The Curse of Self-righteousness

I love reading A. W. Tozier, and here is something he writes concerning self-righteousness in the church:

Self-righteousness is terrible among God’s people. If we feel that we are what we ought to be, then we will remain what we are. We will not look for any change or improvement in our lives. This will quite naturally lead us to judge everyone by what we are. This is the judgment of which we must be careful. To judge others by ourselves is to create havoc in the local assembly.

Self-righteousness also leads to complacency and complacency is a great sin. Some have the attitude, “Lord, I’m satisfied with my spiritual condition. I hope one of these days You will come, I will be taken up to meet You in the air and I will rule over five cities” (like in Revelation 20:6). These people cannot rule over their own houses and families, but they expect to rule over five cities. They pray spottily and sparsely, rarely attending prayer meeting, but they read their Bibles and expect to go zooming off into the blue yonder and join the Lord in the triumph of the victorious saints.

“Lord, keep me from the curse of self-righteousness. Show me my sin and need for continued growth. If revival is to come, it needs to start with me, and it won’t start unless I’m constantly reminded of my need. Amen.”

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God's Armor for Us

Paul makes it clear that we are engaged in a spiritual battle and all believers find themselves subject to Satan’s attacks because they are no longer on Satan’s side. So, Paul tells us to use every piece of God’s armor to resist Satan’s attacks and to stand true to God in the midst of those attacks (Ephesians 6:10-18).

  1. Belt (Truth) Satan fights with lies, and sometimes his lies sound like truth; but only believers have God’s truth, which can defeat Satan’s lies (Ephesians 6:14).
  2. Breastplate (Righteousness) Satan often attacks our hearts – the seat of our emotions, self-worth, and trust. God’s righteousness is the breastplate that protects our hearts and ensures his approval. He approves of us because he loves us and sent his Son to die for us (Ephesians 6:14).
  3. Footgear (Readiness to spread the good news) Satan wants us to think that telling others the Good News is a worthless and hopeless task; the size of the task is too big and the negative responses are too much to handle. But the footgear God gives us is the motivation to continue to proclaim the true peace that is available in God; news everyone needs to hear (Ephesians 6:15).
  4. Shield (Faith) What we see are Satan’s attacks in the form of insults, setbacks, and temptations. But the shield of faith protects us from Satan’s flaming arrows. With God’s perspective, we can see beyond our circumstances and know that ultimate victory is ours (Ephesians 6:16).
  5. Helmet (Salvation) Satan wants to make us doubt God, Jesus, and our salvation. The helmet protects our minds from doubting God’s saving work for us (Ephesians 6:17).
  6. Sword (The Spirit, the Word of God) The sword is the only weapon of offense in this list of armor. There are times when we need to take the offensive against Satan. When we are tempted, we need to trust in the truth of God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17).

And don’t forget to pray (Ephesians 6:18).

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Paul’s Thinking about Sin

Paul uses the word hamartia, the common word for sin, 62 times in his letters. Of these 62, 48 are in Romans. The other 14 in all the rest of Paul’s letters. The word does not occur in Philippians.

Paul insisted on the universality of sin:

  1. What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; (Romans 3:9)
  2. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
    1. 1) It was a fact of human experience
      2) It was a fact of history – all sinned after Adam
    2. (1) Nationalistic solidarity
      (2) Men still died before Moses and the Law
      (3) The law produced sin
  3. By defining it
    1. Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law [comes] the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)
    2. Now a mediator is not for one [party only]; whereas God is [only] one. (Galatians 3:20)
    3. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (Romans 5:20)
  4. By provoking sin
    1. The forbidden becomes wanted
    2. What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin [is] dead. And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. (Romans 7:7-11)

Sin is disobedience:

  1. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)
  2. 3. Sin is coming short of God’s expectations – failure in life, not hitting the target.
  3. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

Sin spreads like a disease, like weeds, like cancer: “And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20)

Sin gives birth to death – spiritually:

  1. For sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. (Romans 7:11)
  2. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

Sin gives birth to death – physically:

  1. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned– (Romans 5:12)
  2. That, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)
  3. Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
  4. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Sin is enslaving:

  1. That, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)
  2. Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him,] that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; (Romans 6:6)
  3. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (Romans 6:20)
  4. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
  5. For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. (Romans 7:14)

Sin takes up a residence inside of man: not an external force, or demonic power.

  1. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (Romans 7:20)
  2. But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:23)

Sin hinders the work of Christ and the spread of the Gospel: “Hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.” (1 Thessalonians 2:16)

Sin is the opposite of faith: “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because [his eating is] not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

Words used for sin:

  1. Hamartia – missing the mark
  2. Adikia – unrighteousness – failing in man’s duty to God
    1. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (Romans 1:18)
    2. Being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; [they are] gossips, (Romans 1:29)
    3. But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) (Romans 3:5)
    4. And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin [as] instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:13)
    5. What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! (Romans 9:14)
    6. Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? (1 Corinthians 6:1)
    7. Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that [your] brethren. (1 Corinthians 6:7-8)
  3. Asebeia – godlessness – disregarding Him
  4. Anomia – disobedience to the Law
    1. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members [as] slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in [further] lawlessness, so now present your members [as] slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. (Romans 6:19)
    2. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; (Romans 2:12)
    3. To those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. (1 Corinthians 9:21)
    4. Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
  5. Parakoe – disobedience, failure to hear
    1. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)
    2. And we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:6)
  6. Parabasis – a stepping across – crossing the line
    1. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
    2. For the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation. (Romans 4:15)
    3. Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made. (Galatians 3:19)
  7. Paraptoma – a slip up, a blunder, failure to concentrate
    1. [He] who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:25)
    2. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like [that which came] through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment [arose] from one [transgression] resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift [arose] from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:15-17)
    3. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (Romans 5:20)
    4. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, (Ephesians 1:7)
    5. And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (Ephesians 2:1)
    6. Even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (Ephesians 2:5)
  8. Porosis – process of petrification, remorse is dead
    1. What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; (Romans 11:7)
    2. For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; (Romans 11:25)
    3. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:14)
    4. Being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; (Ephesians 4:18)

The antidote for sin: grace, God never ceased to love men:

  1. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (Romans 5:20)
  2. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.

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