In parts one and two of this series, I have argued that we are utterly sinful and that salvation is of God alone. Although as Christians we are being transformed by the Spirit of God to be more like Jesus, we are still sinful. In fact, my sinful nature is in battle with God’s Spirit within me: “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17).
We must repent of our sin. We must walk by the Spirit and put our sin to death (Romans 8:13). However we will always struggle with sin this side of heaven.
This doctrine of sin has implications then for how I read the Bible as a Christian. When I read the Bible I may come to it with a prior understanding of what it says, and what is right and wrong, but my thinking is affected by my sin. I will need to pray first of all that God would work by his Spirit to give me understanding. Then I will need to pray that God’s Spirit will change and transform me as I read his word. I will need to come to God’s word with humility and sit under its authority, allowing it to teach me, rebuke me, correct me, and train me in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). I am still sinful and need correction.
This all means that when I hear a sermon or go to a Bible study group I should expect to find that what the Bible may jar with me; it may be different to how I have been thinking or behaving. I should expect the Bible to correct me, for I am sinful.
If my doctrine of sin is one which focuses on the symptoms of sin rather than the disease of sin, then I will approach the Bible differently to this (see part one of this series). I may have a check-list of what is right and wrong to believe, and what is right and wrong with regard to Christian behaviour. I may listen to someone else’s explanation of the Bible to see if they match up with my check-list. If they differ, I may not be happy; if they are the same I may approve. But I may not be changed. In fact my check-list may be set in stone!
However sin is a disease in me, not just symptoms. I am utterly sinful. I am tempted to harden my heart and not repent when I read the Bible. I am inclined not to follow the Holy Spirit: my nature is opposed to God’s Spirit within me, not in line with it. If the Bible challenges my preconceived ideas of what is right and wrong, my beliefs, my behaviours, I may not like it. I may even rationalise my sin. I may even say the Bible study leader has got it wrong, or that this is just their view or opinion. My sinful nature will fight against the Bible, not wanting to change.
But the Holy Spirit should lead me to sit under the authority of God’s word; to realise I am utterly sinful; to approach the Word of God with trembling and humility; and to allow it to correct me.
A wrong view of sin may lead me to reject what I read in the Bible. A right view of sin will lead me to sit under the teaching of the Bible with a trembling heart that is earnest for repentance.
Photo Credit: © Mele Avery – Fotolia