Paul the Apostle, Law, and Sin, Part 1

The Pauline Concept of Law and Sin

The Pauline Concept of Law and Sin

by Rev. Paul A. Hughes, M.Div

Introduction to the Series

The nature of law and commandments in the Bible has been a source of considerable confusion for Christians, well, since the first Christians — when Judaizers were telling Gentile converts they had to be circumcised to be saved.  While we are told that we are free from Moses’ Law, what moral laws remain in force?  Which laws are cultural, and which eternal?  Are we, as some say, still required to eat Kosher and keep the Sabbath?

The principal teacher on doctrine and Christian living in the New Testament was the Apostle Paul of Tarsus.  In this comprehensive review and diagram of Paul’s instructions and theology, the author hopes to clear up much of the confusion.

Overview

The conceptual diagram represents the Apostle Paul’s view of law and sin as a trinity of three spheres of influence:  (1) Moral/Natural Law, (2) Moses’ Law, and (3) Cultural Mores and Customs.  Note that these spheres overlap, sharing certain elements, aspects, and concerns.  Also note that sphere size, as depicted, is not intended to indicate relative importance.

Moral/Natural Law

The Apostle Paul believed in a set of absolute truths which form the original fabric and intent of God’s Creation (see Rom. 1:18-25, cf. Ps. 19:1-2, 97:1-6).  Creation itself is an expression of God’s eternal nature, benevolence, and order.  All that God created was perfectly good and moral, reflecting God’s own attributes, and therefore holy.  This principle applies also to the human body, which is made in the image of God (1 Cor. 11:7, Col. 3:10), and is “not for fornication, but for the Lord” (1 Cor. 6:13).  From the things created, we can all see undeniable proof of God and surmise his intent for humanity.

God’s will for man, and all that is moral and permissible, lies within the sphere of God’s Moral/Natural Law.  In contrast, all that lies outside the sphere of God’s intent is contrary to God’s nature and sovereign will, having its origin in the flesh, human imagination, or satanic deception.  Whatever is contrary to God’s nature is consequently sin.  Humanity, corrupted by the Fall of Adam, as a class, has pursued carnal pleasure to the point of moral blindness; thus they continue until enlightened to the truth by the Holy Spirit through revelation of the Gospel and spiritual regeneration (2 Th. 2:10 ff.).  Those regenerated by the Spirit are freed from bondage to fallen carnal-mindedness and enabled not only to perceive but to fulfill God’s moral law, entering once again into the sphere of God’s approval.

Paul provides various lists of behaviors and lifestyles which, being contrary to God, lie outside of the sphere of God’s will, and therefore threaten to condemn those who have chosen to participate in them (Rom. 1:24-32, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21, Col. 3:5-9, Titus 3:3).

Creation itself is an expression of God’s eternal nature, benevolence, and order

  • Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, Acts 14:15-17
  • Paul in Athens on Mars Hill, Acts 17:24-29

God Allowed Men to Stray from Natural Law

  • Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, Acts 14:15-17
  • Paul in Athens on Mars Hill, Acts 17:29-31
  • God abandoned mankind to their reprobate minds, Romans 1:24-28
  • God concludes all in unbelief, Romans 11:30-32
  • The past of those once lost in sin, now made alive, Ephesians 2:1-3, 11-12
  • The darkened understanding of the Old Man, Ephesians 4:17-22
  • Christ has delivered believers from darkness, Colossians 1:13-17
  • The unrighteousness under strong delusion, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12

Fallen man is natural but corrupt

  • God destroyed mankind for their corruption and violence, Genesis 6:11-13
  • The natural body of flesh is corruptible, 1 Corinthians 15:42-50
  • The darkened understanding of the Old Man, Ephesians 4:17-22
  • Mankind is alienated from God until salvation, Colossians 1:21-22
  • Sinners are deluded to believe lies, not the truth, and receive due condemnation, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12

God’s wisdom seems foolish to the World

  • God has chosen a way of salvation that seems foolish to the fallen world, 1 Corinthians 1:18-29
  • The natural man cannot understand God’s wisdom, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
  • Human wisdom is foolishness to God, 1 Corinthians 3:18-20
  • Mankind is alienated from God until salvation, Colossians 1:21-22

God’s reality is not necessarily what is seen in the natural

  • The visible world is temporal, spiritual things are eternal, 2 Corinthians 4:18

Things contrary to nature are sins against God

  • Laws concerning marriage and divorce, Romans 7:1-4, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40
  • Taking your father’s wife, Leviticus 18:8; Deuteronomy 22:30; 27:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
  • Due to man’s lustful rebellion, God abandoned them to sin and its consequences, Romans 1:24-32
  • Sinners against God, nature, and humankind will not enter God’s kingdom, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
  • Those committing ungodly human deeds will not enter God’s kingdom, Galatians 5:19-21
  • Believers were once sinners, too, Titus 3:3
  • Believers must kill the lusts which cause sin, Colossians 3:5-9
  • God calls mankind to repent to escape judgment, Acts 17:29-31
  • Those who still sin but judge others will be judged, Romans 2:1-10
  • Believers were the same as the lost, until made alive by Christ, Ephesians 2:1-3, 11-12

Works of the flesh

  • Works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit, contrasted, Galatians 5:19-26
  • Believers must kill the lusts which cause sin, Colossians 3:5-9

Idolatry

  • Paul declares the Unknown God, and an end to the ignorance of idolatry, Acts 17:16, 23-31
  • Man’s lust led to idolatry and sinfulness, worthy of condemnation, Romans 1:18-32
  • Repent of idolatry, to escape condemnation, 1 Corinthians 10:5-14
  • Idols have no power over believers, but Christians ought not to profane God’s temple or offend the weak, 1 Corinthians 10:19-33
  • Do not associate closely with sinners, for sin is idolatry, Ephesians 5:5-8
  • Do not forsake grace for the bondage of idolatrous practices, Galatians 4:8-10

Eating meat offered to idols a matter of conscience

  • Do not violate your conscience, nor that of others, Romans 14:1-23
  • Do not tempt others to violate conscience, nor scandalize them, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
  • Idols have no power over believers, but Christians ought not to profane God’s temple or offend the weak, 1 Corinthians 10:19-33

Matrimony is holy before God, divorce is a sin against nature

  • One is bound in marriage till released by death, Romans 7:1-4
  • Marital bonds, cares, and obligations, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40

Fornication, incest contrary to God’s natural law

  • Open sin must be purged from the church and unrepentant sinners disfellowshipped, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
  • Sinners will not enter God’s kingdom, and fornicators violate God’s temple, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20
  • Fornicators and idolaters reap condemnation, 1 Corinthians 10:5

Homosexuality

  • Homosexuality forbidden, Leviticus 18:22
  • Homosexuality a capital crime, Leviticus 20:13
  • Homosexuality is unnatural, Romans 1:26
  • Male prostitutes and homosexuals among those who will not enter the Kingdom, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
  • The Law is made to judge sinners, including those who “defile themselves,” 1 Timothy 1:9

Those who oppose God’s law and intent are aligned with the Devil

  • Judgment of Elymas the Sorcerer, Acts 13:8-10
  • Those once alienated from God served the prince of this world, Ephesians 2:1-3
  • Idol worship is sacrifice to demons, 1 Corinthians 10:20
  • In the Last Days, people will heed lying spirits and demons, 1 Timothy 4:1

Those Blinded by Satan Need Deliverance

  • Paul was called to turn people from satan to God, Acts 26:17-18
  • Israel is blind to the truth, Romans 7:7-9
  • The god of this world has blinded the lost, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
  • Christians wage a spiritual war, not in the flesh, 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5
  • Our adversaries are spiritual, not physical, Ephesians 6:12
  • Sinners are deluded to believe lies, not the truth, and receive due condemnation, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12

God will fulfill his Plan by redeeming the world through Christ

  • The Father has done a great work though Christ, who delivers the Church, Ephesians 1:3-6, 9-23
  • Christ has delivered the Church from the flesh, to bring us to God, Ephesians 2:1-17
  • Christ has delivered believers from darkness, Colossians 1:13-17

© 2013 Paul A. Hughes

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