Christianity 201

May 9, 2015

Sinning Against Another vs. Sinning Against God

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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I Sam. 2:25a If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?”

One of my favorite quotations is from Jerry Bridges in The Pursuit of Holiness, where he says, “We never see sin aright unless we see it as against God.” (I think I’ve got that more or less word-for-word.) In other words, if it is sin at all, it doesn’t matter if is against ourselves (eg. failing to observe Biblical directives re. gluttony), against our neighbor (eg. a violation of any one of the ‘second tablet’ ten commandments), or against God (eg. blasphemy, failing to give God worship He is due); all of it is against God’s holy standards.

(Paul alludes to something similar in I Cor. 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Italics added)

But this verse seems to provide us with a different level — hinted at in the third type I listed above — of sin, “sins against the Lord.”

To begin, let’s see how some other translations (NIV is above) deal with this first part of verse 25. Compare at this page.

As it turns out only the (old) Living Bible in any way remotely departs from the wording, and even it is very close:

Ordinary sin receives heavy punishment, but how much more this sin of yours that has been committed against the Lord!

The preceding verses provide the context; here’s how The Message expresses this:

22-25 By this time Eli was very old. He kept getting reports on how his sons were ripping off the people and sleeping with the women who helped out at the sanctuary. Eli took them to task: “What’s going on here? Why are you doing these things? I hear story after story of your corrupt and evil carrying on. Oh, my sons, this is not right! These are terrible reports I’m getting, stories spreading right and left among God’s people! If you sin against another person, there’s help—God’s help. But if you sin against God, who is around to help?”

Perhaps you find the meaning of this rather self-evident. Several of the study Bibles and commentaries I consulted seem to gloss over it without adding detail. The Reformation Study Bible says,

Eli’s point is that while there may be some mediation of disputes between people, when someone offends God there is no one who can intervene.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary noted:

When a man has a complaint against another, the matter can be decided by God through his representative, the judge (Ps. 82:3), or by the sacred lot in the hand of the priest. But in a case in which God is the plaintiff, there can be no reference to a disinterested party the crime incurs the direct vengeance of heaven.  (p.277)

Although the context is quite different, the language of that verse to me is always similar to Acts 5:39, “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” What I get is there is a sense of God’s vested interest in certain affairs (though the verse means far more than that); it conveys the image of sitting across the table in direct confrontation with God.  You don’t want that.

Perhaps this discussion leaves you wanting more. I was surprised at how print commentaries and their online counterparts were often silent on this verse.  Feel free to engage this in the comments section.

Heb. 10:25 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

Prov. 15:10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.

Psalm 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.









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