Saturday, March 10, 2007

# 190: The Sin Question

This post is a repeat of material which has been published previously; it has been modified slightly to be more comprehensible. To get the full benefit of what is being revealed in this holy and innovative interpretation, it would be better understood when used in tandem with post # 189, which follows below.

There are several New Testament verses written by the apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25; when these verses are taken literally by non-Jewish readers, without knowing the point the apostle Paul was attempting to put across to Jewish readers in Rome, a totally disastrous misconception comes to life. This misinterpretation has led millions upon millions of people who call themselves Christians to rely on this portion of Scripture as a legitimate reason to believe it is just normal for them to sin. That false understanding of this section has done more damage to the Christian faith than any other heresy perpetrated thus far in the entire New Testament.

I have heard this minuscule section of Scripture used as an excuse for sin more times than I can count and even from individuals belonging to time-honored denominations. In fact, it may be the universal excuse for "unavoidable" sins—if there is such a thing—in all of organized Christianity. It is that super serious.

For a fact, these two posts are by all means the most important of all the 188 posts thus far published. I say this next sentence with no intent of boasting: This revelation has been/will be the most earth-shaking (shaking the very ground under the vast majority of most Christian denominations). The question remains: If and when they hear about it, what will they do? Answer: What did most of the religious leaders, Pharisees and "experts of the law" do, 2,000 years ago with the new teachings of their Messiah, Jesus Christ?

If one is not familiar with the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament, much of this post will sound like Greek. Not to confuse anyone, it might be best for some to skip this extremely long and complex post until better and more complete knowledge has been acquired of what the basic core of Christianity is all about. I originally put many, many painstaking hours into the writing of this comprehensive post to make absolutely certain the information in this series is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the absolute truth. How do I know that? Because this upcoming section CONTRADICTS ALL other New Testament principles which unequivocally tell us what we must believe and how we must live concerning sin. Although this series may be difficult for some to understand, it is a truth that all genuine Christians may have to read over and over again to get to the depth and damage it has done.

To corroborate the difficulty of understanding some of Paul’s writings, I quote 2 Peter 3:15. Peter writes concerning Paul’s letters. "He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." Please take time to double-check all the Bible references I mentioned to make sure I did not take any out of context. Again, please take this section seriously. It could be a matter of one’s spiritual life or death.

Here is that infamous section written by the Apostle Paul: Romans 7:14-25. "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."

"So I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s laws; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law in my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me form this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord."

I am acutely aware that if any person is not intimately acquainted with how sin is looked upon by God’s holy apostles, especially the apostles Paul and John, they could easily take the view which the majority of organized religion has. Repeating, this portion of Scripture is totally contrary in comparison to ALL other Bible teachings concerning sin; for that reason, it has been universally misunderstood since the first century. That is the reason I published this post in conjunction with post # 189, which emphatically displays sin as not being acceptable in the life of disciples of Christ. The result of this section of Scripture has been a general consensus of "Christians" thinking lightly of sin, thus secretly condoning what they know is wrong, and moreover, they believe that giving in to the desires of the flesh (lower nature) is acceptable in the Christian life. Although their false belief is usually said taciturnly, some go so far as to believe it was about time the Apostle Paul, author of Romans, finally “fessed up” to what a weak-willed person he really was, while still professing to be a great apostle of Jesus Christ. At this I am appalled, to say the least. It could be that this demonic lie (going easy on -sin) may have been the catalyst for the origin of this complete blog.

It is not uncommon for some Bible writers to use the singular personal pronouns (I, me, you, etc.) to, most often, denote the nation of Israel. There are several such verses in the New Testament and many texts in the Old Testament. Here are a few: In Revelation 3:17, the church of Laodicia [using the word “I”] is the only church that argued with the angel, telling him/her how wealthy I am. "You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’" In Romans 9:25-26, Paul quotes Hosea 2:23, although not verbatim: "and I will call her (the nation of Israel) 'my loved one' who is not my loved one; . . . ‘You who are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’"

The Old Testament is rich with writings which use the singular to denote a group of people, usually the nation of Israel. Hosea 2:5-7. "Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said, ‘I [Israel] will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ [The Lord answers.] Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first.’" Hosea continues to chastise Israel until verse 13, using this discourse to speak for the Lord using the letter "I" while continuing to call Israel “her,” “she,” and “I.” Isaiah 47:8-10. "Now then listen, you wanton creature, lounging in your security—[sounds like America]—and saying to yourself, ‘I am (Israel), and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children.’ Both of these will overtake you in a moment, on a single day: loss of children and widowhood . . .” Verse 10: “You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’" Lamentations, Chapter One is the best example of a Bible writer who spoke of himself as the nation of Israel in the singular—Biblical muscle to the truth—to tell of the wretched condition that had befallen the nation of Israel. Jeremiah used the identical singular personal pronouns as Paul did in Romans 7th chapter. Lamentations 1:11. ". . . Look, O Lord, and consider, for I am despised." And continuing in verse 14: "My sins have been bound into a yoke; by his hands they were woven together. . . . He [The Lord] has handed me over to those I cannot withstand." 1:15. . . ."He [the Lord] has summoned an army against me to crush my young men. [That last statement is conclusive proof that Jeremiah is not writing about himself]. In his winepress the Lord has trampled the Virgin Daughter of Judah." 1:16. "This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears." 1:18: "The Lord is righteous, yet I rebel against His command." 1:19. "I called to my allies but they betrayed me." I am certain we all know, or should know, what a saintly prophet of God Jeremiah was in the Lord’s sight. Without question, he was not writing about himself, although if someone did not know God or the Scripture, it could be taken and has been taken that way, although I don’t know how.

I ask this question: Why would Paul write in this manner, which could easily be misunderstood by non-Jewish believers? I truly believe God inspired Paul to write Romans 7:14-20 in the way he did so that those who do not truly believe and yet call themselves Christians will have more than enough rope with which to hang themselves, so to speak. Why? Even though the New Testament is filled from cover to cover with evidence that Christ came to destroy sin in our lives, many people still don’t believe that simple truth.

Here are just a few verses that tell of the great work Jesus did to destroy the power of sin. Romans 6:1-2. "What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Romans 6:6. ". . . that we should no longer be slaves to sin. . . ." Romans 6:10-11. “The death he died, He died to sin once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God. In the same way, COUNT YOURSELVES DEAD TO SIN but alive to God in Christ Jesus." Then there is Romans 6:23. "For the wages of sin is death." One more! 1 John 3:9. "No one born of God will continue to sin . . . " Shall we disregard these verses?

When one studies Romans, one will quickly see who Paul is writing to, especially in this chapter. Romans 7:1. "Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law." It was Jews he was speaking to who knew what it was to live under Jewish law. Starting with Romans 1:19, Paul is pointing out that Jews as well as Gentiles are all living under sin, apart from Christ, and he begins to tell of the wicked condition the nation of Israel was in, according to the Old Testament. Verse 1:19: ". . . since what may be known about God is plain to them [Jews], because God has made it plain to them." Romans 1:21. "For although they [Jews] knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him . . . " Romans 1:22. "Although they [Jews] claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God—only Israelites knew the glory of God—for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." Romans 1:32. "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death. . . " Romans 2:1. "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself . . . " Romans 2:17. "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law . . ." Romans 2:23-24. "You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’"

Isn’t that still true today? Atheists and skeptics everywhere blaspheme the name of Jesus Christ—and rightly so—because of the ungodly lives of counterfeit Christians. This fact alone pains me more than anything else, and gave me the incentive to rewrite this post. Romans 3:9. "What shall we conclude then? Are we [Jews] any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin." This last verse is very important in seeing what point Paul is trying to get across to his readers: the fact that in his reference to Jews, he means those who were familiar with the law.

Starting with Romans 7:5, the Apostle Paul is desperately trying to explain how it is impossible to be obedient to the old Jewish law while under control of the sinful nature. Romans 7:5. "For when we [all Jews] were [notice this is past tense] controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death." In Romans 7:7, Paul uses the word "we" in reference to the Jews for the last time: "What shall we say, then?" As he continues, he starts to describe what a wretched condition they (Jews) were in under the law and without Christ as their Savior.

In subsequent references he uses the word "I" allegorically instead of "we" to denote the nation of Israel. Conclusive proof of this is displayed in the next several verses, but only to those who don't justify their lives of sin by this portion of Scripture and those who have an active desire to live a sinless life by God's grace. "Once I was alive apart from law." Romans 7:9. Now I ask you this question: When was Paul ever alive apart from the law? Answer: Never. But the nation of Israel was alive apart from the law before God gave them the law of Moses. Sin could not condemn to death without the law. Romans 5:13. ". . . for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law." "The law came so that sin might be recognized as utterly sinful." Romans 7:13 (paraphrased). The desire of the flesh [sinful nature, ego] continually won the inward battle against their desire to do good. This is the reason the nation of Israel as a whole could not please God, and the very reason for the coming of Christ.

I believe the subject of sin is important enough to repeat what I have written earlier, using a few different words. The point I am trying to put across is this: Before the law of Moses was given, the sins of the nation of Israel were not taken into account. Romans 5:13 (paraphrased). Although at the judgment, Israel will have to account for her action. Even though they did not have a law, they were a law unto themselves. But when the Law was given by Moses, sin was truly exposed for what it was, and that knowledge that was good brought death to the Jews. That Law, as good as it was, did not give Israel the power to overcome its sinful nature. Because all have sinned, all are condemned by this Law that is Holy and good. Although they wanted to do good, they could not because of the power of sin living in Israel. Before the Law, Israel was alive apart from the Law. But when the commandment (the Law) came, sin sprang to life and Israel ("I") died. Israel found that the Law that was intended to bring life actually brought death. Romans 7:8: "For apart from law, sin is dead." The Law was spiritual but Israel was unspiritual. In this unspiritual condition, Israel could not do what God wanted her to do. But the things she did not want to do, she did. Since Israel did what it did not want to do, she agreed that the Law was good. In this unredeemed state, nothing good lived inside Israel; that is in her sinful nature. Though she had the desire to do what is good, she (Israel) couldn't carry it out. The evil she did not want to do, she kept on doing. What a wretched condition Israel was in. Who would rescue Her from this sinful nature which lives in all Israel? Jesus Christ would. He arranged things so that all Israel, and the world, could be rescued from the power of sin.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross without sin, He defeated the power of sin; consequently, when He rose from the dead, sin had no power over Him. Christ destroyed the power of the flesh (sinful nature). This is the essence of the concept of being born again. We, too, died with Christ and rose again—water baptism is the symbolic commitment of belief in the new birth/a new person—never to sin again. Let me inject this thought about baptism: Jesus’ actual baptism was His death and resurrection. Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 12:50: "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed." Now back to the topic at hand. Romans 6:11. ". . . count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." Now since we died with Christ through faith—that means we must truly believe that event as being an actual fact—we will live according to His Holy Spirit. This does not happen automatically. It happens only when we believe we actually died with Christ. We inherit His death and victory over sin simply because we believe Him. That is the Christian mystery on which the complete Christian life hangs. However, when this belief does not spill over from our intellect into our lives, our belief is not valid, and in God's sight, does not exist.

Jumping to Romans 8th chapter: This chapter tells a completely different story than what many believe Romans 7th chapter teaches. This paragraph is imperative for us to understand in its entirety, even if it requires us to read it a dozen times. Now, read carefully Romans 8:9-14. "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."

Is it even remotely possible that Paul did not write Romans 7:14-25, along with Romans 8:9-14? An emphatic no! He is the only author of both chapters. And since he wasn’t referring to himself in chapter seven, there is no contradiction between the two chapters. Of course, there will be those who will say, "Don't confuse me with the facts; I have had my mind made up for years as to what Paul was saying in Chapter seven." If Paul meant himself as that bad guy who could not do what was right but did the evil he knew was wrong, he would be totally out of character with regard to all of his other writings as a redeemed man of God.

As we know, Jesus was perfect in the true sense, and Paul fashioned his life after this perfect Jesus. Paul was a perfectionist before his conversion and continued to be a perfectionist in his redeemed condition. This is evident as Paul writes to the Philippians, telling of his life before conversion. Philippians 3:5. "A Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless." After his conversion, Paul's life was in every sense as pleasing to His Lord, if not more, than any other New Testament character ever could be.

Here is scriptural evidence of that fact. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1st Corinthians 4:16. "Therefore I urge you to imitate me." 2nd Thessalonians 3:7. "For you yourself know how you ought to follow our example." 2nd Thessalonians 3:9. "We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow." 2nd Corinthians 13:11. "Aim for perfection. . ." 1st Thessalonians 4:7. "For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." 1st Corinthians 2:16. "But we have the mind of Christ." Philippians 3:17. "Join with others in following my example, brothers . . ." Philippians 4:9. "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice."

Then, still to justify their belief about sin, some who are naive will use Paul’s reference to himself in 1st Timothy first chapter: calling himself the worst of sinners, but only to substantiate their belief in Romans Seventh Chapter and Paul’s inner struggle with sin. Some say, "If Paul was a wretched sinner as a redeemed man, should I be expected to live any better?" This conclusion indicates a total misunderstanding of the passage. To keep it in context, let's look at what Paul said before and after that verse. 1 Timothy 1:8 (paraphrased): "The law was made for bad guys. But no matter how bad a person is, he is not so bad that Christ can't show him mercy." Then, in Verse 13, he tells how bad he was, and how God had mercy on him anyway. That is the reason why Christ came into the world: To save sinners—even bad sinners. What better way to illustrate the power of Christ? Surely it is easier to redeem the pure of spirit than one who is enthusiastically mired in one’s own sin.

In his redeemed state, Paul was no doubt the greatest, purest, holiest, and most Godly man that the New Testament reveals to us, apart from Christ. For early disciples, he was the prime example of anyone who overcame a sinful life. His example still speaks to us. To be absolutely certain that Paul was talking about his past and not his present condition, let’s look at 1 Timothy 1:15: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst [Chief]." Now watch how Paul switches from the present to the past tense. 1:16: "But for that very reason I WAS shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life." Now, if Paul saw himself as the worst of sinners in his “present” redeemed condition, what right did he have to preach to all the churches about good moral conduct and to live pure and holy lives? It's impossible. Even an unregenerate moron should be able to see this simple truth when it is put in context with Romans 7th chapter.

What kind of a hypocrite would Paul have been if he had expected the followers of Christ to do and be what he could not do or be? Was he giving the "OK" sign for everyone to desire to do good, yet continue to do the evil they knew was wrong? Remember 1st John 4:4 (paraphrased): The Holy Spirit who is in us is greater and more powerful than our sinful nature (the world). When people have the Holy Spirit of God living in them, they will not do the evil they hate. As a person is controlled by the Spirit, he/she will be empowered to do the good he/she wants to do, and the desire to do good comes from God’s Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

The demonic, hellish, satanic, deceptive aspect of the sins—which are committed because of a lack of understanding of Romans 7th chapter—are not so much the sins themselves, but the motive/s behind them: legitimizing and justifying what seems to be unavoidable evil. The Great Judge looks at the motives behind wrongdoing as much, if not more, than the sins themselves. 1st Corinthians 3:5. "He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men's hearts.”

In conclusion, by grace, we have Jesus Christ to accept our repentance and forgive our sins—grace is no excuse for abuse, or grace will cease. Grace gives us the ability to love and live to please God, not in the flesh but in the Spirit. Living in God's grace and living in the flesh are not compatible. Belief that gives us the power to overcome sin will not work so long as we refuse to believe that we can live without giving into sin (our sinful nature). Faith gives us the victory and in every case, we must sacrifice our old selfish, but pleasant, desires of following our own worldly fancies.

Bible verses taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV).

No comments: