Reasoning Together

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” —Isaiah 1:18

MAN is a sinner! “There is none righteous, no not one,” declares the prophet. (Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Rom. 3:10-12) The modern trend of thought is away from this scriptural viewpoint. The newest theory is that human conduct is right or wrong only as we compare it with standards that have previously been established. The claim is that one human being has as much right to set a standard as another, and that no one need be “conscience-stricken” simply because of nonconformity to a standard which another has set for him. This is a sort of moral anarchy, a state of society in which every individual does as he pleases. In other words, this modern viewpoint means that there is no such thing as sin in the biblical meaning of that term.

This ultramodern viewpoint is unbelievably ridiculous. A man who drinks a quart of rum and wakes up the next morning with an unbearable headache may not have committed a “sin,” as he considers the matter in his mind, but his stomach and head do not agree. Together they shout at him that he has violated a law by which the human organism is kept functioning in an orderly manner. The modernist may call this the law of nature, but he should not forget that someone established that law; and whether or not he knows who it was, he realizes that his head protests in pain when he violates that law.

Some may try to convince themselves that human behavior is only relative and that there is no real sin; but you cannot tell a sane person that torturing human beings in concentration camps is not wrong; nor will very many people believe that slaughtering millions of innocent men and women, as is done in modern warfare, is a moral virtue. And it would not be difficult to cite many illustrations of inhuman conduct which the vast majority of people would at once acknowledge to be wrong. In the broad sense, it will be conceded, we believe, that all conduct which contributes to the unhappiness of innocent victims is wrong.

One of God’s commandments stated, “Thou shalt not covet.” When one covets that which belongs to another to the point that he will endeavor by foul means to wrest it from him, that is wrong. It is wrong in the eyes of all decent people, and it is wrong because it is a violation of God’s law. It is sin!

The reason these more flagrant violations of the laws of decency are acknowledged to be wrong even according to imperfect human standards—as they are also declared by God to be sin—is that man was created in the image of God, and to the extent he retains some of that image he reasons to the same end. A little less conceit on the part of modernists and a little more reverence for authority higher than their own egotism should help them to see the possibility that the violation of other laws referred to in the Bible is also wrong.

The Apostle Paul wrote that death has passed upon all, because “all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) The downward course of sin began with Adam. It was the violation of an arbitrary law of the Creator which constituted his original sin. The narrative is too brief for us to know the details involved in that sin. All we know is that Adam willfully violated a law, under which he was placed by his Maker, and that he reaped the penalty for that sin, which was death.

But as we come down the line from Adam, the wrongdoing of the race becomes apparent. Selfishness is the one word which summarizes the intent of it all. The jungle law of the stronger animals feeding upon the weaker, or the “dog-eat-dog” policy, has been the basis of practically all human behavior since the world began. This evil motive has manifested itself in all forms of injustice, unfair practices, graft, murder, and war.

All of this is in general recognized as sin, and certainly the Scriptures are therefore true in declaring that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Not all have been willful planners and perpetrators of sin; but from the vortex of selfishness which moves a dying world along from one form of wrongdoing to another, none are able wholly to escape. That is why the apostle explains that all have become sinners because Adam sinned. We have been shapen in iniquity, and in sin did our mothers conceive us, declared the prophet.—Ps. 51:5

Punishment for Sin

Another universally recognized principle of right is that all who violate established laws should be punished. In this again we see evidence of the image of God directing the process of human reasoning, for this principle is of divine origin. The Creator was the first to declare that there is a penalty attached to wrongdoing. This manifests itself in the laws of nature, in that when these laws are violated calamitous results automatically follow.

Adam and Eve might have died simply because they violated a law of God, even if they had not been told about it in advance. But because God told them not to partake of a certain tree in the midst of the Garden and warned that if they did so they would die, it made them realize—and should also teach us—that the laws of God cannot be flouted with impunity; that there is a penalty for sin, the ultimate end of which is death.

Yes, since the days of Eden, man has been a sinner, and the penalty for sin has been falling upon each generation as it has started upon its brief span of condemned life. From the cradle to the grave each individual of the fallen race has lived, as it were, under the shadow of the gallows, knowing that there would be no reprieve, hence no escape from the sure fate of death.

This grim reality of a dying world has been tragic enough in itself, but to plague the people still more there have been invented those nocturnal hallucinations of a terrible abyss of the “damned,” in which, it was claimed, nearly all would find themselves after they were supposed to have died. Thank God that this part of it is not true, that the Scriptures have stated the whole truth on the subject when they declare that the “wages of sin is death.”—Rom. 6:23

Instead of hinting that “wages” more severe than death is the punishment for sin, the Scriptures assure us that a way of escape, even from this penalty, has been provided. The apostle declares that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) The Scriptures also declare, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:22) If we ask how this could be, the Scriptures answer that “Christ died for our sins.”—I Cor. 15:3

It is well that at this point we accept God’s invitation to reason with him. He says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isa. 1:18) We have already acknowledged that punishment of wrongdoers is just. We have also agreed that the Creator has the right to demand obedience to his laws and to punish the disobedient. But the divine wages of sin is death. When that penalty is paid, the sinner is unable to do more. A man can pay a fine of five dollars and then be free. But when the fine of death is paid, there can be no freedom; for death takes all, even life itself.—Eccles. 9:5,10

So here is where the love of God enters into his design to guarantee that his original purpose in the creation of man shall not be in vain; that the ultimate destiny which he planned for his human creatures shall not be frustrated or annulled—not even by man’s own sin. It was just and right that God inflict the penalty of death upon a disobedient race, but the rightness of this enhances our appreciation of his mercy when we realize that it was he who “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish [forever], but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

The Law of Sacrifice

In simple language the Bible tells us that Jesus, whom God sent to redeem the world, died for the people. Blind modernism would have us believe that the thought of one dying for another is repugnant, revolting, and that the idea harks back to ancient superstitions regarding the demands of heathen deities, or of what they slightingly call the “tribal god of the Hebrews.” Let us not be misled by this false and immature reasoning of the modernists. They seem to forget, and perhaps would like us to forget, that the highest form of nobility and bravery known and honored by men is that of one person dying to save another.

We laud and honor this bravery whenever and wherever we see it manifested. Soldiers who die for their country are considered heroes. Those who in any way sacrifice their lives in order that others may live or enjoy life more abundantly are properly considered the greatest benefactors of mankind. In this we see another reflection of the image of God with which the human creation was endued. When we properly appraise the virtue of sacrifice, we are simply reflecting the image of God in our thoughts and viewpoint. We naturally honor sacrifice and label it heroism because God is the Author of this worthy principle.

When we recognize this, the biblical plan of atonement for sin by means of sacrifice is seen to be both beautiful and understandable, and just and loving as well. Some would have us believe that the thought of sacrifice for sin originated with the heathen and was borrowed from them by Hebrew writers and then carried over into Christianity. But this is wrong. To whatever extent the heathen incorporate the idea of sacrifice into their religious rites—even though their conceptions are miserably crude—it is because they found the principle of sacrifice manifested in the writings of the prophets.

The earliest record of sacrifice is the narrative of Genesis concerning the offerings brought to the Lord by Cain and Abel. Without understanding what was involved, one might wonder why God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. But God had a reason for this. When he sentenced our first parents to death, he said to Satan that the “seed” of the woman would bruise the “serpent’s” head. (Gen. 3:15) In the light of subsequent revelations of the divine plan for human restoration, this vague statement is seen to be a promise that the penalty for sin would one day be remitted.

God also reveals later in his Word that there can be no remission of sin without the sacrifice of life, symbolized by the shedding of blood. So in the acceptance of Abel’s flesh and blood offering, God was pointing forward to a time when, through the sacrifice of a “lamb” which he would provide, man would be permitted to return to his lost estate—his sins of scarlet being made white as snow.

This thought is again brought to our attention in God’s dealings with Abraham. To Abraham God made the promise that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. Many of the families of the earth were already dead when this promise was made. Millions have died since. To bless these it is necessary that they be restored to life. Having died because they were sinners, the promise of their restoration implies that their sins are to be remitted; so in connection with this promise God again illustrates his purpose to provide for the remission of sin through the sacrifice of his Son.

This was done in a very unique fashion. Abraham was asked to offer his son Isaac in sacrifice. Having great faith in God’s wisdom in asking him to do this and also in God’s power and willingness even to raise Isaac from the dead, Abraham proceeded to obey the divine command. Agreeing to the plan for sacrifice, Isaac was stretched upon the altar ready to be slain when an angel of God intervened, and a ram was provided as a substitute.—Gen. 22:13

In this we have a beautiful picture of the fact that before the destiny of the human race intended by the Creator is realized through restoration to life, a loving father was voluntarily to give up his son in sacrifice, as Abraham demonstrated his willingness to do with respect to Isaac. In the actual working out of the divine plan this is seen to be the Heavenly Father, the Creator and Fountain of all life.

Centuries later the descendants of Abraham were held in slavery in Egypt, and through Moses God wrought a miraculous deliverance for them. In connection with this there was the sacrifice of a lamb—the passover lamb. This also pointed forward to a still greater deliverance—a liberation from slavery to sin and death—and reminds us again that this release will be possible because of a sacrifice—the sacrifice of “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John 1:29

Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures the promise of a coming Messiah and Deliverer is often repeated. The Israelites looked forward to the coming of this foretold King, this Ruler who would exalt their nation to chief place among the nations and dispense to all people the blessings of peace and life which God had promised. Jesus came in fulfillment of these promises, but the expectations of the Jews were not immediately realized, because they had failed to note the condition upon which their long-looked-for King would be exalted as the blesser of all nations—the condition of sacrifice.

He came to be the King of kings, but first he must be “the Lamb of God,” who would be offered in sacrifice to take away the sin of the world. The only way to bless those who are dead is to restore them to life. The race is dying because of sin, death being the wages of unrighteousness. If they are to be restored, those wages must be paid by another, and by one who was not under similar condemnation. In the divine plan, Jesus was this One who died, first for Adam and, through Adam, for the entire human race. He gave his life that we, his followers, and all the world, might live.

And so, in the symbolism of the Scriptures, we are told that though our sins be as scarlet they can be as white as snow. This is one of God’s ways of telling us that the wrongdoing of our first parents, and the continued sin and selfishness of their offspring, have not thwarted his purpose in the creation of man. In the divine economy the sin which has slain the race has provided an opportunity for divine love to manifest itself through sacrifice, which makes it possible for the guilty to be made free from death through a resurrection of the dead.

And how understandable and practical is this arrangement when viewed in the light of reason! With this viewpoint in mind we can read the Genesis record of the creation and fall of man and realize that only temporarily is the human race deprived of the life-giving tree of Eden. In that arrangement we can see a miniature of the Creator’s design for an earth full of perfect human beings, living peacefully and happily forever.

And there has been real value in the experiences of suffering and death through which the race has passed. When awakened from death and given the opportunity to obey divine law, each member of the human family will be able to choose more intelligently the course he will take, because he will be able to contrast the advantages accruing from obedience with the great loss from disobedience.

Reason tells us that no other plan than the one outlined in the Scriptures can possibly save the human race from ultimate suicide. And no one but the Creator could carry out such a plan, for the reason that its completion calls for an awakening of the dead. The exercise of power necessary to accomplish this is no obstacle to God. Nuclear energy is but a slight indication of God’s knowledge and use of power. So when we read the Scriptures we must realize that the One who caused to be recorded the wonderful promises we find therein is abundantly able to fulfill them, and will fulfill them in his own due time. We can be assured, therefore, that the destiny of man to live forever as king of earth is yet to become an accomplished fact; for God created not the earth in vain but formed it to be inhabited, as declared by the inspired prophet.—Isaiah 45:18

Dawn Bible Students Association
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