustrates the serious determination, vigor, and strength we are to employ in overcoming sin. Those who minimize sin come close to trampling the Son of God underfoot and putting His sacrifice to an open shame (see Hebrews 6:6; 10:29).
How good is the sacrifice of such a person's life? He is guilty of practicing sin. John writes, "Whoever is born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God" (I John 3:9). Later, in Revelation 22:15, he adds, "But outside [the New Jerusalem] are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie." Such people will not be in God's Kingdom.
Their consciences have adjusted in a similar way to the situation in Malachi 1. Sin, a defiled life, is acceptable, and their attitude seems to be that God will just have to be satisfied with children who will not strive to overcome. This is dangerous business indeed because God says only those who overcome will inherit all things (Revelation 21:7). Is God satisfied with such a situation? Does He not desire a better offering from His children for their welfare and His glory? If He is not content, the fellowship is either already broken or is breaking down.
Our concern, however, is for those who are striving to overcome but still failing from time to time—those who know they are not living up to the standard and struggle with a guilty conscience and feel their fellowship with God is cut off because of occasional sin. The majority of us probably fall into this category.
When we commit the occasional sin, are we no longer acceptable to God? Is our fellowship truly cut off? While it is true that sin separates us from Him, do we remain unsatisfied because we feel there is no communion? Once again, God's grace rescues us from what would otherwise be an impossible situation.
The answer to this confounding situation lies in a change of our natures arising from repentance, receipt of God's Holy Spirit, and—perhaps above all—access to God through Jesus Christ. Through these come fellowship and experience with Them throughout the remainder of life and access to God's merciful grace when we fall short. There can be no doubt we are saved by grace through faith. Our depression and extreme self-condemnation reveals a lack of faith in God's willingness to forgive upon repentance. Though works are required of us, we cannot earn our way into the Kingdom through them because they will forever fall short in providing payment for sin.
There is a tension between the two extremes of excessive guilt and feelings of worthlessness in contrast to the casual, careless, irresponsible, "God will just have to take me as I am" disregard of our responsibility to glorify God in all we think, say, and do.
This is why John says, "God is greater than our heart." He is ever willing to accept us as Christ—even though we personally bring Him blemished offerings in our life's experiences—as long as our attitude has not turned to trampling the sacrifice of His Son underfoot and treating it as a common thing.
We will never enter into God's acceptance and fellowship based on any work of offering we sacrifice to Him. The only thing He will accept is the unblemished offering of Christ's life, and because it accompanies or precedes us into His presence, we are accepted, have communion with Him, and are fed.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Four): The Peace Offering
This is where today's violence is headed. When people begin killing Christians, they will not feel any sense of wrong in doing so than those who are currently aborting babies. By that time, justifications will have been made, minds will have adjusted, and they will think, "We need to get rid of these people because they are a threat to society. They don't deserve to live."
Do Arabs and Israelis not find justifications for killing one another? Do dictators not find justifications for killing dissidents? The mind, the conscience, adjusts, and when that happens, people feel justified in what they are doing.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Handwriting Is on the Wall (1995)
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