There is always a framework in which our freedom is embedded. Freedom is always subject to boundaries; otherwise anarchy reigns. The Torah is God's framework for our freedom. Within these boundaries we may live. The world is a playground, Torah is the hedge surrounding it. Within that hedge there is freedom; danger lurks beyond the hedge. If we are outside the hedge we are in constant danger, and the threat that we might be destroyed following our own wisdom. To undervalue the Torah has immense consequences for the church and society. Here I want to paint a picture for each individual and for the church.
First I want to look at the church itself, specifically, ‘the quality’ of the believers. If we are taught that the law is a curse, couldn’t it be that we just start to believe that it is the law that is wrong, not we ourselves? I have frequently asked myself: how is a Christian to define sin if God's law no longer applies? We bring our sins to the cross. What sins? What is sin if God's law is no longer the norm? If someone repents, of what is that person repenting? So,...was there anything done that was wrong? We pray: ‘Lord, forgive my sins’. Usually we pray this in some general sense. What if God were to reply: ‘Which ones? What is it that you have done wrong then?’ To this you can find no satisfactory answer until you see that the dogma is wrong. The law has not been abolished, it remains the norm. That is how you know what sin is and you can say what they are.
Active and passive sins
Here I would like to define the word ‘sins’ more concretely in order to make it easier to become conscious of what is at stake. Sins are wrongful acts, words and thoughts that are in conflict with God's norm. There are active and passive sins. In general we are well aware of active sins; the wrongful things we do, whether deeds, words or thoughts. Wrongful acts such as theft, adultery, fraud, etc. Examples of wrongful speech would include cursing, mockery, lying and gossip. Wrongful thoughts include jealousy, intentions to commit a crime, lust or foolishness. Sinful deeds and words are in the open; not so with sinful thoughts. Yet the Bible also attaches value to what goes on in our thoughts.
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28) NET
In addition to active sins, there are passive sins. Passive sin refers to all the good that one fails to do, the sins of omission; precisely the things that a person has not done. Good deeds that a person failed to do. Positive words that remained unspoken and pure thoughts snowed under by other thoughts. All of these omissions in thought, word and deed would hardly be noted in one’s surroundings, but in the eyes of God passive sins are sins nevertheless.
Deliver those being taken away to death,
and hold back those slipping to the slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we did not know about this,”
does not the one who evaluates hearts consider?
Does not the one who guards your life know?
Will he not repay each person according to his deeds? (Proverbs 24:11-12) NET
But whoever has the world’s possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person? (1John 3:17) NET
So whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin. (James 4:17) NET
The primary focus of our legal systems is on active ‘sins’. Yet we have the duty as a citizen to take action in an emergency. And though looking on passively in emergencies may not be subject to any penalties, we do consider it unethical.
The Bible goes beyond that; failure to serve God is also sin. Just the fact that a person has gotten the assignment to love God with all that is within him (Deut. 6:5), still makes the greatest philanthropist or human rights activist a debtor if that person does not love God. In simpler terms: failure to acknowledge or honor God, and failure to thank God, is sin.
Caught with honey
Among those in some christian movements the awareness of sin is a weak point and there is a reason for this. I think that the conversion experience of these Christians was very easy due to sermons that have failed to properly present the challenge. Jesus has been portrayed as the friend of all people, someone who wants to bless, someone who redeems you from your past and all the grief others have caused you. A pastoral Jesus who shares your pain is an easily digestible Jesus. This Jesus no longer holds a mirror up to confront us with sin.
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough! (2 Cor. 11:4) NET
People walk into the Kingdom of God having experienced no remorse about sin because no explanation is given anymore about what sin is. People receive Jesus as the guide of their life, as giver of eternal life or as a friend who is always with them. They pray the one-line sinner’s prayer ‘Lord, forgive all my sins’, without knowing what their sins are.
There is nothing wrong with making the Gospel attractive for the modern person, because after all, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, yet we do have to stick to the truth. If you catch flies with honey, the flies think that honey is normal food. A certain coddling creeps in. Catching people with honey is, in fact, a form of deception. Honey is too delicious and does not constitute a balanced diet. People need to come to faith on the basis of healthy sermons with well-balanced spiritual food, not with a tempting snack. Give people bread and not pastries! The threshold for coming to faith need not be raised higher than is necessary, but neither should it be lowered.
If we are unaware of our former sinful state, what it is for which we have been forgiven, then it is logical that our hearts are lukewarm. Also sanctification is a point that is somewhere low on the agenda. How are we to live sanctified lives if we do not know what was wrong? What do you have to change, if you do not know what? A consciousness of sin can also come at a later state, but it does have to come. Sin and the consciousness of sin are two things. Sin has everything, and I do mean everything to do with God's law, the Torah. And the consciousness of sin has everything to do with the knowledge of God's law. Then you will see that …
Do I want you to go burdened, bowed down under your sins? No, I only want that those who have come to faith drawn by the honey come to an awareness of sin.
Fallen into the vinegar
I understand that some readers have been raised to be only too well aware of sin. Instead of having been caught with honey, they have fallen into the vinegar. Honey alone does not provide a balanced diet, nor does vinegar. Those who were caught with vinegar realize that they have sinned, but often they are not able to name them; and precisely because sins remain unknown, the yoke remains in place. By naming them and confessing, a person is freed. It is even one of satan’s “tricks” to let people live with a vague sense of sin.
Do not allow yourself to have to live in fear regarding sins hanging over your head that you cannot name. Acknowledge your sins, name them and become free! Putting on the jacket of forgiveness is a whole process, but it is possible. The jacket is hanging there ready for you. You may put it on once you have named the sins and confessed them to your God. Just take that jacket. It is just your size.
Conscience or Torah
In principle it is possible that a person might come to be aware of their sin, even without knowledge of the Torah. This is because people have been created with a conscience, an inborn sense of good and evil. This conscience would also be the criterion for judgment in the absence of the word of God. This will be discussed in paragraph 11.2. The conscience is no longer 100% pure. It is subject to the influence of one’s culture, it can be numbed and can be deformed in a variety of ways. And for that reason it is only a guide in the absence of something better. But the Word of God resounds among the children of God. It is preached. That better thing is available. Why use the conscience as norm when the Torah is right in front of your nose? Why would we have to guess about God's norm when it has been revealed?
This text is paragraph 13.1 from the Dutch book Vrij van de Wet?
Publisher: Sola Scriptura, Wijngaarden, The Netherlands
Author: E. Noordermeer. Translated by D.A. Schechter