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Joined: 2007/1/30
Posts: 289

 Defining sin

When it comes to spiritual matters, I am kind of like the mechanic who must tear apart a perfectly good engine just to see how it works. A good mechanic will be able to reassemble it!

As a result of my delving nature I ask myself questions. On the topic at hand I have queried “what makes sin sin?” Or in other words “what is the nature of sin?”
So let’s see if I can define sin in this manner. A definition of sorts is given in Romans 14:23 --
But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

This passage is interesting. Could it relate to Paul’s statement in Phil 3:9

and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.

Does it follow that sin could be defined as anything that falls short of the very righteousness of God?

The Greek word for sin most often used by N.T. writers is Hamartia:

a) to be without a share in
b) to miss the mark
c) to err, be mistaken
d) to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong
e) to wander from the law of God, violate God's law, sin
2) that which is done wrong, sin, an offence, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act
3) collectively, the complex or aggregate of sins committed either by a single person or by many

This brings us to the definition of sin that I have heard more than any other. Sin is missing the mark. What mark? The total and complete righteousness of God. Another definition of hamartia adds some more light:

to wander from the law of God, violate God's law, sin.

But we are not under law but rather under grace! Are we? We are most certainly not under the Judaic law of the old testament, yet we are still given commandments to live by in the N.T.

Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered him, "The *first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' *This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'* There is no other commandment greater than these."

John 15:12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Romans 13:8-10 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," *"You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet,"* and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."* 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

So if sin is to break the commandment of God, and the commandment of God is to love each other, and love does no harm to a neighbor, can we define sin as any action or attitude that causes harm to another?
Any thoughts or comments?


Doug Fussell

 2007/3/1 15:41Profile

Joined: 2005/7/11
Posts: 1131

 Re: Defining sin

But we are not under law but rather under grace! Are we? We are most certainly not under the Judaic law of the old testament, yet we are still given commandments to live by in the N.T.

I am glad you brought this to our attention. A lot of people believe that we are not bound to any law, but we are bound to the commandments given to us in the New Testament.

I am reminded of Matthew 7:21-23
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"

I heard in one of Paul Washer's sermons that 'lawlessness' in this context can be defined as one who lives as if Jesus never gave a law to obey. Anyone else heard this?

 2007/3/1 15:47Profile

Joined: 2005/1/14
Posts: 2164


I heard in one of Paul Washer's sermons that 'lawlessness' in this context can be defined as one who lives as if Jesus never gave a law to obey. Anyone else heard this?

The Greek work for 'iniquity' (Matt 7:23 KJV) is 'anomia.' 'nomos' means law, 'a' negates the word making it 'without law' or lawless. At least I think so! I'm still learning...

We have a law, but it flows forth from within rather than lord above us. As I see it, the old covenant was outward shadows of what the new covenant brings to be inward realities.

Josh Parsley

 2007/3/1 16:12Profile

 Re: Defining sin

Hi Doug

I go back to the beginning. What was the root of "original sin" in Eden?

Some suggestions would be pride, arrogance (which apparently means "arrogating" or claiming something one has no right to) and rebellion

The attitude of Satan, with which he infected mankind) was "Who is God that he should tell me what to do? I'm going to be my own boss!"

I think that two of the most tragic and utterly wrong, things written are the song "I Did It My Way" and the poem that ends,
"I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my sould"

The first is tragic because it is so "innocent", expressing a harmless, even noble sounding, sentiment. The second is horrifying - the utterance of a man deliberately and defiantly choosing death - eternal death - rather than life.


 2007/3/1 17:21

Joined: 2007/1/30
Posts: 289


I see what you mean about original sin. It doesn't seem to fit my definition. Yet in some way it might. Is it possible that God Himself was wounded by Satan's desire to set himself on God's throne? What had He done to deserve this? The scripture says that the Holy Spirit can be grieved, so perhaps our pride grieves/causes pain or wounds the very heart of God.

Just some food for thought.

Also, looking at sin from this perspective ties directly into some of the scriptures et al that I mentioned in my last post on the 'pastor referal' thread.

In His Love,


Doug Fussell

 2007/3/1 19:41Profile

Joined: 2007/1/9
Posts: 108


God gave me this a little awhile ago. Just for a little input on your discussion. Sin is the unbelief in mans mind and soul that he cannot be fully satisfied with God alone.


 2007/3/1 21:04Profile

Joined: 2007/1/30
Posts: 289



I agee with your post, but this is more the root cause of sins. For instance, physical abuse of a child is a sin (I'm not talking about a spanking delivered in love). The deeper spiritual cause of the outward act could very well be described or defined as unbelief. This defineately lines up with Paul's statement that all that is not of faith is sin, referenced in post #1.

One more thing I want to add. This attempted definition may not be all encompassing. At least not in the sense that all sin directly cause harm. Though I do believe that most sin has some kind of inderect negative impact on either someone or a some group. An individual's prejudice for example may never directly impact an individual, yet the existance of prejudice does indeed cause harm to a group.

I hope this adds some degree of clarification.

In His Love,


Doug Fussell

 2007/3/1 21:35Profile

Joined: 2003/7/31
Posts: 2736
Phoenix, Arizona USA

 Re: Defining sin

Here is the best and clearest definition of sin I have found...
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1John 3:4)
When I read the surrounding context holiness is definitely in view in that passage and this verse is an introduction to the nature of sin. Sin is the rejection of divine law and divine authority.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Gal 5:14)
In Christ,


Ron Halverson

 2007/3/1 22:10Profile

Joined: 2006/9/28
Posts: 192
Washington DC area


The classical Greek concept of hamartia is somewhat lacking. Here's an interesting explanation of that word here: [url=]Hamartia[/url].

I agree with Brother Ron that 1 John 3:4 is a more accurate definition. It's translated as inquity, unrighteousness and lawlessness (in the NIV). Sin is volitional and is rebellion against God and says that I can do what I want to do. I can be God. That's the lie from the devil from the garden of Eden that we can be God.

We miss the mark simply because we choose to do so.

Ed Pugh

 2007/3/2 7:43Profile

Joined: 2005/7/26
Posts: 524
Tennessee, USA

 Re: Defining sin

Dear Doug,

In the bible, sin is not so easily defined. It actually takes on many different meanings given the particular context. In some instances, it means the transgression of the law. However, this would mean that sin is merely an act or something we do. The bible also talks about sin as being a condition or state. For instance, we are sinful. We need Jesus to transform this condition or state. In addition, there are different types of sin. The error of a Christian is different than the error of a non-Christian. Lastly, there is the issue of repentance. A sin that has not been repented for is far greater in measure than a sin that has been repented for.

One of the great misconception that I hope to clear up in this discussion is the idea that sin is the transgression of the moral law as given to Moses, or the law of Moses. This is not true. The law of Moses was given as a testimony to the true "law" or word of God. If you read through exodus concerning the ten commandments, the Lord called it a "testimony." In fact, the bible is called the Old Testament and New Testament. That is because the Word of God is something far greater.

Quite obviously, if anyone breaks the ten commandments they have sinned. However, it is not because they broke the ten commandments. Jesus made this clear by saying, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." The law of Moses was made for man. However, man was created for God. Man was not meant to serve the law, rather, man was meant to serve God. The real sin or problem is that they have transgressed God's Word which embodies God's Will. They have directly defied God's Will. This is the nature of sin.

To understand it in depth, we must consider the purpose for what humanity was created. God created everything with a purpose. This purpose is God's Will. He created everything by His Will. When He created humanity, He had a purpose for humanity. He had a particular desire or will for us.

However, God also gave us the freedom to defy that will. In other words, we could be something different than what God purposed. In the beginning, God created humanity in His image. We were to be a reflection of God. However, when we sinned, we did not reflect God. Instead, we reflected something entirely different.

Imagine it like sit down to make a sculpture of a tree. You are a master artist and your sculpture is perfect. It looks exactly like a tree. However, the sculpture, by it's own freedom, decides it doesn't want to be a tree. Instead, it breaks apart and doesn't look anything like a tree. It becomes something entirely different.

In the same way, when Adam and Eve ate from the tree in the garden, they became something entirely different than what God had created them to be. Their "being" was not what God had purposed.

When we sinned, we did this in ignorance. We did not fully understand the ramifications. We wanted to please God, but found that we could not. Instead, we gave into temptation. In this, you could say that we "missed the mark." We were supposed to reflect God, but instead we reflected something else.

In this, we erred. We made a mistake. Sin is a mistake. We disobeyed God. We transgressed His Word. In addition, sin manifested itself in us as a condition. When we sinned, our being changed. We entered into a state of sin. And so, sin is something far deadlier than mere disobedience. We became an enemy of God.

God had a specific purpose for humanity. We defied that purpose and became something else. Because of this, we need to be saved. We need to be saved not only from the act of sin, but the condition of sin. We need to be transformed. We need to be born again. We need to be recreated into the "being" God has purposed.

We were created in the image of God. It is important to note the words "in the" here. We were not created to be the image of God. The Word of God is the image of God. We were merely created to reflect God's image and God's Word. This is significant. Satan tempted Eve by saying, "you will be like God." The temptation is that we will be the image of God. However, our true purpose is to be a reflection of God. We cannot be God. We can only reflect Him.

This is important to understand, because what this means is that we can never fulfill God's purpose unless we have God's help. We are not God. We cannot obey His law or His Word. We cannot be God. We are to reflect God.

For example, think of the sun and the moon. The sun radiates light. It produces it's own light. However, the moon reflects the light of the sun. Without the sun, the moon is big ball of dust. It cannot produce it's own light. When the sun hits the moon, it becomes beautiful in the night sky.

Likewise, we need God's light to hit us. We need Jesus. We cannot produce our own light. We cannot be good, we cannot follow the law, we cannot be a reflection of God on our own. We need Jesus, the true Word of God, to radiate within us so that we can fulfill the purpose of God.

Unlike the moon, we have freedom. We have the freedom to accept or reject Jesus, the true Word of God. We can submit unto Jesus and fulfill our purpose. Or we can reject Jesus and sin.

Sin really boils down to this. We either submit unto Jesus or we submit unto another authority. When we submit to any other authority than Jesus Christ, we have sinned. We have worshiped an idol. We have put something else before God.

This means that a person who has not been born again, who does not have Jesus inside them, can never do anything good or pleasing to God. They have not been saved. A person who is not saved is continually rejecting Jesus. They have committed the sin that leads to death. People such as these will be judged for this.

This also means that a person who has been saved may still sin, but they do not commit the sin that leads to death. Instead, they do not submit unto Jesus as their authority, they submit unto something else. Of course, when a Christian sins, they are not condemned. However, as God's children, we will be punished. We would be but fools to think that just because we are saved, we will not be punished. If God is truly our Father, and truly loves us, He will discipline us. I know this because I have been disciplined.

When reading the bible, it is important to understand the word "sin" in the context of the scripture. Throughout, the word takes on different meanings depending on what the writer is referring.

I hope this helps,

In love and in Christ,


Blake Kidney

 2007/3/2 9:26Profile

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