Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, July 25, 2021

Shavuah Tov,

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)

Sun 25 July 2021 16th of Av, 5781

De 7:12-8:10Ez 371 Ch 16(Jn 5)2 Th 3

For All Have Sinned by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: In this short RR series, I will discuss something we all do, and do very well (Romans 3:23): … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I will discuss sin, which separates sinless Adonai from sinful man. 

What a dilemma! If man cannot enter Heaven because of sin, will Heaven be a lonely place, populated only by the Triune God and angels? Should a person even try to lead a good life on earth, if his/ her hopeless fate is already determined? Why not sin with abandon and enjoy this life because nothing better awaits you after death?

Rabbi’s Note: At the end of this lesson, Raymond invites my comments and notes.  Here is one such note at his invitation.  The use of the word “enjoy” in “enjoy this life” should not be misunderstood.  Sin may bring pleasure for a moment, but the lasting ill effect is, well… lasting.  The pain of sin is exactly the opposite of enjoyment and Satan is a liar.  End RN.

Even the Apostle Paul, who was probably as devout a Believer as any person who has ever lived, confessed (Romans 7:13-17): Therefore did that which is good become death to me? May it never be! Rather it was sin working death in me– through that which is good– so that sin might be shown to be sin, and that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. For we know that the Torah is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold to sin. 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. But if I do what I do not want to do, then I agree with the Torah– that it is good. So now it is no longer I doing it, but sin dwelling in me.

Denial of being a sinner is a lie in itself (1 John 1:8): If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 

Unholy sinners cannot appear in the presence of Holy Adonai, unless we are washed free of the stain of sin. As sinful humans, we would not be “created in His image” (Genesis 1:27). But, a loving, merciful God has defined a way– the only way– we can be forgiven of sin.

Being brought back from sin is commonly referred to as “redemption.” Redemption is, simply, “buying back.” In this series, please appreciate that all three Persons in the Trinity are involved in our redemption (our being bought) from sin:

● God the Father (Adonai) supplies grace and established the New Covenant, whereby man may be saved from sin through simple faith in the sacrificial death of Yeshua.

● God the Son (Yeshua HaMashiach) provided the blood sacrifice to wash our sins from us through His vicarious blood sacrifice.

● God the Holy Spirit (Ruach ha-Kodesh) convicts us of our sin and leads us to a  contrite state of mind whereby we can be redeemed. 

WHAT IS SIN? A simple definition of sin is “missing the mark” set by God (missing God’s desire for your life). God has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 1:5a): [Adonai said] “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I set you apart….”

The plan described in this verse from Jeremiah refers to God’s PERFECT will. A person can turn away from God’s perfect will because each person possesses free will. If you reject His perfect will, you may miss God’s desire for your life (the reason He set you apart before birth). Depending on the way you conduct your life outside of God’s perfect will, you may, then, live either in His PERMISSIBLE will or in SIN. For example, suppose God calls John (the name “John” was chosen without regard to any person now living or who ever lived) to be a missionary in the Amazon River jungles. If “John” becomes a hard-working missionary in Brazil, he fulfills God’s perfect will. If John fears jungle dangers, however, and becomes, say, an accountant in Knoxville, but is an active worker and exemplary leader in his congregation, a faithful husband, and a superb father, he lives in God’s permissible will. John cannot defeat God, though. If John does not accept God’s call, God will reveal His plan to Bob, who may go to the Amazonian jungles as a missionary, taking John’s place. Bob, then, will receive the crowns of honor that John could have been awarded. God loves both John and Bob and both can spend eternity in Heaven, but obedient Bob is the more honored one.

Rabbi’s Note:  This is not to say that the only way to please God is to serve His purposes in the Amazon jungle.  Plenty of people serve God’s perfect will for their life without going “on the mission field.”  Maybe your mission field is on the street where you live.  Maybe your mission field is with your coworkers.  Maybe your mission field is within your family.  Pray to God and pray with people you trust and you will hear from Him.  End RN.

In the Tanakh, the principal word translated “sin” is chatta’ah and such derivatives as chata and chet. Other Hebrew words for “sin” include pesha and avon. The Hebrew language has a complicated use of words for “sin.”

In the B’rit Chadashah, “sin” usually translates the Greek hamartia (ἁμαρτία). Hamartia is an archery term, which means “to miss the mark (target).” Theologians even have a branch of study based on hamartia, hamartiology, which is “the study of sin.” I wonder if Hamartiology 101 is taught in seminaries. The course’s laboratory sessions should be interesting: “Today, class, we will all study sin by practicing….” 

The English word “sin” comes from Middle English sinne, which is derived from the Old English synn. Synn derives from the Germanic root sunta or the Latin root sons, both of which mean “guilty.” 

Many years ago, I was told that Bible translators struggled to find an English word to translate the Greek hamartia. Soldiers were practicing archery on the lawn outside of the translators’ quarters. If a soldier missed the target, others soldiers would tease him by making the sound of an arrow whizzing past the target (sinnnnnn), This term, then, was shortened to sin. I have briefly searched for verification of this story, and find none. This anecdote makes a nice explanation of “sin,” but it is quite possibly untrue.

BLOOD AND THE REMISSION OF SIN: We are told plainly that there must be shedding of blood for forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22): And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Read a similar message from the Tanakh (Leviticus 17:11): [Adonai said] “For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives– for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life.” 

From the beginning, the importance of shed blood was appreciated. Shedding of blood indicated the ultimate sacrifice of a living being– life. To forfeit one’s life is the ultimate gift that can be made for another (John 15:13): [Yeshua said] “No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Yeshua used red wine at His final Seder with His disciples to teach the Communion meal and to symbolize His blood which would be shed for the forgiveness of sin. The Apostle Paul later explained (1 Corinthians 11:25-26): In the same way, [Yeshua] also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in memory of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  

God’s acceptance of blood sacrifices began with Cain and Abel (Genesis, chapter 4). Abel was a herdsman of sheep; Cain was a tiller of the ground (a farmer). The brothers brought sacrificial offerings to God. Cain brought an offering of his crops (fruits, vegetables, grains, which could be harvested without the shedding of blood). Abel brought an offering of animals from his flock. God accepted Abel’s animal offering (which involved the shedding of blood), but rejected Cain’s non-animal offering. A jealous Cain killed Abel. 

The Cain-Abel passage previewed the sacrifice by crucifixion of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua HaMashiach, which Adonai found to be an acceptable sacrifice. Yeshua’s death was extremely bloody. The Romans knew how to execute persons with less gore, but the shedding of Yeshua’s blood became an essential feature of His sacrifice for our sins.

For centuries, the Israelites/ Jews sacrificed untold millions of animals to God. Over time, these sacrifices became meaningless rituals, rather than drawing people closer to God. God spoke prophetically through His prophet that a new system of worship would be necessary (Jeremiah 31:30-33): “Behold, days are coming” – it is a declaration of Adonai– “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them.” It is a declaration of Adonai. “But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” – it is a declaration of Adonai– “I will put My Torah within them. Yes, I will write it on their heart. I will be their God and they will be My people. No longer will each teach his neighbor or each his brother, saying: ‘Know Adonai,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.” It is a declaration of Adonai. “For I will forgive their iniquity, their sin I will remember no more.” Here, God spoke of the future New Covenant, the covenant established by the crucifixion of Yeshua and the covenant under which we now live.

Read Hebrews, chapters 9 and 10, which is too extensive to print in this RR. In these verses, God recognized that the sacrifice of animals did not accomplish the desired change in the hearts and minds of people and that it was necessary to send the one-time, perfect sacrifice for the sins of men and women. That perfect sacrifice was then–  and still is– Yeshua HaMashiach and Him crucified.

YOU MUST OVERCOME SIN: In the Book of Revelation, Yeshua, speaking through the Apostle John, clearly stated that only a person who “overcomes” can enter New Jerusalem (Heaven). These warnings are found eight times in The Revelation (Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:5; 3:12; 3:21; and 21:7). The text does not specify what must be overcome, but it is probably sin that must be overcome.

YESHUA’S COMMANDMENTS: In last Sunday’s RR, I wrote that Yeshua simplified Judaism (and our beliefs) by condensing the entire Word of God into three commandments– love God with all your being, love your neighbor as you love yourself, and love fellow Believers as they are loved by Yeshua. I will not repeat that RR today. I pointed out that if a Believer truly follows these three commandments (no one can), he/ she could not sin.

WHAT IS THE UNPARDONABLE (UNFORGIVABLE) SIN? The short answer is that this sin is not specifically explained. The Bible teaches that God is willing to forgive– and even forget– any sin, if certain steps are followed. (See Isaiah 1:18, 43:25, 44:22; Psalm 103:11-12; Micah 7:19; Romans 4:8; 2 Corinthians 5:17, 19; 1 John 1:9; Hebrews 8,12, 10:16-17.) 

But, Yeshua spoke of a sin that cannot be forgiven– “the unpardonable sin” (Mark 3:28-29): [Yeshua said] “Amen, I tell you, all things will be forgiven the sons of men, the sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever slanders the Ruach ha-Kodesh never has release, but is guilty of an eternal sin!” Untold numbers of Believers over the past two-thousand years have probably wondered or feared, “Have I committed the unpardonable (unforgivable) sin, without even knowing it?” Does the idea of an eternally unpardonable sin contradict 1 John 1:9? This passage reads: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to convict persons of their sins and draw them to salvation (the acceptance of Yeshua as Savior). Some have said the unpardonable sin is rejection of the Holy Spirit’s urging a person to accept and follow Yeshua as Savior. This rejection of the Gospel message and dying in a lost state would, of course,  be unpardonable. (See John 3:16-19 and other Scriptures.)

Blasphemy is speaking in an irreverent manner, and many may have done this in ignorance before becoming saved (1 Timothy 1:12-14): I thank Messiah Yeshua our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to service– even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man. Yet I was shown mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed with the faith and love that are in Messiah Yeshua. It seems that Paul was telling us that we may have spoken against the Holy Spirit before we learned to respect His work within Messiah’s Body. 

We are warned not to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, after being grateful to God for saving us (Hebrews 6:4-6): For it is impossible for those who once were enlightened– having tasted of the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Ruach ha-Kodesh, and having tasted the good word of God and the powers of the olam ha-ba, and then having fallen away– to renew again to repentance, since they are again crucifying Ben-Elohim for themselves and publicly disgracing Him. [olam ha-ba = “the coming world” || Ben Elohim = “Son of God”]

If you blaspheme the work of the Holy Spirit, which is drawing sinners to a saving knowledge of faith in Yeshua, it is as though you crucify Yeshua again. You reject Yeshua’s one-time sacrifice for the souls of men and women as being sufficient.

By reading the verses which come before Yeshua’s statement about unpardonable sin (Mark 3:22-27), we understand that the Jewish religious leaders accused Yeshua of being possessed by Beelzebub (Satan) and Yeshua’s ministry as coming from Satan. 

Yeshua defended His words as coming from God, not Satan. When we attack other faiths as not being as faithful to Yeshua as we are, are we in effect attacking the work of the Ruach ha-Kodesh? Many beliefs form Messiah’s Body, as many parts form our physical bodies (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). As part of Messiah’s Body, we should not attack the other parts. One of Yeshua’s last prayers was that His followers would all become one with God and with Him and with each other (see John 17:1-26). When we observe Communion, the ordinance is intended to encourage us to come together as one with God and one with each other. 

Yeshua gave us a practical teaching about each person’s evaluation of him- / her- self before condemning others (see Matthew 7:1-5). In this teaching, He told us to first remove planks from our own eyes before being concerned about specks of sawdust in others’ eyes. Do you grieve God, when you criticize other brothers and sisters in Messiah’s Body? You should concentrate on making yourself and your congregation as good as possible, and let the Ruach ha-Kodesh deal with other Believers.

If you are concerned that you may have committed the unpardonable sin without knowing it, you probably have not. A person who would blaspheme the Holy Spirit and His work probably has little concern about sin. The fact that you may be concerned about an unintended sin likely shows a frame of mind, conscience, and love of God that would prohibit your blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, I am careful what I say about any member of the Godhead. I do not care to split hairs with my Divine Judge on what I now say in this life. 

HELP, RABBI: If you have other thoughts, Rabbi, please weigh in with a comment. When Scriptures leave us dangling and I try to fill in the blanks, I am usually neck deep in quicksand and sinking quickly. END, help, rabbi. 

Rabbi’s Note:  Overall, I liked the teaching.  I made a few notes and some simple edits, but I don’t have anything to add right now.  Thank you Raymond for writing this.  The subject matter is challenging and overall you did quite well with it.  Blessings to you and Linda.  

Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.