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In your Anger, do not Sin:

Ephesians 4:26 and the Sin Nature

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Question #1: 

Greeting Bob. Here is a piece of on which I am laboring: " At this point in the sequence, it is a process that keeps me from further sin, for, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 "be angry, and yet do not sin". In that, the curse of my sin nature, my [inherited and acquired] biology and history interacting to produce anger, is at this point offset by the grace arising from the freezing pain of rejection [the deer in the headlights]. Or could one say that God would act in this way? I don’t know. The statement that we may be angry but should not sin implies that in this case my frozenness is willful on my part – which it is not."

If my point is clear, do you agree with my interpretation that 'not sinning' is here a command to act will-fully?

Thank you and God's Peace to you,

Response #1: 

Good to hear from you. This verse is very frequently misunderstood and misused (I remember a very muddled and misleading interpretation of it I received from a seminary professor may years ago). In spite of the impression given by many of the versions, this is not a biblical allowance for "righteous anger" as opposed to "sinful anger". In reality, both halves of this command are expressing the same idea.

Ephesians 4:26a, is a quote from Psalm 4:4, and one has to take into account the Hebrew original to correctly understand precisely what is going on here. Hebrew makes use of apocopated or simplified syntax in poetry (all the Psalms are in poetic form and syntax). What we have in Psalm 4:4, and what the Septuagint and Paul's quotation have in common (i.e., in preserving the poetic form rather than translating into a prosaic form of syntax) is not two parallel verbs, but rather a complex sentence begun by a circumstantial clause. To put this into contemporary English prose form I would translate something like this:

(26) When you are upset, don't give in to sin; don't let the sun set while you are still upset (i.e., don't brood over this irritation). (27) That will only give the devil an opportunity.
Ephesians 4:26-27

(4) When you are upset, don't give in to sin; speak words [of comfort and wisdom] to yourselves (lit., "in your hearts") while you lie on your beds (i.e., put the irritation aside before you let the day slip away; cf. Eph.4:26b above), and be still (i.e., wean yourself from irritation to peace).
Psalm 4:4

I'm not sure how to put this vis-a-vis the precise terms of your question. But, clearly, we are being told in both passages that part of our spiritual growth and application is to learn to trust the Lord in all things, and that means, among other things, not allowing ourselves to be consumed by anger, or tripped up by frustration and irritation, but instead to make use of the truth we should have stored in our hearts as mature believers in Jesus Christ to diffuse these feelings by concentrating on the peace we have in Him instead, and all the wondrous glories to come (so that we put things back into proper perspective whenever these sorts of provocations get the better of us).

Human beings are very emotional creatures, and the more we resist this characterization, the more vulnerable to our emotions we become. We all have tendencies towards fear and worry, and toward all manner of lusts and all manner of negative emotions (such as anger, jealousy, revenge, pouting, etc.). The Bible has plenty of verses commanding us to refrain from allowing ourselves to "feel" these emotions. We may not be able to avoid the initial swell of feeling in any of these harmful directions when we are confronted by their corresponding stimuli, but as mature Christians we certainly need to have mastered – and to make a point of applying – the techniques of virtuous thinking necessary to diffuse these feelings and put them "back in the box". Even with a steady diet of Bible truth, this is all pretty difficult for 21st century American Christians (and impossible without it). Until we are able to drive in rush-hour traffic without anger, see advertisements without lust, listen to the news without worry, and contemplate all of the horrific things that are happening in the world and probably also in our individual lives without fear, we still have some spiritual growing up to do. Blessedly, scripture makes it quite clear, as in the verse above where we are told to refrain from anger, what sorts of things we are to avoid, just as it makes clear what things we are to embrace.

So don't worry, saying "What shall we [have to] eat?" or "What shall we [have to] drink?" or "What shall we [have to] wear?" After all, these are the things that the gentiles (i.e., the unsaved) are frantically pursuing. Now your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Therefore seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you in addition. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself: there is [already] sufficient evil in any given day [without you adding to it ahead of time].
Matthew 6:31-34

(3) Now this is God's will, namely, your sanctification (i.e., separation from sin). [He desires you] to keep away from immorality, (4) and for each of you to know how to keep his or her own vessel (i.e., body) under control in sanctification and honorable conduct, (6) not [giving in] to the passions of lust like the gentiles (i.e., unbelievers) do who do not know God, (7) so that you may not transgress and thereby take advantage of your brother/sister [in Christ]. For the Lord is an Avenger of all these sins as I have warned and born solemn witness to you before. For God did not call you to uncleanness but in sanctification.
1st Thessalonians 4:3-7

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 NIV

Therefore since you have been resurrected [positionally] with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Think on the things above, and not the things on the earth. For you are already [positionally] dead [to all that], and your [true] life has been hidden away with Christ in God. When Christ - our [true] life - is revealed [at the 2nd Advent], then you too will be revealed in glory (i.e. resurrection).
Colossians 3:1-4

I hope that helps – do feel free to write back in case this does not get to the nub of your question. Please also see the following related links:

Techniques of Virtue Thinking (in Peter #17)

Walking with Jesus

Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Doc,

I have trouble reconciling 1 John 1:8 with v 9. Someone in the past had told me in a debate that they were "sinless" not by nature, but sinless at the moment because of verse 9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." They were cleansed of "all" unrighteousness and therefore have no sin at that present moment. Then some would say that's not correct and they would be lying because verse 8 says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Please help me reconcile those 2 verses. Thanks in advance!

Response #2: 

These verses are often confusing to people, and I would include verse 10 in the bargain. I have this written up under "John's primer on Sin" in #15 of the Peter series as well as in Bible Basics 3B Hamartiology (please see the links). Here is how I translate these three verses:

(8) If we say that we do not possess sin (i.e., a sin nature which is producing personal sins), we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just so as to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say, that we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.
1st John 1:8-10

In verses 5-7 John has previously just expressed the possibility of a believer "walking in the darkness" instead of in the light, that is, walking in a carnal or fleshly way rather than in fellowship with God even though he or she is a child of God (verses 3-4). Have expressed the problem, John now gets down to the solution. First, however, he has to "head off" those who are teaching or who have bought into the heresy of "sinless perfection", and the way he does so is fundamental.

John says in verse 8 that we all "possess sin". Note that the noun "sin" is singular and there is no definite article: "sin" in the singular and without a "the" refers to the source of sin rather than to specific personal sins (which John will address in a moment). Regardless of our spiritual status or stature, as long as we are in these corrupt bodies we "possess sin" since these bodies are infected with a "sin nature", a.k.a. "the flesh" throughout the epistles (see the link: in BB 3B "The Sin Nature"). To say "I am now so perfect that I no longer even have a sin nature; I have no sin dwelling in my flesh!" is a grand self-deception. For no one who is honest about themselves will ever be able to think this objectively for a moment – that is if they have a proper appreciation for what the Bible defines as sin (see the link: in BB 3B "The nature of sin").

After John has reminded his readers of the fact that the sin problem is universal for all believers even after salvation in that we shall all continue to be tempted as long as we live in these bodies and, regrettable as it is, will all occasionally stumble, he moves on to the solution: no matter whether we have made a minor faux-pas or have become involved in a series of serious transgressions, the solution is the same: confession of our sin to the Lord (verse 9). All who confess are forgiven immediately and completely without exception. Of course, the confession has to be genuine and that means that we have to have accepted God's way of thinking about the matter (a.k.a. "repentance"; see the link: in BB 3B "Repentance, Confession and Forgiveness"), and also just because we have repented and confessed and been truly forgiven does not mean that we have been absolved of all divine discipline for our sins now repented of, confessed and forgiven. If our six year old steals the car and drives home because he doesn't want to go to Sunday school (in the news this week), then tearfully admits his mistake and begs our forgiveness, we will of course forgive him, but that doesn't mean he won't get a spanking: because no matter how genuine the repentance, we all need reinforcement to move towards sanctification and away from carnality. And some of us are "slow learners" when it comes to this sort of thing (I speak from experience). And God always matches the punishment to the sin: David "enjoyed" (the word in the Hebrew) fourteen years of intensive divine discipline as a result of what he did to Uriah and in regard to Bathsheba. God forgave him as soon as he confessed (2Sam.12:13), and God continued to bless David abundantly throughout these years, but there is no question that David was disciplined to the full for what he did (even being driven out of Jerusalem by his own son who sought his life).

Finally, after explaining that we are all imbued with a sin nature that will in every case produce personal sin (we are expected to get better about tamping down our personal sin both in quantity and "quality" as we pursue sanctification: Heb.12:14), and after explaining the remedy for those occasions when we do fail (confession to God), John addresses the other possible misconception about these matters in verse nine to wit, "Well, I may have the same physical body and so still do have a sin nature, but I am now no longer sinning: since accepting Christ (or since some other point in the past) I have not sinned". This lie is worse than the claim of not possessing a sin nature because it says, in effect, that the person in question is capable of resisting all temptation and has successfully done so; that would be wonderful, if true, but since it is impossible, it is a horrible and sanctimonious lie. The most extreme version of this lie is to claim that one has actually never sinned at all in the first place! The ascetic monk Pelagius in the fourth century made just such a claim. As ridiculous as it is, it is also dangerous to think this way no matter when one starts the "sinlessness clock" ticking, from birth, at salvation, or after some post-salvation "experience". Because in order to be able even to convince oneself of such rubbish, a person has to redefine what sin is – falsely and apart from God, of course. To put it simply, one has to say that "whatever I do is not sin, so therefore sin is something I do not do". This circular argumentation is, when it is not a completely willful and conscious deceit, generally taken up by ascetically inclined people who define sin in a very narrow range of gross behavior (to which they are either not terribly tempted or able to cover up), often adding in legalistic restrictions which are not sin at all regardless of whether or not they are attractive to some people (i.e., the old Baptist credo, of "don't smoke, don't chew, don't go with girls who do") as in smoking, dancing, going to movies, playing cards, etc. But of course what we think can be and often is sinful, and self-righteous hypocrisy is about as sinful as it gets in this regard since it starts with thinking and spreads like a cancer into everything a person then says and does – that is to say, it produces all manner of sins, perhaps not as gross or obvious as drunkenness etc., but often even deadlier precisely because the person held in their grasp is less likely to aware of his/her spiritual decline. John reserves his most damning criticism for these people who "make [God] a liar" . . . "His truth is not in them".

Hope this helps!

In the One who died to wash away all of our sins in His precious blood, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #3:  

I have a question regarding whether or not born-again believers still possess a sin nature. The commentary found in my bible says:

"Although our sin nature continues to operate within us, it was judged when Christ died (Rom.6:6,7). We cannot eradicate our sin nature, but we can allow the Holy Spirit to control us so that we do not give in to temptation."

This confuses me a little because I thought that believers are given a new nature, and that we are a new creation and that are old nature has passed away. I would think that if we still have a sin "nature" then we would be sinning more than being obedient to God, since it is in our nature to sin. But since we are born again and are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.). Do Christians still possess a sin nature?

Response #3: 

Romans 6:6-8 speaks about our "old man" (i.e., sinful flesh or "sin nature") being "crucified" with Christ, and also says that we have "died". Clearly then, this has to be talking about our "positional" state in Jesus, not about our "experiential" state (since we are positionally dead but not actually dead). What I mean is this: God considers us part of Jesus and so we are, but we have not yet been given the new body we shall enjoy for all eternity. Since we still occupy this body of sin, we will never be completely free of sin as long as we remain in the natural body.

Our natural body can be said to be "crucified" with Christ (Rom.6:6-7), since by His sacrifice and by our acceptance of it all of the sins which that natural body generated have been atoned for.

For what the Law could not accomplish (i.e., solving the sin problem) because it was weak on account of [its dependence on sinful human] flesh, God [did accomplish]: having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the purpose of [expiating] sin, [God] rendered summary judgment on [all] sin in [Christ’s] flesh.
Romans 8:3

There is actually no word "nature" in the Bible where the concept "sin nature" occurs, and that has the possibility of confusing people as it has the people who wrote your commentary. Romans actually says, "the sin dwelling in our flesh" (Rom.7:17; 7:20), or our "old man" and "body of sin" in the passage you ask about (Rom.6:6-7).

Here is something Paul says in another place:

In company with these [unbelievers] we too all conducted our lives in the lusts of our flesh (i.e., sin nature), carrying out the will of our flesh and its desires.
Ephesians 2:3

These and many other passages make it clear that our flesh is corrupt. That is why we die physically; that is why we sin. As Christians, we do not receive a new body immediately. We are "a new creation" because we are now not part of the world but "in Christ" positionally. But the "acquiring of the possession" (i.e., the sinless and perfect resurrection body: Eph.1:14 in the Greek), is something that will not occur until Christ returns. We do have eternal life – but "what will be has not yet appeared" (1Jn.3:2). As long as we are on this earth, we will have to struggle with lust and desire and sin. We have the Spirit within us, and as long as we follow His lead we will not "carry out the desire of the flesh" (Gal.5:16-26).

Every Christian is aware that temptation did not end when we accepted Christ – far from it. We do have tools and weapons we never had before, and it is possible to live like 1st John 3:6-9 describes us in ideal terms (i.e., "No one who has been born of God continues in [a life of] sin"), but the reality is that since we do have the same physical body, a body tainted by sin whose corruption can never be removed in this life, from time to time even the best of us will falter. That is why earlier in the epistle John says that those who claim to be without sin are "liars" (1Jn.1:5-9), that he is writing us "that we may not sin" but that "if we do" we have Jesus as our advocate (1Jn.2:1).

So, yes, there is still corruption in our flesh, something that is obvious every time we are tempted and every time we fail. And the fact that even though we are saved we still die physically shows conclusively that the corruption of this temporary flesh will endure until the end of life. But then "we", our spirits, will be housed in perfect, sinless bodies for all eternity, once the great day of the resurrection comes. Until that glorious day, we shall have to struggle as scripture affirms on virtually every page, listening carefully to the Spirit's voice and shunning the evil one and his temptations.

This is all explained in detail at the following link: "The Sin Nature" (in BB 3B).

Finally, what is often missed in such discussions about our "newness" in Jesus Christ as believers is the "fresh start for the heart" that salvation brings with it. Once we embrace the truth of the gospel, God clears away all the old underbrush, so to speak, and opens us up to accepting all the wonders of the truth contained in His holy scriptures. As believers, we now have the opportunity to grow from the seed of the Word that we have received into our hearts and produce a bountiful crop for our Lord. In doing so, we reap a marvelous and glorious reward on that great day of judgment when Jesus returns for us. To fulfill this potential, however, we have to keep the weeds cut back, and we have to keep on receiving the truth. In other words, we have to continue to walk with Jesus in the same way we became His in the first place – by faith in the truth. Christians need sanctification, defense against sin; but they also need to keep on the offensive: continuing to grow up by the grace and truth which has been made available to us. The one is not really possible without the other, and that explains quite a lot about why this current generation of Christians is failing the sanctification test – because it has first failed the growth test.

Keep on fighting this good fight in the cause of Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your response to my last email.

Is there any correct translation of Romans 5:12 that permits an understanding of the passing on of sin to apply to females? To say it in a hopefully not rude manner, the descriptions of Jesus' conception do not seem to restrict it to the Holy Spirit miraculously fertilizing an egg from Mary. My understanding has always been that the Holy Spirit miraculously "caused" an human embryo to be placed in Mary. We do know that female seed is vulnerable to genetic defects and thus a seed from Mary could not have been without sin. How could Mary have been without "original sin"/defective genetic material?

In Christ Jesus,

Response #4:  

Romans 5:12 most certainly includes females. Everyone receives the sin nature through the process of physical birth, according to that verse: "[spiritual death] spread to all mankind. Jesus Christ is the only exception because He is the only One ever virgin-born (and, more importantly for purposes of this discussion, virgin-conceived).

On the virgin conception, if Mary were only a "host", so to speak, then Christ would not be of the physical line of David in the strict sense (and of course He is). After all, if that were the plan, God could just as well have created Jesus as a small child or even a full grown man (as He did with Adam). To fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah, however, Jesus had to be of the actual "seed" of David, and also of Eve:

And I shall place hostility between you and the woman, that is, between your seed and her Seed.
Genesis 3:15a

The Messiah can only be said to be "her Seed" if He really is from the biological seed of Eve's line; however nothing above is said about the male seed.

"Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For that which has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit".
Matthew 1:20b

The genealogy of Luke, moreover, giving as it does Mary's lineage, would mean nothing if she were not really the biological mother of our Lord's humanity, just the host for His embryo (Lk.3:23-38; cf. Matt.1:1-17).

Mary most definitely did have a sin nature, but as the sin nature is passed down through the male line, whatever other genetic material she passed on to her firstborn Son, she did not pass on her sin nature to Him – or to any of her other children, for that matter: they received their sin natures from Joseph. So I would draw a sharp distinction between genetic material in general (we all come from human seed and share characteristics from both of our parents) and the sin nature in particular (this is a unique part of the human make-up which comes entirely through the male line). Adam and Eve were most likely genetically perfect. When they sinned, however, they immediately acquired a sin nature. It is certainly true that this condemned them to the threefold death of which physical death is a part, and no doubt they were damaged in the course of their lives; but their sin natures remained intact. On the other hand, our Lord was sinless and retained His sinless status to the end. He did not receive a sin nature at birth by virtue of His virgin conception, and never committed a single personal sin (with the result that He was qualified to bear our sins on the cross). We know He became tired and hungry and that He bled when struck; He was a flesh and blood human being in every way, and no doubt inherited all manner of particular physical characteristics from Mary – just no sin nature.

The distinction here, I believe, is thus primarily a moral rather than a physical one. Being physically handicapped as a result of some genetic illness, for example, carries no moral baggage as far as the Almighty is concerned. On the other hand, were a person genetically as perfect as happenstance or biological engineering could make them, the sin nature they possess by virtue of being human would still render them dead in the eyes of God . . . unless and until they came to Jesus and were saved.

I do not know enough about genetics or DNA or biological processes to wager a guess as to the mechanics of just how our Lord was born without a sin nature through the inability of the female seed to pass it on; it may not even be "knowable" to contemporary science. The sin nature Mary possessed was entirely from her father and no part of it was from her mother. That would argue for the sin nature (not genetic defects) to be entirely absent from her seed (and indeed from all women's seed). How that can be I have no real idea – but that is clearly what the Bible teaches.

Yours in our sinless Savior, son of David, who died that we might have eternal life.

Bob L.

Question #5:  


Found your site and greatly appreciate it! I found it after googling a question I have.

Was there an Old Testament sacrifice for murder, adultery, stealing, etc?

Thank you,

Response #5:  

Good to make your acquaintance. As to your question, there is no sacrifice specifically stated for these offenses, and in fact when you get right down to it there is no sacrifice for any such "willful sinning" in the Mosaic Law at all. All of the sacrifices recorded in Law which have to do with seeking forgiveness for personal sins are always for inadvertent sins or sins of ignorance. That is because willful sinning carried, according to the Law, the death penalty (cf. Heb.10:28). Of course, no human being has ever lived who completely avoided sinning deliberately (except for our Lord Jesus who never sinned in any way). Thus the regime of prohibitions and sacrifices of the Law would lead anyone who was not a complete hypocrite to realize that not only were they sinners but also that there was no possible way to achieve atonement through the sacrifices of the Law, even if perfectly adhered to. Here is a short excerpt on this from Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin (see the link):

Guilt adheres to all sin, whether or not we are aware that what we are doing is sin. Under the Mosaic Law, there was an entire category of sacrifice devoted to "sins of ignorance" (i.e., the so-called "sin" and "guilt" offerings: Lev.4:1 - 6:7), and even these could only be atoned for through the "shedding of blood" (Heb.9:22). Indeed, the procedure for making atonement for the guilt inherent in sins of ignorance is so austere and onerous relative to anything we can imagine today (cf. Lev.7:1-10), that this part of the Law has the effect of making every honest person admit to him or herself that lasting and complete atonement of the guilt of sin by one's own devices is so impossible as to make even its contemplation pointless. How much more then is this not true for the guilt which attaches to deliberate sins!

There will be [but] one [and the same] law [of forgiveness through sacrifice (vv.22-28)] for both the native born of the sons of Israel and for the resident alien who resides among you, for [every] one who sins out of ignorance. But as for the person who acts with a high hand (i.e., in arrogance), be he native born or resident alien, it is the Lord whom he has blasphemed, and that person must be cut off from the midst of his people (i.e., executed). For he has despised the Word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment. That person must definitely be cut off. His guilt [remains] in him. Numbers 15:29-31

While there may be much middle ground between complete ignorance and absolute arrogance in our human experience and from our relativistic point of view, in God's perfect way of looking at things there is no gray area at all. Either we are essentially deceived in our sinning as Eve was (i.e., sins of ignorance), or we sin in full knowledge that what we are doing is wrong as Adam did (i.e., sins of arrogance). In either case, guilt results. The main lesson from the regime of sacrifice contained in the Mosaic Law is that in either case, the consequences of sin are so severe as to be avoided at all costs, but the consequences of sinning defiantly, arrogantly, in premeditated full-knowledge of the sinfulness of one's intended actions are so dire that no one can bear up under them. Provision is made for ignorant sinning, although the forgiveness for such sins comes at the cost of considerable sacrifice. But no provision is made for defiant, arrogant, cognizant sinning (the exception being the Day of Atonement representing Christ's sacrifice on the cross where "all sins" are forgiven, i.e., the positional forgiveness all believers enjoy: Lev.16:16; 16:21; 16:30; 16:34).

For if we continue to sin willfully (i.e., arrogantly) after having received full knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains any sacrifice applicable to [such] sins, but [only] the terrifying expectation of judgment and fiery retribution waiting to devour those who oppose [the Lord]. Hebrews 10:26-27

We can certainly see the value of God's policy in this matter (not very widely understood; indeed, many versions try to minimize through inaccurate translation the fact that these sacrifices are only good for sins of ignorance and accidents). This is clearly deliberate and salutary, for if there were prescriptions for "atoning" for willful sins, then the tendency to suppose in legalistic self-righteousness that merely by bringing a sacrificial animal and going through the motions there is forgiveness and eternal life, then the legalism and hardness of heart that has afflicted Israel would have been even worse than it turned out to be. As it is, within the Law at every point we find the seeds of the truth: "by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal.2:16). We all need a Savior to die in our place for all the sins we commit, and without that sacrifice, and without believing in Him and accepting His sacrifice thereby, there can be no forgiveness. A proper understanding of the Law in regard to animal sacrifice in respect to the "guilt" and "sin" offerings makes that abundantly clear since there is not even any avenue of temporal forgiveness for any willful sins (including the ones you ask about), leading any person who is genuinely coming to God in humility to seek eternal life through faith rather than through ritual.

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I did not come to know sin except through the Law. For I did not know [what] lust [was] except that the Law was telling [me], "You shall not lust". Then sin grabbed the opportunity [offered] by the commandment and produced in me every [sort of] lust. So without the Law, sin is dead (i.e., to our "knowledge").
Romans 7:7-8

The purpose of the Law is to "lead us to Christ", and it does so whenever it is honestly read, for salvation through adherence to its perfect standard is impossible, and in my opinion nowhere is the impossibility of living up to the Law made more clear than in the fact that there is no sacrifice for willful sin – which is precisely what Paul is getting at above: he could not bring a sacrifice for the covetousness he knew he had committed, and so he was "dead", the very reality that must dawn upon anyone before coming to seek the One who offers life through the death He died in our place.

In Him through whom we live and shall live forever, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #6:  

Dr. Luginbill,

I promise not to overly (I will, probably, sometime ask another question) trouble you with questions in the future but because of a lesson I am teaching, I do need an answer to the following question:

You stated (I can't find your email to verify your exact words) that there was no sacrifice specified in the Old Testament for intentional sins. So I assume that the specified sacrifices were for unintentional sins. But, Leviticus 6:1-7 does indicate an intentional sin. I realize that sins which could be construed to be violations of one of the Ten Commandments had no corresponding sacrifice (e.g. David's sin with Bathsheba and her husband). Which sins did require a sacrifice? Only a "minor" sin? Please help me understand what you mean.

God has greatly blessed me by directing me to your website.

Thank you,

Response #6: 

It is a difficult subject, no question about it. I have "intentionally" not used the phrase "intentional sin" in this discussion or in the study referenced. What exactly sinning "with a high hand" may mean as opposed to "sinning in ignorance" is at the heart of this question. Here is what I write about that, also in BB 3B (see the link):

Scripture makes a clear distinction between the fully conscious, deliberate, fully pre-meditated and arrogant sort of sinful behavior described above and sin which is committed "in error". In the Mosaic Law, there was an entire category of sacrifice devoted to such "sins of ignorance", namely, the so-called "sin" and "guilt" offerings (Lev.4:1 - 6:7). The key words usually rendered in these verses as "ignorantly" or "unintentionally" constitute the Hebrew prepositional phrase beshegagah (בשגגה). Rather than knowledge or intentionality, the verbal noun which forms the core of this phrase is much closer to the idea of sin which one finds in the Greek noun-verb pair, hamartia-hamartano (ἁμαρτάνω/ ἁμαρτία), the root from which the word Hamartiology, the subject of this study, is derived. For the corresponding Hebrew verb, shagah (שגה), as with hamartia-hamartano, means something more like "missing the way", "taking a wrong turn", "making an error or mistake". Thus this category of sinning clearly suggests, from the parallel etymologies, behavior in which, "if one had thought better about it", one would never have engaged in in the first place. In other words, whatever the element of mental, moral, informational, or situational "mistake" involved in such sins, it is just this element which distinguishes them from "arrogant sins".

Now if anyone sins out of error (i.e., beshegagah), he shall bring a she-goat one year old as a sin offering. And the priest will make atonement on behalf of the person who went astray in his sin of error against the Lord so as to atone on his behalf, and it will be forgiven him. For both the native born of the sons of Israel and the resident aliens among you there shall be one law for whoever acts out of error. But whoever acts with a high hand (i.e., "sins arrogantly"), whether native born or a resident alien, is offending the Lord. That person shall be cut off from the midst of his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His command, that person shall surely be cut off. His guilt [stays] in him.
Numbers 15:27-31

The demarcation point between forgivable "error" and unforgivable "high-handedness" is not clearly drawn here, and, as suggested above, that is no doubt deliberate and in any case salutary. For while clear examples of sins that are genuinely mistakes and sins which are clearly "in God's face" readily present themselves, there are innumerable examples that also come to mind of behavior which might possibly fit either classification, and this element of doubt tends to restrain us from sinning rather than weakening our resolve to resist it. Clearly, sin is serious business in God's eyes, and we would do well to avoid it at all times since the only absolutely sure way to steer clear of truly arrogant, high-handed sin is to abstain from sin altogether.

Leviticus chapter six is still within the section which began at Leviticus 4:1 talking about sinning beshegagah, "in error" (which does not necessarily mean sinning without any prior knowledge, intention, or willingness; merely that the person was "conflicted" about it as any genuine believer would be). The key term in this latest passage you ask about is the Hebrew word/root ’asham (אשם). While the phrase ve’asham in verse 4 is often rendered “if he sins and is guilty” (NIV), but that is clearly redundant. Gesenius’ lexicon says about this root, “the primary idea is to be sought in that of negligence” (s.v., אשם). That certainly squares with the idea of the “trespass offering” (same root) one finds in the preceding chapter, Leviticus 5, where the sins for which it is offered are clearly of a non-“high-handed” if not altogether “unintentional” type; these are described by the same word/root ’asham (אשם) which we find in chapter 6. Negligence or error rather unequivocally deliberate action is thus still what is in view in this passage.

In my opinion, the difference in general between "forgivable sin" and "unforgivable sin" is the same in the Old Testament as in the New, namely, in general those who are truly part of God's fellowship sin when they do sin "against their better judgment" and can thus be restored to temporal fellowship by the means God provides (i.e., confession; and this, by the way, is why 1st John can provide the means for restoration from sin in chapters one and two, and then seem to say later on that believers are incapable of sinning: 1Jn.3:6; the distinction is between believer aberration and unbeliever standard behavior; cf. 1Cor.6:9-11). Under the Law, leaders (who have to set an example) and those who are caught in sin in regard to wronging someone else so that restitution must be made (the passage you ask about) come in for special mention as both of these categories have a serious impact on the relationships of the Body (i.e., in addition to beings sins against God, they also fall into the category of what we may call "crime" in that they damage other people in a substantive way).

Certain sins (the ones you asked about in your first email) are so outrageous that they indicate a separation from God and thus from the fellowship by their very nature (cf. "you know that no murderer has eternal life in him"; 1Jn.3:15 NIV). Given God's great mercy, there are of course exceptions to this where great believers or believers-to-be have their faith survive just such horrible lapses (David and Paul certainly come to mind – where there is life, there is hope of true repentance which always brings forgiveness), but the principle remains. The fact that these particular sins you ask about damage others (similar to the case of misused trust by those in leadership) requires a special mention and stipulations for restitution to those wronged (please see the link in BB 3B: "The Distinction between Sin and Crime"). But the principle remains that the Law does not generally provide a means for restoration to fellowship where there is no doubt about the self-willed nature of the action; that attitude is indicative of no repentance on the perpetrator’s part: if he/she is repentant, then a certain amount of “error” rather than outright, self-willed insolence can be assumed.

Finally, it is important to remember that all sin comes from our free will: whether or not we are deceived, conflicted, pressured, misinformed, or misled, we still "did it". Absent a Savior to redeem us, no one would be guiltless in God's eyes. Praise be to Him that He gave up His One and only dear Son to die for us that we might be forgiven all our sins, whether or not they seem large or small in our grossly uninformed opinions.

Hope this helps. Best wishes for your teaching of the Word of God!

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

What exactly is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? I've heard several professing Christians that may have attributed the workings of the Holy Spirit to Satan such as miracles. They thought it over to themselves and feared that they will never be forgiven because of this. They cited where the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting demons out through the power of Satan and how that was blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. I always thought that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was continual rejection or willfully denying the Holy Spirit and His convicting power. Or when the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts and we ignore Him and stop listening to the point of no return. Somehow like the Pharaoh who crossed the point of no return, and how his heart was hardened beyond that certain point. I also feel that if someone fears that they may have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit could not have done it because otherwise there would be no conviction or conscience of wrong doing because they have crossed certain spiritual line the Holy Spirit draws. 1 John tells us that Jesus is faithful to forgive us of "all" sins if we "confess" it. So I don't think that anyone who has blasphemed against the Holy Spirit will ever confess their sins and therefore lead to spiritual death. Am I on the right track with this?

Response #7: 

You are exactly right. There is a big difference between blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (which is the unpardonable or unforgivable sin), and grieving the Spirit (which every believer does from time to time). The Spirit tells unbelievers that Jesus is the Christ, the God-Man who is the only way of salvation. When Jesus' opponents accused Him of being demon possessed, they were calling the Holy Spirit who was empowering His miracles a demon – the very definition of blasphemy. This is "unforgivable", because it involves rejecting Jesus as Savior. Rejection of Himself was the only sin for which Jesus could not die.

The one who believes in Him is not being judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged on the grounds that he has not put his faith in the Name (i.e., the Person) of God's only Son.
John 3:18

A person has to accept Him to be saved. So rejecting the Spirit's testimony about Jesus is tantamount to choosing hell.

Grieving the Spirit, on the other hand, is the believer who has the Spirit resident with him/her resisting His prodding and guidance, going against what He has advised, or resisting what He encourages. Grieving the Spirit is choosing for the flesh instead of following the Spirit's lead. We are all guilty of this to some degree every time we sin. The Spirit works through our conscience and works with the truth we have stored up in our hearts. The more truth we learn and believe, the more open we become to the Spirit's guidance (cf. Eph.5:18). When we reject this guidance, we "grieve" Him (Eph.4:30; cf. Gal.5:16-26; 1Thess.5:19). But as you so correctly note, while all sin is negative and while all sin has consequences, we are forgiven when we confess, so that even the divine discipline we receive for our willful rejection of the Spirit's guidance can be for blessing rather than cursing.

There is more about all this at the following links:

The unpardonable sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit: Blasphemy against, Restraining Ministry, and Gender.

The Sealing of the Holy Spirit.

Confession of Sin, Fellowship, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit.

In our dear Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Greetings in the name of the Lord. I pray all is well your way. Seems I always have a question for you every now and then. I have a friend with whom I am very close. My question is this, how do I handle this person's cursing and especially his taking God's name in vain? This person is not saved, though witnessed to many times by myself and others. The cursing is really an issue with me. The slightest little thing will set it off. How do I handle this? Thanks ahead of time for your response.

Response #8: 

In my experience, it's pretty difficult to control or even modify the behavior of others unless there is an authority relationship (and even in the case of children, it's not all that easy). If the person in question were a Christian, a well-placed word might be effective:

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:11 NIV

A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool.
Proverbs 17:10 NIV

My guess is that this approach has not worked. However, you do have some cards to play. We may not be able to control other people's behavior but we do have control over our own. You do not, for example, have to go out in public with someone who refuses to adhere to your minimum standards of acceptability when and if you are gracious enough to accompany them. Just a thought.

Best wishes on this, and in all your efforts at witnessing. Regardless of how hardened people may seem to be, the reality of life (and death) sometimes has a way breaking through in the end where all the persuasion in the world cannot.

I will certainly say a prayer for you.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

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