Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, June 5, 2022
Does God Forgive All Sins? Part 1
By Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: A reassuring verse is found in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Yes, this verse is reassuring. But, is it completely accurate in all situations? Are ALL sins automatically forgiven, if one just asks God for forgiveness? Or, are there conditions, or exceptions, or limits?
I explore this topic today because it is crucially important for our consideration. I do not write, as one who has all (any?) of the answers. I, as a co-sinner with you and well acquainted with the topic of sin, write merely to start us thinking. It is up to you to work out the best answers for your life (Philippians 2:12b-13): … but now… work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For the One working in you is God– both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
WHAT IS SIN? I have sinned. You have sinned. Rabbi Weiner has sinned. Pope Francis has sinned. Even the Apostle Paul sinned, as he confessed his sins (Romans 3:23): … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Later in Romans, he lamented his moral failures (Romans 7:15, 17-20): For I do not understand what I am doing– for what I do not want, this I practice; but what I hate, this I do. |…| So now it is no longer I doing it, but sin dwelling in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me– that is, in my flesh. For to will is present in me, but to do the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do; but the evil that I do not want, this I practice. But if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I doing it, but sin that dwells in me.
Although we all sin, many of us have trouble defining sin. I am reminded of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s comment in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), when, unable to define hard-core pornography, merely explained, “I know [pornography] when I see it.” We may not be able to define sin, but we can usually recognize sin, when we see it. I find that sin is usually more difficult to detect in myself and always easier to detect in others. Gossipers make a “career” out of detecting and reporting others’ sins. Of course, such conversation is always ecclesiastical in nature, as gossipers usually add sweetly: “Now, be sure to pray for him/ her.” It is a valid prayer request, if the sinner being prayed for is not identifiable by name or circumstances; otherwise, it is gossip.
The English word “sin” found in a written document dates from AD 825. Different words are translated “sin” from the original text of the Bible:
● In the Tanakh, Hebrew nouns translated to the English “sin” include: ra`a` (pronounced, raw-AH); chatta’ah (pronounced, khat-taw-AW); rasha` (pronounced, raw-SHAW); ‘avon (pronounced, aw-VONE); ‘asham (pronounced, aw-SHAM); pesha` (pronounced, PEH-shah); ta’ah (pronounced, taw-AW); pasha’ (pronounced, paw-SHAH); and shagah (pronounced, shaw-GAW). These words may be translated “sin,” but may introduce subtexts of types of sin.
● In the B’rit Chadashah, Greek nouns translated to the English “sin” include: hamartia (pronounced, ham-ar-TEE-ah); paraptoma (pronounced, par-AP-to-mah); parabasis (pronounced, par-AB-as-is); asebeia (pronounced, as-EB-i-ah); and hamartema (pronounced, ham-AR-tay-mah). As in Hebrew, these Greek nouns may be translated “sin,” but may introduce subtexts of types of sin.
As you likely know, the concept of “sin” is this: God has a “mark” for each person to achieve. Different marks are set for different people, depending on personal gifts, abilities, and opportunities. When a person fails to reach marks God has for his/ her life, he/ she sins.
For many years, I believed an explanation I heard from a Sunday School lesson, which goes like this: King James’ archers practiced archery on the palace grounds. The target was a suspended iron ring (a sort of bull’s eye). If the archer missed his shot– that is, his arrow did not go through the ring– his fellow archers mocked him by shouting “sinnnnnn” (mimicking the sound of an arrow passing close to, but not through the target). In other words, “sinnnnnn” meant the archer had missed his mark. King James Bible translators had struggled to find an English word to translate the various Hebrew and Greek words denoting moral failures in the Bible’s text. They thought this archers’ sound was a perfect word for the Hebrew and Greek words, meaning ”to miss God’s target for a person’s life.” The English word “sin” was coined from the archers’ “sinnnnnn.”
This story about King James’ archers is an easy-to-remember explanation for the origin of the word “sin.” Unfortunately, the story is apparently not true.
Academicians give us a more boring explanation for the origin of “sin.” “Sin” comes from the Middle English word sinne, which is derived from the Old English word synn. Synn is derived from the Germanic root sunta or the Latin sons, both of which mean “guilty.”
ONLY OVERCOMERS MAY ENTER HEAVEN: Consider Yeshua’s letters to seven worship assemblies (Revelation, chapters 2 and 3). In earlier RRs, I tried to tie these letters to existing first-century assemblies in Roman Asia (modern Turkey) with following eras of assemblies from that time to the end of time.
In all letters, Yeshua claimed a common requirement for Believers to enter Heaven, warning these congregations:
● Ephesus (Revelation 2:7b): “… To the one who overcomes, I will grant the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God.”
● Smyrna (Revelation 2:11b): “… The one who overcomes shall never be harmed by the second death.”
● Pergamum (Revelation 2:17b): “… To the one who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone….”
● Thyatira (Revelation 2:26-27): “To the one who overcomes and guards My deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations and he shall rule them with an iron rod, as when clay pots are broken into pieces.”
● Sardis (Revelation 3:5): “The one who overcomes thus will be dressed in white clothes; I will never blot his name out of the Book of Life, and will confess his name before My Father and His angels.”
● Philadelphia (Revelation 3:12): “The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the Temple of My God, and he will never leave it. And on him I will write the name of My God and the name of the city of My God– the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God– and My own new Name.”
● Laodicea (Revelation 3:21): “To the one who overcomes I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I myself overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
And, in John’s description of the eternal New Earth and New Heaven, Yeshua said (Revelation 21:7): “The one who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”
Yeshua does not explain exactly what must be overcome. “Overcome” comes from a translation of the verb νικάω (transliterated, nikaō || pronounced, nik-AH-oh). This verb means “to conquer, to be victorious.” An “overcomer” must become victorious over something, but what?
Yeshua leaves us hanging. What must we conquer? Your interpretation is as good as mine. It may be that different persons have different battles in life to fight and conquer. I believe all of us, though, have a common battle we must conquer– the battle against sin.
WHY MUST SIN BE FORGIVEN? God is Holy. That is, He is free of sin. To appear in His presence or to be accepted by Him, we must be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16: Like obedient children, do not be shaped by the cravings you had formerly in your ignorance. Instead, just like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in everything you do. For it is written, “Kedoshim you shall be, for I am kadosh.” The last sentence with two Hebrew words may be translated to a commandment from God: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
In the Tanakh, there are instructions about being holy in Leviticus, chapters 11, 19, and 20.
In the B’rit Chadashah, when sins are finally forgiven and a person appreciates his/ her redemption, he/ she may truly be called “saint.” “Saint” translates the Greek ἅγιος (transliterated, hagios || pronounced, HAG-ee-os || translated, “most holy one” – that is, a resurrected being who is pure, unstained by sin, consecrated). When Yeshua returns at Armageddon with the Armies of Heaven, He will have in His armies angels and saints (including resurrected Believers).
CONQUERING SIN INVOLVES ALL THREE PERSONS OF THE TRINITY: We worship God in three Persons– God the Father, Yeshua the Son, and the Ruach ha-Kodesh (the Holy Spirit). Sin forgiveness is so vitally important that all three Persons of the Trinity are involved:
● God the Father is our standard for holiness. We should all strive to reach God’s standard of holiness, but no person will ever reach that standard. Because of His love, God grants mercy for the sinner. The sinner may receive forgiveness for the sin, not because he/ she deserves forgiveness but because he/ she is the recipient of God’s gracious, boundless love. A loving God extends grace to the sinner in order that the sinner may be justified– made whole and blameless because the sin is forgiven. We pray to God the Father, confessing our sins to Him and seeking His forgiveness. We can pray directly to God, because of Yeshua, and because God now lives in us as His Temple. We need no intermediary (Mary, saint, angel, priest, or other religious person) to or through whom to pray or to be granted forgiveness. Each Believer is his/ her own priest (1 Peter 2:4-5): As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house– a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Messiah Yeshua.
● Yeshua the Son is our model for a perfect life. We should all strive to reach Yeshua’s standard for a perfect life, but no person will ever reach that standard. Yeshua is our sacrificial (Passover) Lamb, whose death on Golgotha’s cross provided the only atonement acceptable to cleanse a sinner of his/ her sins. Since the first acceptable sacrifice by Abel to God (Genesis 4:4, Hebrews 11:4), there is a long history of blood sacrifices as being the only acceptable sacrifice for sin. When we repent and ask forgiveness, our sins are nailed to Yeshua’s cross at Golgotha, and His blood flows over our sins to cover them for eternity. Also, I believe Yeshua supervises whether a Believer’s name is written in or blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life. Yeshua is apparently the Divine Judge who judges us at the Bema Judgment. (As a Believer, you are exempted from appearance at the Great White Throne Judgment.)
● The Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) convicts us of sin. He is what we commonly call a “conscience.” The Ruach is our Paraclete, walking by our side as we journey through life. The Ruach teaches us what is morally right in the sight of God to counteract what Satan teaches us that is morally wrong. The Ruach convicts us of sin and leads us toward righteousness. He is our Helper, Intercessor, Guide, Comforter, Teacher, and One who Empowers. Read Isaiah 11:2-5 about the Ruach of Adonai.
It is a three-Person attack against sin in our lives. Adonai provides the mercy by which we may be forgiven of sin. Yeshua is our surrogate sacrifice, bleeding and dying for our sins, even though blameless Himself. The Holy Spirit counters Satan’s lies, pricks our conscience that we need to ask forgiveness and repent, and leads us to a better life. And yet, even with all of this anti-sin power available to humans, we choose to sin far more than we choose not to sin. We have been warned about the failure to choose God’s ways over Satan’s ways, and the consequences thereof (Matthew 7:13-14): [Yeshua said] “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS TO “ALL HAVE SINNED?” Considering Paul’s statement in Romans, “for all have sinned,” are there any exceptions? Consider:
● Yeshua: Most Believers agree that Yeshua was free of sin. There are approximately 100 verses of Scripture attesting to Yeshua’s sin-free nature (see: What Does the Bible Say About Jesus Did Not Have A Sin Nature? (openbible.info) ). God is the epitome of sin-free holiness. If Yeshua, part of the Holy Trinity, ever sinned, He would no longer be holy. He would not be worthy of being part of the Godhead. He would merely be human, like the rest of us.
SIDELIGHT: You may believe Yeshua never sinned, but not everyone shares your view. A recent poll indicates that approximately 40 percent of Generation Z persons believe Yeshua was a human who sinned like other humans, when He lived on Earth. (See: 40 Percent of Generation Z Believes Jesus Sinned: State of the Bible Survey – Christian News Headlines (christianheadlines.com) ). Older generations were not much better. About 37 percent of Generation X said the same, and 35 percent of both millennials and boomers agreed. The elderly polled in the study had the lowest numbers, with 26 percent believing Yeshua sinned. Recall Yeshua’s sad lament (Luke 18:8b): [Yeshua asked] “… But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” END sidelight.
● Mary (?): The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Virgin Mary (Hebrew name Miriam) lived from cradle to grave free of sin. That is:
□ Catholics claim that the mother of Yeshua was conceived “immaculately.” That is, she did not inherit the guilt of Adam’s “original sin,” as the rest of us supposedly do. Belief in “original sin” refers to Adam’s sin of disobedience in eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Proponents of original sin claim that all persons following Adam have been morally corrupted. All generations are born with the stain of Adam’s sin. We are all born with a sinful disposition; we all have a habitually sinful behavior.
Incidentally, it is convenient– and, unfair and erroneous– to blame Adam for our sins. A humorous, finger-pointing blame game occurred in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Chavvah (Eve) ate the fruit Adonai had forbidden them to eat (Genesis 3:11-13) – Adonai to Adam: “Have you eaten from the Tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” Adam: “That woman you gave to be with me gave me the fruit, and I ate.” Adonai to Eve: “And, what did you do?” Eve: “The serpent (Satan) deceived me, and I ate.” I think we have all been in this situation (covering sin by blaming others), although we have not talked directly to Adonai.
Probably all of us have been found with a hand in the cookie jar, and we have tried to lie our way out of a bad situation. We might fool others, but not God (Galatians 6:7): Do not be deceived– God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that he also shall reap.
With regard to Mary and all other humans, there is no “original sin.” Sin cannot be inherited from a parent or ancestor (see Ezekiel 18:20, Isaiah 53:6, Ephesians 2:1.) I am responsible for my sins. Period. I am not responsible for my father’s sins. Period. God is fair and just. He would not charge my father’s sins against me, sins which may have been committed even before my birth and may be unknown to me.
The only immaculate conception was Yeshua. Interestingly, sin is a byproduct of God’s gift to us– our free will. We receive conflicting messages– God-pleasing messages from the Ruach ha-Kodesh and God-displeasing messages from Satan and his demons. By our free will, we decide whether to follow the Ruach (not sinning and pleasing God) or Satan (sinning and displeasing God).
□ Catholics also claim that Mary never committed an actual sin. In her prayer while pregnant with Yeshua, however, she gratefully recognized that she needed a Savior (Luke 1:46-47): Then Miriam said, “My soul magnifies Adonai, and my spirit greatly rejoices in God, my Savior.” If Mary had been sinless, why would she need a Savior? Mary may be the finest woman who ever lived, but she was not without sin (1 John 1:8, 10): If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. |…| If we say we have not sinned, we make Him [God] a liar and His word is not in us.
Catholics seem very sensitive about “worshiping” Mary. They write extensively in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) about Mary. Pertinent material in the Catechism may be read here: Mary in the Catechism of the Catholic Church | Marians of the Immaculate Conception .
In the Catechism’s paragraph 493, we read: “The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God ‘the All-Holy’ (Panagia), and celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.’ By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.” You decide.
Has the Catholic Church created a Marian cult to give her more authority and perfection than existed or was ever intended? I respect Mary (Miriam). I have no reason to disparage her in any way. I am grateful for her role in the birth and rearing of the child Yeshua. I have no reason to question that Adonai found her a most blessed woman worthy of Yeshua’s upbringing. However, I find no need to erect a statue of her in my home; or, pray to her; or, call her a number of Divine names; and so forth. Speaking of Marian statues, is a statue of Mary, to which worship or adoration is directed, a “graven image” and a violation of one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:4-6)?
SIDELIGHT: A most common Catholic prayer is Ave Maria (“Hail Mary”) – see Catechism of Catholic Church, paragraph 2675, which prayer reads: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Do you find parts of this prayer a little unsettling? I do, but I will not mention what parts, as I want you to make up your own mind.
Catholics pray, using rosaries. A rosary is usually a string of beads, and the praying Catholic uses the beads to keep track of prayers. Rosary recitation may include repetitions of the Apostles’ Creed and prayers– Pater Noster (“Our Father”), Ave Maria (“Hail Mary”), Gloria (“Glory Be”), Salve Regina (“Hail Holy Queen”), and other prayers (the Fatima Prayer, etc.). The prayers are designed to be repetitious. Did Yeshua discourage repetitious prayers? See Matthew 6:7: [Yeshua said] “And when you are praying, do not babble on and on like the pagans; for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Of course, Catholics might counter with the Apostle Paul’s advice to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
The rosary (as beads) dates from ancient time in the Catholic Church. Catholic tradition holds that the practice of praying the Rosary dates to the 13th century, when it is claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic de Guzman in a vision. Mary allegedly told Dominic to encourage the people to pray the Rosary as a way of bringing them back to faith.
During the recitation of the rosary, the individual is meant to meditate on the saving mysteries of Yeshua’s life and the faithful witness of the Blessed Mother (Mary). END sidelight.
In next Sunday’s RR, I will suggest sins that may be unforgivable, despite the assurance of 1 John 1:19 that God is faithful to forgive all sins. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.
Counting the Omer – Day 43
Here is the proper blessing to be said each day.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher Kid’shanu B’mitzvotav, Vitzivanu Al Sefirat Ha-Omer.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by his commandments and commanded us about the counting of the Omer. Today is six weeks and one day of the counting of the Omer.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 05-Jun-2022 6th of Sivan, 5782
Ex 19:1–20:26 Nu 28:26-31 Ez 1:1-28; 3:12 Ru 1-4 Ac 2:1-41