According to a universal definition, ‘sin’ can be a noun or a verb: an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law; or, the commission of an offense. Synonyms are many, including: an immoral act, wrong, wrongdoing, act of evil/wickedness, transgression, crime, offense, misdeed, misdemeanor, scandal, disgrace, outrage. These are, of course, secular conceptions of a matter much more fully examined in the pages of Holy Scripture.
While many of the same ideas about sin are indeed expressed, the main point Scripture declares about sin is that it is essentially what separates us from God. The Book of Genesis introduces the concept of sin in relating the story of Eden, the subsequent fall of mankind, and God’s promised remedy.
Curiously, while Eden is where the Biblical narrative provides the origin of sin, the actual word ‘sin’ is not mentioned until AFTER Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden. The first passage that employs the term is in God’s discussion with Cain about his anger towards his brother, Abel.
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” – Gen. 4:7.
Obviously, the issue of sin is designated there as a consequence of choice. That Cain should rule over it, indicates that it was a matter of his free will whether to sin or not. Therefore. any idea that this was because of the curse of ‘Original Sin’ must be prayerfully scrutinized more carefully.
There are many similar assumptions that few people adequately research before accepting as truth. As with most things, one’s perspective greatly influences their ultimate appreciation of fact.
The purpose of this Article is to distinguish between two primary perspectives related to sin. This is NOT to infer that merely two perspectives exist, only that at least these two should be considered. One view is mankind’s involvement in, responsibility for, and possible rehabilitation from, sin. The other is God’s revelation and purpose of, and antidote for, sin.
Two other distinctions must also be simultaneously considered. Scripture regards sin in an all-inclusive, universal application and additionally, as an individual, personal liability. The ubiquitous sense relates to the ‘Original Sin’ imposed upon mankind in Eden and in which ALL humanity is born. I label this as SIN. This is THE NOUN by which everything that opposes God is called. The other designated in lower-case font, ‘sin’ or ‘sins’.
Equally offensive to God, yet NOT the same perpetual curse imposed pre-birth, are the many wrong actions performed by mankind – intentionally or ignorantly. These are commonly referred to as being either ‘sins of commission’ or ‘sins of omission’. More than merely wrongdoing, failing to do rightly is just as evil.
The existence of the universal application of sin is clearly proclaimed in Scripture.
““There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside. They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” – Ro.3:11,12.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Ro. 3:23.
Interestingly, there is little doubt or debate among believers about the universal curse of sin. Excluding atheists, the majority of people attribute the existence of evil to sin. The godly remedy for sin is where they disagree. The entire purpose of God becoming man and offering Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice is revealed in Scripture as THE solution to this pervasive blight.
Confusion and speculation also abounds regarding the PRESENT sin that continues to plague believers. The remainder of this Article shall focus on that matter.
“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” – 1Jn. 1:7-10.
Sadly, many false doctrines exist that portray the preceding scripture passage as a seeming contradiction. Of course, the spiritually mature know that scripture NEVER contradicts itself. Where ever it appears so, a deeper research and fuller understanding is imperative.
Still, the question is continually debated, “How do believers explain the sin that continues to oppress them, after being forgiven and saved”? Again, spiritual maturity provides the necessary enlightenment, possible ONLY through the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
“Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” – 1Jn. 3:6.
A crucial discernment is required here. Who to believe – Scripture, or some private interpretation of it? How can we know the difference? What is it to ‘abide’ in HIM? The WORD of God definitely says, “Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him”.
So, those who have ‘seen’ Him (in Christ) and have come to ‘know’ Him (as revealed in Christ) do NOT sin. Except, many have ‘seen’ Him and ‘know’ Him, by virtue of a personal encounter that has been confirmed by the perpetual residency of the Holy Spirit, yet they continue to sin. How do we reconcile this personal experience with Scripture?
Paul explained a similar enigma in his personal experience. He admonished believers to understand the relentless battle that our flesh wages against our spirit – the ‘inner man’.
“We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Ro. 7: 14-25.
Remember, this was Paul’s expressed empathy for born again Christians, as a born again Christian, to other born again Christians. His conclusion? “Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He understood that a newness of life had set up permanent residency in him which led him to the conviction – “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me”.
Just as SIN separates us from God, becoming truly born again (born of the Spirit) separates us from sin. The term ‘separates’ is better realized as a ‘division’ or ‘partition’; ‘detached’, ‘disjoined’. The ‘new creation’ that the infilling Spirit of God produces involves an addition to the natural man. Formerly mere physical beings with no spiritual life now become ‘alive’ unto God and ‘dead’ unto sin by being born again.
“The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” – 1 Cor. 2:14.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” – 2Cor. 5:17.
“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” – 1Pt. 1:23.
“Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord” – Ro. 6:11.
Without such a personal experience, sin forever rules the heart. But a new desire to please God, to worship Him, and to express an eternal gratitude for His grace (unmerited favor) now reigns in sin’s place for those truly born again. Of course, this is a simplistic reasoning for a supernatural miracle of redemption and transformation from death to life. It cannot be rightly comprehended by merely the rational mind.
But such newness of life does NOT immediately end the former way of life. In most, this is a life-long process, learning more about the things of God and how to surrender to His Spirit rather than the old sin-nature our selfish flesh continues to insist upon. Some, very few, do experience an instant change that solidifies the born again experience as an immediate eternal assurance. Most however, receive such confirmation over time, as their personal education in Scripture and subsequent edification in the Spirit is experienced. Further hindering such spiritual growth, temptation comes with every thought. But a way of overcoming every temptation also accompanies those thoughts.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” – 1Cor. 10:13.
Here again, Paul is ministering as a born again believer to other born again believers. Clearly temptation to sin remains an ever present danger to believers, but by the same grace by which we’ve been saved, a ‘way of escape’ allows us to endure.
Many have confused the ‘incorruptible seed’ by which spiritual birth is conceived to mean that born again believers are beyond corruption. This is a false assumption. It is the Spirit of God that is the incorruptible seed. He ALONE is righteous. Although He appropriates His righteousness to born again believers, it remains HIS righteousness.
Self-righteousness is one of the hypocrisies of sin. Those who attempt to achieve righteousness through their own efforts, regardless of motivation or resulting good, have circumvented Christ’s whole redemptive purpose. While they may claim naivety, Jesus has warned that is no excuse. He explained that the ‘doing’ of good works in hopes of attaining righteousness was NOT the way to come to know Him. Conversely, knowing Him would produce His covering of righteousness and good works would be manifest in and through such believers.
“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Mt. 7:16-23.
In conclusion, this was not intended to present an exhaustive study on the topic of sin. It has been presented as a concise ‘over-view’ of the multitude of passages within Scripture pertaining to the matter as it relates to the true believer. An applied systematic theological research into ‘Soteriology’ (doctrine of salvation) is strongly recommended for further consideration. Those still doubtful should perhaps consider that as an indication that sin has not yet been remedied in their life, and pray to God for deliverance.