If you were to ask 10 different people to define sin, you would probably get 20 different answers. Sin is a vague term but, if we take a look at the Scriptures, we will notice that God defines sin very specifically. I would like to examine some passages that deal with a definition of what sin is and how we see it play out in our daily lives. If and when we understand these verses, we will discover that we are actually worse than we ever imagined.
I. Sin is directly disobeying God
In the very beginning of the Bible, at the very beginning of human history, God gave very clear commands to humankind about the 1 thing that they were not to do. People chose to act in disobedience. They knew what God wanted them to do. They also knew what He did not want them to do. They were tempted with the ability to be like God and run their own lives instead of walking with Him in obedience. Sin became a reality.
II. The definition of sin
Our English word “sin” comes from two roots. There is a German root and the meaning of the root is “to offend”. There is a Latin root that means “guilty or criminal”. So, sin has the idea of offending and being guilty of the offense.
The Old Testament, the first 39 books of the Bible, was written, for the most part, in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew word that is translated into English as “sin” is “Chata’“. It actually has Aramaic roots. It means to miss the mark. It means to be off track. God defines the track and then shows us that we are off the track. When we are off track, we offend God. We are guilty of offending God. This is illustrated in Genesis 3. Humanity got off track. Humanity offended God. All of us are guilty of offending God.
The New Testament, the 27 books that make up the second half of the Bible, was written in Koine Greek. This was the common language of the day. The simplest farmer could understand the Words of God. The Word of God was written for the common people. The Greek word that is translated “sin” in English is “Hamartano“. The idea is not being complete. Sin is not being correct. The standard of correctness is established by God and sin means to fall short of that standard. This is the conceptual idea of what sin is. Now I would like to define it in specific terms according to the Scriptures.
III. Practical Examples of sin
Many people like to leave things on the conceptual level because when you have a vague understanding of things, you are not sure if you are being obedient or not. On the other hand, when you take concepts and make them concrete and practical, then you can evaluate and determine if you are being obedient or not. God’s Word is conceptual and then, It takes the concepts and puts them into concrete, practical steps to obedience. Let’s examine the description of what sin is.
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. (I John 3)
Sin is defined as lawlessness. Anarchy is a form of lawlessness. Undermining authority is a form of lawlessness. Insubordination to authority is lawlessness. Doing what is right in your own eyes is also lawlessness. Calling truth relative is also a form of lawlessness. This pretty much sums up our modern society. We live in an age of lawlessness.
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5)
Idolatry – Is there anything in your life that comes between you and your relationship with God? They could be noble things. They could be vices. They could be anything. If they come between you and God then they are idols. Some idols that we are prone to are; 1) money 2) television 3) video games 4) computer 5) sports
Sorcery – This is manifested in a couple of ways. It can be via spells to try and manipulate your surroundings. How many books, movies, and cartoons are there out there that teach kids that this kind of stuff is okay? It can also be manifested in mind altering drugs. How many of our kids are on mind altering drugs to “calm them down”?
Hatred – The desire to hurt others because of your own selfish desires.
Fighting – This desire to hurt others is manifested in fighting, both physically and verbally.
Jealousy – This is being upset because someone got something and you did not. Instead of rejoicing with that person, you get upset.
Anger – This plays off of hatred. Being angry is not a sin. Being controlled by anger and acting out of anger is sin.
Rivalry – Because of your selfishness, you always try to make yourself look better than those around you. You want to be the center of attention.
Division – This rivalry leads to cliques where one group is against another. Fighting usually occurs.
Envying – Not only are you upset at what others have, you want it and if you cannot have it, you will destroy what they have so that the other person can be miserable with you.
Murder – This is another manifestation of being controlled by anger. The biggest way that this is manifested is in our hurtful words to others. The Bible teaches us that the power of life and death are in the tongue. Are you building others up with your words, or, are you tearing them down.
These are all sins. There are more. In Ephesians 4, we find the following:
26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Unwholesome words – the literal Greek word that is translated as unwholesome is putrefied. When you open your mouth, the words that exit do not build up but instead, they are like the smell coming out of a grave once the casket has been opened several weeks after burial. This is what Martha told Jesus when He wanted to remove the stone in front of Lazarus’ tomb. When angry, especially while being controlled by anger, unwholesome words tend to slip out of our mouths.
Bitterness – this word means to be pierced (the root of the Greek word). An event happened to you and you cannot get over it. It just eats at you until you get angry and that prolonged anger turns to bitterness. It is a deep root that will produce all kinds of sinful actions. Bitterness is an attitude that produces actions. A bitter person always seems to speak negatively about everything. It is like a person with a tightly wound spring just waiting for that lucky person to push the right button (or any button).
Wrath – this is one of the results of being bitter. It carries the idea of water on the brink of boiling. It sits in a cup, full to the brim and just needs one more drop to overflow. The little drops of bitterness built up to the rim and just a little spark caused the water to boil and overflow.
Anger – this is a character trait. It is the trait of a person who is led by impulse and he reacts based on that impulse. This person blows up and then says things like, “it was just an accident. I did not mean it. It was an impulse.”
Clamor – this word carried the idea of literally having a shouting match. When a person is full of bitter, wrath, and anger then all it takes is the drop of a hat to start a shouting match. Have you ever dealt with people like this? Are you a person like this? Remember, Paul is writing to a church that is full of born again believers and they were having a problem with these things.
Slander – After the shouting match, usually people run and then begin to talk bad about the person. The actual word that is translated “slander” is “blasphemy”. This means deliberately distorting the truth about someone to make that person look bad. When the Pharisees attributed the clear work of the Holy Spirit to demons. That was blasphemy. They knew the truth but deliberately distorted the facts to try and lead others astray.
Malice – this literally means bad nature or in a bad mood all the time as well as wishing and causing bad to others. This person laughs when bad things happen to others.
IV. Sin enslaves us
If we are honest with ourselves, most, if not all of the above mentioned sins have been or still are present in our lives. That is because we are sinners from birth. We have a sin nature that we are born with and that nature controls us until we are set free from its power. In Psalm 51, King David reminds us of an important truth:
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
David was a sinner from the time he was conceived. So was I and so were you. When you and I sin, we give ourselves over to sin and it enslaves us. In John 8, Jesus explains this truth to some Jews who were listening to Him teach.
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never * yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free ‘?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.
35 “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.
36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
If you sin, just one time, and you have and will, then you are a slave and you cannot set yourself free. You cannot stop. You have become the slave and sin is your master. Jesus is the only person in the universe who can set you free. No self help class will do. If you believe in Him and become His disciple, He will teach you the Truth of His Word and the Truth will set you free from your slavery to sin. You will still have a sin nature but, it will be powerless, unless you give it power. Before, you did not have a choice but, if you are a disciple, now you do have a choice. Are you ready to be set free? Are you ready to live free?