Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 2 (What is Sin?)

This series began in Part One as a search for a more meaningful answer to an aspiring young Christian’s question: “Why did God send His only son to die?”  The short answer “to save us from our sins,” while correct, really only serves to raise more questions.  Whether the question comes from a young person or someone older, I should be able to do better.  Hopefully I will be more prepared to answer that question by the end of this series.

A real understanding of the answer to this question naturally begins with understanding some things about sin.  So as we turn to that subject, the first set of questions we brought up in part one center around just what the problem is with sin.

What is sin anyway?

English: Man's Sin, and God's Promise; as in G...

English: Man’s Sin, and God’s Promise; as in Genesis 3:1-6, 13-15; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Simply put, sin is that which is contrary to God’s will, His commandments, even that which is against His very nature.  Sin came into the world in what we know as “the fall” way back in Genesis 3.  At that time, man had a practical paradise on earth, as well the blessing of being really close to God.  But despite clear warning, he threw it all away in rebellion against the Lord, and nothing has been the same since that time.  God’s first reference to sin as a word in the scripture appears in Genesis 4, when Cain had become angry.  God had warned him that sin was “crouching at his door,” after which he in fact murdered his own brother.  Since that time, many specific acts that are sinful have been named in the Bible.  Some of those are named by Paul as “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-20.  The fact that this is not a complete list of all sins is obvious, and made clear by the words “and things like these” at the end of the passage.

We know that those things in Paul’s letter to the Galatians are wrong.  We even know that such things as lying and murder are wrong.  But if there is no clearly exhaustive list of sins in the Bible to which we can refer, how should one know what else may be sinful?   The answer is by studying God’s word – the Scriptures.  The more we learn by reading and hearing God’s word, the more we know about what is right, what is wrong, and what is abhorrent to God (Proverbs 6:16-19, for example).   But we usually have to look no further than our own hearts.  God gave us a conscience; and if we truly examine ourselves with honesty, our internal conflict will betray our true knowledge of what God really expects from us (Romans 2:14-16).

English: The Story of Cain and Abel; as in Gen...

English: The Story of Cain and Abel; as in Genesis 4:3-15; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So why does sin matter so much to God?

God has revealed Himself in many ways to us.  One of those of those ways is by His word. One could write a dissertation on that very subject, but we should know that the Bible declares (among other things) that God is the very definition of goodness and faithfulness, and that He has enduring and steadfast love (Psalm 100:5) – indeed that He is love (1 John 4:8)!  And from His word, we know that He is truth and holiness (Leviticus 19:2) – that He is light, and in Him is no darkness (1 John 1:5).  There is no evil in His character, and He is too pure to tolerate sin or evil (Habakkuk 1:13).

Why should sin matter to us?

We will have more to say about this in Part Three of this series.  But sin is important to us first and foremost because it separates us from God.  That separation is absolutely the worst thing that has ever happened to mankind.  It separated man from God after “the fall” of Genesis 3, and God has been at work to restore that relationship with Him ever since then.  The good news is that He has a plan to do just that very thing; and that hope for us has always pointed to the Cross.

On a Sunday within the next few short weeks, we will present part three of this series with a look at God’s response to sin. as we begin to examine His plan for our salvation and hope for being with Him forever.

/Bob’s boy
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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

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Numbers 21:4-9 / Num 25 – Baal Worship at Peor

Mount Hor where it is believed that Aaron brot...

Image via Wikipedia

Much has happened in the wilderness as we come into this reading.  We have skipped over Aaron’s death in chapter 20; and Moses has descended Mount Hor with Aaron’s son Eleazar.  The first part of this reading is about the bronze serpent in chapter 21, on the heels of their first victory against the Canaanites (brought on by the attack by the king of Arad).    The people have been grumbling about the “miserable food” and God has begun dealing with them in a dramatic way – with fiery serpents.  At God’s instruction, Moses makes the bronze serpent, which saves the lives of those who look upon it.  Verse 5 suggests that their grumbling was more than just a little bit disrespectful.  After the close brush with self-destruction in the golden calf fiasco, it is almost surprising to see that any of them would dare to behave in that way.  But, as we will see in the second part of this reading, it gets worse.

So why make such note of the bronze serpent passage – just about 6 verses?  Great question, actually.  First, it begs some questions – what actually saved the people?  Was it just the fact that they looked at the bronze serpent?  Did they have to believe that it would save them?  Could that belief alone have saved them – without actually doing the act of looking at it?  Jesus refers to this event in John 3:14, where he tells Nicodemus (and us) how to achieve salvation.  This reference by and about our savior is “sandwiched” between Jesus telling Nicodemus he must be born again, and the baptisms and lessons in obedience to Christ in the verses all the way to the end of John 3.   Do yourself a favor and read this entire chapter of John (36 verses) after reading Numbers 21:4-9.  Jesus’ references to being lifted up has other meaning here, as it does in John 8:28 and John 12:32.

In chapter 25, Shittim is the last encampment before the people cross the Jordan, and apostasy again rears its ugly head in a horrible affront to God.  Some scholars think this may be Tell el-Hammam (about 16 kilometers east of Jericho).  The sins are numerous and include the worship of Baal with the Moabites.  we do not find out for sure until chapter 31, but it is Balaam who leads them to this.  We are not reading his story from the last few chapters in this schedule, but he is referred to again in 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 1:11. Eleazar’s son, Phineas gains favor with the Lord and keeps the ensuing plague from getting any worse (verses 7-9).  But this sin at Peor will not keep the Lord from sending His people to conquer the Canaanites.  It is not for their righteousness, as Moses will remind them – but for the evil of the Canaanites themselves.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers 

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Exodus 16 – Bread from Heaven

Wilderness

The people are hungry as they travel though the wilderness, and their grumbling begins again as they remind Moses yet again how “good” they had it back in Egypt (verse 3).  A ridiculous assertion that tends to make us shake our heads, but we weren’t wandering in that barren land.  Moses rebukes them well when he makes the Lord’s intentions known to them in verses 6-8, letting them know that they are really grumbling against the one who delivered them.  The “glory of the Lord” in verse 10 is “just” another physical manifestation of God that we will read of again in many passages.  It may be helpful to remember these passages when someone is struggling (wrestling?) with the passage about Jacob wrestling with the Lord in Genesis 32:22-30.

We still do not know what it is, but the “manna” (which sounds like “what is it”) that the lord rained down is referred to as bread.  It served the obvious purpose of feeding them for 40 years (almost as amazing as the way it was provided), but also was part of the “testing” that the Lord referred to in verse 4. They are being prepared for the way of life that God intends to present to them in the ten commandments later.  The sabbath is to be a day of rest with no gathering.  When some tried to save some for the following day, contrary to instructions, it would stink and grow worms (verse 20).   But not so with the manna they gathered the day before the sabbath – when no manna would fall (verse 27).  They would have to learn for themselves, though.

Paul quotes verse 18 in 2 Corinthians 8:15, when he is admonishing the Christians there to use their abundance to help supply the needs of other Christians.  Jesus refers to the manna in John 6:41-58, where He says that He is the bread that came down from heaven, foreshadowing His death and our salvation.  The manna was more than just nourishment for the people of Israel.  Jesus came to earth to be more than just a teacher or just a “good man,” as some would claim.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.