Christopher Marlowe wrote, “I count religion but a childish toy, and hold there is no sin but ignorance.” Such words display a terrible ignorance of sin, itself. Sadly, a great portion of humanity shares in this same ignorance. Men would do their souls well to study the serious subject of sin and to that end, the following material is offered.
The Definitions and Descriptions of Sin.
The generic Hebrew word for sin means “to miss the mark.” Likewise, the New Testament uses a Greek word (hamartia) that also means “to miss the mark” or “to miss the target.” This definition is interesting in light of Romans 3:23 that proclaims, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (emph. mine, PS).
The apostle John spoke of sin in a legal context by writing, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn. 3:4). Just a cursory glance at Bible examples of sin thoroughly demonstrates this description. For instance, Adam and Eve’s eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was sin because God’s law was, “You shall not eat of it” (Gen. 2:16-17).
While many measure sin by the commission of certain acts, James clarifies that one can also sin by omitting certain acts: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17, emph. mine, PS). Perhaps this helps explain the necessity of Jesus’ baptism by John (Matthew 3:13-15). Since being baptized was a commandment of God, failing to submit to the act (even though He had no sins to remit) would have been a sin of omission.
The Doorway of Sin into the World.
Upon the completion of the creation—and specifically the creation of man and woman—the Genesis account records God’s evaluation of the world: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good…” (Gen. 1:31, emph. mine, PS).
By Genesis 3, however, things take a turn for the worse. The devil, in serpent form, tempts the woman, she and her husband surrender to the enticement, and sin makes its way into God’s “very good” creation. Reflecting back on these events, Paul said, “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:19).
The Destruction Caused by Sin.
Sin has been described as a deadly disease that has wreaked havoc on the creation since its entrance into the world. Such a comparison is linked to passages that speak of the death that sin causes:
- “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
- “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15).
While many make light of sin or ignore it altogether, the Bible shows the severity of this ever-present element. The being who enticed the first couple to sin is described by Jesus as murderer (Jn. 8:44). Sin separates the practitioner from the holy God of Heaven (Is. 59:1-2). Sin will keep the guilty from heaven and cause transgressors to be lost eternally (1 Cor.6:9).
The Deliverance from Sin.
While God in His justice could have exterminated mankind because of its sins (remember that the wages of sin is death), in His mercy He chose to save the crown of His creation. The Bible is the record of God’s plan to reconcile man back to Himself. This plan ultimately called for the sacrifice of God in the flesh. Christ proclaimed, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). Paul describes the merciful matter as follows:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
Man must respond appropriately to this redemptive work of God. God requires faith (Jn.8:24), repentance (Acts 17:30), confession (Rom. 10:9-10), and baptism (Acts 2:38). At the point of baptism, one’s sins are washed away by the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5). As one continues walking in the light of God’s will (which includes repentance, confession, and prayer), his sins are continually cleansed by this same sacred blood (1 Jn. 1:7-9).