Are All Sins Equally Bad?

The question comes from skeptics and believers alike, “Are all sins really equal in God’s eyes?” It is common within evangelical circles to say that they are. The smallest white lie and the most brutal murder both nailed Jesus to the cross; he died for all sins. Most people may find this theological concept very appealing and accept it without doing much homework. I think this is true for two reasons:

  1. A reaction by Protestants against the Roman Catholic distinction between mortal sins (sins that are grievous) and venial sin (sins of a lesser nature).
  2. A tendency within our church culture to find a way to say that we are all equally in need of God’s grace and that all sin is extremely serious in God’s eyes (which is true).

After a little research, I don’t believe that all sin is equal in God’s sight. I also believe that telling people all sins are equal does damage to the character of God and the seriousness of certain sins. There are several reasons for this:

Think about it:

What if people lived according to this theology?

  1. If all sin is equal in the sight of God, then His anger will be equal for whatever sin we commit.
  2. How would it affect our relational disposition before God?
    1. If we suffer from the conviction of the Holy Spirit for all sins equally, our conscious getting weighed down by unrepentant sin will become confusing.
    2. This weighing down normally only comes from those sins that we perceive to be more severe. But if all sin is equal in the sight of God and one lived according to that theology, we would be just as troubled and just as repentant each time we exceeded the speed limit as when we commit adultery, steal the last loaf of bread from a starving family, or abuse children.
  3. But no one does this. We all see speeding down the road as a minor infraction because our conscious bears witness that it is not as bad as other things.

What Does the Bible Say?

I think that it is biblical and necessary to say that some sins are more grievous in the sight of God than others. This also translates into the assumption that some people are sinners to a greater degree than others. There are many instances in the Scriptures where degrees of sin are distinguished.

  1. Jesus tells Pilate that the Jewish leaders have committed a worse sin than him, saying “he who has handed me over to you has committed the greater sin” (John 19:11).
  2. Certain sins in the law are distinguished in a particular context as an abomination to God, implying that others are not as severe (as in Leviticus 18:22, Deuteronomy 7:25, 23:18, Isaiah 41:24).
  3. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is set apart as a more severe sin than blasphemy of the Son (Matthew 12:31).
  4. Proverbs 6:16-19 lists particular sins in such a way as to single them out because of their depraved nature, separating them from others.
  5. There are degrees of punishment in hell depending on the severity of the offense (Luke 12:47-48).
  6. Jesus says of the Pharisees, “You strain out a gnat while you swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). If all sins are equal, Christ’s rebuke does not make any sense.
  7. Jesus also talked about the “weightier things of the law” (Matthew 23:23). If all sins are equal, there is no law (or violation of that law) that is weightier than others. They are all the same weight.

Where Do We Get Our Theology?

So where does this faulty theology come from? Many people might refer to Christ’s comments in the Sermon on the Mount as justification for this way of thinking, or perhaps that verse in James.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery;” but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. (James 2:10)

Is there a difference in the eyes of God between thinking about adultery and actually doing it? Absolutely. If we say anything other than this, we do damage to God’s character and encourage the act based upon the thought of it. The point Jesus makes in Matthew 5:28 is not that lust and the actual act are equal, but that they both violate the same commandment. He was telling all people (particularly the religious leaders of the day) who thought they were safe because they had fulfilled the letter of the law that the law runs much deeper. The spirit of the law is what matters.

  1. If you have ever lusted, you have broken the sixth commandment (Matthew 5:28).
  2. If you have ever hated your brother, you have broken the fifth commandment (Matthew 5:22).

James is telling us that whatever the sin, no matter how small a sinner you believe yourself to be, that tiny sin still put Jesus on the cross to pay the debt.

The breaking of the principles of the commandment is the issue, not the degree to which it is broken.

Absurdity in Action:

If we believe that adultery and lust are equal in the sight of God, then here are the logical results:

  1. Any man or woman can justify divorce based upon the fact that Christ condemns divorce except for marital infidelity (Matthew 5:32). All they need to do is make the assumption that their spouse has lusted to some degree during their marriage.
  2. If a man were to lust after a woman on the Internet, he might as well commit the actual act, since in God’s eyes he already has.
  3. If you have ever lusted after a girl, then you should marry her since in God’s eyes you are one with her (1 Corinthians 6:16).

I think that this way of thinking is not only wrong biblically, but it also has repercussions that lead to a distorted worldview and it discredits the integrity of God.

It is true that all people are sinners; all the way since birth. But not all sin is equal. I think that it is safe to say that while not all people sin to the same degree, we all share in an equally depraved nature.

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People’s Hearts are Carnal

When you take a look at the American church today, it appears that those inside the church have a lifestyle quite similar to those outside the church. The question arises about how to be in the world but not of it (John 18:36, 17:14, Philippians 3:20, James 4:14, 1 Peter 5:10).

So, the age old debate goes on, can a true Christian be carnal? We first define the term “carnal” which is translated from the Greek word sarkikos, which literally means “fleshly.” Check out this passage:

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

According to Paul, there are three classifications of believers:

  1. The Natural Man: has not received Christ.
  2. The Spiritual Man: is led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Carnal Man (or man of flesh): is supposedly saved, but shows no evidence of life transformation.

Notice Paul is addressing the readers as “brethren,” a term he uses almost exclusively to refer to other Christians (male or female). We can assume then that Christians can be carnal. The Bible is clear that no one is sinless (1 John 1:8), so every time we sin, we are acting carnally. The goal of the believer is to sin less this week than we did last week.

The key here is to understand that while a Christian can for a time, be carnal, a true Christian will not remain carnal for a lifetime. We are all sinners, no one is perfect. Think about how many church people today have abused the idea of a “carnal Christian” by saying that it is possible to be saved and then go on to live the rest of their lives in a completely carnal manner? They reason that since they have their “fire insurance” they can live as they please, after all, “once saved, always saved.” But how can there be no evidence of being born again or being a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Such a concept is completely unbiblical. We are to be changed, not living our lives the same old way we did before Christ.

  1. James 2:14, 26 make it clear that genuine faith will always result in good works.
  2. Ephesians 2:8-10 declares that while we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, that salvation will result in works.

So, can a Christian, in a time of failure or rebellion, appear to be carnal? Yes. Will a true Christian remain carnal? No (Hebrews 10:26).

Since eternal security is found Scripture, the carnal Christian is still saved. Salvation cannot be lost, because salvation is a gift of God that He will not take away (see John 10:28; Romans 8:37-39; 1 John 5:13). No one wakes in the morning wondering if he is saved or not, like salvation slipped away in the night. We can be secure and assured of our salvation. Paul reminds us that the even carnal Christian can be assured of salvation:

If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15)

The question is not whether a person who claims to be a Christian and lives carnally has lost his salvation, but whether that person was truly saved in the first place (1 John 2:19). W. A. Crisswell once said that “the faith that fizzles at the finish was faulty at the first.” It makes sense.

Christians who become carnal in their behavior can expect God to discipline them (Hebrews 12:5-11) so they can be restored to close fellowship with Him. God’s desire in saving us is that we:

  1. Become progressively grow closer to the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2, 8:29).
  2. Become increasingly spiritual and decreasingly carnal, which is a lifelong process known as sanctification.

What about bearing fruit? Beliefs determine actions. So, we can determine if someone is of the faith by looking at the results of faith in their lives (not just those who claim to have faith). What we have to ask ourselves when judging something is whether it bears good fruit or not. It’s not about how popular, socially acceptable or how politically correct the person is. Actions speak louder than words. These questions can be helpful when judging fruit. When properly applied, does it lead to:

  1. More good or more evil?
  2. More closeness or distance from Jesus Christ?
  3. More light or more darkness?
  4. More truth or more error?
  5. More peace or more confusion?
  6. More happiness or more misery?
  7. More friendship or more animosity?
  8. More love or more hate?

We live in a world that exchanges the truth for a lie and says evil is good and dark is light (Isaiah 5:20). Until we are delivered from our sinful flesh, there will be outbreaks of carnality. For a genuine believer in Christ, though, these outbreaks of carnality will be the exception, not the rule. We are not to judge others, but we can encourage others to move toward higher levels of commitment to Christ and his church.

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Destructive Consequences of Porn

Here is a post from Craig Gross, the founder and president of xxxChurch, which is too good to not pass on. He attributes this information to Jay Dennis:

26 Destructive Consequences Porn Viewing Has on a Man:

The following destructive consequences are the result of a Christian man viewing pornography. The A to Z format covers the wide range of negative results that porn has on a man who is a follower of Jesus.

Alienates You from God. You no longer feel close to God. You don’t experience the power of God. You no longer have the joy of your salvation.

Blinds You to the Consequences. It temporarily turns off your walk with God, your relationships with your wife, your children, and others. It blinds you to what is going to happen to you spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, vocationally, and relationally.

Creates Unrealistic Expectations. Men begin to think this is what every woman should look like and that this is what your relationships with your wife is to be like.

Distorts Your View of Sex. It makes you believe that sex is solely for the pleasure of a man and that women are simply objects to be used rather than God’s creations to be honored and respected.

Enough is Never Enough. Pornography has an escalating effect. Like a drug you need more and more to satisfy the lust. It takes you further down a destructive path and further away from peace, joy, and healthy relationships.

Freedom Over What You Think and Do is Lost. You become enslaved to your sinful thoughts which lead to sinful actions.

Guilt Comes Upon You After You Look at Porn, but the guilt is not enough to prevent you from doing it the next time.

Healthy Sexuality is Numbed Through Porn. Healthy sex is married sex only that includes regular sex, unselfish sex, and loving sex.

Isolates You, and makes you feel you are all alone and are the only one who struggles with porn and lust.

Jeopardizes Your Relationship With Your Wife or Future Wife (if you are single), your witness for Jesus Christ, and everything in your life that is important to you. You put it all on the line for pornography.

Keeps You In a Cycle Of Self Destructive Behavior. It may appear to medicate the pain in your life, but it only adds to the pain with more pain. Porn leads you to do things you never thought you would do. Sin will take you further than you want to go. It will keep you longer than you want to stay. And it will cost you more than you want to pay (Unknown Author).

Lust—Sexual Sinful Lust—Leads to Sexual Sinful Actions. Porn put in your mind is like putting fuel on the fire of wrong sexual desire resulting in destructive thoughts and actions.

Masks The Real Wound, that you are seeking to heal and makes things worse.

Never a Neutral Experience. You cannot look at porn and not be affected by it. That experience is always inconsistent with God’s Word.

Objectifies Women. It makes them a sexual object. Porn hijacks a man’s ability to see an older woman as a mother figure, a same-aged woman as a sister figure, and a younger woman as a daughter figure.

Porn Initially Brings a Very Short-Lived Pleasure, followed by pain and more pain.

Quitting Becomes the Struggle of a Lifetime. Once you allow porn in, there is a raging battle with Satan and your old nature to keep looking. Once you have allowed porn into your life, there will always be a battle. It is a winnable battle, but a daily battle.

Remains Imbedded in Your Mind Forever. Satan uses that image to replay in your mind to create a cycle of sinful lust again and to drive you back to looking at porn. You become bound to an image and a not a person.

Shame Enters Your Life. Guilt is feeling badly for something you have done, shame, however, is based on feeling badly about who you are. Pornography brings shame. God never brings shame. Satan always brings shame.

Trust Is Broken With, the people you love and respect the most.

Unlocks the Door to Every Sexual Sin. Porn is a portal, a gateway that leads to nothing good and everything painful such as compulsive masturbation, affairs, dangerous sexual practices, visiting adult-oriented businesses, paying for sex, perverted sexual practices and sexual abuse.

Violates Women. How? You are putting your stamp of approval on an industry that degrades and dehumanizes women.

Wandering Eyes Toward Other Women are Invited .

Xtinguishes Truth. Pornography promotes lying. You lie to others, you lie to God, and you lie to yourself. You lie more to cover up past lies. You become a living lie.

Yokes You to an Image. You become bound and attached to the image instead of your wife or future wife if you are single.

Zips Your Lips to Praising God, speaking about your faith, and telling others how they can experience God.

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Could it Happen to You?

If you wanted a study of character, nobility, wisdom, courage, and devotion; you could not find a better man than David. The Bible calls him, “… a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).

Yet there was a dark chapter in David’s life. Even though he was a great man and lover of God, David committed a horrible sin against God and others. He entered into an adulterous relationship with another man’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3, 4). Then, in an attempt to cover his sin, he arranged to have her husband, Uriah, killed (2 Samuel 11:6, 15).

We need to be warned! If it could happen to David, it can happen to us. First Corinthians 10:12 says, “…let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” So, we need to see how and why this happened in David’s life to help it not happen to us.

Second Samuel 11:1-2 says, “In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.”

The Sin of Casualness:
What was David’s sin? In the beginning, it was simply the sin of casualness. The harvest time was over, and there were battles to be fought; yet David remained at home. He did not do anything wrong in itself; he just failed to do what was right. He was a king, but he lay around in bed all day while others fought.

Maybe the battle-scarred veteran thought, “I’ve done my time on the battlefield; I need a little rest and relaxation.” Don’t ever think you have done your service to Jesus and you can quit.

The Sin of dis-Connectedness:

I think David was also alone; he did not have another man to keep him accountable or faithful. A man who is disconnected will fall for lack of focus and counsel. Life unchecked will often lead to ruin. Had David been in an accountability relationship, perhaps this whole scenario could have been avoided. Every man needs to be connected to other men, or he will be led astray by his own desires, passions and weaknesses.

The Sin of Carelessness:
It was also a sin of carelessness. David had failed to keep up his guard. How different David was from Joseph. When tempted by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph immediately fled (see Genesis 39:11-13). He obeyed what later would be an imperative by the apostle Paul, “Flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Jesus also warned the apostles in Matthew 26:41: “Watch and pray, that you don’t enter into temptation.”

You will have times in your life when everything is going just fine and you don’t feel any unusual temptation, but watch out for the sin of carelessness.

The Sin of Compulsiveness:
David’s sin was also a sin of compulsiveness. It has been said that sin is an undetected weakness, an unexpected opportunity, and an unprotected life. That was true in David’s life. He didn’t intend to sin; it just happened. He looked over the wall and there she was. He called his servants and said, “Get her for me” (2 Samuel 11:4).

You may say, “Well, that couldn’t happen to me.” David would have said the same thing before he compulsively fell into sin. There are three people seated in your seat right now: the person you are this very moment; the person you could be for God; and the person you could be for evil.

The Sin of Callousness:
The sin of David doesn’t end with Bathsheba. David became calloused and tried to cover his sin. When he found out Bathsheba was pregnant, he attempted to hide the fact that the baby was his. When that failed, he arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to be placed on the front line of battle and killed (see 2 Samuel11:5-17).

Can you imagine this is David doing such a thing? When he committed adultery with Bathsheba, that was bad enough; but it was a hot-blooded sin. Now, what he does to Uriah is cold-blooded murder. See where his carelessness led him. David had been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

It Could Happen to You!
This is a sad story, and God was grieved by it (2 Samuel 11:27). David also grieved over his sin and finally cried out to God for mercy. And as we read about the rest of his life (2 Samuel 12 through 1 Kings 2), we see that the consequences of David’s sin followed him; but David received forgiveness from God.

You very well might say, “That’s an interesting story; maybe I can pass it on to somebody else who needs it.” Then you missed the point. David got into trouble with the sin of casualness. He didn’t go roaring into sin. Don’t ever think it couldn’t happen to you. Is your heart cold? Get it warm. Have you been lazy? Go to work. Have you been careless? Keep the fire burning for Christ and His mission.

Don’t take that first step toward sin. It will cost you more than you want to pay.

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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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Paul and the Incarnation

Incarnation literally means “becoming the flesh.” Paul saw this event from two sides: the side of God and the side of Jesus.

The side of God:

  1. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did:] sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:3)
  2. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
  3. Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
  4. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

The side of Jesus: the sacrifice of Christ did not begin on earth, but in eternity.

  1. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9). This is called the kenotic theory of the incarnation, more fully described here:
  2. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

The strange thing about this kenotic theory is that is baffles the mind yet moves the heart:

  1. God is omniscient, yet it is clear that in His earthly life there were things of which Jesus did not know (Mark 13:32)
  2. God is omnipotent, yet it is clear that there were things which Jesus in His earthly life could not do. He would even tire and needed sleep (John 4:6, Mark 4:38)
  3. God is omnipresent, yet it is clear that during His earthly life Jesus was bound by the laws of time and space.
  4. We can say that His metaphysical attributes (above) were emptied, but not His moral attributes of goodness, justice and love. This theory sets out to explain the unimaginable love of God for man.

Paul stresses the reality of the incarnation: directing his teaching against the heresy of docetism, that Jesus only appeared to be a man but in reality He had no human body at all.

  1. Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, (Romans 1:3)
  2. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did:] sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:3)

Docetism: (dokein – to seem) tried to honor the divinity of Jesus by teaching that Jesus was merely a phantom figure. Paul insisted that Jesus had a human body, if He was ever to redeem sinful man. To Paul, we are saved as much by the life of Jesus as we are by His death.

The efficacy of the life of Jesus in the work of salvation:

  1. For since by a man [came] death, by a man also [came] the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
  2. 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–for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 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. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 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. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)

Solidarity of a people: always a member of a family, clan or a nation. a person existed not as an individual but as a unit in a society. A vivid example is in Joshua 7 (defeat at Ai as the result of one man’s disobedience after Jericho, AND the entire family being put to death by the act of one man in the family).

Paul’s argument that all men sinned in Adam:

  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)
    • Death is the consequence of sin.
    • Adam broke the positive command of God.
  2. For until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:13-14)
    • If there is no law, there is no sin, a breach in the law
    • Between Adam and Moses, no sin existed, but men died
  3. 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 5:17) The answer is that men died because they had all sinned in Adam.

The other side of the argument: Into this world Jesus brings the perfect righteousness and perfect obedience of God.

  1. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 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 5:18-19)
  2. By this perfect obedience, the evil chain of sin and death is broken and a new holiness enters in. Just as the solidarity of mankind is involved in the sin of Adam, the solidarity of mankind is involved in the holiness of Christ. For this argument to be valid, the incarnation must be absolutely real. Jesus must be just as human as was Adam.

The flaw is this: our connection with Adam is a physical one where we can neither choose nor reject. Our connection with Christ is a spiritual one, it is by no means an inevitable relationship, it is something which we can either accept or reject.

Basically, no man can reasonably be condemned because he is physically connected to his ancestors, but any man must bear the responsibility for accepting or refuting his connection with Jesus.

Paul argument has an eternal truth: man is involved in a situation from which he cannot free himself, and that Christ liberated him from that tragic and impotent situation.

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

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A Spiritual Oil Spill

On Tuesday, April 20, 2010, there was an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed eleven workers, devastating eleven families from Day One. I’ve read this is the worst environmental disaster in US history, but just how big is the spill? Imagine if the spill was in Virginia Beach, how far would it reach? 

Today, this event in the Gulf is on Day 56, completing eight full weeks of disaster for the Gulf coast, but on a serious and spiritual note, I have a few questions to ask…

How is our sin like an oil spill? Let me suggest that as the oil comes from deep inside the earth and gushes out to destroy life and the environment, our personal sin comes from the deepest and darkest regions inside of us and also leads to a similar destruction of life and family.

How do we tend to deal with that sin? The experts at BP and the US government have tried numerous methods to cap the well and stop the flow of oil. One method after another has failed and we wonder if the oil leak will ever be stopped. What are some ways that we try to cap the sin spillage in our lives? We try one thing after another until we discover that there is only one way to cap the sin problem we have, the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (John 14:6, Romans 5:8). The bottom line is that we try to cap the well on our own, with little success. When a relationship is breached, the only way to mend the relationship is to follow the prescription of the offended one. We cannot come to him on our own terms.

How can we clean up the mess we have created? BP is utilizing thousands of employees and volunteers to help clean up this oil spill. When it comes to getting rid of sin, if we could clean up on our own, we would not really need Jesus or the Holy Spirit to work through us. The goal of the believer is to conform to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29) and the Spirit is called our Helper (John 15:26). Let’s work in partnership with the Holy Spirit to conform to the image of the Son. That’s what sanctification is all about, becoming more and more like Jesus in thought, word and deed. So, for those who have trusted Christ, the gospel has effectively capped our rampant sin spillage.

How does sin impact the lives of others? Just as this oil spill has affected hundreds of thousands of people and communities, sin also has a lasting effect on others. Think about how your sin has affected those around you; your relationships at work, with your wife, your business dealings, your peace. The dark oil of sin is lurking just off the coast ready to destroy whatever it can cover. We can set out a boom, but the source of the leak needs to be capped.

Why do we often feel so helpless? Romans 1:16 tells us about the power that is available to us, to save everyone from the looming oil spill of sin. Tony Hayward said in the BP public relations commercial that “we will make this right.” The “good news tells us how God makes us right in his sight.” (Romans 1:17) Praise God that he has been in charge from Day One and gets the job done for those who know they cannot survive without him.

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David was After God's Heart?

This Sunday we continue in the life of David with this somewhat humorous episode of what happens to David’s servants as they deliver condolences to the Ammonite king; then we will look at the wages of sin from the Bathsheba era in his life. 

  1. Why does David send his servants to Hanun, king of the Ammonites? 10:1-2
  2. How does Hanun treat the servants? 10:4 (too funny, we can laugh now, such a picture), but we can learn…
    • Lesson 1 – David shows active sympathy for the suffering, 10:2
    • Lesson 2 – David’s intentions were misunderstood, 10:3, 5
    • Lesson 3 – David is fiercely loyal and protective to his people, 10:5
    • Lesson 4 – David took on their enemy himself, sending Joab and his mighty men, 10:7
  3. What is the outcome of the inevitable battle? 10:13, 14
  4. Introduction:
    • What is your favorite springtime activity?
    • How soon do you believe people begin sunbathing in Virginia Beach?
    • Who was your “girl next door” or “big man on campus?”
  5. What significance do you see in the timing of David’s sin? 2 Samuel 11:1, 2
    • What was he supposed to be doing? 2 Samuel 11:1
    • What three specific actions did David take toward his sin? 2 Samuel 11:3, 4
  6. Where did David go wrong?
    • Lesson 1 – He was in the wrong place at the wrong time 2 Samuel 11:1, 2 (he was at home rather than in battle, and he got up from his bed, open to boredom and temptation.
    • Lesson 2 – He failed to protect himself with a network of accountability, answering to no one, he grew accustomed to wanting and getting.
    • Lesson 3 – He was lonely and made a plan (note the three actions of #5. b.)
      • Sinned in thought – 2 Samuel 11:2
      • Sinned in word – 2 Samuel 11:3
      • Sinned in deed – 2 Samuel 11:4
  7. Could Bathsheba have prevented this from happening?
  8. What superior character qualities do you see in Uriah? 2 Samuel 11:9, 11, 13 (Deuteronomy 23:9-10).
    • What does this reveal about David?
    • Where do you see the first hint of fear in David? About Uriah? About Joab?
    • Have you ever felt someone was faking an interest in you for an ulterior motive?
    • How did David involve Joab in his sin?
    • How would you describe David’s heart at this point? 2 Samuel 11:25
  9. How far away is David’s heart? God’s commentary is 2 Samuel 11:27
    • Lesson 1 – He resisted opportunities to repent, but chose to stay in this revolving door of deception. 
      • How could he have repented or acted with integrity?
      • Why did he NOT repent
    • Lesson 2 – He was unmoved by Uriah’s integrity.
    • Lesson 3 – He tried to cover his own sin, rather than confess it. (Psalm 32:1)
    • Lesson 4 – He involved a lot of others in his sin.
  10. What is Bathsheba feeling as her identity changes from Uriah’s wife, to David’s lover, to Uriah’s widow, to David’s bride? 2 Samuel 11:26-27
  11. Why does Nathan the prophet speak to David using a parable? 2 Samuel 12:1, 2, 3, 4
    • Why did he use a sheep in his story?
    • Why does the absence of justice and mercy in Nathan’s story enrage David? 2 Samuel 12:5-6
    • What is Nathan’s perspective on gratitude? 2 Samuel 12:7-9
    • What three sons will meet a violent death in this prophecy? 2 Samuel 12:10
      • 2 Samuel 13:28-29
      • 2 Samuel 18:14-15
      • 1 Kings 2:24-25
  12. How did the prophecy of 2 Samuel 12:11, 12 come to pass? 2 Samuel 16:21, 22
  13. What toll did this sin take on David? Psalm 32:3, 4, 5
  14. How does David’s response to rebuke compare to Saul’s response in a similar situation? 2 Samuel 12:13, Psalm 51 (1 Samuel 13:11-12, 15:13-26).
  15. How did David respond to the child’s sudden illness? 2 Samuel 12:15-25
  16. Notice God did not do what David asked (2 Samuel 12:16) but died (2 Samuel 12:18). Since prayer did not change the child’s health, what did change?
    • Lesson 1 – David’s plea forced him to a place of dependence on God.
    • Lesson 2 – David’s plea satisfied his spirit (the child did not die because he did not ask God to spare him).
    • Lesson 3 – David’s plea ensured his survival through this tragedy he and his wife would suffer (enabling him to comfort his wife 2 Samuel 12:24-25).
    • Lesson 4 – David’s plea touched God’s heart, He disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6). Solomon was called, Jedidiah, which means “beloved of the Lord,” the successor to the throne.
  17. No relief like repentance – Psalm 51
    • Psalm 51:1 – have mercy, according to Your love and compassion
    • Psalm 51:2 – wash and cleanse from sin
    • Psalm 51:3 – I know my sin, you can live without it, give it up
    • Psalm 51:4 – sin is against God alone; the biggest heartbreak
    • Psalm 51:5 – sinful at birth; it is a part of me
    • Psalm 51:6 – God desires truth; even when we don’t want to believe it
    • Psalm 51:7 – cleanse me with hyssop (Exodus 12:22-23) I’ll be whiter than snow
    • Psalm 51:8 – let the bones You have crushed rejoice; the pain of confessing and repenting will bring healing
    • Psalm 51:9 – hide Your face from my sin; our total depravity keeps us from looking to God, shame, embarrassment, He wants to forgive
    • Psalm 51:10 – create in me a pure heart; create is bara, like in Genesis 1:1, which only God can do for us
    • Psalm 51:11 – don not take the Holy Spirit from me; a fate worse than death
    • Psalm 51:12 – restore the joy of Your salvation
    • Psalm 51:13 – I will teach others and they will return to God; the forgiven become evangelists to God’s goodness

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The Enemy Within Me

The Men of Steel looked into this topic; how often do we wrestle with God?

  1. The Enemy within Me
  2. God Sparing Your Life
  3. Refuse to be a Target
  4. God Wrestles with You… Alone
  5. Why Does God Wrestle with Men?
  6. The Reality of the Spirit Realm

Today I will begin a series about men who are in a wrestling match with God. Wrestling is a popular spectator sport for many men and young people. I’ve seen the commercials and the crowds; there are a lot of pro wrestling fanatics out there! Men today are in a wrestling match for their lives and many don’t even know it.

In any group of men there is every sort of need, weakness and struggle. Rather than waiting for a more opportune moment, today is the day we need to get our act together! We must confront ourselves with the enemy within each one of us. What is the enemy within me? Take a look at Romans 1:28-29, 30-32.

There are other lists that deal with sorcery, witchcraft, demonology, astrology but that is not where I find many men today. Crime affects us, and I’m concerned about crime, but I’m not as concerned about the mugger, the rapist and the conman on the street. I’m concerned with the enemy within me; it is the same enemy that is within each of us. We must each intentionally and willfully confront this enemy before we are ruined by it.

When a man ignores the commandments of God and refuses to acknowledge Him or His call to godly living, the worst punishment God can do on earth is to give that man over to himself (Romans 1:28). Men can become slaves to their own reprobate mind. Burger King used to have an ad campaign with the slogan, “Have it your way,” but the problem with men is that when we have it our own way, we self-destruct!

I am amazed that one man can look at another man and arrogantly say that “I’m better than that other guy.” The fact is that we are all just one step away from self-destruction; you can fill in the blank and name your weakness or your enemy. We then try to justify that our sin is not as bad as that other guy’s sin… but we miss the fact that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23).

We have the capacity to commit every kind of sin. We may not have done it, but odds are that we have thought about it. Even if we have not done it yet, given the right situation and the right circumstance, we will think about it and possibly even do it.

In my library I have a book called Situation Ethics. The premise is that a person will sacrifice a certain value to uphold what we believe to be a higher value. A gunman comes in to your office seeking to kill Joe Blow, and you lie to the gunman telling him Joe Blow is out sick today (knowing that he is really down in the break room). You value life higher than truthfulness in this situation. Knowing suicide is wrong, a 13 year old Amish girl named Marian Fisher told the gunman to shoot her first, hoping to save the lives of the younger children in that Lancaster County schoolhouse. Would not a passivist do whatever he could to stop an intruder from going after his wife or teenaged daughter? Would not a starving man who came across a cart filled with food turn into a thief to feed his family?

Human nature is depraved. We all have a terrible capacity toward sin. Each of us must face the enemy within us is order to become victorious over it. The Bible says we are not to be slaves of sin, and if we commit sin, we are slaves to it (Romans 7:14, 7:25, 2 Peter 2:19, 1 John 1:8).

That is why Men of Steel is so important. There is strength in numbers, there is safety in numbers, and there is victory in accountability to one another. It’s not bearing your soul before a group, that’s not what we do on Saturday, but it is finding another man who’s got your back. We just spent a few weeks looking at the Lame Man at the Gate; to know your weakness (that which makes you lame), to know why you come to church (not just hanging out at a “beautiful gate”), to not be distracted (but focusing on Christ and His Word).

Who do you know who might benefit from joining us on Saturdays?

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