SIN

"What is the definition of sin?"

Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Sin had its beginning with Lucifer, the “shining star, the son of the morning,” the most beautiful and powerful of the angels. Not content to be all this, he desired to be the most high God and that was his downfall and the beginning of sin (Isaiah 14:12-15). Renamed Satan, he brought sin to the human race in the Garden of Eden, where he tempted Adam and Eve with the same enticement, “you shall be like God.” Genesis 3 describes their rebellion against God and against His commandments. Since that time, sin has been passed down through all the generations of mankind and we, Adam’s descendants, have inherited sin from him. Romans 5:12 tells us that through Adam, sin entered the world and so death was passed on to all men because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Through Adam, the inherent inclination to sin entered the human race and human beings became sinners by nature. When Adam sinned, his inner nature was transformed by his sin of rebellion, bringing to him spiritual death and depravity which would be passed on to all who came after him. Humans became sinners not because they sinned, they sinned because they were sinners. This is the condition known as inherited sin. Just as we inherit physical characteristics from our parents, we inherit our sinful natures from Adam. King David lamented this condition of fallen human nature in Psalm 51:5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Another type of sin is known as imputed sin. Used in both financial and legal settings, the Greek word translated imputed means to take something that belongs to someone and credit it to another’s account. Before the Law of Moses was given, sin was not imputed to man, although men were still sinners because of inherited sin. After the Law was given, sins committed in violation of the Law were imputed (accounted) to them (Romans 5:13). Even before transgressions of the law were imputed to men, the ultimate penalty for sin (death) continued to reign (Romans 5:14). All humans, from Adam to Moses, were subject to death, not because of their sinful acts against the Mosaic Law (which they did not have), but because of their own inherited sinful nature. After Moses, humans were subject to death both because of inherited sin from Adam and imputed sin from violating the laws of God.

God used the principle of imputation to the benefit of mankind when He imputed the sin of believers to the account of Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for that sin (death) on the cross. Imputing our sin to Jesus, God treated Him as if He were a sinner though He was not, and had Him die for the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. It’s important to understand that sin was imputed to Him, but he did not inherit it from Adam. He bore the penalty for sin, but He never became a sinner. His pure and perfect nature was untouched by sin. He was treated as though He was guilty of all the sins ever committed by all who would ever believe, even though He committed none. In exchange, God imputed the righteousness of Christ to believers and credited our accounts with His righteousness just as He credited our sins to His account (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Personal sin is that which is committed every day by every human being. Because we have inherited a sin nature from Adam, we commit individual, personal sins – everything from seemingly innocent fibs to murder. Those who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ must pay the penalty for these personal sins, as well as inherited and imputed sin. However, believers have been freed from the eternal penalty of sin (hell and spiritual death). Now we can choose whether or not to commit personal sins because we have the power to resist sin through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, sanctifying and convicting us of our sins when we do commit them (Romans 8:9-11). Once we confess our personal sins to God and ask forgiveness for them, we are restored to perfect fellowship and communion with Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sin - all have been crucified on the cross of Jesus, and now “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

"What is the unpardonable sin / unforgivable sin?"

The case of the "unpardonable sin / unforgivable sin" or "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" in the New Testament is mentioned in Mark 3:22-30 and Matthew 12:22-32. The term “blasphemy” may be generally defined as "defiant irreverence." We would apply the term to such sins as cursing God or willfully degrading things relating to Him. It is also attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good that we should attribute to Him. This case of blasphemy, however, is a specific one, called "the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" in Matthew 12:31. In this passage the Pharisees, having witnessed irrefutable proof that Jesus was working miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, claimed instead that He was possessed by the demon "Beelzebub" (Matthew 12:24). In Mark 3:30, Jesus is very specific about what exactly they did to commit "the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit."

This blasphemy then has to do with accusing Jesus Christ (in person, on earth) of being demon-possessed. There are other ways to blaspheme the Holy Spirit (such as lying to Him, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-10), but the accusation against Jesus was the blasphemy that was unpardonable. This unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be duplicated today because Jesus Christ is not on earth but is seated at the right hand of God.

The only unpardonable sin today is that of continued unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in unbelief. John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life." The only condition where someone would have no forgiveness is if he/she is not among the "whoever believes in Him." Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). To reject the only means of salvation is to condemn oneself to an eternity in hell because to reject the only pardon is, obviously, unpardonable.

Many people fear they have committed some sin that God cannot and will not forgive, and they feel there is no hope for them, no matter what they do. Satan would like nothing better than to keep us laboring under this misunderstanding. The truth is that if a person has this fear, he/she needs only to come before God, confess that sin, repent of it, and accept God’s promise of forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This verse assures us that God is ready to forgive any sin, no matter how heinous, if we come to Him in repentance. If you are suffering under a load of guilt today, God is waiting with His arms open in love and compassion for you to come to Him. He will never disappoint or fail to pardon those who do.

"What is original sin?"

The term “original sin” deals with Adam’s sin in eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and its effects upon the rest of the human race from then on, particularly its effects on our nature and our standing before God, even before we are old enough to commit conscious sin. There are three main views that deal with that effect; they are as follows:

Pelagianism: Adam’s sin had no effect upon the souls of his descendants other than his sinful example influencing those who followed after him to also sin. According to this view, man has the ability to stop sinning if he simply chooses to. This teaching runs contrary to a number of passages that indicate that man is hopelessly enslaved by his sins (apart from God’s intervention) and that his good works are “dead” or worthless in meriting God’s favor (Ephesians 2:1-2; Matthew 15:18-19; Romans 7:23; Hebrews 6:1; 9:14).

Arminianism: Arminians believe Adam’s sin has resulted in the rest of mankind inheriting a propensity to sin commonly referred to as having a “sin nature.” This sin nature causes us to sin in the same way that a cat’s nature causes it to meow—it comes naturally. According to this view, man cannot stop sinning on his own, that is why God gives a universal grace to all to enable them to stop. This grace is called prevenient grace. And according to this view, we are not held accountable for Adam’s sin, just our own. This teaching runs contrary to the verb tense chosen for “...all sinned” in Romans 5:12 and also ignores the fact that all bear the punishment for sin (death) even though they may not have sinned in a manner similar to Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:14-15,18). Nor is the teaching of prevenient grace found in Scripture.

Calvinism: Adam’s sin has resulted in not only our having a sin nature, but also has caused us to incur guilt before God for which we are deserving of punishment. Being conceived with original sin upon us (Psalm 51:5) results in our inheriting a sin nature so wicked that Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all else, desperately wicked, and beyond cure.” And not only was Adam found guilty because he sinned, but his guilt and his punishment (death) belongs to us as well (Romans 5:12,19). There are two views as to why Adam’s guilt should be seen by God as belonging to us as well. The first view states that the human race was within Adam in seed form; thus when Adam sinned, we sinned in him. This is similar to the biblical teaching that Levi (a descendent of Abraham) paid tithes to Melchizedek in Abraham (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:4-9), even though Levi was not born until hundreds of years later. The other main view is that Adam served as our representative and as such, when he sinned, we were found guilty as well.

The Calvinistic view sees one as unable to overcome his sin apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, a power possessed only when one repents of his sin and turns in reliance upon Christ and His atoning sacrifice for sin upon the cross. One problem with this view is in explaining how infants and those incapable of committing conscious sin are saved (2 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 18:3; 19:14), since they are nonetheless held responsible for Adam’s sin. Millard Erickson, author of Christian Theology, feels this difficulty is resolved as follows: “There is a position [view] that...preserves the parallelism between our accepting the work of Christ and that of Adam [Romans 5:12-21], and at the same time it more clearly points out our responsibility for the first sin. We become responsible and guilty when we accept or approve of our corrupt nature. There is a time in the life of each one of us when we become aware of our own tendency toward sin. At that point we may abhor the sinful nature that has been there all the time...and repent of it. At the very least there would be a rejection of our sinful makeup. But if we acquiesce in that sinful nature, we are in effect saying that it is good. In placing our tacit approval upon the corruption, we are also approving or concurring in the action in the Garden of Eden so long ago. We become guilty of that sin without having to commit a sin of our own.”

The Calvinistic view of original sin is most consistent with biblical teaching and “original sin” could be defined as “that sin and its guilt that we all possess in God’s eyes as a direct result of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden.”

"Are all sins equal to God?"

In Matthew 5:21-28, Jesus equates committing adultery with having lust in your heart, and committing murder with having hatred in your heart. However, this does not mean the sins are equal. What Jesus was trying to get across to the Pharisees was that it is still sin even if you only think about or want to do the act. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day taught people that it was okay to think about anything you wanted to, as long as you did not act on those desires. Jesus is forcing them to realize that God judges a person’s thoughts as well as their actions. Jesus proclaimed that our actions are the results of what is in our hearts (Matthew 12:34).

So, although Jesus said that lust and adultery are both sins – that does not mean they are equal. It is much worse to actually murder a person than it is to simply hate them – even though they are both sinful in God’s sight. There are degrees to sin. Some sins are worse than others. At the same time, in regards to both eternal consequences and salvation, all sins are the same. Each and every sin will lead to eternal condemnation (Romans 6:23). All sin, no matter how “small,” is against an infinite and eternal God, and is therefore worthy of an infinite and eternal penalty. Further, this is no sin too “big” that God cannot forgive it. Jesus died to pay the penalty for sin (1 John 2:2). Jesus died for ALL of our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Are all sins equal to God? Yes and no. In severity? No. In penalty? Yes. In forgivability? Yes.

"Do you sin, as a Christian?"

If a Christian sins, it is against his will. One who is regenerate falls rather than dives into sin; he resists rather than embraces it. Any dead fish can float downstream. It takes a live one to swim against the flow. Christians still experience temptations and can sometimes fall into sin, but they are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6). They have God’s Holy Spirit within them to help them say no to temptation, and to convict their conscience of wrongdoing when they do sin.

"Judge not lest you be judged. You therefore have no right to judge me when it comes to my sins!"

The world often takes this verse out of context and uses it to accuse Christians of being "judgmental" when they speak of sin. In the context of the verse Jesus is telling His disciples not to judge one another, something the Bible condemns (Romans 14:10; James 4:11). In Luke 6:41,42 He speaks of seeing a speck in a brother’s eye. In John 7:24 He said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." If someone steals, lies, commits adultery or murder, etc., the Christian can make a (righteous) moral judgment and say that the actions were morally wrong, and that these sins will have eternal consequences. Chuck Colson said, "True tolerance is not a total lack of judgment. It’s knowing what should be tolerated—and refusing to tolerate that which shouldn’t."

"You shouldn’t talk about sin because Jesus didn’t condemn anybody. He was always loving and kind."

Jesus did indeed condemn some people for their sin. In Matthew 23 He called the religious leaders "hypocrites" seven times. He told them that they were "blind fools," children of hell, full of hypocrisy and sin. He climaxed His sermon by saying, "You serpents, you generation of vipers, how shall you escape the damnation of hell?" (v. 33). He then warned that He would say to the wicked, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41).

"Is there any sin that God will not forgive?"

For the born-again child of God, there is no unforgivable sin. All sin was forgiven at the cross. When Christ Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), that statement meant that the penalty for all sin was paid in full. The word translated "it is finished" is the Greek word “tetelestai.” That word was used in several ways. It was used to stamp "paid" upon a receipt, and it was also the stamp put on a criminal's charges once he had completed his sentence. A "tetelestai" was nailed to the door of his house proving that he had indeed paid in full for his crimes.

You can see the application to the Cross transaction between the Lord Jesus and God the Father. Jesus Christ completed the legal transaction and satisfied God's holy and righteous demand as the payment for the sin of "whosoever will." The Lord Jesus Christ became our sin sacrifice and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). When Christ was separated from God the Father for those three hours of supernatural darkness (Matthew 27:45), the deal was sealed. As we read in Luke, Jesus was reunited with the Father. "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost" (Luke 23:46). Therefore, all sin was paid for once for all.

However, there is a condition upon God's forgiveness of sin. Man must come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ alone. "Jesus said to him, ’I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’" (John 14:6). God's forgiveness is available to all who will come (John 3:16), but for those who will not believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no forgiveness or remission of sin (Acts 10:43). Therefore, the only sins God will not forgive in this age of grace are the sins of those who die without first placing their faith in Jesus Christ. By that I mean that a person goes through his life here on this earth and fails to avail himself of the provision that God has provided through the Lord Jesus Christ and goes out into eternity separated from God, and therefore unforgiven.

Born-again believers also sin, and when we do, we put ourselves outside of fellowship with the Lord. However, God has made a provision for that. The Holy Spirit that indwells every born-again believer convicts us and convinces us that we have sinned, and when that happens we have a choice to respond in the right way and renew our fellowship. Once a person is born again and has accepted Christ as his Savior and received remission of sin, there is no way he can lose his eternal life based upon his actions. We can lose our fellowship with God and the joy of our salvation, but that is something we can remedy through confession.

The first epistle of John is a letter written to born-again believers, and it has very practical information on how to walk in fellowship. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). This verse, when used correctly, becomes the way to restore our fellowship when we sin, and we will. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). Now, remember, this is a letter to born-again believers. God has no illusions about us and our capacity to sin, and we should not either.

The "if" at the beginning of both 1 John 1:8 and 9 is a third-class "if" in the Greek, and it means "maybe yes, maybe no." There is a condition here; if we "confess." This word in the Greek is "homologia," and it means to say the same thing or cite the case. "Homo" is "same," and "logia" is "word." It means we agree with God that we have sinned. But all sin was forgiven at the Cross and, as born-again believers, all of our sin has been forgiven. And because that is a judicial fact, we need to walk in light and in fellowship because that is our position in Christ Jesus. "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7). That does not give us carte blanche to continue sinning; rather, a born-again believer who is walking in the light and fellowship of God will be quick to use confession so that there remains a continual and clear fellowship with the Lord on a daily basis.