Questions on Sin

Displaying 1 - 12 of 61123456

I know that sex before marriage is a sin, but where is this clearly stated in the Bible? When approached with this question previously, the only verses I could recall refer to "sexual immorality" or "adultery." Where is premarital sex defined as adultery and sexual immorality?

Instead of seeking a Bible verse that explicitly says something like, “Sex between two unmarried people is sin,” you would do better to approach the whole issue as the Bible does. God establishes marriage and then says to those being joined together in marriage that they are to be intimately united and that they also become one flesh (see Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5). Thus two things are linked to marriage: union (the intimate joining of a man and a woman as husband and wife) and becoming one flesh (sexual, physical intimacy too). To become one flesh (have sexual union) aside from this marriage bond is never allowed and never spoken of as God-pleasing. It is, however, clearly identified as wrong, as sin (see 1 Corinthians 6:15-18, for example). Any use of the gift of sex aside from the marriage bond is adultery, whether this is premarital or extramarital. God has graciously provided for the sexual desires of men and women to be satisfied only in marriage. To engage in premarital or extramarital sex, before or outside of marriage, is to sin in God’s sight. That is precisely the point of Hebrews 13:4, a verse often referred to in this kind of discussion.  “Marriage” and the marriage bed (the Greek text only has the word “bed”) go together and are to be kept pure. Using the “bed” aside from “marriage” is sin that God will judge.

The counsel given in 1 Corinthians 7:9 makes the same point. If a person has sexual urges and the sex drive (a good gift from God in itself) expresses itself within a person, that person has a God-pleasing remedy identified: to be married and thus obtain the right to be sexually active. Before or outside of marriage, sinful lust is sinful lust. Marriage partners may express the same desires for each other and there is no sin. This kind of “lust” is not sinful. (The Bible word used here is also used for legitimate and proper strong desires, even though the English word usually always carries a negative idea).

I suggest that you sit down with your pastor and seek additional clarifications if you wish more. He may also have resource material in his library that can be helpful to you as you seek to serve others who ask you about these things.

Are some sins worse than others?

Since God created us to love him perfectly, and to love our neighbor as himself, any failure to love in heart, word, or action is the equivalent of shattering the whole law of God. James tells us that in the second chapter of his epistle, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (2:10). Every one of my sins is lawless rebellion against the God who created me to be a perfect reflection of his love in this world. Every failure to live in love is a damnable rejection of his purpose for our lives. In that sense all sin is equally evil. It is all equal evidence that we have a nature within us that is exactly the opposite of what God created us to be.

But for the believer in Christ, there’s more to the story. Because we stand forgiven and holy in God’s sight through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of his Son, every sin does not instantly make an unbeliever out of us. As we live in repentance that runs each day from the evil of our sin to the cross of our Savior, we find that “the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Through faith in Christ we stand in God’s grace (Romans 5:1-2).

However, if we grow careless about sin we are inviting spiritual disaster. If, when we become aware of sin in our hearts and lives, we continue in that sin and begin to excuse and defend it, then we are in danger of allowing sin to rule in our hearts again just as it did when we were unbelievers. To persist in what we know to be sin, will soon drive the Holy Spirit and faith from our lives. Paul warns us in Romans 8:13, “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.” In that sense, stubborn and willful sin is more dangerous to our faith than sins of weakness or ignorance from which we run to his cross as soon as we recognize them. That’s true even though all sin is by nature damnable in and of itself.

This sounds a bit paradoxical but here is the truth: if we treat sin as the evil it is and run to our Savior’s gracious arms, it cannot harm us. Christ has paid for them all! But if we treat sin as harmless and defend and excuse it, then we are giving that sin the power to destroy us all over again.

All of this isn’t about categories of sins (“big ones” and “little ones”), as if we could make two lists of different “types” of sins. The difference is the attitude of our hearts toward sin. Are we clinging to our sins or are we clinging to our Savior?

How would you respond to the idea that because Adam and Eve were made in God's image, so all people have God's image in them? Was God's image in Adam and Eve completely destroyed by their fall into sin, so they couldn't pass any parts of God's image on to the rest of the world?

Being created in the image of God meant that Adam and Eve were holy, they had perfect knowledge of God’s will, and their wills were entirely aligned with God’s will.  After the fall into sin, the Bible tells us Adam had a child in his likeness and image, not God’s (Genesis 5:1-3).  Since the fall into sin, human beings born of sinful people have entered this world as sinners (Psalm 51:5), enemies of God (Romans 8:7) and people whose natural will is opposed to God’s will (Romans 7:7-23).  Despite this natural sinful condition, people still have a natural knowledge of God from creation and their conscience, and they naturally know the basics of God’s law (Psalm 19:1-4; Hebrews 3:4; Romans 2:14-15).

While there are some Lutheran theologians who speak of people still being made, in a limited sense, in the image of God insofar as they have intellect and will, it is more consistent with Scripture to say that the image of God was lost through the fall into sin and is restored in Christians.

Ephesians 4:24 instructs us to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Colossians 3:10 has a similar directive:  “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 are passages that some theologians cite to indicate that after the fall into sin people are born in the image of God in a limited sense.  When we understand the image of God especially denoting holiness and loving only that which God loves, then we see those particular passages speaking of the original condition of people, which is no longer the case because of sin.

Certainly, each person receives life from God (Acts 17:25) and each person is the object of God’s love in Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2).  Beyond those blessings is the working of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts through the gospel, connecting them to Jesus Christ and the salvation he won.  In Christians the image of God is being restored (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10), and it will be fully restored when Christians leave this world of sin (Psalm 17:15; 1 Corinthians 13:9-12; 1 John 3:2).

I am very concerned for my salvation. I know that Jesus died on the cross to forgive us our sins, however, many years ago I committed adultery and got a divorce. I fear that breaking one of God's Ten Commandments is a sin punishable by damnation to hell. Would God forgive me for this sin?

You are correct in some of the things you say or imply: Yes, adultery is a sin against the Ten Commandments; and, yes, like any and all other sins it is punishable by damnation in hell. It seems that you understand these truths and have taken them seriously. I am thankful for that.

You are, however, not enjoying other truths clearly revealed in the Bible for us all. While you say you know that “Jesus died on the cross to forgive us our sins,” your strong feelings seem to deny that truth. On the one hand you seem to be saying, “Jesus died for me to forgive my sins,” but at the same time you ask, “Would God forgive me for this sin [adultery]?” So you end up in effect contradicting God and being tormented with a terribly burdened conscience, a guilty conscience.

I have exceedingly good news for you. Your sin of adultery (and the subsequent divorce if that is also traceable to your sins) has already been forgiven. It was forgiven 2,000 years ago when the penalty for it was paid in full by Jesus Christ. He did this for you as part of a sinful world. The problem you are wrestling with is that somehow, and for reasons I do not know, you consider yourself an exception to the rest of us forgiven sinners. But you are not. Jesus Christ is your Savior from sin and guilt and eternal damnation.

This is a truth not to be argued, debated, or doubted. It is a truth to be trusted, a promise to be received. And your and my gracious, loving God leads us to trust this good news as we hear, read, or in any other way receive the message. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). So I counsel you to stop worrying about your sin, stop focusing on your burdened conscience and feeling of guilt, and go back to focusing on the objective and unchanging (and unchangeable) Word of God that declares you forgiven through Jesus Christ and his work for you.

I also strongly urge you to sit down with one of our pastors and allow him to give you counsel that will properly reflect his personal knowledge of you and allow you to ask questions and share pertinent information that is not possible in this e-mail format.

Rich blessings to you as you do this!

Can you sin if you don't choose whatever sin it is? In a recent interview on TV, someone made the comment that "It can only be a sin if you choose it."

For starters, sin is not limited to things that people do or do not do (sins of commission or sins of omission).  Sin is our natural condition  (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12, 18-19).

Sin is not limited to those thoughts, words or actions that people “choose” to do.  Consider the apostle Paul’s struggles with his sinful nature (Romans 7:7-25).  According to his new self, Paul wanted to distance himself from sin.  Time and again, though, the old self won out and Paul fell into sin.  Sin takes place when people break God’s law (1 John 3:4), no matter what led to their breaking of it.

Then there are our “hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12):  those sins of which we may not even be aware until someone—or God through the Bible—points them out to us.

We are all accountable for our sins.  We cannot blame others for our sins.  While we might have weaknesses for a particular sin, that does not excuse us from falling into that sin.  Being aware of that weakness alerts us to be ever more vigilant in that area of life in resisting sin and living life God’s way.

The good news of the Bible is that Jesus lived up to his name (“…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”).  (Matthew 1:21)  In Jesus we have full and free forgiveness for all our sins (Ephesians 1:7)!

Was it sinful for America's founding fathers to rebel against England and wage war?

Yours is a short question that requires a long answer and probably too long of an answer for this forum.

In short, not all the actions of the colonists can be lumped together into a category of “right” or “wrong.”  There was mob violence in some areas that was clearly sinful disobedience.  In other places there were well-established and recognized colonial governments that objected to what they saw as illegitimate interference in their jurisdiction.  It is well documented that Lutherans who lived in this country at that time were divided in their loyalties.

While we may not be able to examine clearly and accurately the motives of people in the past, we can examine our own attitudes toward the governing authorities that God has established in our lives (Romans 13).  To those authorities, we owe taxes, revenue, respect and honor (Romans 13:7).

When we sin, do we always have to make an actual confession for that to be forgiven or do we just have to have faith that Jesus forgives us through faith in him (of course I'm not trying to provide an argument for license of sinning). And what happens when we sin, but we forget that we sin, yet we still keep faith in Jesus Christ? Would we be forgiven? And lastly the unforgivable sin? Is that any sin that we forget/don't confess (while still having faith in Jesus Christ), or is that the sins of the person who just doesn't have faith in Jesus Christ? Thank you and have a nice day.

You ask important questions.  Let’s review briefly what Scripture says about sin, forgiveness of sins, confessing sin, and the unforgiveable sin.

All people are guilty of sin (Psalm 14:3; Romans 3:23).  Jesus Christ came into the world to forgive the sins of all people (John 1:29; 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 John 2:2).  Through faith in Jesus Christ we personally enjoy the forgiveness Jesus won by his holy life and sacrificial death (Mark 16:16; John 5:24; Romans 5:1; 10:9).  God does not dole out his forgiveness piecemeal.  He has forgiven all our sins.

So why do we confess our sins?  Because God directs us to do that (Matthew 6:12; James 5:16).  God’s will is that we confess our sins because a denial of sin and other wrong attitudes about sin are dangerous (Hebrews 10:26; 1 John 1:6-10).  God’s promise is that he hears the penitent cries of his followers and forgives their sins (I John 1:9).

Does this mean—as you asked—that you and I need to confess every sin in order to have forgiveness for every sin?  No.  We cannot possibly list all our sins.  Sometimes we are oblivious to our own sins (Psalm 19:12).  So we confess the sins we know, we confess our sins in general, we confess that we are by nature sinful.  God’s good news is that he has forgiven all our sins.  We stand and live in his grace (Romans 5:2).

The unforgiveable sin that you asked about is mentioned in Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:29-30, and Luke 12:10.  In Matthew chapter 12 we hear of Jesus performing a miracle.  Those who witnessed the miracle wondered if Jesus was the promised Messiah.  The Pharisees’ reaction to that miracle was charging Jesus of being an ally of Satan.  In Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, he warned of “blasphemy against the Spirit” not being forgiven (Matthew 12:31).  This unforgivable sin is often defined as blasphemous, vehement rejection of Christ, against better knowledge of the truth.  The sin is unforgiveable because the person guilty of it cuts off the work of the Holy Spirit, who alone can change the heart.

So, where does this leave us?  Think of what you usually do in a worship service:  you confess your sins, you receive absolution, and in the Creed you say:  “I believe…in the forgiveness of sins.”  What a gracious God we have.  “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?”  (Micah 7:18).  Let’s rejoice in the forgiveness of our sins and, when we sin, let’s confess them to the Lord, knowing and believing that he has forgiven all our sins through Jesus Christ his Son.

Our God created everything. Did God create sin, or is sin a contradictory of good that is by chance?

God created everything, and at the end of the sixth day of creation he pronounced everything “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  All was perfect in God’s creation.  Sin was absent.

At some point thereafter angels rebelled against God and were cast into hell (2 Peter 2:4).  Through Satan’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sinned against God (Genesis 3).  Sin clearly came into the world through people’s actions (Romans 5:12).  God is removed from wrongdoing of any kind; he is holy (James 1:13; Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:3).

God certainly knew that sin would infect and corrupt his creation.  In eternity he formulated his plan to rescue the world (Revelation 13:8), and in time he carried out his plan in the person of his Son Jesus Christ.  “To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen.” (Jude 1:25)

Can you sin if you don't choose whatever sin it is? In a recent interview on TV, someone made the comment that "It can only be a sin if you choose it."

For starters, sin is not limited to things that people do or do not do (sins of commission or sins of omission).  Sin is our natural condition  (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12, 18-19).

Sin is not limited to those thoughts, words or actions that people “choose” to do.  Consider the apostle Paul’s struggles with his sinful nature (Romans 7:7-25).  According to his new self, Paul wanted to distance himself from sin.  Time and again, though, the old self won out and Paul fell into sin.  Sin takes place when people break God’s law (1 John 3:4), no matter what led to their breaking of it.

Then there are our “hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12):  those sins of which we may not even be aware until someone—or God through the Bible—points them out to us.

We are all accountable for our sins.  We cannot blame others for our sins.  While we might have weaknesses for a particular sin, that does not excuse us from falling into that sin.  Being aware of that weakness alerts us to be ever more vigilant in that area of life in resisting sin and living life God’s way.

The good news of the Bible is that Jesus lived up to his name (“…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”).  (Matthew 1:21)  In Jesus we have full and free forgiveness for all our sins (Ephesians 1:7)!

Would God take the life of a loved one to admonish the sin that another person is involved in?

Because I do not know what might lie behind your question, all I can do is respond in a general way. Your question has me think of how God worked in the lives of David and Bathsheba. God’s determination was that the child conceived and born from their adulterous relationship would die (2 Samuel 12:14-18). While God holds people personally responsible for their own sinfulness and sins (Ezekiel 18:4) and does not punish children for the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18:20), one of the temporal consequences of David and Bathsheba’s sin was that the child born to them would die in infancy.

When I consider that action on God’s part, thoughts like these come to mind: “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3). “God is not unjust” (Hebrews 6:10). “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36).

One very important thing to keep in mind is that God, in the Bible, tells us why the son born to David and Bathsheba died in infancy. If we did not have that information in the Bible, we would not have known why the child died. That means that when the death of a person takes place today, we cannot pretend to speak for God when he has not spoken on the matter. So, while the Bible answers your question in the affirmative regarding God’s past actions, all we can do is maintain that possibility—in a general way—concerning God’s present and future actions.

Was it sinful for America's founding fathers to rebel against England and wage war?

Yours is a short question that requires a long answer and probably too long of an answer for this forum.

In short, not all the actions of the colonists can be lumped together into a category of “right” or “wrong.”  There was mob violence in some areas that was clearly sinful disobedience.  In other places there were well-established and recognized colonial governments that objected to what they saw as illegitimate interference in their jurisdiction.  It is well documented that Lutherans who lived in this country at that time were divided in their loyalties.

While we may not be able to examine clearly and accurately the motives of people in the past, we can examine our own attitudes toward the governing authorities that God has established in our lives (Romans 13).  To those authorities, we owe taxes, revenue, respect and honor (Romans 13:7).

I don't understand how the forgiveness that we give to others in the Fifth Petition differs from the forgiveness that we withhold from the impenitent in the use of the Keys. The (Kuske) Catechism describes the forgiveness of the Fifth Petition as including "anyone who sins against us," and again as "all who sin against us." In response to a similar question asked earlier, Q & A did not agree with the unconditional forgiveness that writer thought necessary. When does the impenitence of "those who trespass against us" become the deciding factor in whom we forgive? Does the new Catechism clarify this in its discussion of the Fifth Petition? Thank you!

The context of questions is always important, and that context is often missing from questions that are submitted. When there are questions about forgiving others, we need to keep a number of things in mind.

If a person has sinned against us and is impenitent, we exhibit our Christian faith by harboring no grudges or ill will against that person. We have the privilege of telling the person we personally forgive him or her for the sin committed, but we want the individual to know that God’s forgiveness is so much more important than the forgiveness we express. Repentance, of course, is paramount to enjoying forgiveness from God.

An answer to a similar question in Forward in Christ proposed this example of a conversation to an impenitent sinner: “I fully and freely forgive you, sinner to sinner. I hold no grudge against you, seek no retaliation, and will keep no record of wrongs. I have no desire or need for this. My Lord Jesus is my ultimate Protector and he will satisfy justice in the end. Vengeance is his to give, not mine. But please understand that this may really mean very little for your long-term well-being. If and as long as you do not repent before God of your sin, you do not enjoy the forgiveness Christ earned for you. You forfeit personal benefit of his pardon. That is the forgiveness I seek for you but cannot give or announce to you at this time. That is the forgiveness you need most of all. You have my forgiveness, given cheerfully in love. But just like me, a sinner like you, you need the personal enjoyment of Christ’s forgiveness, which is also freely given. I am willing to do anything I can to help you enjoy this.”

Even when Christians represent God and, out of concern for the sins and impenitence of others, exercise the “binding key” and retain the sins of the impenitent (John 20:23), they seek to display a Christ-like love to others and avoid any personal animosity towards those who have sinned against them and remain impenitent.

Displaying 1 - 12 of 61123456