What is Sin
What is Sin?
Jesus came to the world to redeem us from sin, but what exactly is sin? Dictionary.com defines sin as this;
- transgression of divine law: the sin of Adam.
And this is from Webster’s;
noun \ˈsin\ 1a: an offense against religious or moral law
I think that this is the definition that most people think of, an offence against a moral or divine law. To Christians, that would be the law of Moses, the ten commandments. While this is not essentially wrong, it isn’t really the true definition of sin. The problem with this definition is found early in the bible in Genesis chapter 20;
From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife.” Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’
(Genesis 20:1-11 ESV)
The reason this is a problem for the common definition of sin is this takes place before God established the law with Moses. Yet king Abimelech clearly understands and recognizes sin. If sin were just the transgression of the law, how could there be sin before the law was established?
The apostle Paul discusses this in his letter to the Romans:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
(Romans 5:12-14 ESV)
So sin would have to be more than just the transgression of the law, the true definition of sin would be a transgression against God. Anything that goes against God and His will is sin. It all started in the garden of Eden:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
(Genesis 3:1-6 ESV)
Adam and Eve’s sin was disobeying a direct commandment of God. Sin was brought in the world through their eating the fruit and thus gaining the knowledge of good and evil, which is passed down through their descendants. Now, with that knowledge, doing anything that goes against God (good) is sin. People reach a point in their lives where they can recognize good from bad. This is usually referred to as your conscience. People can, and have, blurred what is good, what is good for one person may be bad for someone else. But remember, sin is something that goes against God, not something personal. And God is love. The law was given as a guide, but Jesus summed it up simply;
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)
Jesus said that all the law comes down to love, loving God and loving others. Anything that goes against this is sin.