WHAT IS SIN?
PEOPLE, in general, do not use the word “sin” in everyday language: it is considered an outdated term. To the average person, “sin” denotes something terribly bad, such as: murder or adultery. People tend to think that “sin” would be too strong a word to use for so called “lesser evils”. The idea of sin also brings to mind the stereotypical preacher bringing a heavy message of condemnation to a congregation, while yelling about their need to be saved. Many would, perhaps, see the preacher as the one needing help, rather than the ones to whom he is preaching.
For the first act of sin, however, we must turn to the book of Genesis in the Bible. There we read of Adam and Eve, who lived in the Garden of Eden, having all their needs met. God had instructed them that they could eat of all the trees in the Garden except the tree which was in the middle of the Garden-the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But we read that Adam and Eve were ushered out of the Garden because of sin. Their sin was not murder, lying or adultery. They simply disobeyed what God told them, by eating of the forbidden fruit, which resulted in the Fall.
There is nothing inherently sinful about eating fruit. The fall of man came about when Adam and Eve decided to do what they wanted to do, even when it was in opposition to God’s instruction. This understanding of sin is extremely important. (The first mention of the word, “sin,” however, is found in Genesis 4:4.)
“Sin” versus “Sins”
Now, there is a difference between sin and sins. Sin refers to our own inner nature that is in rebellion against God’s will, as stated in His Word. It is having our own way, instead of doing what God wants. The word “Sins”, however, refers to the symptoms or deeds of our sinful nature. So, when the Bible speaks of people needing salvation, it means needing to be saved from the penalty resulting from our sin, i.e.: our rebellion against God and our disobedience to Him. . Lying, murder, stealing etc., are examples of sins, and are only the fruits of our sinful human nature, which desires to operate independently of God’s will. Everyone is born with that independent attitude towards God, which manifests itself in sinful acts. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” That independent attitude is called rebellion.
Adam’s fall brought about the alienation of the entire human race from God. The idea of being born a sinner as a result of what Adam did, is not popular at all. Whether popular or not, however, it is true. First, the Bible, which is the inspired Word of God, says: “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
The fact of sin is demonstrated in each person, one generation after the other. For example, Cain killed his brother, Abel, out of jealousy. These young men were the second generation from Adam and Eve. The laws of any civilized land give evidence to the practice of sin. This is clear evidence that people will not do justly with each other when left with an option. Human beings will only voluntarily do that which pleases or benefits them personally, and often at the expense of others.
Denial of Sin
It is natural for people to deny that they are sinners. They think that they are not as bad as some people they know. The concept that all are sinners, offends them; but the biblical understanding of sin, does not allow for categories of sin, in God’s sight.
Simply because one has not committed a serious crime according to the laws of the land, does not mean that one is not a sinner. While many strive to live fairly moral lives, and may acknowledge the Ten Commandments as relevant to their lives, it is a fact of life, however, that no one, except the Lord Jesus Christ, has been able to obey all of God’s commands.
God’s standard of perfection is emphasized in James 2:10, which reads, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” It is like taking an examination. If you or I miss one or two answers of the test, most people would say, “You did very well.” However, if the requirement for passing the exam is 100 percent, then 98 or 99 percent will not do. We would be in the same category as one who missed all the answers-we would have failed the exam. All the conflicts, poor relationships, injustices, rip-offs, manipulations and cop-outs, as well as the hatred, vice, and violence seen in all areas of life, are the result of sin.
So, what indeed is sin? Sin is:
- Disobedience to God’s Word–I John 3: 4
- Independence from God–Judges 21: 9-25
- Missing the mark–Romans 3:23
- Rebellion-4 Samuel 15: 13
- Entertaining foolish, unclean, or malicious thoughts–Proverbs 24:9
- Omitting to do what we know to be God’s will, or doing what we know to be against His will–James 4:17
What can We do About It?
The question then, is: Is there an answer to this problem? God has put together for us, a plan of deliverance from sin. The key person in this plan is Jesus Christ, who was sent to be the Saviour of sinners. God loves us, in spite of our sin, and has provided a way out of our predicament. Sin is indeed a “dirty” word in the sense that it is an unpopular expression. But, sin is also “dirty,” in the sense that we are stained inwardly by it, and cannot enter into the presence of God, unless we are willing to be cleansed. Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for sin by experiencing physical death on the cross on our behalf. We can be cleansed by believing in Jesus as the One who died for us, realizing that He arose from the dead and is able to cleanse us from sin and to live in us, giving us the power to live for God. The only way we can truly be free from the power and the control of sin is by inviting Jesus Christ, the Saviour, into our lives, and allowing Him to direct our lives. It is by this means that a person is cleansed or saved from sin, and enabled to live for God. Failure to deal with our sin problem will have eternal consequences: “FOR THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH, BUT THE (FREE) GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD” (ROMANS 6:23).