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Saturday, May 21, 2005 

Holiness -- The Exception to the Rule of Hell

A question posed by a fellow blogger on my previous post has led me to turn the corner on my series on holiness and focus on the the issue of sin and its resultant place of residence -- Hell. I think in order to understand holiness and to grasp the fullness of the message of the Gospel, we as Christians must understand what sin is and what effects it has on us as individuals and on the world we live in.

First of all, I have found that no two people define sin in the same way. Some say it is "doing bad things" or "consciously committing evil acts." Others view it as simply making a mistake or hurting other people. But I think the Bible defines it much more graphically and in deeper detail. If we look closely at the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, we can see that God established His law through Moses succinctly in the Ten Commandments, but also meticulously throughout the remainder of the book of Exodus, as well as in Leviticus and Numbers. What this tells us is that though the Law can be summed up in only a few main commands (as Jesus Himself did when ask to summarize the law in one sentence), those few decrees have far-reaching applications.

I think that is the case when we approach an imperative statement like the one Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 10:31: "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Here Paul is concluding his entire argument for why those stubborn Corinthians should not participate in eating meat sacrificed to idols. He chooses to wrap it up this way, I believe, because to Paul the centrality of sin is found in acting with reference to glorifying ourselves rather than glorifying God. Stated another way, sin is the act of doing anything without conscious regard for the glory of God. Now while that may seem extreme from some view points, I think it is exactly modeled for us in the life of Christ. And later, it seems that Paul indeed seems to strive to live up to this same principle.

So, if that is the case, then we have to realize that we constantly sin. In every single moment of the day, we simply cannot avoid it. And what is ironic is that this seems to be the point that God is making to the Hebrews with the installation of the Law of Moses. As Paul says, it is a tutor to show us what sin is, and subsequently that we cannot help but engage in it.

And so that makes the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, the declarative statement that sin is no longer credited to our account, but rather is atoned for, expunged, eradicated from our lives. We no longer are at enmity with God, but rather we now stand righteous in His sight, bearing the perfect obedience of Christ which is imputed or place upon us through the act of justification by means of the grace of God, wrought by the Holy Spirit through our faith. Halleluah! Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Now, when we talk about this being the Gospel and salvation being exclusive to those who have faith, we inevitably must deal with the fact that millions of people die every day without Christ. And we must face up to the reality that many of those who have died, are dying, and will die, do so without anyone preaching the Gospel to them. We can deal with this in several ways which seem to boil down to two options: we either believe the testimony of God given through the Biblical writers which points to the fact that salvation comes by grace through faith or we suggest that somehow this formula can be fiddled with in some way so that men and women who consciously commit sin without believing upon Christ as Saviour and Lord can enter into God's rest.

First, why did I frame the last statement the way I did -- men and women "who consciously commit sin"? Well, it seems that though the Bible teaches that we enter through our mother's womb bearing a sinful nature, we still must commit sin in order to be judged for our deeds (see Matthew 16:27; John 5:29; Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11:15; and Revelation 20:12-13) . It is our actions which make us unrighteous before God. So immediately we must throw out any suggestion that the Gospel excludes those who do not understand or consciously commit sin. This would include infants and those who are severely mentally handicapped. In fact, there have been some great points made about the inclusion of these in the kingdom of God by Albert Mohler and Danny Akin in their article, "The Salvation of the 'Little Ones': Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?"

However, this does not excuse those who have never heard the Gospel and thus cannot reject Christ, as some claim to be the defining experience which determines one's eternal fate. Paul silenced this argument in Romans 1. Now some read this passage and say that what Paul was actually doing here was issuing a loophole for those who have never heard of Jesus, but do worship a god. However, Paul makes clear in Romans 10 that righteousness and salvation come through confession and belief and that furthermore, those who do so can only know this Jesus if indeed one is sent to preach to them. Thus, we can conclude that those who consciously commit sin or act in accordance with the law of sin in their minds and bodies, can only be saved through Christ's atoning work, which is applied by the Holy Spirit to those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and in whom faith in Christ resides.

So in conclusion, I would say that salvation is the exception to the rule -- the rule being that all who sin bear their guilt unless there is One to atone for their sins. That Saviour is Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who died a criminal's death so that He might be glorified by the millions upon millions who confess His name and place their trust in Him and so that He might in turn glorify God the Father in heaven. Thanks be to our Great God, for He has provided a way for sinful man to be saved. He has not deserted us and left us to our sin. Without Christ we would all have spent eternity in Hell.

Until Christ is Formed in Us All,

Thanks be to God for His wonderful gift! Jesus Christ died for us on the wicked Roman Cross. We should forever be thankful for His sacrifice for our wickedness!

Josh Buice

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About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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