The Pursuit of God

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Romans 6: Paul Baptizes Christians Into Despair

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The New Testament epistle of Romans was written by the apostle Paul to believers in Rome.  The audience he’s talking to is a mix of Jews and Gentiles, and he rotates which group he’s speaking to as he moves through this letter. Sometimes he speaks of general concepts which both Jews and Gentiles would grasp, but most of the time he speaks of concepts which only followers of Judaism would understand, such as all of his talk about sin coming through Adam that we dealt with in our study of Romans 5 (see Romans 5: Paul Leads Us Astray on Sin & the Character of Yahweh).  Realize that the whole Adam and Eve thing originated from the Torah.  It was a part of Judaism, and Judaism is just one of many religions that are being adhered to in the Roman Empire of Paul’s day.  Every religion has its own explanation of how the world came to be, and such creation accounts vary widely.  This means that a Gentile who comes to Christianity with no background in Judaism isn’t going to know the Jewish Scriptures, nor will he be familiar with the many quotations from those Scriptures that Paul peppers his letters with. So whenever you find Paul quoting Scripture or referring to Old Testament characters like Noah, Abraham, and Adam, realize that in his mind, he’s addressing folks who are familiar with Judaism.  And because Paul believes that his own ethnic group is far superior to all others (see Romans 11), often it is only ethnic Jews who he’s talking to, and we can tell that by how exclusive his language becomes. 

Suppose you know nothing about computers so you attend a seminar to try and learn something about them.  At the seminar, there are a bunch of computer geeks and then there are other folks like you.  When the teacher gets up to teach, he starts using a bunch of tech terminology that you don’t understand.  Rather than stop to explain what the terms mean, he just keeps talking over your head, and while the computer geeks are all bobbing their heads in understanding, you’re sitting there feeling confused and frustrated.  This is often how Paul’s speeches would come across to Gentile believers with no understanding of Judaism.  Many Romans worshiped a pantheon of twelve gods: 6 males and 6 females.  Imagine how strange it would be to spend your life worshiping gods like Apollo, Diana, and Mars, only to end up sitting with a bunch of Jews who were going on about those forty years that Moses spent leading their ancestors through the wilderness.  Who is Moses?  What wilderness are we talking about?  You’re a Roman—you’ve never heard of Adam, Eve, or Abraham.  You know nothing about the Old Covenant, so when Paul starts waxing on about sin entering the world through Adam, or the people of Israel being specially chosen by Yahweh, you don’t know what he’s talking about.  But you do get the general idea: this God Yahweh loves these Jews a whole lot more than He loves you.  Yes, you can join this Christian club, but don’t be thinking you’re on the same level as “the circumcised.”  See how it works?  For all of his boasting of being an “apostle to the Gentiles,” Paul does a really lousy job of actually teaching Gentiles in a way that they could understand.  If you want to teach a non-Jew about Christ, you don’t sit around quoting from Scriptures that the guy has never heard of.  But hey, it’s Paul, so we shouldn’t expect much.

ROMANS 6

Now while the book of Romans is widely cited among Christians, it’s also very difficult for many Christians to understand.  If you personally struggle to follow Paul’s logic in Romans, it’s not because you’re dumb, it’s because the man totally contradicts himself.  His teaching about sin is a convoluted mess which only appears to make sense if you isolate certain phrases. So this is what Christians do.  We love to quote lines like, “Therefore there is no condemnation in Christ,” and “Consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ,” but we don’t ever take the time to really understand what Paul means when he says these things.  If we did, we’d quickly lose our admiration for the man, because Paul’s teaching is both blasphemous and absurd.  In this post, we want to continue our study of Paul’s theology on sin by going through the entire chapter of Romans 6. After putting forth utterly ridiculous theories about where sin came from in Chapter 5, Paul begins Chapter 6 like this:

What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom. 6:1-2)

Right away you should feel bothered, because Paul clearly feels it is inexcusable for Christians to go on sinning.  Look at the question he just threw at you: “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  Well, what’s your answer?  Why do you sin?  What’s with all of that lusting, lying, judging, and envying that you do?  Why do you ever do things that you know are wrong?  Why do you ever think negative thoughts towards others? Why do you ever lose your temper or get all huffy or embrace prideful thoughts?  Why do you lust after what you can’t have?  Why are you ever rude, selfish, or ungracious towards your fellow humans?  What’s wrong with you? You’re a Christian.  Don’t you know that you died to sin?  Hello—you died to sin, so why is sin still such a big part of your life?  Why can’t you go even one day without utterly failing Jesus’ simple command to “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)?  Don’t just blow by comments like this without stopping to recognize how Paul is demanding absolute perfection from you.  And by the way, the apostles James and John demand the same level of perfection from you in their writings, so when you as a Christian sit around praising the New Testament writers, you’re being more than a little hypocritical.  How can you really take any joy in reading the writings of men who are telling you that you are going to be utterly rejected by God if you fail to be less than perfect?  Because you see, that’s what all the New Testament writers are saying.  They’re saying that you have to pull perfection out of yourself.  No, it’s not good enough to just be “washed in the Blood.”  Christ really didn’t take care of the sin problem for you.  It’s more like Christ took away your excuse to ever sin again—at least that’s what Paul is going to tell us.  Let’s keep going.

Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. (Rom. 6:3-4)

We must remember that Paul did not accept that Christ was God Almighty.  So when Paul talks of us being like Christ, he views this as a very attainable goal, because in Paul’s mind Christ was just a human. As we often say, Paul was not a true Christian—he was just a poser (see Debunking the Conversion of Paul).  In fact, he wasn’t even a true follower of Yahweh before he faked his conversion to Christianity. Paul’s been a poser his whole life.  He started off as a pompous Pharisee who claimed to be morally perfect in the eyes of Yahweh before he ever knew about Christ.  Then, once Paul decided it would be strategic for him to side with Christ, he came up with a new way to claim moral perfection under the guise of Christianity. This is what all of his baloney about being “crucified with Christ” is about—it’s his justification for demanding moral perfection from Christians.

Jesus once said of the Pharisees:

“Woe to you, teachers of religious law and you Pharisees—hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter, either!” (Matt. 23:13)

Because Pharisees like Paul taught that Yahweh would not accept anyone who was less than perfect, they made souls feel like it was impossible to ever succeed with God.  And while they worked hard to keep sincere seekers utterly discouraged and despaired about ever gaining salvation, they refused to sincerely submit to Yahweh themselves.  So the Pharisees refused to “enter the Kingdom of Heaven” by refusing to reverentially submit to Yahweh.  And while they themselves turned away from God, they tried to block any other souls from coming to Him.  We find the same nasty schemes at work in the Church today.  Anytime you come across teaching which makes you feel utterly despaired about ever being accepted by God, you’re either being lied to, or you’re misunderstanding what is being said.

A lot of souls who are taught lies about God early on then carry those lies with them throughout their lives.  For example, as a young girl, Sara is taught that God hates women. Once she accepts this lie as truth, she feels hopeless about ever being accepted by God.  When a preacher then gives a sermon about God’s great love for people, even though the preacher is teaching truth, Sara says to herself, “But none of this applies to me, because I’m a woman.”  You see, once you accept certain core beliefs that are wrong, you end up rejecting and twisting any right teaching that is presented to you. This is why we always say that you need to ask God directly to help you understand His truth.  You can’t just assume that your core beliefs are correct.  You have to be open to God changing your core beliefs if you’re going to get a firm grip on truth.  Unfortunately, most Christians aren’t willing to do this.  They say to God, “Teach me new things, but I’m not willing to have You change any of these other beliefs which I’ve decided are right.”  No, you can’t learn this way.  With humans, you need to be very guarded, but with God, you have to entirely drop your guard and be open to Him revising anything that He says is wrong.  This is the only way that you will ever get freed up from core lies about God. Until Sara is willing to honestly say to God, “Show me if I’m holding on to any wrong beliefs about You—I’m willing to totally start from scratch and make any changes You say,” she will never be open to the idea that God doesn’t hate women.  And as long as she is clinging to such a fundamentally wrong idea, she’ll keep shoving away critical truths.

Here in Romans 6, Paul is saying, “Hey, Christian: what’s wrong with you?  How can you still be sinning?  Don’t you know that when you got baptized into Christ, you were given the ability to never sin again?  And by the way, that’s what Yahweh expects, so shape up!”  This is what he’s saying.  Look at the language here:

Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. (Rom. 6:3-4)

Paul says you were “baptized into Christ’s death.”  What the heck does this mean?  You didn’t gasp your last on a cross and then spend three days in a grave.  No, you really weren’t “baptized into death,” and trying to attach such symbolism to the physical act of being dunked into water is beyond absurd.  Christ Himself never taught people to attach this kind of symbolism to the baptizing ritual, and you really shouldn’t let Paul take you down this ridiculous road.

The act of baptizing began with John the Baptist, who dunked people into the Jordan River as a way of publicly declaring their desire to seriously pursue Yahweh.  Because physically bathing in water was one of many religious rituals which Yahweh came up with to have a person go from being symbolically “unclean” to symbolically “clean” under the Old Covenant, getting dunked in water as a way of saying, “I’m serious about pleasing Yahweh,” made perfect sense to Old Covenant Jews.  After all, Levite priests had to bathe before doing certain priestly duties.  Certain kinds of sins had to be made right by bathing.  And anytime we’re following Old Covenant laws, we’re supposed to be doing so out of a sincere desire to please Yahweh.  Then John the Baptist came along saying, “Hey, Old Covenant Jews: a lot of us have wandered way off track and grown slack in our commitment to Yahweh.  But He’s about to do something big and send His promised Messiah to us, so now’s the time for us to all get serious about honoring Him again.  Who’s with me?  Come here into the river, and I’ll dunk you in this water as a symbolic way of you renewing your commitment to Yahweh.”  Many Jews heard this message and waded into those waters.  Sure, plenty of them were just trying out a new fad, but some were serious about what they were doing and they were glad to have found some leader who sounded on fire for Yahweh—even if the guy was a little odd.  Well, since John’s baptism was targeting serious believers, it made perfect sense to the Jews when Jesus told His guys to practice the baptizing ritual.  Once again the idea was for folks to show how serious they were about pleasing their Creators by going through a public act which had a long history of being associated with a serious concern for pleasing God.  Only when Jesus told His boys to baptize, He specifically ordered them to baptize people in the Names of three Gods: Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  It wasn’t just a baptism to show a desire to please Yahweh—that’s what John the Baptist’s baptisms had been about, but the New Covenant was about submitting to three Gods.

So how well did the apostles follow Jesus’ orders?  Well, we find several references in Acts to them baptizing folks in the Name of Jesus, but often it sounds like His Name is the only One being used.  Meanwhile, Jesus never said that baptism was essential for anything.  Just as an Old Covenant believer didn’t need to be dunked by John the Baptist in order to be seriously committed to Yahweh, souls today don’t need to be dipped in water before they can be accepted by our three Gods.  Today we’ve turned baptism into something it was never supposed to be and we attach all kinds of ridiculous meanings to it.  This is largely thanks to us accepting the guff that the apostle Paul puts out about baptism being some metaphorical parallel to us dying and resurrecting with Christ. How utterly absurd.  Christ Himself never made any such claim.

It’s important for you to realize just how absurd Paul is being by trying to insist that you metaphorically imitate Christ’s death on a cross.  Listen to the language he uses here:

For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. (Rom. 6:5-9)

When did Christ ever say that we all had to die and resurrect with Him?  He didn’t.  Christ described His death on the cross as atoning for the sins of the world.  In other words, Christ likened Himself to an Old Covenant sin offering. Now let’s say you’re an Old Covenant believer.  You sinned.  According to Yahweh’s Law for your specific kind of sin, you now have to bring a lamb to the Temple to be killed on your behalf to atone for that sin.  Fine.  You bring the lamb.  The priest sacrifices it according to the rules Yahweh gave, and assuming you have the right soul attitudes, you are now right in the eyes of Yahweh.  But wait—did Yahweh say that you had to die with that lamb that you gave?  Did He say that, like your lamb, the blood had to be metaphorically drained from your body as well and offered to Yahweh in the Holy of Holies?  Of course not.  The whole point in offering the lamb was so that you didn’t have to go through what the lamb went through.  The lamb died in your place so that you wouldn’t have to die. There was never any sense in which believers had to die with their atonement sacrifices.  Yahweh said that when certain sins were committed, someone had to die.  SomeONE, not some group, and not some symbolic victim plus the actual sinner.

But then Paul comes along and he’s telling us that even though Christ died for us, we also have to die.  It’s not good enough for Christ to die for us, we must also die with Christ. Paul is changing the rules for how atonement sacrifices work, and he has no authority to do so. Because you don’t understand how Old Covenant sacrifices worked, this baloney about you having to die with Christ slips right past your guard.  But do you know what the real problem is?  You’re not asking God for discernment when you read this guff.  You have to ask God.  You can’t just sit there saying, “Since Paul is the one talking, I guess it must be right.”  The man rejected the Divinity of Christ—how is that a mark of wisdom?  No, you really can’t trust Paul or any other human.  You can only trust God.

Okay, so according to our dingdong apostle, why exactly did we have to die with Christ?

For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. (Rom. 6:6-7)

You had to die with Christ so that you could be totally freed up from this sin issue.  The way Paul presents it, the moment you rise out of those baptismal waters, you’re no longer a soul who is trapped in an earthsuit that is filled with depraved desires.  No, somehow you’ve been set free from all that.  Well, that’s puzzling, because when we look at you, we see the same earthsuit we’ve always seen.  Maybe you have some happy moment of euphoria when you get saved, but that will wear off, and when it does, you’ll quickly discover that you’re just as depraved as you’ve always been.  Even those of you who received legitimate healings from God at the moment of salvation (and you know that most of you who make such claims are lying just to sound more changed than you really are), even you little miracle stories will notice plenty of other areas in your life where you’re acting like carnal little beasts.  So what’s with this guff about having “sin’s dominion abolished” and being “freed from sin’s claims”?

As we discussed in our study of Chapter 5, Paul likes to invent new deities for Yahweh and Christ to have to duke it out with.  Sin is not alive, sin is not a god, and sin doesn’t rule over things.  You are a soul who is stuck in a depraved earthsuit because that’s how God set you up.  Your depraved nature isn’t some whoops.  It isn’t some accident.  Your Creators want you to be depraved (see The Great Gift of Sin: Why Our Depravity Gives Us Hope).  But of course Paul won’t acknowledge this because he’s always trying to downplay the sovereignty of the only God he acknowledges: the magnificent Yahweh.

Paul makes Sin out to be some great foe who came along, knocked Yahweh off His throne, and took over Yahweh’s kingdom.  According to Paul, Yahweh isn’t the One who has dominion over our bodies—no, it’s that nasty god named Sin.  Well, where was Yahweh when Sin was hauling us all away as captives?  What kind of weenie God do we have if He can’t even defend us from Sin?  Paul isn’t going to answer these questions, but you have to ask them if you’re going to buy into his ridiculous theories.  You see, Yahweh claims to be a Sovereign Ruler.  He says that nothing happens in His Creation that He doesn’t want to have happen.  So there’s no room for some force named Sin to be seizing control of anything, because Yahweh says that He’s the One in charge.  Yet here Paul makes it out like Sin took over humans and had them pinned down in a hostage situation until Yahweh sent Jesus to fix this major problem.  Paul makes Jesus out to be Yahweh’s counterattack in His ongoing battle against epic forces which are clearly stronger than He is since they keep taking over Yahweh’s turf.  Paul is an irreverent fool.

Oh, but far be it from Paul to only insult one God when he could insult two.  As we continue with this cockamamie theory about Christ coming to free us all up from that great power named Sin, we come across this garbage about Christ:

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Christ. For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to Yahweh. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to Yahweh in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:8-11)

So, really?  Death used to rule over Christ?  Of course, because Christ was just some wimp of a human, and Death is like Sin—it’s another one of Paul’s fictitious forces that manages to out power the awesome Yahweh.  If Sin can take over Yahweh’s domain, surely Death can also kick Yahweh in the head.  And if Yahweh can be so easily dethroned by these two great powers, obviously human Christ doesn’t stand a chance.  So Paul teaches that Death once ruled over Christ (and over Yahweh as well, by implication).  And do you know how Christ beat Death?  By dying and then having Yahweh raise Him back to life.

Don’t miss how Paul always keeps the power to resurrect people in Yahweh’s court.  Human Christ clearly doesn’t have the chops to pull off such feats.  So here Paul tells us that Christ died, Yahweh resurrected Him, and somehow this all proved to be a clever ruse that Yahweh and Christ came up with in order to beat Death and Sin and get Yahweh His stuff back.  Wow.  And now that Christ lives, He lives “to Yahweh” or, as another translation puts it: “He now has a new life, and His new life is with Yahweh.”  Right, because Christ can’t have His own life or just be Self-Sustaining.  He’s only GOD ALMIGHTY.  Clearly He needs Yahweh to sustain His existence—you know, that same Yahweh who those bullies Death and Sin beat up whenever they feel like it.  Our Gods always get shrunk down to impotent specks whenever Paul starts spinning out his delusional theories.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. (Rom. 6:12)

After telling us that Sin trumped the mighty Yahweh, Paul tells us not to “let sin reign.”  Really?? So we mortals are supposed to accomplish what God was too weak to do?  How does that work?

And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. (Rom. 6:13)

Yes, heaven forbid we don’t arm Sin, or it might take over the world again.  Are you hearing how idiotic and idolatrous Paul is being by exalting Sin in this way?

But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to Yahweh, and all the parts of yourselves to Yahweh as weapons for righteousness. (Rom. 6:13)

“Weapons for righteousness”?  What does that mean?  Is there some Divine arsenal that we’re supposed to be beefing up to help Yahweh have a fighting chance of holding back Sin and Death?  Since when did Yahweh say, “You are My weapons”?  We were created to serve and depend on our Makers, not play the role of little machine guns.  This is a really lame analogy.

For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6:14)

What happened to being under God?  Who the heck is “grace”?  Has Paul just invented a new authority for us to contend with?  Yahweh’s Law was not a god, so the “law” never ruled over anyone.  Our Gods rule, and They invent laws to create opportunities for us to choose between rebellion and obedience. But of course Paul isn’t going to promote any of the soul attitudes that our Gods say They want.  Dependency?  Who needs that?  Now that we’ve resurrected with Christ, we can hold Sin back all on our own.  Reverence?  There’s a joke.  What’s to revere about a God who can’t even keep His own Creation under control?  Submission?  Nah.  We can be our own lords now that we’ve gotten our hands on all of the magic power Christ downloaded to us through baptism.  Trust?  Not needed.  We can trust in our own strength.

So what should we do? Should we sin because we are under grace and not under law? No! Surely you know that when you give yourselves like slaves to obey someone, then you are really slaves of that person. The person you obey is your master. You can follow sin, which brings spiritual death, or you can obey Yahweh, which makes you right with Him. In the past you were slaves to sin—sin controlled you. But thank Yahweh, you fully obeyed the things that you were taught. You were made free from sin, and now you are slaves to goodness. (Rom. 6:15-18)

Thank Yahweh?  Thank Him for what?  Well, Yahweh helped Christ trick Death so that Christ could turn us into potent little beings who can easily keep our own depravity in check.  At least Paul makes it sound easy.  According to him, we simply choose not to “give” ourselves to sin.

Here’s an important point to bear in mind: as long as the Old Covenant sacrificial system was in force, no one’s human nature was ever changed by the act of offering an atonement sacrifice to Yahweh.  Yet here Paul says that somehow Christ acting as our atonement sacrifice has had this miraculous effect on our earthsuits so that we’re no longer depraved like we were before.  He says that before we came to Christ, Sin was a master over us.  But wait—what was Yahweh doing while Sin was dominating us?  Is Paul saying that Yahweh was unwilling to help us back in those dark days?  Well, yes, this is exactly what Paul is implying.  By the time he makes such an epic fuss about Christ saving us, he makes it sound like Christ is the first Savior we’ve ever known.  The inescapable conclusion is that there was no salvation, no grace, and no mercy ever offered by mean old Yahweh before Christ came along.  If you look through Paul’s letters, you’ll find him constantly painting Yahweh in this kind of grim light. Back in Chapter 5, he said:

For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom. 5:6)

It’s easy to blow past this without picking up what nasty insinuations Paul is making about Yahweh by talking as if sending Christ was His first gracious act.  In Christian circles, we love to quote Paul saying:

But Yahweh proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Rom. 5:8)

But when we keep reading, we soon discover that Paul seems to think the coming of Christ is the first time Yahweh expressed His love for us.  After all, if Yahweh was so into us, why did He abandon us to the clutches of Sin and Death? Over and over again, Paul makes it sound like Christ is our first hope of ever being reconciled to Yahweh, when this is really an outrageous lie.  The truth is that Yahweh has always made salvation very easy to obtain by not demanding the sinless behavior from us which Paul is demanding here in Romans.  Yahweh has always judged people by their soul response to Him, not by the nature of their earthsuits.  Yet here in Romans, Paul is saying that if we don’t act non-depraved from here forward, then we’re in danger of losing our salvation.  As we wrap up this passage, listen to how he keeps telling Christians not to sin, while at the same time saying that the wages of sin is death.  The clear implication is that if you keep on sinning as a Christian—if you don’t keep that depravity of yours in check at all times—then you’re out.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of Yahweh, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of Yahweh is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:19-23)

So, then, do you sin?  Of course you do.  You sin every day.  Well, Paul says that the wages of sin is death.  Paul says that if you sin, then you will become like a slave to sin.  Paul says that you have to overcome your depraved instincts and stop acting on them.  And according to the apostle John, the very fact that you desire to sin proves that you’re not really a Christian, because no true Christian can want to sin.  Here’s a nice dose of John that is sure to drive you into despair if you are at all honest about the condition of your earthsuit:

“No one who abides in Christ sins; no one who sins has seen Christ or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous; but the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of Yahweh appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn. 3:6-10)

So what’s with these apostles demanding the impossible?  How arrogant was John to claim to be a true believer when he defines a true believer as one who never sins and one who acts as perfect as Christ?

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Christ: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Christ,” yet doesn’t keep Christ’s commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Christ: The one who says he remains in Christ should walk just as Christ walked. (1 Jn. 2:3-6)

Wow, really?  Christ is God Almighty.  Are you really going to put yourself on the same level as God?  John will, because John’s arrogance was out of control and ex-Pharisee Paul was right there with him, demanding sinless living from his followers as if that was actually doable.  It’s from Paul that we get that guff about being “new creations in Christ.”  Countless Christians have despaired over that one when no amazing change came over  them at the moment of salvation.  So why didn’t it?  Because salvation has never been about our human nature undergoing some radical change.  Instead, it’s always been about our Gods deciding to graciously accept us (see What happens to the soul at the moment of salvation?).  The bottom line is this: our Gods are much easier to succeed with than the New Testament apostles.  While the New Testament boys demand absolute perfection—so much so that you can’t even desire to sin if you’re a true believer—our Gods only require reverential submission from us.  Because salvation is acquired through soul choices, and because our soul choices are not controlled by the depravity of our earthsuits, it is quite possible for us to succeed with our Gods in the midst of flesh that is filled with nasty impulses and desires.  So while James demands that we rid ourselves “of all moral filth and evil” (Jam. 1:21), our Gods simply demand right soul attitudes.

It’s critical to realize that throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus speaking very harshly towards those who claim to have the kind of moral perfection that the New Testament apostles demand from Christians.  He once told a parable of two Jewish men—one a pompous Pharisee like Paul, and the other a tax collector.  In New Testament Israel, men who collected taxes for Rome were considered notorious sinners.  Not only were they viewed as betraying their own kinsmen, but they were known for often overcharging their fellow Jews just so they could keep the extra money for themselves.  To underscore how displeasing arrogance is to God and how salvation is obtained through right soul attitudes, not perfect behavior, Jesus told this parable:

“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank You, Yahweh, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give You a tenth of my income.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O Yahweh, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before Yahweh. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

What was it that got the tax collector into a good place with God?  Soul attitude.  The man was a total sinner, and instead of pretending otherwise, he owned it and was sincerely repulsed by it.  He owned that he was unworthy of God’s favor by asking for mercy, and he didn’t even try to impress Yahweh with his righteousness.  Meanwhile, the Pharisee thought he was doing a fabulous job of keeping himself morally perfect and had no problems boasting of it.  The Pharisee was confident of God’s favor, when really the man was rejected by God.  The tax collector knew he was a moral zero, and yet God accepted him because the man’s soul attitudes were correct.

Over and over again, our Gods teach that soul response is the critical thing, not behaviors.  But what is Paul teaching us here in Romans 6?  He’s teaching us to strain and strive not to let sin master us.  He’s teaching us that we are no longer depraved, thanks to Christ, and clearly such baloney will lead us into the unbounded arrogance of the apostle John.  You can’t possibly claim to be beyond sinning without totally rejecting what Yahweh’s definition of sin is.  This is what we find the apostles doing: while they rail against murderers, sexual perverts, idolaters, liars, and cowards, they act like they themselves have never committed a single sin since the day they came to Christ.  Once men become so blind to their own arrogance, are they going to teach us the truth about how to please our Gods?  No, they’re going to sit around condemning Christians for being less than perfect and making our Gods sound like merciless Taskmasters who utterly loathe anyone who struggles with sin or doubts or flaws of any kind.  You’re either perfect, or you’re out—this is what Paul teaches.  John takes it one step farther and says that if you even desire to sin, that just proves how you’re a child of the devil.  And then there’s the Church, who teaches you to call yourself a “New Testament Christian” and accept every word these men teach as flawless truth.  Well, no, it certainly isn’t God who inspired these men to teach us that salvation is impossible to attain and that is what they’re teaching by demanding that we magically morph into the clones of Christ.  So if you’re feeling discouraged by reading the New Testament, that just means you’re paying attention. If you’re feeling inspired, then you need to do a better job of examining what’s really being taught.  This is garbage theology, and if you run with it, you’ll either end up totally despaired or totally pompous.  There’s no third option once we say that salvation is only granted to sinless humans.

FURTHER READING:
Applying 1 Corinthians 4: Paul is Da Man
The Great Offense of Paul: Rejecting the Divinity of Christ
Understanding Divine Election: Jacob I Loved, Esau I Hated (Malachi 1 & Romans 9)
Romans 13: How should Christians respond to governing authorities?

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