What is sin?

A sin is something we commit because we have sin in us. We call it the “sin nature.” The Bible says, “Sin is transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Simple, right? But there’s more to that statement than meets the immediate attention. First, let’s understand what is meant by “transgression”. To transgress is to disobey. Disobey what? The law. And what law? Some would immediately conclude, due to the biblical reference, that we are dealing here with the Ten Commandments, or the Law of Moses. Surely that is right, but the word “law” is all-encompassing. If a mother tells her child to leave the cookies alone, that is law in every sense that the commandment of God is law.

Given the analogy above, what do you think will happen? Typically, the child will instantly, upon receiving the command or law, begin planning a way to disobey the commandment. That’s because the child, like all children – like all people – have a sin nature, a determination to disobey the law.

This human trait can be summed up with one word – REBELLION.

Sin, then, is essentially rebellion against God. We commit acts of rebellion because we have a spirit of rebellion.

You see, it is futile to try to define sin by a list of things one considers to be right and wrong. From thence comes endless debate over what makes one moral or immoral, nice or mean, good or bad. I’m not saying that there are not definite right and wrongs. On the contrary, the Bible is full of direct commandments concerning righteous and sinful acts. But as born rebels, humans enter a status before God that is characterized by sin, i.e., transgression. This is true of all humans without exception. What we really need to understand is that sin is first and foremost a condition of the inner man, the “heart” – the darkened heart of depraved man. From this heart comes the outward deeds of man.

So what is the cure for sin? Well, there’s moral reformation. Through good discipline, and a proper understanding of the social and spiritual implications of sin, a person can develop an ability, at least to some degree, to restrain or moderate their sinful desires.

But moral reformation only deals with the outward acts – the sins – motivated by the inward spirit – the sin – of our being. How do we escape the prison of sin that persists in our hearts? The Bible tells us: “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:25). Although our sin nature is not eradicated while we remain in our body of flesh, faith in Christ, brought about by the converting power of God’s Holy Spirit, brings a three-fold attack against our inward sin.

First, the Holy Spirit brings into us a new Spirit, which enables our inward man to hate the sin we commit, to fight against it, to increasingly moderate its out-workings. This struggle between our new “inward man” (Spirit) and our still-sinful “outward man” (flesh) never ceases in this life, believers are empowered by God to experience many victories over the flesh in this struggle.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit delivers us completely and immediately, upon the new birth, out of our legal condition as sinners before God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are delivered from a state of perpetual rebellion against God, and we are given in its place a love for God, for the things of God, and for the commandments of God.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will finish the work that He began in us, by preserving us until the end, in which we will be finally delivered from the flesh altogether. Believers will reside in God’s eternal Kingdom in new bodies, free from that old struggle, complete in their devotion to God and clothed in His righteousness.

The story of sin is a sad one for those that have not God. But for those of us that believe in Christ, we have a great hope, a day star arising, a golden daybreak; though we are presently in temptation for an appointed time.

Glory to God.



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