Posts Tagged ‘Theology’

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You Heard it Here First: The Exclusive Need for the Proclaimed Word…

September 3, 2012

Having previously covered in the prior post some positive affirmations of Christ’s exclusive role as savior and the exclusivity of the Gospel, we shall now turn to two deficits that appear within the inclusivist argument and attempt to show how these deficits are corrected by the claims of exclusivism.

Throughout the biblical narrative are instances of the general revelation of God in creation working in concert with God’s special revelation to His people.  However salvation is seen as coming not from the recognition of God within creation, but rather from deferent faith in light of His revealed mastery of it.  An excellent example of this lies in the first three chapters of the book of Joshua.  Israel, God’s exclusively chosen race, has been delivered from the bonds of Egypt and received the special revelation of His Law, and has arrived at the banks of the Jordan.  As Israel’s spies hid within the home of Rahab the prostitute, Rahab provides an illuminating and ultimately justifying testimony concerning God and His creation. ” I know that the Lord has given you this land…we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea… as soon as we heard it our hearts melted… for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9-11)  Rahab doesn’t trust in God because he merely created the water, rather she trusts in His revelation displayed in parting the waters for His people.  An act He would perform again in Chapter 3 with the Jordan.  Her confession of this truth, and her corresponding action of hiding the spies displays that God justified her by faith. (James 2:25)  God general revelation in creation becomes special and able to save when God wields His creation in an act of revelation to His people.  The water alone saves none, but belief in He who parts the waters; it is by water and spirit that one is born again. (John 3:5)  The above speaks to effectiveness or lack thereof general revelation, if it is ineffective alone for salvation what is its purpose according to Scripture.

Scripture clearly indicates that the general revelation of God in creation was given to remove excuse from those who would claim ignorance of God absent access to the “gospel.”  A text which is indispensable to this point is Romans 1:19-23

19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Inclusivists attempt to address the issue of the “seeker” outside of the reach of the revealed gospel.  What of the person who would want salvation but can not access it because he/she has no access to the gospel, which exclusivists claim is necessary?  The exclusivist response to this query would be that the natural man rejects God in light of creation rather than seeks Him.  Having received revelation about God’s existence from creation, and rejecting it, they are without excuse before God.  Instead of acknowledging divinity’s true source they exchanged His truth for His creation and thereby inherited a shadow of the Light available to them.  Luther comments on this passage drawing attention to the excuse that some may say that, “only in our time it was possible to know God.”  One could add  ‘place’ to the listed restriction of time.  Whether located in a different time, or a different and perhaps distant place, “it has been possible to know him [God] from the beginning of the world and at all times, and it is possible now.”[1]  So it is clear from this passage that God’s general revelation in creation is meant not for salvation but to act as a witness against those who would claim that His attributes were unperceivable.

The exclusivist argument is not without objection, in conclusion we shall now briefly address two common critiques.

One.  Is it not unjust for God to condemn people merely because they have never heard the gospel of Christ?  Does this not impinge on His mercy?[2]  The answer to the first questions is as follows;  people are not condemned because they have not heard the gospel, rather people are condemned because they are guilty.  This may appear to represent circular reasoning but scripture clearly states that our guilt lies not in what we have done but in who we are as sinner.  All of us have fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Rom 3:23) and each and every one of us is guilty in need of forgiveness from the outset.  Even those who hear the gospel and reject it do so because the natural mind is limited by its sinful condition and does not comprehend spiritual things. (I Cor. 2:14)  That one receives salvation at all is a less a testimony of having heard the word and responded, and more to being a recipient of God’s grace. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Two.  Are there not examples in scripture of those who received salvation apart from the specific revelation of Christ, and so by extension is that same generic faith, held by some in the world today sufficient to provide salvation?[3]  This argument addresses the idea of “holy pagans” individuals who appear in the Bible as believers but do so without any evidence, within the text,  that they were ever exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  These include: Abel, Noah, Melchizedek, Job, Jethro, Balaam, Naaman the Ninevites and Cornelius.[4]  Scripture provides the key to understanding this mystery.  Acts 4:12 states, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  This axiom was true for the time of Melchizedek, as it was for Paul, and as it is today.  Christ too stated that no one comes to the Father but by Him. (John 14:6)  That these men are listed in scripture as being believers, saved by God, is a testimony that at sometime and at some point, they experienced the special revelation of God unto Salvation.  The revelation may have been in the form of a promise ala Abram or Noah, nonetheless they were responding to a specific promise in faith to a special revelation from Yahweh.  What they displayed was more that a generic faith in an undefined creator God.[5]

That God provides access to Himself is by far the greatest measure of grace extended to His creation.  While His attributes are clearly displayed in the universe, its order and form, beauty and character, His greatest gift is the revelation of His Son.  Those whom he foreknew He predestined to receive this gift, and by it traverse the hurdle of sin and be justified into the transcendence of glory.   Such is the nature of the exclusive revelation of the Gospel.


[1] Luther, Martin. Lectures on Romans. ed. Wilhelm Pauck. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press. 1961.) 23.

[2] Peterson, 15.

[3] Ibid. 15.

[4] Kaiser, Walter. “Holy Pagans: Reality or Myth?” in Faith Comes by Hearing ed. Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson (Downers Grove: IVP. 2008) 123.

[5] Ibid. 141.

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God’s City: Augustine and His Great Work…

August 28, 2012

Tension marks the life of the believer.  This fact is as true today as it was in the time of Augustine.  The tension begins when one is ushered out of the realm darkness and into the light of salvation in Christ.  Once delivered a tension forms between the new creation in Christ (Christian), and the world he/she has both escaped and still occupies.  It is this ‘in the world but not of the world’ conundrum that draws Augustine’s intention in City of God.

Augustine, confronted by the harsh socio-political realities of life and death, freedom and conquest in the Roman empire, with realistic historical, theological and ecclesiastical focus.  In City of God (CG) he attempts to address three questions, each question is not treated in isolation rather, there is a constant interplay between them.  Historically he attempts to answer the question, ‘What is happening?’; Theologically he attempts to address the ‘why it is happening?’; in terms of ecclesiastical or pastoral focus he constantly asserts ‘how a Christian should respond?’ to their reality.

Within this collection of works slowly and systematically composed in the second decade of the fifth century after the sack of Rome; Augustine begins seeking answers by examining the ‘problem’.  Namely, mans’ fallen nature on display through; poor governance, idolatrous worship and misplaced affections.  One can detect the influence of neo-Platonism in his structure and thought; as this section (roughly chs. 1-7) represent the world we see displayed out against the wall before us.  But like any good Platonist, what we see is not enough, we must seek the source of our manifest troubles.

Augustine then, leaves the cave, so to speak, and examines the true reality behind our calamity.  In this section (chs. 8-14) he examines some of that other realm which has historically and theologically impacted man and his actions.  The source of the debauchery, idolatry, mis-governance, and ‘falleness’ is found in: the fall of Satan, His angels, and finally the fall of Adam, and all of mankind within him.  This alone would have represented a monumental work of history, philosophy and theology but Augustine exercises his discipline of rhetoric and constructs the argument further.  This section represents the root of the ‘city of man’ that realm in opposition to God, which we occupy in body if not in spirit.

Augustine then plays out the theory of fallen man in the course of human history.  In this section (chs. 15-20) Augustine examines history from pre-Adam to post-man, from Genesis to Revelation, he proceeds to trace his themes and their effects.  This is the civil history of God’s city and its inhabitants from Adam to Abraham; from Jeremiah to Jesus, and from Rome to Revelation.  In addition to his many specific admonitions concerning the Christian life, this section provides biographical examples of virtue and Godly character, which are just as informative as any specific pastoral encouragement.

He then looks beyond in the final section (chs. 21-22) to what amounts almost to an epilogue on the entire work, discussing Hell, Heaven, and hope.  So let us briefly examine Augustine’s structure and assertions as we have laid them out above.

The Problems with the City of Man chs. 1-7

For Augustine, misunderstanding and darkness cloud the minds of the pagans in and around the Roman empire.  These are the inhabitants of the city of man, denied the light of Christ they fumble around in darkness attempting to answer similar questions to Augustine’s   What is Happening? i.e. to the empire and Why do things occur? i.e. Rome being sacked by the Visigoths. Their answers are less than satisfying for Augustine, as they blame everyone but themselves; Christians, the Christian God and the pagan gods.  Their lack of understanding breeds confusion and that confusion inevitably led to conflict and persecution of Christians.  Augustine’s apologetic was to basically deconstruct their argument systematically and deductively reason that Christ, His followers and His God are not to blame for Rome’s recent calamities.  First he argues that pagans are wrong to even make the accusation. Second he asserts that Rome had experienced great suffering and events of defeat long before Christ.  In other words, while Christ is the pivot point of history, He is not the contributing factor to the degradation of their society, in fact quite the opposite.  God and His Son are the only true source of power and its exercise on earth.

Finally in this section, he examines the pagan’s clouded judgment on fate, freewill (versus pagan fatalism tied to idolatry), theology (worshipping the wrong gods), and civil life (the worship of things that do not lead to eternal life).  These are the underpinnings of the pagan experience in the city of man exemplified in Rome and its condition.  Chasing after a misunderstanding of power, its use and its source, ultimately leads society at war with itself and at enmity with is Creator God.  Now Augustine turns to the back-story, the ‘rest of the story’ if you will.

The Source of the Problem chs. 8-14

Augustine attempts to shed a light on the dark recesses of history far beyond human experience and revealed knowledge.  How did God’s good creation ‘devolve’ into what can only be described as unholy and odds with the creator.  This section addresses the privation; initially of Satan, then of his angels, and finally the privation of man through exercise of God’s gracious, if not misused, gift of free-will.  Book IX is especially helpful in discussing the origin of the cities.  Wrapped around this description is Satan’s fall found in his exercise of idolatrous pride; his angels too, lacking in the full measure of grace given to others, follow him precipitously down.  The chief gross domestic product of man’s city is death, and death saw its beginning in Adam’s sin.  Through his sin, death was exported to us as a punishment for our fallen natures.  This sad effect is most keenly seen in the role of reproduction.  Reproduction or man’s propagation, is muted in two ways by sin: one, in that its fruits ultimately spoil in death; and two, the effort becomes sinful and damning win corrupted by lust.  This is part of the penal judgment of man, in that the very means and ends of his God-prescribed role to pro-create are marred and subject to futility.  Having grappled with the source of man’s city, Augustine then traces the city’s development throughout history.

The Drama of History chs. 15-20.

As proof of the existence of these cities, Augustine offers parallel histories of each throughout the course of the human experience. From Adam on, the choices presented to the patriarchs, prophets, and finally to Christ, represent the grim effect of God’s bifurcated creation.  The murder of brothers, the devastation of flood, the proliferation of sacrifice, and the death of Christ and the coming of His church fill this section in an attempt to inform the miserable condition of man.  It also draws a subtle picture of God’s sovereignty and provision throughout history.  It is not a story of a passive creator and His unruly creation.  Rather a dynamic drama of fall, death, redemption and renewal.

Conclusion: Hell, Heaven and hope. Chs. 21-22

Much like the scripture that so richly informs Augustine’s thought his monumental work finishes with a description of two ends. The calamitous eternal judgment of the wicked and refreshing resurrection of the saints to eternal joy.  This above any single admonition throughout his work, serves to inform the Christian of how they should act and what awaits them in the future.  That which awaits is of preeminent importance to the Christian.  For it is in the hope of God’s heavenly city prevailing that the Christian should seek and rest in.  We pray that His kingdom come, over this earthly, fallen realm.  It is in this hope that we place our faith, that we shall one day ‘rest and see, see and love, love and praise’.

Augustine’s work for me, is both encouraging and informative.  As a perennial student I am often confronted with the drive to delve deeply into the things of God, but I also face the realities of life and pastoral care which pull at my greatest challenge of stewardship, my time.  Augustine displays a life and work lived out accomplishing both purposes, and he reconciles the apparent disparity of scholarship and pastoral ministry.  One informs the other, and serve to compliment each other.  The greatest end to ones endeavors in life is to lose that life in love and service to a brother; and the greatest means to that end is a life lost in study of the Word, and lived out in accordance with its example.  To that end, Augustine succeeds in a measure rarely seen among theologians and pastors.  May God grant me a mere taste of such delight and success.

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Opposition Overcome…

June 2, 2012

Part 6: Opposition Overcome

In the last post of this series, we will examine the similarities present in the three texts we have discussed previously in 2 Samuel 15, Isaiah 14 and the Judas narrative.

There is a consistent picture in Scripture of our Savior King: from the Seed of the woman which will crush the serpent, to the blessing of nations in Abraham, the anointed one, and suffering servant. With this consistent glimmer of light has come a shadow of opposition, equally determined, equally consistent, but ultimately futile. As we review the three texts we see in three different time periods, three representations of God’s anointed, three forms of opposition, but one consistent outcome. The figure below will illustrate visually the similarities:

20120810-113051.jpg

These texts speak to their periods and they serve to interpret and add layers of meaning on each other. King David serves as a type for the Messiah King Jesus. Absalom serves as a type for Judas. That Satan is explicitly or implicitly present in the narratives helps to locate both narratives in the larger cosmic theater of God’s glory where Satan seeks to oppose God. As the serpent will be crushed, and Satan will be cast down, so too will all those who seek to oppose God’s glory through His anointed. This hope is not lost on David as he writes in Psalm 3:

O LORD, how many are my foes!

Many are rising against me;

many are saying of my soul,

there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,

my glory, and the lifter of my head.

(Psalm 3:1-3 ESV)

;

David records these would while being pursued by Absalom. Even in this dire condition, in an environment rife with uncertainty, David’s hope is in the Yahweh. He knows the fate that awaits the wicked, that God will “strike all my enemies on the cheek, and shatter the teeth of the wicked.” (Ps. 3:7) The heads of the wicked will be crushed for “salvation belongs to the Yahweh.” Those who make it their chief end to oppose God, are made an end in their opposition.

“A good story requires a beginning, a middle and an ending, a narrative whole. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles.”[1] A clear beginning and a clear end serve to clarify the overall meaning of a text.[2] Here we see in these texts scattered across the overall narrative of scripture a picture of both God’s anointed and His evil opposition. Both strains of the narrative share beginnings, means of operations, and chief ends. The chief end of God’s anointed is glory in salvation through judgment[3]. The chief end of evil is to oppose God and mar His creation.[4] The anointed end in glory, those in opposition end in head crushing defeat and obscurity. From the beginning, God has made clear that such opposing efforts are bound to bring about death and distance from glory. God overcomes the narrative of pride, deceit, self-exaltation, murder and opposition with His raw creation-wielding power. He gives us a humble suffering servant, who is the way, the truth, God-exalting, life -giver, and crushes the head of the opposition. Through God’s command of the narrative, in both prediction and practice, we gain hope in the face of opposition. Even if thousands set opposition around us, we will not be afraid, for Yahweh sustains and He is our Salvation.[5]


[1] Aristotle from his Poetics quoted in Stephen G. Dempster. Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible Downers Grove: IVP Apollos. 2003. 45.

[2] Dempster, 45

[3] “God’s ultimate purpose is the main concern of the biblical authors, even when they are describing subordinate ends on the way to the chief end.” James Hamilton God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway. 2010 560.

[4] We might think of God’s prophecy concerning the serpent, that the seed of the serpent would pursue the seed of the woman, consistently bruising his heel; attempting to mar God’s creation and slow His purpose. Gen 3:15

[5] Psalm 3:5-6

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Only the Lonely: Our Need, His Provision…

May 29, 2012

“Loneliness was the first thing that God’s eye named not good.” – John Milton

(Photo Credit: The National Geographic)

From the very beginning of time, recorded in scripture, we see that mankind was created to reflect the image of God.  Fundamental to making that image complete was the creation of relationships.  “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR own likeness…” (Gen 1:26)  God is a relational being, a Triune God who is three persons in one being, each one relating to each other in perfect harmony.  Mankind reflects this relational reality.  God look out upon His good creation and behold it was all good.  The earth beneath; the sky above; the birds in the skies; the fish in the seas; all of it was very good.  And yet one thing in the litany of divine creation was not good.  After creating man from the dust of the earth and tasking him with the dominion of earth, it was determined that it was “not good” for man to be alone.

Now it is important to note that the Bible does not record that man was lonely.  There is no sign that Adam wandered about God’s good creation bemoaning his status.  Eden represented perfect harmony between man and creation, God and man. It was God who looked upon the scene and determined that man needed suitable help.  So man and woman were created in the image of God to exercise dominion and aid each other in the multiplication of the image of God across creation.

We were created to be together.  Men and women, in marriage.  Parents and children in families.  Brothers and sisters in harmony.  Individuals in communities, clans, cities, nations.  This tendency to group is as evident in natural general revelation as sunshine and seasons.  Every corner of the globe reflects man’s tendency and propensity to gather into groups, multiply and exercise dominion over their space.  This is seen in marriage, which is by far the most universal human cultural institution.  All of this was greatly effected by the Fall.  The Fall radically reoriented all human relationships. As we see in Genesis 3, the very act of procreating became marked by pain, and all relationships fell victim to enmity and strife.  Brother’s would kill brothers, Husbands would rule over wives, wives would undermine their husbands.  The contention would spread out into cities and towns and entire nations through wars and feuds.  But from the outset, a seed was planted and promised, One who would crush the head evil and shatter the scepters of the wicked.  One who would draw all nations to Himself and break down barriers of political and relational strife.  Upon the cross, there was such a man.

We need each other because we were created to be in relationships, reflecting the image of the triune relational God.  Where sin marred this reality of our relationships, the gospel of God’s grace literally breathed new life into the dry bones of our communities.  The Gospel is power.  Power to overcome the greatest strife, power to dissolve the most intractable debates, and power to sooth the deepest hurt.  God sent His son to that we might have life, abundant life, together in a body called the church.

Christ, himself reflected this, in that He did not act alone.  Supernaturally He was attended by the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, doing nothing apart from their will or ability.  Naturally, He formed a community, calling disciples and tending to His family.  He equipped not individuals, but groups.  His great commission was not given to any one man, but to the whole body of those who called upon Him as Lord. Through Jesus all of our constructed barriers are removed and our relationships are restored; so that, whether we are rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, Servant or master, we are all one in Christ Jesus.  We have now a foretaste of what is to come, when we will exist peacefully together in relationships living solely for the glory of God.

So it is not good for you to be alone.  If you are alone in spirit, know that there is One who stands ready to rush in and provide eternal comfort to your forlorn soul, if only you would call upon Him, confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart that Jesus is Lord.  If you know God but are alone relationally, then seek out the other members in the body of which you are apart, the church.  For they exist, as your brothers and sisters, to share your burdens as well as your joys; to give you a foretaste of Godly community to come.d

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Et Tu Absalom?…

May 26, 2012

Part 3: Absalom and David…

The story of Absalom’s rebellion, for our purposes, begins in 2 Samuel 15.  David is king over Israel.  Absalom has a desire to become judge over the people of Israel. (15:4)

-Absalom deceives his father, gaining permission to go to Hebron, ostensibly to make an offering, but his goal is to have it proclaimed throughout the land that “Absalom is king.” (15:10)

-Once Absalom leaves, the King (David) flees Jerusalem, crosses the Kidron valley, and arrives on the Mount of Olives to weep and pray. (15:23,30)

-Chapters 16-17 describe Absalom’s efforts to curse, pursue and kill David as well as David’s flight from his son.  In Chapter 18 David raises an army, led by Joab, and defeats Absalom’s forces. (18:7)

-Absalom flees, his head is caught in a tree and he was hanged. (18:9)  Joab arrives, pierces Absalom with the sword and buries him in a obscure pit covered with stones. (18:15, 17)

-Absalom’s revolt is unsuccessful and David returns as King, arriving at the city gate, and all the people came before him. (19:8)

All the threads of evil opposition are present within this story.  There is one to be opposed, a type of the messiah, in this case King David; and there is one actively engaging in opposition.  Absalom’s action is rooted in pride, and manifests itself in self-exaltation, deceit, and murderous desire.  In these actions he displays opposition to God’s anointed king and implicitly opposition to God Himself.  This opposition is his end, both in practice and in fact.  He succumbs to a bruised head, is cast to the ground, and denied the burial reserved for those of royal pedigree.

In isolation within the biblical text this story would seem exciting but rather benign.  But what I hope to show is that there is far more at work in this narrative in light of two other biblical texts.  The evil represented in the actions of Absalom is nothing less than Satanic opposition of God’s anointed, which points forward to the ultimate act of opposition against Christ.  To bolster this claim it will be helpful to look at the Absalom narrative in light of a chief text used to describe Satanic opposition, Isaiah 14:12-20; and later to examine in it relation to Christ’s betrayal by Judas.

In the Next Post, Part 4 we will examine evil opposition as outlined in Isaiah 14.

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Evil Opposition in Scripture: A Series…

May 25, 2012

Part 1. Introduction…

From the moment of the Fall there has been a tension present in history.  Adam and Eve felt it and hid themselves in response to it.  God described it in the curse of the serpent and the promise of the Seed.  Cain displayed it with the murder of his brother.  From Cain on, there were a long line of those who embodied it and fell victim to its effects.  The “tension” in question is presence of evil opposition to God’s anointed.  The tension of messianic opposition is rooted in Genesis 3, and branches out through scripture.  Present along with the proto-euangelion in Genesis 3 is also a proto-opposition that bears witness to the type and fate of those who will seek to oppose the seed of the woman.

Where the allusion to the messiah is present, so too is the specter of His opposition.  The presence of these two forces together creates a palpable tension that pulses through the narrative of the Bible.  Each side is marked by characteristics that point forward to their ultimate fulfillment.  Messianic characteristics found in individuals within the text point us to Christ as judge, lawgiver, king, and Immanuel.  Likewise the characteristics of the opposition point us to their ultimate fulfillment in Satan as adversary, deceiver, self-exalting murderer, and defeated one.

This evil opposition and its characteristics can be seen in individuals throughout the text as they seek to oppose the will of God, often as they oppose His chosen people Israel.  As the types for Christ become more pronounced and specific within the text so does the type for Satan.  Our purpose here is to examine this character of evil opposition, its source, its mean and its in end the text.  We shall attempt to prove that there is a link between three passages of scripture that inform our understanding of the presence of evil opposition to anointed of God.

First we will examine the story of Absalom and his rebellion against his King in II Samuel.

Second we shall center on the figure represented in Israel’s taunt of Isaiah 14, “the son of the dawn” and I will argue that Isaiah has Absalom in view in this passage.

Third we will see how both of these Old Testament texts point forward to Judas’ opposition to the Messiah King in the gospels.

Finally we shall draw these texts together and try to make sense of their common characteristics.  By looking at these texts we desire to increase our understanding of both the opposition; Satan, and the One being opposed; Christ.  To that end, as we peer into the darkness may the marvelous light of God may be more pronounced; that we might gain hope by seeing the futility of those who oppose God.

In the Next Post, Part 2, we will discuss the characteristics of evil in Scripture.

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What is Sin? The Unholy Trinity…

June 24, 2011

Sin, Transgression, and Iniquity In Psalm 51.

What is sin, really? 

From the very first verses in this psalm, David is upfront and honest about his actions and the punishment he deserves.  He has not only missed the mark, and failed to follow the law, he has actively engaged in criminal activity, adultery, murder, lying, theft, all of which leads up to a virtual rebellion against the God he now implores for forgiveness.  This is a pattern of evil easy to criticize, but also all too easy to mimic in our own lives.  Thankfully we serve a God or mercy, and compassion.  There is no reason that we should be accepted by a Holy God.  All of us from ‘small’ sins to great transgressions display hearts in rebellion to our maker.  Our only choice is to throw ourselves at His mercy and plead for grace.  David models both the confession and the call for mercy, for his sins, his life of iniquity and pattern of transgression.

 a.     Sin: The word used twice in this Psalm for ‘sin’ is the word חַטָּאָת or chatta’ath.  This word is rooted in the idea of mis-step, to stumble or falter.  To miss the mark, induce sin, or bring guilt and or condemnation.  It is from these sins that the Israelites sought absolution through sacrifice.  David rightly seeks to be ‘cleansed’ from this act and will feel confronted with his sin continually until he is forgiven.

 b.     Iniquity- The word here is עָוֹן or ‘av-own’. It occurs some 237 times in the Old Testament and describes a pattern or display of criminal activity.  This is not merely sin, or missing the mark but engaging in a crime, for which one would be prosecuted, tried and judged.  Sometimes it is the penalty for sin, in that sin brings about iniquity, a pattern or ‘life of crime’.  It is rooted in the idea, and comes from the word to bend or pervert, to twist or distort.  So one could see the natural transition here, from twisted and perverted to iniquity and crime.  To bend and twist the law to fit your own way is to commit a crime.  Certainly David is guilty of this, and rightly seeks to be absolved of his crime, ‘wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.’ Vs. 2.

 c.   Transgression- The word here is פֶּשַׁע or ‘pesha’.  It occurs some 99 times in the Old Testament.  It is rooted in the idea or rebellion or revolt.  Its root word means as much, to turn away from.  Israel was in rebellion against David’s kingdom (1 King 12:19) This is to commit sin against someone else, Joseph’s brothers transgressed against him by selling him into slavery.  Israel.  One can and does transgress against God, every time one sins.  God promises to punish those who transgress Ps. 89:32 but to those who he forgives, He not only forgives but places their transgressions far from them. Ps. 103:12.  But Christ was numbered among the transgressors bearing the sins of many and interceded for them. (Isa. 53:12)

John MacArthur writes:

“If I were to sum up what David was feeling, I might say it like this, “Sin had made him dirty and he wanted to be clean. Guilt had made him sick and he wanted to be well. Disobedience had made him lonely and he wanted to be reconciled. Rebellion had made him fearful and he wanted to be pardoned.”  That’s what comes out of Psalm 51, a man who feels dirty, sick, isolated and afraid…all consequence of his sin. And out of that, he pours forth this confession and it has all the right perspectives of a true confession would be threefold…see your sin for what it is, see God for who He is, and see yourself for who you are. Any true confession is going to have to interact with those components.”[1]