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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Does God Still Get Angry?

Hebrews 10:26-31 (NIV)

[26]  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, [27] but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. [28] Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. [29] How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? [30] For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” [31] It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

In these verses we notice the writer includes himself ("we") as needing this warning. The greek word is translated “we” by definition includes the person writing this word and the people he’s addressing and identifying with. The writer and those he is addressing are believers. This is evidenced by the syntax and specifically the word he uses in regards to the depth of their knowledge of Jesus.  It is those who have received a full knowledge (epignosis) of the truth. It is directed to those who deliberately keep on sinning after they fully understand the way of escape in Jesus. It's not head knowledge verses heart knowledge. This idea is foreign to the NT. It's a fictional philophoical theology to prop the doctrine of once saved always saved. It’s not about sins of weakness that come and go in a believers life but a sinful lifestyle that is not yielded to the Holy Spirit. The specific lifestyle of having an idolatrous mind set. For us today we don't necessarily look to Moses and Jesus for salvation or maintaining a righteous relationship with God. The sin of idolatry in this day and age would be trying to be a friend with the world and God at the same time.  James 4:4 (NIV)
[4] You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Ineviatably what happens when we try to be friends with the world is that Jesus become recreated in our image. It adds seriousness to the exhortation of verse 25 not to abandon meeting together with other Christians (as the initial Greek gar, "for," indicates).

This recalls John's warning in 1Jn 2:19 concerning those who "went out from us." "Their going," he says, "showed that none of them belonged to us." They had known the way of life, but had not chosen to take advantage of it, and one early sign of heart apostasy is an unwillingness to continue association with true believers. We see this again with Peter when he writes, “2 Peter 2:20 (NIV)[20]  If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.

Yet despite the advantage of full enlightenment, if there is no change in behavior and sin continues to dominate the life of professed believers, they will find no other hiding place from God's wrath, for there is no other sacrifice than Christ's which will deal for sin. Since by unchanged behavior such individuals give evidence that Christ's sacrifice is rejected, the one way of escape is rejected also. Only judgment and "blazing fire" after death awaits, as one of the enemies of God (2Th 1:7). This behavior parallels those "having fallen away" of 6:6, where apostasy also led to irremediable judgment.

There is a movement in evangelical Christianity in the USA that doesn’t want to acknowledge that God still judges with sternness and finality. They paint a picture that this is an angry God, which they deny exists. All that they are doing is creating a God in their own imagination. This is not the God we see in scripture. If they refuse to paint a correct picture of God, they create a idol and then worship this idol. Then your doctrines are born in the image of this idol you've created. This results in presenting a lie which is not the truth.

The NIV has properly translated the opening phrase of verse 26 as, if we deliberately keep on sinning. It is not a sin one can stumble into suddenly. It is not the normal falterings of a Christian still learning how to walk in the Spirit. It has been well termed "the cancer of non- commitment." It is choosing to live for self behind a Christian veneer and refusing to be delivered from sin's reign by the past sacrifice and present high priestly ministry of Jesus. It is not continual sinning from ignorance as many church members manifest, but occurs after full enlightenment. Such people know of the power of Christ to deliver, but have not chosen to take advantage of it. Their life may appear to be fairly respectable when judged by the world's standards, but what it is like in God's eyes is described in verses 28-30.

The argument proceeds from the less to the greater, very much as the writer had done in 2:2-3. If immediate death was the penalty for violating the law of Moses (which was but a shadow or picture), how much more should one expect severe judgment for continually rejecting, knowingly and deliberately, the reality which is Jesus and his sacrifice! What they have done is threefold:

 1. They have trampled the Son of God under foot! The writer chooses a title for Jesus which emphasizes his right to be Lord over all. To trample him under foot is to spurn his right to govern life. Lip service is paid to Christian truth but life is lived as one pleases, even adopting the world's values and standards. As one poet has described it:

He lived for himself, and himself alone;
For himself, and none beside.
Just as if Jesus had never lived,
And as if he had never died!

2. They have treated as something common or trivial the blood of the covenant which has power to make one holy. They have regarded the blood of Jesus as having no more value than the blood of any other man, and therefore, in practice, insisted that religious activities ought to be enough to satisfy God. And they are saying this even though they have previously acknowledged that the death of Christ has ruled out such means. Once they regarded themselves as holy (sanctified) by the blood of Jesus, but now they deny this and reject the cross as unnecessary for acceptance before God.

3. They insult the Spirit of grace. Grace becomes cheap to them. The full understanding of redemptive truth, the awareness that the blood of Jesus can make one holy, the pleasures of meeting together with other Christians; all have been a gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit to the individuals considered here. Now these are being rejected and treated with contempt. It is an egregious insult to the One who was sent to draw men and women to salvation. It actually means to become guilty of the sin where  Jesus says in Matthew 7:22-23 (NIV)
[22] Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' [23] Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Monday, July 4, 2016

Do Believers No Longer have a Sinful Human Nature?

Context is one of the most important parts of biblical exegesis. This is essential when it comes to specific words. In common first century Greek one word was use in multiple ways with different meanings, so context needs to be determined when trying to define what a word means. The NIV does an excellent job doing this. It's not perfect but the scholars that were involved in translating did great work in this area. Let's look at the word "sarx" in the New Testament.

Paul uses the Greek word "sarx" or "flesh" in several senses in Romans:
(1) the humanity of Jesus Christ (1:3)
(2) the physical body (2:28)
(3) mankind—"all flesh" (3:20)
(4) moral, or possibly intellectual, weakness (6:19)
(5) the so-called "ethical" meaning of flesh, which is the most common use of the word in his writings and denotes the old sinful human nature. It is the invisible part of us that is expressed through the body or flesh.

It is this 5th sense of the word that pervades chapters 7 and Ro 8, together with a final use in 13:14. Paul did not employ the word "flesh" in this sense when exposing in his earlier chapters the universality of sin. In noting that the sinful passions are aroused by the law, Paul is anticipating his fuller statement in Rom. 7:7-13 about the manner in which the law energizes sin.

Now, is the term "sinful nature" a good translation for this 5th way of using "sarx" when it comes to describing the fallen human condition? Scholars of the language would say yes. When God create humans we were created with a human nature as opposed to a divine nature. This human nature reflects God's nature but in a limited sense. Where God is omniscient humans are limited in what they can know. Where God is omnipresent humans are limited in where they can be. Where God is omnipotent humans are limited in their power. God has a will and so do humans. God feels and so do humans. Where God creates so do humans. When God created humans he created us perfect. Our human nature was without sin. Our inclinations from within our nature was to do what God wanted. Then there came an outside influence that was evil. This evil influence gave humans the chance to exercise their free will. Before the Fall humans had a free will however, after the Fall this free will was forfeited and humans became a slave to the sin that permeated the human nature. This was the result of humans exercising their free will to not do what God wanted thereby shattering their human nature which is the consequence of breaking God's laws for the human condition. This perfect human nature became an imperfect human nature. It became an human nature that was incline to commit sin, to reject God's will. It became a human nature full of sin. Every part of the human nature has been invaded by sin. Our will, our emotions, our mind, our spirit, our body has been infected by sin. It became a sinful human nature.

This sinful human nature came to all humans through Adam. However, God was not going to leave us in this condition. He had a plan to redeem us from this problem. He wanted to restore our free will. We see this plan of redemption unfold before us in the bible. From the Old Testament to the New Testament. This plan culminating in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He came to us with a perfect human nature. He was inclined to do God's will as oppose to the rest of humanity which is inclined to resist God's will because of their imperfect human nature, their sinful human nature. Now when Jesus' work was done and he was resurrected from the dead and ascended to his place of position with God he gave all of humanity an opportunity to be set free from the tyranny of their sinful human nature, which is always inclined to resist God's will, and have their free will restored back to them. So that they would not be a slave to the resisting inclination of the sinful human nature and to be able to chose to do God's will from a place of love and joy. This restoration and repair of the human condition made us a new creation by introducing the Holy Spirit. However, did the newness extinguish the sinful human nature or just add something to our human nature?

Since the sins we commits are a product of the sinful human nature and since people continue to sin after becoming a new creation then the "Sin" part of the human nature is not extinguished. If our human nature was made perfect like Jesus' human nature or the first Adam before the fall and we then sinned as Adam did then that perfect human nature would become a sinful human nature again. But that is not what we read in scripture. Paul the apostle struggled with his sinful human nature as a follower of Jesus Christ. So much so that God gave him a thorn in his flesh to help him keep his sinful nature in check, specifically the sin of pride which is a product of Sin. The sin of pride is not a product of the new creation side of born again believers. It is a product of a sinful human nature.

There is what I call Big "S" sin and small "s" sin or sins. Now when Paul speaks about Big "S" sin he's making a distinction but not a separation. It's not some separate entity that exists apart from the human nature. It's apart of our human nature. It permeates every aspect of our human nature. Our human nature is full of Sin. It's a sinful human nature. For example a car factory produces cars. The Sin factory (sinful human nature) produces sins. Since we still sin as believers this sin comes from somewhere, this somewhere is our sinful human nature. So when Paul use the figurative language that it is dead he means it has been rendered powerless and as believers we need to considered it this way. That it no longer has power over us in order to make decision for God instead of against God. Even though this is our condition as humans we are not a slave to this condition. In Jesus we are free to chose God.

Some say that as believers Sin no longer exists in a believer and all that remains is the "Power of Sin". This is nonsense. First because nowhere in scripture is the "Power of Sin" presented this way. It is a descriptive phrase that describes what happens to Sin when it comes in contact with the Law. Second the "power of Sin" cannot exist without the presence of Sin. We can make a distinction without a separation. This separation does not exist in scripture. Furthermore Paul say to believers in Romans 6:12,  "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." Something cannot reign if it does not exist therefore Sin must still exist in the human nature of believers if Paul is encouraging them to NOT let in reign. Sin cannot exist and exist at the same time and the same place in a believer. This would be a contradiction. God does not contradict himself.

Even with all this said the most important testimony to this truth is that the bible teaches this. In the New Testament the letters from the apostle were written to believers and they were constantly telling them to stop sinning, stop obeying their sinful human nature (flesh) and obey the Holy Spirit. This is made abundantly clear in Revelation were Jesus himself speaks to the believers of certain churches.

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