christopher

bearing CHRIST

Sin, Righteousness and Judgment

He (the Spirit of TRUTH) will correct the world concerning Sin, Righteousness and Judgment… John 16:8

Sin

…Concerning sin, because they do not trust (believe) me. John 16:9

A verse often cited as the sole Biblical definition of sin is found in John’s first letter:

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 1John 3:4 (KJV)

According to the King James version (KJV) of the Bible, John wrote that breaking the law constitutes sin.

  • Sin = Breaking the law

Most English dictionaries agree with this understanding of the verse as presented in the KJV, defining sin to be a violation or trespass of a divine law. John had spoken about keeping God’s commands earlier in his letter. In the verse above, it is generally assumed that he was referring specifically to God’s law, not just any law, though John does not actually specify that distinction.

NOTE: There exists a curious redundancy in this translation, stating that “whoever sins is also breaking the law because sin is the breaking of the law.” It is akin to saying, “Whoever eats steak is also eating meat, because steak is meat.”

In more modern English versions of the Bible, the phrase sin is the transgression of the Law is often translated as sin is lawlessness.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1John 3:4 (ESV)

  • Sin = Acting as though there was no law

If lawlessness and lawbreaking are synonymous, then this translation also supports the general consensus on the meaning of sin, that being the breaking of the law. However, if lawlessness is understood to be the absence of law (specifically, God’s law as given unto Moses), then this opens up the definition of sin to additional interpretation. Some allege John was saying that an act of sin is a violation of God’s law because sin is the absence of God’s law. They take this line of reasoning further, claiming that sin is the lack of torah observance. Thus, anyone not keeping the law of Moses is sinning, which would present another definition of sin:

  • Sin = Not observing the law of Moses

As tempting as it may be to read that as, “Anyone not participating in torah observance is sinning”, that is simply false. We know that failure to keep ALL that was commanded is equivalent to violating ALL that was commanded. At first glance, this would then indite all of mankind throughout all the ages, but for that tiny, tiny subset of the population to whom the torah had been given. That is, of course, assuming that anyone among this subset of mankind actually attempted to keep all that had been commanded. And that is also assuming that anyone who ever lived kept ALL that was commanded. I only know of One who fulfilled that requirement.

NOTE: Regardless of interpretation, this translation results in a similar redundancy: He who commits sin commits lawlessness because sin is the committing of lawlessness. Or, whoever sins does not observe the law because sin is the lack of observing the law.

As far as consequences go, failure to keep (the) law is equivalent to breaking (the) law. Being discovered on the wrong side of a property line clearly marked “Trespassers will be shot on sight!” will produce the same results, whether the violation was deliberate or an oversight. If a person was to fall from a great height onto jagged rocks below, the outcome would be the same whether that person jumped, was pushed or slipped.

If we understand that violation carries consequences regardless of intention, the following verse comes into perspective:

The wages of sin is death… Romans 6:23

The word sin (synne) is said to have come to the English language from the Latin sons or sont, meaning guilty. This definition also appears to support the popular understanding of sin: that of being guilty of having broken the law.

In the Scriptures, the English word sin is used to translate the Hebrew words חֵטְא (khate), חָטָא (khat-taw) and חַטָּאָה (khat-taw-ah) as well as the Greek words ἁμαρτία (hamartia) and ἁμαρτάνω (hamartano).

In modern Christian theology, these particular Hebrew and Greek words are generally interpreted to mean a missing of the mark or straying from the path. This understanding is seemingly substantiated by the following verse:

…for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God… Romans 3:23

According to this reading, and using this interpretation, Paul’s statement to the Romans is declaring that everyone has missed the mark; everyone has strayed from the path. And thus we would be presented with yet another definition of sin:

  • Sin = Having missed the mark or strayed from the path

Do not ignore the fact that to miss implies one had first aimed. What, exactly, is this mark that all have apparently aimed for and, subsequently, missed? Is it even possible for a man miss a mark he wasn’t aiming for? How does that work? To stray implies one was on the path to begin with. Which path were all on prior to straying? Can a man be rightfully accused of straying from a path he was never on?

This interpretation, the idea of missing the mark and/or straying from the path, is actually quite distinct from breaking the law. It alters the understanding of sin being either lawbreaking or lawlessness, implying one has tried, but failed. There is an inference that the effort is somehow supposed to have mattered.

NOTE: Even if we change the definition of sin from that of lawbreaking to missing the mark, the redundancy of John’s statement remains: all have missed the mark because sin is missing the mark, or all have strayed from the path because sin is the straying from the path.

Are we any closer to understanding what sin is?

Is sin missing the mark and/or straying from the path?

Is sin breaking the law and/or failing to keep the law?

The Aramaic word for sin is חטיתא (KhteeyThaA), very similar to the Hebrew חַטָּאָה (khat-taw-ah). An English translation of that same verse from John’s letter in the Peshitta presents a simpler understanding of sin:

Whoever commits sin commits evil, because all sin is evil. 1John 3:4

And again:

All unrighteousness / every evil is sin… 1John 5:17

CONTEXT: In his letter, John was explaining that while there certainly is sin that will not result in the immediate termination of one’s physical life, all sin is evil (or unrighteousness), and all evil (or unrighteousness) is sin (see 1John 5:16-17).

  • Sin = Evil / Unrighteousness

The Peshitta offers more insight into Paul’s statement to the Romans:

Because all of them have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

Men are deprived of God’s glory because of sin. This understanding paints a picture other than trying real hard but failing, falling short, missing the mark, straying from the path or even breaking the law.

What is the clearest, most comprehensive definition of sin, as presented in the Scriptures? Consider this statement by Paul to the Romans:

Everything that is not from faith is sin. Romans 14:23

  • Sin – Whatever is not of faith

Jesus had told His disciples that the Spirit of TRUTH would correct the world concerning sin. Instead of insisting on and clinging to a wrong understanding, thinking sin to be merely stepping over a line, whether deliberately or accidentally, as though the goal of all Creation was merely to keep a rule or a set of rules, accept the Spirit of TRUTH’s correction:

because they do not trust (believe) Me.

Whatever is not of faith is sin.

Righteousness

…Concerning righteousness, because I will go to my Father’s presence and you will not see me again. John 16:10

I would suggest that the most common understanding of the word righteousness is that elusive, but hopefully obtainable, state of being that results from my having done right things; from living rightly. This is the kind of righteousness attributed to Job:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless (perfect) and upright (righteous), one who feared God and turned away from evil. Job 1:1

Paul, in recounting his life prior to encountering the Messiah, wrote:

I did have trust in the flesh, for if a man has hoped in his trust in the flesh, I have more than he:
circumcised on the eighth day, of the family of Israel, from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew, son of a Hebrew, in the Law, a Pharisee. In zeal, a persecutor of the church, in righteousness of the written Law I was without indictment. Philippians 3:4-6

As noble as it may sound, it is of this type of righteousness, our own righteousness achieved by our own right efforts, that Isaiah wrote:

…all our righteousness is like the patch of cloth of a menstruous woman. Isaiah 64:6

Harsh!

Regarding having achieved his own righteousness, Paul continued:

But these things that were advantages to me, I have accounted losses for the sake of The Messiah. I also consider all these things a loss for the majesty of the knowledge of Jesus The Messiah, my Lord, him for whose sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all as a dung heap, that I may gain The Messiah, and be found in him, while I do not have my own righteousness, which is from the written Law, but that which is from the faith of The Messiah, which is the righteousness that is from God. Philippians 3:7-9

Paul grew up to be a legitimate, successful Judean. He was zealous for the law and a hammer to those who violated it. He had achieved the objective of being articulate in the rules of his religious beliefs and had a reputation for keeping those rules. And yet, as a result of his meeting the Living God, Paul said of his own achievement, his right living, “All my righteousness amounts to a dung heap.” What, exactly, did he acknowledge he was missing? “…that (righteousness) which is from the faith of The Messiah.”

Job was a good guy, the kind of fellow anyone would have wanted for a neighbor. Job would become famous for his endurance during physical affliction as well as his unwillingness to speak disrespectfully (let alone disparagingly) of God. As significant and valuable as endurance is, Job had lacked one thing, one critical thing. And it was the very same thing Paul learned was missing in his life. But God, being rich in mercy, bestowed it upon both Paul and Job (see James 5:11). After being soundly rebuked by the Most High, Job responded:

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:5-6

For more on Job see my article titled, The Book of Job – Study Guide.

All Job’s uprightness and blamelessness; indeed, even his patient endurance did not spare him that sound rebuke from God, a rebuke that might be summarized in the rhetorical question, “Just who do you think you are!” Such a rebuke would be quite devastating to the rule-keeper crowd, those who have prided themselves in their right living. When they encounter various trials and tribulations, at some point, like Job, they are frustrated to the point of tears as they cry, “But I didn’t do anything wrong!”

I recall a conversation with a young man who had told me, “It is easy for sinners such as yourself to repent, as you are guilty of so much wrongdoing. I, on the other hand, was without reproach all throughout my life. I had to learn how to repent of my righteousness!”

True repentance has nothing to do with our notion and definition of right and wrong, or of good and evil. True repentance is the coming to terms with the fact that God Is Who He Is and you are, well… you. Job, upon this revelation said, “I despise myself, and repent.” This is the response of faith!

Contrast Job the upright with a man who was most certainly not upright. He was, in fact, an idol worshipper from Ur of the Chaldeans named Abram, a man who also had a life-transforming encounter with God. It was not this man’s noble lineage, his years of right living or his patient endurance that earned him the title of the father of all who believe (Romans 4:11).

And Abram believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Genesis 15:6

There is a righteousness that is not the result of our doing right things and/or right living. It is the righteousness of God.

…the righteousness of God has been revealed without the written Law… Romans 3:21

And again:

…that which is from the faith of The Messiah, which is the righteousness that is from God. Philippians 3:9

But how is it obtained?

…the righteousness of God is by the faith of Jesus The Messiah unto every person, also upon every person who believes in Him, for there is no distinction, because all of them have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God, and are made right by grace without charge and by the redemption that exists in Jesus The Messiah. Romans 3:22-24

The Scriptures contrast sin, that which is not of faith, with righteousness – never my own righteousness; rather, the righteousness of God which is of faith.

The righteous shall live by faith. Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38

Faith is the gift of God.

For it is by his grace that we have been saved through faith, and this faith was not from you, but it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

The proud and arrogant often get this backwards. The verses above do not say, “those who do right things impress God, having proven that they are true believers, and it is now incumbent upon God to grant them life,” otherwise it would have been written, “The righteous shall live by works.” What it says is that those to whom God has given faith and whom God considers righteous, righteous by His decree, live (have life) because of, as a result of, that faith…

The faith of God.

The faith from God.

This is NOT your most excellent faith, generated all by yourself, oh you wonder of a person! We’re just certain that God considers it an honor that you believe in Him!

The love of God is an impossible thing for the proud and arrogant to grasp. They are too busy believing they are paying their own way, earning their keep, and doing God a service.

But when the sweetness and the loving kindness of God Our Lifegiver was revealed, not by works of righteousness that we had done, but by his own love, he gave us life through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of The Spirit of Holiness… Titus 3:4-5

Jesus had received word that Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, was sick. Two days later He invited His disciples to journey with him to the town in which Lazarus lived. His disciples warned Him that the Judeans were seeking to stone Him, and were astounded that He wanted to travel into their territory, anyway. Thomas, one of the 12 disciples, resignedly said, “Let’s go also, and die with Him.”

After Jesus was crucified and had risen from the dead, He appeared to His disciples. Thomas wasn’t present at the time and, upon hearing that Jesus was alive said, “Unless I see in his hands the places of the nails and I shall put my fingers in them, and reach my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Eight (8) days later Jesus visited the disciples and this time Thomas was present. Jesus instructed Thomas to do just as he had said he would need to do in order to believe. He urged Thomas to be a believer, not an unbeliever. Having now seen the risen Messiah with his own eyes, Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” (see John 11:1-44, John 20:24-28)

Jesus responded to Thomas:

Now that you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me and have believed. John 20:29

What is the significance of this believing?

Without faith, no one can please God… Hebrews 11:6

Where does this faith come from, and what does it have to do with righteousness?

…the righteousness of God is by the faith of Jesus The Messiah unto every person…who believes in Him… Romans 3:22

Jesus said the world didn’t have the correct understanding of righteousness, but that would soon be corrected:

The Spirit of TRUTH will correct the world concerning righteousness, because I will go to my Father’s presence and you will not see me again…

Receive His correction.

Blessed are those who have not seen me and have believed.

Judgment

…Concerning judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. John 16:11

Who is the prince of this world? Who is Jesus referring to? Let me first address a false, but ever-so-popular teaching associated with the following verses:

We reject shameful cover-ups and we do not walk in craftiness, neither do we deny the word of God, but we display our souls in the revelation of the truth to all the minds of the children of men before God. But if our gospel is covered up, it is covered up to those who are lost, those whose intellects the God of this world has blinded, because they do not believe… 2Corinthians 4:2-4

Who is “the God of this world?” A few paragraphs earlier Paul had written to the Corinthians:

We conduct ourselves publicly all the more. And not as Moses, who had laid a veil over his face, so that the children of Israel would not gaze at the termination of that which was ceasing. But they were blinded in their understanding; for until today whenever the Old Testament is read, that veil remains over them… And whenever anyone of them will be turned to the LORD, the veil is taken away from him. 2Corinthians 3:12-14,16

Who, exactly is doing the blinding, the placing of the veil over men’s minds/understanding?

There is a recurring effort among the generations of men that attempts to deify the Devil, Satan, and seeks to elevate him to godhood. It uses the verse above, 2Corinthians 4:4, as its pretext, assuming the Paul was speaking about Satan, calling him God. Presumably they are unable to grasp that it is the Living God that has closed the minds and veiled the intellects, not the Devil. Just as it is God who has sent strong delusion to those who do not love the TRUTH, so it is God who has blinded them.

Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Exodus 4:11

Many so-called Christian leaders subscribe to this blasphemous notion of dual-godhood, where Jesus’s Father is the good god and the Devil is the bad god. They frame our existence as being the victims in some tragic drama, a long struggle between good and evil. The good god gets the credit for all the good in the world, while the bad god will get the blame for all the evil. Lest the religious leaders lose all their followers, they portray the good god as the assured winner in the ultimate good versus evil showdown that will occur some day in the future. To reinforce this theory, it is necessary for the good god to take a very “hands off” approach when it comes to the day-to-day affairs of men. His involvement is described as more nebulous than specific. He prefers to let things just happen as they happen. This way all the evil in the world can be simply attributed to the bad god, and/or unfortunate circumstances, bad timing, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, bad people, climate change, viruses, etc. And yet they insist the good god is “still in control.” He just allows the bad things to happen.

Wrong.

Unlike the demons, who believe and tremble as a result, men simply will not yield to the TRUTH that there is only one God!

News flash: The Devil, Satan, is not God. He has he ever been called God, not by God or any of God’s apostles. He is most certainly not the God of this world. Satan is called the prince (ruler) of this world by our LORD Jesus; that is “prince” – not even King, let alone God.

God is not locked in some good/evil, yin/yang, behind-the-scenes struggle with His evil twin and nemesis, Satan, the outcome of which is only determined by hope… with a little help from all of us: Remember to get out there and vote!

Satan’s fate is prophesied:

And the Devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone… Revelation 20:10

Satan is subject to and authorized by the Living God:

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? …Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” Job 1:8,12

Satan is not the God of this world! But he has been its prince, its ruler. He has ruled over its kingdoms:

Then Jesus was led of The Spirit of Holiness to the wilderness to be tempted by The Devil…again the Devil brought him to a very high mountain, and he showed him all the Kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these things I will give to you if you will fall down to worship me.” Matthew 4:1,8-9

Approximately two to three years later Jesus had come to Jerusalem where people had gathered to celebrate the Passover. Men from among the nations had asked Phillip if they could see Jesus. Phillip conveyed this request to Andrew who, in turn, told Jesus. Along with His reply, He prayed:

… “Father, glorify your name.'” And a voice was heard from Heaven:

“I have glorified and I am glorifying it again.”

And the crowd that was standing there heard, and they were saying, “It was thunder”, and others were saying “An Angel spoke with him.” Jesus answered and said to them, “This voice was not for my benefit, but for your benefit. Now is the judgment of this world; now The Ruler of this world is hurled outside.” John 12:28-31

Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus said that the ruler, or prince, of this world is now judged and cast out. He did not say that one day thousands of years in the future the prince would be thrown down. As He spoke to the crowd in Jerusalem He said, “NOW!”

As satisfying as it may be to declare the Devil to be in charge of this world, such a statement would be in direct opposition to the words of our LORD Jesus. He said that the prince of this world is judged and he is hurled outside!

When most people think about the judgment of God, they imagine a future event where God is damning all the lowlifes and scum of the Earth to hell. And, if He is not dispatching all the lowlifes, surely He is getting rid of their enemies. When Jesus was born of Mary, the people were expecting a conquering King, one that would throw off the yoke of the oppressors-du-jour (at the time, thought to be the Romans). They were rather disappointed to hear stuff like “Love your enemies” and “Do good to those who mistreat you.” That does not sound very judge-like! But what did Jesus say?

John quoted Jesus on two separate occasions:

For God did not send his Son into the world that he would condemn (judge) the world… John 3:17

I have come, not to judge the world, but to give life to the world. John 12:47

Correction is needed regarding men’s understanding of judgement. Here are more of Jesus’s own words on the topic:

For God did not send his Son into the world that he would condemn the world, but that he would give life to the world by him. Whoever believes in him is not judged, and whoever does not believe is judged already, because he does not believe in The Name of The Only Begotten Son of God. This is the judgment: The Light has come into the world and the children of men loved the darkness more than The Light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does what is hateful, hates The Light and does not come to The Light, lest his works should be convicted. But he who does The Truth comes to The Light, so that his works may be revealed, that they are performed by God. John 3:17-21

And again:

…the prince of this world is judged. John 16:11

Very few seem to realize that God has already passed judgement.