Hi, just ran across this article and had a quick question for you. Do you think that this passage carries the normal wording that Paul uses when addressing a moral issue?
The quick answer is that “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23).
The long answer: Jesus Christ has forgiven us from all our unrighteousness, all of our disobedient thoughts and actions, not only from the 613 commands of the Old Testament, but also from the infractions we commit against our very own conscience that tells us what is right and wrong, apart from the Law (Rom 2:12-16).
God does not require from you minimal obedience. In fact, the Scripture admonishes you to “serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 10:12).
And, the scary part is, you can’t. The moment you indulge in your secret sin or mind flees to any “innocent” thought other than God’s glory, then you just did not love God with all your heart. Maybe some of it, but not all of it.
And no sin can be excused. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” James 2:10).
Are we doomed? I am sure you are just like me. The following describes my situation:
For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin (Rom 7:22-25).
By the grace of God “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). Our Lord and Savior has paid the full penalty for the infractions of the flesh, that do not end in our lifetime, even after “being saved.: So, do not dwell on the past and the times you lose against the flesh. As Paul said earlier, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
Therefore, if God admonishes us to do something in the Scripture, does it not stand to reason that living by His admonishment is consistent with walking by the Spirit? “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent” (Num 23:19). Anything that God admonishes us to do in the Scripture thereby constitutes walking by the Spirit not our flesh.
William, if you understand this, your concerns appear to me immaterial. But let’s move on anyway:
The Apostle Paul is by no means afraid to call sin, “sin.” So far in the book of 1 Corinthians he has referred to that which is carnal…He speaks of the harlot, of sin, of that which is not good…After all this, Paul sums up his teaching on head coverings by using Ideas like propriety, decorum, what is unbecoming and what is shameful, not exactly heavy hitters in the morality department.
If I understand you correctly, your basic assertion is this: Paul lists things within the same letter that are specifically sin. However, he does not explicitly classify not “hold[ing] firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor 11:2) as sin.
There are two serious problems with this contention of yours. First, Paul “praise[s]” the Corinthians for holding fast to traditions he has taught (1 Cor 11:2), so at the very least propriety and avoiding what is shameful is “praiseworthy.” Doing things that God speaks of as worthy of “praise” in His Scripture is all the motivation we need to desire to follow a teaching.
Second, we need a consistent hermeneutic for this passage. Holding fast to traditions includes the Lord’s Supper and order in worship. Is it commendable to ignore the Scripture’s teachings on these things?
How about other issues in the Scripture that are not classified specifically as sin? The Scripture admonishes us to be cheerful givers (2 Cor 9:7). Because the Scripture does not say it is specifically sin not to be cheerful when we give, by the logic you put forward it would be fine to give purely out of compulsion or to give sparingly, because God does not give an amount. After all, as long as we don’t blatantly ignore a Christian brother and sister that has nothing (1 John 3:16), we do not specifically sin if we are a tad stingy in our giving.
But, this is the very crux of the issue: whatever is not of faith is sin. And, is it of faith to desire anything other than complete submission to God, including every single thought to Christ Jesus (2 Cor 10:5)?
I do not find it useful to differentiate between the “sorta important” and “very important’ stuff in the Bible. They are all hugely important to God, not because all sins are equally bad or all good works are equally praiseworthy, but because our God is beyond measure. The slightest of God’s demands are hugely important, because God is hugely important.
This is not a completely foreign concept to us. If you happen to be eating dinner with the President and he asks to to pass the bread, you don’t question the President on whether he is getting heavy or if there are tastier things to pass him. You pass the bread. And be honest with yourself. You would be happy doing it.
Now, at the same dinner table an ant starts waking towards the bread, because it also desires it. However, you would not bring the bread closer to it, because it desires the bread. The ant is completely insignificant. You not only ignore its desires without much of a thought, you can crush it and think nothing of it.
If the slightest desires and whims of a man all of the sudden become important to us, merely because his position in this world which is passing away (1 John 2:17), I would think any desire of God’s laid out in the Scripture would be of infinitely more importance. I don’t say this lightly.
After having looked into this issue for a while I have become convinced that this section of Scripture is in fact addressing an area that varies from culture to culture.
Upon reading your comment, I found this point of yours confusing. Do you think Paul meant this passage to vary between cultures, because he did not classify it specifically as sin? I hope we addressed this point sufficiently so we know that this is not the case.
Obviously, you have not arrived upon this conviction based upon textual grounds, because Paul clearly states, “[I]f one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God” (1 Cor 11:16).
Perhaps, you have come to this conclusion based upon certain notions concerning “historical context.” I would recommend looking further into this matter, because you will find that historical context actually would work against such an interpretation.
Not only that, but I would contend that this is the historic Reformed interpretation of this passage.
Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, and John Calvin would all explicitly disagree with you. However, I have not conclusively read up on what all historic Reformed thinkers have thought on the matter.
(Just as a side note, you should know that even though I don’t necessarily agree with your interpretation of this passage, I completely respect where it’s coming from. I have many friends who hold to this position and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do so not to be legalistic or “Holier than Thou.” They are simply obeying what they see to be a clear command of Scripture.)
I appreciate your comments and thoughts on this matter. It is my hope and prayer that not only you and I, but others also may profit by digging deeper into God’s word and seek His Spirit in understanding what God’s will is for us. For, God’s “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and that is only possible by knowing His Son Jesus Christ, who has given Himself as a ransom for many, nailing all their sins to the cross, imputing us righteousness upon belief in Him. And, what is our one God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16), unbreakable (John 10:35) testimony to the Gospel that we have at our fingertips? The Scripture. By the grace of God, let’s seek His truth in it.