Respectable Sins: Saints and Sinners

This is the first of ten posts on Jerry Bridges book Respectable Sins. Please see this post for a description of what I’m doing and a schedule of posts.

Saints and sinners are those other people. In the case of the former, they are the people who do extraordinary works of good deeds and hold to a morally superior position that most of can only dream of attaining. In the case of latter, they are the people who are responsible for our rapidly declining culture (homosexuals, murderers, atheists, darwinists, etc…). These may be common (mis)understandings of the concept of saint and sinner, but Bridges desire is to recover these concepts for the church and discusses them in the first two chapters of Respectable Sins.

In the first chapter, “Ordinary Saints”, Bridges reminds us that “saints” is a Biblical description of ordinary Christians. One that Paul even uses to describe the incredibly worldly Christians at Corinth. Bridges reminds us that “the Greek word for saint is hagios, and it refers not to one’s character but to a state of being Its literal meaning is ‘one who is separated unto God. In this sense, every believer – even the most ordinary and the most immature – is a saint” (12). Bridges goes on to remind us that sainthood is conferred on every believer by the work of the Holy Spirit, not by our actions. This is an incredible truth and one that seems hard for us to understand and apply to our daily life. Our desire should be to live in fulfillment of this lofty position applied to us through God’s work through His Word and by His Spirit. And if we have been set apart for God, then we will want our lives to reflect this by our taking our own sin seriously.

Bridges writes about the “Disappearance of Sin” in the second chapter. Therein he says, “the whole idea of sin has virtually disappeared from our culture” (18). In saying this, Bridges is not just concerned for broader culture, but also for the evangelical church. This is the heart of the book:

But what about our conservative, evangelical churches? Has the idea of sin all but disappeared from us also? No, it has not disappeared, but it has, in many instances, been deflected to those outside our circles who commit flagrant sins such as abortion, homosexuality, and murder,…It’s easy for us to condemn those obvious sins while virtually ignoring our own sins of gossip, pride, envy, bitterness, and lust, or even our lack of those gracious qualities that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23)…In fact, we often indulge in what I call the ‘respectable ‘ or even ‘acceptable’ sins without any sense of sin” (19).

So, the question for us is do we see sin for what it is? Do we see sin (regardless of what it is) as offense against God, as disregard for His Law, and deserving of His condemnation?

Some questions for reflection:

  • Are you surprised by how Bridges started the book with these first two chapters?
  • What struck you positively or negatively in your reading?
  • How likely are you to think of yourself as a saint?
  • How does knowing you are a saint help you to act like a saint?
  • How does the disappearance of sin as a concept effect our culture? the Church?
  • What sins (in yourself or others) do you tend to make a big deal about?
  • What sins do you tend to “accept”?
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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mark Bender on April 23, 2008 at 3:09 am

    Thank you Adam for providing this service to us that will be helpful in digesting this book that seems of value to the church. I was more affected by the second chapter on the disappearance of sin. Bridges writes, “We were incensed and rightly so when a major denomination ordained a practicing homosexual as a bishop. Why do we not also mourn over our selfishness, our critical spirit, our impatience and our anger? It is easy to let ourselves off the hook by saying these sins are not as bad as the flagrant ones of society. But God has not given us the authority to establish values for different sins.” I remember reading Jonathan Edwards who established that each sin we commit is infinitly heinous because it is committed against an infinite God. In other words, if we committed only one sin our entire life then we would be worthy of eternal punishment at the hand of our God. If we never come to realize the seriousness of sin then we shall never grasp the desperate need we possess for the Gospel of Christ. I believe this is the chief reason for weakness in the church. We see little need for Christ in our daily lives because sin isn’t that great of a threat or danger to us, at least that is our perception.

    Reply

    • Posted by Elaine Cole on January 1, 2011 at 8:38 pm

      my comment is to say Thank-You for this web site Help my Unbelief,I belong to a Church and we started a weekly Bible
      Study on Jerry Bridges book Respectable Sins a few weeks ago
      and I have like and learned in the first few chapters.I was on the computer looking for more information about respectable sins and came across your site and have found it informative and easier for me to understand. Thank-You

      Reply

      • Posted by Elaine Cole on February 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm

        Hello, I am still searching for information on Jerry Bridges book Respectable Sins, I did find some information that was posted Aprill 22, 2008 by Adam- this covered the first few chapters. On the back its listed where posts will be available the rest of the chapters would appreciate any help.

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