Category Archives: Bible Study

Christian Incompatibility with Sin

 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

With the news this week that active NBA player Jason Collins revealed his homosexuality, a largely celebrated decision (link), an important note that cannot go overlooked is that Mr. Collins claims to be a Christian and sees no incompatibility with his homosexual sin.  Largely, this is what drew the excellent response by ESPN analyst Chris Broussard (link again).

This clinging to sin while simultaneously claiming the name of Christ as Savior is not isolated to homosexuality.  Just recently I watched a video of a street preacher involved in a discussion with a TV reality star, who despite her continued animosity, foul language, unrepentant sinful behaviors, and likely inebriation, continued to cling to her profession of faith in Christ, citing God’s love as evidence for it. (see post on God’s Love here).  It seems like only a few years ago that the world labeled Christians most often as hypocritical because the behaviors of those who profess faith in Christ did not match the lifestyle that the Bible outlines for believers (or the worldly expectation that believers are perfect).

Now there has been a paradigm shift.  Professing Christians can live any lifestyle they wish, including open homosexuality, without any fear of the hypocritical label, but are simply free to live how they want.  The pendulum swing from legalism to license is nothing really new, but it is certainly something that the Church needs to address more and more.

In the verses above, the Apostle Paul, writing to the Church at Corinth, provides a series of contrasts beginning with the contrast of heaven and the unrighteous who will not enter there.  Continuing his thoughts from the previous verses, Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”  Kingdom of God here is a reference to the kingdom which Christ has ushered in and for the sake of simplicity we can refer to it as eternal life, or heaven.  So there are those who are unrighteous who will not enter heaven.  The word “unrighteous” used here is the Greek word adikos (unjust, unrighteous, wicked) which we will look at again later, but for now we’ll leave it as an adjective describing a particular group of people.

The immediate question might be, “So Paul, who are these unrighteous people that will not get into heaven?”  Isn’t that the ultimate question on most peoples minds, am I going to heaven?  It’s almost as if Paul perceived that there are many who assume they are going to heaven, in fact most everyone you talk to will affirm that they are going to heaven.  Not on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, but on their basic understanding of being “good”.  It is to that line of argumentation that Paul says, “do not be deceived”.  Paul then begins to color inside the lines of the picture he’s outlined for us when he used the term “unrighteous”.  Here he tells us that the neither the: sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality,thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers will enter heaven.  If there were any doubt that this list referred to the unrighteous who would not enter heaven, Paul began his statement in the negative “neither”, listed the people, and concluded with “will inherit the kingdom of heaven”, thus closing what Charles Spurgeon calls the “black list”.  This ends the first contrast of heaven with those who will not enter.

Next, it needs to be noted that Paul is not listing sins.  He’s not rattling off a list of do’s or don’ts.  He has personalized this list to the individual level.  Those persons who fornicate, or have sex outside of marriage, are sexually immoral and will not enter heaven.  Those persons who have idols in their lives, whether it be food, entertainment, family, alcohol, drugs, name it, are idolaters and will not enter heaven.  The person who has an adulterous affair is an adulterer and will not enter heaven.  Men who practice homosexuality, note again it is personalized from more than just deed or actions, but it is the “men” who do the acts. (Please note: this is not excluding lesbianism from sin, see Romans 1:26-27)  And so on down the list.  Why is this so important to notice?  Because it has to be understood that sin is something more than just what a person does or doesn’t do.  If it were just a matter of cleaning up your act and “being good” then the person with the strongest willpower would win.  But that is not the case.  Sin is intrinsic to the nature of humans, i.e. it is a part of who we are, because we were born with a sinful nature.  That is why Paul identifies a person on the basis of their sin.

This leads to the next contrast from the passage, “and such were some of you”.  Here Paul has taken great aims to describe, while not exhaustively it is certainly representative, a black list of those who will not enter heaven.  But in this particular sentence he contrasts the “those that will not enter” list with a phrase addressed to his audience and subsequently future readers, “and such were some of you”.  The use of “were” here is the turning point.  Paul points to the past of his audience in Corinth to remind them that even some of those Christians among them were once on this same “black list” that he has just described.  Perhaps even some of you today who are reading this passage would be considered among the “such were some of you”.  Consider how it is that God would save you from the black list of sinners.  Perhaps some of you reading would still be on that list mentioned above.  Consider how it is that you could get off of that list.  Which begs the next question, if Paul hasn’t listed individual sins, or do’s and don’ts, then how is a person supposed to get off of the black list and into the group “and such were some of you”?  How does someone make that change if it can’t be something that they just stop doing and then start being good?  Well, the answer is that there is nothing a person can do to change their identity of being associated with the sin they’ve committed as a result of their very nature.  But there is One who can make that change for them and His name is Jesus Christ.

The next contrast that we see is again the list of sinners and their identity with sin now contrasted fully with the “and such were some of you” and how they’ve obtained their new identity.  “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  Three particular actions were performed on behalf of those who used to be among the homosexual, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, etc. – washed, sanctified, and justified.  While not particularly in chronological order, nevertheless, the list is significant.  To this washing, Charles Hodge writes, “to wash means to purify, and is frequently used in Scripture to express moral or spiritual purification.”  John Gill comments on the meaning of washing to refer to that

“which is not to be understood of external washing, of corporeal ablution, or of their being baptized in water; so they might be, and yet not be cleansed from their filthiness, either by original or actual transgressions; nor of the washing of regeneration, which more properly comes under the next head; but of their being washed from their sins by the blood of Christ, through the application of it to them, for the remission of them”

While there may be some debate on the application of washing in this passage, there is absolutely no reason here to assume the physical method of baptism, instead it should refer either to the “washing of regeneration” or the “washing by the blood of Christ” and I tend to take the reading of Matthew Henry who writes, “The wickedness of men before conversion is no bar to their regeneration and reconciliation to God. The blood of Christ, and the washing of regeneration, can purge away all guilt and defilement.”  Here we see that both applications (though the latter will be spoken of next as Gill pointed out) of washing are necessary to purge the sin and guilt of believers.  (see also 1 John 1:7, Rev. 7:14, Ephesians 5:26, Ezekiel 36:22-32)

Next, those who were formerly marked as the guilty sinners from Paul’s list have been sanctified.  Again, it’s important to realize that this mention of washed, sanctified, and justified is not a chronological list, but is provided to point out the absoluteness of the work of God in the life of a believer.  Sanctified always refers to being made holy or set apart.  So those among the “such were some of you” in contrast to their prior sinful defilement, have been sanctified.  This is a work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer and it occurs at regeneration, the moment the Holy Spirit takes out the heart of stone and gives the heart of flesh, or what is commonly referred to as being born again.  In this sense sanctification is complete although the process of progressive sanctification (or being made holy unto perfection) is an ongoing work by the Spirit in the life of a believer and is not completed this side of heaven.

Finally, we see Paul saying that the “such were some of you” have been justified.  This is the Greek word dikaioo and it is the positive counterpart to the word for unrighteous, adikos, used earlier in the passage, providing again another contrast.  Justified is a legal term referring to the believer’s positional standing with God the Father and it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ that it can happen, “you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”.  Because of Christ’s perfect righteousness, those who have repented and placed their faith in Him can stand before God with confidence that they have been made righteous, or justified, on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.  A person, regardless of their sinful past can be washed, sanctified, and justified by repenting of their sin and placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

From this short passage, we can see the Lord makes absolutely clear that for the believer in Christ, identification with a sinful behavior is simply incompatible.  For those who do will not enter heaven.  That doesn’t mean that the believer will be sin-free, but it does mean they can no longer be identified on the basis of their old sinful nature.  As it relates to homosexuality, even in the case of Jason Collins, it is incompatible to claim Christ as Savior, to have been washed, sanctified, and justified and still be identified as one from the “black list”.  What a glorious gospel truth that Christ saves the vilest of sinners such that we can claim, “and such was I”, because I have been washed by the blood of Christ and the water of purification, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and justified by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thinking through John 1:15-34

A continuation of a study through the Gospel of John. See John 1:1-14 here

15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”

A witness to the eternality of Christ; Despite John being ~6 months older, he recognizes that Christ was “before him”

16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Why do you think John contrast Moses and the law with Jesus and grace and truth?  Read Matthew 5:17-20

A Voice in the Wilderness

19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

And he answered, “No.”

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

23 He said: “I am

‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Make straight the way of the Lord,”’

as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

This section of the passage has a remarkable way of connecting the Old Testament to this New Testament context.  

  • Why are the questions being asked of John significant?  
  • Given the context and expectation of the coming Messiah, is it easy to see why the people were confused over who John was? Read also Mark 1:2-3 ; Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 4:5
  • Read Deuteronomy 18:15-18: What does this announcement say about the coming Messiah?

The Lamb of God

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

The Apostle John’s language here is intentional to bring our minds back to a specific reference in the Old Testament of the Israelite captivity in Egypt.  See: Exodus 12:1-13 In this way, the Passover Lamb is a type for the coming sacrifice of Christ, who Himself becomes the lamb slain.  For additional references on Christ as the Lamb see: 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 7:14, 12:11

32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Review the synoptic accounts of Jesus’ baptism: Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22

Jesus Calms the Storm

The-Storm-on-the-Sea-of-Galilee-Rembrandts-painting35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

In Mark 4:35-41, there is a familiar story of Jesus calming the stormy sea. Perhaps you are familiar with the story from Sunday School or the old flannel graphs and can picture Jesus standing at the front of the boat, arms outstretched commanding the sea to “be still”.  It could be that you’ve heard this passage preached on many times maybe calling you to have faith through the storms of life.  Certainly, there is even an aspect of Christ’s sovereignty over nature that flows right out of this passage.  But there are two elements about this passage that I’d like to point out, which you may not be aware of.

The first, perhaps more obvious, is the typological fulfillment of Jonah from the first chapter recorded on his ministry.  In short, typology is when a person, event, or institution points forward to a future person, event, or institution.  The type points forward to the antitype.  In the account from Jonah chapter 1, we see Jonah, the type, and above in our passage from Mark, we see Jesus, the antitype.

In Jonah 1:1-3, Jonah was instructed by the Lord to go to Nineveh in order to call them to repentance.  He refused and instead headed on a boat to Tarshish.  We pick up in verse 4 below:

4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

Now, just upon reading that passage, the similarities between the passage from Mark should become evident.  Between the two accounts, we have both continuity and discontinuity.  In other words there are things that are similar, and things not so much so.  The similarities from the two events would be: the boat, the storm, the fear displayed by the mariners, Jonah sleeping, the call to Jonah (“Why are you sleeping!?!”), etc.  As a side note, it’s important when examining typology that we don’t make every point find similarity.  For instance, Jesus was asleep in the stern or rear of the boat while Jonah was asleep in the “inner part.”  That aside, the similarities from the two stories are striking and here is the point, or where we begin to see how Jesus is the antitype, i.e. the greater Jonah.  Whereas Jonah was guilty of sin before God, the only solution to calm the storm was to throw Jonah overboard, ridding them of guilt from his sin.  Christ, the greater Jonah, had no sin.  As such, this Greater Jonah, did not need to cast Himself overboard to calm the storm.  He had dominion over the storm and rebuked it to be still.  But notice the common response of the mariners on the ship with Jonah and the disciples on the ship with Jesus:

“Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.” Jonah 1:16

“And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:42

In each case the men recognized that it was the Lord who had control and dominion over the sea and as a direct result of that recognition, each group of men were seriously afraid. This is the right and biblical response to the power and majesty of God.

But that’s not the end of the connection between Jesus and Jonah.  An additional point of typology is brought out through the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 12:38-41:

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

Here we see that just as Jonah was cast overboard from the boat as a result of sin and spent three days and nights in the belly of the God-appointed whale, so also Christ as a result of sin, though not His own, was to spend three days and nights “in the heart of the earth”, following His death on the cross.  Similarly, upon the command of God the whale spit out Jonah and Christ was raised victoriously from the grave.  Christ asserted Himself as not only the fulfillment of the type and shadow that Jonah portrayed through his actual, physical encounter with the whale, but also that He was the greater Jonah, sinless on all accounts and reigning supreme over the sea and more importantly death.

But there is a second point from the account of Jesus calming the storm in Mark and for this, we go to Psalm 107:23-32.  Some of the key words/phrases are highlighted:

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Isn’t this a fascinating example of the unity and harmony of God’s Word. Here in a small, but familiar passage from the Gospel of Mark, we find connectivity with Jonah in which we see the supremacy of Christ as a fulfillment of the type and evidence of Him as the greater Jonah.  We can observe the right response that man should have when he encounters the awesome and majestic power of God. Additionally, we see a Psalm of David as a near word for word account of Mark’s Gospel, in which the psalmist magnifies the almighty power of God that is on display as He delivers those who seek Him in their time of despair.  Likewise, we can observe a second response of those who have experienced the blessing of God’s magnificent power and work, thankfulness and praise.