All men who have ever lived, have sinned. All men now living, do sin. All men who will live in the future will sin. It is not that man is born a sinner, for he is not. Nor is man compelled by God or anyone else to sin. Man may sin intentionally, indifferently, or ignorantly, but it is still sin. It has never been any different and will not be different in the future. In Romans 3:9, Paul says that he had already laid to the charge of both Jews and Greeks that they were all under sin and all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, vs. 23.
Jesus died for all mankind. That does not mean universal salvation. Jesus died in order to give everyone the opportunity for salvation from sin and in the end, eternal life. Few people will be saved, but whichever way they go, it will be by their own doing, Matthew 7:13-14; 21-27.
Genesis 1:26 says that God created man in His own image, after His own likeness and thus we understand that man was created in a likeness of spirit, not flesh. In speaking of the body of man, Genesis 2:7 says that God formed man out of the dust of the ground. In spirit, man was created in the image and likeness of God. In body, man was formed out of the dust of the ground, Ecclesiastes 12:7.
God did not impart to man the attributes, characteristics, abilities or powers that are peculiar to God's being God, but rather the nature of what a spirit is. Angels are created spirits and as such have the same characteristics of spirit as man, or the same characteristics of God as a "spirit" for that matter. Man was made a little lower than angels, primarily because of being bonded with a physical, material body. Colossians 3:10 says,
"... and have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him."
A spirit is a self-aware, intelligent, independent, rational being, with a free will, emotions, an aesthetic sense, and the ability to store and recall information, communicate and act. This is true of human spirits and angels, as it is of God Himself. Angels are such spirits, and having free will, can choose to do wrong and be punished for it, II Peter 2:4. Ephesians 4:17-24 says,
"This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye did not so learn Christ; if so be that ye heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth."
No one is guilty of the sin of Adam, nor carries any stain from it. Neither do we come into this world unable to do a good deed or think a good thought, wholly disposed to evil. We are created in righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17ff tells us that man himself decides to walk the way of wickedness. Notice that it begins with the "vanity of the mind." There is a darkening of understanding, alienation from the life of God because of the ignorance in us, because of the hardening of the heart. Being thus past feeling, man gives himself "up to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness." One "waxes corrupt after the lusts of deceit." Ungodly acts follow the corruption of the heart, Mark 7:21ff. We are not created that way but make ourselves to be like that by wicked imaginations and conduct. Ecclesiastes 7:29 says, "God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." Man does not have to sin, but chooses to do so.
Adam and Eve, having free will, made a choice and thus injected sin into the world. Romans 5:12 says,
"Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned."
God told Adam that in the day he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. When he ate, he died. It was spiritual death, an alienation from God. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death, spiritual death. The same is said in James 1:14.
Notice as well that death passed to all men "for that all sinned." We die spiritually because we sin, not because Adam sinned. There is no such thing as inherited total depravity. We are each responsible for what we make of ourselves; each one shall give account of himself to God, Romans 14:12. Each person comes into the world in the image of God, created in righteousness and holiness, upright. By the perversion of our minds, the corrupting of our hearts, we turn to a life of ungodliness. We must be "renewed in the spirit of our mind, and put on the new man." God provided the means by which we can be saved from sin. I Peter 1:13-16 says,
"Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance: but like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy."
Peter continues with this by noting in verses 18-19 that we are redeemed, not with silver or gold, but "with the precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ."
There are several ways that law can be violated, but each way is still connected with law. Law is a standard of belief and rule of conduct. It may be called law, statutes, ordinances, covenant, word, scripture, book, mind of God, gospel, The Faith and other terms as well. It all comes from God. God's will may be placed in a formal document or it may be something God has spoken directly to, and applied to, a specific individual. Specific instruction, however it comes from God, is still law.
I John 3:4 says that sin is the transgression of law. The ASV says, "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness." The Greek word for sin, hamartia, and its various forms, originally meant the missing of a mark. Its usage in the Bible refers to any kind of departure from righteousness. James 2:10-11 says,
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou dost not commit adultery, but killest, thou art become a transgressor of the law."
The same God that made one rule made all of the others as well. It does not matter which particular rule that is broken, one still becomes a transgressor of God's law. One who tells lies may pride himself that he is not as bad as the murderer. The consequences may be worse with the murderer, someone else is dead, and the murderer may be executed for his crime, but both the murderer and the liar have transgressed God's law and are thus equally sinners. A liar is no more nor less a sinner than was Adolph Hitler or a serial killer or the drunken bum. There is but one end for those who engage in sinful things, eternal punishment. Revelation 21:8 says,
"But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death."
One may sin wilfully, knowing that what is being done is contrary to God's will, Hebrews 10:26. One's own will determines what is done. Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of those who were once enlightened and then fell away. They knew better, but went astray anyway. Peter says that those who escape the defilements of the world through the knowledge of Jesus and then go back to them, are worse off than they were before. II Peter 2:20-21 says,
"For it were better for them not have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them."
There was no ignorance involved with these particular people, they knew what the truth was.
On the other hand, there are those who sin in ignorance. I Corinthians 8:10-13 speaks of the weak brother who did not have the knowledge of the mature Christian. Seeing the mature brother eat the meat that he knew had been offered to idols, he misunderstands and in his eating, sins. In Romans 14, though "strong" in his opinion, the weak brother does not fully grasp "the Faith"; he does not understand the areas that are matters of indifference with God and thus makes rules where God has not. On the other hand, the strong brother is not to condemn the weaker one for his lack of understanding as long as neither of them makes specific rules for what are matters of indifference with God. Paul said that he had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious but had obtained mercy because "I did it ignorantly in unbelief," I Timothy 1:13. Though acting ignorantly in his unbelief, he still classifies himself as chief of sinners.
From I Corinthians 8:10-13, we can also note the strong brother who sins by making the wrong social choice and causes the weak brother to perish. The strong must not only help the weak by instruction, they must also be watchful about their conduct that they not cause another to stumble. What may be alright in one circumstance or place will be wrong in another simply because of the effect of our conduct.
Sin may be committed by doing the opposite of what one is specifically com-manded. Titus 2:12 tells us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we are to live soberly, righteously and godly in this world. We are told how to live and how not to live. The works of the flesh are clearly and specifically stated, Galatians 5:19ff. Those who practice such things will not be eternally saved. Many passages reveal the same things. One may be guilty of sin by knowing what is right and not doing it, James 4:17; there are sins of omission and commission. One may also sin by violating his own conscience in a matter of indifference, Romans 14:23.
The Greek words nomos, the masculine form, and nomia, the feminine form, are translated as law. They refer to ruling principles, regulations of a governing body or ruler. Placing an alpha (a) before them turns the meaning into lawlessness, without law, violator of law.
Note the word lawlessness in I John 3:4. The word lawlessness in the passage is from anomia, meaning to transgress law. It is the same word as in Matthew 7:21-23, translated by the word iniquity at the close of verse 23,
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
These are people who will argue with the Lord at judgment, religious people who did many mighty works, claiming they did them in the name of, by the authority of, Christ. Jesus denies that by saying that he never knew them. There had never been any fellowship between Jesus and these people. Everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus is not necessarily a follower of Jesus. Note: Jesus says that not everyone who claims Him as Lord will go to heaven; only those who do God's will can go there.
He secondly tags them as being guilty of transgressing His law; they were sinners! They did not do what they did by the authority of Christ. As I John 5:17 simply says, "All unrighteousness is sin," II John 9 says,
"Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and Son."
The masculine form of anomia is anomos, yet they both mean the same thing. Anomos is translated as lawless in I Timothy 1:9-11, saying,
"as knowing this, that law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men, for men-stealers, for liars, for false swearers, and if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine; according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."
II Peter 2:8, says of Lot at Sodom and Gomorrah, "for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds." Man is a sinner because he violates, transgresses, law in some way.
People generally think of a covenant as one where two parties make an agree-ment in which both contribute to the terms of the covenant on an equal basis; the covenant is then equally binding on both. Though that is one meaning of the English word covenant, it is not the only one. This is especially true when viewing cove-nants God has made with mankind. In those covenants, there is no equality between the parties; they are covenants between unequals. We view one party to the covenant, God, who is superior to the other and is the only one who can set the terms of the covenant. The second party, either one man, selected men or mankind in general, has only the choice of abiding by the terms or rejecting them.
The Hebrew word, berith, is thought to come from the Akkadian biritu, which means "fetter" or "bond." So, we may derive from that the meaning of something binding. However, the attempt to delve into etymology and derivations may be an interesting exercise but is little more than that and quite unnecessary. Whatever the roots, berith covers a full range of what covenant means in the Old Testament, primarily, an agreement that binds the parties involved. It might refer to two parties who both contribute to the terms of the agreement and then are equally obligated to meet those terms. This is called a parity covenant, one made with bilateral obligations on the part of both parties.
Abraham and Abimelech made a covenant at Beersheba, terms were set, oaths taken and ewe lambs presented as witnesses of the covenant, Genesis 21:22-32. Jacob and Laban made a covenant, Genesis 32:44ff. A pillar of stones was raised as a witness to the covenant, oaths sworn, a sacrifice was offered and a meal was shared; all of this was not uncommon practice in such covenants.
Joshua made a "league" with the Gibeonites, Joshua 9. Even though the Gibeonites lied about their origin and condition, Joshua honored the covenant he made with them because he had sworn an oath. Jehu and Jehonadab made a parity agreement and confirmed it by shaking hands, II Kings 10:15-16. David and Jonathan also made a parity covenant with each other, in which Jonathan gave gifts to David, I Samuel 18:3-4.
However, a suzerainty covenant is one wherein a superior individual, such as a king, made an agreement with one of his vassals; the king made all the terms. God has taken the initiative in making covenants with men, agreements proceeding from a superior person to a lesser one. God makes all the terms. Such covenants have been in the form of promises made by God, such as that to Noah, his seed and every creature on the earth that the earth would never again be destroyed by water, Genesis 9:9-16. There were no commands in this to obey; it was no more than a promise God made to man. The rainbow was given as a sign, the witness, to remind us of this promise. Previous to this, Genesis 6, God made a covenant with Noah that involved Noah's building the ark, stocking it as directed, taking in the animals, following all God's instructions exactly. If Noah would do this, he and his family would be saved from the coming flood. Noah had no say about the rules.
The same order is found in the covenant made with Abraham, Genesis 15:18. God promised He would give the land of Palestine to the seed of Abraham. The terms of the covenant were in the form of promises. Later, however, we find a mixture of promises and terms given by God in Genesis 17:10-14. That list involved the land promise to Abraham's seed and the sign of the covenant, circumcision. Also involved was the promise that Sarah would bear a son who was to be named Isaac. God made all of the terms and expected them to be followed.
Exodus 34 records various laws, including the ten commandments, that are all included under the word covenant. Moses is warned, "observe thou that which I command thee this day." Then, Exodus 34:27 says, "And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel." God made the terms and insisted on obedience. Israel had no say in the terms and could only obey or disobey. If they disobeyed, they were punished; they were blessed if they obeyed. Thus, the Law is referred to as "the book of the covenant" and like phrases, such as, "the book of the law of God."
In setting forth the Ten Commandments, Deuteronomy 5:1ff begins by referring to them as:
"the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ear this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them."
This is followed by,
"The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day."
The Greek word, diatheke, is the word for covenant in the New Testament. Leon Morris says,
"Under all the circumstances it is, perhaps, unfortunate that diatheke is rendered in English by ‘covenant’, for this word carries with it associations of compact, of agreement, of conditions mutually determined, which are not to be found in the arrangements under consideration. But it is not easy to suggest a better translation, and in any case the rendering is so well established that it would be darkening counsel to suggest an alteration now. But it is important to bear in mind the limitations of this translation," The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, page 91.
According to Adolf Deissmann, it refers to a last will or testament, Light From The Ancient East, page 337,
“Perhaps the most necessary investigation still waiting to be made is that relating to the word diatheke, which so many scholars translate unhesitatingly ‘covenant.’ Now as the new texts help us generally to reconstruct Hellenistic family law and the law of inheritance, so in particular our knowledge of Hellenistic wills has been wonderfully increased by a number of originals on stone or papyrus. There is ample material to back me in the statement that no one in the Mediterranean world in the first century A.D. would have thought of finding in the word diatheke the idea of ‘covenant.’ St. Paul would not, and in fact did not. To St. Paul the word meant what it meant in his Greek Old Testament, ‘a unilateral enactment,’ in particular ‘a will or testament.’”
Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based On Semantic Domains, pages 586, 452, says,
“diatheke, (derivative of diatisemai ‘to make a will,’ 57.123) a legal document by which property is transferred to an heir or heirs - ‘will, testament ... Heb. 9.16Ó ...’ In rendering the OT term brith, the Septuagint translators employed diatheke, literally ‘a final will or testament,’ in place of suntheke ‘contract, agreement,’ since they evidently wished to emphasize the fact that the initiative for such a covenantal relationship existed with one person rather than being the result of negotiation and compromise.”
Hebrews 9:15 says,
“And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth.”
The terms of a “will” are set by the person who makes the will. It is not a bargained contract made by the testator and those who would benefit from the will. The person makes his will and those who would benefit must be named in the will or must meet the terms of it, whatever they may be; they have no say in its makeup. This same point is also emphasized in Galatians 3:15,
“Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void or addeth thereto.”
At this point in Galatians, Paul refers to the promise, the covenant, made to Abraham concerning his seed, singular, meaning Christ. He then calls the Law of Moses a covenant confirmed, though it did not require anyone's death to confirm it. The New Covenant, the New Testament, is referred to as a better covenant than the Law of Moses, one founded on better promises. Yet, it is God's covenant in which He made all the rules and has presented it to us; we have no say nor choice in the terms. We can obey or disobey but that is all the choice we have. So, God told Israel in the following passages:
"Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of our fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you," Deuteronomy 4;1-2.
"Ye shall observe to do as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess," Deuteronomy 5:32.
Numerous other passages in the Old Testament say the same thing, such as, Deuteronomy 12:32, Joshua 1:7, Proverbs 4:26-27, 30:5-6, and others. Note the following passages from the New Testament.
"I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book," Revelation 22:18-19.
"Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son," II John 9.
"Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are writ-ten," I Corinthians 4:6.
Other New Testament passages teach the same, such as Matthew 7:21, Galatians 1:6-9. Jesus promised His Apostles,
"But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you," John 14:26.
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come," John 16:13.
The Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to them, teach them all things, guide them into all the truth, and show them things to come. That covers the entirety of the New Testament.
Paul told the Corinthians that what the Apostles (we) preached came not from man's wisdom but by the Holy Spirit who revealed the mind of God, I Corinthians 2:6-13. In I Corinthians 14:37, Paul declared that the things he wrote to them were the commandments of God. Peter said, II Peter 1:20-21, that,
"no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit."
When Peter says no prophecy of scripture is of "private interpretation," he means it did not originate with man and his reasoning. It all came from God through the Holy Spirit. This is why Paul said to Timothy,
"Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work," II Timothy 3:16-17.
Recall those at judgment that Jesus said would argue with Him: "by thy name do many mighty works." Jesus said they were guilty of lawlessness, iniquity. God not only gives us the rules but defines for us what qualifies as "good works." Because man thinks something is a good work does not mean God thinks the same thing. God's revealed word tells us everything we need to know and everything we must do in order to please God.
The Testaments of God were given by God to man. God made the rules and presented them to man who had no choice in what the rules would be. Man would be blessed if he followed them and condemned if he did not.
When God created man, He did not intend for humankind to remain in the garden of Eden. Man was told to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, Genesis 1:28. Replenish meant to fill up the earth. Man was to spread out over all the earth and fill it up. God endowed man with intelligence, imagination, reasoning, will and an ability to communicate ideas precisely. He also made man with a physical dexterity so, with all things combined, man could enforce dominion over all of God's creation, Genesis 9:1-2, Psalm 8.
In making humans as male and female, God established sexuality at the very beginning. By this means, the species would be propagated. A sexual drive was included in man's physical nature, thus insuring rapid reproduction of mankind. However, man's relationship with God and with one another had to be regulated.
Psalm 8:5 says that man was created a little lower than the angels. Yet, man was also created above animals and was to be more accountable than such creatures; man was not to act like a dog, or beast of the field. God established laws to regulate mankind. Violation of those laws was sin and punishment would come from such transgression. Romans 5:12-13 says,
"Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned: for until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed where there is no law."
First, death came as a result of sin. Death came upon all men "for that all sinned." We all die physically, but not because we are sinners. Infants die, but are not sinners. Of course, there were times in the Old Testament when God destroyed people physically because of their sins, such as the flood. Capital punishment for murder was established early. Even in the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira, who had lied to God, Acts 5, died as an example to others. That was not God's normal way of dealing with sinners, however. Romans 5 says that death came to all because all sinned. Romans 7:9 says,
"I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died."
When he was an infant, he was not accountable, but when he reached an age of accountability, he sinned; he died as a result. In both places, Paul is talking about a death that comes as a result of one's sins. Adam was told that "in the day that you eat" you will die. Adam died the very day he sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. He did not physically die that day, but he died spiritually. Of course, as a final conse-quence, physical death came from what Adam did. But, physical death was certain when man was denied access to the tree of life. Only access to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was denied Adam; Adam did not sin in partaking of the tree of life. Romans 5:12-14 is discussing the events of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Second, notice that death passed unto all men because "all sinned." It does not say death passed unto all men because Adam sinned, or that all sinned in Adam. We die as a result of our own sins, spiritual death, Romans 6:23.
Third, Paul argues the existence of law between creation and the Law of Moses. "Sin is not imputed when there is no law;" the fact is that sin existed and therefore law existed. Law applied to all mankind during that time.
According to Luke 11:50-51, the first prophet in the world was Abel, the son of Adam. By Abel, God taught about right conduct, including correct worship. Hebrews 11:4 says that by faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, and it witnessed that he was righteous. Since faith only comes by hearing the word of God, Romans 10:17, what Abel did was by God's directions. To be righteous is to be right and there must be a standard by which something is judged to be right. Genesis 4:6-7 says,
"And Jehovah said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door ..."
Anything other than "doing well" would mean that sin was present. No law, no sin. I John 3:11-12 says,
"For this is the message which ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another: not as Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous."
Cain was a rebel against God, a liar, full of envy, jealousy and wrath, which led him to murder. Cain's worship was contrary to God's revealed will at the time and he was guilty of no telling what else. All were violations of God's laws, for there can be no evil, sinful, works without law. Notice as well, love of others was revealed at the beginning. People were taught not only what not to do, but what to do in order to be righteous. The attitude of Cain was evil.
Though it is after the flood, Genesis 9:6 declares "capital punishment." Whoever sheds man's blood will have his blood shed by others. When God cast him out, Cain knew that others would seek his life because of what he had done, Genesis 4:14-15. Where did such knowledge come from? Well, God had already revealed it.
Genesis 5:21-24 says Enoch walked with God. "By faith" he was translated because he was "well pleasing" to God, Hebrews 11:5. It is left to Jude, however, to give us the fullest picture of Enoch. Verses 14-15 say,
"And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousand of his holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
Enoch was a prophet who spoke words of warning to the people of his day, long before the flood. Jude adds Enoch's testimony to those others he mentions who tell us of the final condemnation of the wicked. Jude wants us to know that the final judgment of mankind is not limited in teaching to either the Law of Moses or the New Testament. Enoch warned "ungodly sinners," threatening them with eternal condemnation. Whatever specific sins they practiced, there had to be law that they violated.
Genesis 6 opens with details about the wickedness of the people before the flood. Every imagination of their heart was only evil, continually. Genesis 6:11-12 says, "The earth was corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth." I Peter 3:20 says that these people were "disobedient." This wickedness involved all mankind, with the exception of Noah and his family. Noah was a "preacher of righteousness," II Peter 2:5, when God brought destruction on the "world of the ungodly." Noah had to have something to preach and people to whom he preached. His message came from God.
Abraham was a man of faith. Hebrews 11:8 says, "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." Abraham had to have his faith already established before God ordered him to leave his homeland. God said in Genesis 26:5 that Abraham, "obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws."
Even Abimelech, Genesis 20:3-7, knew he would have sinned against God if he had taken another man's wife. He knew that before God appeared to tell him about Sarah. God told Abimelech, Genesis 20:6-7,
"I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine."
So, Abimelech reproves Abraham in verse 9, saying, "What have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin?" Again, notice what God told him: "I also withheld thee from sinning against me ..." Abimelech would have sinned against God if he took another man's wife! God's marriage laws had long been in force.
The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their wickedness, primarily homosexuality.
"... and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, having made them an example unto those that should live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds)," II Peter 2:6-8.
The deeds of these people were lawless and ungodly. Notice that the most stated violation of these cities had to do with sex. God's laws concerning sex go all the way back to the creation of man and woman. Jude 7 adds,
"Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire."
The revelation of God's will to mankind, through prophets and preachers and by which men could know the will of God, was handed down through the generations of people by word of mouth. Some of this revelation became twisted and garbled, but was still there. Some things were incorporated into the Law of Moses when it came along. Lest some Sabbatarian get excited by that statement, we will note that the Sabbath was new in its instruction and observance with the coming of the Israelites. The Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel only, Exodus 31:13-17. Because of their bondage and God's delivering them from it, God commanded them to keep the Sabbath, Deuteronomy 5:15. The covenant, the ten commandments, which included the Sabbath, was not made "with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day," Deuteronomy 5:3.
The Laws of Hammurabi, the Gilgamesh Epic, and in very recent times, the library at Ebla, all reflect stories of creation and the flood. Some suppose that the Old Testament writers, primarily Moses, copied from such existing documents and so the events were not of divine origin. However, whatever is found in such documents that resemble what Moses said, shows the information came from the same source, just in a different way. Moses got his information directly from God. Evidence shows that Hammurabi borrowed from laws of nations around him that existed before him. He chose what he considered the best system. Hammurabi even had a regulation that sounds like the eye for an eye statute of the Law of Moses. Though we have no record of that exact ruling prior to Hammurabi, we have the same principle recorded in Cain's fear for his life, and in Genesis 9:6.
All of this, and more, shows what Paul said in Romans 5:12-14. Law was in the world from Adam to Moses; man transgressed that law and sinned. Spiritual death followed as a result of the sin because sin is not imputed where there is no law.
Though the Law of Moses was given to a particular nation, Israel, it did not change the condition of the rest of humanity. It is clearly seen through the Old Testament that God still held non-Jews accountable to His regulations.
For example, Nineveh. The date is somewhere in the eighth century B.C. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, non-Israelite. Jonah was sent to preach to them because of their wickedness. God was going to destroy them if they did not change. Jonah 3:10 says,
"And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil which he said he would do unto them; and he did it not."
Jesus testifies to the accuracy of the book of Jonah in Luke 11:29-32. He said that Nineveh "repented at the preaching of Jonah." Notice that the preaching of Jonah was not what made Nineveh wicked in the first place! Nineveh was already wicked and the preaching was to warn them of the consequences.
Several hundred years before Jonah, Balaam was a central figure, but he was not an Israelite. He was from Pethor on the Euphrates River and obviously renowned as having some powers of prophecy, prediction and magic. He was approached by the king of Moab, Balak, to come curse Israel and thus remove them from his territory. Balaam knew enough to say, Numbers 22:18,
"If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more."
He adds, in Numbers 24:13,
"If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak."
Greed getting the better of him, Balaam finally did go, but blessings came out of him instead of cursing. He finally tried to subvert Israel by getting them to sin and was killed for his efforts. II Peter 2:15-16 identifies Balaam as a false prophet who loved the hire of wrong doing. Jude 11 mentions him in the same way. Revelation also condemns the teaching of Balaam who taught Israel to eat things sacrificed to idols and commit fornication. Though the Law of Moses was in effect, it did not mean God had no dealings with Gentiles and that no laws existed that were directed to them.
The peoples of the land of Canaan were deemed wicked by Jehovah and for that reason they would be destroyed. Though God showed respect to the nation of Israel as a whole, the people showed themselves to be wicked. God would fulfill His promise made to Abraham in spite of the faithlessness of the people, Romans 3:3. Notice this in Deuteronomy 9:4-5,
"Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, doest thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doeth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
In Romans 1:18-32, Paul discusses the condition of the Gentiles. They could have known God and could have acted differently from how they did act. The Gentiles refused to have God in their knowledge, changed the glory of God for images and the truth of God for a lie. God allowed them to go in whatever way they wanted; it was their choice. The Gentiles gave themselves up to vile passions, extremes of ungodliness. They had the same wicked imaginations and practices as those who prompted the flood that destroyed the people of Noah's day. They could only be so judged in view of a law to judge them. Specific sins are noted in Romans 1, such as homosexuality, lying, murder, inventing evil things, covenant breakers, all unrighteousness, etc. These things were contrary to the law of God.
Though God has given a New Testament, a better covenant enacted on better promises, Hebrews 8:6, it doesn't mean that only Christians are under law to God. That is no more true than to say that only Jews were under law to God during the Old Testament period.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the judgment when "many" will argue with him about their right to eternal salvation. They will claim they did many things in the name of Jesus, by His authority. Jesus denies this by saying "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." First, there was never a time that Jesus knew them, they had no identity with the Lord; they had never been His disciples. Secondly, He says they are workers of "iniquity." We have already seen that this word means lawless, unlawful, contrary to law. We will not take the time or space to look at all of the evidence showing the condition of those outside of Christ. But, we will look at some passages that clearly specify their condition. I Corinthians 5:9-13 says,
"I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators; not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, nor with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world: but as it is, I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat. For what have I to do with judging them that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Put away the wicked man from among yourselves."
The people of the world were guilty of the same things that the Christian might be. The "judging" that was to be done by the church was disciplinary judging. We have control over doing something about a Christian who sins by using certain disciplinary measures. What is done in regard to the world is handled by God. We have already made reference to Romans 1:24-32 and the specific sins of the Gentiles. We could repeat the same for the unbelievers in Galatians 5:19-21. In Ephesians 5:3-12, there is a list of specific sins: fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, jesting. He follows that list by saying, "Because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience." They are then described as being in darkness. The "sons of disobedience" are unbelievers. We see this in Ephesians 2:1-2,
"And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience."
Before being made alive, they were dead through trespasses and sins. Yet, there are no trespasses and sins without law! Another point of view of the same thing is in I Corinthians 6:9-11,
"Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God."
They were guilty of these things before they became Christians, which means they had to be under law concerning these things before becoming Christians. When one becomes a Christian, his life has to change and he must stop the practice of sin. But, He would not be a sinner unless he was under law. Notice that this is true concerning marriage as well. Some had been adulterers, but adultery has meaning only in regard to marriage, so there were marriage laws in existence for all mankind.
Regulations concerning marriage were made for the human race when Adam and Eve were created and will exist for all mankind as long as the earth stands. God had rules on many other things about interrelationships of mankind, so why not in marriage, the closest union two humans can have? Matthew 19:3-12 records the Pharisee's attempt to trap Jesus. Jesus' replied, saying, verses 4-6,
"Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh? So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Notice what Jesus said about Him who made them "from" the beginning. He did not say, He who made them "in," or "at" the beginning but "from" the beginning. The laws governing the marriage relationship are firmly rooted in the distinction between male and female. As long as we have such sexual distinction, male and female, which we do have, the same laws will exist.
This is why Hebrews 13:4 says that marriage is to be held in honor among all because fornicators and adulterers God will condemn. We have already seen that those out of Christ can be guilty of adultery, therefore the marriage rules apply to them as well as to Christians.
Some have been quick to ask if that means those out of Christ are obligated to keep every law in the law of Christ, the New Testament. No, they are not. But, not all Christians are obligated to that, either. The reason is that there are some laws in the New Testament that only apply to men, some only to women, some to children, some to parents, some to elders and deacons and some laws do not apply to anyone today; the regulations of spiritual gifts existed only during the time when spiritual gifts existed. We no longer have them, so the regulations do not apply now. Yet, we are not left to wonder what laws apply to those in the world. We have already seen what they are.
As we have seen, there is a penalty that goes with transgression of law. Seeing it is God's law that has been violated, God could have simply exacted the ultimate penalty for sin without mercy. If circumstances were kept as solely matters of law, then it would have forced man to either keep the law of God perfectly, or be eternally condemned. This "transgression brings penalty" is the essence of the first law given, "In the day you eat, you die," Genesis 2:16-17. This was said to Adam before Eve was made; God placed "the man" in the garden and told "the man" not to eat of that tree. Eve was later told about the rule. Sin entered the world, and death through sin, Romans 5:12-14. The wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23, James 1:15. Spiritual death is the separation of man from God, "If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth," I John 1:6. "And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins," Ephesians 2:1. "But she that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth," I Timothy 5:6. Galatians 3:10-12 says,
"For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who contin-ueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them. Now that no man is justified by the law before God is evident: for, The righteous shall live by faith; and the law is not of faith; but, He that doeth them shall live in them." See also Deuteronomy 27:26, Jeremiah 11:3.
A curse is the opposite of a blessing. "Curse" is a pronouncement of evil to come upon someone or something because of displeasure or some violation. There is a fulfillment of the threat if the violation continues. Note:
"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live," Deuteronomy 30:19.
In most instances, the curses spoken of by God in the Old Testament refer to immediate evil to come upon Israel, such as short life, no happiness in the land, drought, poor crops, no posterity, invasions and the like, Deuteronomy 28:15-68. Implied in such curses is worse punishment if they do not change their ways, a point decidedly stated in the New Testament, Hebrews 10:28-29. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 says,
"Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known."
A system of law has no provision within it for forgiveness when one transgresses that law. The Law of Moses was such a law, even though the purpose of that law was spiritual.
"By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified," Galatians 2:16.
"If righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought," Galatians 2:21.
"For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins,” Hebrews 10:4.
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh," Romans 8:3.
"For if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law," Galatians 3:21.
We may still be alive physically but spiritually dead. The Bible also speaks of a second death that is an eternal separation from God in torment, hell, after this life is over. With a system of law, the penalty must be exacted for a transgression unless the transgression is forgiven and dismissed. In order to forgive a transgression, there must be some basis on which mercy can be extended instead of a penalty exacted. Here is where God's plan for man's redemption enters the picture.
Before He ever brought this world into existence, God had a contingency plan for redemption already formed. In the event of man's sinning, this plan would go into effect. I Peter 1:18-20 tells us that we were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver or gold, but -
"with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ: who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake."
Ephesians 1:4 says that
"even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love."
Jesus said, in Matthew 25:34,
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
The plan began unfolding as soon as sin entered the world and before man was cast from the garden. The prophecy of Genesis 3:14-15, that enmity would exist between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent, is the first information we have of that plan. Though the seed of the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of woman, the seed of woman would bruise the head of the serpent's seed.
The second indication was in regard to Adam's second son, Abel. Abel was a prophet, Luke 11:50-51, and a righteous man, Matthew 23:35. His sacrifice was more excellent than Cain's because he offered it "by faith." It was as God directed him to do, from his flock, an animal sacrifice. From this point on, the instances of animal sacrifices that we find throughout the Old Testament pointed to the reality to come. The sacrifices for sin, cleansing, atonement and forgiveness, all established a precedent and instruction for the great cleansing sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Sin having entered the world, a remedy for sin was therefore essential. Man, having brought the sin into the world in the first place, could not save himself from that sin. Man was ruled by law and any violation of law brought sin. More violations brought even more sin.
This is a major subject of the book of Romans. Through the first three chapters, the fact of sin is presented along with the reasons for its existence. The conclusion is reached, "we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin," Romans 3:9. "For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23. Since all are sinners, how are they to be rid of that burden?
The Jews attempted to make of the law just a bare system of rules. Then, they thought that if they could keep those rules perfectly, they would have salvation. Of course, by the time they had enough knowledge and will to make such a personal decision, they had reached an accountable age and were already sinners; nothing they could do for themselves would change that.
Romans 9:32 says, "they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works." The Law of Moses was never just a cold, bare, set of rules. That was what the Jews made of it. The law was spiritual, Romans 7:12-14. Following the rules was important and necessary, but there was more to the law than that. Matthew 23:23 says,
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and anise and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone."
Being meticulous in tithing was fine, but they had cut the heart out of the law. Jesus says, in Matthew 22:36-40, when asked about the greatest commandment in the law,
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets."
The Jews thought they would be acceptable by perfect works. Romans 4:4-8 says,
"Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness. Even as David also pronounceth blessing upon the man, unto whom God reckoneth righteousness apart from works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin."
Wherever the word "works" or "worketh" is found, understand that the subject is "perfect works." One who kept the law perfectly could claim salvation by his perfection, God would owe him salvation as a matter of debt; man could boast of his accomplishments in such a case. However, Ephesians 2:9 says that salvation is "not of works, that no man should glory." These are works whereof man could boast that he had saved himself by perfect works. Titus 3:3-5 says,
"For we also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."
The only way man can be rid of sin is for God to forgive him, give mercy rather than penalty. This does not mean that obedience to the law of God is unnecessary. As Jesus said to the Pharisees concerning faith, justice, love, mercy, that these they should have done and "not left the others undone," such as being meticulous in tithing. Disobeying the law of God is what makes man a sinner. There are things on man's part that must be done in order for redemption to take place and for God to forgive the sins. It is just that once you sin, it is too late for perfect obedience and so God must forgive your disobedience.
While acknowledging the nature of a pure system of law, we must keep in mind that though the Law of Moses was such a law, it contained the promise of mercy for the faithful, based on the sacrifice of Christ to come. There certainly was mercy in the lawgiver, God. When the sacrifice was made, that activated God's mercy toward man. Then, all of those from the Old Testament period who were faithful to serve God, could receive the forgiveness of their sins, Hebrews 9:15. Paul said that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, I Timothy 1:15.