Archives for posts with tag: confession

I am back from vacation and the Parish Life Conference, so I hope to keep this blog more regularly updated.  Today I will return to the book of Genesis, chapter 15.

Chapter 15 offers a pivotal moment in the Bible, primarily because in verse 6 Abram (later re-named and subsequently referred to here as Abraham) is “accounted righteous” by God.  Whether we like it or not, in a very real way this one verse has shaped the past 2,000 years of history.  The reason I make such a bold statement is simple: this verse is the cornerstone of the defense/apologia of the Christian movement as seen most explicitly in Acts, Romans, and Galatians.  And, of course, we know that history has been changed because of Christianity.

According to the teachings of Jesus Christ, as thoroughly outlined especially by St Paul of Tarsus, being accounted righteous by God is independent of being perfectly obedient to the Mosaic Law.  I believe it is important for Christians to understand that the teachings of Jesus and Paul–that righteousness is found apart from the Mosaic Law–is not a “new” concept, but one found in the Old Testament.  Put differently, in defending the teaching of Christ, Paul did not invent a new argument or concept, but simply referred back to Scripture to make his case.

In Paul’s time, as in our own, we are tempted to think (even if we profess something different with our mouths) we are righteous because we follow certain rules (insert the rules of a specific religion or denomination).  With religious Jews, it is easy to fall into the trap of righteousness by following the Mosaic Law.  However, as Paul correctly points out, Abraham is deemed righteous by God BEFORE the Mosaic Law even exists.  Therefore, if one is accounted righteous before the Law is given, then righteousness does not come through the Law.  Instead, as Genesis 15:6 indicates, it comes through belief in God.

Now it is important to keep in mind that the word translated “believe” in Genesis 15:6 is more than an intellectual ascent or a simple confession of faith.  Rather, biblical belief in God means you put your trust in God.  I often compare this to kids and their “belief” in gravity.  Give a 3-year old kid a balloon and take him outside.  Watch him let go of the balloon and cry when the balloon flies away.  The child has such a strong trust in gravity he believes whatever goes up will always come down.  The 3-year old in this example has a biblical “belief” in gravity–he behaves according to something unseen based on a trust in that principle.

Ultimately, putting this kind of faith, trust, or belief in God is what leads to us being accounted righteous.  It is our authentic admission that we are insufficient before God, and our recognition that only He can correct that, which leads us to holiness.  Certainly, if we have that sincere faith, action should follow; we should behave in a certain way.  As St James pointed out in his epistle, if our behavior does not match the confession of our lips then it proves we do not have a biblical belief in God, but only the kind of intellectual belief I mentioned previously–and one shared even by the demons (James 2:18-19)!  Yet, we should never permit ourselves to think our actions make us holy.  It is only God who can deem us holy, and only when we are willing to admit our deficiencies and inadequacies. 

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While discussing Genesis 3, people tend to focus on the sin of Adam and Eve, their breaking of God’s commandment to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Obviously, this sin of partaking from the tree is extremely important, but the story of Genesis 3 reveals problems much deeper than simple disobedience.  Let’s take a look at the story and see the three problems highlighted by the text.

Eve listens to the cunning serpent and eats of the forbidden tree.  She then gives some of the fruit to Adam, who also consumes it, violating the direct commandment given to him by God.  This is the first problem: Adam has disobeyed God’s commandment.

If we were unfamiliar with the biblical story and listened only to popular talk of Genesis 3, we would be inclined to think God came down from heaven and struck Adam and Eve with curses and death.  But this is not the biblical story.  Rather, immediately after Adam and Eve sin, we hear of a very gentle God: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (vs. 8).  God comes to check up on Adam and Eve, giving them an opportunity to come clean, acknowledge their sin, and ask forgiveness.  But Adam and Eve have a different plan: they hide from God.  This is the second problem: Adam and Eve do not confess their sin, choosing to run from God.

God, of course, finds Adam and Eve hiding in the garden.  Again, rather than immediately striking them, God presents them with an opportunity to acknowledge their sin.  This time, rather than admitting wrongdoing and asking God to forgive him, Adam blames Eve.  Eve, in turn, blames the serpent.  Neither Adam nor Eve takes responsibility for disobeying God’s commandment, preferring to make excuses for sin.  This is the third problem.

In the story of Genesis 3, we have a classic example of “three strikes and you’re out.”  Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God’s command to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Strike one.  After committing this sin, Adam and Eve did not come forward to confess their sin and ask forgiveness, but hid from God.  Strike two.  When God finally confronts Adam and Eve directly, they both make an excuse, blaming someone else for their own sin.  Strike three.  Notice, only after strike three does God issue curses (which, essentially, make the blessings he had already given more difficult to achieve).

The story of Genesis 3 should have serious implications for how we live our lives.  Yes, it is bad to sin, but we compound our problems and the break in our relationship with God when we do not come forward to confess our sin and take full responsibility for our actions and inactions.  A close reading of Genesis 3 shows God is practically begging us to confess our sins and to be accountable, so He may forgive us.