Amazing Grace: Guy’s Question

grace2.jpgGuy asked regarding the last post of this series,

Does this [that we aren’t sinless unless we live as Jesus lived] mean that prior to Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were living as well as Christ did?


That’s a really good question.They lived under the law of God as had been revealed to them — and there weren’t many commands: don’t eat from the Tree, be fruitful and multiply, care for the Garden, be united with your wife as to your own flesh. That’s about it.

Now, interestingly, when Paul demonstrates the necessity of salvation in Jesus in Rom 1-2, he doesn’t argue “ignorance of the law is no excuse” (a favorite argument in 20th Century Church of Christ polemics). That’s the English common law, not the Bible. Rather, he argues,

(Rom 1:19-20 ESV) 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

(Rom 2:1-3 ESV)  Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.  2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  3 Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God?

In other words, Paul finds the Gentiles condemned because they violate what some call natural law — what even the pagans know to be wrong — and because they violate their own consciences. They are damned because they violate the part of God’s law they know.

Hence, in Eden and in Rom 1 – 2, mankind is only held accountable for the laws that we know — but in both Eden and Romans, that’s enough to damn us.

Does that mean that the Gentile doesn’t sin when he commits a sin ignorance? If he lives in a culture where premarital sex carries no moral stigma at all, is premarital sex still a sin? Well, it’s a pointless question, because he can’t be more damned. He’s damned by the law he knows, and whether it’s a sin to violate unknown laws is simply a pointless question.

So far as we’re concerned, all that matters is that he’s lost and needs to know Jesus. How lost he is is strictly God’s business.

(1Co 5:12-1 ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

We have no business judging those outside the church. That doesn’t mean we consider them saved! Far from it! Rather, it means that’s not our role. Our role is to be Jesus to them so they can be saved.

(1Co 5:9-10 ESV)  9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

Paul’s point isn’t that they’re innocent, but that God needs Christians to be among those of the world and yet unspotted by the world — for the sake of the world. Just like Jesus.


2 Responses

  1. Jay,

    i’m really not sure where most of your post came from. My train of thought was on the heels of JMF and the notion of “perpetual sin”–that we sin almost constantly by means of omission—failing to do things or do things as well as Jesus did.

    i only meant to point out that the Bible portrays sin as having entered the world at a very particular point and not before. Thus the humans that existed prior to that point must not have been continually failing by means of some sort of omission.

    You seem to point out that there are simply two different laws in place at the different points in question. Maybe so. But i’m with JMF in that it sounds like this makes even my prayers sinful if i don’t pray as well as Jesus did. And i’ll add that this also seems to imply that Christ introduced greater condemnation upon the world; Christ becomes an impossible standard to measure up to and now everyone is sinning by omission practically all the time (even if not literally all the time), yet Adam and Eve seemed to do just fine at being sinless until the serpent came along.


  2. When the serpent came, he tempted Eve to believe God was withholding good from her.

    It strikes me that JMF’s question and your comment above come close to a contention that Jesus brings actual evil into our lives by holding us to an impossible standard.

    When you want to make even earnest prayer a sin because you are not as earnest as Jesus, what is it but saying that Jesus makes us more sinful that we were before He came?

    I’m sure that is not your intent, but that is the way this line of questioning strikes me – unless you believe that this is what Jay’s teaching that we are to be like Jesus means. And since Jesus Himself invites us to follow Him, it’s hard for me to think that seeking to follow Him nearer to the heart of God makes me more, not less, sinful!

    In any event, you are overlooking passages like Romans 8:1, which says “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (note that “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” in this verse in the KJV is not in the better MSS).


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