Revisiting Inevitable Sin

An emailed response to the post “Suffering and the Inevitability of Sin” asks this question:

>  you wrote in relation to Job’s suffering that sin is not inevitable.
>  This is a question in my mind as I have thought that sin is
>  inevitable with our sinful nature. I would need this clarified in my mind.

You have a very good question, and I should have taken the time to be a bit more thorough in regard to the background of the Biblical account.

You are right in regard to the general inevitability of sin because our sinful nature would allow nothing else – in fact, that is exactly what Satan is counting on.  Really, there is no logical reason why Job should not simply roll over, “curse God and die,” as his wife so succinctly put it.  Satan knows that humanity is already by nature leaning so far in that direction that it ought not take much of a push to make it happen.  All that is needed is to remove the props, blow softly in his direction and Job would fall like a ton of bricks.  The procedure probably has worked for thousands of others.  But not with Job.  That is Satan’s bewildering puzzle: Why does he not??

We have an advantage in understanding spiritual matters due to the New Testament, but the difficulty is in how the same principles and concepts apply in the Old Testament.

For instance, “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” [I Corinthians 12:3].  We understand that the Holy Spirit is essential for any human in any world-age to believe, and this includes both sides of the Testament fence, the Old as well as the New.

So the Holy Spirit has to be operating in Job, since at the beginning of his book, it is very evident that Job is a believer in a very personal relationship with Jehovah.  Yet this is before the Holy Spirit is “poured out upon all flesh” [Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17] – so if the Holy Spirit is present and working faith in every Old Testament figure such as Job, does this take away the “extraordinary” aspect of the Pentecost event [Acts 2]?

Some think that “all flesh” means that after Pentecost the world is now open to the Holy Spirit’s influence, so that those outside the Israel family would now have equal access to the Spirit’s gifts.  But almost two thousand years before Jesus, Job (as Abraham’s contemporary) is one already outside that promised continuum of Abraham’s descendents and yet has been influenced by the Holy Spirit.  So also Melchizedek, “Priest of the Most High God” [Genesis 14:28], is not of Abraham’s family, yet between the two: “Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils” [Hebrews 7:4].  The Holy Spirit appears to be already active “in the world.”

Looking at John’s comment in his first letter, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith” [I John 5:4], it is true that this “victory” is “our faith.”   However, this cannot be unique to the New Testament – faith and its “victory” must also be operating on both sides of the Testament fence, otherwise none of the saints of the Old Testament would have survived Satan’s onslaughts with an intact relationship with Jehovah.  It is this Holy Spirit-incited faith that prevents Job from caving in from the enormous suffering that sits on his shoulders.

With the Holy Spirit as the Source of Job’s faith, Job has the ability to either choose or reject his relationship with God.  The battle between “the good that I would” and “the evil what I would not” [Romans 7:15-24] has always been with the believer no matter which side of the Testament fence.  Satan, of course, is utterly convinced that the battle would be short and sweet – inevitable.  When Jehovah does not “seem” to be very nice, it should be a foregone conclusion that Job would desert Him.  Yet Job does not; he will not even consider it.

Job “overcomes the world” by his faith – he overcomes natural and manmade disasters, he overcomes the attempted erosion of faith by his “comforters,” he overcomes Satan’s attempt to spiritually destroy him.  However, John ties together faith and “overcoming the world” to being “born of God,” which is a specific New Testament concept.  This creates a struggle: among other things, is the Old Testament “faith” different from New Testament “faith” which is “born of God”?   This gets awkward because we can subtly start dismantling what faith is and does, since some of it would work here but not there, and faith has this value there but not here – and end up basically confusing what should be a simple thing.

The essence of what John is saying is that faith and “overcoming the world” occur in the context of a close, personal relationship with God.  The depth of that relationship has become far more “visible” in the New Testament, and “born of God” is a powerful way of describing it.  Yet there is a close personal counterpart in the Old Testament, although at that time it does not having the awareness of all the details that the Christian now understands: that relationship is Covenant, which God establishes as His pivotal bond with humans already starting with Adam.

The joining in Covenant is most powerful: it is an intermingling of Life (Soul) and Love [I Samuel 18:1,3].  It revolves around the mutual blending of Blood between its participants, which, according to Genesis 9:4 and Deuteronomy 12:23, is also the blending of “Life” and “Soul” [see the post “The Age of Aquarius and the Future”].  In that context, Covenant with Jehovah is to have His Life, His “Soul,” coursing through one’s “veins.”
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Would this be like “born of God” but in different words?  It would seem that when one comes to the endpoint of each concept, does one really end up with much difference?  Care is required lest we tend to say that the New Testament believers will have a greater relationship with the Lord in heaven than the old time believers.  It is uncomfortable to propose the idea that we would have a “better” position with God than Abraham, Moses or David; that we would be the “children of God,” but not them.  So just how do we wrestle with the relationship of God to His People in a way that spans Genesis to Revelation?

Job likely does not participate in Abraham’s Circumcision Covenant, yet he must needs be in Covenant with the Lord in some way.  As mentioned above, there are others who are outside the Abrahamic family “corridor” who also are believers.  They also must be in Covenant, since when they offer sacrifices to the true Lord [Job 1:5], the Biblical meaning for these offerings comes only out of the context of Covenant and its need of the Blood/Soul/Life to restore what has been lost when Covenant is broken.

However, if there is a sense of “born of God,” although couched in different terminology (that is, “Covenant”), in the Old Testament, how then does one maintain a distinction between the Old and the New?

There is a significant difference between the two Testaments.  Throughout the Old Testament, Covenant is more “in concept” or what might be called “a holding action.”  Even though the relationship and the connection is fully honored and in a sense is fully real, yet it has a big limp to it.  The problem is from Jehovah’s side – He cannot shed His Blood in the bond of Covenant – He doesn’t have any!!  Throughout the Old Testament the Blood has to always be by proxy – the Blood of an animal, not His own.

This is why Jesus’ Circumcision [Luke 2:21] is such a universe-shaking event – for the first time in the whole history of creation, God has Blood and it is actually shed for the sake of Covenant – and now Jehovah’s Blood flows throughout all the Covenants within the Old Testament times, now giving them (from the future) the legitimacy that they require.  Jesus’ Blood from the future now makes the Covenant relationships from the past effective.

So, in a way, Job is indeed “born of God,” but at the same time “not yet,” until the New Testament comes and creates the fullness of that relationship for him.  In a sense he would experience all the benefits of being “born of God,” but only in a borrowed way, until Jesus makes it happen in and from the future.  This is the same understanding that allows us to say that Jesus’ death has effectiveness even for someone so far removed in the past as Adam.  It also provides the basis for why sin is no longer inevitable for Job, much to Satan’s shock.

This would also identify how the Holy Spirit poured out thousands of years later would still work faith in Job.  The Pentecost event is not robbed of its extraordinary nature, but rather filled with an awesome awareness of how He truly and literally is “poured out upon all flesh” – not just on a certain day in a certain place to certain people, but rather upon the totality of human existence.

Looking at the scene in heaven in Revelation, although there appears to be a separate status for the Israelite (the “144,000” [7:4-8]), there appears to be no division among “the great multitude which no one could number” [v 9] – it seems there will be no distinction between Noah, Job, Melchizedek and New Testament believers like you and me: all are “born of God,” all are in Covenant.  Again, the Old Testament believer will experience the fullness of Jesus’ and the Holy Spirit’s gifts without distinction because the benefits of Jesus and Pentecost flow backward as well as forward.

The problem is that this plays with the very fringes between time (with its relentless sequential progression) and eternity (in which everything is in the “eternal now”).  Truly this is a bewildering thing to try to understand!  However it provides that fortress within which Job could stand against Satan’s belief that “sin is inevitable,” despite the fact that he lived about two thousand years before Jesus came to earth.



Further discussion from the above mentioned emailed can be found in the post “Revisiting Inevitable Sin Again


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