What Is Sin?

The Bible uses a wide variety of terms to express the idea of sin, but the basic idea is “missing the mark.” Other definitions are: error, blunder, going beyond the norm, impiety, contempt for law, moral and spiritual depravity, falsehood, and guilt.

Rejection of God’s Will

Sin is the rejection of the law, or will, of God and the substitution of our will. This was clearly demonstrated by Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6). They violated God’s direct command and did what they wanted instead of what God had said. The apostle Paul told Timothy (II Timothy 3:16, 17) that the scriptures provide all that a christian needs to equip him for every good work. Everything necessary for our religious life, including our public worship, may be found in the scriptures. Man’s wisdom can never exceed God’s wisdom to alter “every good work.”

Reason and Judgment Are Unsafe Guides

God gave us the power of reason and judgment, but this also provides us with the propensity or tendency to sin by substituting our desires for God’s will. Jeremiah cautioned that it is not in man to direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23), and the apostle Paul said “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). When our behavior is guided by our own reason and judgment instead of by God’s will we sin. We depart from God’s will and “miss the mark.”

All Sins Are Not Named

There are many scriptures that list specific thoughts and actions that God considers to be sin. However, even if we listed all of these sins, it would not be all-inclusive. The intent of the writers of the New Testament was not to list everything that is sin, but rather to give us some idea of the kinds of things that are sin. For example, after listing specific sins in Galatians 5:19-21, the apostle Paul added “and such like” and “do such things.” The apostle did not list all of the possible fruits of the Spirit in verses 22 and 23 but ended with “against such there is no law.” These guidelines were given to regulate our conduct. The apostle John wrote “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4). When we depart from God’s guidelines we “miss the mark”–we sin.

God’s Will

The New Testament describes the kind of person God wants us to be. It tells us the kind of thoughts and behavior that honors and glorifies God. We must read it, understand it, and guide our lives by it to minimize sin. “If we walk in the light as He himself is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7).