Q: #172. What is sin?
By: Steve Shirley
A: The word "sin" is used 448 times in the Bible. The vast majority of the times it is used in the Old Testament (Hebrew) and New Testament (Greek) it literally means "to miss the mark." For example, the same Hebrew word "chata" that is used for sin is also found in (Judg 20:16) "Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at a hair breadth, and not miss."
What is the "mark" that we are supposed to aim for? It is God Himself! How do we know how to hit the "mark"? It is revealed through God's Holy Word, the Bible.
The Bible says, perhaps first and foremost, that "sin is the transgression of of the law" (1 Jn 3:4). (Rom 7:7)(NASB) also says, "...I would not have come to know sin except through the law..." (Also see: Rom 3:20) According to Bible scholars, the Bible contains 613 laws. Each of these laws reveal a part of God's character or who He is. Thus, another good definition for sin might be that "sin is a violation of the moral character of God, which is revealed in the Law of God." In other words, when we fail to keep God's Law, we "miss the mark" of perfection and sinlessness which is God.
*** Note: Obviously, we should not make the mistake of believing that keeping the law simply refers to obeying the 10 Commandments alone.
Clearly, human history has shown us that from the first man (Adam) to present day man, ALL humans (and even some angels: 2 Pet 2:4, Jude 6) have failed to hit the mark. The Bible confirms this saying that all humans are sinners (1 Jn 1:8,10)(Rom 3:10,23)(Prov 20:9)(1 Kin 8:46)(2 Chr 6:36).
When we fail to follow these laws or stay within the boundaries that God has established, it shows our ingratitude towards Him (Rom 1:21), as well as a lack of trust and faith in Him, and love for Him. It is trampling upon God's grace which we are commanded not to do (Rom 6:1-2). In addition, we are rebelling against God. The Bible says that rebellion "is as the sin of witchcraft" (1 Sam 15:23), and God calls witchcraft an abomination in His eyes (Deut 18:10-12). What are the consequences of rebelling against God? Here are a few verses that explain:
Rebellion grieves the Holy Spirit and causes Him to be our enemy and fight against us (Isa 63:10).
If you rebel against the words of God, and spurn His counsel, you may sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107:10-11).
If you rebel against the commandment of the Lord, the hand of the Lord will be against you (1 Sam 12:14-15).
(Isa 1:19-20) If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat of the good of the land: (20) But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
The rebellious dwell in a dry land (Ps 68:6).
(Isa 30:1) Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, That take counsel, but not of me;
Those who commit rebellion will be delivered to the enemy (Neh 9:26).
In addition, we should consider these scary consequences of our sin:
It separates us from a close walk with God: (Isa 59:2)(Ps 66:18)(Jn 9:31)(1 Pet 3:12)(Prov 15:2)(Sin breaks our communion with God, but not our union or salvation.)
It can bring about the chastening and anger of God: (Heb 12:6-7)(Deut 8:5-6)(Ex 32:34)(Ps 38:1)(Lev 10:1-3)(All of Ps 78).
It makes us a servant of sin (Jn 8:34), and "of the devil" (1 Jn 3:8).
Do you think that you are doing pretty well on avoiding sin? Well, let me list a bunch more things that the Bible calls sin that most of us "miss the mark" on. First, I will begin with sins of commission, followed by sins of omission (omission being those things that we are told to do but fail to do them).
Sins of commission: (These are the not so obvious ones we commit.)
|Anger (Mt 5:22)||Evil thoughts (Mt 7:21)|
|Arguing (Phil 2:14)||Foolishness (Mt 7:22)|
|Bitterness (Eph 4:30-31)||Fornication (Mt 7:21)|
|Blasphemy (Mt 7:22)||Gossip (Lev 19:16)|
|Breaking promises (Rom 1:31)||Hypocrisy (1 Pet 2:1)|
|Complaining (Phil 2:14)||Idolatry (1 Cor 10:14)|
|Deceit (Mt 7:22)||Lust (Mt 5:28)|
|Disobedience to parents (Rom 1:30)||Lying (Ex 20:16)|
|Doubt (Lk 1:18-20)||Pride (Prov 21:4)|
|Envy (1 Pet 2:1)||Unforgiveness (Mt 6:14-15)|
|Evil speaking (Eph 4:31)||Watching bad things (Ps 101:3)(Isa 33:15)|
If we keep the whole law but fail at just one, we are guilty of breaking all of them (James 2:10).
If we know to do good and do not, it is sin (James 4:17).
Not believing in Jesus is sin (Jn 16:9).
Failing to pray for someone is sin (1 Sam 12:23).
If we do something that we think is wrong, it is sin, even if what we do is not actually a sin (Rom 14:23)!
Sins of omission (Things we fail to do that we are told to do):
Feed the hungry
Give someone thirsty a drink
Take in a stranger or the poor
Visit someone in prison
Clothe someone who has none
*** All of the above are found in: (Mt 25:34-45)(Isa 58:7)(James 2:15-16)(Heb 13:2-3)
If you are a Christian, your body is God's temple, do you take care of it? (1 Cor 3:16-17)(1 Cor 6:19-20)
Do you fulfill the great commission? (Mt 28:19-20)
Do you do something that might hinder a Christian brother? (1 Cor 8:1-13)
Love your neighbor as yourself? (Mt 19:19)(Mk 12:31,33)(Mt 22:39)(Lk 10:27)
Do you show partiality? (James 2:9)
Do you fail to trust in the Lord? (Prov 3:5-6)
Do you fail to go to church? (Heb 10:25)
Do you study to show yourself approved? (2 Tim 2:15)
Do you do good to those who hate you? (Lk 6:27)
Do you bless them that curse you and pray for them that use you? (Lk 6:28)
Do you give to everyone who asks of you? (Lk 6:30)
Do you treat others as you would want them to treat you? (Lk 6:31)
Finally, let me share one more Biblical definition of sin as found in (1 Jn 5:17) "All unrighteousness is sin." In short, righteousness is doing what is right or just according to God's standards. Again, this standard for being righteous means keeping God's law (Deut 6:25)(Rom 10:5) and this "instruction in righteousness" is found in the Bible (2 Tim 3:16). Jesus tells us that we will be "blessed" if we "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Mt 5:6) and "blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:10). However, our righteousness will still fall short of God's standards (Eccl 7:20)(Rom 3:10)(Isa 64:6)(Mt 5:20). Only God is truly righteous (Ps 145:17)(Jn 17:25)(Ps 50:6).
This is why Jesus came to Earth and ultimately gave His life on the cross. He lived the "righteous" and sinless (1 Jn 3:5)(Heb 4:15)(1 Pet 2:22) life that we could never live. It is important to understand that in order to spend eternity with God in Heaven one day, He demands that we must be perfect and sinless just as He is (Jas 1:13)(Hab 1:13)(Ps 18:30). Since we will never attain that perfection, the righteousness and sinlessness of Jesus' perfect life on Earth is "imputed" to us (counted or credited to our account)(2 Cor 5:19,21)(Rom 4:7-8,24-25)(1 Pet 3:18) when we surrender our lives to Him, and place our trust in Him. His blood, shed on the cross, covers our sins (Col 1:14,20)(Eph 1:7)(Heb 10:16-19) and imperfection.
We should always keep in mind that every problem in this world is the result of sin. When we put ourselves ahead of God, or the creation ahead of the Creator, it will only end in pain. The Bible says that the pleasures of sin are but for a season (Heb 11:25). Let us turn from sin, and continually strive, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to become more and more like Jesus each day (Eph 4:13,15)(Phil 3:12-14)(2 Cor 3:17-18)(Rom 8:29).