This is part 4 in the Bible study series: Let Us Keep the Feasts. We've all heard of sin. It's a very religious sounding word. What do the Day of Unleavened Bread teach us about sin and its dangerously pervasive consequences in our lives? Join Gary Petty as he explores "What is Sin?"
[Gary Petty] Good evening, everyone. Let's begin with prayer. If you’ll bow your heads. Father in heaven, we come before You very humble, thanking You for a chance to be into Your Word, because we know, Father, that these are the words of You in the Bible that teach us, that guide us, that lead us, and here we are studying the Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread. Important messages, Father, in these Holy Days for all of us to learn about You and about Your Son Jesus Christ, so we ask that You bless us and help us and guide us this evening. We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
Well, good evening, everyone. Actually, you're watching a pre-recorded Bible study because of a blizzard here in Cincinnati, Ohio, so we had to pre-record this because the weather this evening's going to be much too difficult for people to get out, so we're glad that you could join us on the Internet.
This is part of a series that we have been doing on the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. As we go through those Holy Days and the lessons that we learn, and there's lots of lessons in those days, there are important themes that run through these spring Holy Days, and one of them is the theme of sin. A very religious-sounding word. We all know sin is bad, but exactly how do we define sin? What is the biblical definition of sin?
What we want to do tonight is just take a period of time here and look at a Bible understanding of sin, because sin is actually much more extensive than, many times, we think. It's interesting that when you pick up a Bible dictionary that talks about sin...Just go to a Bible dictionary, look up in the Hebrew language or the Greek language, and look up the word sin. You will find that there are many words that are translated sin into English, and the word sin has a very broad meaning when you take all those words. It can mean wickedness. It can mean trouble. It can mean doing against God's will. It can mean disobeying God's law. There's a wide variety.
It can mean simply missing the mark, like you're shooting an arrow, and you miss completely where you were supposed to shoot. There's these wide variety of meanings. What's even more fascinating is when we look through what the Bible says are the effects of sin. I'm going to go through these. You can look these up for yourself, but when we go through sin, we find that the Bible says that sin is, it compares it to a disease.
It's a disease, it's an illness, it makes you sick. It's compared to madness. Sin is compared to being insane. It's also compared to bitterness. This is very important. Bitterness.
We're looking at these analogies for sin, and these analogies are very important for us to understand, because sin is very much a disease. It is insanity, and it creates bitterness. Bitterness is the condition where you're just angry, you're upset. Nothing is happy, nothing is good in your life. Everything is negative, and everything has a negative effect on your life.
What's very interesting, if you go through the Bible, too, you will see what sin produces. Now, let me just go through a short list of what the Scripture says is produced by sin in our lives. It produces conflict with others. It separates us from God. With Genesis, it creates a ruined environment; because of sin, the environment isn't what it's supposed to be for human beings.
It causes depression and anxiety. It creates guilt. It creates shame. It creates a sense of meaninglessness, that you have no meaning in life, and that is mentioned a number of times in the Scripture. It creates hopelessness, and it creates death. In fact, because all human beings are sinners, have committed sin, we all will die.
Now, wow, death, anxiety, ruined environment. It destroys relationships. It cuts us off from God. It's a disease, it's madness, it's bitterness. You think that none of us, would sin, right? It's interesting, in Isaiah 59:1 Isaiah 59:1Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
American King James Version×and 2, God actually says...Well let's turn there. Isaiah 59.
Isaiah 59. Well, God was to save us from sin. It says, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor is His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities" – another the word for sin – “your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you.” In other words, God can actually turn away from us because of our sins.
Now, that doesn't mean that He won't reach back. In fact, throughout the book of Isaiah, there’s numerous messages about, God talks about sin, and He says, "But My hand's still outstretched." He's still reaching out to us. But it separates us from God. So why do we it? Why in the world do we continue to sin when we know there's all these negative things that happen to us?
Well, first of all, we really don't believe in the negative results of sin. And the reason we really don't believe in it is because something that's mentioned in Hebrews. Hebrews chapter 11. Now remember, it's very complex, this concept of sin. In fact, I'm going to talk about its complexity here in a minute, go through a few Scriptures of the New Testament that help us to begin to understand the real complexity of what is sin.
Hebrews 11:23 Hebrews 11:23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.
American King James Version×, talking about Moses, it says, "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's command. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." Notice verse 25, very important. "Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked for the reward.” The truth is, is that sin produces some kind of temporary pleasure. Physical, mental, emotional, but for a short period of time, sin is fun.
This is one of the things that we have to teach children many times. They don't realize. They say, "Well, it's fun. It's fun to sin. What you're calling sin is actually fun,” and they think that somehow being a Christian means that we're being restrained, refrained from having fun. Well, the truth is all sin does produce some kind of fun, some kind of pleasure, some kind of mental enjoyment or physical or emotional. There's the problem. There's the problem. It produces this temporary result that we like, and this is very important when we go back to disease, madness and bitterness, okay? All sin is addictive.
Now, when you think of someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, and we say, "Oh, that's a sin," but you know, all sin is addictive. Jealousy is addictive. Envy is addictive. Lust is addictive. One of the greatest addictive sins we don't even recognize is self-righteousness. It feels very good, incredibly good, to be self-righteous, to think that you are so special that God gives you special privileges, and He gives you the right to look down on other people. That's a very heady place to be. It's very addictive. It's still sin. Just read through the Gospels to see how many times Jesus Christ confronted people who were self-righteous.
Now, what happens when we are so addicted to sin, we don't recognize it? We literally become slaves. One of the other themes of the Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread as we go back to ancient Egypt, the Israelites leaving ancient Egypt, that Passover, that first Passover, first Days of Unleavened Bread, they're coming out of what? Out of slavery.
But let's look at what Paul says in Romans. Romans chapter 6. Romans 6:14 Romans 6:14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
American King James Version×. Romans 6, 7 and 8 is one of the pinnacle passages in all the Bible. Where Paul explains baptism, he explains sin, he explains forgiveness, he explains the Holy Spirit coming into us, conversion. It's just an amazing three chapters. But he says here in verse 14, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you're not under law but under grace." He says, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!" Later in this very chapter, he says, "The law defines sin." So he says now, "Should we just go around breaking the law of God because we have received God's grace?" He says, "Well, certainly not!"
Verse 16 is real important here. “Do you not know that to whom you present yourself slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” He goes on and talks about slavery, slavery to sin.
Knowing this Passover season is coming up, and Days of Unleavened Bread, if we truly understand the meaning of that time, we will learn that this time has to do with not only our salvation, and that God is saving us from death, which remember, death is one of the results of sin, but also, He's going to bring us out of the slavery of sin. See, too many people, to become Christians that desire salvation, they want to be saved, but they want to stay slaves. Just like you could take ancient Israel out of Egypt, and you can take them out of slavery. It was hard to get the slave out of ancient Israelites. They continued to be slaves, slaves to their own passions, their own fears, their own anxieties, and their own sins.
As we approach these days, we need to know that we are slaves to sin. This isn't just a matter of sinning. “Oh, yes, I have committed a sin.” Then we say, "Okay, I'm going to get up here in the blackboard, and everybody just volunteer every sin you've committed.” We're going to look at this as more than just our behavior. Now behavior can be sin, but it's more than that.
Let's look at four, if you will, definitions in the New Testament that define sin. Now remember, as I said, if you just look up in a Hebrew dictionary, a Greek dictionary, the different words that are translated sin, you'll see, it's a very complicated subject. It means a lot. It extends over a lot of ideas and a lot of concepts.
Let's look at four specific ones in the New Testament. 1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×. This is one that is a very common passage that is read in a definition of sin. 1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×, and I want to spend a little bit just talking about this one. Reading from the New King James, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." In other words, sin defines the law. Now, that's not a new concept.
The apostle Paul said the same thing in Romans. Go back to read Roman 6, 7 and 8 as a whole. When you do, you will see Paul says, "I would not even know what covetousness is, except the law tell me." In other words, he would not have known he was addicted to coveting until there was a definition. What we see then is that the law of God defines sin. Without the law, we will not know which behavior is correct and which isn't, so we have to have the law to define sin, to tell us what is good from evil.
In fact, Paul said the same thing in Romans chapter 3. You can go to Romans chapter 3 and read that. He says this to Timothy. I find this is one of Paul's most interesting discussions of the law and sin. I know Paul is used by many to say that we don't have to keep the law at all, and that's not what he taught at all. But he did teach that the law had a purpose. It defined sin.
Part of the problem with the Jewish world of Paul's day was an idea that you could receive salvation through the law. There was a belief that at the end of your life, God took your ledger book out, and He counted up your good deeds and your bad deeds, and if you had more good deeds than bad deeds, you got salvation. That's not how it worked. Our good deeds cannot erase the bad deeds. It's not possible. So the bad deeds have to be blotted out. They have to be covered, one of the great teachings of the Passover.
So the law gives us a definition of sin, but the law can't save us. Paul was against the law when people tried to misuse it. When you read through trying to be justified by the law, Paul's always against that. When you see conduct as defined by the law, Paul's always for that.
Let's look at what he says here in verse 8. It's very interesting when he says this. "Well, we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully." In other words, the law's good, but it has to be used in its context. If I use the law to prove to God, “Oh, look, I have not stolen my whole life. Oh, I know, there was the time I committed adultery, but look, I never stole, so that erases my adultery?” You see what happens? You see what happens?
We have this idea that we can justify ourselves. It's as though you have to use the law lawfully, in other words, the way it was designed to be used. “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous person.” We're going to define righteousness in a minute here. He said, "You know, the law wasn't made for someone who wasn't breaking it, but for the lawless.” The law was made for the lawless. The law was made for those without law.
Now remember, all of us are without the law of God. In fact, it is the law of God that brings us to repentance, to come to Christ. We come to Christ, why? Because we're sinners. We've already looked that the law defines sin. That means if there is no law, we can never be convicted; we don't need Christ. To need Christ, we have to be convicted of our sin.
To be convicted of our sin, we need the law.
So the law defines behavior that's good, behavior that's against God. We come to realize we are sinners. We're in need of forgiveness. That brings us to Christ as our Passover. “The law was made for the lawless and insubordinate (people who are rebellious), for the ungodly and for sinners (people who are against God), for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, (and the law was made to define what is against sound doctrine), according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”
The law defines for us what is against the Gospel. People tend to think, "Well, the Gospel and the law are against each other." No, the law can't save us, but it does define for us what is against the Gospel. Thou shalt not murder. To be a murderer is to be against the Gospel. You need the Gospel message that says, "You are a murderer. That is a sin. That is against the law of God."
Here we have one of the foundational descriptions of what is sin, but this isn't the only one. We're going to look at three others here in the New Testament. Let's go to 1 John 5:17 1 John 5:17All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not to death.
American King James Version×. 1 John 5:17 1 John 5:17All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not to death.
American King James Version×. Simple statement, John says, "All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death."
All unrighteousness is sin. Righteousness has to do with our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Remember, they asked Jesus what was the greatest commandments in the Bible, meaning the Old Testament, because that's what they had. He said, "Love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul. And love your neighbor as yourself."
Righteousness has to do with our relationships. How do we come in contact with God? Because of His righteousness. He wants a relationship with us. He was willing to pay the price through Jesus Christ to bring us into a relationship with Him, so it's His righteousness that brings us to Him. That means any time we do something that is not correct or right or just – righteousness actually has to do with justice also – in the eyes of God, we are sinning.
It's very interesting, when John the Baptist, Jesus came to him to baptize Him, John the Baptist said, "You need to baptize me." John the Baptist didn't want to baptize Him, and of course the reason why is, is that Jesus didn't sin. What did He need water baptism for? Why did He need to go through something that would symbolize the washing away of His sins when He had no sin? John the Baptist knew that, as a sinner, he needed be baptized.
Remember what Jesus told him. He said, "We need to do this to fulfill righteousness." In other words, “This is what God requires of human beings, therefore I'm going to do this.” This is his example. That's why baptism is a command. How do we know it's a command? Because Jesus said, "This is righteousness." All unrighteousness is a sin. To refuse baptism, it's a sin. It's against God.
So many times we commit sins in our relationship with God and our relationship with other people because we're not acting the way God would. Boy, sin now becomes a very complicated problem, doesn't it? Every time you treat someone in a way that's not the way God would treat them, every time you do not worship God in the way that He wants to be worshipped, every time we don't do something the way He would want, we're sinning.
You see, one of the things that the problem that the Jews had in the time of Jesus, they didn't understand they could keep the letter of the Ten Commandments, never worship an idol, never steal, always keep the Sabbath in a very strict way, and they said, "Look we keep the laws. Our ledger book adds up." He said, "No, it's not enough," and in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained it's not enough, that sin has to do even with your intent, your motivations, your thoughts, your emotions. It was shocking; it went beyond simple behavior.
Well, the law gives us simple behavior. Here we know that, well, it goes beyond that. Sin involves anything that is not the way God would do it. So it expands it out. It expands it out even more. James 4:17 James 4:17Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.
American King James Version×. Now this gets even tougher. James 4:17 James 4:17Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.
American King James Version×. James says, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." This is called sins of omission. You know, it's easy, maybe sometimes, to do the thou-shalt-not command. It gets more difficult to do the thou-shalt commands.
We are told in the Scripture to be generous towards the poor. We can get to the place where we say, "Well, all the poor are there because it's their fault. Therefore, I do not have to be generous to the poor." But it's a command. So we only look at the negative commands. We don't look at the positive commands, or you know you should do something, but you resist it, or you know you should serve more, you know you should be a better husband or a better wife. You know, you should obey your parents better. You know it, but you don't do it, and so what happens is it's not like you are committing a sin. You're sinning by not doing something.
Let me give you a perfect example, because here in James 2, to explain what this means, we’ll stick here in James, because James goes through this in great detail here. James 2:1 James 2:1My brothers, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
American King James Version×. He says, "My brother, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality." In other words, be prejudiced. "For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings and fine apparel, and there should also come a poor man in filthy clothes, and you will pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes, and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,' and say to the poor man, 'You sit here or sit at my feet,' have you not shown partiality among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"
I wonder if Jesus or the apostle Paul or Peter walked into our congregations, if he walked into your church, would you recognize him? It would be interesting. "Listen, my beloved brethren, has God not chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man, and do not the rich oppress you and drag you to courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well."
He goes back to law as part of his definition. Now, remember, he's saying, it's not that you're doing something. You're not doing it. The person comes in, you ignore them. but you favor the person who is rich or the talented person or the good-looking person, which is common in our society lots of times.
Now, we're attracted to the person who dresses well or drives a nice car, a person that looks a certain way. “But if you show partiality,” this is verse 9, “you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” Sins of omission. When you're just too tired maybe to help the person who needs help, or we all know that the book of James says that we should visit the widow, the fatherless, and their need. When was the last time you went and visited a widow or an elderly couple, or maybe a mother with children and there's no father? When was the last time you went and gave a helping hand? To know that and not to do it is sin. In fact, James says, this is true religion. Remain unspotted from the world, and to do these things.
So we can see why these sins of omissions are things that, it's not overt. We don't see them. We don't even recognize we're doing them. It's because we're not doing them that's the problem. But now sin expands out even more, doesn't it?
Well, let's look at one more place. Let's look at Romans 14. Romans 14 is very interesting, because they were dealing with some very specific issues that were dividing the church there in Rome. Romans 14, and let's go to verse 22. Part of the issues here were fasting and vegetarianism and a lot of different things, but he says here in verse 22, "Do you have faith?" He says, "Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves." In other words, the decisions we make, what we chose to do, is it offensive to God or others or even to ourselves?
Verse 23. "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith, for whatever is not of faith is sin." You know, that means that you have a conscience, and that conscious is – the more you study the word of God, the more time, you spend before God in prayer, the more you learn of God's way, and then you do something against your conscience...Oh, we've all done that, right? We talk to teenagers about peer pressure and what they go through in peer pressure, and here they are pulled to do something that they know is wrong. You know it's wrong, but you do it anyways.
And then you think, "Well, maybe it's okay." If it's not of faith, it's sin. Now, why would he say that? Because sometimes a person maybe has an incomplete understanding of something. Perfect issue: some people will come from a background where they may believe you should not drink alcohol. The only alcohol they drink is a little bit of wine at the Passover service. Others believe that it's okay to drink alcohol in moderation. Everybody agrees it's a sin to drink alcohol in immoderation, but the person who believes you should never drink alcohol, okay, they don't drink alcohol.
Now, say someone who thinks it's okay to have a glass of wine with their meal tries to force that person to have wine, and that person caves into that pressure and drinks it, but feels guilty before God. To that person, it's a sin. That's why we should never pressure someone against their conscience, ever. If it's defined by the law of God, that's different, but in this area where there is some choice involved, you never pressure somebody, because what is not of faith is sin. So there's a conscience issue, and there's times, we have to look at someone and say, "That's in accordance with your conscience, and therefore I won't judge you on that.”
As I said, if you go through the definitions of sin, both in Hebrew and Greek, it's an extensive subject. It is more the just the law of God. The law of God gives definitions, but sin is more than that. In fact, here's the problem with sin. Remember I said, why is it when we look at disease, madness, bitterness and then all the other things that I listed that the Bible describes as the results of sin, the effects of sin – disease, madness, bitterness – why would we want that? Because it gives us temporary pleasure. Why does it give us temporary pleasure, either mentally or physically or emotionally? The reason why is because it's actually become part of our nature.
Here's what we have to understand, if we're really going to have God into our lives. Sin isn't a matter of a list of what we've done wrong. It's more than that. Sin is part of who we are. We aren’t just committers of sins. We are sinners. That's why Christ had to die for us. That's what the Passover, the understanding of the Passover, is so important.
The understanding of the Days of Unleavened Bread are about removing sin from our lives, and it's been talked about some, and it'll be talked about even more as these Bible studies continue every other week. It's more than that. Sin is actually part of who we are. It's deep inside the core of our being. Sin is part of our mind, it's part of our heart. In fact, Jeremiah said, this is very important, Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
American King James Version×, "The heart," that's our heart, that's our motivations, those are our emotions, the deepest thoughts we have.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Your heart, my heart is desperately wicked unless God does something with it. Unless God does something in us, we're not just wicked, we're not just sinners. We're desperate about it. We like it, we want it, and you and I have to come to grips with that. It's ugly.
To really come before God in repentance, to really experience what the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread are all about, and repentance is part of the process of that, we have to look inside ourselves and see that there's wickedness there and there's a desperation to be wicked, and who can know it? It would be nice if sin was just a matter of “let's make a list of a few things we've done wrong,” but it's more than that. It's at the core of who we are. Paul even calls it the law of sin, because it's a force within us, a dynamic force within us, and unfortunately we like it because we're addicted to it. God wants to break that addiction. God wants to take us out of this slavery, and as we approach the Passover where we look at Jesus Christ, we realize that, for these things to happen, what God wants to do with us, there has to be a sacrifice for us, because the law of God demands your death or my death. It is a demand.
God hasn’t done away with His law, and the law demands our death. It's that simple. That's why I said, without law how do we even come to Christ? The law of God demands our death, and Jesus says, "I will die in their stead." He becomes our Passover. Therefore, God passes over us, and we do not have to die.
But you know what? Does God just keep us sinners? Here's the problem with accepting Jesus as Savior and not accepting Jesus as Master, is what happens is He passes over us, He is our Savior, and now we just continue to be slaves. We just read in Romans just a few minutes ago that we are to be free from this slavery. Remember? Go back and read Romans 6, 7 and 8. Freedom from the slavery of sin. How do we become freed?
Well, first of all, you’ve got to be unshackled. You’ve got to stop carrying those burdens. We have to let the slavery go. We have to release the slavery. We have to come out of it. So if the Passover now symbolizes God’s way of getting us away from and out of the penalty of the law, the curse of the law, the death required by the law, how do we now become free from sin? Or is this just some kind of falsehood, some kind of make believe thing? “Oh, yes, you're still a slave, but I'm going to pretend you are not.”
That's not what God wants. He wants to free us, which means sin has to be removed from our lives, and as you study the Feast of Unleavened Bread, sin – leavening – is removed from our lives. That's not only in the Old Testament. That is really brought out in the New Testament. The Old Testament doesn't explain leavening at the same level as the New Testament. Well, the New Testament shows that leavening is false doctrine. It's sin. It's what's against God. It's unrighteousness. It's all the things we've talked about.
So God wants to free us. He wants to free you from your sins, your addictions. You might say, "Well, thank God I'm not addicted like other people." Well, the moment you say that and you're proud of it, you're addicted to self-righteousness, which may be the hardest addiction to ever get over.
We're all addicted to sin. We like it. It brings us some kind of reward, temporarily, but remember its result. Remember we went death, separation from God, pain, misery, oppression, anxiety, destroyed relationships, destroyed environment. That's what it produces. But, you know, if we're only going to talk about the meaning of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, there's something missing, and that's why after these days, we have to talk about something else. We have to talk about the next Holy Day in the series of Holy Days, and that's Pentecost.
Because it's on Pentecost that God gave His spirit. His mind, His love, His motivations could come into a human being and change each and every one of us so that the shackles of sin are broken, the addiction to sin is broken, and we are free. We are free to worship God and to love God. We're free to love our fellow man. We're free to live the way God wants us to live and to be prepared for eternal life, but that's another subject. So join us again in two weeks as we continue to go through this series of Bible studies where we are discussing the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. I know for many people across the country it's stormy and snowy like it is here, so have a safe evening, and thanks for joining us.