There is a behavior people develop in relation to the Bible that can lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretation if one is careless. It is the habit of embracing certain beliefs as “carved in stone”, making them what I call “anchor beliefs” that are set up in the mind as being impervious to being proven wrong.
These beliefs are, in turn, used to evaluate other beliefs and concepts, also to the exclusion of any proper biblical hermeneutic. The end result is a theology where one lie is built upon another—an entire theological structure that is nothing more than a house of cards. Dislodge one card—one falsehood—and the whole structure crumbles.
Great care, therefore, is taken to insulate this contrived theology.
Among sabbatarians, I John 3:4 as found in the King James Version is an anchor Scripture:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
By contrast, however, the New American Standard Bible, a “word-for-word” translation of the original Greek, draws from much older manuscripts than did the KJV. It says,
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
Any and all evidence countering the KJV translation is dismissed as being the feeble assault of the enemies of Christ.
The flawed KJV translation states that sin is the transgression of the law, a rendering always interpreted as meaning the Ten Commandments, or old covenant law. For Sabbatarians, therefore, everything and anything related to defining sin is interpreted in relation to this anchor Scripture. The results are often incongruous and contradictory.
If sin is the transgression of the law (they read “Ten Commandments”), then the ten commandment law existed even before the creation of the world—or at the least, before the creation of Adam and Eve. The devil sinned at some time previously, the reasoning goes, and because 1 John 3:4 states explicitly that “sin is the transgression of the law,” the devil’s sin could not have happened had there been no law to transgress.
A person whose critical thinking skills have not been compromised by the adherence to this particular anchor belief sees the flaws in the rationale nearly immediately. If the Ten Commandments existed from the beginning of the earth, and perhaps even earlier, then one has the sin of adultery extant before their were people alive to commit adultery. If it were not for the explicit declaration by Jesus that the angels do not marry, no doubt many would have concluded otherwise in order to further bolster and uphold this particular anchor belief.
They also conclude, due to the influence of this anchor belief, that the Sabbath would have had to exist prior to the six days of creation, and the seventh day of Genesis 2:1-3, therefore, is the first seventh-day Sabbath on the earth as designated by the eternal law.
Again, to a person with his or her critical thinking intact, the notion is absurd. One cannot have the Sabbath pre-existing the creation and the establishment of the Sabbath event. A sanctified day cannot exist before there was a seventh day to sanctify.
Other absurdities follow to further insulate the anchor belief. In this case, this “law” is given the status of being “moral” law. It matters not that any such declaration is missing in the Scriptures. What matters is protecting the anchor belief from any and all evidence to the contrary through the construct of numerous barriers—all of which are contrived in the mind where it is perceived as impossible to knock them down. There are many cards in this house of cards, with many fences, walls, moats, and barricades surrounding it—an impenetrable fortress of the imagination.
Arguing from a position of Scripture and logic will avail nothing. Should one knock down one of these defenses of the imagination, the imagination will simply replace it with other barriers while mentally reconstructing the one which the argument from Scripture managed to dent.
How does one defeat this stronghold of the imagination?
One cannot. There is no effective tool, no effective weapon that can be wielded against such defenses. The defender only needs to declare his opponent’s scriptural weapons of assault to be useless and ineffective. Indeed, they are ineffective against a shut mind that seeks only to preserve its core anchor beliefs which are securely locked into the imagination of the mind and heart.
We see examples of this persistent unbelief in the people—especially the religious leaders—of Jesus’ time. Their anchor belief was also the law—the whole Torah, not just the Ten Commandments.
Jesus went about doing things that were in conflict with their anchor beliefs and doctrines. To them, the law was an end in itself, just as the Ten Commandments are to some today. Unlike today’s adherents to the Ten Commandments, however, the average Jew then actually knew what the law said. For example, it was a transgression of the law to do “any” work on the Sabbath. Consequently, over the course of several hundred years, the Jews learned there were legitimate circumstances of justifiable Sabbath work, such as performing a circumcision on the eighth day after the birth of a male baby, or the physically demanding works performed by priests on the Sabbath. The Jews also went overboard in the other direction, defining “work” in such a way that even some simple, everyday actions might be prohibited on the Sabbath. Does someone want to move a chair closer to the window on the Sabbath? They must make sure they don’t drag a leg across the floor, because that dragging would be equivalent to creating a furrow in order to plant seeds.
The Jews had specific exemptions for working on the Sabbath if the work could not be put off for another day. For example, the priests’ rites and circumcisions, as mentioned above, could be performed. A sheep that fell into a ditch or pit on the Sabbath could also be saved or, if saving the animal wasn’t possible, ending its suffering was permitted.
Jesus and His disciples, however, went far beyond these Sabbath limits, and the Jews saw their behavior as blatant Sabbath-breaking. Today’s Sabbatarians, however, take a different approach. Since they want to keep Jesus in the picture, they say Jesus didn’t really break the Sabbath. Instead, they say He broke the rabbinic Sabbath restrictions and entirely miss the significance of Jesus’ deliberate, specific Sabbath breaking (see John 5:18) that revealed who He was and filled the Sabbath with meaning.
Again, trying to point out the flawed Sabbatarian claim here does no good. The evidence doesn’t matter. What matters is protecting the anchor belief; “sin is the transgression of the law.”
Therefore, despite everything John has written regarding what Jesus did and said about the Sabbath, those words of Scripture are rationalized away in order to maintain the anchor belief:
“Jesus didn't really break the Sabbath. If He had, He would have sinned, and Jesus didn't sin. Sin is the transgression of the law.
“Sin is the transgression of the law.
“Sin is the transgression of the law. “
Jesus said the truth sets one free. The opposite is also true: lies enslave.
When people get tired of living in slavery, they will seek freedom. The Father will draw them to Jesus and to truth.
Until then, “Sin is the transgression of the law.”
Copyright 2015 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Camp Verde, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised November 10, 2015. Contact email: email@example.com
William Hohmann is a former member of the Worldwide Church of God and is a contributing author on the website TruthorFables.com.
F A L L • 2 0 1 5
VOLUME 16, ISSUE 3
COMMANDMENT BREAKING OR LAWLESSNESS