The Law on Trial 2


Bible translations use the words transgression, offense, debt, iniquity, trespass, disobedience and sin almost interchangeably. But it’s worth noting that they don’t all mean quite the same thing. An iniquity, for instance, is an injustice or unfairness. Disobedience is a refusal to follow an order. And a transgression or offense violates a standard. But of all of these “sin” stands apart. Unlike the other words, sin is a transgression that’s actually unintentional. It’s a word meaning, “to miss the mark.” Sin is an archer taking aim but going off target. 

The first biblical example of sin in the Bible came with the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2 & 3). But “when the woman saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Gen. 3:6). 

Encouraged by the serpent the woman didn’t intend to disobey, but was “deceived” by her senses and desires—and she “fell into transgression,” as Paul describes to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:14). Working mostly for our benefit, the senses and desires aid but can also deceive. Caution is given then, don’t get carried away with them (James 1: 13-15). 

For comparison, Adam was not deceived, but disobeyed, doing exactly as intended (Rom. 5:19). He hit the bulls-eye. 

Intention however is a distinction without a difference in regard to the consequences or law. But who would have thought the intention to do right could have the same result as the intention to disobey? 

The apostle Paul calls this “the law of sin” in Romans 7 where the passions of the body overrule the principles of the mind. (Paul used coveting as the example—the woman’s downfall.) “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” he asks. “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:26).

Jesus was anointed to lead the world out of this contradictory mess—not through justice, as the world expects of a Messiah, but through dismissing injustice with forgiveness. The rescue would be by grace through a relationship with God (faith), not by character-building through the commandment. The resolution is a matter of life over death, not righteousness over sin. And what is life, but “to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent.” (John 17:3)

“Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life (= the relationship with God) has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). 

So the focus goes from sin and righteousness to relationship with God, where sin has no influence (Rom. 6:2). These are two different laws and two different realms, so best not to confuse them (Rom. 8:9). Salvation isn’t to be reformed, it’s a paradigm shift.

Thanks be to God indeed!

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