Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Is Sin?

Seventh-day Adventists’ favorite definition of sin is: “Sin is the transgression of the law.” I concur simply because The Bible Says so, but the follow-up question should be, “What law?” What law is sin transgressing?  I would like to share my findings regarding what The Bible Says……….

John’s Definition of Sin:

The Bible Says in 1 John 3:4, “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.” NLT

The Bible Says in the King James Version, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”

If you look at ALL of John’s writings, I think you will be compelled to agree that John is speaking of God’s Royal Law of Love, the law of loving God and one another.  John is stressing to Christians the importance of Christian fellowship and loving others. John tells us that anyone who says that they love God but doesn’t obey God’s commandments is a liar and is not living in the truth. He then defines what God’s commandments are.  

The Bible Says in 1 John 3:23-24….  

“And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.”
When I checked my Bible’s concordance on 1 John 3:4 to seek a clearer understanding on what law we are transgressing when we sin, it pointed me to Matthew 7:23.

The Bible Says in Matthew 7:23, “But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” 

This text meant nothing to me at first glance, so I read it in its context. I discovered that this verse is the summation of the Sermon on the Mount, which began in Matthew 5.  From Matthew 5 through 7, Jesus is addressing the Jews and He is calling them to righteousness. As an aside, I wonder why Jesus would need to call the religious law-keepers to righteousness? The entire sermon has to do with Jesus giving instructions regarding our relationship with God and each other. He also assured them that He did not come to abolish the law but that it would remain in tact UNTIL He fulfilled it on the cross. Jesus is saying in Matthew 7:23 that when we break His law of love (God’s law), He doesn’t know us.

After receiving a better understanding of Matthew 7:23, my concordance then pointed me to Matthew 25: 12, 41.  The Bible Says

Vs 12, “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you.’”

Wow! What does this mean? When read in context, this verse is the summation of the parable of The Ten Bridesmaids. Jesus is speaking in this chapter and the chapter preceding it about preparing for His return.  He is warning us to be watchful because if we aren’t, He will come as a thief in the night and disown us. Matthew 24:42 reads, “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.”  

Jesus is issuing a command (MUST) and if we disobey it by not putting Him first and allowing the Holy Spirit to prepare us, we are living outside of faith and will be lost. He wants us prepared, as His bride, to enter into an everlasting and joyous relationship with Him. 

Vs 41, “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.”

Who are those on the left and why might they be cast into eternal fire? To understand the meaning of this text, please read verses 31-46. This text is not talking about them breaking the Ten Commandments and ending up in hell. Verse 42-46 explains why the people will be cast into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.  The Bible Says, “For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison and you didn’t visit me……”

As you can see, we are not being judged by the Ten Commandments as Seventh-day Adventists believe. We are being judged by how well we loved God and others, the Royal Law of Love.

Paul’s Definition of Sin:

The Bible Says in Romans 14:23 NLT, “But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.
The Bible Says in the King James Version, “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

When read in context and reading the verses that preceded this one, we will discover that Paul is dealing with human relationships.  The emphasis in Chapter 14 is a plea for unity regarding days of worship and eating. 

The Bible Says in Romans 14:1-5….

1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God”.  

God’s Word defines sin for us, yet sin also involves our conscience. If our conscience is leading us to do one thing and we don’t follow its leading, we are on our own, outside of faith, therefore sinning. The Holy Spirit speaks through our mind.

Now that we have a clearer meaning of Romans 14:23, my concordance then pointed me to 1 Corinthians 15:56 NLT. The Bible Says, “For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.”  The Message (MSG) for this verse reads, ‘It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage – its destructive power.”
After reading Corinthians, it pointed me to Romans 4:15, Romans 5:12 and Ephesians 2:1The Bible Says respectively…..

Romans 4:15 NLT, “For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)

The Bible is clearly interpreting itself. Paul is telling the Christians in Romans 4:15 that trying to keep the law is pointless because we can’t keep it.  Prior verses in this chapter explain how Abraham lived by faith and NOT by his obedience to God’s law. After all, The Bible Says in Galatians 3:17 that the law was introduced 430 years after the promises were given to Abraham.

Romans 5:12-14 NLT, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still everyone died – from the time of Adam to the time of Moses – even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representative of Christ, who is yet to come.”

According to the Bible, when Adam sinned there was no law to break. Adam disobeyed a direct and explicit command from God not to eat of the tree. When He ate, his conscience condemned him and he hid, or tried to. In this instance, sin was breaking a direct order from God, not the Ten Commandments. Adam made a conscience decision to step outside of his relationship with God and we are reaping the consequences.  Seventh-day Adventists attempt to defend their position that the law was given prior to Adam and Eve, by saying that Adam broke the very first commandment of the Ten Commandments, but The Bible Says and says it quite plainly, that Adam sinned before the law was given.

Ephesians 2:15 reads, “He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.”.

When Gentiles were allowed to accept the Good News of the Gospel, the Jews tried to proselytize them by having the Gentile Christians keep their laws and rituals. Paul had an audience with the Council in Jerusalem ( Acts 15) and it was determined that Christians did not have to keep Jewish law and rituals BUT in order to keep the peace to a certain extent, the Gentiles were told ……

Acts 15:19-21. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

The latter part of verse 29 says, “If you do this, you will do well.”  The Ten Commandments are not the point of reference here.

It is clear to me that sin is breaking God’s law of love and sin is ignoring the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Guide.  His mission is to lead us into all things that are holy. He lives in us and through us if we allow Him.  The Law of Moses can only point out sin and the law is powerless to help us to keep its requirements. For a specified time, the law was our guardian. The Bible Says in Galatians 3:23-26…

Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Paul, the Apostle to the Christians pose some questions of his own for us to ponder.  Before he speaks, I would like to remind you that Gentiles were never under the law.
So says Paul: 

“Let me ask this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the Law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.  How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the Law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you have heard about Christ.Galatians 3:2-5 NLT

Reader, the law, with all of its trimmings, was nailed to the cross. Sin is not the transgression of the Ten Commandments. We now have the Holy Spirit. We are now under the Royal Law of Love and the Holy Spirit teaches us individually how to love and what to do.  As a former Adventist, I feel that the SDA church places too little emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, He is spoken of often, but in practice ,pretty much ignored. He stands in line behind all of their rules and ‘handwriting of ordinances’ (policies). Seventh-day Adventists tend to want everyone to be alike (Cookie Cutter Christians). They have a rule for every aspect of your life, thus going beyond the Bible. The Bible is gray in some areas but Adventists try to ‘fill in the blanks’ so everyone will know what is expected of them at all times. Can not the Holy Spirit do this?

The Bible Says in 1 John 3:26-27…

“But you have received the Holy Spirit and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true – it is not a lie.  So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”

In conclusion, sin is best defined as ignoring the gentle whisperings and pleadings of the Holy Spirit, Whose job is to lead and empower us to do His good pleasure. Even the good that we do is sin if it is done outside of a faith relationship with God. The Bible Says in Romans 14:23 ..."whatsoever is not of faith is sin".

Stone is hard and it makes those who try to meet its terms hard-hearted.  Not so with the Holy Spirit. REMEMBER…..
“God cannot kiss His bride until the veil is lifted.”  Patricia A. Allen

1 comment:

  1. Patricia, I think in a bid to discourage people from being legalistic just as Paul was admonishing the Jews on, we are towing a line that seems to suggest that God is not particular about what we do on earth. Everything in the so called laws you claim has been abolished is required in the 'Royal Law of Love' you talk about. So what is is different? To me the only difference is in how the Jews at the time looked to the laws for salvation rather than accept Jesus and his Holy Spirit which will naturally bring them in line rather than trying to earn salvation my their own merit. Tell me sincerely if there is any difference in letter and intent between the law you claim is abolished and the 'Royal law of love'. Matthew 5 tells me the right way to relate to the law and not to say that it is abolished. At the end of the day they seem to me to be the same law only this time seen from the right perspective contrary to the distortions the Jewish leadership created.

    Just like the Jewish leaders, I agree the leadership of the SDA church may be behaving in like manner but there need not be a fight. You see the Pharisees are kind of portrayed negatively in the new testament but i think they took what they knew and understood seriously so much that they lost sight of the true significance of the practices they indulged in. The church may be building walls around the congregation through policies, suggestions, etc that make things so cumbersome. Some of those certainly will not have biblical grounds because they probably were made to stem certain situation in church organisation. There are examples in the Bible as well. Some people make the mistake of using those policies as sure word of God to evangelise which creates a lot of friction but I know there are fundamental believes that are sound. Not everyone in the church backs those policies or pay attention to them. these people live their lives as the Spirit of God directs. They don't defend church but the true word of God. They must remain and shape things otherwise the 'Pharasees' will prevail. No need for a fall away. In the Adventist church today, there are debates on gayism, female ordination etc. if not for a few strong men standing for God, many in the Western world would drag the church into conforming to the world.

    What people do in church will not separate me from the love of God and his Holy Spirit power in me. Paul and his colleagues spent time to address issues like this in the early church so it will continue till our Lord comes.

    I believe God will always reveall the truth to the one diligently seek him without prejudice. When i was a little boy, my friends from other denominations will argue that tithing was for only Israel but today, almost every church tithes.

    Truth always prevails...shalom