Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Slaves to Righteousness – Following Christ’s Way to Righteousness, Sanctification and Eternal Life’
© March 30 2014 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #668
(The New Life – Colossians 3); Prayer
Opening Hymn #553: Morning Has Broken
Scripture Verses: Psalm 32:5, Genesis 9:8-17 and 2 Peter 2:4-10
Let us pray…
Psalm 32:5 (ESV)
5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
This passage from Psalm 32 illustrates a few of the challenges we sometimes encounter when studying the Scriptures.
For example, Psalm 32 closes with ‘Selah’. What did the Psalmist mean when using ‘Selah’ to end a psalm? I found an interesting, though somewhat ambiguous answer from got questions.org:
Question: “What does ‘Selah’ mean in the Bible?”
Answer: The word “Selah” is found in two books of the Bible, but is most prevalent in the Psalms, where it appears 71 times. It also appears three times in the third chapter of the minor prophet Habakkuk. There is a great deal of confusion about the meaning of “Selah,” primarily because the Hebrew root word from which it is translated is uncertain. Well-meaning Bible scholars disagree on the meaning and on the root word, but since God has ordained that it be included in His Word, we should make an effort to find out, as best we can, the meaning. One possible Hebrew word that is translated “Selah” is Calah which means “to hang” or “to measure or weigh in the balances.” Referring to wisdom, Job says, “The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold” (Job 28:19). The word translated “valued” in this verse is the Hebrew Calah. Here Job is saying that wisdom is beyond comparing against even jewels, and when weighed in the balance against wisdom, the finest jewels cannot equal its value. “Selah” is also thought to be rendered from two Hebrew words: s_lah, “to praise”; and s_lal, “to lift up.” Another commentator believes it comes from Salah, “to pause.” From these words comes the belief that “Selah” is a musical direction to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the Psalms, which was the hymnbook of the Israelites. If this is true, then each time “Selah” appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, either to take a breath, or to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise Him about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship. This would encompass all these meanings—praise, lift up, and pause. When we consider the three verses in Habakkuk, we also see how “Selah” could mean “to pause and praise.” Even though Habakkuk was not written to be sung, Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 inspires the reader to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace and sufficiency. Perhaps the best way to think of “Selah” is a combination of all these meanings. The Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where “Selah” appears. When we see the word in a psalm or in Habakkuk 3, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths. “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.” Selah! (Psalm 66:4). Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/selah.html#ixzz2xPvTsXxe
Whether Selah is intended to be used to instruct the reader to praise, lift up, pause, or any combination of the three, is not helpful to understand three terms, iniquity, sin, and transgression, which are used in Psalm 32. Today, many Christians frequently use these terms interchangeably today, apparently unaware that sin, iniquity and transgression possess subtle differences in both usage and meaning. In this case, we find gotquestions.org a little more helpful:
Question: “What is the difference between iniquity, sin, and transgression?”
Answer: In Psalm 32:5, the psalmist says, “I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’” In this one verse, “sin,” “iniquity,” and “transgression” are all mentioned. Basically, the three words communicate the same idea: evil and lawlessness, as defined by God (see 1 John 3:4). However, upon closer examination, each word also carries a slightly different meaning. The word sin and its cognates are used 786 times in the New International Version of the Bible. Sin means “to miss the mark.” It can refer to doing something against God or against a person (Exodus 10:16), doing the opposite of what is right (Galatians 5:17), doing something that will have negative results (Proverbs 24:33–34), and failing to do something you know is right (James 4:17). In the Old Testament, God even instituted sacrifices for unintentional sins (Numbers 15:27). Sin is the general term for anything that “falls short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin leads to a downward progression that, without the restoring power of the Holy Spirit, we all tend toward. The sin nature is present in every human being born since the Fall of Adam (Genesis 3:6–7; Romans 5:12). If left unchecked, continual sin leads to a “reprobate mind,” spoken of in Romans 1:24. Our sin nature causes us to gravitate naturally toward selfishness, envy, and pride, even when we are trying to do good. The apostle Paul alluded to his propensity to sin when he wrote, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18). The sin nature leads to trespassing. A trespasser is someone who crosses a line or climbs a fence that he should not cross or climb. A trespass may be intentional or unintentional. Trespass can also mean “to fall away after being close beside.” Peter trespassed when he denied Jesus (Luke 22:34, 56–62). We all “cross the line” in thought, word, or attitude many times a day and should be quick to forgive others who do the same (Matthew 6:15). Transgression refers to presumptuous sin. It means “to choose to intentionally disobey; willful trespassing.” Samson intentionally broke his Nazirite vow by touching a dead lion (Numbers 6:1–5; Judges 14:8–9) and allowing his hair to be cut (Judges 16:17); in doing so he was committing a transgression. David was referring to this kind of sin when he wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1). When we knowingly run a stop sign, tell a lie, or blatantly disregard an authority, we are transgressing. Iniquity is more deeply rooted. Iniquity means “premeditated choice, continuing without repentance.” David’s sin with Bathsheba that led to the killing of her husband, Uriah, was iniquity (2 Samuel 11:3–4; 2 Samuel 12:9). Micah 2:1 says, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.” In David’s psalm of repentance, he cries out to God, saying, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). God forgives iniquity, as He does any type of sin when we repent (Jeremiah 33:8; Hebrews 8:12). However, iniquity left unchecked leads to a state of willful sin with no fear of God. The build-up of unrepentant sin is sometimes pictured as a “cup of iniquity” being filled to the brim (Revelation 17:4; Genesis 15:16). This often applies to nations who have forsaken God completely. Continued iniquity leads to unnatural affections, which leads to a reprobate mind. Romans 1:28–32 outlines this digression in vivid detail. The sons of Eli are biblical examples of reprobates whom God judged for their iniquities (1 Samuel 3:13–14). Rather than repent, Eli’s sons continued in their abominations until repentance was no longer possible. The biblical writers used different words to refer to sin in its many forms. However, regardless of how depraved a human heart may become, Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to cover all sin (John 1:29; Romans 5:18). Psalm 32:5, quoted at the beginning of this article, ends with these words: “And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” The only sin that God cannot forgive is the final rejection of the Holy Spirit’s drawing to repentance—the ultimate fruit of a reprobate mind (Matthew 12:32; Luke 12:10). Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/iniquity-sin-transgression.html#ixzz2xPF6PasV
Last Sunday, we discussed four types of Sanctuaries of faith, each slightly different in their intended use: the church sanctuary, as a holy place of worship for two or more believers; Noah’s Ark, a sanctuary for Noah Noah’s extended family and all the animals from God’s flood; the Ark of the Covenant, a sanctuary for God’s Spirit and the tablets containing His Laws; and the human vessel we have that we may sanctify through Christ, to contain God’s Holy Spirit.
Each of these holy Sanctuaries is associated with a covenant or promises from God. As a sign for the covenant with Noah, God made the rainbow:
Genesis 9:8-17 (ESV)
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
For the unfaithful, there were consequences for ungodly actions, whether it be iniquity, sin or a transgression:
2 Peter 2:4-10 (ESV)
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell[a] and committed them to chains[b] of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;[c] 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,[d] and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge[e] in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Footnotes: a. 2 Peter 2:4 Greek Tartarus b. 2 Peter 2:4 Some manuscripts pits c. 2 Peter 2:6 Some manuscripts an example to those who were to be ungodly d. 2 Peter 2:9 Or temptations e. 2 Peter 2:10 Greek who go after theflesh
But if all have sinned and fall short of sharing God’s Glory in heaven, is there no hope of avoiding the punishments described in 2 Peter. For the answer to this question, let me direct you to Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians:
Galatians 3:21-29 (ESV)
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Footnotes: a. Galatians 3:28 Greek bondservant
But how does faith in Christ provide us with the means of freedom from God’s judgment from sin, which is death? For the answer to this aspect of salvation, let us look at Paul’s explanation, this time in Romans, chapter 5:
Romans 5:12-21 (ESV) Death in Adam, Life in Christ
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[a] because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass[b] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[c] leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Just as we read in the discussion of Psalm 32, that sin or a sinful nature inherent in all people can lead to a transgression against others or against God, or worse to an iniquity, which demonstrates a progressive attitude of callous disregard towards others and to God.
Salvation through Christ comes by was of a change in attitude both towards God and others. That attitude reveals our love, obedience and commitment to the Gospel of Christ, which leads first to righteousness, then to sanctification and ultimately to eternal life:
Romans 6:15-23 (ESV) Slaves to Righteousness
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[a] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The bow or rainbow, as we call it today, is a sign to God and humanity, of God’s covenant not to destroy the world again by a flood. Jesus is a sign to God and humanity, of God’s New Covenant, of redemption, sanctification and the promised resurrection from death through Christ.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark
Benediction (Colossians 1:11-14)
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.