From the Beginning

A STORY OF "TIME" by Trevor Topsfield

SIN! WHICH SIN?

What do we expect from God? Wouldn’t an all-powerful, all knowing, ever present, eternal, loving God be at least rational too? When there appears even a hint of anything less, surely the fault is in our understanding of God, rather than a flaw in in his character.

For example: have you ever wondered in the story of the Cross that if Jesus was dying for the sins of the world, what were the two criminals alongside of him dying for? Were their crimes sins? If so, why were the criminals and Christ dying for the same sins?

God’s plan for salvation is not flawed: but rather the sins Christ died for and the sins the criminals died for were two different words. To understand the difference we need to look at the words for sins in the original Greek language of The New Testament.

For what I received I passed on to you as first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. (NIV) 1 Corinthians 15:3

The Greek word for the “sins” Christ died for is άμαρτια (hamartia) which means to miss the mark, sin and has the concept of sin or sinfulness as a principle, nature or power and is a noun.

Christ died for our sins άμαρτια according to the scriptures. The scripture is found in Isaiah 53 staring in Verse 6.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way: and the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (NIV)

The iniquity the Lord laid on Jesus was our “going astray” and “turning to our own way”, this is exactly what Adam and Eve did in the beginning which started mankind’s problems.

Adam and Eve were created perfect, but they went astray when they ate the fruit from the wrong tree. The Tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented all that Satan stood for while the Tree of life represented God. Man therefore could choose between God and Satan by eating from the Tree of their choice.

To eat from the Tree of life was to continue as they were, enjoying all that God had prepared for them and having fellowship with him. For their own sake God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree representing Satan or they would suffer a terrible consequence.

And the Lord commanded the man: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden: but you must not eat from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for the when you eat of it you will surely die.” (NIV)  Genesis 2:16+17

Of course we know what happened, they made their own choice, and just as God had warned them, they died. They lost the life they shared with God, that life which is perfect and eternal. By choosing as they did they destroyed their perfection, it killed the eternal or spiritual life they were created with. All they had left was physical life, a life that could not last forever.

Adam was no longer perfect; he could no longer produce perfection, so his children were no better than he was. When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.  (NIV) Genesis 5:3

A perfect nature came with their creation, but when Adam and Eve chose their own way, their perfection was destroyed and they became sinful and their nature, a sin nature. This too was handed down to their children and in turn to us today.  Therefore, just as sin (άμαρτια) entered the world through one man, and death through sin, (άμαρτια) and this way death came to all men because all sinned– (άμαρτανω).  (NIV)  Romans 5:12.

Christ died for our sins and the Greek word is άμαρτια which is of course “sin nature”. “Going astray” and “turning each to his own way” is the cause of our “sin nature”, therefore if our “going astray” and “turning each to our own way” is laid on Christ, then he became sinful because of us.

All this happened as he hung there on the Cross and when it did his eternal life died and for three hours Jesus was physically alive and in extreme pain. Jesus died for us, our rebellion was laid on him and he died for the sin natures that belonged to us.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; and was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before the shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgments he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants?  He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people. (NIV)  Isaiah 53:7+8

For the transgression of my people he was stricken, with the Hebrew word for “transgression” being “pesha” which means revolt or rebellion.

Yes! Jesus was oppressed and afflicted for the rebellion, the going astray, the turning to their own way of the people of Isaiah’s day and for all mankind whether they lived before or after this particular day.

Paul had this to say when he spoke of his own sinfulness.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. And it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living within me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (NIV)  Romans 7:15-19

To be able to live with God forever we need the righteousness of his perfection. With God’s righteousness we will not contaminate the perfect environment of heaven, but it will continue as such forever, even with ordinary people living there.

2 Corinthians 5:21 speaks of the Cross with the issue of our righteousness being stated. God made him who had no sin (άμαρτια) to be sin (άμαρτια) for us, so that in him we might have the righteousness of God. (NIV)

Jesus Christ, who did not have a sin nature of his own and was not sinful, became sinful with our sinful natures, so that we might have God’s righteousness.

Another look at Romans 5:12.

Therefore, just as sin (άμαρτια or sin nature) entered the world through one man, and death through sin (άμαρτια), and in this way death came to all men because all sinned– (άμαρτανω) a verb. (NIV)

There is a complication with Romans 5:12 that needs to be mentioned at this point.

A science called “Textual Criticism” is where ancient manuscripts are analysed and when differences are found they are rated on the evidence. Because all manuscripts are hand copied, the older manuscripts are generally considered reliable, but either by mistake or by intention, changes have been made.

The Greek words translated “death came” have a “C” rating indicates there is a considerable degree of doubt that the author actually wrote these words.

So if we ignore “death came” in Romans 5:12 it looks like this.

“Therefore, just as sin (άμαρτια) entered the world through one man, and death through sin (άμαρτια), and I this way all men sin (άμαρτανω).

The two criminals were sinful, they both had sin natures and because of their sin natures they committed sins (άμαρτανω). These two men hung upon their crosses because of one or two sins (άμαρτανω) which were crimes and they died physically for them as the judicial system of that time demanded.

On the other hand Jesus Christ died for the sin natures of these two (as well as the rest of humanity) and his eternal life died because of them (and us too of course). When Jesus’ ordeal was over he died physically, but by this time salvation for mankind was completed.

One of the criminals understood what was happening and there on his cross believed in Jesus Christ and received the righteousness of God.

We are not responsible for our sinfulness, we are sinful because of  angelic interference at the time when Satan deceived Eve to eat from his tree, Therefore God, because of his love for us has intervened on our behalf.

However man is responsible for what he does and because we constantly “miss the mark” of God’s perfection we realise we have a sinful nature, therefore we really should do something about it.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible nature –his eternal power and divine nature  – have been clearly seen, being understood from what he has made, so that men are without excuse. (NIV)   Roman 1:18-20.

Both the believer and unbelievers will be judged; the believer’s judgment is recorded in 1 Corinthians 3:10-14.

The problem with the individual believers is that we all have varying ideas of how great God is, and this is indicated by the lives we have lived. If we have constantly used God’s provisions: then we must have a high opinion of him. The house we will build will consist of gold, silver, and precious stones. Our higher opinion of God will make us less likely to consider we can be like him and can cope with more rewards. .

But if we have a lower opinion of him we are more likely to consider we can be like the “Most High”. With a lower opinion we are also less likely to use the provisions he has provided, so we will built our house using more wood, hay and stubble. Under these conditions we will receive fewer rewards and will always see God as being far superior as we realise our own position, and always accept his authority.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light. .It will be revealed with fire, the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (NIV)

 When our time on earth is over, there will be a judgment in heaven where fire will test all that we have done while on the earth. The wood hay and straw will be burnt leaving only the gold silver and costly stones.

Our eternal reward depends on our gold, silver and costly stones, but the wood, hay and straw (the function from our sinfulness) will be destroyed.

The unbeliever; because he has done nothing about his sinfulness cannot go to heaven and therefore is in a terrible situation.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.

Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no room for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and the books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (NIV)  Revelation 20:11-15.

Trevor Topsfield

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®

 

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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 “Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE,

NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.

Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984,

International Bible Society, Used by permission

of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved”

 

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