Sunday, January 15, 2006

William Tell & Missing the Mark

OK, it is very early in my blogging career. And it already looks like I have lost my mind. And maybe I have a time or two. But stick with me for the next few paragraphs because I want to use a well known character in literature to help me take a position on "sin."

First let me say, I am grateful to Joshua Woods, a young man at Mount Vernon Nazarene University who is studying for the ministry and for a career as a Chaplain in the U.S. Military. Thank you Joshua in advance of your service to the country and to the Kingdom of God by standing in the gap for me and the rest of the world that is blessed with freedom that has been bought with a price. (Hey, that sounds like a good idea for a future post! I'll have to write that idea down.)

Joshua and I were having a brief instant messaging exchange the other night. I was expressing to him the difficulty it is to have a theological discussion with some folks when you do not share the same set of definitions. Depending on your starting point, you will undoubtedly end up in a different ending point. So, here are a few questions to spur our thought process:

  • What is a sin?
  • What does it mean to sin?
  • What is original sin?
  • And more importantly, what can be done about original sin?
  • Is sin inevitable in the life of a Christian?
  • Is sin something I do, or is it something that just happens?
  • Is there a remedy for the sin problem?

William Tell Didn't Miss the Mark

William Tell is probably the most notable bow and arrow marksman of all time. His abilities are legendary as demonstrated by the apple that was pierced with an arrow while the apple was perched upon the top of the head of his young son. What if he had not been successful? What if he had missed the mark? How tragic would that have been?

"Missing the mark" -- Hamartia. That is one of the translations for the word "sin" as found in the New Testament. You can see that usage in passages like Romans 6:12. In fact, it is used 39 times alone in Paul's Letter to the Romans. In its broadest definition of the word translated "sin" it can be said that sin is any action or attitude that is less than God's standard of love for Him, our neighbor or ourselves. But that is not the only word that is translated as our modern word "sin." I take a different stance on sin given my Spiritual formation. I was always taught that sin is a willful act in defiance of God and His laws and standards.

What words have been translated to our word, "sin"?

Hamartia -- Paul uses this Greek word in the sentence "for all have sinned (hamartia-ed) and fallen short of the glory of God." Hamartia describes actions and attitudes that "fall short" of God's perfection. I hamartia-ed when I punched my brother. We hamartia when we say mean things about our co-workers in order to put ourselves in a better position for a promotion. We hamartia whenever our actions and attitudes are not what God commands of us.

This is the same word used in The Gospel of Luke's account of the Lord's Prayer:

Forgive us our "hamartia-s" for we also forgive everyone who "hamartia-s" against us. (Luke 11:4 NIV).

Then over in The Gospel of John we find:

If we claim to be without hamartia , we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.(1 John 1:8-10 NIV).

So, does this seem to indicate an acceptance on God's part of hamartia in our every day lives? Does an occasional hamartia cancel our deed on our heavenly mansion? Romans 6:1-2 says "God forbid!... " in the King James Version. That is pretty strong language. Sin is not to be tolerated in the life of a Believer. Left unchecked and unconfessed hamartia has deadly consequences!

Adikia -- While also often translated "sin," adikia is unrighteousness that has perverted, immoral and deceitful aspects to it. A pastor adikia-s they use or abuse members of their flock sexually or takes advantage of them in a counseling setting. Their whole being is twisted toward impure living. Charles Wesley may have had this in mind when he described our "bent toward sinning." The person who adikia-s has willfully and deliberating turned away from God and His love, and will spend eternity separated from God unless he or she restores that relationship with God.

Anomia -- This "sin" is lawlessness. This is the habitual offender in the justice system. The guy with a rap sheet as long as your arm. This guy is living a lifestyle of sin. This is not the occasional slip of the tongue kind of sin. This is not saying something that your mom would not like if you hit your thumb with a hammer. This is not an act of carelessness in a pressure packed situation, but a pattern of life that is outside of God's Will and God's Grace.

Someone once described it like a fish understand no other life than swimming, people who "anomia" understand no other life than sinning. I think that is fairly descriptive.

Asebeia -- Asebeia deals specifically with ungodliness and rebellion toward or rejection of God. This word is used several times in the New Testament and often with warnings and references to how to live in this present world as seen in Titus 2: 11-14. The Lord will not cut off the believer who wants to please Him and is maintaining an ongoing and vibrant relationship with Him.

Paul reminds us in Romans:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)

However, we can choose to reject God. We can do that through persistent and active rebellion or through passive indifference. This is the tenor and tone that the Apostle Paul uses when he talks about the immorality and idolatry in Romans 1:18-32.

Parabasis -- Last but not least, parabasis is a legal term for guilt and condemnation. The sense of this word has to do with breaking the law. It is intended to be used regarding breaking God's Law. But is has a legalistic tone as though it were used for breaking a civil or criminal law. Often in New Testament times this term was used for condemned criminals.

We deserve to hear God say "Guilty as charged!" But as forgiven children of God we don't need to fear God's gavel of judgment. In fact, the Holy Spirit is our comforter, guide and "lawyer" (paraclete) before the Father. He pleads our case that Jesus shed His Blood for our sins.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. (1 John 4:17 NIV)

So what does this mean to me?

The Christian who has sincerely asked forgiveness for past sins (all kinds - hamartia, adikia, anomia, asebeia, and parabasis) and who desires to daily love God, others, and themselves, who submit to His authority in obedience and who are following the Holy Spirit as He guides us day by day and conforms us to the image of Christ, there is a life where Sin does not have dominion in our daily lives.

Will there be occasional times when Christians will sin by "missing the mark," falling short of God's perfection? Yes, in all likelihood. Our concern should not be whether it is possible to avoid sin, or not. The greater question is what are we going to do about it? The mark of a genuine Christian is that we do not excuse our poorly disciplined lives by accepting that sin is inevitable. Christ died not only for my sins, but also for the sin problem in my life. He died to break the power of cancelled sin.

The blood of Christ, the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit, and the power of God is capable of delivering the believer from committing sin, when that believer appeals to God for deliverance and then follows through with the Holy Spirit's guided action(s). If the believer fails to seek this Divine delivering power, OR fails to heed the Divine guidance of the Spirit, it is virtually certain that they will commit sin. The key point is that it is God's delivering power, not my own spiritual inner fortitude that keeps my life as a believer, sin free. I love what the hymn writer Charles Wesley wrote in one of the verses of "Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing":

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

All of this tells me that hamartia, or any of the other words for sin, should not be taken lightly. Rather they should be confessed as soon as the Holy Spirit reveals them to us. And He will reveal them to us! Since the "wages of hamartia is death" (Romans 6:23).

But more importantly, (and this will most certainly be the subject of another post) through the power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit we can live a life free from Sin. We can live a life of Christian Perfection. If we seek Him with our whole heart and are sanctified, we can live the life of Holiness that is commanded by God.

33 comments:

  1. Mr. Kevin you are so kind. I blushed when I read what you posted. Though I must say that you did a lot of research on "sin". It's amazing how far just one little thing from a biblical greek class can inspire an entire post on how Jesus chose to handle our "sin problem".

    I agree with you on Charles Wesley's hymn. I think he hit the nail right on the head when he wrote that stanza.

    If Christ had only come to wipe the slate clean of all sin then he would not have accomplished much now would he? No, he also wants us to be freed or at least start the freeing "process" (refer to the last post in this blog) so that we can live a live Holy and Pleasing to God. If we were still "bent" on sinning, as John Wesley so eloquently put it, even after we have been forgiven of our sin, then we would still not be acceptable to God's Holy and perfect presence. We must lose our desire to sin, as well as the stain that sin left.

    I love what Paul says in Romans 6:1-4 (NASU) "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall those who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptizm into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead, so we too might walk in newness of life."

    So what's that mean? That newness of life that he's talking about is the new life In Christ Jesus.

    when He died on the cross he took all our sins upon himself, (our old sinful selves) to the grave with him. And when he rose again, he gave us a new start. The problem is that we still have a natural human tendency to sin. That's why Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit. I thank God for his guidance as he shows me the more joyful way to live free from that depressing state of being trapped in the habitual snares of sin.

    Another great hymn "And Can it Be" says this,
    Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
    fast bound in sin and natures night,
    Mine eye diffused a quickning ray, I woke! The dungeon flamed with light!
    MY CHAINS FELL OFF, MY HEART WAS FREE!
    I ROSE, WENT FORTH, AND FOLLOWED THEE!

    I left my sinful habit but not on my own power, Jesus came and caused my chains fell off.

    -Joshua

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  2. David7:32 AM

    The discussion of the sin issue centers around the acceptable definition. Is it, as John Wesley describes, "A willful violation of a known law of God," or more widely defined by Easton's Bible Dictionary as "any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God" (1 John 3:4; Rom 4:15), in the inward state and habit of the soul, as well as in the outward conduct of the life, whether by omission or commission (Rom 6:12-17; 7:5-24)?

    The issue at work here is the intentionality of the subject. We come to the crux of the entire Wesleyan-Arminian/Calvinism debate with such a discussion. Is God SOVEREIGN, or does mankind possess FREE WILL?

    If mankind can choose to sin or choose to avoid it, then we have opportunity to respond to the urgings of the Holy Spirit and avoid sin. If, on the other hand, we have no power to freely choose to reject God's grace (as experienced in the guiding actions of the Spirit), then for some, sin MUST be inevitable!

    So, I believe a deeper, further exploration is needed to ascertain our ability to freely accept or reject the grace of God.

    I'll hold this out for our esteemed Blogger Boss to offer the first opinion.

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  3. Wesley clearly uses active words to describe sin, like "willful". Easton tends to be a bit more passive. Thus Easton's allows for sins of omission as well comission.

    I see your point that the Wesleyan and Calvinist debate often centers around the issue of God's sovereignty and whether or not I have any free will. And that may be a fitting battleground on which to meet.

    But my thoughts are taking a different tack these days. I am trying to frame the discussion in part around God's Power and the Power of His Holy Spirit to work in the life of a Christian. I am looking at it from the perspective of placing my faith and trust in a God who is powerful enough to deal with the sin problem. I like what Joshua (the son, not the OT character) said.

    "If Christ had only come to wipe the slate clean of all sin then he would not have accomplished much now would he? No, he also wants us to be freed or at least start the freeing "process" so that we can live a live Holy and Pleasing to God."

    To accept any less is to somehow deny His true power or limit it by our own unbelief.

    Now, about this whole Grace thing...

    I see another future post. Perhaps you can launch that one!

    ~Kevin

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  4. Kevin,
    You said "Our concern should not be whether it is possible to avoid sin, or not. The greater question is what are we going to do about it?"

    this thought has been on my mind for months. great post... I'll be around more often.

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  5. I aree with Kevin here. I believe that the cross solved the porblem of sin, and "the sin problem." I think we can draw this conclusion pretty easily from scripture, especially by remembering the origin of sin and the original plan for God's creation. Sin didn't always exsist. There were not always problems in the world. We have something to look back on and say 'that's how it should be again.' Genesis 1 and 2 give us a picture of a "good" creation. Genesis 1, in its' poetic beauty tells us that God looked at "all that He had made and saw that it was very good." So this is where the story begins, without sin, without suffering, without the curse. Sin, the curse, doesn't come into the story until chapter 3. This is where the problem is. Now the rest of scripture, until it is culminated in the cross and ultimately in Revelation 21-22, is a story of God bringing His people back.

    The problem God wants to solve goes beyond our sins, it goes beyond "cleaning the slate" it's the redemption of God's people. It's bringing them back to a place where the curse does not exsist but our finger prints are still evident (this is, maybe, the reason the Bible ends with a city and not a garden like Eden). Our "sin problem" must be solved if we are to reach such redemption, the wholistic redemption illustrated in Revelation 21.

    Everyone is forgiven, but not everyone has allowed God to heal them, not everyone has trusted God to deal with their "sin problem."

    (I typed this kind of fast; if I need to clarify any thoughts let me know)

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  6. Anonymous9:00 PM

    Hi Kevin. Wow. So much to think about, so many possible things to say...

    "What is sin?"

    I am Roman Catholic and have looked to our Catechism for a definition of sin and found the following:

    Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law." (Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas)

    Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight." (Psalm 51:4) Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," (Genesis 3:5) knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God." (Saint Augustine) In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. (Philippians 2:6-8)

    There are a great many kinds of sins. Scripture provides several lists of them. The Letter to the Galatians contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit: "Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God." (Gal 5:19-21; Rom 1:28-32; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Eph 5:3-5; Col 3:5-9; 1 Tim 1:9-10; 2 Tim 3:2-5).

    That is just the beginning, and definitions of mortal sin and venial sin follow.

    So much to think about.

    I am not worthy.

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  7. Wes,

    Thanks for the encouraging words. These thoughts have been on my mind for quite some time. In fact, this blog is allowing me to get some of those thoughts out of my head and down on paper. (Well, figuratively anyway).

    I have added your blog as a link on mine. I plan to keep in touch with yours as well. My thanks to Maryellen for letting me know about you.

    ~Kevin

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  8. Anonymous,

    I think I know who you are. But I won't "out you" since your post says "Anonymous".

    I am really appreciative of your post. You have a great grasp of Scripture and I get a sense that you are serious about your Faith. If you are who I think you are, you know how to get in touch with me tomorrow!

    ~Kevin

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  9. I very much enjoyed your study on the words translated as "sin". I am sure I will take more time and reread (and take notes as well). Off the cuff thinking about it, I wonder if even if we could do all the right stuff, and not do all the wrong stuff, I think we would still have a sin problem due to the missing the mark problem. We are all "broken" in some way or another in that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. That being said, when we accept the free gift of Jesus' righteousness, then we have become new (unbroken) in the eyes of God. It is a very interesting line to explore, this righteousness vs sinful, saint vs sinner state. Hard to communicate my thoughts at the moment, need to meet my carpooler and go home! But I look forward to the discussion.

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  10. Kevin, Thanks for linking me... I love your blog and I'm going to return the favor.

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  11. Inheritor of heaven said, "I think we would still have a sin problem due to the missing the mark problem. We are all "broken" in some way or another in that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. That being said, when we accept the free gift of Jesus' righteousness, then we have become new (unbroken) in the eyes of God."

    That is a very interesting idea, but I think it misses the point. When we are born we are born with a defect called sin, (just my way of saying that we all are, or at least were, broken). And you are exactly right that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and accepting Christ's Free gift of forgiveness is key to salvation. However, I think that it would be shortchanging God to only say that he chooses to "see us as unbroken". Rather What I think he does is ,if we allow him the opportunity, to fix us altogether. Now it's a long process (just like glue may take a long time to dry, or an incision from an operation may take some time to heal) but the fact of the matter is, that the new heaven and the new earth will not have any room for our sinful (or carnal) nature. Therefore God must cleanse us of that as well as the marks that we have missed. Just as Jesus told us, a house divided against itself cannot stand. So I believe that the Holy Spirit works on us so that we lose that tendency towards sin. Do I make mistakes and sin sometimes, yeah. But God is changing me so that becomes more and more seldom. He is fixing me, not turning a blind eye to what is broken. It's not like he can't fix it. I mean he is after all the creator. We just have to let him. Sometimes we are willing and sometimes we are not, but I am definately committed to letting him have all of me. I want to be as much like Jesus as I can be, I can't get there on my own. I need the work of the Holy Spirit on me. Now There is another kind of brokeness that I believe we as followers of Jesus ought to have, and that is brokeness of our own will. I surrender myself and let God use me as he pleases. Yes I was born with a defect called sin as was and always will be as long as mothers continue to give birth, but God does a miraculous operation and changes me. Then I look a whole lot more like my savior when he is finished. I can't wait till he is!

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  12. Is free will really a contridiction to the Sovereignty of God? When we say God is all knowing, are we limiting Him to our human understanding of knowing?

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  13. Maryellen,

    I do not see any contradiction in my understanding of Free Will and God's Sovereignty. But that is certainly worthy of another top level post to this blog or any other. Have you had any posts on this topic on your blog?

    ~Kevin

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  14. The Scriptures never use the term "free will" but have much to say re: pre-destined, foreknowing, chosen, called, etc.
    Btw these are biblical concepts not 5 point Calvinism. That accusation is simply knee-jerk rhetoric.
    God is all knowing. To say that He is aware of all possibilities, but not which one will be chosen actually limits His knowing. Since only one choice will be made, then there is only one possibility. To say otherwise is to view sovreignty from man's standpoint. "Multiple possibilities" is simply the way it "appears" to be, to us.
    He knew what Adam and Eve would do before they did it.
    Of course we choose to sin, whenever we sin. He is already aware of the sin before it happens. Therefore all things work together for good, to those who love God and are CALLED. The Holy Spirit causes us to walk in sinlessness. Our good intentions will never enable us to do so. Again this is Scripture not calvinism. The arminian vs.calvinist argument is subject to the Scriptures,as are all theologies and traditions.
    1 John 1 says that we can walk in sinlessness, but also tells us that when we do stumble, the great high priest described in Hebrews forever lives to make intercession.
    According to Genesis 3 God has always had knowledge of good and evil. That knowledge is part of being God. Man obtained such knowledge by eating the fruit of that tree, and therefore became a god unto himself. Therefore the battle with sin will not truly cease until the corruptible puts on the incorruptible.

    Genesis 3:
    4But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

    and

    22Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever--"

    The serpent did not lie, he used the truth as the deception.Adam fell to the same evil as Lucifer,i.e. he desired to become God. The fruit of original sin is man obtaining the knowledge of right and wrong and then being cursed to struggle with that knowledge. God always had that knowledge, yet never struggled with such knowledge as He alone has true "free will". IOW He could choose to will not to succumb to evil, and then choose to not "do" evil. We cannot do any such thing until after being born again,(Eph 2:8-10 the faith to believe comes from God and we cannot choose Him until we receive that faith from Him). Even then we can fail (back to 1 John 1).
    Romans 7 is the exposition of this fact.
    The almighty God does not need us to defend His status as God.

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  15. In response to Joshua: perhaps rather than fixing us he actually makes us brand new. The mystery about it all is how it all works itself out. Don't have time presently to fully digest your comment now but perhaps later. (Gotta correct finals now.)

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  16. One of the things overlooked in many circles of thought is the statement of Jesus’ about a divided house. When we come to Him giving up the struggle with the intruded “sin nature” and give it over to the High Priest (as pictured in the sacrificial system of the temple and pictured in Hebrews) through laying hands upon the sacrifice and turning it over to the Priest to be killed and consumed sin is gone. As per the point of the Book of Hebrews this enactment given Moses for the Jews to perform before the eyes of men need to be repeated until Jesus as lamb and Priest of spotlessness could finish the cycle of yearly display.

    He returns us to the Garden condition gazing upon the fruit of temptation. At this point in history we - mankind understands the fruit of curse it is ever before us. The opposite of the Garden condition. The Holy Spirit calls to us reveals to us the contrasts and as displayed with the snake on the pole and taught by Jesus that the choice to look upon what kills us will save us. Our judge who can kill the soul after the body’s death says taste and see eat of me I am the manna come down…

    Once we take of the fruit of the cross the intruded nature becomes the hola whole burnt offering. Better understood, yet I think the emptiness where the Holy Spirit belongs in the Holy nature of man becomes Shalom again like the prodigal. Gratitude an aspect of “love” is the intent of Yahweh for us of which without the estrangement that man’s choosing to sin in the Garden brought about this aspect of perfect “love” could not be experienced by us. The fact of the Fall exists the result is that our eyes were - are open to the contrasts the fruit of blessing or curse. This was more detailed in the Covenant instruction given to the Hebrews “chosen” to “call” the other Nations to the place of grafting. Yahweh’s revelation of His plan after the Fall is the same as His face to face revelation pre - Fall so that even though we rejected His command birthed out of wisdom of His Omniness we can be restored into His house once we return from the far country. Then the feast can begin the table of the Father engraced with the fruit of the tree of life!

    Do we live within a puppet show unable to move beyond the attached strings or a play interacting with the writer, producer, and director reflecting His nature as we are made in His image? And given a part in the story He spoke into existence?
    Pastor Art

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  17. We do not live in a puppet show. Coversely we are not co-creating either.

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  18. KJKEB,
    Thanks for stopping by my site and your comments!

    Just a weee bit of my background for you.
    I was born and raised in a WELS family (WI Ev Lutheran Synod). I have worked at several ELCA (Ev Lutheran Church of America) churches.
    I was saved when I was 19 and have since learned a tun about theology and doctrine.
    I severed the ties that I had with the Lutheran churches and no attend an EV-Free church, as well as listen to Dr. John Piper (Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Desiring God Ministries) and Dr. James MacDonald (Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows IL, Walk in the Word).
    I have also been very heavily involved with Campus Crusade for Christ while in College.
    I am planning on starting an MDiv at Moody Theological Seminary in the Fall.

    Wesleyan and Calvinist debate
    or the Free Will vs. God's Soverenty Debate.

    The Bible doesn't use the words "Free will", however it does teach that we do have choices to make...key word WE must make...God gives us that freedom.
    This is the same idea as the "Trinity", the Bible doesn't use that word, but it is very clearly taught that God is three persons in one being.

    So the Bible teaches both free will and God's Sovergein Election!

    Deut 29:29 answers our questions here quite well!!!
    "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."

    God has not revealed to us how these two things fit together, but He knows how they do!
    The question is can we accept this on Faith alone, or do we need some kind of proof?

    I agree with you on the issue of sin! And yes, we (through the Power of Christ) have the ability to live a sinless life.
    Christ is already in the process of transforming us into His likeness...but again will we choose to obey Him, or disobey Him?

    I was hoping that you would elaborate more on the "Original Sin" a little more.
    Maybe a post on Total Depravity.
    As the human race is completely separated from God, until He elects us and we choose to follow Him...then we are New Creations, Regenerate Beings who are no longer out of communion with God and as such are no longer totaly depraved.

    Just some thoughts!

    Thanks again for inviting me over!

    In Christ,

    David

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  19. My take on words like The elect and the chosen are that in most places this refers to the Jewish nation. The anti-semetic theologians had to come up with something other than admitting a place of honor for the jew...
    Jesus was the "Predestined One".
    We are all predestined to salvation and called to fulfill the great commission...but we do not all choose to follow that call. Perhaps the term "free will" is not in scripture (neither is Trinity) but the Bible is full of places where God is telling us to choose...with promises of blessings if we choose correctly and curses if we don't...
    Whatever the explaination of why and how, there is no getting around the fact that we have a Free Will, and our responses are not preprogramed.
    Or else we would bear no responsiblitiy for those choices, and how can we be held accountable for a choice that was predetermined?
    That is neither justice or mercy by any definition, and God has revealed Himself to us as both Just and Merciful.

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  20. Inheritor of Heaven: I agree instead of "fixing us" he makes us new altogether. But that would still imply the same thing. He is still in the process of re-making us so that we don't have a built in sin-magnet. Not only has he made us without the stain of sin, he remakes us and gives us the ability to resist sin when temptation comes. Well he's still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. Took him just a week to make the moon and stars, the sun, the earth and jupiter and mars. Oh how loving and patient he must be. cuz he's still working on me. I love that song. It's one my theme songs.

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  21. "We are all predestined to salvation and called to fulfill the great commission"

    If that is true then everyone on earth would be saved and fulfilling the call. Pre-destined infers that it will be so.
    As for the elect, if it is Israel, and according to Romans 11 I am ingrafted in, then I am one of the elect, and so is everyone who comes to the Lord by faith. The new olive tree, which is actually Israel, is made up of all the elect whether they be jew or gentile. Anyway there is nothing in the NT that suggests the term elect only applies to the jews.The anti-semitic argument does not hold up.
    Where does the complete foreknowledge of God equate with supralapsarian theology ?
    As I have said a thousand times, choose away, you are free to do so.
    The choice is not pre-determined, but is foreknown.
    His will be done.

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  22. I think after reading all of this I may have to go back and read Luther's treatise "The Bondage of the Will". As I recall his premise says that without Jesus, our will is really not totally free but is always bent inward towards ourselves which of course is missing the mark.

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  23. Well said inheritor!

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  24. Chris,

    Supralaps...what? please explain your big word.

    Its a new one for me.

    Thanks...

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  25. Mike
    Supralapsarian theology is also called double pre-destination.

    Here is a good definition of three theologies re: calvinism
    from
    gotquestions.org

    This is a very good site for study helps.


    Question: “What is infralapsarianism, supralapsarianism, and sublapsarianism?”

    Answer: These three theological terms deal with God’s predestination of certain individuals to be saved. The focus of infralapsarianism, supralapsarianism, and sublapsarianism is the order with which God determined things to happen. In what order did God decide to create humanity, allow the Fall, to elect some to salvation, and to provide salvation for humanity. Ultimately, these are issues that we are incapable of fully grasping. It does not truly matter what order God decreed what to occur. What truly matters is that God created humanity, humanity sinned, and God decided to provide salvation through Jesus Christ.

    Infralapsarianism puts God’s decrees in the following order: (1) God decreed the creation of mankind, (2) God decreed mankind would be allowed to fall into sin through its own self-determination, (3) God decreed to save some of the fallen, and (4) God decreed to provide Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. Infralapsarianism focuses on God allowing the fall and providing salvation.


    Sublapsarianism is very similar to infralapsarianism, putting God’s decrees in the following order: (1) God decreed to create human beings, (2) God decreed to permit the fall, (3) God decreed to provide salvation sufficient to all, (4) God decreed to choose some to receive this salvation. The only difference between infralapsarianism and sublapsarianism is whether God decreed to provide salvation through Jesus Christ and then decreed to choose some to be saved, or vice-versa.



    Supralapsarianism puts God’s decrees in the following order: (1) God decreed the election of some and the eternal condemnation of others, (2) God decreed to create those elected and eternally condemned, (3) God decreed to permit the fall, and (4) God decreed to provide salvation for the elect through Jesus Christ. Supralapsarianism focuses on God ordaining the fall, creating certain people for the sole purpose of being condemned, and then providing salvation for only those whom He had elected.


    I find infralapsarianism to be the more Biblical position. I do not believe the Bible portrays God as decreeing the fall and creating people for the sole purpose of eternal condemnation. Supralapsarianism results in the doctrines of limited atonement (Jesus died only for the elect) and double predestination (God predestines some to be saved and others to be condemned). Supralapsarianism is typically the view of 5-point Calvinists, while infralapsarianism and sublapsarianism are usually held by 4-point / moderate Calvinists. Ultimately, though, these are issues best left up to God. Instead of worrying or arguing over when God decreed what, our concern should be on proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who need to hear it.

    My point is that in order for God to be totally omniscient, He would have to have not only complete foreknowledge of all possibilities , He would have to know what choice we were going to make. Therefore there is only one possibility. I have ben accused of 5 point Calvinism and I am saying that believing God to have complete prescient knowledge is Scriptural and not neccesarily in support of the hardcore double predestination calvinists. The theology of a God without complete prescience, is what is known as process theology or open theism.

    Check these links out:

    http://www.gotquestions.org/open-theism.html

    http://www.gotquestions.org/process-theology.html

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  26. Having read all of the responses to my post (and Wow! you folks are pretty smart!) I still cannot escape God's call in my life to be holy as He is Holy.

    Call it whatever you like and come at it from whatever theological persuasion you adhere to. But, my responsibility as a Christian is to be Holy. There are marks of a holy life. I think I will post on that in the very near future. That is after all, the thrust of my blog.

    Thanks to all who are stopping by and leaving your thoughts. Keep it up!

    ~Kevin

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  27. Hi, I popped over from Maryellen's blog and looks like you've quite a discussion going. When I've more time I'll stop by again.

    God Bless,
    Mimi

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  28. Kevin:

    Relative to sin and holiness..."what is original sin?"

    Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of (Gen 3:1-11; Rom 5:19). All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

    In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully "divinized" by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to "be like God", but "without God, before God, and not in accordance with God" (St. Maximus the Confessor). Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness (Rom 3:23).

    Through that sin, harmony with creation is broken. After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin. All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms: "By one man's disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners": "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned." (Rom 5:12,19) The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." (Rom 5:18)

    The consequences of original sin and of all men's personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John's expression, "the sin of the world". (John 1:29) This dramatic situation of "the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one" (John 5:19, 1 Peter 5:8) makes man's life a battle:

    The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.

    I think that last paragraph speaks, at least in part, to the thrust of your blog: What is sin and What does it mean to live a holy life? Sin is a disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness. Holiness is the daily battle, the hourly struggle, the minute-by-minute fight to successfully defeat temptation and evil,...and, with the assistance of God's power, spirit, and grace,...obediantly live God's will.

    God bless you!

    -Dave.

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  29. It is refreshing to see others exploring this worthy subject and how
    God can forgive us and also give us victory over sin.

    What is sin? Good question, we really need to know from our Lord a clear definition, so...
    What does the WORD say?
    1Jo 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

    In another place God tells us...Rom 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because [he eateth] not of faith: for whatsoever [is] not of faith is sin.

    What general promise is given to the overcomer?
    "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son." Rev. 21:7.

    What is it to overcome?
    To vanquish, to conquer, to be victorious. - Webster.

    What must be overcome to realize the promises to the overcomer?
    "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil." Rom. 12:21. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." 1 John 5:4.

    What is meant by overcoming the world?
    "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." 1 John 3:9.

    What, then, must we exercise in order to claim the promise of inheriting all things?
    "But godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." 1 Tim. 4:8.

    Who alone can overcome?
    "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" 1 John 5:5.

    By what means are we enabled to overcome?
    "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4. "And they overcame him [Satan, the originator and disseminator of sin, verse 9] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony." Rev. 12:11.

    Who gives us strength to overcome? and through whom is it bestowed?
    "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. 15:57. "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." Rom. 8:37.

    What is one important purpose of the promises given in the Bible?
    "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." 2 Peter 1:4.

    What is one of the greatest promises given to the overcomer?
    "And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life." 1 John 2:25.

    Name some of the precious things promised to the overcomer.
    (1) He shall eat of the tree of life. Rev. 2:7.
    (2) He "shall not be hurt of the second death." Rev. 2:11.
    (3) He shall eat of the hidden manna, and receive a white stone, and "in the stone a new name written which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Rev. 2:17.
    (4) He shall have power over the nations. Rev. 2:26.
    (5) He shall be clothed in white raiment; and his name shall not be blotted out of the book of life, but shall be confessed before the Father and the angels. Rev. 3:5.
    (6) He shall be a pillar in the temple of God forever, and Christ will write upon him God's name, and the name of the New Jerusalem, and his own new name. Rev. 3:12.
    (7) He shall sit with Christ on His throne. Rev. 3:21.
    (8) He "shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him." James 1:12.

    Have any of those who in the past have sought to receive the promises, as yet come into their possession?
    "And these all [those enumerated in Heb. 11] , having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise." Heb. 11:39.

    When will these precious promises be realized?
    "Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry." Heb. 10:36, 37.

    What manner of persons ought we to be, as we see the time approaching when the promises are to be realized?
    "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless." 2 Peter 3:14.

    What will be the condition of those who realize the promises?
    "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen." Revelation 7:9-12.

    May we all call upon the Lord for His strength so that we may exhibit to the world His love and power in our lives. If we don't meet one another on this earth, may we see each other in the promised land.

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  30. Wow - your name sounds really familiar! I am Free Methodist and my family has a long history in Free Methodisms. The more I learn of Wesleyanism and Free Methodism specifically, the more I love it! Our histories are so rich and inspiring. I am destined to be a pastor . . . so, yeah, Wesleyan colleges sound like a great fit!

    In case I do know you somehow, since your name sounds so familiar, my grandpa was a superintendant in the Free Methodist Church years ago, and his name is Phillip Ward. My dad is Tim Ward and his sisters and brother are Vicki Rice, Becki Jewett, Wendy (was Garnand) Powell, and Jim Ward. Anyone sound familiar by chance?

    Anyway, thank you for posting on my blogger. I might be back to your blog when I have more time, but I need to do homework now. Thanks!

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  31. thank you for stopping by my blog and for your kind words. i find yours really informative. i hope you don't mind me adding you to my links. i'd definitely come back to read more of your posts.

    God bless!

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  32. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for stopping through my blog. Interesting post and interesting comments. While I don't agree with every jot of everything you wrote, overall, very well said and very helpful.

    I believe a few of your commenters would be well-benefitted to read John Owen's "Moritificaton of Sin" instead of constructing artifical 'either-or' scenarios and then painting one as 'Calvinist' that does not match up with what Calvinists believe. It's helpful, when criticizing a position others hold, to actually read their works and not simply read yours and what someone who agrees with you writes about someone else.

    But that's a rabbit trail for another blog. :) Take care. I'll probably add you to the blogroll soon.

    Grace and Peace in Christ,
    Kerry

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  33. wow,
    There are some really great insights in all of these comments. Everyone has presented some great thoughts and hopefully w've had th chance to learn from them all. I'm not ready, and I'm not sure I'll ever be, to make a decision as to pre-destination and free will. We have to realize that both ideas are taught and neither are specified in scripture. Where it says things like "pre-destines," this is just a word someone decided fit best. It might not be as clear cut in the original text. It seems to me, though, that God does choose things for us and "pre-destines" things. But he also seems to give us some free-will.

    This is how I look at it. look at Genesis 2. God tells adam to eat any tree, except one. This sounds to me like there is alot of freedom, a whole lot of choices that God's ok with but there is still bad choices. Wheather it's compeltly, theologically, true or not it's a healthy way to appoach it because we won't get so caught up in legaisitc obligation to a single path. The bible teaches free will and pre-destination; it's a paradox. Most theology is at least a little paraoxical. If there's one thing I've learned in studying theoogy it is that there is never an easy answer, never a clear cut "yes" or "no." It's always difficult. And so, since I am not scholar or prophet, I simply try to find the healthiest way of looking at it, while keeping myself open to the possiblility that I might be wrong.

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