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Old Testament Foundations: A Biblical View of the Relationship of Sin and the Fruits of Sin: Sickness, Demonization, Death, Natural Calamity, by Peter H. Davids

The Power of the Cross: The Biblical Place of Healing and Gift-Based Ministry in Proclaiming the Gospel

 

Understanding the Hebrew Scriptures and Hebrew culture is crucial to understanding how Jesus and the early church viewed sin, the demonic, and the fallen world they lived in.

 

Introduction

Christ’s death on the Cross atones for and cleanses us from all sin, and the atonement of the Cross provides the basis for God’s work to sanctify us and restore us from the brokenness which sin brought into our lives (Isa 53:4-6; Mk 10:45; Rom 3:22-25; 5:8-9; II Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13; Col 1:21-22; I Tim 2:6; Heb 2:14; 9:14, 26-28; 10:10; I Pet 1:18-21; 2:24; 3:18; I Jn 2:2; 3:5, 8). How is sin related to healing and wholeness in the Bible, and how is personal sin related to praying for someone’s healing as prescribed in James 5?

The problem with the human race is, according to Scripture, sin, and the problem with sin is that it has effects. What is more, the effects are not simply the immediate results of the sinful act, but also the long-term consequences of the act, sometimes affecting only the individual and at times engulfing the whole of the human race.1 In this chapter we want to look at what parts of the human experience are traceable to sin, as well as examine the biblical solution to these consequences.

 

Sin and the Fruit of Sin in the Old Testament

The history of sin in the Old Testament begins with the introduction of sin in Genesis 3. The human beings (both the woman and the man, “who was with her,” Gen 3:6) desired to “be like God,” disobeyed and so sinned. The results are portrayed immediately: shame at their nakedness (3:7; perhaps shame is a symbol for their vulnerability); fear of the presence of God (3:8); disorder in the natural world (3:14,17); disruption of human relationships (3:16); disturbance of the generative process (3:16);2 loss of sovereignty (3:15;18); and death (3:19).

The atonement of the Cross provides the basis for God’s work to sanctify us and restore us from the brokenness which sin brought into our lives.

In other words, the original creation in which human beings were sovereign over the world, animals lived at peace with human beings, the earth easily produced food for them, man and woman lived in the equality of mutuality, and death was unknown is no more after the fall. Sin has, according to Genesis, forever changed the world. The next three chapters of Genesis work these consequences out with the disruption of human relationships extending to murder and polygamy and the disruption of the relationship with the natural world leading in one branch of humanity to a total estrangement from the land and thus to the building of cities and the creation of technology as a substitute for farming (Gen 4).3 The litany of birth and death of Gen. 5 leads on to the culmination of violence in Gen. 6, which introduces the flood narrative.

The flood narrative itself indicates the pervasiveness of sin. At both ends of the narrative the writer declares that “every thought (or, thing formed in the thought) of a human being was only evil from youth.” (Gen 6:6; cf. 8:21) While on the one end of the narrative this inner evil is the reason for the destruction of the created order, a return to watery chaos, from which only Noah and his family are saved, on the other, it results in a type of resigned understanding on the part of God. Yet the next chapter places some limitations on violence in that, unlike the penalty exacted on Cain, now murderers will be executed. Law, then, becomes a result of sin.4

The rest of the Old Testament amplifies these positions about the results of sin. That sin can lead to judgment and death is almost cliché in terms of the Old Testament. The cycle of sin and oppression (which included death in battle and death through the oppression) is the theme of Judges. The prophets are concerned about impending judgment which they speak about in terms of various forms of death (sword, plague, etc.).

 

Sin Can Lead to Broken Relationships and Poverty

Another mark of sin seen in all of these narratives is the destruction of the social fabric of the people. One sees this graphically in the case of Lot in Gen. 19. On the one hand, the sin of Sodom (lack of hospitality to the extent of the abuse of foreigners) leads to the destruction of the city, for it confirms the “outcry against Sodom” (Gen 18:20 NIV) and thus seals its doom, especially since every man in Sodom is involved and Lot has only four people with him (thus less than the ten righteous needed to save the city). On the other hand, the narrative ends with incest by Lot’s daughters because society as they knew it was gone. Here is a destroyed social fabric to the extent that the incest taboo is broken. The author of Genesis appears to contrast this fate with that of Abraham. Lot may have been righteous, but he is not as righteous as Abraham.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” — 1 John 3:8 NIV

One could illustrate this fruit of sin in the Psalms and prophets as well, for in these works a result of sin (including Baal worship) is the neglect of the widow, orphan and foreigner, the failure to release Hebrew slaves, the neglect of the Sabbath year (which had important social consequences), the rise in adultery and the rise in violence (including legally sanctioned violence, such as the forcing of the poor into bankruptcy and slavery) which are all part of a breakdown in social relationships.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2006

About the Author: Peter H. Davids is a visiting professor of Christianity at Houston Baptist University and part-time professor at Houston Graduate School of Theology. He has taught biblical studies at Regent College (Vancouver, British Columbia) and Canadian Theological Seminary (Regina, Saskatchewan), and he continues to teach in theological schools in Europe. He is the author of commentaries on James and 1 Peter. He is the New Testament editor of the Word Biblical Commentary series, the translator (from German) of Reinhard Feldmeier, 1 Peter (Baylor, 2008), and has also been part of several Bible translation projects (including The New Living Translation, The Voice, and The Common English Bible). Davids’ passion for the church has been expressed in his deep church involvement. He served as a Plymouth Brethren US Army Chaplain for 5 years, then an Episcopal priest for 34 years. He is presently a Catholic priest in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Faculty page Ministry page

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