Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Criteria For Canonicity of Scripture

Below is a list of stated facts that give to us confirmation that what we have in the Bible is indeed the inspired Word of God. The list could be expanded but these are just some preliminary points to consider.

1. The internal evidence. So many of the books of the Bible say something like "the Lord has spoken," or "the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel ..." (Ezek. 1:3).

2. The fulfillment of prophecy. Hundreds, if not thousands of prophecies are given to us in both the OT and the NT. They can be verified and confirmed in secular history. In fact, fulfillment of prophecy is a key factor in telling us that the Bible is the Word of God.

3. The authors claimed inspiration by the Lord through His Holy Spirit. The authors then were liars or they were telling us the truth. And, we can verify what they were saying by objective analysis.

4. Most who were living when the prophets or the apostles wrote, who read what they penned, confirmed the authority of the authors and their statements. I know of no occasions when they said with meaningful evidence, "These men are liars and are not telling the truth!"

5. The Lord over and over said that He was speaking through the authors, and dictating to them His message that He wanted us to receive. This is either true or false.

6. Even the statements of nonbelievers often tell us what was being written was indeed true and could be relied upon. For example, the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar: "I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, ..." (Dan. 4:37).

7. The confirmation of individuals, or of kings and priests, following several decades or more after a certain book had been written (such as Daniel). No one was recorded saying: "What was written X number of years ago is all a lie!"

8. The preservation and the handling of the biblical texts. They were kept with care (for the most part) and were meticulously copied and preserved.

9. Few, if any, claimed that what had been written some years earlier, had contradictions and mistakes. Instead, the manuscripts were held in high esteem, because of their accuracy and fidelity to truth.

10. The high views expressed in the Bible books in regard to the standards of morality, truthfulness, spirituality, and revelation of the nature and the works of God.

11. The consistency of doctrine in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. There are no contradictions that can stand up under honest scrutiny. The writings of the Bible hold up as to the nature of man, the nature of God, His character and all other doctrines that were given forth in the scriptural writings.

12. The contrast of what the Bible teaches in comparison with other religious writings. Other religions cannot come close to the fidelity and spiritual nature of the Bible—for example, in comparing the writings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. In other religious writings, God, or the gods, is degraded, fictionalized, presented as immoral in character, and not worthy of study!

13. Preservation of the biblical texts. No other ancient manuscripts have been preserved in such detail as the Word of God. While there are transmission issues to be studied, still what we have in the manuscripts cannot be matched by the writings of other religions. Secular or historical manuscripts are but patchwork in comparison to the Bible.

Preservation of the biblical manuscripts must be considered. There is a reason that the texts were kept with such care over the centuries, and that would be the fact that so many people realized that the Bible was not simply an ordinary collection of religious works. They stand out far beyond all other manuscripts of antiquity.

14. The attitude of Christ toward the Bible—it was given by inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it was to be accepted as His divine authority for truth.

15. The authors of the Bible were said to be the holy prophets and holy apostles who set forth the inspired Word.

16. While there were a few throughout history who denied the inspiration of the Bible, most of the criticism came late—mainly during the last three hundred years. During the age of skepticism, critics denied the work of God in history. God has not revealed Himself in written revelation, they argue. The Bible is only a naturalistic book, full of errors and mistakes, they claim, though without provable, objective factual evidence.

Critics must objectively and convincingly refute these points in order to debunk the Bible and substantiate their claim that it is not the Word of God. Skepticism cares not for truth, its presuppositions found in its own reasoning is sufficient to make its claim.

A complete study of history, and a thorough examination of the internal claims and evidence within Scripture, flies in the face of critical objections!

-- Dr. Mal Couch

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


54 struggling African nations have had a quick negative response to President Obama's equal rights policy toward homosexuality. These backward nations are more moral than America! They understand the sinfulness of this practice and outlaw homosexual activity. They say "Homosexuality here is taboo, it's something anathema to Africans, and we see it as abhorrent in every country on the continent that we can identify."

Secretary Clinton and Obama are pushing legally to make it a universal acceptance of this practice worldwide in order to placate the homosexual crown. What an irony! These poor nations see morally more than our own President does! Destruction is certain to come upon this nation! --Dr. Mal Couch

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Catholics and England

King Phillip of Spain wanted to do his missionary work and return England to the Catholic Church, destroying the work of the Reformation in that country. He prayed continually for God to help him defeat Sir Francis Drake's little fleet whereby he could then invade that nation. He assembled the Armada with a fleet of very large ships that would face off Drake's limited and small battle wagons.

There is no question that God in His sovereignty destroyed the Spanish Armada and spared England. His providence brought about a miracle that is one-of-a-kind in history. Here are some specific things that the Lord did to defeat the ships of Spain:

Before the conflict began Drake was able (1) to destroy the material by which the Spanish built the staves and casks for storing water and food for their fleet. The casks were inferior and leaked, pouring forth the needed water and spoiling the food supply. (2) Drake's fleet was made up of smaller ships that could maneuver and turn more quickly with the wind. The Spanish galleons were larger and more cumbersome and less able to turn when in combat with Drake's swift, little ships. Drake could move in and out among the Spanish fleet thus more easily destroying them while on the run with the wind.

The sailors of the Spanish fleet were (3) multi-national and thus were not able to communicate with each other very well, whereas the English navy was made up of all Englishmen who could speak more distinctly with each other while in combat. The British navy was more professional and had trained well together. They (4) could load and reload their weapons rapidly. It took about four minutes for the Spanish to load their canons while the English could do so in about one minute's time. The English ships (5) rode low on the water-line and therefore were much harder to see in order to hit them with canon balls where the water would pour in. The Spanish ships rode higher on the water and were easy targets for the English gunners.

The Spanish ships were (6) crowded and therefore had a lot of diseases running rampant throughout the crew. The Spanish sailors (7) had no beds or hammocks to sleep in. They had to "sleep by the guns" with the deck wet. Most of the Spanish sailors had no blankets. They lived miserably on board their ships! The English sailors slept high and dry in warm hammocks.

When the Spanish Armada moved north to Calais and put into port, (8) they were trapped when Drake attacked with eight fire ships that moved in and out of the fleet, causing havoc among the sailors and their vessels. The Spanish fleet (9) was not supplied with enough ammunition, gun powder and canon balls, to fight the English. This caused many Spanish ships to sail limited in their attempt to attack the English fleet.

When the Spanish fleet moved into the English Channel, heading for England, (10) God sent a terrible storm that scattered the ships and sunk many. The English considered, rightly so, this as the miracle of miracles that really destroyed the Spanish fleet along with their plans for invading Britain. (11) Out of 128 Spanish ships, only half were saved when the battle was over.

To escape the English, the Spanish fleet circled England and passed by the shores of Ireland and Scotland. Many of the Spanish galleons (12) were wrecked on the coast with thousands of the sailors killed by the people living on the coast. Only a handful of Spanish sailors ever returned back to Spain.

Since God is the God of all of history, His providence brought on this victory for the people of the Reformation who lived in Reformation England. Many of the people of England brought their faith to our American shores. America became Reformation and Protestant and not Catholic! We are indebted to the Lord for stopping the intentions of the Catholics who wished to return the English people back to the Mother Church! —Dr. Mal Couch

The Natural Proofs of God's Existence

Philosophy of Religion

For generations rational philosophers have attempted to give certain natural arguments for the existence of God. This was a humanistic effort to arm-wrestle objectors into accepting a kind of logical proof of the truth about God's being. But the heart and mind of the lost is so tenacious that such arguments fall on deaf ears.

However many Christians have felt the rational proofs were worthy of consideration. The problem is that such so-called evidence may well speak to the mind of a believer in Christ, but it makes no headway with those who are rebellious sinners. These standard "proofs" are as follows:

The Ontological Argument. Anselm, along with Descartes, argues "man has the idea of an absolutely perfect being; that existence is an attribute of perfection; and that therefore an absolutely perfect being must exist."1 The idea is that God exists in the human mind, and since He does, this must be a logical demonstration that He is! This view can be summed up, "I have an idea that there is a God, therefore I have an experience of God."
The ontological argument in theism consists in a course of reasoning from God as the absolute First Cause of all things to the things He has caused-specifically, the inherent idea that God exists. God is recognized as the Creator of the human mind in which this conception of Himself is found. The fact of the existence of God is involved in this congenital idea.2

The weakness of this view seems obvious. The evil mind of man can conjure up all kinds of views about the nature of God, thus the idea of God (or gods) is but an invention of man's imagination.

The Cosmological Argument. This view would say that all existing things in the world should have an adequate cause; and if so, the universe must have an adequate cause too, a cause that is indefinitely greater. However, the evolutionists argue against such a view and say that all things come into being by natural-chance forces. To them, the cosmological argument means nothing can be ruled out and rejected. "The argument does not necessitate the assumption that the cosmos had a single cause, a personal and absolute cause, -- and therefore falls short of proving the existence of God."3

It is true, however, that the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1-6). This creation should be a convincing revelation. The wonder of creation is seen everywhere. Such a revelation should raise questions in the minds of human beings. But because of sin such "facts" are rejected, distorted, or ascribed to some other cause rather than the handiwork of an all-powerful personal God.

The Teleological Argument. Berkhof explains, "The world everywhere reveals intelligence, order, harmony, and purpose, and thus implies the existence of an intelligent and purposeful being, adequate to the production of such a world. ... It is superior to the cosmological argument in that it makes explicit what is not stated in the latter, namely, that the world contains evidences of intelligence and purpose, and thus leads on to the existence of a conscious, and intelligent and purposeful being."4 Some argue that this only suggests a Mind that is in control of the world processes. The skeptics would simply call this the Force!

The apostle Peter does not hesitate in telling us of the First Cause of creation: "By the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, ... But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (2 Pet. 3:5, 7). Peter not only described the first cause of creation, but he makes the issue relevant to the issues of the existence and the judgment of human beings.

The Moral Argument. Liberal theology is attracted to this view because it recognizes "a Highest Good and [man's] quest for a moral ideal demand and necessitate the existence of a God to give reality to that ideal."5 The Holocaust and the killing of millions of Jews during World War II has a blunting effect on this positive argument. One could use the same logic to argue that God is evil because one sees continually in this world the Lowest Evil! From a natural, observational viewpoint, this argument only brings confusion, and is easily shot down by the critic and skeptic. "While this argument does point to the existence of a holy and just being, it does not compel belief in a God, a Creator, or a being of infinite perfections."6

The Historical Argument. Also known as the Ethnological Argument, this view holds all peoples of the earth have some sense of the divine, a spark of truth that indicates God exists. So the argument goes, if the nature of people leads to religious worship, that is only explained by a "higher Being who has constituted man a religious being."7 The evolutionist would not agree with this view. He would simply point to the superstition of human beings for wanting a Higher Power to give answers to existence.

It is true the apostle Paul argues that nature gives a universal witness to God. In fact, he says "that which is known about God is evident within" men, "for God made it evident to them" (Rom. 1:19). He adds that God's invisible attributes and eternal power, and divine nature, "have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (v. 20).

However, such knowledge does not drive men to God.


Berkhof notes:
In evaluating these arguments it should be pointed out first of all that believers do not need them. Their conviction respecting the existence of God does not depend on them, but on a believing acceptance of God's self-revelation in Scripture. If many in our day are willing to stake their faith in the existence of God on such rational arguments, it is to a great extent due to the fact that they refuse to accept the testimony of the Word of God. Moreover, in using these arguments in an attempt to convince unbelievers, it will be well to bear in mind that none of them can be said to carry absolute conviction. ... They are important as interpretations of God's general revelation and as exhibiting the reasonableness of belief in a divine Being.8

Ryrie adds:
We must not forget that the majority of people who have ever lived have rejected the revelation of God through nature, and that rejection has come with scorn and deliberate substitution of their own gods. They have condemned themselves, and when God rejects them, He does so justly.9

Chafer well summarizes:
The natural man who does not receive or know the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14), has in all ages sought to answer the problem of a visible universe and by his efforts has unceasingly proved this divine estimation of his limitations to be true. It may be difficult for the spiritually enlightened mind to comprehend the fog of confusion in which the often sincere but unregenerate men are plunged. ... However, they have formulated certain general lines of philosophy, and these, like the false religions of the earth, bespeak the spiritual limitations of fallen man.10 -- Dr. Mal Couch


  1. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 26.
  2. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 Vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1976), 1:158.
  3. Louis Berkhof, 27.
  4. Ibid., 26-27.
  5. Ibid., 27.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., 27-28.
  9. Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 38.
  10. Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1:162.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Napoleon and the Jews

Napoleon was changing the face of Europe. He was for the common man the hero of the western world, supposedly bent on removing or tempering the monarchies of various countries and bringing in a form of Republicanism. But he certainly was not a purest and illustrated that fact when he proclaimed himself as the Emperor of France. Many lost faith in this supposed benevolent dictator and conqueror!

But the relationship Napoleon had with the Jews is fascinating. In 1806 he summoned a grand Sanhedrin to meet in Paris. He called for the chief Rabbis from across Europe (mainly from France, Germany, and Italy), to assemble to hear his desire to bring them liberation. He was confident that he could surmount all obstructions against this people and bring them into the light of liberation. But actually, he planned to bend Judaism to fit his purposes.

At the meeting he asked the Rabbis to ponder twelve questions and bring back the answers. If they answered his questions in a positive way, Napoleon thought he could change the way Europe dealt with the isolated Jews. The next year the great Sanhedrin re-assembled and gave him his answers. Part of what he wanted to hear was that the Jewish people were willing to abide by the laws of the countries they lived in, though they would retain their Rabbinic courts for religious purposes. They would also have to agree that this great Sanhedrin would be the one and only legal tribunal for their religious decisions.

This Sanhedrin would be the central controlling body over Jewish affairs. It would appoint Rabbis, urge obedience to national laws, urge Jewish military service, order prayer for the welfare of the kings of various nations, control the lending practices of the Jewish bankers, and promote a kind of public education for the various Jewish communities.

But Napoleon’s plans backfired. The Jews across Europe sensed a trap. The mass of Israelites were by no means inclined to merge their hopes in the destinies of the French Empire and the nations it controlled. The Jews would not exchange "Zion and Jerusalem for Paris," so the saying went!

But as some of the Rabbis said, there would be "infidel Jews" who would succumb to this impious flattery. They were Jews who ignored their own Bible and traditions and desired to be part of the modern new world order. On the 15th of August, the Emperor’s birthday, these "secular" Jews blended the image of Napoleon and his wife Josephine with the name of Jehovah and elevated the imperial eagle above the representation of the Ark of the Covenant in the synagogues.

Most of the Jews were still hoping for the coming of the Messiah and the liberation from the hatred of the Gentile world. To return to the Promise Land was also the hope that filled the hearts of most Jews at that time. As rightly they should, they looked for the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His worldwide earthly reign from Jerusalem. They, as dispensationalists do today, held to a premillennial coming of the Son of David from heaven!

But there were the compromisers and the disbelievers!

The orthodox said, "No Jew, who really adhered to the faith of his fathers, could for a moment tolerate such audacious adulation to the world, which in effect placed the Creator and the creature (i.e. Napoleon) on the same level."

Napoleon’s plan for uniting the Jews and bringing them into acceptance by the Gentile world failed. It was said that many of the Jews clung to a word of prophecy from Numbers 23:9 which read: "Behold, [we are] a people who dwells apart, and shall not be reckoned among the nations."

But there were the compromisers and the disbelievers!

For about this time, many of the Jews were rushing toward modernity and the inclusion of themselves with the Gentile cultures. Many changed their dress, changed their names, and wanted professions that made them a part of the society. This assimilation increased in momentum and continued right on up until the time of Hitler. But the Jews could not escape. Their assimilation and love of the world could not save them. The worst persecution would fall upon them when 6 million died during World War II. -- Dr. Mal Couch

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Blessings of the Battle of Omdurman

Not knowing history, many today do not realize it but in 1898 Africa was temporarily saved from radical Islam by the Nile battle of Omdurman. This city was on the banks of the Nile River some distance from the sixth cataract inland on that great body of water.

In 1884 General Cyrus Gordon, the great Christian and Bible reading British General, was slain on the steps of his headquarters at Khartoum. Thousands of frenzied Muslim dervishes stormed his building. He stood before the Muslims defiant knowing that as a believer in Christ he would die a martyr's death at their hands. This revived fanatical group of Muslims wanted to conquer Africa and the entire world for Allah.

The leader of the dervishes was the Mahdi, the Muslim "messiah" who was a charismatic prophet that would conquer the world either by submission or by the sword. Everyone must submit to him and Allah. But Christian England stood in the way. (Many orthodox Muslims today are looking for the "savior," the Mahdi who will be the conqueror of the world for Allah!)

In 1898 by cool and calculated planning the English began to assemble a large army to avenge the blood of General Gordon. General Horatio Herbert Kitchener knew that the Muslim army had its headquarters on the bank of the Nile in the city of Omdurman just across from Khartoum. His army would be large and well equipped with Sudanese and Egyptian soldiers and other Africans who agreed with the British that this may be one of the final opportunities to stop the Muslims from slaughtering so many Africans and placing so many others under the sword blade of forced conversion. Conversion by the sword was their practice! (It is true however, that the Muslims let many survive if they made no disparaging remarks about Islam. But if they converted to Islam, or were born into the faith, and then left it, they could die!)

This large army set out from Cairo. A railroad was constructed southward as far as possible to take up troops and supplies. And five new river gunboats were sailed or "dragged" up the Nile to lay siege against Omdurman when the time was right and the attack begun. The Grenadier Guards, kilted Highlanders, and the 21st Lancers made the journey up river. The new Muslim leader, the Khalifa, was waiting with thousands of dervish troops in the city.

The British opened up the battle by a bombardment of canon fire from the gunboats. 5,000 African troops of the elite Camel Corps charged the dervishes. The battle was a clash of modern British weapons, but also of spears and swords. Towards the climax came the last great cavalry charge in history. The 21st Lancers charged into the dervish troops five men deep to bring about a terrible slaughter that would be used providentially to stop the inroads being made by fanatical Islam. A future world leader survived that terrible cavalry charge. A young office by the name of Winston Churchill, weighed in on his horse with pistol blazing. Many of the enemy fell in front of him.

As all oriental potentates, the Khalifa, rode on a donkey among his troops before the attack telling them that the Mahdi and the Prophet Mohammed came to him during the night promising them victory and a quick rise to paradise if they died. He added that the legions of hell would tear to shreds the spirits of the defeated Christian infidels. But victory would be theirs, paradise would be theirs, their fame would live forever. Though the masses of Muslim dervishes had heard this before they lurched forward onto the field of battle to defeat Christianity.

Thousands and thousands of the dervish forces perished in about two days time. Only a small number of the British and their allies died. At least for awhile, Islam would be blunted, at least the fanatical branch that was bent on making converts by the sword. And for some years afterward English missionaries would be free and continue to work in Africa with some semblance of safety. -- Dr. Mal Couch

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Jews and the Civil War

The largest ethnic group fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War was the Jews. It is estimated that 10,000 fought for the South. This included first through the third generations, and many old Jewish families from both the Sephardic and the Ashkenazic branches of Judaism. Jews had lived in Charleston, South Carolina since 1695. By 1800 the largest Jewish community was here. The oldest synagogue in America was in that city—Beth Elohim. By 1861, a third of all Jews in America lived in Louisiana.

It was stated by one Rabbi that only in the South were the Jews afforded such an opportunity to be completely equal. To show respect, General Robert E. Lee allowed Jewish soldiers when possible to celebrate all holy days. Unfortunately, Generals Grant and Sherman issued anti-Jewish orders.

One of the most respected officers for the South was General Abraham Myers, an 1832 West Point graduate and classmate of Lee. The city of Fort Myers was named after him. Another Jew, Major Adolph Proskauer of Mobile, Alabama, was wounded several times. One officer said of him: "I can see him now as he nobly carried himself at Gettysburg, standing coolly and calmly at the head of the 12th Alabama amid a perfect rain of bullets, shot, and shell. He was the personification of intrepid gallantry and imperturbable courage."

From North Carolina, six brothers from the Cohen family fought in the 40th Infantry. The first Confederate Jew killed in the war was Albert Lurie Moses of Charlotte. All-Jewish companies were formed from about six Confederate cities.

Many Jews became renowned after the war. Moses Jacob Ezekiel became a world famous sculptor. Judah Benjamin was the first Jewish senator and later declined a seat on the Supreme Court. He was educated at Yale. During the conflict he became the Confederacy attorney general. Physician Simon Baruch from Germany, became the surgeon general of the South. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia. If a band struck up "Dixie," Dr. Baruch would jump up and give the Rebel yell! He let loose the yell even in the Metropolitan Opera House! His son Bernard became one of the most successful financiers of the twentieth century. He became an adviser to presidents from World War I to World War II and became a confidant of President Franklin Roosevelt.

Today there is very little left of the "Jewish South." Most do not know of the contribution that large community played during those troubled times. -- Dr. Mal Couch

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What it means to believe in Christ

The gospel is "good news," but it is personal good news. Christ did something specific on the cross for the individual. Unless the offer of redemption is personalized, one does not become a child of God.

The Bible describes two kinds of faith or belief. (1) The intellectual brand that truly may know certain facts but those facts are not appropriated to the individual personally. The apostle James writes that the satanic forces of the underworld have this kind of belief. "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder" (James 2:19). (2) Then there is saving faith that appropriates and takes personally the fact of Christ’s sacrifice for one’s personal sins. The writer of Hebrews goes to the heart of the matter:

For indeed we have had good news (the gospel) preached to us, just
as they (the Jews in the wilderness) also; but the word they heard did not
profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we
who have believed enter that rest, …" (Heb. 4:2-3)

There is always the temptation to add something to the offer of salvation. Salvation offered by Christ is not cheap. It cost Jesus a terrible death on the cross because of my sins. But all we can do as human beings is trust that sacrifice, the transaction, which has a very personal component to it. God made the good news simple and basic for me personally. I must trust what the Lord did through His Son.

Unfortunately, Roman Catholics believe that Christ died for the Church. There is rarely the statement of personal acceptance of what He did at the cross. Catholics believe they must add good works to His beginning of justification, and even with all the personal efforts in trying to complete salvation, they never really know if they are saved. This is not "good news." The Catholic system plants doubts and fear and adds self-effort in striving to "become" saved by human engineering!

But there are some Protestant groups who do the same. They add to salvation and to the gospel message: good works, water baptism, and sometimes even church membership in their group. This puts the gospel into a framework of exclusivity. You must do this or that to please God or you are not saved!

The rejection of the simple offer of salvation generally can be described as "the evil of an unbelieving heart" (Heb. 3:12). Heart usually implies emotions. But there is more. In other words when one trusts Christ, the emotions are involved (not emotionalism) but also a conscious acceptance of the Lord’s work on the cross. The mind and the soul are responding to what He’s done for us!

That belief for a human being is the major issue (the only issue) for salvation and for becoming a child of God. This is found in so many passages of Scripture. Of course there is John 3:16:

"So thus, definitely loved (Aorist Tense) The God the world, for this reason the Son, the unique born One, [God] gave in order that everyone (pas), the one who is believing into Him, should not himself be destroyed (apolumi, Aorist, Middle, Subjunctive), but (in contrast) should be having (echo, Present, Active, Subjunctive) life eternal."

You cannot squeeze any other requirement into this passage for becoming saved. The verse makes it clear that salvation is (1) by believing, (2) plus nothing else! Belief equals eternal life.

Salvation then is by grace through faith, not through works. "We maintain then a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" (Rom. 3:28). And, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (4:3; Gen. 15:6).

Do not make the gospel complicated. Do not require more for becoming a child of God than the Lord does. God does not have a check list in heaven to test that one has said everything exactly perfect when coming to Christ for salvation. The Lord understands! However the main concern is that there are those who repudiate some facet of the gospel, making that fact trivial or unnecessary as to what constitutes salvation.

In working with many people who have been born again, I have never seen them deny, malign, or make light of all of the factors we have discussed in these essentials. As new born babes they embraced enthusiastically the essentials that make up the gospel message when those essentials were explained to them.

But be careful of the wolves. There are always those who would destroy the simplicity of the salvation message. May these essentials on what constitutes the gospel be a meaningful and helpful reminder to you of God’s graciousness in the plan of salvation.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Complete Justification by Faith

There is no gospel without the truth of justification by faith. Some have problems getting their hands around this subject. Many do not fully understand what the doctrine is all about. Justification (dikaioo) carries the idea of being completely acquitted of sin before the bar of God. The Lord imputes (puts to our account) the very righteousness of Christ. Therefore God sees us clothed in His righteousness not our own. Paul saw the things he had accomplished as dung "in order that (as he said) I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law" (Phil. 3:8b-9). Salvation he adds, "is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (v. 9b).

The words justification and righteousness are really one word. "Justification" is generally the word as a verb; "righteousness" is the noun. We do not earn this justification, it is imputed, imparted to us as a free gift based on our trust in Christ.

The Roman Catholics teach that by faith one starts the justification process or that it is but the first stage towards salvation. A person then must complete justification by works, by self efforts. But the Scriptures teach that it is a completed work in that only God could accomplish such acquittal because of the work of Christ on the cross.

To be legally acquitted, or justified, is an Old Testament concept. The key verse has to do with Abraham in Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed what God had promised and God in turn then saw him as one legally acquitted in His sight. "Abraham believed God and He counted it to him for righteousness." Even Abraham and all the Old Testament saints would be justified only by the forward coming work of Christ on their behalf on the cross. In prophecy Isaiah 53:11-12 says, "My Servant (the coming Messiah) will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. … Yet He Himself will bear the sin of many, and intercede for the transgressors."

Christ illustrated this justification in His story about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:10-14. The self-righteous Pharisee thought he deserved the favor of God by his good deeds but then reasoned that the Lord would look down with disfavor on the Tax Collector. But it was the Tax Collector who confessed his sins. Christ said the Tax Collector "went down to his house justified rather than the (Pharisee)." When the Tax Collector cried out "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" he was claiming the grace of God as exemplified in the Mercy Seat in the temple.

In my Luke Commentary I write,

"Paul says that God ‘justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 3:24). Now in the church age, this happens by direct trust in Jesus, the object of faith, because of His finished work at the cross. Paul says that we receive ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [meant] for all those who believe’ (Rom. 3:22)." (p. 178)

It may be said that justification is the cornerstone of salvation and the gospel. This is certainly indeed "good news." God through His Son has done it all for lost sinners.

This justification is complete and whole. We are seen as righteous as the Son of God by the fact that this righteousness has been put to our account. Whom God saves and justifies cannot be "un-justified". As with the Pharisee in the Luke 18 story, we have a choice to "be trusting in ourselves" or trusting in the finished work of Christ! Trusting Him gives eternal life and this truly is good news—the gospel!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Resurrection of Christ

There is no gospel without the truth about the resurrection. This is a cardinal doctrine of Scripture. It will be the Lord Jesus who will give new life not only to the church saints but those who have died as believers in other generations of the past.

The believers in the Old Testament and the saints in the New Testament knew well that there would be a resurrection of those who trusted in God. Great passages such as Job 19:25-27 give strong confirmation as to the resurrection. The verses read: "Though my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; … my eyes shall see and not another." Daniel adds to this: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt" (12:2). To make certain that Daniel understood that he too would come forth from the grave, the angel Michael who was speaking to him added: "You will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age" (v. 13).

At the death of her brother Lazarus, Martha said to Christ, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" (John 11:23). Jesus then made it clear that He Himself would be the One who would give the power to the resurrection, for both the Old Testament saints and the believers in the coming church age. He said: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die" (v. 25).

There are two main Greek words used for the concept of the resurrection. One is anastasis. ana=up, and stasis=to stand. Or, "to stand up." Another word is exanastasis. It comes from three words: ex=out, ana=up, and stasis=to stand. Or, "To come forth and stand up." It is found only in Philippians 3:11: Paul says, I am "being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the ‘coming forth and standing up’ from the dead."

The word "resurrection" is used fifteen times in the Gospels. The Gospels were still part of the Old Testament dispensation. This tells us the doctrine was well believed and taught among the Old Testament believers.

In the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection as it relates to church saints, Paul makes it clear we in this economy have a connection with Christ that grants us new life in Him. He says, "We have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom. 6:5). In Paul’s definition of the gospel he said: "I delivered to you (in this gospel I preached) as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). There can be no gospel without these three main components! Because of His resurrection, and because we are now in Him, we have the guarantee of the same new eternal life.

The apostle Peter makes a direct connection between the idea of being born again, with the necessity of the resurrection. He writes, "According to His great mercy [He] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3). By this, and through the resurrection, we are given "an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (v. 4). Our imperishable inheritance is because we are now related to the Holy One and now receive eternal life and an eternal new body because of His work on the cross!

It must be remembered that there is also a resurrection for judgment of the lost and the wicked. Daniel mentioned this (Dan. 12:2) and so did Christ in John 5:29.

While I do not agree with everything Dr. Norman Geisler publishes, I think he has written the defining volume on the resurrection entitled: The Battle for the Resurrection published by Thomas Nelson. I believe the book is presently out of print but I urge those interested to try to obtain a copy.

Concerning the resurrection mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, Dr. Dan Mitchell writes in his commentary: "The third truth of the gospel is ‘He was raised’ (v.4). Paul uses the aorist tense to speak of Christ’s death and burial as singular events. Now he uses the perfect passive tense to stress abiding results. Elsewhere Paul uses similar language to speak of God’s miraculous power in the performance of the resurrection (Acts 13:22, 30-37; Rom. 4:24-25)." Mitchell lists fifteen points that are highlighted about the doctrine of the resurrection in his textbook. Mitchell’s discussion on 1 Corinthians 15 is outstanding! The book is: (Mal Couch, Ed Hindson, gen. eds., The Book of First Corinthians [AMG Publications, 2004])

To tamper with the doctrine of the resurrection is to destroy the full definition of the gospel. Without the resurrection there is no gospel!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Cross of Christ

The cross is central to the message of the gospel. There are some who are now teaching a "cross-less" salvation. I need to make this clear. They believe Christ’s death on the cross is essential but that one can be saved without a reference to His work on the cross. The cross is not something magical but it was the instrument used to crucify the Son of God by which He died for sinners. If the human mind can defuse the idea of the cross, it will do so. One wonders why someone would want to downgrade or make little of the idea of the cross.

One cannot speak of the death of the Lord for sin without referring to the cross. But there must be something going on in the mind of those who may make it somewhat insignificance. I sense there is an agenda that could lead to a distortion of Jesus’ sacrifice for sinners.

The empty cross became the most important logo for Christianity. This is because of the teachings of Paul about it. He writes "For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18). It was an offense that was supposed to discredit the early church (Gal. 5:11) and some tried to escape the fact that they would be persecuted for it (6:12). Paul said that he could only boast in the cross of Christ (v. 14). Christ has reconciled both Jew and Gentile together "in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity [between the two]" (Eph. 2:16). Christ did not humble Himself to just any form of death, but He became "obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8).

In Paul’s day there were many who claimed Christ as Savior but the apostle wept at the fact "that they are enemies of the cross of Christ" (3:18). The Lord’s blood spelt down the cross and by this, Paul says, we have "peace through the blood of His cross" (Col. 1:20). The cross was used to inflict the most terrible of deaths, but the Lord "endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). The cross is the central thought of the apostle when he thinks of the death of Christ. Paul wrote "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).

The death of Christ on the cross is central to our message of salvation. It is not a rabbit’s foot or something magical or mystical. But the Lord’s death was destined to be on a cross and that cannot be left out in the message of the gospel.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christ – A Substitute for Sinners

There is no gospel without the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. He took the place of sinners under the wrath of God. This was predicted by the fact that an innocent animal had to die to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve following their disobedience to the Lord’s command to not eat of the forbidden fruit. The Lord slew an animal and "made garments of skin FOR Adam and his wife, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). The FOR implies clearly a covering. Their nakedness somehow exacerbated the issue of sin.

The doctrine of substitution is graphically explained in Isaiah 53 and pictorialized in all the sacrifices proscribed throughout the Old Testament. The Messiah, the Servant of God, "will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. … He will pour out Himself to death. … He will [bear] the sin of many, and intercede for the transgressors" (Isa. 53:11-12).

In the Old Testament the word most used to describe the work of the animal sacrifices is the word atonement. The idea comes from the Hebrew word kapher meaning "to cover." The animal sacrifices only covered sins for one year then had to be repeated the next. In actuality these animal sacrifices were but signs, pictures, projected pictures of what Christ would someday do in the future on the cross. They really were not efficacious. God was not really interested in the blood of bulls and goats (Heb. 10:4-6; Psa. 40:6-8). God was looking forward to the death of His Son for sinners! But with Christ’s sacrifice there would be no atonement but a final, complete and finished work, by Him, Israel’s Messiah, that once for all settled the issue of sin.

Unfortunately, there are various bogus or half-true theories of Christ’s sacrifice. There is the (1) "Ethical atonement" view that just kind of "solved" the problem of sin; the (2) "Payment-to-Satan view that would cancel out any claim the devil may have on human beings, the (3) "Recapitulation theory" which states that Christ simply did what Adam could not do and so satisfied God, the (4) "Commercial theory" that says God’s honor had been injured by sin and now Christ simply restored that honor by living a perfect life, the (5) "Moral Influence view" that states Christ primarily demonstrated the love of the Lord in such a way as to win sinners to Himself, the (6) "Duns Scotus view" that says the heavenly Father could have used anyone, even an angel, to die for sins. There are many other theories but they are all lacking in what the Bible says about the sacrifice of Christ for sinners.

Paul states the work of Christ plainly when he writes, "Christ [is] our Passover [who] has been sacrifice" (1 Cor. 5:7). Peter puts it succinctly when he writes, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (1 Pet. 3:18). Sinners who trust in Christ are "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). And, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3b).

Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross is absolutely essential for the gospel. Without this there is no salvation!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Son of God – God Incarnate

There would be no gospel if our Savior was not the impeccable righteous Son of God.

Jesus Christ could not save us if He were just another human being. He would be part of the sinful race, and if He tried to die in my place under the wrath of God on the cross, He would simply be dying for His own sins! The wonder of wonders—Jesus Chris is fully man (without sin) and fully God. He is the God/Man! He, the second person of the Trinity, took upon Himself flesh in order to participate in the human race. The proof of His uniqueness is His virgin birth. The sin nature was not passed down to Him because He had no human father. Mary gave Christ His humanity; but He was mysteriously birth by the work of the Spirit of God. He was conceived in the womb of Mary but the active agent in that conception was the Holy Spirit. The angel told Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

Recently, a Bible church pastor made the comment that Christ did not sin but that He could have! In my opinion this is almost heresy and it certainly does not reflect an understanding that Christ is actually God, the second person of the Trinity—and God cannot sin! This pastor’s statement tells me volumes about the theological training he did or did not receive!

The Scripture tells us: "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Note that He was tempted many times, in many ways ("in all things") yet He was without sin (in the singular), meaning He did not have the sin propensity, as in the imputed sin transmitted through Adam.

Hebrews further tells us, Christ was a high priest who was "holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners" (7:26). Paul adds that God made Christ "who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). And, Christ in His very nature is "the Holy and Righteous One" (Acts 3:14). He is the One "who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth" (1 Pet. 2:22; Isa. 53:9).

Jesus Christ then is not simply a "way-shower," a good prophet, a great philosopher and teacher. He did not die simply a martyr’s death, the death of a contrary political leader, or one who was just misunderstood by His people. He was perfect in His nature and perfect then in His activities while on earth. No one else could substitute for sinners under the wrath of God. By His death, and by the faith of the recipient of His work on the cross, sinners are declared justified and exonerated from sin.

Paul Enns well writes:
Christ’s divine nature was impeccable. Although Christ had two natures, He was nonetheless one Person and could not divorce Himself of His deity. Wherever He went, the divine nature was present. If the two natures could be separated then it could be said that He could sin in His humanity, but because the human and divine natures cannot be separated from the Person of Christ, and since the divine nature cannot sin, it must be affirmed that Christ could not have sinned. (Moody Handbook of Theology, p. 237)

Only God, God the Son, because of His holiness, could save His own creatures. He bore the wrath for sin. This is an extremely important component of the gospel! Anything less is not the gospel.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Issue of Sin

The gospel is the good news (uangelion) that God has saved, spared, delivered, rescued us from sin that has entrapped and snared us. Salvation is distinctly a rescue operation from the power and the penalty of sin. And sin is "the missing the mark" (hamartia) with the results that men have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This implies that human beings can no longer measure up to who God is. Sin then will keep a person from the presence of the Lord, and even more, that person must die because God cannot tolerate sin in His universe!

Any presentation of a gospel message that ignores the problem of sin, is not the gospel of Scripture. "What are people being saved from?" must be part of the mix. It is a key component of what the gospel is all about. Just as there can be no "Christ-less" gospel, there can be no removal of the problem of sin from the presentation of the gospel. There are those who want to proclaim a "positive" gospel that paints over the subject of sin. It is an effort to avoiding something unpleasant and negative. But this is a modern secular psychological ploy to simply use a salvation vocabulary with SIN, one of the key ingredients removed from the formula and from the definition.

John the Baptist made it clear that Christ came to "take away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). John alludes to Isaiah 53 that tells us why the Messiah must die. Isaiah says the Suffering Servant must die "for our transgressions" (53:5a) and be "crushed for our iniquities" (53:5b). The lost require a "healing" (53:5c) because like sheep they have "gone astray" (v. 6). "But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (v. 6b). Notice that the Messiah will be dying for iniquities (plural) and for the principle of sin in the singular, iniquity (v. 6b). The penalty of sin must fall upon the Messiah. He will bear the iniquities of sinners, but in doing so, as God’s Servant, He "will justify the many" (v. 11). In doing this He will have to die (v. 12) and intercede for the transgressors (v. 12b).

One cannot understand the full implications of the story of the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, without understanding the consequences of sin. Sin entered into the world through Adam’s transgression which then brought on death (Rom. 5:12). The wages of sin is death (6:23), Christ died for sins (1 Cor. 15:3), and gave Himself for our sins (Gal. 1:4). By His blood shed on the cross, we now have forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14). And finally the last book of the Bible tells us that Christ’s blood "washed us from our sin" (Rev. 1:5).

Though there is much more that can be said about sin and its relation to the gospel in defining it, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 gives many of the required components. On the issue of sin these verses tell us "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (v. 3). There can be no understanding about the gospel without fully understanding why Christ died—to save us from our sins! Secular psychology has put a coat of paint over the subject of sin. It has almost been removed from the language of evangelism. And it has been removed as part of the problem of how and why the believer struggles today.

The gospel is about Christ saving us from both the penalty and the power of sin. The substitutionary work of Christ upon the cross is infinitely perfect in its sufficiency. Therefore the sinner who trusts in Christ not only is forgiven, but he is even justified forever (Rom. 3:24). God has never treated sin lightly. Forgiveness may impose no burden on the sinner, but he is forgiven and justified only because the undiminished divine penalty has been borne by Christ (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Death of the Doctrine of Sin

All of the collective evil in the universe is described by the biblical noun sin (hamartia). From this word we come to the study of sin, hamartiology. Sin is difficult to describe from the human standpoint because only the results can be observed. Sin then is an attitude, a state of being that can be classified as rebellion, first and foremost against God. The state of sin then produces sins that translate into rebellious acts against God and others. Sin is the overwhelming cause of all that is wrong in the universe and in the sphere of humanity.

Harmartia basically means to miss the mark. Since all are sinners, humanity misses the mark of God’s standards and glory. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). In other words, human beings cannot measure up to God or His divine requirements. The world is in trouble and cut off from its Creator! But how did it get into this mess? And, if God is sovereign, why did He allow sin to enter into the universe? The Scriptures give answers, though because of the finite mind of human beings, they are difficult to fully comprehend.

Sin and God’s Decree

The Scriptures tell us, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons" (Deut. 29:29). When pondering the mystery of sin in the universe, there is much that is hidden from the limited human mind. Why did God allow sin? Could He have prevented the fall of Lucifer or Adam? Is sin greater in power than God?

Much cannot be answered when thinking about such eternal, weighty matters. But the Bible makes it clear that there is a master plan that is summed up in the word decree. The Scriptures speak of a single decree under which are an infinite number of commands given by the Lord. He has chosen to unfold time and history chronologically, but He sees all things as a complete whole and may carry out, as He wishes, His program from beginning to end. This includes the outworking even of sin.

When God made Lucifer, did He not know that this angelic being would revolt and carry off with him a host of angelic beings? The answer of course is yes. Then somehow in the deep recesses of providence, sin and rebellion is no accident to God. Neither did it destroy a plan conceived in the heart of the Lord.

The Word of God speaks of a single degree. God "has made a decree which will not pass away" (Psalm 148:6); and, "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation" (33:11). Though in Ephesians 1:11 the context is about predestination, Paul gives a general principle when he says that salvation comes about "according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." All things would certainly have to include all things, somehow even evil!

If God is in absolute control of all things, how can created beings still be held responsible? Though this is difficult to reconcile, the Bible clearly proclaims both to be true. Though this is an inscrutable mystery, everything is working out according to God’s purposes. Isaiah writes that the Lord is "declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure" (46:10).

The Origin of Sin

Sin began with the rebellion against God by the angelic host in eternity past. In two cryptic passages of the Old Testament the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel give a pre-historic view of the fall of Satan and the angelic realm. Isaiah 14:12-21 and Ezekiel 28:11-19 give the ancient account of the revolt of Lucifer and a innumerable company of other angelic beings from the domain of God.

Isaiah 14:12-21

After a poetic taunt against the sovereign and king of Babylon and that empire’s system of evil (Isa. 14:4-11), the prophet Isaiah seems to suddenly goes beyond his words of judgment and speaks of another being, a creature that is other-worldly and existing far-higher beyond the historic events in Babylon.

A heavenly creature called "the star of the morning" and "son of the dawn" or Lucifer, plummeted from the throne of God and came into the realm of earth, whereby he "weakened the nations" (v. 12). With five boastful "I will" statements this angelic being sought to place himself above other angels in order to make himself "like the Most High" (v. 14).

For these proud efforts to dethrone God, he was cast from the heavenlies to the earth. This fall made the earth tremble and, in the course of history, would shake nations and kingdoms (v. 16).

The title of this being is Lucifer, the "star of the morning," of whom Archer writes is the Roman name for the morning star. At dawn this star disappears "before the far greater splendor of the sun. This title is addressed to the king of Babylon … as a representative or embodiment of Satan, who is regarded as the power behind the king’s throne. The titanic pride and ambition expressed in verses 13, 14 are out of place on any lips but Satan’s."1

Ezekiel 28:11-19

What is happening in this passage is similar to the Isaiah passage. Ezekiel’s prophetic words in 28:1-10 addresses a human sovereign and tyrant, the king of Tyre, but verses 11-19 go far beyond the worldly king to one who was "full of wisdom and perfect in beauty … in Eden, the garden of God" (v. 13). This personality was "the anointed cherub" (v. 14), who was "blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you … and you sinned" (vv. 15-16). This angelic being was then cast forth from the presence of God (v. 16) and someday he will be judged and will be no more (vv. 18-19). Commenting on verses 11-19 about Satan, Unger writes

Such terminology is most inappropriate from the lips of the Lord
concerning a fallen man, who at best was but a pagan monarch.
The expression, however, is filled with meaningful truth when
applied to the greatest angelic being in his original unfallen state.
This great passage is of tremendous import, recording the origin
of sin and Satan and the character and panoramic career of the
greatest of the angels. … This revelation is made under the king
of Tyre because of the very close connection between human
government of the fallen world system and Satan and the powers
of darkness as the superhuman agencies, who are the real actors
behind the scenes.2

Revelation 12:1-17

Jesus seems to refer back to the events of the fall of Satan (Luke 10:17-20). When the seventy disciples returned with the report, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name" (v. 17), He quickly responds to them by adding, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning" (v. 18). In the grammar it is better to translate Christ’s words as they are in an imperfect or past tense. "I saw Satan fall …"

This same historic past seems to be in Revelation 12:1-17. Chapters 12-15 give the reader a reprieve from the ongoing hammering of the judgments falling in the earth. The author John the apostle pauses in his prophetic chronology to tell of other important events that parallel his central narrative. Chapter 12 then speaks of the fall of Satan from heaven and his pursuit through history of the woman, Israel, and her male child, the Messiah (vv. 5-6).

Verse 4 goes on and describes the fall of Satan ("the star of the morning") in eternity past. Then verse 9 addresses his accelerated activity on earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation. Morris writes, "the remarkable vision seen by John in this chapter looks back first of all to the very beginning of earth history, then races forward to the time of Christ and finally to the events still to be consummated in this final period. This review was necessary for John (and for us) to comprehend the full significance of the great sign about to be unveiled."3

Revelation 12 sets up the great and terrible satanic conflict between Christ and the Devil that so dominates the history of the heaven and the earth. The climax of this comes in the Tribulation where Satan accuses the saints before God (v. 12), but the time will come in the Tribulation when he will be "thrown down" (v. 10). Being cast to the earth, he will persecute believers in an attitude of "great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time" (v. 12).

Fall of Adam

The Genesis 3:1-19 account of the sin of our first parents, has left awesome scars of judgment upon the human race. From this passage the doctrine of the Fall originates. The story is true though it certainly is probably abbreviated and compressed. Innocence is the best way to describe the moral and spiritual state of Adam and his wife Eve before chapter three. They had not sinned and "were not ashamed" of their nakedness before God (2:25). Satan using a serpent as an instrument to beguile, "deceived Eve by his craftiness" (2 Cor. 11:3).

In contrast to what the Lord said to Adam in 2:17 about not eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Satan told Eve (1) she would not die, (2) that her eyes would be opened, "and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (3:5). Eve saw the food was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise (v. 6). Eating of the tree, she shared the food also with Adam (v. 6b). Though Eve was emotionally quite or extremely deceived (1 Tim. 2:14), the apostle Paul makes sure it is understood that Adam was simply deceived though through him sin, with its rebellion, entered into the world and would be passed down through his posterity (Rom. 5:12-19).

The work of Satan is the machination of deceit. The story makes it clear that it was not simply an animal that came to Eve, but the destroyer of souls whose evil inspires the most wicked lusts and designs of men. Though we may not fully understand the importance of the forbidden tree, God must have certainly had His reasons for the prohibition. Can human beings, even our first parents, completely trust the wisdom of the Creator?

Here is the root of all man’s intransigence: the revealed will of the
all-wise, all-powerful, loving God is impugned by unreasoning
arbitrariness being attributed to God. Man is asked to be a judge of
God! Man is asked to become his own god.
The effectiveness of Satan’s method lies in the appeal to base
carnality. Already are evident the proofs of success. First a
question to arouse doubt, then appeal to a supposed sense of
deprivation, finally an awakening of the sensual appetites were
effective to bring on the failure of Adam and Eve in their probation.4

The Central Issues Concerning Sin

Pride, disobedience, rebellion, and ingratitude seem to be at the heart of sin.

When the Lord God confronted Adam and Eve, He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Gen. 3:11). Adam quickly placed the blame of the sin of disobedience onto Eve and said, "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate" (v. 12). When the Lord asked Eve, "What is this you have done?" she also responded by deflecting her own guilt and said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" (v. 13).

It could be argued that pride became the root of disobedience and rebellion. Both Adam and Eve seem to be saying that they know better than the Lord in the issue of the prohibition that He placed upon them.

The apostasy of man is his fall from the obedience owed to God,
or a transgression of the law of God. … The first motion and step in
this disobedience was the disordered desire for some superiority
due to pride of mind. So that she might obtain this superiority—
God’s prohibition being laid aside in her unfaithfulness—[Eve]
willed to test the forbidden fruit to see if it would confer such
superiority. … Therefore the gravity of this sin, containing not
only pride, ingratitude, and unfaithfulness, but also a violation of
a most sacred oath showed, as it were, a general profession of

Though Satan is a superior being to Adam and Eve, he was not the compelling cause of their sin, though he certainly was involved in placing before them the temptation. No one, even on this side of the fall, can say "the devil made me do it." Despite the power of sin even now in the children of Adam, personal responsibility looms large in human affairs. However, it is true that the devil is called "the tempter" (Matt. 4:3).

Biblical Words for Sin

Old Testament. There are at least eight key words that describe sin. One of the most common is chata, used over 500 times. The word is the equivalent of the Greek word hamartano and means to miss the mark. The word pictures the shooting of an arrow that falls short of the target. The word implies both a passive and an active idea. To miss the mark means that one has come short of what is right but also has fallen into rebellion, gross evil, idolatry, or ceremonial sin. Some important passages: (Exod. 20:20; Judges 20:16; Prov. 8:36).

The Hebrew word ra can refer to breaking or ruining something. It is often used to describe overt wickedness, an action that is injurious, as well as something that is simply morally wrong (Gen. 3:5; 38:7; Judges 11:27). Pasha means to rebel or transgress (1 Kings 12:19; Isa. 1:2); shagag is used to describe a staggering drunkard or a sheep going astray. It implies that the one going astray knew what was commanded in the Law (Lev. 4:2; Num. 15:22). Taah is a sin that, though not accidental, implies the person may not have realized its full scope. (Num. 15:22; Psa. 58:3; Isa. 53:6; Ezek. 44:10, 15)

New Testament. There are about twelve main words describing sin. Hamartia is the most common and is used over 200 times. The word was used in the Greek games to mean that one had fallen short of a target with an arrow or javelin. Poneros implies gross moral sin, even sexual deviation. It is even used of the demons whom are described as evil spirits. (Luke 11:26; Acts 19:12; Rom. 12:9; 1 Thess. 5:22)

The adverb kakos is often used to describe physical badness, even disease (Mark 1:32). It then is applied to the issue of moral evil. (Rom. 12:17; 13:3-4, 10; 16:19; 1 Tim. 6:10) There is also the word adikia (unrighteousness, Rom. 1:18); anomos (lawless, iniquity, 1 Tim. 1:9); paraptoma and parabates (transgression, falling away, Rom. 2:23; 5:15-20; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 2:1; James 5:16). Hypocrisis "incorporates three ideas: to interpret falsely as an oracle might do, to pretend as an actor does, and to follow an interpretation known to be false. … False teachers of the end times will interpret falsely and pretend to be what they are not, and many will follow their teaching (1 Tim. 4:2). Hypocrites first deceive themselves into making wrong right; then they deceive others."6

Conclusion. (1) Sin involves pride and arrogance. (2) It is an attitude and also an action that has to do with disobedience, revolt, and rebellion. (3) It goes against instructions, commandments, and laws. (4) It has many forms and shades of expression. (5) It almost always involves actions that harm others. (6) Finally, sin and the sins that follow are ultimately against God!

The Response of God to Sin

Because of the holiness, righteousness, and justice of God, He must respond with judgment against those who sin, and, who by nature are sinners.
Because of His love for humanity, God made a provision for mercy and redemption by the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross for humanity. And,
even the devil and his angels will face a final judgment and an eternal punishment and separation from their Creator.
Ultimately, sin will be finally judged and eradicated from the universe.

The Scriptures are replete with passages that speak of human responsibility and a judgment against sin. That judgment would include both a progressive physical death and a spiritual separation from a righteous God. Adam was told that if he ate of the forbidden tree, "you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17b). The Hebrew text reads, "dying you shall die," and, "you [shall] return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (3:19b). A curse would fall also upon everything, even nature, "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you" (v. 18a).

Judgment then would touch all human beings as people began to multiply on the face of the earth. Ezekiel says, "the soul who sins will die" (Ezek. 18:4). Paul writes, "the judgment arose from one transgression … by the transgression of the one [Adam], death reigned through the one" (Rom. 5:16-17).

In an extremely important but cryptic passage, Genesis tells us, "the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them" (3:21). God Himself slew an animal and covered their nakedness. Though today we do not fully understand the implications of Adam and Eve being without covering before they sinned, their perceiving their own nakedness after their sin played a role in their guilt. God slaying the animal was prophetic of the fact that something innocent died as a substitute and a covering for sin. This of course was pointing to the substitutionary death of Christ.

Like a sacrificial lamb Jesus was "pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5). Christ’s death would be a just satisfaction with God for sin. By faith, humans could be legally acquitted before the bar of God! "But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him" (Rom. 5:8-9).

Jesus said there is an eternal damnation and fire reserved for the first rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels (Matt. 25:41). Along with the beast or antichrist, and the false prophet of the book of Revelation, Satan will spend eternity in "the lake of fire and brimstone" (Rev. 20:10). Knowing that "he has only a short time" (12:12) to practice his evil, Satan will intensify his activity with "great wrath" during the seven year Tribulation period. But to no end; his fate, and the fate of the "angels who did not keep their own domain … is sealed under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6)!

After the final judgments, eternity begins in which the Lord on His throne says, "Behold, I am making all things new" (Rev. 21:5b). This includes the new heavens and new earth where there is "no longer … any death; [and] there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away" (v. 4). In this blessed and glorious eternal state there will be no more sin (v. 27; 22:15). God the Father, and Christ the Lamb of God, will be the personification of the temple, the throne, and the lamp to illumine eternity (21:22-22:5). Sin and its universal destruction will be done away with.

Imputation of Sin

The apostle deals with the positive doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the account of the believer in Romans 4:1-11. But he also quotes Psalm 32:2 where king David writes of the blessedness of forgiveness. "How blessed is the man to whom the does not impute iniquity" (italics mine). Here David implies that sin is indeed imputed to one’s account unless he is blessed with the forgiveness and mercy of God. In verse 1 he writes, "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."

In Greek, logizomai is the word that means to impute, put to one’s account. In Romans 4 Paul puts a twist on the subject and shows how the righteousness of Christ is imputed when one accepts Him as his Savior. But many verses still imply imputation of sin.

Some of the other most important passage on this subject are found in Romans 5 where Paul writes, "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" (v. 12), and, "By the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one" (v. 17a). Finally, "So then as through one transgression [Adam’s] there resulted condemnation to all men" (v. 18).

Both imputation of sin to the human race and imputation of the righteousness of Christ for the believer are judicial issues. God declares the children of Adam guilty because of "the principle of sin" by which the race was polluted.

Some have raised the question, is it fair for God to condemn all humanity because of the sin of Adam? Though we may attempt to argue with that view, the fact is all human beings are sinners. King David seems to imply that he came about as a sinner from the moment of his physical conception. He writes "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). Paul seems to add to this when he says the lost are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). He confirms this when he goes on and says with David, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands (spiritual things), there is none who seeks for God; … there is none who does good, there is not even one" (Rom. 3:10-18; Psalm 14:1-3).

Paul clearly is saying that there are none that have it within their nature to be righteous. Everyone grows up a sinner because of inherent sin. However, the apostle goes on and makes certain we understand that all men will practice sin when he says, "all sinned" (Rom. 5:12b). Looking to such acts, he writes further, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (3:23).

Other verses add to this: "There is no man who does not sin" (1 Kings 8:46); "There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins" (Eccl. 7:20); "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Isa. 53:6); "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. And there is no one who calls on Thy name" (64:6-7a).

While theologians have argued for generations whether sin is imputed originally through Adam, or simply an accumulation of specific evil acts, it seems clear that Scripture is laying both charges against the human race. The clay of humanity was polluted, with the results, that people indeed sin by natural inclination.

What the Scriptures so clearly teach is taught no less clearly by
experience and history. Every man knows that he himself is a sinner.
He knows that every human being whom he ever saw, is in the same
state of apostasy from God. History contains the record of no sinless
man, save the Man Christ Jesus, who, by being sinless, is distinguished
from all other men. We have no account of any family, tribe, or nation
free from the contamination of sin. The universality of sin among men
is therefore one of the most undeniable doctrines of Scripture, and one
of the most certain facts of experience.7

Federal Headship Theory

This issue of how the human race is related to Adam and his sin, is complicated by the Federal Headship view that was espoused under the title of Federal Theology as developed by Coccejus (1602-1669), professor at Franecker and Leyden in Germany. Known as the father of Covenant Theology, Coccejus also taught that Adam stood before the Lord in Eden totally as a free agent. But since they represent all of humanity that would follow, when they sinned their guilt and depravity was passed down to their posterity. The question of unfairness arises—did God simply in an arbitrary manner input Adam’s sin to us by a judicial degree, or is their some kind of realistic or genetic passing down of the sin nature? Thiessen answers:

Both the realistic and the federal theory of the imputation of sin have
seemingly insurmountable problems associated with them; yet they also
solve certain problems. Perhaps there is a mediating position which
contains both the representative concept and the natural relationship
to Adam.8a

The Doctrine of Depravity

Sometimes this doctrine is called Total Depravity. This says that all of humanity is capable of any and all sin, though not everyone sins in an equal manner. Some people are more evil than others. And some sin in the mind and heart, though not carrying out in the open all the vice they are capable of. Thiessen writes,

Man’s want of original righteousness and of holy affections toward God,
and the corruption of his moral nature and his bias toward evil is
called depravity. Its existence is witnessed to by both Scripture and human
experience. The teaching of Scripture that all men must be born again
shows the universality of its existence.8

Hodge adds,

This universal depravity of men is no slight evil. The whole human
race, by their apostasy from God, are totally depraved. By total
depravity, is not meant that all men are equally wicked; nor that any
man is as thoroughly corrupt as it is possible for a man to be; nor that
men are destitute of all moral virtues. … The apostasy from God is
total or complete. All men worship and serve the creature [or created
thing] rather than, and more than the Creator. They are all therefore
declared in Scripture to be spiritually dead. They are destitute of any
principle of spiritual life.9

Romans 1:18-3:20 is the central passage on human depravity. The apostle Paul argues that from the creation of the world, God’s "invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen … so that [people] are without excuse" (1:20). Paul then adds that the Lord gave men over to lusts, degrading passions, and "a depraved mind, to do the things which are not proper" (vv. 24, 26, 28).

It is quite evident that many unsaved people, when judged by man’s
standards, do possess admirable qualities and do perform virtuous acts.
But in the spiritual realm, when judged by God’s standards, the
unsaved sinner is incapable of good. The natural man is enslaved to
sin; he is a child of Satan, rebellious toward God, blind to truth,
corrupt, and unable to save himself or to prepare himself for salvation.
In short, the unregenerate man is DEAD IN SIN, and his WILL IS
ENSLAVED to his evil nature.10

The Scriptures make it clear how tenacious evil really is: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil?" (Jer. 13:23).

The Effect of Sin on Nature

The globe was made to be inhabited by earthly, created beings (Isa. 45:18), therefore when our early ancestors turned from the Lord, the planet was likewise condemned byh human presence. The ground would be cursed and would yield thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:17-19). "Creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of [God] who subjected it. … For we know the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now" (Rom. 8:20-22). More than likely the apostle Paul means by this, decay, disease, and death. But with the ultimate redemption of the children of God, someday "creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption" (v. 21).

The End of the Reign of Sin

When the one-thousand year kingdom is established, the physical earth will have a respite from the curse, though the final purge of sin will not take place until the establishment of the eternal new heaven and new earth. During the kingdom, Christ the Lord will reign in perfect judgment through the power of the Holy Spirit upon Him (Isa. 11:1-5). To some extent nature will be tamed with the result that "the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them" (v. 6). Some of earth’s most dangerous animals (vv. 7-8) "will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain" (v. 9a).

Though these verses describe a marvelous and blessed day for earth when Christ reigns, it is probably best to say that the cruelties of nature are controlled by His authority during this period but not eliminated altogether. That will take place as eternity begins following the final sentencing to doom of Satan, his angels, the beast or antichrist, and the false prophet (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10), and as well, the final judgment of the lost (vv. 11-15).

With the new heaven and the new earth, biology as we know it will be radically altered. There will be no ocean (21:1), though in the new Jerusalem a single river will flow called "the water of life" (22:1). The tree of life will also be there bearing a new fruit each month (v. 2). All we are told of its significance is that it is "for the healing of the nations." Speculation about this is useless because there is so little information given on what all this means. The river and the tree are certainly supernatural and carry eternal significance that we are presently incapable of understanding.

In the eternal state, God "shall wipe away every tear from [the saint’s] eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain" (21:4). The apostle John adds, "there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in" the new Jerusalem (22:3).

The Effect of Sin in History

As the tribes of the earth began to spread and grow in numbers, the sin of Adam was passed down and polluted the growing populations of human beings. Sin became rampant as indicated in Genesis 6-11. The Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strife with man forever, because he also is flesh" (6:3), and, "The wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (v. 5). This brought about "the end of all flesh" (v. 13) with the worldwide flood described in detail in chapters 7-8.

Through righteous Noah and his immediate family, God preserved a human posterity. But the issue of sin continued because of the blight on humanity from Adam. By the time of Genesis 11, people had repopulated the earth with the evilness of heart still intact. As men gathered in the plain of Shinar to build the great tower the Lord declared, "nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them" (11:6). The scattering of the tribes, and the confusion of human language by the Lord, slowed the process of evil to a degree, but certainly not in a permanent way. Unrighteousness would mushroom with idolatry and polytheism following.

Because of human intelligence, civilization would become more technical and astute with invention, art, and learning. But sin and injustice has never been abated (and then only to a degree) except when a portion of the peoples of a nation accepted Christianity. Otherwise, paganism has flourished and will only grow more intense. Nations of course are made up of individuals; and as people go morally, so the nations of the world!

The nations as systems and as populations will be judged at the end of history. The psalmist David speaks of the king-priest, the Lord Jesus, who will sit at the right hand of His Father and judge the nations. David writes, "He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath, He will judge among the nations" (Psalm 110:5-6). At the end of history, in the tribulation, the nations become enraged at the Lord (Rev. 11:18), they join forces with the antichrist, worship him (13:7-8), and then fall under the deception of the harlot (17:15). The nations are brought to their knees by the second coming of Christ when He will "smite the nations; and … will rule them with a rod of iron" (19:15).

At the end of the kingdom reign of the Lord, the nations will be populated by thousands who refuse Him as Savior and rebel against His kingly sovereignty. Satan will be released from his place of confinement, "and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth" (20:8) and come against Christ and His capitol of Jerusalem (v. 9a). The rebellious nations are finally destroyed with fire coming down from heaven (v. 9b). With this judgment, the earthly human systems of government will finally and completely end.

The Role of Satan and the Demons

Satan is called the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5), the devil who deceives (Rev. 20:10), the angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), the liar, the father of lies, the murderer (John 8:44), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the spirit working in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), and the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).

Other titles and descriptions of him make it clear that he is the arch-enemy of God the Father and the Son, and humanity itself. Though tempting people to sin, human beings are still responsible for their transgressions that fly in the face of the laws of God.

The fallen angels, who became the earthly demons are called "deceitful spirits," who cause apostates to pay attention to their diabolical doctrines (1 Tim. 4:1). These same beings energize the worship given to idols. Idolatry inspires people to turn from God to the dark spirit world. This is the abode of demonology.

In the tribulation demons will be extremely active in keeping the world in sin. Revelation 9:1-12 visualizes the demon locust that are propelled forth from the "shaft of the abyss" (v. 2) to torment the people of earth. A second paragraph (vv. 13-21) portrays this demonic activity in the form of horses and horsemen who both kill (v. 15) and bring plagues and fire on mankind (v. 18). Despite the serpent-like pain inflicted (v. 19), the world continues to worship demons and idols "which can neither see nor hear nor talk" (v. 20b). Though they bring harm, the demons also seem to prevent those in the seven-year tribulation from repenting of their murders, sorceries, immorality, and their thefts (v. 21).

Satan and his demonic emissaries work intently to keep the world in the clutches of sin and rebellion. This of course consigns the world to its own spiritual deprivation and prevents its inhabitants from turning to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. However, at the cross, the Lord had the final say against Satan and his demonic forces when He "appeared for this purpose that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8b).

The Holy Spirit and the Conviction of Sin

The Lord told His disciples that, when the Holy Spirit came following His "going away," He "will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:8). The Greek word for convict (elencho) and is translated to correct, censure, rebuke, and may even have the force of to punish. John 16 then "describes the work of the Paraclete as that of the defending attorney and the prosecutor in a trial. … Jesus is in the right as the Paraclete uncovers the nature of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Through this revelation the Paraclete convicts the world."10b

Jesus adds, "concerning sin, because they [those of the world] do not believe in Me; … and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged" (vs. 9, 11). Sin, and its judgment, hangs as a thick cloud over the human race. The Holy Spirit by a subtle inner testimony, witnesses to humanity’s sinfulness, and acts of sin. He testifies of God’s demands, and "of man’s disobedience, and of the consequences of God’s broken Law. … But the Spirit speaks also of righteousness, as the result of Christ’s finished work" on the cross.10c This convicting work of the Spirit does not lead to Efficacious Grace, but is generally classified under what is termed General Grace. General Grace includes this witness and convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and, the witness "of the glory of God" in the heavens (Psalm 19:1), and the handiwork of "His eternal power and divine nature" exhibited in "the creation of the world" (Rom. 1:20). But this evidence does not bring human beings to a conviction of receiving of Christ as Savior. This coming to Christ happens by a sovereign work of efficacious calling.

The Difference Between Sin and Sins

When sin is mentioned in the singular it usually is referring to the principle of original sin and its consequences of spiritual separation and death. "Sin entered into the world, and death through sin" (Rom. 5:12). Continuing his discussion of sin, Paul refers to it as transgression (v. 15), and disobedience (v. 19). Original sin is a habitual deviation of the whole nature of an individual, or a turning away from the righteous demands of God. Because it is the corruption of the whole person, the Bible speaks of the old man (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 4:22); the body of sin (Rom. 6:6); a law of the members (Rom. 7:23); flesh (John 3:6; Rom 7:5, 18, 25).

Sins (plural) that come forth from the principle of sin are actual and they are deviations of human actions from what is right. They are also a turning aside from God (1 John 3:4). Sins come forth from original sin as an act that follows a habit, or as a person’s misdeed that flows from a fault of his nature. Sins may vary in degree and intensity and even harm done to others. Nevertheless, the slightest sin committed is still sin and deserves judgment.

With original sin, all human beings who are descendants of Adam die, because of his "one transgression" (Rom. 5:18). Likewise, "the soul who sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:4). Christ substituted for us on the cross, and under the wrath of God, to set us free from the principle of sin, and the curse of sin. God the Father "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). But Jesus also died for all sins ever committed. Paul writes, "For I delivered to you as of first important what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3). Christ became a second Adam in that He brought about for humanity just the opposite of the judgment of our first parent: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive" (v. 22).

1 Corinthians 15:22 must not be misunderstood. The apostle Paul is writing about the death sentence that came upon all human beings who are related to Adam. Only those who believe in Christ, are actually in Christ and thus made alive. Some have mistakenly thought Paul was teaching a form of universalism and saying all of humanity is actually spiritually related to Jesus. But only those who come to Him by faith are given this new life.

The Purpose of the Law

There is a lot of confusion about the Old Testament Law and its purposes. It was never given as a system of salvation but as a code of conduct. Though it was an entire body of legal demands, it was divided into three parts: (1) the moral requirements, (2) the civil rules, and (3) the ceremonial laws that governed the tabernacle and later the temple rituals. Israel was most blessed to have the Law because it was a gracious system that fenced out the paganism of the cultures of the world. In addition, the Law reflected (1) the righteous and moral nature of God, (2) His righteous demands upon His people, (3) the awful penalty for sin, as illustrated with the animal sacrifices—a sign that something innocent had to die for their lawlessness, and, (4) with the sacrifices, a way was shown how the people could achieve forgiveness and a restored relationship with the Lord.

In a prophetic sense, the Law was but "a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things" (Heb. 10:1). By this the writer of Hebrews goes on and reminds his readers that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (v. 4) but that sins were finally purged by the Christ who "having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God (v. 12). The Lord Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Law. He "perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (v. 14). "He takes away the first [the Law system] in order to establish the second [the way of faith alone]" (v. 9). Thus, "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (v. 26b).

By the time of Christ, many of the Jewish people mistakenly thought the Mosaic Law was a way of salvation. As children of Abraham, if they kept the Law, they thought they would have eternal life. Paul acknowledges the Law is good (1 Tim. 1:18), but it becomes an instrument of judgment for those who fail to keep it—which happens to be all of humanity! The apostle James shows that the Law convicts as transgressors those who do not keep it (James 2:9b), and that if one point is broken, the transgressor "has become guilty of all [of it]" (v. 10b).

The Law is "the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth (Rom. 2:20b), but it cannot save. It reminds people they are sinners (vv. 21-22) and it speaks to all who are under it and causes them to "become accountable to God" (3:19). It reveals the absolute perfection and righteousness of God (3:21). Therefore, "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (v. 20), and then "the Law brings wrath" (4:15).

Because of its heavy judgment, the Law becomes a tutor (a slave-custodian who leads the child to school) "to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). God used the Law to "shut up all men under sin" (v. 22a) because it could never "impart life" (v. 21b). Shut up (sunkleio) means "to imprison, confine, enclose." The Law brings about such condemnation in order to make us plead to Christ for deliverance and salvation.

Because sin hangs so heavy over humanity collectively, and obviously over each individual as well, no one can appease God or become righteous in His sight be doing anything! Thus, by self-works or Law-keeping, no one can become legally acquitted from the charge of sinfulness before God. Paul writes, "to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).

Sin and the Cross

Being helpless, human beings needed a declaration of forgiveness that only God could accomplish through the death of His Son at the cross. Paul puts the problem and the solution succinctly when he writes, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, [God] made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14). Paul sees sin as bringing about such a divine edict and judgment against us that only an infinitely valuable price may satisfy the Lord. The price was paid for at the cross by the death of His only begotten Son.

To human reasoning, "Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:23). The substitutionary death of Jesus is the only way the human sin problem could be solved. Paul emphasizes this great theological truth when he writes, "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (2:2).

By seeing our sins placed on the cross, and by being aware that Christ died for those sins, we know God is "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26b). Since Jesus was the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world (John 1:29), the apostle carries this picture on by showing that, as a lamb, the Lord was the sin-bearer for those who would be redeemed: God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). John expands on this and adds, "He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin" (1 John 3:5).

When Believers Sin

When thinking about justification by faith, one is thinking about the positional, timeless, and judicial issue of sin and salvation. Trusting in Christ as Savior is an act of trust that brings about eternal redemption. Paul again says, "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith" (3:24-25).

However as a child of God, believers are living in time and face issues of experience and maturity. The death of Christ covers the issue of the imputed sin of Adam, and the issues of the sins of the individual. The New Testament speaks honestly about the sin of those who trust in Christ. This is why Paul urges believers, "do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts" (6:12). Yet even he fought the fight against the tug of sin. The great apostle wrote of himself, "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" (7:23).

Some commentators try to say that Paul’s confession is about his struggle before his conversion. But his continual use of the Greek present tense in vv. 15-25 make it clear he was alluding to his own Christian walk at the time he wrote Romans. For some reason this shocks many who believe that Paul could no longer sin. Haldane correctly observes,

If Paul had said he had no sin, he would have deceived himself, and the
truth would not have been in him, 1 John 1. 8. … In one point of view,
then, Paul the Apostle could truly say that he was spiritual; in another,
with equal truth, that he was carnal: literally and truly both spiritual
and carnal. ‘The flesh lusted against the spirit, and the spirit against the
flesh, and these were contrary the one to the other.’ … There was then,
in the Apostle Paul, as in every Christian, ‘as it were the contrary of two
armies,’ … From this warfare, and these opposing principles within no
Christian in this world is ever exempt; and of this every one who knows
the plague of his own heart is fully convinced.

The heathen confesses that he practices what he knows to be wrong,
but his inconsistency arises from the love of the evil. Paul confesses
that he does what is wrong, but declares that instead of loving the
evil, he regards it with hatred and abhorrence.11

The Final End of Sin

For believers in Christ, a final victory over sin and death is assured. Paul cries, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57). Through Him all of the evil powers and authorities in the universe are done away with. "He has abolished all rule and all authority and power" (v. 24), though this work has been completed, in time it still waits for the ultimate subjugation by the Lord (vv. 26-28).

Because of the complete work of Christ at the cross, the resurrection of the dead will be accomplished; the body is to be raised imperishable, "raised in power" as a spiritual body (vv. 42-44). Paul puts it this way: "’The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (v. 44). Quoting Psalm 68:18, the apostle sees Christ as a victorious general, who "ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives" (Eph. 4:8). Paul applies this to the fact that Jesus the Conqueror over sin and death can now give gifts to His church, the body of Christ, for functioning as His emissaries here on earth during this present dispensation.

Though we see sin and evil being exercised still in time and history, the work at the cross, judged even the fallen angelic hosts. "He disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Col. 2:15).

This includes the devil, the perpetrator of sin in the universe who deceived the nations. Because of Christ’s victory, he will be "thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone" (Rev. 20:10), along with the antichrist (the beast) and the false prophet of Revelation 13.

The fact of the coming of the new heaven and new earth, along with the new Jerusalem, shows that sin will be dealt the final blow. In the person of the visible second person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ, will dwell among the redeemed, "and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them" (21:3).

For now, the child of God can rest in Paul’s magnificent words: "But in all things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Rom. 8:57).

Modern Denial of Sin

The world has always tried to rationalize sin away, deny its reality, and even laugh at the idea of a coming judgment for evil. But in the last two centuries, a series of sophisticated isms have become extremely more blatant in liberating humanity of guilt and the fact of sin.

Atheism. The belief that there is no God has been around almost since the dawn of civilization. Pure atheism argues that there is no creator or deity to answer to. Humanity is but an independent higher species that is animal with no dependence on a God. The basis of atheism is that an individual refuses moral accountability. David said, "The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’" From this proclamation, the fool goes on and becomes corrupt and commits "abominable deeds" (Psalm 14:1).

Evolution. The basis of evolution continues this line of reasoning. Evolution contends there is no God and life is simply a spontaneous happening of random chance that operates from natural selection. This process is blind and accidental. If all life, including human beings, has just evolved then there is no God who can demand responsibility and morality. We all simply function by the biological random roll of the dice! Sin and evil are simply the destructive side of accidental genetic or chemical forces.

Existentialism. Atheism and evolution come together in existentialism. Though there are diverse existential groups, they generally proclaim "existence simply for existence sake." We are here in this terrestrial ball, spinning in space, with no purpose. Essence and structure are irrelevant and valueless. Only the subjective really exists. There are no moral absolutes or imperatives.12

Communism. Based on economic and social evolution, communism argues for government control of wealth. Capitalism is the greatest sin that makes slaves of the masses. What is good and moral is generally determined as to how the individual conforms to a philosophy of social and economic engineering. The state determines right and wrong and sets the boundaries within which the citizen exists. Generally speaking, communism comes from the three isms mentioned above.

Secular Humanism. This is also naturalistic and evolutionary in philosophy. The highest principle is to set human beings free to be themselves without religious or moral restrictions. Any effort to impose an exclusive concept of truth and morality, piety, virtue, or justice, that violates free inquiry, is attacked and fought. It abhors doctrine, and biblical creeds. "It decries contemporary orthodox religion as ‘anti-science, anti-freedom, anti-human,’ point out that ‘secular humanism places trust in human intelligence rather than in divine guidance.’"13

Secular Psychology. The name Sigmund Freud (1856-1930) immediately comes to mind when thinking of modern psychology. Freud opened the door for other theorists who followed also followed an evolutionary and naturalistic model as to how humanity functions. Freud detested the Bible and said that religion was infantile and foreign to reality. Human history was explained by evolutionary principles rather than an unfolding divine plan. The idea of guilt and sin was a religious invention because of fear of the unknown, and because humans needed protection from aggressive tendencies. One should understand him or herself rather than focus on guilt. "Turn your eyes inward, look into your own depths, learn first to know yourself!"14

Others, such as theorist George Kelly, followed Freud’s lead. Guilt is the perception of one’s alienation from the approval of others. "For both Kelly and Freud, when we depart from the behavior that we expect from ourselves, we experience discomfort: guilt for Kelly, moral anxiety for Freud."15 Rollo Reese May added, "Guilt … results from not approaching or striving toward one’s full potential as a human," not from disobeying some external religious code.16

Right and wrong have lost their meaning because, according to
modern psychology, none of us is responsible for anything we do.
We are all victims, driven to do whatever we do by the traumas
we suffered as children. … Sin has been redefined as sickness and
the list of "mental illnesses" grows almost daily. Instead of being
held accountable and called upon to repent, the sinner is given
"therapy." Everything from disobedience to murder is excused as
some syndrome or addiction.17

Humanity, because it ignores the biblical revelation, will not of itself find the solution to the evil in the world. People left to their own sinful devices cannot, and will not, turn to Christ. "Every man’s way is right in his own eyes" (Prov. 21:2). Jeremiah well sums up the problem when he writes, "the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9).

--Dr. Mal Couch

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, eds. Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody, 1962), 622.
Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 2:1552-53.
Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 1983), 213.
Harold G. Stigers, A Commentary on Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 74.
William Ames, The Morrow of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968), 114.
Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 242-43.
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 4 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 2:233.
Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 191.
Ibid., 2:233-34.
David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1963), 25.
Robert Haldane, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), 302-03.
Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 234.
Ibid., 341.
B. R. Hergenhahn, An Introduction to Theories of Personality, 4th Edition (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994), 50.
Ibid., 463.
Ibid., 566.
Dave Hunt, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1998), 324.

8a. Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, 189.

10b. Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 3 Vol. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 1:428.

10c. Robert Govett, Govett on John (Miami Springs, FL: Conley & Schoettle, 1984), 245-46.