Posted in Biblical Questions, Communication, critique, Depravity, Freewill, philosophy, Theology

Back in the Saddle with Original Sin: A Review of “Why Romans 5:12-21 Does NOT say We Are Born Guilty”

Do you like cake? Do you enjoy eating it? So do I, and I think I shall have a slice.1

Recently, I had responded to a fellow blogger (Haden Clark) in light of his denial of the doctrine of Original Sin. Wherever you may fall on this particular issue, this is an important biblical doctrine. We are told in Scripture that God made man upright, but in response to how God made us we have sought out many sinful schemes (Eccl 7.29). If I accurately understand Clark (and I believe I do, but he is free to correct me if I am wrong), he would merely respond to this verse that yes God made man without sin (upright), but using his freedom to will whatsoever he desires man chose to rebel. What Adam did in the garden we all do. Not by necessity. Not because Adam’s trespass is somehow consequentially afforded to us perverting who we are as human beings. Such things as these (that our sin is tied to a twisted fallen nature) Clark seemingly denies.

  • He writes: “Human nature entails imperfection (we are not God) and freewill (we are free to make our own choices). This equation (imperfection + freewill + temptation) is all I see to be the necessary for the conclusion that we will all inevitably sin of our own choosing. It is by this freewill decision to rebel against our Creator that lands us all justifiably under God’s wrath. But no, not for a second do I believe that we are born guilty, or guilty by our nature, and I have shown why I don’t believe this in the article already cited” (opening par).

I don’t want to be redundant, so I will attempt to refrain from stating what I have already said in response to the article which Clark refers. However, I do want to add that the syllogism that he offers while valid in form (modus ponens; affirming the antecedent) has a faulty premise in line 2. Namely that he seemingly equates Jesus the Son of God on equal footing with the race of Adam, denying that the “virgin birth brought on by the Holy Spirit” does anything to differentiate us (humanly speaking) from our Lord.

Clark in his new article entitled, “Why Romans 5:12-21 Does NOT say We Are Born Guilty” (https://helpmebelieveblog.com/why-romans-512-21-does-not-say-we-are-born-guilty/) hones in on three key verses (Rom 5.12, 18-19) in order to deny a doctrine that he does not want to “be stuck with” because of “the ugly conclusions” this doctrine naturally brings (par 11). I think that it is fair to say that the one possible conclusion that Clark desires to deny and thus goes to great lengths attempting to avoid is what the doctrine of Original Sin draws out…we are not FREE.

If the doctrine is true, and if this is what Paul is saying here in Romans 5, then our natures are corrupted by sin. Which opens up the logical conclusion that we are not truly free in an autonomous sense. That is to say, free to will good or evil without any internal mechanism that pushes in a direction that we do not want to go. Clark has already denied this conclusion “wholesale” (par 1) before looking at these verses in Romans.

To be fair Clark does seem to suggest that “we are prone to sin,” but he is speaking externally since there is no necessary internal pressure being applied to the individual in question who does sin. If the choice of good or bad is presented before us, we can deem what we desire—good or bad. In effect, according to Clark’s worldview we are neutral towards righteousness or unrighteousness, since our “human nature” is essentially free. Not even Erasmus would dare step into those murky waters.

Philosophically and experientially I can see why Clark would draw such conclusions. I can honestly sympathize, as there was a time in my past when I believed such things, but let’s be honest here the Bible does not paint humanity in such flowery overtones. (But…I get ahead of myself.)

What I want to do is look at Romans 5:12 and then vv. 18-19 as Clark has done in an “honest exegetical way” (par 4). What we want to avoid when studying biblical texts is doing “snapshot exegesis.” That is taking a few verses and treating them as if they stand alone, without bearing in mind the overall context/flow-of-thought. Just for clarity, I am not accusing Clark of necessarily doing this, but I want to be clear it is something I want to avoid.

Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”2

What is this verse saying? Clark says, “The verse is clear that the curse of Adam was death. Death entered the world through Adam” (par 4). A little later he says the same thing, “Whereas, in verse 12 “death” entered through Adam and spread to all…” (par 5).

Please reread Rom 5:12 and notice that Paul says that it is “sin” that entered through Adam. To be sure “death” does find its entrance in the garden, but “death” is the consequence of sin; sin on the other hand is the antecedent (the cause). Whatever v. 12 says, it most assuredly says Adam ushered in sin, and as Paul points out just a couple verses later “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Rom 5.19).

Now I agree with Clark when he writes, “…I think Adam’s sin clearly had an effect on not only us, but all of creation” (final par). I would imagine that Clark draws this conclusion from what God decreed in Gen 3:14-19 and Rom 8:19-23, and if so I congratulate him but there are others places in Scripture that likewise reveal the fallen condition creation in a whole has been left in since Adam’s rebellion. I fail to see the logical consistency in this, how he can accept the one and deny the other, but I will leave him to muddle over such issues.

One of the things that I teach my students in studying their Bible’s is to pay attention to the grammar of the text. You do not have to know Greek (although it is admittedly better if you do) in order to notice transitional words or phrases, emphasis placed here or there.

Verse 12 starts with “Therefore”3 and so the reader is immediately keyed off to the fact that this looks back to what was written earlier. The “therefore” is there “because of” something else. Well, what is it?

What conclusion is Paul driving at from what he has said before?

Verses 1-3 speak of our rejoicing “in the hope of the glory of God” (v.2), “since we have been justified by faith” (v. 1a) and we have by this act of justification gained “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.1b). Which, in turns enables us to “rejoice in our sufferings” (v. 3a) that come in this life as a disciple of Jesus. Furthermore, Paul explains that as Christians our “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5.5).

When did this transaction take place? What is the root cause of our rejoicing and hope, and what was our condition beforehand? Paul tells us that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5.6; italics added). In fact, Paul says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5.8; italics added). And, not just sinners but when “we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5.10a; italics added).

So, let’s get this straight. Paul says we were weak and ungodly, sinners and enemies of God before being justified in Christ receiving the Holy Spirit. For this reason, “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Rom 5.11). That is to say, we were estranged from God—far from Him—before being justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

And you say, “So what, what’s the point?” That starting in verse 12 Paul begins to do a compare and contrast between the work of Christ (a work of God), and the work of Adam (a work of man). In identifying this work, he says the one is not like the other (vv. 15, 16, 17). The consequences are markedly different, although the similarities are found in two representative heads: Adam or Jesus. Up until the 5th chapter of Romans Paul has been making a careful category distinction between two different people groups (and no I’m not speaking about Jew and Gentile) those who are in Christ and those who are in Adam.

Starting in chapter 1 Paul thanks God and praises the Romans for their faith, desiring to share blessing with them if only he could get to them. He rests secured in and offers praise for the gospel of Jesus Christ which he identifies as the power of God (Rom 1.16). And then, for the remainder of chapter 1 all the way through the majority of chapter 3 he offers scathing remarks against those who are in Adam. It makes no difference if they are Jew or Gentile, if they have the Law-Word of God or not, the conclusion is the same: “None [are] righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3.10-12). Like I said earlier no flowery overtones.

The only difference, the only hope is found in “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom 3.22). Man, in his natural state possess nothing to boast about or in. The fourth chapter keeps up this necessary distinction between to people groups—the justified and unjustified—where Abraham is separated as markedly different than fallen man for he took God at His word, when all he was receiving were promises that had not yet been answered (cf. Rom 4.18-22).

Paul explains that “the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for [Abraham’s] sake alone, but for our also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4.24-25). Not everyone is a true child of Abraham, but only those who have the faith of Abraham (Rom 4.16).

What Paul has been arguing for is a category of two different types of people. This is the key to understanding the discussion to Romans 5:12-21, for Paul is comparing and contrasting two different categories of people under to different representative heads: Adam or Christ. As you will see in a moment this is important to finding your way through the weeds that Clark is unfortunately lost in.

Romans 5:18-19 “Therefore, as one trespass led to the condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

In looking at these verses (Rom 5.18-19) Clark readily admits that “on the surface these verses seem to buttress” the claim that we are “by nature guilty” (par 8). Now he denies this conclusion, and we shall see why here in a moment, but I do want the reader to understand the phrase “the many” does mean all. So “all men” were rightly condemned by Adam’s sin, just as “all men” are rightly justified by Jesus obedience; “all men” were made sinners because of Adam, just as “all men” are made righteous because of Jesus.

I think what Clark states regarding these verses is actually very helpful. He writes, “The important thing to note (and this really is the main point!) is that the relationship between part a and part b of both verses are univocal, symmetric…what’s true of part a must be true of part b in both verses” (par 12; italics in original). He is right. However, his conclusion is wrong because he fails to follow Paul’s line of thought throughout the Roman document separating the two distinct categories of people.

Adam represents all of mankind. We are all in Adam, we are all descended from him. I think on this Bible-believing Christians can agree.

Paul says that Adam “was a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5.14). That is to say Adam resembled (Gr. tupos) the one who came after him. We know that this individual is the “seed of the woman” (Gen 3.15) promised in the beginning, and the “seed of Abraham” (Gen 12.7; 13.15-16; 15.5, etc.; cf. Gal 3.16). In light of the “type to come” who Paul calls in another place “the last Adam” (1Cor 15.45), his “free gift is not like the trespass” (Rom 5.15a; emphasis added) “and the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin” (Rom 5.16; emphasis added).

In other words, what Adam’s action brought in, Jesus’ action brought with it something else entirely. Because of Adam’s sin “death reigned through that one man” (Rom 5.17a); but, “through the one man Jesus Christ…the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life” (Rom 18b; reordered for clarity).

Knowing these things to be true, how then should we read vv.18-19?

Through or “in Adam” all men receive condemnation, but through or “in Jesus Christ” all men receive justification (v. 18). In Adam “the many were made sinners” (Rom 5.19a), but in Christ “the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5.19b). Clark assumes that the only way to understand this is to believe in universal justification for all people, which he says “the Gospels, and New Testament in total” (par 12) deny. I agree, and would only add that the entire teaching of Scripture (Old and New) flatly deny any form of universal justification, but that is not what Paul is arguing for. He is effectively arguing and the remainder of his Roman epistle continues this line of thought there is a category distinction between the two types of people: those in Adam and those in Christ. All those in Adam are rightly condemned (v.18) as sinners, just as all of those in Christ are rightly justified.

Clark writes, “Trying to say that Jesus’ atoning death is not universal, but Adam’s guilt is, is a fallacy” (par 12). Again, depends on whether or not you are properly defining your categories making distinctions where necessary. Words have various semantic ranges, and their meaning is definable by context only.

On the one hand Jesus’ atoning death is not universal in that all people are not saved, but on the other hand Jesus’ atoning death is universal in application to those who believe in Him. All of those individuals (universal in application, not content of the entire human race) who come to Jesus, he promises to never drive away (John 6.37). We are all born in Adam, but we are not all born in Jesus. In order to be born in the first we come by way of the flesh, but in order to be born in the second we come by way of the Spirit (John 3).

This is important. Both works of Adam and Jesus were completed in the natural world, but both men’s actions had spiritual ramifications (results) tied directly to them. We should note that Paul has no problems tying the natural implication of Adam’s sin (i.e. we all die) with the spiritual fruition garnered by it (i.e. we are all sinners). In Adam, we receive condemnation, but in Christ we receive justification—both are spiritual judgments by God.

Closing Remarks:

Clark you write, “I’m committed to letting my theology be informed by the text and not the other way around” (par 13), and yet you are adamant that “we possess a human nature which is imperfect and free to chose as we wish” (final par). You also seem to deny the concept of being “spiritually dead” (you use the phrase “spiritual death”), because you do not see it “described in the Fall narrative whatsoever…nor does any other Old Testament prophet describe the curse of the Fall as a spiritual death” (par 5).

May I suggest to you that the reason you fail to see anything to the contrary of your position is because you are so entrenched in the idea that we must be “free to choose” whatsoever we wish? To be fair the term “freewill” is nowhere plainly laid out in Scripture either, but you most assuredly believe it. Now I figure you are smart enough to realize that this does not actually prove anything, since it is an argument of silence, and such reasoning could be used against any number of orthodox Christian teachings.

My point, however, is that your theological/philosophical commitments do have a direct bearing on what you see or do not see in Scripture. The Bible does not paint us in the optimistic light that you seem to assume.

Paul is quite clear that before we are redeemed by Christ we are enslaved to sin (cf. Rom 6.6). Slaves are by nature not free, are they? David, who was a prophet of God did say that he “was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa 51.5; cf. Job 14.4; 15.14-16). Obviously, Paul agreed for he says that we are “dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph 2.1) because we “were by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2.3). Jeremiah, another prophet states categorically that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer 17.9), no doubt this is what the Lord alluded to when he said that from our hearts comes “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person…” (Matt 5.19-20a).

Why are all men sinners? Why does the Bible speak with such pejoratives describing the human condition, if what you say is true that we are essentially good? You admit that Adam’s ushering in sin did something, but when the language is before you describing what that something is, you categorically deny it? Could you please turn me to where you learned from Scripture that man is this angelic like creature (able to will the good or the bad) that you presuppose so that I might learn these things for myself?

_____________________________

ENDNOTES:

1 By the way Clark, I loved the sarcasm in your statement regarding having your cake and eating it to. I had a few good-natured laughs in light of it. Of course, it was that biting mockery that led me to want to respond yet again.

2 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

3 Various English versions translate the phrase (dia houtos) “So then” (NET), “Because of this” (LEB), “Wherefore” (Webster), “Just as” (ISV) with the idea of comparing what came before. It should be noted that much of what Paul discusses in Romans 5:12-21 also has a direct bearing on what follows after in the subsequent chapters of the letter. In particular a compare and contrast between being a slave to sin or to righteousness (the one by natural means, the other spiritual); as well as, the internal struggle with a dual nature dueling within the heart of the redeemed (cf. Rom 7), etc.

Posted in Christian Perspective, Communication, critique, dialogue

Being Open to Critique: A Precursor to Reviewing a Fellow Blogger on the Doctrine of Original Sin

I have a sin problem. I am a sinner. This acknowledgement is not based upon experience (although my experience certainly confirms this), but because the Bible tells me so.

To some, I am sure that sounds like believing in an old wise tale or just utter foolishness on my part. Of course, if I were to ask why you believed the things that you did, you would have no better answer forthcoming. Someone told you so. Whether it was your parents, or your teachers, or your pastors, or a philosopher you look up to, or a historian, politician, scientist, etc. the point is you have come to believe what you do based on the testimony of another. Perhaps the knee jerk reaction is to deny this, but if you are honest with yourself (and others) and you do an introspective investigation of your base assumptions about reality/knowledge, then you—even you—will necessarily admit that this is true.

And there is nothing wrong with that. That is how you were (are) made to function. The problem is not that you do this, but rather what you lean upon as authoritative. What authority do you depend upon? Who are you dependent on? To whom do you turn to for advice? Where do you go in order to know things? And if you are a relativist that claims you really know nothing, I must honestly ask this question: “Are you telling me that you know that is true? If you are, then on what grounds do you claim to know nothing—for that is a claim of knowledge whether you choose to admit it or not.”

If you are a blogger, you are writing something because you have something to say. You are saying something because you believe you know what you are talking about. You know what you are talking about (or at least believe you know) in light of the authority to which you submit. Yes, submission is the natural aspect of life when you are a dependent being; Kids submit to parents, students submit to teachers, citizens submit to law enforcement agencies and the church submits to Christ, who submits to the Father who sends out the Holy Spirit into the world in submission to both the Father and Son.

How a Christian shows submission to their Creator is by being dependent upon His Word. To come before God in fearful submission “is the beginning of knowledge…and wisdom” (Prov 1.7; 9.10), “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright…” (Prov 2.6-7a). Thus, when Jesus says that his true disciples “abide in [His] word” (John 8.31) enabling them (you/me) to “know the truth” in order to be “set…free” (John 8.32), we know that means we are to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1Thes 5.21; cf. Phil 2.16) in light of God’s Word not man’s (cf. 1Thes 2.13).

As a Christian I am indebted to Jesus Christ. He saved me from my sin. He took away my guilt and made peace between me and God my Creator. Something I could not do, for I was incapable of doing so, He did for me. Someone the Bible declares as ungodly, and an enemy of God (Rom 5.8, 10); and yet, as a Christian I can affirm with much assurance and confidence “Christ died for us” (Rom 5.9) …for me. He paid for my life through the shedding of His blood (cf. 1Cor 6.20; 7.23; Heb 9.22; 1Pet 1.18-19). He freed me from my bondage, to that which I was enslaved before I knew Him—sin (see John 8.21, 24; 34-36; Rom 6.6-7).

But you say, “You said at the beginning of your post that you had a problem, you are a sinner. How can that be if what you say is true that faith in Christ frees one from their sin? How can you say that Jesus paid the price for your life with His own, if you are still a sinner?”

Great question, I am glad you are paying attention.

This is not a contradiction, although I will grant at first glance it appears to be one. Christ’s atonement truly frees us from our former bondage to sin, but this breaking of the bonds does not eliminate our sinning indefinitely. If that were the case, then we would have no need for a continual intercessor before the Father on our behalf. If that were true, then we would not need an advocate for us who when we confess our sins is ready and able to forgive us of our sins. Freedom from bondage is not the elimination of sinning, but a definite curbing of the necessity. In plain terms we no longer sin by necessity, but we do sin because of an internal war1 between what is right and wrong (cf. Rom 7.14b-25; Gal 5.16-17).

Nor, is this permission for the Christian who recognizes he still sins, but those sins are covered by God’s grace: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6.1-2; also see 1John 3.9). Though the standard before us is to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5.48; cf. 1Pet 1.15-16), there are times when our sin seizes the opportunity to cause us to fall (Rom 7.11).

What difference is there then, in the Christian and the unbeliever? The difference is found in the fact that the Christian readily recognizes that the law of God is holy, spiritual and good (Rom 7.12, 14). The difference is found in the fact that the Christian—the one who has the mind of Christ as opposed to those who do not (1Cor 2.12-16)—”delights in the law of God” (Rom 7.22a) and desires “to do what is right” (Rom 7.21). Whereas, the natural man is said to have an opposite position regarding God’s Law-Word: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8.7-8), because they refuse to draw near to God in fear and faith (Heb 11.6).

Okay, so where am I going with this post? Let’s do a quick review and then I’ll tell you what’s coming down the pike.

In this post, I have admitted that I am a sinner—I sin—but that I am also a sinner saved by grace. Jesus Christ died for me, and it is He in whom I place all my hope. Without Him, I am utterly lost.

In this post, I have also pointed out that what we believe is in some fashion based on the testimony of another. That testimony, regardless of the source(s), is viewed as having authority in our lives. To this reservoir of truth, we submit our thinking; to this testimony we are dependent. The problem is not in our dependency, but in what we lean upon as authoritative in our lives. In short, every person on the planet has faith-commitments that they turn to in order to make sense of the world in which we live.

In this post, I said for the Christian that source of dependency is upon God the Father, Christ our Rock, and the Holy Spirit our guide. Ultimately, for the Christian it is by the Word of God (the Holy Bible) that we are enabled to truly know anything. That truth sets us free. That truth is our rule of life and we must, like the apostles and prophets before us, learn to know what it means to not go beyond what is written (cf. 1Cor 4.6).

Finally, in this post I mentioned that as a blogger we are putting forth our ideas, thoughts and convictions in order to share with and teach others what we know/believe. Since this is a public forum, we must also recognize that this puts what we say under the lights of scrutiny. Our teachings are rightly opened to critical thought.

This is not a popular concept in Western thinking today. The underlying assumption by many is that we have a right to say what we wish, but are free from critique. Having our ideas examined is not a pleasant experience to be sure, but it is a necessary part of growing up. Little children are the ones that say “Nuh-uh, I’m not listening to you! Nanna nanna boo who.” The immature scream for you to be silent. They are the ones that cover their ears and shut their eyes, gnashing their teeth in bitter hatred as they threaten you.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov 27.17). This process can only happen when the two opposing substances meet. This is only possible when we dialogue with each other.

With this in mind I want to offer a thank you to Haden Clark, who has graciously put up with my interaction with some of his own thoughts. For those who are followers of his blog, I want you to know that I am not seeking harm your friend or loved one. His posts have been a great boon to myself, as they have caused me to reflect deeper on what I believe, while patiently dealing with an opposing opinion.

In Scripture we are commanded to “contend for the faith” (Jude 1.3 and to “correct [our] opponents with gentleness” (2Tim 2.25a) “doing [our] best to present [ourselves] to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2Tim 2.15). Therefore, as “Priscilla and Aquila…took [Apollos] and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18.26) I would like to continue to offer a corrective thought concerning the doctrine of original sin. I do not deny Clark’s profession of faith in our Lord, but it is on those grounds that I earnestly appeal to him.

Some may wonder why and prefer I keep my nose in my own business. That is not a Christian attitude. As Christians we are to be in each other’s business contrary to what the current culture may desire. We hold each other consistently to the Word of God, praying for and entrusting one another to the Spirit’s leading. More importantly, as ministers2 of the gospel we are charged with an enduring faithfulness to biblical tenets. More is at stake than either one of our names or egos being trampled on, for we must be especially sensitive to stepping into error. If nothing else, it is my hope that Clark will consider to search the Scriptures as he learns to more consistently lean upon and submit to God’s Word in all areas of thought. I want to help him believe (if I may be so bold to use the name of his blog—helpmebelieve.com) in the doctrine of original sin.

A response to “Why Romans 5:12-21 Does NOT Say we Are Born Guilty” forthcoming….

______________________

ENDNOTES:

1 Why the internal war? According to Scripture the internal war is due to our flesh waging against the Holy Spirit abiding within us. Why does the Bible make the continual distinction between the two: flesh and Spirit? There are two opposing principles that fight against each other. Principle in the sense of “laws” where one will is found acting against the other—i.e. the law of sin contra the law of God (Rom 7.23). Jesus did not have this problem because Jesus, although man was not born of Adam. We may struggle with that distinction, but the Bible does make it. Jesus’ two natures were divine and human, of which John’s gospel goes to great lengths describing to us in his prologue (John 1.1-18). But Jesus condition had more akin to Adam before sin entered the picture in terms of human nature, than our own. After the Fall, something changed. The question is what?

2 I use this term “minister” in a very general sense here, although I am specifically a minister of the gospel and an elder of a SBC church.

Posted in Biblical Questions, evidence, faith, Theology, Worldview Analysis

Clarifying Faith and Evidence Not Being Equal

In my last post I spoke on the nature of “faith and evidence.” Faith is an a priori commitment that has a direct effect on how one views various forms of evidence. According to Scripture (cf. Heb 11.1-3) one’s faith is foundational to the way in which the interpretation of facts come. I am not arguing that evidence is irrelevant to the Christian worldview (faith-system), but I am stressing there is a correct order of operations when coming to know the meaning of certain lines of evidence. A person’s faith is what gives evidence meaning.

The point of the writer of Hebrew’s is not that Christians have blind faith. That is not what is intended by the opening statement, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11.1).1 The point is that faith does not rest upon what we see (i.e. the visible).

Paul’s statement in 2Cor 5:7, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” draws this truth out. He is comforting his Corinthian audience in light of the Christian life and the, at times, daunting trials and tribulations we face (cf. 2Cor 4.17) “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2Cor 4.18; emphasis added). The encouragement is from “[knowing] that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…[knowing] that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” (2Cor 5.1, 6) with the promise that the temporary flesh (our dwelling) will be transformed clothed in eternity (cf. 2Cor 5.4).

From where does our assurance and conviction come? Trust (faith) in the invisible God “who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2Cor 5.5) enables us to “make it our aim to please him” (2Cor 5.9). The point being, we do not see God nor the promises that He has given regarding eternal life and all the blessings that flow from them, and yet we believe (have faith) in spite of no visible evidence.

Returning to the argument made in the 11th chapter of Hebrews we see what I have been arguing effectively laid out. We are told in Heb 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Can you see, touch, smell, taste or hear God? No, not unless He chooses to reveal Himself (cf. Luke 10.21-22; 2Cor 4.6), as He is invisible; except, in the case of Jesus of Nazareth who though the eternal living Word that stepped into history to put on flesh and tabernacle among us (cf. John 1.1-18). He alone revealed the invisible God of Scripture perfectly (Heb 1.3); being full of grace and truth (John 1.14; 17); being God in human flesh (Phil 2.5-8).

The overarching theme of Hebrews 11 is that faith is not based on evidence, but on things not seen (don’t take my word for it, read the chapter and see how many times emphasis is laid on this truth). All of those commended in this chapter—both the named and unnamed—were “commended through their faith” even though they “did not receive what was promised” (Heb 11.39). They looked for a city that was not built by human hands, and a country not reached by natural means (Heb 11.10, 15-16). Therefore, like Abraham, we who are heirs of the promise take God at His word and are accredited as righteous (cf. Gen 15.6; Rom 4).

“But,” you ask “if faith rests on the unseen rather than evidence (the seen), then does that not by necessity make it a blind faith? Moreover, does this not do away with the necessity of evidence in general?” No, on both accounts.

Truth Taught in a Children’s Game

Did you ever play that game as a child (or an adult) where a person stands behind you and tells you to let yourself fall back and they will catch you. The game is a test of one’s faith. You are basing your action on whether or not you trust the person speaking. You cannot see them, although you know they are there. You have no guarantee that they will catch you (maybe they will react to late), but you must act one way or another. The person who trusts the spoken promises of the individual behind them, will “draw near to them” even though they cannot see them. The person who fails to trust the person’s testimony proves that they do not have genuine faith in them, for they refuse to entrust themselves to them.

Verification for what is Being Argued from Various Biblical Examples

Although, I will grant that this analogy, like all others falls short of divine truth, it does illustrate to some extent what the writer of Hebrews (and other biblical authors) continually stress: True faith is not based on evidence that we see, but on oral/written testimony.

For example, we find that God promised Joshua that if he and the Israelites obeyed God’s instruction (took him at His word) and marched around the city of Jericho as instructed blowing the trumpets at the appointed time, then the walls of that great stronghold city would come tumbling down (cf. Josh 6). There was no evidence (of a physical, brute fact) that the walls would tumble down like dominoes—who has ever heard of such a thing, fortified walls collapsing just because people walked around its parameter and blew musical instruments? —but Joshua and the people took God at His Word. They had faith in His testimony, His promises that they were right and true. Again, look and see if that is not what is expressed in Hebrews 11.

Testimony…God’s spoken/written/heard Word was (is) the grounds of true faith. Not blind, as in arbitrary, but not based on visible things. The assurance and conviction came from that which was promised, but not that which was seen. After the fact various evidences were seen, but these are not interpreted “impartially, standing on neutral ground…waiting to see if the evidence warrants trust in God’s truthfulness or not,”2 instead it is the faith that a person possesses which determines the manner in which the evidence is understood. Such evidence then does not prove the grounds of one’s belief, but only confirms it.

In short, faith comes first and evidence is given a secondary emphasis. This does not short change evidence for the Christian worldview, but it does explain why people can view the same line of evidence and draw radically different conclusions regarding it.

We can turn to another biblical example where this is affirmed. In Numbers 13 the Lord instructs Moses to send out spies into the land of Canaan. These spies were representative heads of each of the 12 tribes of Israel. They were to examine and then vouch for the promised inheritance.

Of that number two of the chosen were named Caleb and Joshua. These men had served faithfully under Moses leadership. After 40-days of exploration in the new land, the spies were instructed to give a report before the assembly of the people in Israel.

  • “Go up into the Negeb and go up into the hill country, and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, and whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds, and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. Be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land” (Numb 13.17-20).

Please bear in mind that this land was the land that the Lord was “giving to the people of Israel” (Numb 13.2). The Lord God was taking from their enemies and giving to His people. Their only job was to look and see what exactly they were stepping into.

This, on the one hand a verification of what God had already promised earlier that the land was going to be a blessing to the people: “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exod 3.8, 17; 13.5). On the other hand; however, it was a test to see if the people had faith in God. He promised deliverance, He promised blessing and a great inheritance, but He required faithful obedience.

The question unspoken, but nonetheless posed was, “Will this people trust in MY Word and MY Promise, even though they have not seen the delivery of MY testimony as of yet; or, will those people believe in only what they can see, refusing to have faith in what I have said?” People who had sworn to be faithful to the Lord who had delivered them from Egypt, but continually proved their waywardness.

When the 40-days was up and the 12 spies returned, what sort of report did they give?

  • “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit” (Numb 13.27).

That is to say, “the Lord has spoken truly to you Moses (and to us), this land is truly blessed; a great inheritance.” They have “seen” the evidence and they have attested that what was spoken was true, but this is not an act of faith. No faith is present in this declaration. “How can you say this, Kris?” Look at the very next statement made by 10 of the 12 spies.

  • “However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan…We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are…The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numb 13.28-29, 31, 32-33; italics added).

In spite of the protests of Caleb and Joshua (cf. Numb 13.30; 14.6), the majority of the people rebelled against God and His servants. They did not trust in (have faith in) the Word of God, for they denied His promises as valid and choose instead to believe the evidence before them. These men, and the people who followed their teaching had faith in the testimony of unbeliever’s, rather than faith in God. They saw what God had promised to give them, but in seeing the evidence they called God a liar. According to Scripture, that generation of unbelievers had not faith (cf. Numb 14.33; Heb 4.2)

What I’m Arguing For

Rather than assuming that you are getting the meaning of what I am saying, allow me to spell it out as plainly as possible.

True faith rests not in what we see, but what we do not see. True faith rests on the testimony of an authoritative voice. All people have faith, but not all people have faith in the same thing.

What a person submits to as authoritative demonstrates what that individual truly has faith in.

Faith is not blind, it is based on something…the testimony of another. Who you trust in determines what you see. A faith that is based on sight is not really faith at all. It is akin to saying, “I will love you if you do this for me;” whereas, love requires that we are committed to the one whom we love regardless of whether or not they do anything for us. I may not see their love demonstrated in return, but I am called to love them regardless.

This may not be how I personally may want to define “faith” (or love for that matter), but it is nonetheless how the Bible defines it.

I will never see Jesus in this life (unless He returns), I won’t see His blood being shed for me, nor will I see Him hanging on a cross. I have not been blessed like some in history to see Him at the Father’s right hand (cf. Acts 7.56), and I do not see Him now interceding on my behalf though I be a worthless sinner. These and many more I do not see, but I firmly believe. This is not a blind faith, to trust in what the Bible says as God’s breathed-out Word, for all around me I see evidence that confirms the truthfulness of what has been revealed enabling me to continue on trusting in that which I cannot. The fact of the matter is this, without God’s Word (the Holy Bible) I could not truly make sense out of any aspect of life.

Am I then saying that evidence is unimportant? That evidence shouldn’t be used in Christian argumentation? No, although that is often the caricature that is levied at individuals like myself. “The Biblical [sic] faith is not indifferent to God’s acts in history, nor is it pessimistic about evidences…All facts are created facts which can be properly understood only when given the interpretation the Creator intends; as such, all facts demonstrate the truth of Christianity.”3 But, my faith is built on nothing other than Jesus Christ not on evidence. To argue the reverse, that evidence is the foundation (ground for) my faith spins biblical truth on its head and robs faith of its true meaning.

___________________

ENDNOTES:

1 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

2 Greg L. Bahnsen, “The Impropriety of Evidentially Arguing for the Resurrection,” PA003 Synapse II, Westminster Seminary: Jan 1972 (Covenant Media Foundation), par 4., http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa003.htm.

3 Ibid, par 1.

Posted in Biblical Questions, evidence, faith, Theology

Faith and Evidence are Important, but Not Equal

Faith and evidence are two very important elements of the Christian faith, but they are not equal’s. The undergirding assumption of unbelieving thought is always this: I will follow where the evidence leads, and to where it leads there I shall place my trust.

Of the two in this scenario which is given supremacy? Obviously, evidence is the a priori commitment. Question: Is there anything wrong with the conviction “seeing is believing?”

“Now, you just wait one minute there, Kris. No one said ‘seeing is believing’ you’re not telling it straight!”

Okay, let’s look at it one more time and see if my assessment is fair. You say, “I won’t believe unless I see it first.” Or you tell me, “I’ll make my judgment after I see where the evidence leads me.” Or with great confidence you retort, “Faith is really believing because of the evidence.” If I’m interpreting the types of phrases correctly, then it seems to me fairly obvious that evidence is given an a priori commitment; therefore, using the phrase “seeing is believing” while admittingly unsophisticated nonetheless seems to capture the general meaning of the conviction that is sometimes presented in the average persons reasoning. This would include a significant number of professing Christians.

The Bible gives a different answer for one’s faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11.1).1 Notice the order of operations the writer of Hebrews gives his audience for the relationship between faith and evidence. Faith is offered as the foundational support for how one views the evidence. Our convictions are not derived from what we see, but what we hold to be true. Or perhaps a clearer way of understanding this is that our faith determines our interpretation of the evidence. Evidence is always interpreted, it never speaks for itself or anyone else for that matter.

The writer goes on to say that in the past “the people of old received their commendation” (Heb 11.2; i.e. earned God’s approval). How did they receive God’s approval? Was it because God presented them with evidence and then they believed; had faith? Or was it because God told them the truth of the matter, and they trusted in God without Him providing evidence?

  • Perhaps a quick illustration will help the reader understand my point: A child is told not to put his hand on a hot stove. The parent knows that the burner is hot, but the child has no evidence of this fact. The child is confronted with a dilemma: Either I take my parents word, trusting in them as the purveyor of truth even though I cannot see that the burner is hot; or I put my hand on the stove top to see/test whether or not the stove is hot. By touching the stove, I may learn that the stove is hot, but is believing after the fact an act of faith on my part as the child? No, a faithful child (one that has faith in their parents’ word—the assurance and conviction of the truth in spite of me not being able to see it—is the true definition of faith.

These are important questions, but if we follow the logic of the writer of Hebrews the answer is dictated to us in the text: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb 11.3). Again, follow the flow of thought and ask probing questions of the text.

  • Was anyone in the beginning when God created? Did anyone see the origin of the universe? How did things come to be according to the author of Hebrews?

No one was with God in the beginning, other than God when He created; therefore, no one saw the origin of the universe. According to Scripture it was God’s supernatural act of speaking into existence creation that creation came forth. In fact, the latter portion of verse 3 tells us that what is now seen (creation itself) was created by the invisible God; not the creation evolving from one visible degree to another from things already existing. Nothing existed before God the invisible brought it into being. Again, this sort of faith is not based on evidence but is understood (assurance and conviction) as a result of the object of one’s faith.2

As you go down through the list of what is endearingly labeled the “Hall of Faith” by the household of God, this flow of thought is again and again confirmed. One’s faith was not based on the evidence; rather, one’s faith determined the nature of the evidence before them. This was true of Abel (v.4), Enoch (v.5), Noah (v.7) and Abraham (vv. 8-10, 17-19). Now the list goes on and touches on many important biblical figures, pillars of our faith, but we do not need to go through each and every one to see what has already been asserted: faith and evidence are important elements of believing faith, but they are not equals, as a person’s faith naturally leads to the correct/incorrect interpretation of all forms of evidence.

  • “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11.6).

Both Cain and Abel offered sacrifices of worship to God, but only Abel’s was acceptable to God. Why? Well, without jumping into another lengthy discussion, let it be sufficient to say that true faith is always an act of obedience. Extrapolating what we know of God and what we are able to draw from Genesis 3-4, Adam most likely taught his sons the way of pleasing God; of what was an acceptable form of worship. Abel desiring to honor his parents, obeyed their command that had been passed down to them (cf. Gen 3.21), offered what in terms of confession admitted that he was a sinner in need of God’s grace (cf. Lev 17.11; Heb 9.22). The Lord was pleased with his humility and contriteness of heart, a disposition that his natural brother did not share.

Enoch preached righteousness and judgment to that rebellious generation he lived as he walked with the Lord, and God was pleased with his faithful testimony (cf. Jude 1.14-15). Noah picked up the mantle of his great-grandfather Enoch as a faithful preacher in his day (cf. 2Pet 2.5), and took to heart the warning God had given him about the flood and built “an ark for the saving of his household” (Heb 11.7a)

Likewise, when Abraham was still living as a pagan, the Lord called him out to a land he did not know to be his inheritance. The Lord promised to make him a father in his old age, and not just the father of one, but the father or many. Therefore, Abraham is rightly called the father of the faithful, for through his offspring (seed) all the nations of the earth are blessed; whom we of the faith know to be Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (cf. Rom 4.10-13; Gal 3.29; 4.26-31).

What we need to see, and it is right before our eyes if only we would read it with ears to hear, is that none of these individuals saw what they had faith in. Abel did not see how a sacrifice of a lamb could be viewed by God (the invisible) as a pleasing sight—flesh for flesh, life for life—but he trusted the word he received and acted accordingly. Similarly, neither Enoch or Noah had witnessed the coming judgment—the great deluge of God’s wrath against sinful mankind in their day—but they believed (had faith) and preached and acted on the basis of it.

And let us not forget Abraham, who we are told by the apostle Paul was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness'” (Rom 4.21-22), because he “believed God…” (Rom 4.3; see Gen 15.6 pay attention to context). That is to say, Abraham took God at His Word. His faith was not based on what he saw, for the reference point to which Paul points in Romans and the writer of Hebrews illustrates from other times in Abraham’s life was long before he had received any of those things. His faith was not based on evidence, but the “assurance” and conviction” of that which he did not see—i.e. no evidence.

My friends, hear me well….

Abraham did not own the land promised to him, but He believed God would give it to him and his descendants. Abraham did not have any children, and yet he believed that God would grant him not only the child of promise Isaac, but also many, many more through him. The number of which is too difficult to count for man with any accurate assessment—the stars of the heavens and the sand on the sea shore (Gen 15.5; 22.17). God spoke promises to Abraham, and Abraham had not seen hide or hair of them, and yet he was convinced in his heart that when God spoke, He spoke (speaks) true.

And to test the genuineness of Abraham’s faith, not for God, but for all future generations including Abraham himself, the Lord asked of Abraham what the Father would one day require of Him (cf. John 3.16): “Abraham, give me your one and only son. Give me your unique son; your special son.” And Abraham acted in faith towards God’s command, he offered up Isaac on one of the mounts in Moriah. Now we are told the reasoning behind Abraham’s action on that fateful day: “He considered that God was able to even raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb 11.19).

Abraham did not have any evidence that God would raise his beloved son Isaac, but his assurance and conviction caused him to believe that if he did this God (the invisible) was able to raise him up from the dead. You cannot say this was action based on evidence, because there was no evidence of God resurrecting at this time, let alone the assurance that God would do this with Isaac. But Abraham’s faith caused him to weigh the evidence before him, the sacrifice of his special son, in a light contrary to what many would deem visibly possible—i.e. God’s resurrection power. No evidence to support this conclusion, only Abraham’s faith.

________________

ENDNOTES:

1 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

2 True for both the biblical creation model and evolutionary model. Both origin models are faith-based systems. No one was in the beginning, but our beliefs about the beginning effect the way we interpret the evidence (visible creation) that we see. It is our conviction based on the authority that we trust in that determines how we view reality as a whole.

Posted in Biblical Questions, Christian Living, Christian Perspective, gospel, Theology, war, Worldview Analysis

The Battle of the Gospel Starts Here: Our Heart, Our Lives

So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1Cor 9.26-27)

If Christians are called to be at war with the surrounding culture. If the gospel may be rightly viewed as a battle motif. Then, where does the war…where does the battle begin? In other words, if we are going to combat wrong by standing for what is righteous and true, then where should our focus be primarily?

The apostle Paul understood that in preaching to others, he had a responsibility before God and to his fellow man to make sure his life modeled his words. If he were to be an effective witness for Christ (1Cor 9.23), then he needed to run the race (1Cor 9.24) with the attitude of determination. This is why he said he didn’t run without a purpose, or merely shadow box the air. Everything he did, he did for the Lord who had saved him from sin.

By definition a Christian is one who follows Jesus Christ. That is to say the standard our Lord appealed to is the same standard that we are commanded to live by. This is the meaning behind the Lord’s words to His disciples on the sermon on the Mount: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5.48).

Now if you have spent anytime at all walking with the Lord you should be able to readily testify that as Christians we fall horribly short of this standard. Neither is our love for God or our fellow man perfect. If we are honest with ourselves we fail quite frequently in mimicking God’s Holiness back at Him and in His creation as a whole. However, our inability to be perfect is not an excuse. The requirement of obedience still stands.

Paul understood something that we “moderns” have a hard time grasping today. Before Christ we were slaves of sin. For example, he explained to his Roman audience the following truth: “Do you not know that if you present to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6.16-18). Where did Paul get such an idea? From the Lord, naturally.

Jesus had explained this truth to the Jews during His earthly ministry. They assumed that it was their earthly status as members of the covenant by circumcision as the natural born children of Abraham that ensured they were truly children of God (His chosen; His elect). And yet, Jesus taught very clearly that it was not by means “of blood…[or] of the will of the flesh…[or] of the will of man” (John 1.13) that determined such things. He explained very clearly that every person who sinned was a slave of sin (cf. John 8.34), and the only hope of not continuing in that state of enslavement was if the Son set them free. For “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8.36).

Now you may miss the significance of this statement by our Lord (many Jews did), depending on the interpretative lens you are looking through. The essential point that Jesus is making in light of what the rest of the Scripture teaches is that there is not a single person on earth who can claim that they are not sinners for all men sin: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Eccl 7.20; cf. 2Chron 6.36; Rom 3.23; 5.19).

It was not until God knocked Paul off of his high horse and made the spiritual blinders fall off that he truly began to grasp the depths of his fallenness. The new birth opened the blinded eyes of Saul of Tarsus, whom we know affectionately as the apostle Paul1, which is demonstrated for the reader of Acts 9:18 when “something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. The he rose and was baptized…” (cf. 2Cor 4.3-4).

After Paul’s life was radically changed by our Lord Jesus Christ, he knew to be true what so many of his brethren did not that between Jew and Gentile there is no distinction of persons when it comes to being born a sinner; a slave of sin (Rom 3.9). Only through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit can a dead-person be changed to a living one. The exchange of old to new cannot take place unless granted from above.

Now my point today is that though this is true, the fact remains that putting on the new man (Christ) is at the same time a two-fold process. On the one hand we are immediately sanctified (set-apart) in Jesus, we have been given a new nature in Him. However, this transfer of a new Christ-like nature does not immediately remove in its entirety our sinful nature; the two are at war with one another as Paul taught on numerous occasions.

  • “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have a desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Rom 7.18-25).2
  • “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal 5.16-17).

I would be remiss if I did not show how these passages relate to the conclusion Paul draws about the Christian life in general: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5.25). What is meant by this statement of Paul is this: “If we have been granted new life by the Spirit—that is we have been born of the Spirit; we live because of Him (cf. John 6.63)—then we ought to walk in the manner to the newness of life we have been given.” In other words, we need to be consistent.

Therefore, this is the reason Paul says what he does in 1Cor 9:26-27. He does not aimlessly live his life in a fashion where he has no discipline or self-control. Rather, he disciplines his own life in order to align it with the Lord who has saved and redeemed him, and so that when he preaches and teaches others to conform their lives to the Word of God he is not disqualified for failing to do what is required of all Christians: “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1John 2.6).

The battle then starts in our own lives. Make no mistake about it, Christians are called to war. The gospel of Jesus Christ is militant in that everyone is commanded to repent (Acts 17.30). Either we bow the knee to Christ and kiss him in humility or there will come a day in the near future when we will be forced to bow the knee in fear (Psa 2; Matt 28.18; Phil 2.10-12; Rev 20.10, 15; 21.8).

We cannot hope to engage the culture around us if we are unwilling to allow the sword of truth to slay us first. We must be willing to fight sin in our own lives, nailing them to the cross of Christ. And then, in accordance with our God we stand against all forms of unrighteousness in our home, our churches, and our nation (Psa 9.8; 22.31; 82.2-5).

Contrary to popular belief 3 Christians are called to judge, but they are called to judge righteously, not according to personal standards that are subjective to the individual in question, but according to eternal standards that are objective to the God in whose character they reflect. This action on the part of Christians is not possible if we are not willing to fight the sin that remains in us. We do not do this on our power alone—we cannot—but we do so because the Holy Spirit equips us. It is by the Spirit through His Word that we are enabled to conform to the life of Christ, but this is a daily battle—i.e. carrying our cross, suffering for His sake.

____________________

ENDNOTES:

1 This was not a name change, as is sometimes supposed, but rather is Paul’s Greek name that he used to identify with his Gentile (Greek, etc.) audience.

2 The internal struggle that Paul is disclosing to his audience here, the two laws warring within his own heart as a believer is meant to be understood as a “governing principle.” As with any word the semantic range can be quite wide, but is limited according to the context in which the term is used. In this case, when Paul speaks of “law” he is not speaking of the Law of God as a set of precepts or commands, but the law of sin as a governing principle that desires to or is tempted to do evil, just as the law of righteousness is a governing principle of willing to do good from God’s vantage point; in accordance with His revealed Law-Word.

3 There is a world of difference between what is popularly held to as Christian practice versus what the Bible teaches as Christian doctrine.