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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

     

Vol.3: Man in Adam and in Christ

PART VII

THE COMPELLING LOGIC OF THE PLAN OF SALVATION:
A STUDY OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "SIN" AND "SINS"

 

Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1.  Sin and Sins
Chapter 2.  The Salvation of the Whole Man

Publishing History:
1972  Doorway paper No. 58, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1975  Part VII in Man in Adam and in Christ, vol.3 in The Doorway papers Series, published by Zondervan Publishing Company
1997  Arthur Custance Online Library (html)
2001  2nd Online Edition (corrections, design revisions)

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In Adam, a single individual corrupted human nature.
In his offspring, human nature corrupts each individual.

 

INTRODUCTION

     IT HAS ALWAYS seemed to me strange that so many people should find the study of the Word of God unexciting. Sometimes I think it is because they do not read it carefully enough. I am quite convinced that the Lord was in no way speaking poetically when He said that not one jot or tittle of the Scriptures should be lost sight of until it was all fulfilled. The jot is the smallest letter in Hebrew and the tittle is an even smaller element that distinguishes between letters that might otherwise be confused because they are alike in appearance.
     I am always amused to note in my older edition of the Scofield Bible that in spite of the tremendous care taken to avoid typographical errors and omissions, there is nevertheless one such omission occurring in Psalm 119. This psalm is, of course, divided into a number of sections, at the head of each of which is one of the Hebrew characters which is then spelled out. Before verse 25 is the Hebrew letter which is also spelled out there as DALETH. Over verse 73 the Hebrew character has been omitted by mistake, though its pronunciation is spelled out as JOD. This missing character is the jot to which the Lord made reference! It almost looks like perversity in human nature, but I am sure it really was only a typographical error. If the heading over verse 9 is compared with the heading over verse 81, it will be seen that the two Hebrew characters are actually a tiny bit different. The difference is the very slight extension of the bottom line of the character identified as BETH, an extension which does not appear in the CAPH. This is the tittle of which the Lord spoke.
     It might be thought that the extraordinary attention which was paid by Jewish scholars to the text of the Old Testament distracted them from paying sufficient attention to its meaning. It probably did, and I may very well be accused of the same fault. Yet our Lord's words seem to me to encourage us to be careful how we read.
     Essentially, what I want to deal with is the difference between sin

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and sins in the New Testament, and to suggest that although the Greek noun in the original is the same (either in the singular or the plural form), the meaning behind the two forms is rather different. That one should base a serious study on the difference between the singular and the plural of the same word might seem to be splitting hairs, but there is a very good precedent in Scripture itself. This occurs in Paul's letter to the Galatians where he refers to a certain promise with respect to Abraham's seed and established an important doctrinal point on the fact that the promise had reference to Abraham's seed (in the singular) and not to his seeds (in the plural). Since in English there is no distinction between the singular and plural forms of this particular word, the point is apt to be lost in the reading of the relevant Old Testament passages (Genesis 13:15; 17:8). But in the original language the plural of the word is indicated when it is intended, by the introduction of this very same little character Yod or Jot, to which the Lord had reference! So Paul wrote (Galatians 3:16):

He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

     Let me say plainly by way of introducing the argument of this Paper that in the great majority of cases in the New Testament I think the word sin is used in its singular form to designate that element in human nature which each of us inherits by the very fact of being a descendant of fallen Adam and this predisposes each of us to rebellion against the law of God as we mature, converting us from a state of innocence to one of guilt. The situation has been epitomized by saying that in Adam, man made human nature sinful; thereafter human nature made man sinful. In short, sin is a kind of root from which arises all that is evil in human nature.
     In the New Testament sins are the fruits of the root which is sin. I believe that this root, sin, is rather like a disease, an inherited disease which corrupts in due course not merely man's spiritual life but even his thinking processes. Theologians refer to the latter as the noetic effects of sin. We shall explore this further.
     The distinction is borne out in the New Testament with great consistency. Things which are said to be true of sin are not applied to sins, and vice versa. And God's method of judging and of dealing redemptively with sin differs from His method of judging and of dealing with sins. By noting such differences carefully, a great deal that is otherwise puzzling is made clear, and the logic of the plan of salvation is beautifully underscored.
     In the Old Testament the same picture is often to be seen, though not with the same consistency. The reason for this, I think, is that the

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Old Testament is not a theological statement of faith in the sense that we have it in the Epistles but rather a religious statement of experience. In fact there are good reasons for arguing that the Hebrew language is not a suitable vehicle for theological expression, but an ideal vehicle to set forth religious experience. It seems to me likely that the Hebrew language was allowed to die before the New Covenant was instituted, because in the economy of God world history had set the stage for the climax of revelation to be given to man in a form of language (Greek, which belongs within the Indo-European family) that was almost perfectly suited to convey it to the rest of the world outside of Palestine. The character of the two languages, Hebrew and Greek, is different in certain very important respects, the latter being far more precise in its use of terms and much richer in its expression of abstract ideas and in its facility for the statement of principles. (1)
     Thus throughout this study the great majority of Scriptural references are taken from the New Testament, though there are some very important ones in the Old Testament and the basis of the distinction is ultimately rooted in the account in Genesis of the Fall of man. If we examine the difference between these two words, sin and sins, as they are used with great precision in the New Testament, we find that the very consistency with which appropriate aspects of the plan of salvation is applied to each is strong confirmation of the validity of treating them as concepts with precise and clearly defined meaning, and not just as alternative words for a single idea loosely employed without discrimination.
     In order to make this study more readily grasped by anyone who has not seriously considered the matter previously, I have adopted the following plan which, although it will take somewhat more space, will perhaps make the distinction between the two words more obvious. In the following pages, the left hand column deals only with the word sin as it is found in a number of very significant passages in Scripture: and the right hand column deals with the word sins in a parallel manner. As far as possible where one particular aspect of sin is under consideration, the contrasting aspect of the word sins will be found directly opposite, even though this entails some blank spaces on many pages. At the very end of the Paper there is a tabulation which draws together some of the evidence for the distinctions I am proposing between these two concepts.

1. On this point see Thorlief Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek., S. C. M. Press, London, 1960, 224 pp., and also James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language, Oxford University Press 1962, pp.8-20.

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 SIN

 SINS
 Sin is a disease  Sins are Symptoms of the disease
 The first man, Adam, acquired the disease   All men now inherit this disease
   It was acquired by Adam through the forbidden fruit   It is inherited by Adam's descendants through natural generation
   The fruit presumably contained some infective agent  The infective agent appears to be passed on through the male seed
  Man is inevitably a sinner because he is constitutionally diseased.
 This agent has two effects:

 (1) It initiated a process of decay which introduced physical death into human experience.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin . . . and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12).

 and (2)  >

 (2) It effectually marred human behaviour, making all men sinful by nature and spiritually dead.

   For by one man's disobedience many were made sinners. . .  (Romans 5:19).

 Sin causes physical death.  Sins cause spiritual death
   Until Adam ate the forbidden fruit and introduced this poison into his body, he was not subject to physical death. The day he ate it he became a dying creature, though the process took almost a thousand years to complete. The life span of his descendants was steadily reduced as the effects of the poison became cumulative.

   Although every man begins life as a mortal creature, spiritual death occurs only when one becomes accountable for his behaviour. It is not sin, but sins, which break our communion with God.

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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