Monday, July 24, 2006
sins and Sin
Evangelical Christians have long distinguished a difference between sins and sin. Sins are the outward expression; sin is the inward dynamic. A tree is recognisable through its fruit, but it is not the fruit which produces the tree but the reverse. All tbe fruit may be removed from a tree, but the removal of the fruit will not alter the nature of the tree. Given the proper conditions the fruit will return evidencing the life which is within.
The Finnish language has dozens of different words for snow. Each word conveying some important feature of the particular kind of snow; its wetness, its usability for building etc. To the Finns snow is never just snow. They have become highly sensitized to ‘snow. In a similar manner the Hebrew people of God became highly sensitized to ‘sin’.
The scriptures have several different words for man's failure to comply with God's expectations. One word means to miss the target, as a wayward arrow.(1) Another means to be lawless (2) and yet another means to cross a barrier(3) . Sometimes the scripture will string together a whole list of them as in the phrase keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin(4) .
Sometimes the scripture takes one single area of life and declares that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue alone is implicated in blasphemy, lies, slander, gossip, backbiting, murmuring etc; here is a world within a world. Small wonder that James describes it as being humanly untamable(5) .
The outsiders’ notion that God is not pleased with mankind has an obvious Bible base. One central purpose of the relationship into which God brought the people of Israel was that they would become convinced of their sinfulness(6). Rather than enhancing man's self-image much of God's purpose under the law was to demolish man's too good an impression of himself. The Law of Moses was never given as a means of do-it-yourself salvation; it was given to reveal man's true condition and to restrain it. This is tellingly recorded in our Lord's conversation with the religious leaders of His day; the law concerning divorce had been given not to acquire merit or to eliminate sin, but because of the hardheartedness of man(7) .
The positive expression of God's expectation from His people is expressed in the couplet You shall love God; you shall love your neighbour, but for the people of Israel it was expressed in the main in a serious of negatives beginning You shall not. Right living cannot be created by legislation, but wrong living can be exposed and restrained by it.
The true nature of the problem was illustrated again by our Lord in His contention with the Pharisees from Jerusalem who were insistent upon the outward niceties. Our Lord's point is that sins of evil thoughts, murder, immorality, crime, and the like were not the causes of mankind's problem, but rather the symptoms of it(8) . It was not the outward which polluted the inward; it was the inward which poluuted the outward. The most the law could do was to identify and restrain the outward failure; the cure would have to be sought elsewhere.
Romans identifies the Adam-Death that mankind has experienced by the use of the definite article and describes it as a king upon a throne. In this image Death is personified; It is not only an absence of 1ife, but the illegal reign of an alien power. Romans refers to Sin a similar way. ‘The Sin’ entered; ‘the Sin’ was the channel for ‘The Death’; ‘the Sin’ reigned(9) .
There is a vital spiritual revelation to be seen here. ‘The'Sin’ entered. Something passed from the outside to the inside; that is a workable definition of the word entered. A change of status is revealed. ‘The Sin’ is older than the human race, but there was a point in time when The Sin entered the human race. Through the man Adam ‘The Sin’ found entrance into the human race and brought ‘The Death’ as its companion.
The Greek word enter is the most usual word used for enter in the New Testament. There are, however, one or two uses of the word which may illustrate further the enormity of what happened to the human race of that day. John records that Jesus gave to Judas Iscariot a choice part of the meal and continues after the piece of bread; Satan entered him(10) . A second is even more sobering; Behold; I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me(11) .
This latter reference speaks not only of entrance but of a consequent relationship; a relationship which was to be the consequence of entrance through an opened door. I am making a conscious effort to understate things here rather than be drawn into extreme speculations, but we seem to be reading of profound things. It is plain that Satan's entrance into Judas had some profound effect upon him; it is also plain that Christ's entrance into the open door of a life also has a profound and lasting consequence.
In some similar manner ‘The Sin’ entered through man's disobedience and ‘The Death’ accompanied ‘The Sin’. As Satan controlled the man Judas and directed him in his attempt to eradicate God, so ‘The Sin’ entered Adam and established a settled state of enmity towards God.
On two separate occasions I have visited Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp in southern Poland. It is almost mind-numbing to contemplate the atrocities that took place there. My reaction at the second visit was no different to my reaction at the first visit; it is almost impossible to believe that men could behave like this towards other men. And yet the recollection of my own childhood cruelties bore a witness that what one man is capable of, all men are capable of. What is it in the human race that produces behaviour like this? Animals don't behave like this, why the human race?
There is the only one adequate explanation for the present spiritual state of the human race. An alien has entered, and has taken the throne. Our Lord described the characteristic behaviour of this alien by saying he was a murderer from the beginning and comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy(12) . This is the death-through-sin that Adam experienced and which was revealed so clearly in Cain's slaughter of Abel.
This Death-through-Sin has contaminated the entire race for The Death has spread to all mankind, because all sinned(13) . This is (roughly) what the theologians refer to as the doctrine of Original Sin and consequent Total Depravity of Man. It is does not mean that there is no good in man, but it emphasizes the truth that the contamination has left no part untouched. This is true for the individual and for the entire race.
To return to our original picture at the beginning of the chapter, individual sins may be identified and restrained. The individual pieces of fruit may be removed from the tree, but the essential mature of the tree remains. The specific sin may be identified and dealt with; the liar may recognise his sin and cease from it; the adulterer may recognise his sin and cease from it. Society and the individual will be all the more comfortable for these outward changes, but inside there lurks the spirit of the destroyer and the liar.
When my daughters were younger they would dress our Staffordshire Bull Terrier in baby clothes and make it a member of the family. They shaped its daily life with rules as to when to sit and when to stand. Its behaviour was exemplary... as long as there were no cats in the vicinity. However human its outward behaviour might appear the presence of its ancient enemy always provoked the dog that was within. Law can reform manners but it can never change nature.
(1) Hebrew – Chatja; Greek-hamartia; to miss the mark
(2)Greek – anomia; lawless
(3)Hebrew – pasha; Greek – parabatEs; to overstep a fixed limit
(4)Exodus 34:7 The Hebrew Old Testament has at least 15 different words for ‘sin’.
(12)John 8:44, 10:10.
Friday, July 07, 2006
|Section I: The Diagnosis|
|Section I: The Diagnosis|
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I The Diagnosis
- Disobedience and Disaster
- Sin and Sins
- The Old Man
- A Lost Destiny
- The Old Covenant
II The Remedy
- Setting the Stage
- The Hour
- The Baptism
- The Crown
- The Throne
III The Application
- Obedience and Restoration
- Forgiveness and Restoration
- The New Man
- The Hope of Glory
- The New Covenant
IV How to...
- Where am I now?
- But if anyone does sin...