Question: What is Sin?
Sin: What is Sin and What Does the Bible Say About Sin?
For such a small word, a lot is packed into the meaning of sin. The Bible describes sin as the breaking, or transgression, of God's law (1 John 3:4). It is also defined as disobedience or rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7), as well as independence from God. The original translation means "to miss the mark" of God's holy standard of righteousness.
Hamartiology is the branch of theology that deals with the study of sin. It investigates how sin originated, how it affects the human race, the different types and degrees of sin, and the results of sin.
While the basic origin of sin is unclear, we know that it came into the world when the serpent, Satan, tempted Adam and Eve and they disobeyed God (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12). The essence of the problem stemmed from the human desire to be like God. All sin, therefore, has its roots in idolatry—the attempt to put something or someone in the place of the Creator. Most often, that someone is one's own self. While God allows sin, he is not the author of sin. All sins are an offense to God and they separate us from him (Isaiah 59:2).
Questions About Sin
Many Christians are troubled by questions about sin. Besides defining sin, this article attempts to answer several frequently asked questions about sin.
What is Original Sin?While the term "original sin" is not expressly stated in the Bible, the Christian doctrine of original sin is based on verses that include Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. As a result of Adam's fall, sin entered the world. Adam, the head or root of the human race, caused every man after him to be born into a sinful state or fallen condition. Original sin, then, is the root of sin that taints the life of man. All humans have adopted this sin nature through Adam's original act of disobedience. Original sin is often referred to as "inherited sin."
Are All Sins Equal to God?
The Bible seems to indicate that there are degrees to sin—that some are more detestable to God than others (Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19). However, when it comes to the eternal consequences of sin, they are all the same. Every sin, every act of rebellion, leads to condemnation and eternal death (Romans 6:23).
How Do We Deal with the Problem of Sin?We've already established that sin is a serious problem. These verses leave us with no doubt:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags ... (NIV)
...There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. (NIV)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (NIV)
If sin separates us from God and condemns us to death, how do we get free from its curse? Fortunately, God provided a solution through his Son, Jesus Christ. These resources will further explain God's answer to the problem of sin through his perfect plan of redemption.
How Can We Judge if Something is Sin?Many sins are spelled out plainly in the Bible. For example, the Ten Commandments give us a clear picture of God's laws. They offer basic rules of behavior for spiritual and moral living. Many other verses in the Bible present direct examples of sin: Proverbs 6:16-19; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. But how do we decide if something is sin when the Bible is not clear?
What Attitude Should We Have Toward Sin?The truth is, we all sin. The Bible makes this apparent in Scriptures such as Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:10. But the Bible also says that God hates sin and encourages us as Christians to stop sinning: "Those who have been born into God's family do not make a practice of sinning, because God's life is in them." (1 John 3:9, NLT) Further complicating the matter are Bible passages that seem to suggest that some sins are debatable and that sin is not always "black and white." What is sin for one Christian, for example, may not be sin for another Christian. So, in light of all of these considerations, what attitude should we have toward sin?
What is the Unforgivable Sin?Mark 3:29 says, "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. (NIV) Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also referenced in Matthew 12:31-32 and Luke 12:10. This question about the unforgivable sin has challenged and perplexed many Christians over the years. I believe, however, that the Bible provides a very simple explanation for this intriguing and oftentimes disturbing question about sin.
Other Types of SinImputed Sin - Here is a outstanding explanation of the difference between Original Sin and Imputed Sin from Desiring God Ministry.
Sins of Omission and Commission - These sins refer to personal sins. A sin of commission is something we do (commit) by the act of our will against the command of God. A sin of omission is when we fail to do something commanded by God (omit) through a knowing act of our will. For more about sins of omission and commission see the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.
Mortal Sin and Venial Sins - This article at GotQuestions.com explains in detail the Roman Catholic teaching about mortal and venial sins: Does the Bible teach mortal and venial sin?