Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Colossians 3:6-8

In Colossians 3:6-8 Paul warns that sin brings God’s wrath. We must never forget that God cannot tolerate sin. His nature will not allow it. So sin is our biggest challenge and the enemy of walking well with Christ. “On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” It’s why Jesus came to earth as a baby and went to the Cross for us. He took our sin upon Himself and put it away once and for all through the sacrifice of His life on that rugged cross. “In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.” These sins may mark a world in rebellion against God, but they are in the past tense for the Christian. When we accept Christ, His blood covers all our sin.

Simply put, a Christ Follower should not live in disobedience. A true Christian can not be comfortable in habitual sin. Paul continues and brings another list of sins that we must get rid of. Some look at this list and call them “little” sins that Christians may overlook with little danger. Paul challenges us to put off the old ways in every area of our lives. “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” Bruce explained “Put off all those old habits, just as you would discard an outworn suit of clothes which no longer fitted you.” Sin has to go. We can’t continue to live in it and walk with Christ.

Each of the sins Paul lists here are primarily committed by what we say. When Paul calls Christ Followers to deeper obedience, he tells us to bridle our tongue. Barclay wrote Nevertheless, it is also possible to lie to one another without words. “It is easy to distort the truth; an alteration in the tone of voice or an eloquent look will do it; and there are silences which can be as false and misleading as any words.” Many Christ Followers quickly recognize the first list of sins Paul shared a few verses ago as bad and definitely not acceptable. But unfortunately many look at this second list and discount the impact of “less severe” sins and are willing to accept them.

Guzik explains “In this section (Colossians 3:5-9) Paul showed two high priorities in Christian living: sexual morality connected with a right attitude towards material things, and simple getting along in love with one another. It is easy for a Christian community to compromise one for the other, but Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) insisted that they both have a high place in Christian practice.” The reality is that any sin – even just one – is enough to leave us short of hitting God’s requirement for eternity. It’s why no man will ever get there on their own, because not one of us is perfect and righteous in every way. We need to put off sin as much as we can, but realize that every one of us still needs Jesus to get to heaven. It is only by the Blood of the Lamb that our sins will be forgiven and we will receive eternal life!

Galatians 6:1a

In Galatians 6:1a Paul begins to wrap up his letter to the church at Galatia. He starts with a bang tackling sin head on. There were likely people who were stuck in sin, feeling trapped and unsure how they would get out. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Ravi Zaccharias said ‘Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay’. It’s a somewhat rhetorical statement – if anyone – because scriptures clear it will be everyone.

Part of the focus is on being caught, and many sins we commit may not be caught by anyone other than ourselves and God. To be clear – God catches all sin – which is ultimately our eternal problem because that alone prevents us entry into heaven without some restoration which is why Jesus went to the Cross. But Paul is clear that sin has to be addressed. Note he is talking to brothers, or presumably those in the body of Christ. Becoming a Christ Follower won’t insulate us from sin and sinful behavior. And Paul’s clear we can’t just ignore it or stick our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist.

So what’s the solution? It isn’t to print it in the bulletin or share it on the prayer chain. It isn’t rumors and public humiliation. The answer is restoration. They are not to be ignored. They are not to be excused. They are not to be destroyed. The goal is always restoration. Stott explains “The verb is instructive. Kataritzo means to ‘put in order’ and so to ‘restore to its former condition’… It was used in secular Greek as a medical term for setting a fractured or dislocated bone. It is applied in Mark 1:19 to the apostles who were ‘mending’ their nets.” Unfortunately churches fall short of restoration in far too many cases. They are one of the few organizations that too often ‘kill their sick’ rather than restoring them and bringing them back to health.

Paul goes on to remind us that restoration is not done by public humiliation or beating, but with gentleness. It has to be done with full understanding of our own weakness and corruption. Those doing the restoring must guard against the temptation of pride, as well as the same temptation the overtaken one struggled with. Luther explains “Let the ministers of the Gospel learn from Paul how to deal with those who have sinned. ‘Brethren,’ he says, ‘if any man be overtaken with a fault, do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith.” God is a God of grace, and that grace needs to be extended to those who wrestle with sin (which is all of us) just as God through Christ Jesus extended it to us.

Galatians 5:16-17

In Galatians 5:16-17 Paul reminds us that walking by the Spirit is our best defense against sin and the desires we have in the flesh. Legalists believe that walking in the Spirit gives license to sin, and that only by obeying the law can we be saved. That is just plain wrong. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Walking in the spirit means:

  1. We recognize and embrace the Spirit who lives in us as a Christ Follower.
  2. We are open and sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit.
  3. We build a pattern in our life of letting the Spirit influence in every situation.

We can tell if someone is walking in the Spirit because they look a whole lot like Jesus. They live in obedience to God and the Word. They focus on making Jesus known and speaking of Him and His glory. Boice wrote “Life by the Spirit is neither legalism nor license – nor a middle way between them. It is a life of faith and love that is above all of these false ways.” Paul makes clear that when one walks in the Spirit, they simply can’t fulfill their lust of the flesh. Those two things will never go together. Walking in the Spirit is the key to righteous living – walking in the Spirit, not living under the domination of the law.

Luther explained “I do not deny that the lust of the flesh includes carnal lust. But it takes in more. It takes in all the corrupt desires with which believers are more or less infected, as pride, hatred, covetousness, impatience.”  “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Paul explains the battle that goes on inside each of us, the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. These two are contrary to each other and create a battle inside us, one that we can only win by walking in the Spirit.

Guzik explains “When Paul uses the term flesh, he didn’t mean our flesh and blood bodies. Precisely speaking, our flesh isn’t even that fallen nature, the “old man” that we inherited from Adam, because the old man was crucified with Jesus, and is now dead and gone (Romans 6:6). Instead, as Paul uses it here, the flesh is the inner man that exists apart from the “old man” or the “new man,” and which is trained in rebellion by the old nature, the world, and the devil.” The old man is crucified with Christ, and should be dead and gone, but that influence continues and creates an internal battle that will exist until God gives us our resurrection body when we go to Him!

Galatians 1:1-5

Paul opens his letter to the Galatians 1:1-5 by reminding the church that this isn’t something from man, but from the living Savior and His Father. Galatians has been called the “Declaration of Independence of Christian liberty.” Morris wrote, “Galatians is a passionate letter, the outpouring of the soul of a preacher on fire for his Lord and deeply committed to bringing his hearers to an understanding of what saving faith is.” “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:”

Paul begins with his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. He has some strong words for the Galatian church, and wants to set the expectation that he is someone with authority they should listen to. Wyest writes “The word apostle as Paul uses it here does not merely refer to one who has a message to announce, but to an appointed representative with an official status who is provided with the credentials of his office.” Paul’s calling as an apostle was not from man, nor was it through man. It didn’t originate with man, and it didn’t come through man. It originated with God and came directly from God.

This wasn’t written to a single church in a single city but rather the churches of the region of Galatia and there were several churches in this region. In his greeting to the churches, he reminds them through his familiar ‘grace and peace’ greeting of what being a Christ Follower is all about. Martin Luther wrote “These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity.” “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Paul used the word grace more than 100 times in his writings. Among all the other writers of the New Testament, it is only used 55 times. And as the foundation for God’s grace, he then lauches into a description of what Jesus has done for us:

  1. He gave Himself for our sins
  2. He delivers us from the present evil age
  3. He obeys the will of God
  4. He glorifies the Father through His saving work

Our sins put us on a road to ruin and destruction. If God did not do something to save us, our sins would destroy us. So out of love, Jesus gave Himself for our sins! The enemy wants to destroy us by Christ obediently went to the cross and through His sacrifice brings us the opportunity for eternal life that we may glorify God forever!

2 Corinthians 13:5-8

In 2 Corinthians 13:5-8 Paul prepares the Corinthian church for his visit. Paul asks the Corinthian Christians to consider a sobering question: “Am I really a Christian?” “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” We should be concerned that every believer have the assurance of salvation, and know how to endure the attacks that come from Satan in this area.  At the same time, we also understand that there are some who assume or presume them are Christians when they are not. Paul issues a challenge to all all of us – do we pass the test of being a Christian?

Redpath writes “We are often very ready to examine and test others.  But first, and always first, we must examine and test ourselves. “That was the trouble at Corinth.  They criticized Paul and failed to examine themselves.” Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Redpath continues “To examine yourself, in fact, is to submit to the examination and scrutiny of Jesus Christ the Lord – and this never to fix attention on sin but on Christ – and to ask Him to reveal that in you which grieves His Spirit; to ask Him to give you grace that it might be put away and cleansed in His precious blood.”  Self examination “takes the chill away from your soul, it takes the hardness away from your heart, it takes the shadows away from your life, it sets the prisoner free.”

Spurgeon wrote “Now, ‘prove yourselves.’ Do not merely sit in your closet and look at yourselves alone, but go out into this busy world and see what kind of piety you have.  Remember, many a man’s religion will stand examination that will not stand proof.  We may sit at home and look at our religion, and say, ‘Well, I think this will do!'” “I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.” This is not about perfection, in ourselves or in others; but we should see real evidence of Jesus Christ in us. We need to have Christ alive in us. Spurgeon described it this way: “Now, what is it to have Jesus Christ in you?  Christ in the heart means Christ believed in, Christ beloved, Christ trusted, Christ espoused, Christ communed with, Christ as our daily food, and ourselves as the temple and palace wherein Jesus Christ daily walks.”

But we pray to God that you may not do wrong – not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.” Paul knew there were some among the Corinthian Christians who were disqualified for eternal life and salvation.  Their thinking was worldly because they were of the world, not of the Lord.  This is a hard truth to confront, but it is better to know now than when it is too late! “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” Paul refuses to sugar coat the reality in the church. He does what he has always done, speak the truth. Is Jesus alive in you? Or just someone you know about in your head but not in your heart?

2 Corinthians 13:1-4

In 2 Corinthians 13:1-4 Paul reminds the Corinthian church he is coming a third time to visit. “This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” On his first visit to Corinth, Paul founded the church and stayed a year and six months.  His second visit was a brief, painful visit in between the writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. This visit will be very different. This time he’s coming as a judge and has enough evidence to not only call out sin and sinners, but carry through on the warning he made on his second visit that sin would not be spared again.

Paul has been warning this church for some time that sin cannot be tolerated. God won’t tolerate it, and when we stand before Him at judgment, without the shed blood of Christ our sin will lead to our punishment. But the church has largely ignored his warnings and now the time has come for confrontation. “I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them – since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me.” The false apostles have been clamoring for Paul to show more power and authority.

Well they are going to get it when he comes this time. These false apostles have accused Paul of being too weak and humble to be the leader of their church. Paul deals with that head on. He tells them they will see proof that Christ is speaking in him. This time when he comes, it will be with rebuke and a mission to clean house in the church. He’s warning them to clean it up before he comes, because Christ’s power will be evident. “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.” What appears to be weakness is not really so, but patience for the church to get its act together.

Jesus often displayed humility and didn’t walk around wielding power over others. At least not until it was necessary. But today Jesus reigns in power with the Father. There is no weakness in Him at all. He sits at the right hand of God over all the earth. “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God.” Paul lived a life filled with Christlike love, gentleness and humility. He wasn’t a showy leader. He didn’t walk around demanding attention or demonstrating his power or authority. “For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.” But he understood how to let Christ live through him and live under the power of God!

2 Corinthians 12:18-21

In 2 Corinthians 12:18-21 Paul continues to defend his past dealings with the Corinthian church. Some were falsely spreading rumors that he and his team were taking advantage. He defends Titus and the rest, along with his own actions. In every way they had acted appropriately and never done anything financially inappropriate regarding the Corinthian church. He is becoming very frustrated with these false accusations by false teachers. “I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?”

Paul makes clear that what he’s been telling the church is not making excuses because he has nothing needing an excuse. He makes clear that he is speaking the truth before God, who is the One he answers to. And even as some falsely accuse him, his pastoral heart shines through. In the midst of accusation he is still focused on building up the church at Corinth. “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.”

Paul’s heart was for the church, not for his own well being. He’s still concerned that the same problems that have plagued his interaction with the church all these years will continue to be a problem when he comes again. Paul calls out the behaviors that have been issues in the past, and makes it extremely clear that those things are not Christlike and are completely unfounded. “For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish – that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.”

Paul’s planning his third visit, and is afraid the church will have the same old problems that haven’t been repented from. Sin gets in the way of all that God wants to accomplish. The sins Paul calls out are not unique to this church, and certainly are areas that churches wrestle with confronting. But Paul doesn’t want to waste a trip ministering to ungodly people that pretend to be Christ Followers. “I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.” Paul’s anger and mourning would not be directed to those who had sinned, but those who have sinned and failed to repent and return to right standing with God. He’s not asking for perfection, but he is requiring repentance!

2 Corinthians 10:1-4

In 2 Corinthians 10:1-4 Paul begins a new tone and pleads for the Corinthians to hear what he has to say. He writes to them in humility and with gentleness the way Christ would interact with them. In these next few chapters, Paul will get a little “rough” with the Corinthian Christians. “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!” He has tried to be humble when in their presence, but when he is away and writing his guidance he speaks boldly in order to get the message across.

Clarke explained “Having now finished his directions and advices relative to the collection for the poor, he resumes his argument relative to the false apostle, who had gained considerable influence by representing St. Paul as despicable in his person, his ministry, and his influence.” Paul is accused of walking in the flesh because of the perceived contradiction between his gentleness and his severity. “I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.” These accusations where likely from a vocal minority in the church, but certainly shows how disruptive a small group can be.

Paul will admit that he walks according to the flesh in the sense that we all do. He is a flesh and blood human being, and he struggles with the same things the Corinthian Christians struggled with. Scripture is clear that all of us struggle as human beings with our flesh. However, Paul wants to make it clear that he does not war according to the flesh. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.” Struggling with the flesh shows we are normal humans. The enemy continually attacks us with temptation that is designed to cause us to walk in the flesh. Our response, like Paul’s, needs to be of warfare against that temptation.

When Paul fought this battle, his weapons were not material but spiritual, suited for spiritual war. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” In Ephesians 6, Paul lists the spiritual weapons he used: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. To rely on these weapons took faith in God instead of any human material defense.

Guzik explained that the Corinthians Christians had access to the weapons Paul described but used something completely differently:

  • Instead of the belt of truth, they fought with manipulation
  • Instead of the breastplate of righteousness, they fought with the image of success
  • Instead of the shoes of the gospel, they fought with smooth words
  • Instead of the shield of faith, they fought with the perception of power
  • Instead of the helmet of salvation, they fought with lording over authority
  • Instead of the sword of the Spirit, they fought with human schemes and programs

God’s  spiritual weapons are ignored by the world but feared by the enemy. When we fight with true spiritual weapons, then no principality or power can stand against us.

2 Corinthians 7:13-16

In 2 Corinthians 7:13-16 Paul recounts the blessing of Titus’ visit to the church at Corinth. His carrying of Paul’s letter and subsequent impact of it was a blessing to Paul. “Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” The experience Titus had in Corinth, and the report he brought back to Paul, was more than encouraging. It showed that Paul’s attempts to drive repentance had worked and God had done a work in the church through Titus and the letter. It was cause for rejoicing and celebration.

Paul had been “hopefully” boasting to Titus that the Corinthian Christians would respond well to the severe letter.  But it is unlikely that Titus was equally as sure!  “For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true.” But Paul’s boasting to Titus was found true! Paul had to encourage Titus to make the trip and carry the message. But I’m sure after much prayer and intercession, the outcome was achieved and Titus delivered exactly as Paul had boasted that he would.

Titus likely went to Corinth with some fear and trepidation. He wasn’t sure what to expect. But now, Paul assures the Corinthian church that Titus loves the church more than ever. It’s likely that Titus had seen a lot of ugliness among the Corinthian Christians.  Titus may have had a “chip on his shoulder” against them.  So Paul wants them to know that after he saw and reported their repentance, Titus loves them more than ever now! “And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.” Titus had witnessed the power of repentance and see how the church moved to obedience of following God’s Word in how to treat Paul and the ministry team.

Paul ends this chapter with rejoicing. It could be questioned – was it sarcastic that he would rejoice over this very stubborn and challenging church? Unlikely as Paul, even with the frustration and pain he has endured, has seen God move among them through Titus’ visit and heard of the repentance that moved through the church. He is giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are changed. “I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you.” Paul’s ultimate concern was his relationship with the people he ministered to. This shows that people were just as important to Paul as ministry.  He didn’t want to do “ministry” at the expense of his relationships with people.

2 Corinthians 7:10-12

In 2 Corinthians 7:10-12 Paul continues his explanation about why he did not regret sending his confrontational letter to the Corinthian church. He wanted repentance – a turning around and going the opposite way of sinful behavior. It sounds like a harsh word in the world we live in today. But it is an essential aspect of the Gospel – without it there can be no forgiveness of sin. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” What was it that the Corinthian Christians had to repent of?  Take your pick!  It could have been any number of things, but no doubt it also included this: there were probably some “anti-Paul” people who criticized the absent apostle severely and unfairly, and the Corinthian Christians did not defend their godly spiritual father before these detractors.

Paul made the Corinthian Christians feel bad for their sin.  But he did it in a godly way.  He used the truth, not lies or exaggeration.  He was honest, not using hidden agendas and manipulation.  He simply told the truth in love. “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” Paul knew he could succeed in making them feel bad (sorrow).  But the relationship you have with that person will suffer loss.  You can win the “battle” yet lose the “war.”  Paul wanted to protect his relationship with the Corinthian Christians, so he would only make them sorry in a godly manner.

All the time he had repentance as the target outcome he was seeking. Repentance must never be thought of as something we must do before we can come back to God. Repentance describes what coming to God is.  You can’t turn towards God without turning from the things He is against. Spurgeon wrote “People seem to jump into faith very quickly nowadays.  I do not disapprove of that happy leap; but still, I hope my old friend repentance is not dead.  I am desperately in love with repentance; it seems to be to be the twin-sister to faith.” Paul was looking for the Corinthians to be set free from the impact of sin, and repentance is that path.

Paul again reminds them of his choice to write a letter rather than come in person. But the focus of his letter wasn’t to call out the ring leader in the church that was stirring people up against him. The purpose of the letter also wasn’t to make Paul and his team out to be victims. He wasn’t trying to take sides but rather to demonstrate his love and concern for the body of Christ. “So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.” Clarke wrote “From all appearance there was never a Church less worthy of an apostle’s affections than this Church was at this time; and yet no one ever more beloved.”

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