COMING TO KNOW CHRIST

Friday, December 30, 2005

UNRIGHTEOUSNESS -- THE MEANING OF SIN

THE UGLY TERROR OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS

The question of unrighteousness is very much before us today.

Ungodliness, lawlessness, the depravations of wickedness and evil are played out on the stage of life as a daily presentation. The wonder of advanced communications and media technologies excites indiscriminate, thoughtless passions.

The heritage of gentleness, kindness, the quest for excellence bow to the immediacy of today's wants and desires dressed in rudeness and anger. It appears we are saturated with the Devil's work in this world, his domain. This is an ancient subject familiar to all who love God, particularly those Christians who believe in His promise to be saved from the ugly terror of unrighteousness.

The following is borrowed from many sources, and appropriate credits are given where obviously required. But this work depends, to a great extent, on His Word, as made manifest in the NAS Open Bible.

God's Word is the most appropriate expression, the real theology, an explicit philosophy, the statement of the living God.

The Word speaks in the heart in rendering the truths and wisdom of God. That a greater understanding may be gained in the walk with the Holy Spirit. For that is the great hope in growing in Christ, the price and prize of knowing His love.

THE APPLICATIONS OF SIN

God's fundamental righteousness, and the standard of perfection it implies, is the major theme of the Bible in specifying "the Way" for mankind's salvation (Rom 5:1,2,). That salvation has as its objective the provision of relieving mankind's fundamental unrighteousness, the plague of inherited and imputed sin.

This theme is wrapped in the story of Adam (Rom 5:12) and continues throughout the Old Testament. It culminates in the timeless victory provided by the atoning sacrifice, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ (Rom 4:25) and the convicting work and sanctifying gifts of His Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11).

In reaching an understanding of God the believer and nonbeliever coming to Christ should have knowledge of the negative moral phenomena represented by the differing sin states of believers and nonbelievers, two separate spiritual domains of mankind in terms of God's revelation (Rom 8:9).

These sin states include the unrighteousness of nonbelievers (Rom 3:10-18), and the misconduct of believers on the positive walk of righteousness with the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16; Rom 8:10,11). This, therefore, is a different view of sin, a perspective that proposes to clarify a doctrine that is confused in the teachings of the diverse ministry and theology of Christ's Church.

The Bible teaches the moral attributes of mankind are plagued by manifestations of generic sin. The Bible also teaches that the individual understanding of sin exists in the mind as a readily perceived knowledge about the unrighteous state of individuals.

For as Paul says in Romans 3:10, "There is none righteous, not even one."

A consensus of theological Christian tradition subscribes to the Truth that:

- The human being is lost in sin and rebellion against God as a function of the heritage from Adam and will not seek God.

- The human being's fallen will is so corrupted that he or she cannot seek salvation, that salvation and the turning to the way, Jesus Christ, is completely based on God's Grace.

DIFFERING SIN OF BELEIVERS AND NONBELIVERS

The unrighteous manifestations of sin are factually differentiated between believers and nonbeliever's in God's revelation in the Bible.

In other words, sin has different applications of unrighteousness in the life of a nonbeliever as compared to a believer:

- For the nonbeliever, sin comprises the primary act of unbelief. Unbelief occasionally manifests acts and "mind sets" of rebellion, godlessness, wickedness, lawlessness and evil.

- For the believer, sin involves "missing the mark", and issues of misconduct such as pride, doubt, anxiety, anger, lack of self-control, selfish ambition, coveting, bitterness, and reaches beyond these tendencies to the concept of moral intent.

These are important distinctions in understanding the non-believer's unrighteousness based on disbelief and the righteousness of the believer, whose righteousness is betrayed by the human tendency of personal misconduct.

They are important distinctions in coming to know the Triune God and the specific ministries of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in the present age and years to come, as we prepare to celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of His birth in the 21st century.

It is, therefore, necessary to understand sin’s application in the believer's life as compared with the nonbeliever. Why is this understanding necessary? Why is this important to our understanding and knowledge of God and His revelation in the Bible?

At the risk of repetition of what has been said before, the general characteristic of mankind's unrighteousness is that of "sin", the various manifested forms of unrighteous conduct directed against God. In understanding this, we are guided by a fundamental truth and the message of salvation in the Bible.

That truth pertains to God's view of sin and mankind's historic
propensity to be unrighteous:

"Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor." (Hab 1:13).

Mankind's sin nature is the reason for Jesus Christ's ministry
providing the positive "Way" of righteousness. This is the reason for His atoning death and resurrection, where the negative aspects of unrighteousness is forgiven and buried with Christ (Rom 6); where the positive reality of righteousness is born with Him as a function of the miracle of His being raised and ascending to be with the Father.

This is the reason for His sending the Holy Spirit to convict the world of righteousness (John 16:8). This provides the explanation of generic sin as revealed in the Bible, of the plague of unrighteousness that mankind has inherited from the initial disobedience of Adam (Rom 5:12), the reason why mankind requires salvation and can obtain salvation through His magnanimous grace (Eph 2:5,8).

It is then obvious. Where Christ's work is accomplished, and the Holy Spirit's work continues, is in converting nonbelievers to righteous belief and sanctifying believers on the walk of Salvation (1Pet 1:2).

This is the process where God's believers are being made righteous.

The nonbeliever, unfortunately, remains in an unrighteous state, not knowing or ignorant of the magnificence, the joy, the peace and wonder of Belief and Faith in God.

THE DIVINE NORM OF CONDUCT

The word sin has an important Old Testament heritage. Its historic word usage represents a number of specific acts measured against a defined standard. Lawrence O. Richards instruct us in his Expository Dictionary of Bible Words,

"Thus, the OT sees sin as involving a person's conscious, responsible choice measured against a known divine standard. But sin is more basic than that; the individual's propensity to react against the divine norm can be traced back to the human nature itself. Helpless, people can only recognize their need and appeal to God for forgiveness, inner cleansing and spiritual power."

It may be obvious to the reader that Richard's explanation is
directed at the believer. Yet, his explanation also has application for the nonbeliever.

The preponderant attitude of the nonbeliever is that which is characterized as being "the individual's propensity to react against the divine norm", the witness of the Triune God. He states that this propensity is "traced back to the human nature itself". This is the certain evidence of the Adamic heritage.

It is important to understand that nonbelievers, who have made a conscious choice to not believe, think the concept of a "divine norm" is ridiculous mythology. They think this is foolishness.

"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them," (1Cor 2:14)

They further believe that this has nothing to do with the human nature except to say that those who do believe suffer a delusion sustained by the hope for a "crutch" to support their weaknesses in confronting the life experience. For the nonbeliever there is no Law. There is no divine norm. There is therefore no sin. That is all biblical poppycock as far as the nonbeliever is concerned.
.
From a Biblical vantage, those "known divine standards" are derived from the Mosaic Law, the original Ten commandments. Theologians agree that the Bible teaches sin in its generic sense is a reprehensible action, an offense against God and God's people. It is a state of estrangement from God. Believers know this truth.

Sin's complete estrangement, the expression of fundamental unrighteousness, is abject disbelief or ignorance of God. This estrangement is displayed in the general, explicit and implicit consequential manifestations of His Wrath, the penalty of disbelief. (Rom 1:18-32)

Juxtaposed with the nonbeliever's sin of disbelief, the general sin in a
believer's life may take many forms. Because the believer is
indwelled by the Holy Spirit, these sins are principally issues
of misconduct derived by the state of the believer's commitment on the sanctifying walk with the Holy Spirit. (Rom 8:11)

For the believer, sin occurs when the believer is out of step with Christ's Holy Spirit (Rom 8:2), being out of step on the sanctifying walk to achieve the impossible, in the attempt to achieve that moral goodness and perfection as exemplified by the short life on earth, sacrifice and character of Jesus Christ.

The quenching and grieving of the Holy Spirit (1Thess 5:19; Eph 4:30) is the direct result of the believer's misconduct that the Bible describes as generic sin. This misconduct subjects the believer to His loving discipline, a reaction against sin in the believer's life.

"FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,"
(Hebrews 12:6)

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Hebrews 12:11)

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in
righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate,
equipped for every good work."
(2 Timothy 3:16)

"For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all mankind, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." (Titus 3:11-14)

Scripture is very clear in speaking to the discipline and correction of the believer's misconduct, exhorting the denial of "ungodliness and worldly desires" and advocating living "righteously and godly", as opposed to the unrighteousness of nonbelievers based on unbelief.

THE GENERAL DEFINITION OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS

Looked at another way, unrighteousness, simply defined, is the lack or want of Righteousness, a gift of God (Rom 5:17), which along with the gift of Faith (Eph 2:8), results in Justification (Rom 5:1).

Justification is God's judicial decree which acknowledges believing mankind's accepting and honoring the gifts of Faith and Righteousness. Righteousness is the position in Christ where one has a right standing with God, and, by that position, is on a sanctifying walk with His Holy Spirit in being made righteous (Rom 5).

The Biblical characterization of unrighteousness is exemplified
and specified by the word sin. Even though the word sin has a specific definition, "to miss the mark" from the Hebrew "chata" and the Greek "hamartano", it is generally applied to cover a large number of word concepts that express various manifestations of nonbeliever's unrighteousness and believer's misconduct. Historically, sin has been described in a generic sense without regard to the distinction of its application between nonbelievers and believers. The following confirms this assessment:

According to Strong's Systematic Theology, sin is a "
lack of
conformity to the moral law of God, either in act, disposition, or state
."

Buswell, in his Systematic Theology, defines it as "anything in the creature which does not express or which is contrary to the Holy Character of the Creator."

Chafer borrows and modifies parenthetically, as follows, from the Westminster Larger Catechism in his revered Systematic Theology:

"Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of any law of (or the character of) God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature."

Berkhof instructs us in his Systematic Theology,

"It is not only a transgression of the law of God, but an attack on the Lawgiver Himself, a revolt against God. It is an infringement of the inviolable righteousness of God, which is the very foundation of His throne (Ps 97:2), and an affront to the spotless holiness of God, which require of us that we be holy is all manner of living (1Pet 1:16).”

All of these summary descriptions ignore the particular application of sin differentiated between the believer and nonbeliever.

Walvoord provides a different and an interesting summarization in his Abridged Edition of Chafer's Systematic Theology:

"Sin can be measured by its contrast to the infinite holy character of God. Fallen man does not understand the holiness of God any more than he can understand the depths of human sin. Only by accepting the revelation of what sin is as revealed in the Word of God can man in his limitations partially understand the infinite character of sin against God."

Walvoord's view is directed at the nonbeliever, the "Fallen man" in the second sentence of this quote. The first and last sentences apply to believers and nonbelievers alike.

Nevertheless, Walvoord joins all the other theologians in not specifying a difference in the applications of sin between believers and nonbelievers.

There is only one major sin for the nonbeliever. That major sin is the primordial sin of nonbelief, where God doesn't exist, where all that exists is the subtle yet ever-present reality of His Wrath. (Rom 1:18-32)

Louis Berkhof instructs us in his noted Systematic Theology that,

"The fall of man was occasioned by the temptation of the serpent, who sowed in man's mind the seeds of distrust and unbelief."

When the "prevenient call" is made to the nonbeliever to repent, that repentance, on the part of the called individual, is to turn from a wrathful existence based on nonbelief to the "propitiating truth" represented by Jesus Christ.

For Jesus Christ not only provides forgiveness for the imputed
and inherited sin from Adam, He also provides a release from the Wrath occasioned by Adam's disobedience.

When nonbelievers are on the walk to attain Belief, and by that
walk examine themselves in terms of their unrighteous conduct, they are seeing the manifestations of their personal guilt measured by His Wrath.
They are seeing the consequence of their disbelief. The desire to repent, to turn away from unrighteous conduct, the "wrongs" in one's life, is a fundamental first step in establishing true righteousness in the life of the new believer in Christ.

Prospective converts to Christ begin to see a greater hope and a release from their wrongs, the inherent result of unrighteousness. They begin to apprehend "pardon and peace with God" through the way, Jesus Christ, and the release from God's Wrath. They are beginning to understand the way of righteousness: the walk with the Holy Spirit to glorify God.

This is the miraculous process of the "old man", the slave to sin, dieing in Christ while being coincidently reborn as a new person in Christ, and by that rebirth becoming a slave to righteousness (6:6-16).

The Scriptures and the new believer's experience fully substantiate the miracle of His profound and magnanimous grace:

“Therefore if any person is in Christ, he or she is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2Cor 5:17)

It then follows that if nonbelief is the primary sin for the nonbeliever, what is the application of sin in the believer's life? This is where the real understanding of sin comes to bear, where we see the practical understanding of sin in a historic and a pragmatic context applying to the believer's life.

It is one of the most difficult tasks to lead a nonbeliever to an
understanding of their unrighteousness. It is almost an impossibility to place the gospel of Christ in a position where it will be considered. Yet, there is a great need for the message of Truth today. Unfortunately, young people and older people alike seek righteousness through the devil's deceitful tactic of providing a path of sin disguised as an appealing mirage of righteousness.

There is hope for the unbelieving reader. Open your heart to
this message. For the Holy Spirit is now working the greatest of all miracles in your heart.

Romans 10:8-11
"But what does it say? 'THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART' - that is the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

So, nonbelievers, exercising their unrighteousness, know the difference between right and wrong, for that moral conscience is an unwritten Law "in their hearts." (Rom 2:13-15) This means the nonbeliever cannot disregard the path of righteousness, nor can they deny or ignore His offer of salvation without being judged, either in this life or when life is ended.

JESUS' AUTHORITY

Jesus Christ has the authority to grant forgiveness to unrighteous individuals. He gave formidable signs during His short ministry on earth. These signs gave evidence to the fact that He was the Son of Man, the living God.

Matthew 9:2-6 "And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, 'Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven.' And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, 'This fellow blasphemes.'

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, 'Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? For which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? "But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins' - Then He said to the paralytic - 'Rise, take up your bed, and go home.'"

WITHOUT BELIEF, DEATH

"You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free."
That is Jesus Christ's promise in coming to know Him on the walk with the Holy Spirit. This leads the nonbeliever from a state of righteousness and eternal spiritual death to righteousness and eternal life in Jesus Christ.

John 8:23-32
"And He was saying to them 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.

And so they were saying to Him, 'Who are You?' Jesus said to them, 'What have I been saying to you from the beginning? I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.'

They did not realize that he had been speaking to them about the Father. Jesus therefore said, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.
As He spoke these things, many came to believe Him. Jesus therefore was saying to those who believed Him, 'If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free.'"

There is a promise that unrighteousness will be forgiven. This
is God's promise, a covenant with each believer that he or she
is a new person in understanding and following the witness of
Jesus Christ. (1John 1:5-10)

Hebrews 10_10-16
"By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered a sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for saying, 'THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND UPON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,' He then says, 'AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.' Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin."

The reader should be mindful of Jesus Christ's singular act of
righteousness: the forgiving of the sinner for his/her unrighteousness while simultaneously bestowing on the sinner the gift of righteousness.

Rom 5:6-8 "For while we were still helpless (in our unrighteousness), at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Christ's righteous act). For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us (God's righteousness), in that we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

This is the offer of salvation to all who repent (turn from nonbelief and the unrighteous state) and believe. By this confession of belief (confession: an exclamation of belief) the new believer receives the gifts of Righteousness (Rom 5:17) and Faith (Eph 2:8), is Justified in the sight of God (Rom 5:1), on a beginning walk of sanctification with His Holy Spirit.

For, the believer is not perfect as compared to the standard that is Jesus Christ. This is the reason for the new believer's beginning walk to know God, the very personal, experiential, sanctifying wonder of walking with His Holy Spirit. Yes, believing is a miracle; being His is a miracle! And it is absolutely free to those who believe!

1 Comments:

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