Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sin in the Bible - Part 4 Conclusion

The idea of sin is expressed early in Scripture and often throughout. One might even say that sin is the central theme of the Bible. What Christians today refer to as the Old Testament has a great many references to sin. The many words translated as sin into English are a bit overwhelming in terms of trying to come to a full understanding of sin. The same is true of the New Testament. In the OT, we see a focus on adhering to a moral code and God’s anger arising when there were violations of that code. The sacrificial system proved to be a temporary measure that was no longer needed once Christ came fulfilling the OT prophesy.

In the NT we see sin further defined and the progression from merely violating a moral code to a much more personal level. It is much more than a violation of a moral code but is more like a violation of a relationship between holy God and his creation. Sin is something inside each individual rather than something someone does or does not do. We see sin progress from something that can be committed unknowingly to being a part of who we are as people without our knowledge. As God’s revelation of his nature and the true state of humanity becomes complete, the need for something more than animal sacrifice is obvious. This of course is not the Messiah the Jewish people envision will come; just as God planned.

We see that nothing man can do will make things right between him and God thus the need for action on God’s part. In sending Christ to serve as a perfect sacrifice that would conquer sin once and for all, God provided a way for man to be reconciled to His holiness without contradicting His nature. Justice is served and creator and creature can once again have an intimate relationship.

Propitiation for sinners is not free. We also saw that the idea behind redemption is to be set free by the payment of a price. For those who would believe in Christ Jesus, we are no longer our own. We have been purchased at a very high price and to Jesus we owe the privilege of being unaffected by the second death which I understand to be a permanent state. Eternity in a lake of fire does not sound like a place to be.

What is sin? Sin is more than failing to allow God to be God. It is more than violating a moral code or creating a barrier between a right relationship with holy God. When I consider what sin is, I think of Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, Slobodan Milosevic, and others responsible for atrocities involved in the taking of human life. I think of pedophiles who hurt children and white collar criminals who steal the retirement assets of the elderly. I think of the millions of unborn children murdered and the glorification of abominations in the sight of our Lord being called choice and enshrined in the laws of the nations of the world.

The simple word sin does not begin to adequately describe the sheer horror our Lord would see if He were to look upon humanity and see us for what we truly are, saved and unsaved alike! Yet today, this is lost on a world filled with consumerism and secularism and the constant search for self-gratification. The true meaning of sin and the implications of sin have been sanitized to reflect a society in which truth is subjective. With this sanitized version of sin today also comes a desire for a bloodless gospel. Many a television preacher on the airwaves today speak for 30 minutes to an hour and never once mention sin, Hell, wrath, a need for redemption, or even the name of Jesus Christ for fear of offending someone. The less these talk of Christ the larger their congregations seem to grow.

For much of the world today, there are many truths and the individual can determine his/her own truth. Unfortunately, just as belief in a flat world did not make the world flat, neither does believing in one’s own ability to reach heaven. Why is sin a problem today? Because far too many people, even in our own pews, don’t see sin as a problem but rather a subjective idea open to the interpretation of the individual. More simply stated, sin is a problem because we have forgotten what sin really is and the consequences humanity faces apart from the salvation offered by Christ. Until this is corrected, there will be many a lost soul entering into the first death with no hope of being spared the second death spoke of in Revelation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sin in the Bible - Part 3 Sin Has Consequences

Part Three of the Series on Sin in the Bible
It is easy to see that proper Biblical view of sin should persuade one to conclude that sin can be a nasty business in the hearts and lives of men. Friends who have not accepted Christ don’t see this in themselves though most I know readily acknowledge sin in others, even if they don’t call it such. More often, it is more of an annoying behavior than anything else and certainly isn’t something for Christians to get upset over. Or is it? Why do Christians give of their time, talents, and finances to tell others about salvation from sin? A survey of the terminology used in the Jewish Scriptures (the Old Testament) and Christian Scriptures (the New Testament) clearly show readers what it thought of sin. Sin is much more than mistaken behavior against a moral code. Sin is part of who every human being is. So what’s the problem with sin? The answer to this is that sin has consequences and those consequences are far more serious that a speeding ticket.
Holiness
When God showed Ezekiel visions of sin in the temple in Jerusalem, He told of still greater abominations. This vision was progressive culminating with 25 priests turning their back on the temple of God and worshipping the sun in the east.[1] Here is a clear indication of increasing degrees of sin and hatefulness before God.[2] In OT times, the sacrificial system provided for incrementally greater sacrifices for the cleansing of sin though we learn from Hebrews 10:4 that the animal sacrifices were insufficient. More was needed. We see this in three words that appear throughout Scripture.
Forgiven (Gk. charizomai) means to grant favor, to give graciously, to forgive out of grace. (Ex. 34:6, 7 Num. 14:18. Lev. 4:20, 26 vs. 31,35;; Lev. 5:10–13; Num. 15:25. Lev. 5:4–10; Num. 14:20; 2 Sam. 12:13; 1 Kin. 8:33, 34 vs. 22–50.; Job 10:14; Psa. 19:12; Psa. 25:7, 11, 18; Psa. 32:1, 2, 5; Psa. 51:9; Psa. 65:3; Psa. 79:9; Psa. 85:2, 3; Psa. 99:8; Psa. 103:12; Psa. 130:4; Isa. 1:18; Isa. 6:6, 7; Isa. 43:25, 26; Isa. 44:21, 22; Isa. 55:6, 7; Jer. 2:22; Jer. 5:1, 7; Jer. 31:34; Jer. 33:8; Ezek. 33:14, 15; Matt. 1:21; Matt. 6:12, 14, 15; Matt. 18:23–27; Matt. 26:28; Mark 2:5, 7 Matt. 9:2, 6; Luke 5:21, 24. Mark 3:28; Mark 11:26 Matt. 18:35. Luke 3:3 Matt. 3:6. Luke 24:47; John 8:11; John 20:23; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:36, 43; Acts 13:38, 39; Acts 26:16–18; Rom. 4:7, 8; Eph. 4:32; Col. 2:13; Heb. 8:12; Heb. 9:22; Heb. 10:2, 17, 18; Jas. 5:15, 20; 1 John 1:7, 9; 1 John 2:1, 2, 12; 1 John 5:16 Matt. 12:31, 32; Luke 12:10. Rev. 1:5).[3] The number of occasions this idea is expressed in the Bible cannot be overstated. The Bible is, after all, a collection of books about the failings of humanity and the solution for those failings. An entire treatment of God’s grace is a topic about which volumes have already been written and will not be addressed here.
Redemption (Gk. apolutrosis) means to be set free by payment of a price. (Psa. 111:9; Psa. 130:7; Matt. 20:28 Mark 10:45. Luke 2:38; Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:24–26; 1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Cor. 7:23; Gal. 1:4; Gal. 2:20; Gal. 4:4, 5; Eph. 1:7; Eph. 5:2; Col. 1:14, 20–22; 1 Tim. 2:6; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 9:12, 15; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; Rev. 5:9, 10).[4] The Apostle Paul established the payment for redemption – the Blood of Jesus Christ.[5] The ultimate payment for the sin of the human race was paid by Jesus Christ as a perfect sacrifice accomplishing what the animal sacrifices could not. The sacrificial system ended with Christ as explained in Romans 10:4 with Christ being the end of the Law.
Propitiation (from Gk. hilasmos and hilasterion) means to appease or atone for. (Rom. 3:25; 5:1, 10, 11; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19; Col. 1:20–22; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Heb. 9:5).[6] Atonement for sin was necessary due to God being holy. Through the shed blood of Christ, God’s holiness has been satisfied and His wrath averted.[7]
Holiness in relation to God refers to his moral perfection.[8] Habakkuk 1:13 tells us that God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil. Evil is sin and all men are sinners. The New International Version of the Bible includes the thought “there is no difference”[9] further emphasizing that, all people are evil in the sight of God requiring forgiveness.
The Proper Place of God
All men are sinners! All people start life with something other than God at the center of their lives. This is difficult for many unbelievers to accept. I was recently challenged to find a child that required lessons in being dishonest. Though I had heard this example in the past, I had never given it much thought. As one might expect, I was unable to find such a child.
People throughout the Bible and up to our own day place things other than God at the center of their lives. This can be money, possessions, and even church. Erickson calls this idea a displacement of God and summarizes his view as simply failure to let God be God. The act of choosing our desires is not wrong because it is something we as people desire but rather because it is something, anything other than God chosen.[10] Erickson further points out that this idea is supported in both the OT and NT.[11]
God deserves to be the center of the lives of His creation. “Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him all the earth” (Ps. 96:9) as quoted by Williams before pointing out that God majestic presence calls for the response of worship and reverence.[12] To do anything less is to usurp God’s authority and attempt to replace it for our own which, no matter how well intentioned, is far and away inferior to God.
Death
Paul told us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God[13] and that the wages of sin is death.[14] Paul’s point in Romans 3 is that there is no difference between the Jews or the Gentiles. Paul goes on to say in Romans 4 that Abraham was saved by faith and not by circumcision. The Law did not save and never did! Because sin entered into the world through Adam, so too did death.[15] In Romans 6:23, Paul is pointing out that we will receive what we have earned, like wages, death.[16] The Biblical references to death as a consequence of sin are understood as references to separation from God, spiritual death, rather than physical death.[17] Sin has created a barrier between man and God as pointed out previously.
Of particular note is the concept of eternal death. Hebrews 9:27 tells us it is appointed to all people to die once and then the judgment. Those whose names are not found in the book of life will find themselves cast into the lake of fire with death and Hades. This is referred to as the second death.[18] This is the eventual result of not having a saving faith in Jesus Christ while here on earth. We are to be faithful unto death, the first death or physical death, and we will not be hurt by the second death.[19]


[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Ezekiel 8:6-16.
[2] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 502.
[3]Swanson, James ; Nave, Orville: New Nave's. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1994).
[4]Ibid
[5] Enns, Paul P. The Moody Handbook of Theology. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), 110.
[6] Swanson, James ; Nave, Orville: New Nave's. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1994).
[7] Enns, Paul P. The Moody Handbook of Theology. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), 110.
[8] Williams, J. R., (Elwell, Walter A., ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 562-63.
[9] The Holy Bible: New International Version (electronic ed.). (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Rom. 3:22-23.
[10] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 595-98.
[11] See Exodus 20:3 and Mark 12:30 respectively. In the OT God tells Israel that they shall have no other gods before Him. In the NT, Jesus commands us to love God will everything we are.
[12] Williams, J. R., (Elwell, Walter A., ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 562-63.
[13] Rom. 3:23
[14] Rom. 6:23.
[15] Rom. 5:12.
[16] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 628.
[17] Ibid, 629.
[18] Rev. 20:14.
[19] Rev. 2:11.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sin in the Bible - Part 2 Greek Words


New Testament Words For Sin

Bloesch points out that the meaning of sin in a religion based on law is quite different than one based on the gospel.[i] Bloesch goes on to state that sin from the evangelical perspective is more the breaking of a covenantal relationship rather than an infringement of a moral code.[ii] The words translated as sin in the NT certainly reflect this view.

Similar to what we found in the OT Hebrew, there are many words translated as sin in the Greek used in the NT. In the NT, there are 12 words translated into English as sin as seen in Figure 2.[iii] As with the Hebrew, I will only address some of those words here. The most common of the Greek words translated into English as sin is ἁμαρτία [hamartia /ham·ar·tee·ah/] and is the Greek equivalent of חָטָא, חֶטְאָה, חָטָא [chata’ /khaw·taw/] meaning to miss the mark.[iv] In the NT, hamartia appears 174 times and is translated as sin, sinful, or offense (Mt 18:21; Lk 15:18; Jn 9:2; Ac 25:8; Ro 3:23; 6:15; 1Co 6:18; Eph 4:26; 1Ti 5:20; Heb 10:26; 1Pe 2:20; 2Pe 2:4; 1Jn 1:10; 5:16; Jn 8:11 v.r.)[v]. As a synonym of the Hebrew, hamartia also carries the implication that the sin offense committed is intentional in nature on the part of the individual committing the sin. Ryrie opines that when a NT writer wanted one inclusive word for sin, he used this word.[vi]

Ryrie goes on to state that when hamartia is used in the Gospels, it almost always occurs in a context that speaks of salvation or forgiveness.[vii] Instructive references include Acts 2:38; Rom. 5:12; 6:1; 1 Cor. 5:21; Jam. 1:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 1:7; 2:2; and Rev. 1:5.

κακῶς [kakos /kak·oce/] used as an adjective appears 51 time and another 16 times as an adverb. It is translated as evil, evil things, that which is evil, wicked, and bad among several others. The principle idea behind kakos is being of a bad nature or of a mode of thinking, feeling, or acting.[viii] Simply put, moral badness is at the heart of the meaning of kakos.[ix]

ἔνοχος [enochos /en·okh·os/], though appearing only 10 times in Scripture, implies a strong connection to one’s crime and guilt sufficient enough to warrant death (Matt. 5:21-22; Mark 14:64; James 2:10).[x]

ἀγνοέω [agnoeo /ag·no·eh·o/] appears 22 times and translates as be ignorant, ignorant, not know, and understand not. This Greek word carries the connotation of sinning through ignorance or by making a mistake.[xi] Ryrie brings to our attention that this word may refer to ignorant worship of something other than the true God as in Acts 17:23 and Rom. 2:4 but that such ignorance still leaves one guilty and in need of atonement.[xii]

Often used when referring to unsaved people as in Rom. 1:18, ἀδικία [adikia /ad·ee·kee·ah/] usually translates as unrighteousness but is also occasionally translated as iniquity, unjust, and wrong.[xiii] Adikia generally means a deed violating law and justice or an unrighteous life and heart.[xiv]

Slightly stronger language than adikia is ἀσεβής [asebes /as·eb·ace/] which is translated ungodly and once as ungodly men. Mostly appearing in 2 Peter and Jude, the Biblical usage refers to godless apostates.[xv]

Also in common with the Hebrew, there are additional words in the Greek that could also be included here. Rather than continue this exercise, the remaining What is clear is that sin is contrary to God and has to be addressed. Returning to Systematic Theology mentioned in the introduction for a moment, it is now more easily understood how systematic theologians can arrive at views of sin with a slant that makes their system flow more smoothly. The interpretations they make are defensible in light of the limitations of translations. It is also clearer why study of Hebrew and Greek is so very important to the understanding of the Biblical text. Without a basic knowledge of at least one of these languages, proper exegesis is limited to the most dedicated of laypeople and to theologians and seminarians; a status in my view that at the very least undesirable. With a rather basic word study completed, I will now shift my focus to the very reason sin is a problem.


[i] Bloesch, D. G., (Elwell, Walter A., ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 1106.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] McDaniel, Chip, and C. John Collins. The ESV English-Hebrew Reverse Interlinear Old Testament. (Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2006; 2009). Figure 2 illustrates the various Greek words translated as sin.

[iv] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G266.

[v] Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos research Systems, Inc., 1997), DBLG 279. Please note that the reference to John 8:11 is variant reading in a manuscript included by the author of the work cited.

[vi] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1999), 241-42.

[vii] Ibid. See Matt. 1:21; John 1:29.

[viii] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G2560.

[ix] Mark 7:21-23 is an especially poignant illustration of this moral badness where Christ, describing the things that defile a man, goes right to the evil heart of men and how it is what comes from the heart that is evil.

[x] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G1777.

[xi] Ibid, G50.

[xii] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1999), 241-42.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G93.

[xv] Ibid, G765.