Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What is sin? No, no... the biblical definition.

So, it's been about a 10 years since I've posted here, and after a lot of false starts, I've decided to get back in the saddle. Time is of the essence in my world at the moment. I am teaching 1 John at church, which has been a total blessing (see links below to listen), and my business is starting to branch a little, which is good and bad. Good for obvious reasons - any work is good work; bad because of the amount of paperwork and time on the computer (which means time away from my family).
At any rate, I am here for the moment, so let me talk about John's 1st epistle.

As you may know, I believe that the Torah is not only valid for believers today, but I believe that it is to be obeyed. This of course is not the popular opinion within the body of Christ today. 
...Let me tell you why I am at odds with the opinion of the church as we know it, and what I believe John, and the rest of the Apostolic writers, were talking about.
That's as good of a kick off to a commentary as I can think of, so here goes:

In the first chapter of 1 John (read it here), we see John telling his readers, 
"5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
 There is a paradox in these verses. John tells us (by way of inspiration f the Holy Spirit), that God is "light," and in Him is no darkness at all. This reminds me of James' words, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." He is light, so there is no variation or shadow of turning. Notice that He is also the "Father of lights." God created light in the first place. By default, He is the literal Father of light; but not only that sort of light. Jesus is the Son of God, and He is also called the Light. 
Stay with me.
Let's back up for a moment, and look at what King David had to say about God's Word (Torah).
Psalm 119:105; "Your word is a lamp to my feet
         And a light to my path." We all agree that God's Word is light unto our path, right? Lamp unto our feet? Of course. We also agree that Jesus is the Light, which makes since, considering He is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the Light, the Father is Light, and His Word is Light.
By default, darkness would imply a lack of either God the Father, Jesus the Son, or the Word, Given by the Father, right? Right. We are given the alternative here though; "if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
Here's where the paradox comes in. It all begins with the word "sin." John tells us that if we are in the light with Him, we not only have fellowship with each other, but with Him as well; and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Be in the light. Have fellowship with won another, have fellowship with Him, and Jesus' blood cleanses us from all sin.
...so what is sin?
Before you answer that question, I encourage you to read a couple chapters ahead in 1 John. John doesn't use the wishy-washy definitions that we are used to hearing. He never once mentions "falling short" or "anything against God's will." The definition that John gives is very simple:
1 John 3:4 "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness
the emphasis  on "and sin is lawlessness" is mine. That's the biblical definition of sin; lawlessness.
Stay with me.
John wrote this letter in Greek. He was living in Ephesus at the time, probably between 90 and 100AD. John uses a very specific word when describing "lawlessness" here. He uses the same word that the writers of the Septuagint used for... you guessed it, Torah. Not just any Torah - the same Torah that is found in synagogues all over the world. We call it "Old Testament Law." This becomes very important early on in John's book, because he will mention sin several times. Each time, we can rest assured that he holds the same meaning for the word, because he defined it.
I know what you're thinking, "what is the Septuagint, and why does it matter what it says?"
Good question. The Septuagint is nothing more than the Hebrew scriptures translated into Greek. Seventy men (hence the name Septuagint) did the translating, all Jews, who held the Torah in high regard.
This is really important, so please bear with me...
These seventy men were meticulous in the choosing of Greek words to translate the scriptures. The need for accuracy was paramount - they were translating God's Word, and they were very aware of the importance of the task.
Now, fast forward to John, writing to the churches surrounding Ephesus. While penning the letter, he feels the need to define "sin." John and his contemporaries are used to one translation of the Scriptures - the Septuagint. Paul, James, John, all of them quote it. That was the "version" of the Word that they had. 
Back to John. While defining the word sin, he chooses to use the word "anomia" which means transgression of the law. Which Law? Torah. Nomia=Torah, or Law, while the "a" before it indicates a lacking of, or absent. You could say that sin is "no Torah" or "Torah-less-ness."
John could have chosen from a handful of words to use in it's place, but he chose not to. He was simply telling the readers that sin equates to breaking Torah.
I know this is a little choppy, but it is after midnight, and i have to get up at 5:00am. I'll write more noon.
You can listen to The Word Is grace podcast here.