A Biblical View of Sin
It occurs to me that I have a higher commitment to truth than does God. By definition, God is Truth. All He does He does in accordance with truth. Because God is secure in who He is He sometimes creates the impression that He is rather cavalier with His truth. He uses people, blessing their ministries at, from my perspective, the expense of truth. People who hold an inadequate view of God, who come to erroneous conclusions regarding what can be legitimately expected from God, are nevertheless frequently mightily blessed and used by God. For example, God seems to wonderfully bless many who teach that holiness is the path to temporal prosperity, while Paul says that such people have “corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth…”
In contrast, I am insecure, seeking to find truth and never absolutely sure that I have found it. I walk by faith, and faith means I commit without knowing. So I come to conclusions regarding what the Bible teaches, knowing full well that as the years progress, many of these conclusions will be modified. Growth and change in the Christian life take place by this process.
Doctrine, by its nature, is inherently ambiguous. For example, “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”
Those in the Roman Catholic Church believe that the bread and wine of the Lord’s Table become the actual body and blood of Christ during the sacrifice at the Mass. I am convinced that they are wrong, believing that during communion we partake of the spiritual, not physical, presence of Christ. But I also prefer the literal interpretation of Scripture unless the context demands otherwise. I, who prefer a literal interpretation, interpret Jesus’ words in John 6 figuratively, while Roman Catholics interpret Him literally. I freely acknowledge that when I meet Christ at the Judgment, I may discover that the Roman Church is correct in this matter.
On the other hand, the commandments, by their nature, are inherently unambiguous. We may disagree on whether believers are obligated to keep Old Testament Law, and we may disagree on exactly how the New Testament commands should be applied, but historically, the whole of the church has agreed that the New Testament commands are normative for believers. Any wordsmith can tell us what the command says and means. For example, Paul is clear when he says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” We may disagree regarding what loving our wives looks like, but the command itself is clear and unambiguous.
The Path To Holiness
People please God and are considered holy in His sight not because they embrace the correct doctrine, but because they obey Him. Jesus said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” Again the Savior says, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” James says regarding demons, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Not those who believe the correct doctrine, but those who keep God’s commandments, have the assurance that they love God and that God loves them.
I am not suggesting that you can believe anything you want; God considers doctrine important. Paul warns, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Never the less, for every passage you can find in the New Testament emphasizing the importance of doctrine, you can find one hundred passages emphasizing the importance of obedience.
Jesus says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Here our Lord teaches that obedience leads to assurance that His doctrine comes from God, not, “If you believe My doctrine you will be motivated to do My will.” If you wish to please God, you must obey Him.
Obedience Verses Doctrine
I don’t mean to suggest that obedience and doctrine compete with each other, nor that in obeying God you can afford the luxury of disregarding doctrine. Scripture emphasizes the importance of both.
I may be wrong, but I sense that doctrine is far more important in evangelical Christianity than obedience. The average Bible believing community would have a greater problem with your believing that the bread and wine in communion are the body and blood of our Lord, than a woman being a teacher or elder in the church. I suggest that the priority of God is the opposite; God considers obedience of greater importance than proper doctrine.
During an altercation with Jesus, the Sadducees initiated a doctrinal issue concerning the resurrection. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” So also, in passages such as Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus corrects people concerning their faulty understanding of the ways of God, but, as far as I can tell, never in a harsh, judgmental way.
The Savior reserves His harshest words for those who tamper with God’s commandments. For example, He rebuked the Pharisees “for laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men…” People who feel free adding to the commandments of God generally feel qualified to ignore the commandments of God.
The Fear Of God
You will note that, along with the wholesale neglect of the New Testament commands, Christians do not want to believe that they must fear God. The two obviously go together: If you wish to consider the commandments of God optional, you must be assured that God will not hold you accountable. The whole of the Bible in general, and the New Testament in particular, teach the opposite. Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” God is the only one you should fear!
In Romans 3 Paul pronounces judgment on the human race. He says, “There are none righteous…none that understand…none that seek God…none that fear God.” Whenever an individual begins to behave contrary to one of these four characteristics of the unregenerate, you can know that the Holy Spirit is at work in him. In other words, one of the marks of the regenerate is the fear of God. Remember, the word for “fear” is “phobia,” not respect. Respect is on your terms; you get to decide what it looks like. Fear is on God’s terms; He decides what it looks like. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
I cannot tell you that if you do not fear God you are not saved. But I do suggest that if you do not fear God you have reason to question your salvation.
Conscience And The Commands
As society becomes increasingly decadent and as the body of Christ conforms to society, the believer finds himself dependent upon his fear of God. There may have been a day when taboos of culture created an environment of morality and restraint, but I think that most would agree that those days no longer exist. Your fear of God becomes your final safety net keeping you from being sucked into the black hole of tolerating the violation of God’s commands.
You would think that conscience can be of service, and to a certain degree it can. But your conscience can never be your final court of appeal; it can easily be manipulated.
As the body of Christ moves toward conforming to the world, it begins with those commandments that conscience does not affirm. Both Testaments have ample illustrations: “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.” “To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that even your own brethren.” “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.”
These are merely illustrative of a host of such commandments, the ignoring of which does not violate the conscience. From here it is but a short step to breaking the commandments that are affirmed by conscience. For example, I freely admit that God prohibits murder, and my conscience affirms God’s command. But if a man broke into my house late at night, threatening the security of my family, I would without hesitation take his life – without feeling I had done wrong. That thought terrifies me. With a slight alteration of my perception of circumstances, I can override my conscience and feel justified in doing it.
You can see how easily a person can do the same thing in regard to divorce and remarriage, or how a person can justify homosexuality because “God made him that way.” Never underestimate your ability to manipulate your conscience; it is highly malleable.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Whenever you set aside a command, such as the woman covering her head when praying or prophesying, because you firmly believe in your heart that for whatever reason it does not apply to you, be prepared to defend before God at the Day of Judgment that your will was not involved; if you did not keep it because you did not want to keep it, God will judge you.
Satan said to Eve, “Hath God said?” In saying this, he cast doubt on the authority of God. Probably no generation in history has listened to the voice of Satan more consistently than our generation. Either the Bible is God’s Word, or it is not. If not, then your faith consists of nothing more than subjective emotionalism as you seek to use the Bible to feel good about yourself. If it is the Word of God, then God help you if you ignore His commands.
Using the analogy of baseball, I am not talking about your batting average. “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.” But that is entirely different from arguing with God over the rules of the game. Don’t tell God that His commands are cultural, irrelevant, or unimportant. Obedience is the only sure test of regeneration.
His servant…. your friend,
 I Timothy 6:5
 John 6:53-58
 Ephesians 5:25
 John 14:21
 John 15:10
 James 2:19
 Romans 16:17
 John 7:17
 Cf. Matthew 22:23-33
 Cf. John 3:1-21
 Cf. Mark 7:1-13, esp. verse 8
 Matthew 10:28
 Romans 3:10,11,18
 Hebrews 10:31
 Deuteronomy 23:2
 I Corinthians 6:7-8
 I Corinthians 14:34-35
 I Timothy 2:12
 Jeremiah 17:9
 Genesis 3:1
 John 8:7