A Guide to Biblical Theology - Lesson 15

Paul's Teaching on Sin

The core idea of sin is refusing to honor and praise God. This is in contrast to the central theme in Paul's theology, which is knowing God in Christ. Jesus calls us to acknowledge him as Lord by our words and actions.

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A Guide to Biblical Theology
Lesson 15
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Paul's Teaching on Sin

I. The Fundamental Sin

a. The Failure to Honor God

1. The Gentiles

2. The Jews

3. All Humanity

b. Boasting and Pride

1. Boasting of our own Goodness

2. The Boasting of Israel

3. Boasting in Paul's Experience

II. The Power of Sin

a. Enslaving

b. Deceptive

III. The Legacy of Adam

IV. The Rationale for Mission

I. Jesus Reverses the Mess of Adam

II. Jesus Brings a New Creation

III. Following Jesus as Lord

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Class Resources
  • How to think about and interpret the Old Testament

  • How to explain in 30 seconds the contents and message of the Bible in a way that is meaningful and informative.

  • The order of the books in Hebrew Bibles is different from the English Old Testament because of the criteria used when putting them together.

  • The order of the books in the Hebrew Bible helps us understand God's covenant.

  • The twelve books in the Writings are divided into two groups of six. The first six books are about covenant life. The latter six books are about life in exile.

  • When the books of the Old Testament are ordered according to canon and covenant, they also correspond to the order of the books in the New Testament.

  • There is thematic organization through the Old Testament canon and massive correspondence to the arrangement of the books in the New Testament.

  • Common themes in the synoptic Gospels are the "kingdom of God," and a shift from the "old covenant" to the "new covenant." The ultimate question Jesus asks is will we choose to be a part of his kingdom?

  • A description of the teachings of Jesus, showing they were in contrast to what was promoted in the culture, as well as how there was continuity to the teachings of the Torah.

  • Jesus claimed to be God by the titles he used to refer to himself, by what he said and did, and by dying and then coming back to life. The Gospels record that the evidence for the divinity of Jesus was so overwhelming, that even Jews who had a strong tradition in worshiping one God who is a spirit, were compelled to worship Jesus as God, even though he was a man.

  • The Gospel of Mark focuses on Jesus as miracle worker, prophet and suffering servant. Matthew focuses on Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew includes much of Mark's material as well as some accounts that are unique to Matthew.

  • The Gospel of Luke has much in common with the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. Luke emphasizes Jesus' compassion for people who were outcasts and writes as a historian, with attention to detail.

  • John is the most unique of the four Gospels. He emphasizes that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. "Belief" is a key word for John because it means more to him than just mental assent.

  • Two of the themes Paul emphasizes throughout his epistles are the glory of God in Christ and God being magnified in Christ. Paul preaches to both Jews and Gentiles and emphasizes these truths in a way that each group can understand. He also explains God's call on his life and the authority God has given him to preach the gospel.

  • The core idea of sin is refusing to honor and praise God. This is in contrast to the central theme in Paul's theology, which is knowing God in Christ. Jesus calls us to acknowledge him as Lord by our words and actions.

  • The resurrection and ascension of Jesus demonstrated that Jesus is Lord. Philippians 2:6-11 and Colossians 1:15-20 are passages that teach that Jesus is both fully man and fully God. Justification means that God declares the wicked to be righteous. God provides salvation as a free gift so He is exalted because of what He has done.

  • Election excludes works as a reason for God choosing you. God's calling always results in salvation. God's calling is a tremendous example of his love for you. Paul encourages people to live the Christian life by being filled with the Holy Spirit and to act out of a motivation of love. He addresses baptism, the Lord's Supper, leaders in the church, church discipline and the resurrection. He also emphasizes the importance of persevering to the end.

  • Paul's letters describe how God desires people in the Church to function in unity and diversity and how the Holy Spirit gives them the power to do it. Paul exhorts people to live their lives in a way that glorifies God.

As opposed the Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology asks the question of what a particular book, or group of books, teach on different topics, showing emphases of the different parts of Scripture.

Please click on the Charts link under Downloads to access the chart that Dr. Van Pelt refers to in his lectures.

I. The Fundamental Sin

a. The Failure to Honor God

We are going to talk now about sin.  I think the fundamental sin is dishonoring God.  Why did Paul have to engage in mission?  He needed to engage in mission because the fundamental sin of human beings is the failure to honor and praise God.  He needed to engage in mission because human beings are separated from God.  They are not in a right relationship with him.

1. The Gentiles

We see that especially in Romans 1, starting at verse 18.  There Paul tells us: "God's wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."  What truth do they suppress?  Verse 19: they suppress what can be known about God.  What can be known about God is plain to them.  Why?  Because God has shown it to them.  So even people who cannot read or write or do not have the Bible know about God.  How do we know that?  By verse 20: for God's invisible attributes, God's qualities.  And what qualities does he have in mind?  That God is powerful and that He is God – His eternal power and divine nature.  The qualities of God that are clear to all peoples everywhere are that He is powerful and that He is God.

How do they know these truths about God?  Paul says: "God has made it plain to them."  God has shown it to them.  How has he shown it to them?  He says these things have been clearly perceived since the creation of the world in the things that have been made.  When people look at the sun and the moon and the stars and the seas and the oceans and the mountains and thunderstorms and hurricanes and wind storms, and the beauties of nature, the rivers and the waterfalls, they know that there is a God.  And they know that He is powerful.  They do not need a book to know this.  They know this through the created order.

But, Paul argues, they have suppressed that truth.  They have held that truth down.  Verse 21: they knew God through nature.  Through the world He created they know God.  But they did not honor Him as God or give Him thanks and praise.  They did not respond rightly to this revelation that is given to them through nature.  They suppressed it.  So they are without excuse.  Paul gives no evidence that anyone responded to this revelation rightly.  Instead they responded to this revelation in a way that was not pleasing to God.  Although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him.

But, instead of honoring and thanking and praising God, they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.  So they did not think correctly about God.  They thought they were wise (verse 22), but they became fools.  And they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images – for idols resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  So they turned away from God and worshipped other gods and trusted in them – whether it was the trees or birds or animals or statues of human beings or fetishes or whatever it is.  In the Western world people often worship money or sexuality.  They exchanged (verse 25) the truth about God, the glory of God for a lie.   They worshipped and served a creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever, amen.

The root sin for Paul is not actually lying or cheating or murdering or committing adultery or dishonoring parents.  The root sin is the failure to honor and praise God.  All these other sins, Paul makes clear, are a consequence of failing to honor and praise God.

Notice Paul says: therefore, because they failed to worship and praise God the way they should, God gave them up to the lust of their hearts, to impurity.  And we see the same thing in verse 26: "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions."  What is the reason?  Because they worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.  Verse 28: "Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind.  It was their failure to acknowledge God that led to all other sins.  So the root sin is idolatry.  The root sin is worshipping other gods rather than the one and true only God.  The root sin, we saw this last time, is the failure to maximize God's praise, honor and glory.  We are to be God-centered and Christ-centered in all we do.  And sin is a failure to honor and praise Him. 

Of course, that is not a whole of what sin is.  Sin is also the wrong actions that we do.  But it comes from (as Paul says in Romans 2:5 and we find often in the Old Testament) being stiff-necked – from being stubborn; from failing to respond to God.

2. The Jews

And, of course, in Romans 1 and 2, it is not only the Gentiles who failed to honor God, but also the Jews who had the Old Testament law.  They had the law, but they did not obey it.  They fell short of keeping God's commands.  So, sin is a failure to submit to God and His glory.  We see in Romans 2:21, Paul says to the Jews: You teach others, but do you teach yourself?  You preach against stealing, but do you steal?  You say that one must not commit adultery, but do you commit adultery?  You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?  So, the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of Jewish disobedience – because of their failure to do God's will.  Their stubbornness in their hearts comes about in their refusal to keep what God has commanded.

3. All Humanity

And Paul is very emphatic that all, without exception, are sinners.  In Romans 3:18-20, there is none righteous.  There is not even one.  There is no one who seeks for God.  All have turned aside.  All are corrupt.  And, of course, this fits with the Old Testament as well.  The Old Testament also teaches that all sin and fall short of what God has required.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

In fact, Paul often emphasizes that no one can be right before God by keeping the law, by the works of the law.  The works of the law, in Paul, refer to the deeds (the actions) that are commanded in the Old Testament law – in the Mosaic Law; in the law given at Mount Sinai.  That law gives works (deeds) that are to be carried out.  But Paul says no one is justified before God by the works of the law.  No one is righteous before God by the works of the law, because everyone fails to do those works.  What God requires is those works are actually carried out.  And we see that in Romans: "Now, we know that whatever the law says [that is speaking of the Mosaic Law, the Old Testament law], it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped.  No one has any defense of themselves.  And the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by the works of the law, no human being will be justified in His sight.  No human being will be right before God, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin.  So the law cannot save.

Gentiles, who cannot read and write and do not have a book, are not saved through the revelation of nature, because they suppress that revelation and they refuse to worship and honor God.  And Jews are not saved through the works of the law, because no one keeps that law.  They all fall short of what the law requires.  God requires perfection.  No one does everything that God requires.

Galatians 3:10 says: "For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse.  For it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to do them'."  So, God says there is a curse on anyone who does not obey everything – absolutely everything – He commands.  And, of course, no one can do, as Paul has made clear in Romans.  No one can do all that God has commanded.  And so no one can be righteous by works of the law.  Or, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:9, 2 Timothy 2:9 and Titus 3:5, no one can be righteous by works, since God demands perfection and since human beings sin.  There is no hope for those who try to be right with God by the things they do.  So, sin is not only a dishonoring of God and the failure to glorify Him, but that failure to glorify God manifests itself in the way we live and our failure to do what God has commanded. 

b. Boasting and Pride

1. Boasting of our own Goodness

Sin is very broad-based.  Sin manifests itself in boasting.  Human beings want to boast about how good they are and how they are better than other people and how much good we have done.  And Paul emphasizes again and again that boasting and pride are eliminated for those of us who are Christians.  We are to boast only in Christ and Him crucified.  In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Paul makes clear that we have no reason to boast, because God chose us to be saved.  We are not saved because of how good we are.  We are saved because God has chosen us to be His own.  That is why we are saved only through the message of the cross.

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians so that the Corinthians would not be proud, because pride is another way of speaking of the root sin, isn't it?  When we are proud, we are focused on what we have done and what we have accomplished and our own obedience or goodness.  And there is no room for pride before God.  All the glory and honor and praise goes to Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 8-10, the problem with the strong in these chapters is that they are proud of their strength.  They are proud that they can eat foods offered to idols rather than the weak.  So they think they are strong.  It is the same thing in 1 Corinthians 12-14.  The problem with the Corinthians is they are proud of their use of their spiritual gifts.  They think that because they speak in tongues that they are better than other believers.  But Paul has no use for such a high estimate of themselves.  Simply because they speak in tongues, that says nothing about their own spiritual maturity.  Their spiritual maturity would be marked by love and humility, not by the pride they are exercising because of their spiritual gifts.

We see the same thing in 2 Corinthians 10-13.  The false teachers there are proud of their spiritual exploits.  And that is an indication that they really do not know Christ – that they are false apostles.  And Paul says the same thing about the false teaching in Colossae, that it leads to pride and boasting and arrogance.  All these are signs that someone does not truly know God – that someone is focused on themselves rather than God.  There is no room for boasting.

2. The Boasting of Israel

Israel was apt to boast because of its obedience of the law.  So Paul, again and again, in his letters speaks against legalism.  I define legalism as the belief that we gain merit before God by what we do – that we stand in the right before God by what we do.  But Paul rules that out doesn't he?  He says: "Then what becomes of our boasting" (Rom.3:27).  It is excluded.  By what kind of law?  By a law of works?  No, but by a law of faith.  Of course boasting would not be eliminated by works, because we are naturally going to boast in our works.  If we do the works, we are going to boast of what we have accomplished.  But boasting is ruled out because we are justified only by faith.  Paul says that one is justified by faith apart from works of law.  So right standing with God does not come by what we have done, but only by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works.  And so the fundamental sin there is the trust in ourselves.  And we continue to see that in these verses.

Romans 4:2 – "If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about."  If he actually did the works and kept the law perfectly, he has something to boast about.  And that is true.  But he has no reason to boast before God, because he did not do the works.  He sinned.  He was an idolater.  Joshua 24:2 makes it clear that Abraham was an idolater and did not know God before he was saved.  He was saved what?  By faith.  Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.  So he had no reason to boast in his works.

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due.  If salvation is by our works, then we can take credit for belonging to God for our good works being the basis of our right relationship to God.  But that is not what Scripture teaches.  Scripture teaches that salvation is not by our works, because we have all sinned.  And therefore there is no reason to boast.  It is to the one who does not work but believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.  So the faith that saves is not the faith that boasts.  We see again here that boasting is part of sin – that when we rely on our works.

Paul says this over and over again to the Jews, doesn't he?  He says in Romans 9:31 – Israel, who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness, did not succeed in reaching that law.  Why?  Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.  They thought they could be right with God by what they did, instead of trusting God's promise in Christ.  And therefore they stumbled over faith in Christ, because they were focused on their works and their boasting.

Romans 10:1 – "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them [for Israel] is that they may be saved.  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."  There is a zeal for God that is truly a zeal, but does not save.  And that is what is the case here.  These Jews have a zeal for God, but it is not a saving zeal.  Why?  We see in verse 3: they are ignorant of God's righteousness.  They are ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God.  And therefore they are seeking to establish their own righteousness, so they can boast.  So here we see the heart of sin again.  What is the heart of sin?  It is seeking to establish our own righteousness.  Sin says that we are good.  So the Jews did not submit to their own righteousness.

For Christ is the end of the law resulting in righteousness to everyone who believes.  How does righteousness come?  Righteousness does not come by doing – by our works.  Our righteousness comes by believing – by trusting in what God has done for us in Christ.  For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law: that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.  The righteousness of the law is based on doing and performance and it leads to establishing our own righteousness and boasting in it.  But the righteousness of faith looks to what God has done for us in Christ: in bringing Him to earth and in raising Him from the dead and in trusting Him for every good work.  So it is a new kind of righteousness that is distinct from what we would think and believe as human beings.  We would think that we become right with God in a different way, but God surprises us.

We see the same thing in Philippians 3.  There Paul, again, is thinking of Jewish opponents and he says to beware of the dogs and beware of the evil workers and beware of the false circumcision.  So, these people again, they trusted in their works and what they had done, instead of trusting in God.  But who is the true circumcision?  It is those who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus.

So I hope you can see how this is tied together with the main theme that I have been saying is the center of Paul's theology, to glory in God in Christ.  What is the problem with works?  The problem with works is we put confidence in the flesh.  We trust in ourselves instead of glorying in Christ Jesus.  We glory in what we do and we have accomplished.  We boast in ourselves instead of glorying in Christ Jesus.  But those who trust in God, they worship what God has done in Christ.

3. Boasting in Paul's Experience

They do not put confidence in the flesh as Paul did.  Before Paul was saved, Paul trusted in his being circumcised on the eighth day, on being an ethnic Jew, by knowing the Hebrew language, by being a Hebrew of Hebrews.  He could speak the native language.  He trusted to the fact that he was a Pharisee and very committed to the law, to his great zeal for God manifested in persecuting the church.  He even says he was righteous under the law.  He was righteous.  As to the righteousness of the law, he was blameless.  But whatever gain I had, he says, I count it as loss for the sake of Christ.   These things did not save.  I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Here we see the center of Paul's theology again.  The center is knowing God in Christ, isn't it?  The center is giving everything to Christ.  For His sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.  So Christ is the center and the circumference of Paul's life.  He is Paul's all in all.  It is either righteousness by the law or righteousness in Christ.  So he says: "And to be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ."  The wrong kind of righteousness is our own righteousness.  It is a righteousness that comes from our obedience to the law – that comes from our own works.  But that is the wrong kind of righteousness, isn't it?  That is not the righteousness that saves and delivers.  The righteousness that saves is the righteousness that is a gift.

Sin means we focus on ourselves (Eph.2:9) – that we focus on our works, rather than on faith in Jesus Christ.  We focus on what we can accomplish, rather than what God accomplishes through us.  It is just so helpful again to see what the  heart of sin is.  It is not doing wrong things; it is boasting in ourselves.  Of course, I should not say it "is not".  It is doing wrong things, but it flows out of a self-worship.

II. The Power of Sin

a. Enslaving

Sin, of course, is also a power in Paul's theology.  It is something that rules over us.  It is incredibly strong and enslaving.  So in Romans 5:21, Paul can say that sin rules over us.  In Romans 6:6, 6:16, 6:17, 6:18, 6:20 and 6:22, he says that sin enslaves.  Before we were believers, sin enslaved us.  It ruled over us utterly and totally and completely.  Now that we are in Christ, that is not the case.  It is good to know (to understand) how powerful sin was before we were saved.  And we were slaves to it.  We were not free from the power of the sin.  We were totally under sin's rule.  We did what we wanted to do as sinners.  When we were sinners, before we are saved, we did what we want to do.  But what is it we want to do?  We always want to sin, because we are under sin's reign.  We are under its power.

Of course, Paul says in Romans 6:12, that believers must not let sin reign and rule in their lives because they know Christ.  That slavery of sin has been broken in Christ (Rom.6:14).  Sin will not rule over you.  But we see here the power of sin before we are believers.  Sin rules over us, so that Paul often speaks of being under the power of sin.

He can say we are under a curse, under the curse of the law (Gal.3:10).  We are under the power of sin (Gal.3:22).  We are under the law (Gal.3:23).  We are under the pedagogue (Gal.3:25).  We are under the law (Rom.6:14-15).  We are sold under sin (Rom.7:14).  We are under the elements of the world (Gal.4:3).

Those who are under the law, under the old covenant – under the Sinai covenant; under the Mosaic Law; those who are under the law – are under sin for Paul.  They are under a curse.  To be under the law is to be under sin, because the law provides no power for transformation.  The law represents God's good and perfect will, but it cannot change our hearts.  It does not transform us.  So even though the law is good, sin co-ops it and uses it for its own nefarious purposes.  So powerful is sin that it can take something beautiful like the law and use it for its own purposes so that believers are sold under sin.  All those who are under the law are also under sin – those who are under the old era of redemptive history.

Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 15:56 – "the power of sin is the law".  The law is completely under the dominion of sin, so that believers are no longer under the law.  Now, we will say more about that, I hope, later.  That does not mean there are no moral norms for believers, but it means that those who are under the law (Rom.7:14-25) cannot do what they want.  They are sold under sin.  They are taken captive to sin.  So sin is so powerful that it rules completely over those who do not know God.

We see the letter/spirit contrast in Paul in Romans 2:29, Romans 7:6 and 2 Corinthians 3:6.  And in every case, the letter, which represents the law – the law that is written, God's good and holy and perfect law – but the letter kills Paul says.  The letter cannot give life.  The letter cannot transform us.  The law has no power for those who are not saved, so great is the power of sin.  Notice what Paul says in Romans 8.  He says the mind set on the flesh is death.  In Romans 8:7, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law.  Indeed, it cannot.  Unbelievers cannot keep God's law because of the power of sin.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  The flesh has no power to do what is right and to please God and to do His will.

What human beings need is the Holy Spirit.  They are impotent to please God and do what pleases Him.  We need to see the very strength of sin in order to understand how great is the salvation accomplished for us in Christ Jesus.  Human beings are impotent to spiritual things.  The sin consists in failure to welcome the things of the Spirit.  We see that in 1 Corinthians 2:14, where it says the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.  This is what sin consists of: a failure to welcome the things of the Spirit.  For they are folly to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  He does not welcome and receive them as beautiful and lovely, because he does not have the Spirit.  So the natural person hates the things of the Spirit.  He does not welcome the love of the truth, but takes pleasure in unrighteousness.

We see that in 2 Thessalonians 2:9.  We see that as the coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonder and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing.  And why are they perishing?  That means going to hell there, doesn't it?  Because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. 

b. Deceptive

So here is another dimension of sin.  It is the refusal to love the truth.  We have seen it is a refusal to glorify and honor God.  It is to be a slave to sin and in bondage to sin.  We have seen that we are not saved by the works of the law, because we all sin.  And therefore, here it is those who took pleasure (as verse 12 says) in unrighteousness.  So, bondage to sin is such that those who are in such bondage delight in being in that bondage, because they actually enjoy what is evil instead of rejoicing in what is good and rejoicing in what God has done in Jesus Christ.  Instead of glorifying Him and trusting in Him, they find delight in what is evil and what is not pleasing ultimately to God.

The God of this world (2 Cor.4:4) has blinded the minds of unbelievers.  They are held captive by Satan to do his will.  So, there are also spiritual forces (demons and the devil) that hold people in captivity while they are unbelievers.  Unbelievers are  under the control of the world, the flesh and the devil.  We see that very clearly in Ephesians 2.  He says: "And you are dead in your trespasses and sins."  What does it mean to be a sinner?  He means to be dead – not just to be sick, not just to be weak, but to be dead in trespasses and sins.  "In which you once walked following the course of the this world."  So there is the influence of the world in which we live.  I think he means there the influence of other people – the environment in which we live; the social setting in which we live; the culture in which we live.  We follow the course of this world.  We follow the lives of others who are around us.  We imitate the way they lived and we lived in a similar way.  We follow the prince of the power of the air – that is Satan – the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.  Before we are saved, we follow what Satan does.  And then there are the passions of the flesh – carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.  So doing what we desire before we are saved – it is the world, the flesh and devil isn't it.  And we were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.  We were under the wrath of God (Eph.5:8).

We were in darkness.  Sin is also described as being in darkness.  We are not under the authority of the light (1 Thess.5:4-5).  We do not see the light before we are believers.  Sinners only see darkness.  Unbelievers are destined for wrath (God's anger) on the last day (1 Thess.1:10; 5:9).  Unbelievers are under the dominion of idols (1 Thess.1:9).  They worship idols.  They find their delight in idols.  They trust in idols, instead of the true and the living God.  The power of sin in unbelievers is to live in lawlessness (2 Cor.6).  It is to live in darkness.  It is to live under the reign of Satan (or Belial as he says here).  It is to be an unbeliever.  It is to focus on idols.  It is to be living in that which is unclean.  All of that is what it means to be an unbeliever.  We saw earlier in Ephesians, it is to be without Christ, without hope, without God, separated from the commonwealth of Israel.  Clearly not saved.

III. The Legacy of Adam

It is to be in the flesh, isn't it, instead of the Spirit?  Which the flesh, in Paul, does not just mean our physical bodies.  God made our physical bodies and our bodies are good.  But because of our participation in Adam's sin, we are born into the world as flesh.  We need new resurrection bodies.  So Paul can speak of the works of the flesh.  But the works of the flesh are not just physical.  We see that in Galatians 5:19-20.  The works of the flesh are not just sexual sin or drunkenness.  Those are the works of the flesh, aren't they?  Sexual sin and drunkenness.  But they are also enmity and strife and hatred and dissension and factions.  So the works of the flesh are not only physical sins.  We see in Romans 13:13-14 that besides drunkenness and sexual sin and carousing and reveling, the works of the flesh are also strife and jealously.  We see in Romans 7:7-25 that one of the works of the flesh is coveting – desiring other things.  And we see in 2 Corinthians 11:18, Galatians 6:12 -13, Philippians 3:3-4 that one of the works of flesh is pride.

We are born in Adam – sons and daughters of Adam.  We are in the flesh because we are born as children of Adam.  We are not of the Spirit.  Those in the flesh, as we saw, cannot keep God's law.  So, at least for believers, Paul emphasizes again and again that we are not to give into the flesh, because it is the false teachers who want to boast according to the flesh (2 Cor.11:18).  They war according to the flesh (2 Cor.10:3).   The Galatian opponents want to make a good showing in the flesh (Gal.6:12-13).  The Philippian opponents want to boast in the flesh (Phil.3:3-4).   But the works of the flesh (Gal.5:21) will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Part of what it means to be a sinner is to be in the flesh.  Part of what it means is to be in Adam – what it means to be under the dominion of sin – is to be under the control of the old Adam.

We see this in Romans 5 starting in verse 12.  "Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man [and that one man is Adam] and death through sin."  So death was the consequence of sin, the one man Adam's sin.  But death spread to all through him.  So we are sons and daughters of Adam, aren't we?  We die because we are sons and daughters of Adam.  And so spiritual death spreads to all.  And as a result of that, all sin because of spiritual death.  We are all born spiritually dead in Adam.  Because we are Adam's sons and daughters, we do not enter into this world alive when we are born.  We enter into this world spiritually dead.

Sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Before there were even the commandments of the law – the commandments given by Moses – sin existed.  But sin is not counted as sin, technically speaking, where you do not have a [law] written.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses.  So here we see the reign of death, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the One who was to come.  So Adam's sin and the consequences of his sin spread to all, so that all died.  We see this, for many died through the one man's trespass (verse 15).  All people died through Adam's trespass.  Death came into the world through Adam's sin (Rom.5:16).

The judgment following one trespass brought condemnation.  So the judgment on us follows Adam's trespass and sin, and it brings condemnation to all.  Because of one man's trespass (that is, Adam), death reigned through that one man (verse 17).  Death reigns over all, because of Adam's sin.  Because of Adam's one sin, death has spread to us all.  We have participated.  We have become part of Adam's sin.  One trespass led to condemnation for all men (Rom.5:18). Adam's one sin led to the condemnation for us all.  The one man's disobedience – that is, Adam (verse 19).  By the one man's disobedience, the many were made sinners.

So I do not think anything can be clearer than that Adam's sin has affected us all.  We fall short of what God has required, because we are born in Adam as sinners.  And we need the grace of God to be released from the power of Adam's sin.  We do not enter into this world as good people.  We enter into this world as people who are evil – who are under the power of sin and death, because we enter into the world as Adam's children.  We enter into this world as condemned and destined to death and separated from God spiritually.

We see this as well in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 – "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead."   Who is the man by whom death came?  Adam.  1 Corinthians 15:22 makes that clear.  "As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."  So there we see the power of sin in that we are sinners through Adam.

IV. The Rationale for Mission

So, here we have seen why Paul engages in his mission.  He engages in his mission to bring the message of the glory of God in Christ and the need for salvation, because all people are sinners.  All have dishonored God.  They have refused to honor and praise God the way they should.  We have rejected the revelation that God has given us through the natural world.  We have violated God's law.  We have not observed the works of the law.  We have done what is evil.  Even though we have not done what is pleasing to God, we boasted about our obedience, even though it is not even impressive.  We have been proud.  We have thought that we have kept God's law.  But Paul has made it very clear that there is no reason for boasting, because we have all sinned.  We are under bondage to sin.  Sin is a power that rules over us, that enslaves us and reigns over us.  And we are under a curse.  We are under sin.  We are under the law before we are saved.  We are under the pedagogue.  We are in bondage to sin.  We cannot do what we want.  The letter of the law kills.  We cannot keep God's law.

We need the Holy Spirit.  We do not welcome the things of this Spirit.  We do not welcome the love of the truth.  We take pleasure in unrighteousness.  We are under the dominion of Satan.  Satan has blinded us and we are  held captive by Satan to do his will.  We are under the authority of the world, the flesh and the devil.  We are in spiritual darkness.  We are destined for wrath.  We are children of wrath.  We are under the dominion of idols.  And we are under the dominion of the flesh and our fleshly desires, which are not just physical sins.  And then we are born in Adam as condemned and judged and spiritually separated from God.  We need a new way to be saved, don't we?  We need the power of the gospel.  We need Jesus Christ. 

The Lordship of Jesus

And so that is the theme of Paul's theology, isn't it?  And that is what I want to speak about next is that Jesus is Lord.  Jesus rules.  Jesus succeeded where Adam failed.  Jesus is the second Adam.  Jesus is the new Adam.  Adam brought death into the world, but Jesus brought life.  He was raised from the dead and here we see the theme of the resurrection.  The resurrection is the indication that God's promises have come to pass – that the new age promised in Ezekiel has arrived and come and that we live in that new age now if we belong to Christ.  Even though it is not yet consummated, it has been inaugurated through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He has delivered us from the present evil age through his resurrection.  Life has dawned because Jesus has conquered death.

I. Jesus Reverses the Mess of Adam

Adam has introduced a great mess into the world, but Jesus has reversed that mess for those who belong to Him.  He has delivered them from the dominion of sin and Satan.  You know what a great thing it is to clean up something that is messy.  We all know how easy it is for something to be devastated.  It does not take long to devastate a home or a business or anything.  We can destroy very quickly by war or pillaging or just destruction.  Things can become messy and unorganized quickly.  But it takes a great deal of effort and time and often money to make something right and that is what Jesus had done, hasn't he?  He has reversed the consequences of Adam's sin.  He has cleaned up what Adam has done so remarkably, so that we are new people now in Him.  There is just such a new and remarkable work in Christ and the resurrection, because the greatest devastation of all is death and Jesus has reversed that death for us.

He is the one new man (Eph.2:15).  We are a new man in Christ.  We are not the old man Adam.  You can see this in Ephesians 4:22 and 4:24 and Colossians 3:9 and Romans 6:6 and Romans 13:14.  We are to put on Jesus Christ as the new man, as the new Adam.  If we belong to Christ, we are part of the new Adam.  We are part of the new humanity.  The only way to escape what Adam has done is to belong to Jesus Christ and to be joined together with Him.  Adam was created according to the image of God, but Jesus is the image of God (2 Cor.4:4; Col.1:15 and Rom.8:29).  He perfectly represents God to us.  So to be in Christ is to belong to God Himself, isn't it?  God is revealed to us in Christ as the image.

II. Jesus Brings a New Creation

If we are in Christ (which we saw in Ephesians 1:3-14), we are in the new humanity.  We are part of the new creation (2 Cor.5:17).  We are redeemed.  We are sons of God.  We are brought near in Christ.  We are reconciled in Christ.  We are chosen in Christ.  There is no condemnation in Christ.  We are one in Christ.  We are seated in the heavenlies in Christ.  We are free in Christ.  That is the fundamental issue for Paul is whether we belong to Christ.

It is interesting in Galatians that the whole issue there is: Are you a part of the family of Abraham or not?  Are you of the seed of Abraham?  Are you part of the offspring of Abraham?  Those who are saved from the sin of Adam are those who belong to Abraham.  And what Paul emphasizes there is that Jesus is the only true seed of Abraham.  He is the second Adam and He is the true seed of Abraham.  In Genesis 12:3, we see that all nations will be blessed through Abraham.  That blessing that comes through Abraham only comes through Jesus.  Abraham, we read in Romans 4:13, would be the heir of the world.  The whole world will be blessed through Abraham.  But that blessing of Abraham, we are told in Galatians, comes only through Christ, because Christ is the only true and genuine seed of Abraham.

So if one wants to escape the power of sin that we have looked at, one can only escape it by belonging to Jesus Christ.  He is the true seed of Abraham.  He is the Son of David.  He is the Son of man.  He is the Servant of the Lord.  We must belong to Him.  Of course, Jesus is not only the seed of Abraham, Jesus is Lord.  He is exalted on high.  He is the Ruler of all.  He is confessed as Lord.  That is what it means to be a Christian, to confess and accept Jesus as Lord – to acknowledge that salvation comes in Him.  Paul says in Romans 10:9 that when we confess Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved.

III. Following Jesus as Lord

And Colossians 2:6 says that we are to continue to follow Jesus as Lord.  So what it means to be a Christian is not simply at one point in time accept Jesus as Lord, but to continue to acknowledge Jesus' Lordship – to live out that Lordship in everyday life; to submit to His Lordship.  We conquer the power of sin when we submit to Jesus as Lord – when we receive Him as Lord; when we follow Him as Lord; when he is Lord over everything we do: when He is Lord over our sexual lives (1 Cor.6); when we do everything in His name (Col.3:17).  When we live in harmony with each other (Phil.4:2), we acknowledge Jesus as Lord.  When we resist the devil (Eph.6:10), we have acknowledged Jesus as Lord.  When we respect leaders (1 Thess.5:12), we receive Jesus as Lord.  When we turn away from false teaching, we are following Jesus as Lord.  When we are not ashamed of the gospel, we are following Jesus as Lord.  When wives are submitting to their husbands, they are following Jesus as Lord.  When children obey their parents, they are following Jesus as Lord.  When slaves obey their masters, they are following Jesus as Lord.  In everything in life, we are to follow and accept Jesus as our Lord.  And I will continue that in my next lecture.