Daily Archives: August 28, 2014

Questions about Sin: What Is the Difference between Iniquity, Sin, and Transgression?

 

In Psalm 32:5, the psalmist says, “I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ ” In this one verse, “sin,” “iniquity,” and “transgression” are all mentioned. Basically, the three words communicate the same idea: evil and lawlessness, as defined by God (see 1 John 3:4). However, upon closer examination, each word also carries a slightly different meaning.

The word sin and its cognates are used 786 times in the New International Version of the Bible. Sin means “to miss the mark.” It can refer to doing something against God or against a person (Exodus 10:16), doing the opposite of what is right (Galatians 5:17), doing something that will have negative results (Proverbs 24:33–34), and failing to do something you know is right (James 4:17). In the Old Testament, God even instituted sacrifices for unintentional sins (Numbers 15:27). Sin is the general term for anything that “falls short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sin leads to a downward progression that, without the restoring power of the Holy Spirit, we all tend toward. The sin nature is present in every human being born since the Fall of Adam (Genesis 3:6–7; Romans 5:12). If left unchecked, continual sin leads to a “reprobate mind,” spoken of in Romans 1:24. Our sin nature causes us to gravitate naturally toward selfishness, envy, and pride, even when we are trying to do good. The apostle Paul alluded to his propensity to sin when he wrote, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18).

The sin nature leads to trespassing. A trespasser is someone who crosses a line or climbs a fence that he should not cross or climb. A trespass may be intentional or unintentional. Trespass can also mean “to fall away after being close beside.” Peter trespassed when he denied Jesus (Luke 22:34, 56–62). We all “cross the line” in thought, word, or attitude many times a day and should be quick to forgive others who do the same (Matthew 6:15).

Transgression refers to presumptuous sin. It means “to choose to intentionally disobey; willful trespassing.” Samson intentionally broke his Nazirite vow by touching a dead lion (Numbers 6:1–5; Judges 14:8–9) and allowing his hair to be cut (Judges 16:17); in doing so he was committing a transgression. David was referring to this kind of sin when he wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1). When we knowingly run a stop sign, tell a lie, or blatantly disregard an authority, we are transgressing.

Iniquity is more deeply rooted. Iniquity means “premeditated choice, continuing without repentance.” David’s sin with Bathsheba that led to the killing of her husband, Uriah, was iniquity (2 Samuel 11:3–4; 2 Samuel 12:9). Micah 2:1 says, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.” In David’s psalm of repentance, he cries out to God, saying, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2).

God forgives iniquity, as He does any type of sin when we repent (Jeremiah 33:8; Hebrews 8:12). However, iniquity left unchecked leads to a state of willful sin with no fear of God. The build-up of unrepentant sin is sometimes pictured as a “cup of iniquity” being filled to the brim (Revelation 17:4; Genesis 15:16). This often applies to nations who have forsaken God completely. Continued iniquity leads to unnatural affections, which leads to a reprobate mind. Romans 1:28–32 outlines this digression in vivid detail. The sons of Eli are biblical examples of reprobates whom God judged for their iniquities (1 Samuel 3:13–14). Rather than repent, Eli’s sons continued in their abominations until repentance was no longer possible.

The biblical writers used different words to refer to sin in its many forms. However, regardless of how depraved a human heart may become, Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to cover all sin (John 1:29; Romans 5:18). Psalm 32:5, quoted at the beginning of this article, ends with these words: “And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” The only sin that God cannot forgive is the final rejection of the Holy Spirit’s drawing to repentance—the ultimate fruit of a reprobate mind (Matthew 12:32; Luke 12:10).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Christian Life: What Does It Mean to Walk with God?

 

There are several people described as “walking with God” in the Bible, beginning with Enoch in Genesis 5:24. Noah is also described as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God (Genesis 6:9). Micah 6:8 gives us a glimpse into God’s desire for us: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Walking with God is not an activity reserved for a select few. God desires all of His children to walk with Him.

What happens when we walk with someone? Imagine that you and a close friend are enjoying a walk down a country lane. You are in close proximity. You talk, laugh, listen, and share your hearts. Your attention is focused on this person to the exclusion of almost everything else. You notice the beauty around you or an occasional distraction, but only to point it out to your companion. You share it together. You are in harmony, and you both enjoy the peaceful camaraderie.

Walking with God is like that. When we enter into an intimate heart relationship with God through faith in His Son (Hebrews 10:22), He becomes our heart’s greatest desire. Knowing Him, hearing His voice, sharing our hearts with Him, and seeking to please Him become our all-consuming focus. He becomes everything to us. Meeting with Him is not an activity reserved for Sunday morning. We live to fellowship with Him. A. W. Tozer states that the goal of every Christian should be to “live in a state of unbroken worship.” This is only possible when we walk with God.

Just as walking with a close friend requires saying “no” to many other things, so walking with God requires letting go of anything that would be a distraction. If you were on a walk with a friend, but you brought a kazoo and played it the whole time, the walk would not be satisfying for either of you. Many people attempt to walk with God, but they bring along kazoo-like habits, sins, worldly entertainments, or unhealthy relationships. They know these things are not God’s choice for them, but they pretend everything is fine. The relationship is not satisfying to either of them. To walk with God means that you and God are in agreement about your life. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3, KJV). To walk with God means you have aligned your will with His and seek every day to consider yourself “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). You don’t have to be perfect, as none of us are (Romans 3:10). But your heart’s desire is to be pleasing to God, and you are willing to let His Spirit conform you to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

When the Bible speaks of “walking,” it often refers to a lifestyle. We can walk in the ways of the world as well (2 Kings 8:27; Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 3:7). In the New Testament, walking with God is often called “walking in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:4). To walk with God means we choose to glorify Him in every way we can, regardless of personal cost. And there is a cost. Walking with God also means we cannot also walk with evil people as companions (Psalm 1:1–3). We choose the narrow road over the broad way to destruction (Matthew 7:13–14). We don’t live to please our sinful flesh (Romans 13:14). We seek to eliminate from our lives everything that does not enhance our walk with Him (Hebrews 12:2). We apply 1 Corinthians 10:31 literally: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” God’s ways are reflected in our thoughts, our actions, our motivations, and our life choices because we spend so much time with Him.

It is not difficult to identify people who walk with God. Their lives are a stark contrast to the world around them, like stars in a nighttime sky (Philippians 2:15). They produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) rather than the fruit of fleshly desire (Galatians 5:19–21). In Acts 4:13 Peter and John had been arrested for preaching and were brought before the authorities. “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” When we walk with God every day, the world cannot help but recognize that, in spite of our imperfections and lack of knowledge in some areas, we have been with Jesus.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Catholic Questions: Is the Catholic Concept of Absolution Biblical?

 

One common definition of absolution is “the formal remission of sin imparted by a priest, as in the sacrament of penance.” The Roman Catholic Church centers its teaching on the need for absolution, and the priest’s role in obtaining that forgiveness, on a single passage in the Gospel of John. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; If you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23). But does this passage teach the necessity of the Catholic practice of absolution? Does the Bible speak of or condone the practice of absolution?

Regarding the forgiveness of sins, the Bible is clear that God alone can forgive sins (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21), and Christ, being God, has the power to do so, but He never communicated any such power to His apostles, nor did they ever assume any such power to themselves or pretend to exercise it. In fact, it is the mark of antichrist to attempt anything of the kind because, in doing so, one usurps the divine prerogative and places himself in God’s seat. Rather, John 20:23 is to be understood only in a doctrinal or ministerial way, by preaching the full and free remission of sins through the blood of Christ, according to the riches of God’s grace. To as many as repent of their sins and believe in Christ, all disciples of Christ can confidently declare that all their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake and to His glory.

In John 20:23, Jesus is speaking directly to His disciples. It is important to note here that He is not just talking to the 11 apostles but also to other followers of Jesus called disciples (see Luke 24), as well as to all who would ever follow Him. This is important because the Catholic Church holds that only their priests (through a “passing of the absolution torch” called apostolic succession) have the authority to grant absolution.

If absolution from sin is the meaning of Jesus’ words in John 20:23, then we must ponder exactly what His intention was when He gave His followers authority to forgive sin (or not). Did He make them judges and invest in them power to pass judiciary sentence, granting or withholding divine pardon, as the Catholic Church teaches? Or did Jesus make them His ambassadors to proclaim forgiveness through faith in His name, as Christians believe? In other words, can a sinner receive forgiveness directly from God through faith, or must he avail himself of the Catholic priest’s mediation? The Bible is clear: no priest is needed to mediate between God and man, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). The Catholic teaching of absolution is not scriptural.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

What is “Strange Fire”?

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. (Leviticus 10:1-2 ESV)

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)

In his second epistle, Peter is describing Christians as a royal Priesthood. What does this mean? Since the elect is this Priesthood then each one of…

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CHOOSING WHAT I BELIEVE ABOUT MAN

Samuel at Gilgal

Adam-and-EveWhoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13 ESV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 ESV)

The natural man does not want to accept the universal view of mankind as taught in the Scriptures. He hears the Word of God and thinks it is foolishness. (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV) The world’s viewpoint has blinded him to the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV) The natural man refuses to love the truth and be saved. He is deluded to believe what is false and to take pleasure in wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 ESV)

In our day, there are attitudes and fads that demand the modern Christian Church lighten up concerning the wickedness of man and adopt modern strategies to attract unbelievers. After all, we do not want…

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