TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

II. Avoiding Sin and Being Holy

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Chapter 37  Part II

Avoiding Sin and Being Holy

The Bible does not merely tell us not to sin. It also helps us not to do so by giving sound instructions and alternatives to sin. In conjunction with this, the Bible calls us to be holy – i.e. to live pure lives, set apart from all that is ungodly.

Avoiding Sin

See also:

Take care not to sin

1Cor 10:12  Even if you think you can stand up to temptation, be careful not to fall.  CEV

Ask God for help to avoid sin . . .

Ps 19:13  [David, to God:] Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins; do not allow such sins to control me. Then I will be blameless, and innocent of blatant rebellion.  NET

. . . For God and Jesus Christ are willing and able to help us withstand temptation

1Cor 10:13  [Paul, to believers:] No temptation has overtaken you that is unusual for human beings. But God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. Instead, along with the temptation he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to endure it.  ISV

Heb 4:15-16  For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one [Christ] who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 16Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.  NET

Note that being tempted to sin is not sinning. But giving in to temptation is.

Use God’s word to avoid sin

Ps 119:9, 11  [A psalmist, to God:] How can a young person maintain a pure life? By guarding it according to your instructions!11In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you.  NET

Avoid sinful desires . . .

1Pet 2:11  [Peter, to believers:] Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and exiles to keep on abstaining from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.  ISV

. . . Sinful desires lead to sin

James 1:14-15  [James, speaking of people in general:] But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. 15Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.  NET

Indulging sinful desires leads to temptation and then to sin.

Renew your mind and take care what you think about

Rom 12:2  Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.  NET

Prov 4:23  Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.  NCV™

Get rid of sinful influences

Matt 18:8-9  [Jesus, speaking figuratively:] If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into fiery hell.  NET

These instructions are not meant to be taken literally. They are hyperbole, emphasizing that one should do whatever is needed to get rid of sinful influences and avoid sin.

Avoid all evil

1Thes 5:22  Stay away from every form of evil.  NET

Hate evil and sin

Prov 8:13  [Wisdom personified:] To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and twisted speech.   GW

Along with hating evil, love what is good

Amos 5:15a  Hate evil and love good.  GW

 Questions for Section A

Alternatives to Sin

Note that the following two sections in this chapter, which deal with being holy, speak further of alternative actions to sin.

Instead of living by the sinful nature, live by the Holy Spirit

Rom 8:3b-5  [Paul, to believers:] He [God] condemned sin in the flesh 4so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  ISV

Our human nature (“the flesh”) is essentially sinful. But God has given his Holy Spirit to believers. As such, we are to live by God’s Holy Spirit. This involves: being both alert to and responsive to the Spirit’s promptings; and being reliant on his power, to enable and transform us. In conjunction with this, our minds should be focused on “things of the Spirit” (v. 5).

Instead of living in darkness, live according to the light

Eph 5:8-9  [Paul, to believers:] In the past you were full of darkness, but now you are full of light in the Lord. So live like children who belong to the light. 9Light brings every kind of goodness, right living, and truth.  NCV™

When used figuratively, particularly in the NT, “darkness” represents evil and falseness, and is associated with spiritual ignorance. Believers once lived in the darkness, in a sense being “full of darkness” (v. 8). But now believers are to live in God’s “light”, which is a metaphor for holiness and truth. Doing so consists primarily of living according to the spiritual light and truth that we have from God’s word.

Instead of living as a slave to sin, live as a slave to righteousness and God . . .

Rom 6:19b, 22  [Paul, to believers:] Just as you once offered the parts of your body as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater disobedience, so now, in the same way, you must offer the parts of your body as slaves to righteousness that leads to sanctification.22But now that you have been freed from sin and have become God’s slaves, the benefit you reap is sanctification, and the result is eternal life.  ISV

. . . In avoiding sin be focused on doing what is right

Amos 5:14a  Make it your aim to do what is right, not what is evil, so that you may live.  GNT

Bear in mind that one of the most effective preventative measures against sinning is to be preoccupied with doing good.

Pursue righteousness

1Tim 6:11  [Paul, to Timothy:] But you, as a person dedicated to God, keep away from all that. Instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.  NET

Matt 5:6  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.  NET

Be good

2Pet 1:5  For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; …  GNT

Luke 6:45  The good person out of the good treasury of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasury produces evil, for his mouth speaks from what fills his heart.  NET

 Questions for Section B

Be Holy (I): General

See also:

To be holy involves being separated from corruptive influences and totally dedicated to God. As such it includes moral purity and obedience to God. The process of becoming holy is largely facilitated by God, but in accordance believers are called upon to be holy. For a more in depth discussion regarding this last point, see the introductory comment on God Makes His People Holy.

Be holy, because God is holy

1Pet 1:14-16  [Peter, to believers:] As obedient children, do not be shaped by the desires that you once had in your ignorance. 15Instead, just as the one who called you is holy, be holy in every aspect of your life. 16For it is written, “You must be holy, because I am holy.”  ISV

If we are to be God’s people, acceptable to him, we need to be holy because: God is holy and so does not accept anything that is not holy. Therefore we should aspire to be holy, like God.

Be pure . . .

1Tim 5:1b-2, 22  [Paul, to Timothy:] Treat younger men like brothers, 2older women like mothers, and younger women like sisters, with absolute purity.22Do not ordain anyone hastily. Do not participate in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.  ISV

James 3:17a  But the wisdom that comes from God is first of all pure, then peaceful, gentle, and easy to please.  NCV™

. . . Be blameless

Deut 18:13  You must be blameless before the Lord your God.  NET

Make every effort to be holy and pure – particularly in view of what is to come

2Pet 3:11-14  [Peter, to believers:] Since all these things will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people should you be? Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God, 12as you wait for the Day of God and do your best to make it come soon—the Day when the heavens will burn up and be destroyed, and the heavenly bodies will be melted by the heat. 13But we wait for what God has promised: new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will be at home. 14And so, my friends, as you wait for that Day, do your best to be pure and faultless in God’s sight and to be at peace with him.  GNT

Some things that lead to holiness

Rom 6:19b  [Paul, to believers:] Just as you once offered the parts of your body as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater disobedience, so now, in the same way, you must offer the parts of your body as slaves to righteousness that leads to sanctification.  ISV

2Cor 7:1  [Paul, to believers:] Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.  ESV

Fear of God facilitates holiness.

Some things that lead to purity

1Jn 1:9  But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.  GNT

1Jn 3:2-3  Dear friends, we are now God’s children, but what we will be like has not been revealed yet. We know that when the Messiah is revealed, we will be like him, because we will see him as he is. 3And everyone who has this hope based on him keeps himself pure, just as he is pure.  ISV

The “hope” of Jesus Christ’s return and of being like him (v. 2) leads one to make or keep themselves pure (v. 3). For focusing on such a hope makes anything that it is not pleasing to Christ incompatible with one’s own goals and desires. Additionally one would not want to do anything that would bring Christ’s disapproval on his return.

We should be holy and pleasing to God because of what he has done for us

Rom 12:1  [Paul:] I therefore urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God, for this is the reasonable way for you to worship.  ISV

 Questions for Section C

Be Holy (II): Being Set Apart

Being holy involves being set apart for God from worldly things. Such things include: compromising associations with the people of this world; and the ways of the world.

Be set apart for God

Lev 20:7  [God, to the Israelites:] Therefore separate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God.  ISV

Ezra 6:21  The lambs were eaten by the Israelites who had returned from exile and by all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of the non-Jews in the land to worship the Lord God of Israel.  GW

Do not love this world

1Jn 2:15  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  ESV

Do not conform to this world

Rom 12:2  Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well–pleasing and perfect.  NET

In the NT the “world” often refers to the system of values, attitudes and behaviour commonplace in society – along with the people and social structures that conform to this system. This system is largely antagonistic towards or dismissive of God. As such, the “world” is essentially evil, and so it is imperative that believers do not conform to it – nor love it (cf. 1Jn 2:15 ⇓).

Do not live as other people do . . .

Eph 4:17  [Paul, to believers:] So I tell you and encourage you in the Lord’s name not to live any longer like other people in the world. Their minds are set on worthless things.   GW

. . . Worldly behavior to be avoided

1Jn 2:16  These are the ways of the world: wanting to please our sinful selves, wanting the sinful things we see, and being too proud of what we have. None of these come from the Father, but all of them come from the world.  NCV™

Avoid bad company . . .

Ps 26:4-5  [David:] I do not keep company with worthless people; I have nothing to do with hypocrites. 5I hate the company of the evil and avoid the wicked.  GNT

. . . Bad company is corruptive and harmful

1Cor 15:33  Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”  NET

Prov 13:20  The one who associates with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.  NET

Avoid compromising alliances

2Cor 6:14-15  Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?  NET

This appears to be speaking against forming close, binding associations with unbelievers that would risk leading a believer to compromise aspects of their faith and/or inhibit their service and witness to Christ. Additionally, basic differences between believers and unbelievers mean that such relationships lack: fellowship (v. 14); agreement (v. 15); and things in common (v. 15). Probably Paul had primarily in mind affiliations either with false teachers who had appeared in the Corinthian church or pagan idolaters. Note that “Beliar” (v. 15a) is Satan.

Note: God’s people are not of this world . . .

John 15:19  [Jesus, to his disciples:] If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. That is why the world hates you.  NCV™

. . . God’s people are in effect strangers in this world

1Pet 2:11  [Peter, to believers:] Dear friends, you are like foreigners and strangers in this world. I beg you to avoid the evil things your bodies want to do that fight against your soul.  NCV™

 Questions for Section D

Pray for persecuted Christians