Monday, September 10, 2012

Ungodly and Sinners

Ungodly and Sinners

"The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane." 1 Timothy 1:9 (ESV)

Human nature can be described in terms of its relationship to God's Law. At times we act as if we were lawless, as if there were no law or command to restrain our behavior. At other times we act as if we are disobedient, acting defiantly, refusing to obey the law that we clearly understand.

Paul continues his letter of guidance to young Timothy, describing human nature in terms of its relationship to Jesus Christ.

UNGODLY: asebes (irreverent, impious or wicked); from a (not) and sebo (to revere or adore)

SINNERS: hamartolos (sinful, sinner); from hamartano (to miss the mark, not sharing in the prize, to err or sin); from a (not) and meiromai (to get as a section or allotment)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What thought process must a Christian go through when moving from reverence for God to selfish sin? How does lack of reverence for God make it easier to sin? What "prize" appeals to your desire and reverence for God?

Peter pairs the same two words together in a similar message:

"If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" 1 Peter 4:18 (ESV)

Paul connects the terms "ungodly" and "sinner" with the concept of salvation. Peter is writing to Christians, warning them away from behavior that defines the ungodly and sinners of the world. The implication is that Christians are vulnerable to the same sinful weaknesses as non-Christians.

Peter, however, distinguishes Christian from non-Christian with the word, "righteous".

RIGHTEOUS: dikaios (equitable, treating others evenly or equally); from dike (self-evidently right); from deiknyo (to show)

"Righteous" in this verse is translated from the same Greek word used earlier, translated as "just".

Christians are accounted righteous, or just, by way of the decree of God, based upon our acceptance and desire regarding the obedient sacrifice of the Only Perfect Redeemer, Jesus Christ:

"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. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 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." Romans 5:17-19 (ESV)

The terms "ungodly" and "sinners" may be seen as one step closer toward narrowly defining those to Whom God directed His law. The previous set of words, "lawless and disobedient", roughly separate the world into two: non-Jews, outside of the nation of Israel, those not under the law, and Jews, the nation of Israel, the ones under the law.

But the next two words, "ungodly and sinners" seem to speak to those who reject Jesus as Redeemer, perferring to meet God on their own terms, on their own merits.

Sadly, Christians may often turn their backs on grace and fall into a lifestyle that closely mimics that of the "ungodly and sinners".

The law was laid down by God to convince and convict humans of their sin, whether Jew or Gentile, Christian or non-Christian, sinner or saint.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What support can you cite from the Bible for the belief that Christians do sin, that God allows pain and loss as a consequence, but grace still remains for the sinning Christian and eternal life in Christ is not lost? When is righteousness best described as good behavior resulting from God's indwelling Spirit, and when is righteousness best described as gift of grace given by God despite our bad behavior?

Image provided by Ivan McClellan, Creative Commons License