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What Is Sin?


Author: Carol Brooks

It is probably a lot easier to save people, than it is to get them to accept that they are lost, simply because… “People consider themselves good people only by the standards of bad people. We judge ourselves against others rather than against an absolute standard of good”. (I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. Page 397)

[Related Article: Prayer Requests for the Sedgefield Community of Ashland, VA]

Considering that the verdict is already in… Because of your sins, YOU have been condemned to death, far more surely than any person sitting on death row in a federal penitentiary… So perhaps it is wise not to trust in your own ideas of sin, but find out how the Bible defines sin.


The Concept of Sin and It’s Consequences

Virtually every ethnic group in the world not only has their own unique set of beliefs designed to help them cope with the all important issues of life and death but also, more often than not, practice some form of appeasement of the gods. Whether this takes the form of a food or flower offering placed on an altar, personal penance, an animal sacrifice, the ritual human sacrifices of the Aztec, Mayan and Incan civilizations, or even the child sacrifices of the ancient Canaanites, they were, and are, all designed to avert one from of disaster or another. Even the worst of the Roman emperors felt the need to propitiate the gods.

In other words, humans often instinctively sensed that they were accountable to a “higher being”, and that for one reason or another that being (or beings) was not pleased. Perhaps because they have fallen short of what that being requires or expected of them.

Even in the 21st century, most people’s consciences usually tells them that there is a “right” and a “wrong”. Much of the time we are prevented from doing something inappropriate, improper, or even illegal, by an inbuilt check, more powerful than the fear of being caught. We are instinctively aware that we are far more than bits of organic material fitted together. This often comes accompanied by the sense that we have not lived up to some invisible benchmark, or criterion.

Yet, in our modern world, the beliefs about, and attitudes towards sin, its consequences, and the solution are as varied as the human mind can come up with.

All too often, if the word sin comes up in a conversation, many people tend to look as though a slug tried climbing up one of their ankles. Others, when faced with the idea of sin, will sneer at the very concept. As said by Wayne Jackson of Christian Courier:

Some will suggest that the idea of sin is an arrogant imposition of “religion” – an invention of the priest craft and clergy for the purpose of exercising control over the masses. Others will pontificate that “sin” is simply an ignorant appellation for those cultural and psychological aberrations which plague our society. [1]

For a huge number of people, the concept of “sin” seems rather quaint. Residue left behind from the days of simplistic religious beliefs. Many of those that do hold to the concept of a higher power, do not believe that there is an absolute moral law. And if there happens to be a God against whom we sin, He is too “loving” to actually hold our ‘mistakes’ against us, much less punish us for them.

If pressed, possibly the majority of people in the western world would place themselves in the ‘not perfect’ category, but a far cry from ‘sinners’, or really bad people, usually defined as the serial killers, rapists and child molesters of the world.

Certainly, it is true that criminal activity is restricted to a relatively small segment of society, with most people leading law-abiding lives. Many say that they try to live their lives by the Ten Commandments, or some form of the Golden Rule, which simply holds that we treat others exactly as we ourselves would wish to be treated in the same situation. Yet, if they were to be perfectly honest, they would also admit that they have, at some point, failed to live up to their own standards.

One of the more common beliefs is that, when we die, our good deeds and our bad deeds will be weighed on a pair of divine scales to determine whether we will spend eternity strumming a harp while balanced on a fluffy cloud, or in a blistering cauldron being constantly poked by a guy in a red suit and horns. According to this almost universal ‘Santa Claus’ mentality of rewards for those who’s good deeds outweigh the bad, and punishment for those for whom the opposite is true, God must be very occupied with His task of keeping everyone’s record up to date, carefully making tick marks in either the credit or debit column of everyone’s ledger of life.

[Related Article: Richmond, VA and the Greater Richmond Area]

Sin is ‘Relative’ in The Modern World

In 2008 carried an article entitled Has the ‘notion of sin’ been lost? by Cathy Grossman. In it Ron Sellers, president of Ellison research in Phoenix, comments on a survey carried out by his own company. He said:

A lot of this is relative. We tend to view sin not as God views it, but how we view it,”

The survey in question found that:

87% of U.S. adults believe in the existence of sin, which is defined as “something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective.”

Topping the list are adultery (81%) and racism (74%).

But other sins no longer draw majority condemnation. Premarital sex? Only 45% call it sin. Gambling? Just 30% say it’s sinful.

Another survey of 1,024 adults, undertaken in 2003 by Barna Research, “a company in Ventura, California; that tracks Christian trends” found:

65% of U.S. adults say they will go to heaven, and only 0.05% believe they’ll go to hell,

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Research, commented:

People are quick to toe the line on traditional thinking” that there is sin “but interpret that reality in a very personal and self-congratulatory manner” — I have to do what’s best for me; I am not as sinful as most.

“They give intellectual assent to the story about Jesus rising on Easter Sunday: 75% say they believe the biblical account of Jesus’ death and resurrection is literally true, not a story meant to illustrate a principle. But they don’t have any personal application of this Monday through Saturday,” Kinnaman says. [2]

[Related Article: The Call to Discipleship]

What seems more than apparent is that few seem to have any idea what the Biblical definition of sin, judgment, or even heaven and hell is. Considering that their very lives depend on it, the question that people should be asking is…

How The Bible Defines Sin
The subjects of sin and salvation are the warp and weft of very the fabric the Bible is woven out of yet, even when many Christians think of sin, they simply think of a violation of the Ten Commandments. Considering the place of honour the Ten Commandments often occupy on the walls of our courtrooms, school rooms, and churches, I suspect the vast majority of people, Christians and non-Christians alike, believe that the Ten Commandments are basic rules by which all of us are to live. But is this true? Are these the rules by which present-day Christians are supposed to live their lives? Since this is a subject too detailed to cover here…
[See Jesus and The Law]

However, the subject of sin is a crucially important one because, as the prophet Isaiah told us:

But your iniquities have separated you and your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear(Isaiah 59:2).

If you do not know or understand how the Bible defines sin, then you are clue less as to what it is that separates you from God, and why He will not hear you. Also as the following statement shows, the penalty for sin is permanent:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

However, does this mean that all sins are equal?

Types of Sins
It is without doubt that the Old Testament drew a distinction between sins committed mistakenly or inadvertently, those that occur because of moral weakness, and those that were committed willfully or “with a high hand”.

Although all sin merits the death penalty and requires the blood of Christ for expiation, God’s Word reveals that some sins are indeed worse than others. These sins therefore bring stiffer penalties and greater condemnation to the perpetrator. The penalty for abducting and selling another human (presumably as a slave) was death, while the punishment for stealing and selling (or killing) livestock was restoration, with considerable interest.

And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:16)

If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. (Exodus 22:1)

Also pay attention to Jesus’ words to Pilate during His trial, which confirmed that there are greater and lesser sins.

Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin‘” (John 19:11). [Emphasis Added]

Mistakes Or Inadvertent Transgressions… Acquitted By Virtue Of Ignorance?
Because a sin was unintentional, the perpetrator was not innocent in God’s eyes. No one was acquitted by virtue of ignorance, and unintentional sins were also to be atoned for by a blood sacrifice.

The Hebrew word shegâgâh means a mistake or inadvertent transgression: In other words, if a single individual, or the community as a whole, did what God had forbidden, or left undone what God had commanded, through ignorance or even misunderstanding of the law, he/they could not suppose that ignorance was an excuse, but as soon as the transgression or omission came to his/their attention, he/they was to offer certain sacrifices… a one year old she-goat for the inadvertent sins of an individual, and a bullock for the inadvertent sins of the entire congregation. These rules applied both to the children of Israel, and to any stranger that lived in their midst.

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any one shall sin unwittingly (Hebrew shegâgâh ), in any of the things which Jehovah hath commanded not to be done, and shall do any one of them: if the anointed priest shall sin so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto Jehovah for a sin-offering. (Leviticus 4:2-3)

And the priest shall make atonement for the soul that erreth, when he sinneth unwittingly (Hebrew shâgag), before the Lord, to make atonement for him; and he shall be forgiven. Ye shall have one law for him that doeth aught unwittingly (shegâgâh) , for him that is home-born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. (Numbers 15:28-29)
And if the whole congregation of Israel err, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done any of the things which Jehovah hath commanded not to be done, and are guilty; when the sin (Hebrew chattâ’âh) wherein they have sinned is known, then the assembly shall offer a young bullock for a sin-offering, and bring it before the tent of meeting….. And if any one of the common people sin unwittingly, in doing any of the things which Jehovah hath commanded not to be done, and be guilty; if his sin, which he hath sinned, be made known to him, then he shall bring for his oblation a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin-offering, and kill the sin-offering in the place of burnt-offering. (Leviticus 4:13-14, 27-29) (Also See Leviticus 4:22-24 and 5:14-17)

It also has to be noted that the 35th chapter of the book of Numbers is largely devoted to the question of premeditated murder vs. manslaughter. Six cities were assigned as places of refuge to protect the person who unwittingly killed another, whereas those who committed intentional murder received the death penalty.

In the New Testament, Jesus knew that the people who sentenced Him to death did not realize who He was and therefore were, in a sense, sinning unintentionally. However this did not get them off the hook. As He died on the cross He prayed for his executioners. His words “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do(Luke 23:34) tells us that they were accountable for their sins and needed to be forgiven.

Similarly, when Peter addressed the people who were amazed at the healing of the lame man who daily sat at the door of the temple, he told them that this miracle had been performed by Jesus whom they had delivered up, and denied before Pilate. Peter then added that when they chose to have the Holy and Righteous One executed in place of a known criminal, they had acted in ignorance. However they needed to ‘Repent and turn, that their sins may be blotted out, and there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord;’ (Acts 3: 12-19)

Sins of Moral Weakness
In Leviticus 6:1-7, the sins for which someone could be forgiven by guilt offering (asham) of a ram without blemish, included theft, cheating or fraud, lying, oppression, and perjury. These sins could not have been done unwittingly, or mistakenly, since lies were invariably involved.

And The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, If any one sin, and commit a trespass against Jehovah, and deal falsely with his neighbor in a matter of deposit, or of bargain, or of robbery, or have oppressed his neighbor, or have found that which was lost, and deal falsely therein, and swear to a lie; in any of all these things that a man doeth, sinning therein; then it shall be, if he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took by robbery, or the thing which he hath gotten by oppression, or the deposit which was committed to him, or the lost thing which he found, or any thing about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in full, and shall add the fifth part more thereto: unto him to whom it appertaineth shall he give it, in the day of his being found guilty. And he shall bring his trespass-offering (Hebrew asham) unto Jehovah, a ram without blemish out of the flock, according to thy estimation, for a trespass-offering (Hebrew asham), unto the priest: and the priest shall make atonement for him before Jehovah; and he shall be forgiven concerning whatsoever he doeth so as to be guilty thereby. (Leviticus 6:1-7)

Presumptuous, or Intentional, Deliberate Sin
Two Hebrew words, which express deliberate transgression, are used some 230 and 93 times respectively in the Old Testament. They are

âvôn (H5771) means perversity, that is, (moral) evil: – fault, iniquity, mischief etc.

pesha (H6588) is defined as a revolt (national, moral or religious): – rebellion, sin, transgression

The word rûm (H7311) which literally or figuratively means to to rise or raise, bring up, exalt oneself, is also applied to sin.

The King James translates the Hebrew word rûm into the English presumptuously, the ASV translates it with a high hand, while both the NIV and the NASB translates it defiantly. In modern day English, the word “presume” is usually taken to mean to assume, or take for granted, without considering all the factors. However, as the different translations show, in the Old Testament presumptuousness conveyed the idea of acting brazenly, arrogantly, and/or defiantly. The person is fully aware of what he is doing and the penalties for doing so, but has deliberately decided to go ahead and do it any way. It is an act of rebellion and defiance.

These bold and deliberate acts of transgression were considered blasphemy against God himself. The perpetrator was subject to the very severe punishment, to the extent that he could be cut off from God’s people and the protection, privileges and blessings He afforded them. There was no sacrifice for presumptuous or intentional sins.

But the soul that doeth aught with a high hand (Hebrew rûm), whether he be home-born or a sojourner, the same blasphemeth Jehovah; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of Jehovah, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him. (Numbers 15:30-31)

And the soul that turneth unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto the wizards, to play the harlot after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people. (Leviticus 20:6)

Deliberate transgression, included violating the Sabbath day, which was seen as “despising” the word of the Lord, and breaking His direct commandments. In Numbers 15:32-36, a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath was put to death.
[See Does Picking Up Sticks Deserve the Death Penalty?]

Intentional other sins were also subject to the death penalty. Leviticus 20 mentions sacrificing children to the ‘god’ Molech [Vs. 2], Various forms of adultery [Vs. 10-12, 14], Various forms of incest [Vs. 17], Homosexuality [Vs. 13], Bestiality [Vs. 13-16]. Note that the Lord also “cut off” the people who failed to put to death the person, or people, who sacrificed a child to Molech….

And if the people at the land do at all hide their eyes from that man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and put him not to death; then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that play the harlot after him, to play the harlot with Molech, from among their people. (Leviticus 20:4-5)

When Korah and a company of men accused Moses and Aaron of taking too much upon themselves, and challenged their right to the privileges of the priesthood, the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them and their households up, and they “went down alive into Sheol”. (Numbers 16)

Deuteronomy 17:12 says:

And the man that doeth presumptuously, in not hearkening unto the priest that standeth to minister there before Jehovah thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.”

Which certainly did not mean that the leaders were immune from immediate and serious consequences were they to knowingly transgress God’s law.
Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, the first High Priest of Israel, were privileged and exalted above other men in many respects, but committed several serious transgressions against the Lord, which resulted in instant death. (Leviticus 10:1-2)
[See The Sons of Aaron]

King Saul’s failure to do as God commanded and totally destroy the Amalekites, resulted in his losing the kingdom (1 Samuel 15).
When Miriam and Aaron spoke out against Moses, in spite of they themselves being leaders of the nation, God’s anger was kindled against Miriam, and she was smitten with leprosy, but later restored through Moses’ intercession.

The point being that the sacrifices were meant to be offered by those that had realized they had inadvertently or mistakenly sinned, and those that had sinned in weakness but had since repented. In other words, the regular sin or guilt offerings demonstrated the contrite sinner’s desire for forgiveness. On Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, God demonstrated His willingness to once and for all deal with sin that had been repented of. Arrogant sinners are neither repentant nor do they seek atonement, and God does not forgive them.
[Related Article: Hell Bound]


Missing The Mark

In the Old Testament
While âvôn and pesha are collectively used over 300 times in the Old Testament, another Hebrew word châtâ (H2398), its derivatives, and related words are used almost twice as many times (The Bible often uses all three words in one sentence. See Footnote). According to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek lexicon, châtâ literally means “to miss”. A very clear example of this is found in Judges 20:16, in which hyperbole is used to describe the precision with which the men could wield their slings, one of the earliest weapons used in war.

Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left handed; every one could sling stones at a hair-breadth, and not miss (Hebrew châtâ) (Judges 20:16)

In other words, the word that the Bible uses (far more than any other), to define sin literally means to miss the mark. And, if merely falling short of some mark does not sound very serious to some, then pay close attention to God’s words after the nation of Israel made, then proceeded to worship, a golden calf:

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned (châtâ) a great sin (chatâ’âh): and now I will go up unto Jehovah; peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin (chattâ’âh). And Moses returned unto Jehovah, and said, Oh, this people have sinned (châtâ) a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin (chattâ’âh); and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned (châtâ) against me, him will I blot out of my book.” (Exodus 32:30-33) [Emphasis added]

Although the sin of idolatry was referred to as chattâ’âh or missing the mark, it was extremely serious, defying and breaking the first two commandments that God had given Moses the first time he went up to mount Sinai (Exodus 19:20).

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve themYour text goes here…” (Exodus 20:3-6)

The people who ‘missed the mark’ did not merely suffer having a tick made in the debit side of their ledger, but were cut out of the book altogether.

In the New Testament
The word sin has been overwhelmingly translated from the Greek verb Hamartano (The noun form is hamartia) which, along with it’s related words and derivatives are used some 220 times. Hamartano literally means to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize), and, figuratively, to err, especially (morally) to sin.

Paul uses hamartano when he emphasized that God does not live by some standard of holiness, He IS the standard of holiness. He wrote,

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23). [Emphasis added]

There is no record of any man, other than Jesus Christ, who has ever measured up to this standard.

So if, far more often than not, sin means missing the mark, the obvious question is what is this unseen mark that we seem not to be able to hit.

[Related Article: Salvation for Richmond, VA]

Missing What Mark?
The problem is that people usually judge themselves by the standards of other people, whereas, the “mark” or target that the Scriptures are referring to is an absolute standard of good… the perfection of God Himself. Anything short of that standard is ‘missing the mark’. We might be satisfied with “goodness”, but to God is not. He demands perfection.

To make matter worse the apostle James reminded his readers that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all(James 2:10). In other words, if a person breaks just one of God’s laws, he or she is, in effect, guilty of the whole. This obviously makes the goal of keeping the law completely unachievable.

So the salient question that arises is, why give man a whole string of laws, if they are impossible to keep? The answer is simple. The law was not given because God knew that it could be perfectly adhered to, but for the following reasons:

– Unless there are clearly defined boundaries or standards, no one can possibly know that they have crossed over the line, or violated that standard. In other words there has to be a law before someone can know they have broken it.

– The law served to show man the extent of his helplessness before a righteous and just God.

– And last (but far from least), the law effectively excluded man’s cherished belief that he himself can do enough to merit salvation. Nothing but a clear demonstration of man’s total inability to achieve the standard set by God, would drive him to realize that without a savior, he was doomed.

As Jimmy Williams of Probe ministries said in his article Why A Moral Life Won’t Get Us to Heaven, the law was simply “intended to be to us what an X-ray machine is to a broken arm. The machine reveals the condition of the arm, but it will not set and knit the bones, nor will it put the arm in a cast”. [3]

However it is actually far more difficult than we have already shown. During His time on earth Jesus made it very clear that sin includes not only our physical actions, but our thoughts and attitudes.

The Letter Vs. The Spirit of The Law

Jesus took it one step further when he openly confronted the Scribes and Pharisees, who actually did a great job at keeping the letter of the law, but ignored the spirit of it, often justifying themselves by twisting or even altering God’s commands. They went so far as to introduce hundreds of rules and prohibitions of their own, which were their interpretation of God’s law. However these religious leaders were considered to be the epitome of righteousness and piety, and it must have shocked many people when Jesus told them that their righteousness had to surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).

How so?

The law in the Bible was not simply a list of arbitrary ‘dos and don’ts’. Jesus clearly showed us that behind every Mosaic command lies a principle that transcends time and culture, and is therefore applicable to all God’s people, regardless of when or where they live. It is the principle that God wishes us to live by.

Four examples in Matthew 5, verses 21, 27, 33, 43 were directly centered on the commandments, and drew attention to the law’s underlying principle. In the first, Jesus expanded the meaning of the sixth commandment “thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13), telling us that even whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. (Note that thou shall not kill is better translated You shall do no murder)
Prior to this, unjustified negative feeling towards another human being was acceptable as long as one did not actually commit murder. However since murder, like all sin, begins in the human mind, Jesus was addressing the adverse emotion behind the deed and calling it wrong (Vs. 21-26).

The apostle John elaborated on this when he said, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15).

Since the Old Testament laws only forbade the actual act of adultery, the spirit of the law was ignored and lusting would not have been considered a violation of the law. However, Jesus, once again getting to the heart of the matter, said that even looking at a woman with desire constituted adultery (Vs. 27-30). It is one thing never to commit adultery, but quite another to control lust in the heart and mind.

Similarly, beginning in verse 43, Jesus instructed his listeners to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, repudiating the commonly held belief that hating one’s enemies was lawful and acceptable. (See Deuteronomy 23:3-6)

These examples, encompassing even our thoughts toward others, served to show the intent of the law extended far beyond the exact wording… that perfect obedience to the law took place in thought, word, and deed… a fundamental shift in theology that was first introduced in Matthew 4:17, which says “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand“. Repent, translated from the Greek metanoia, means a complete change of mind and emphasizes the idea of a radical change in one’s attitude toward sin and God.
[See Repentance …The Missing Message]

And there is more…

Sins of Omission
The Scriptures tell us that we can not only sin by the things we do, but also by the things that we do not do. As James 4:17 says:

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

In other words, we also miss the mark if we neglect to do some good that we are aware that we should be doing. In Matthew 25, Jesus elaborated on this principle:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory … all the nations will be gathered before Him … Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ … And these [those who did none of these things] will go away to everlasting punishment, but the righteous [those who did these things] into eternal life(Matthew 25:31-43, 46).

The Consequences of Sin
With the Bible’s definition of sin clearly established, two of the verses mentioned earlier become much easier to understand:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8)

But the Bible is equally clear about the consequences of sin, stating that if you sin… you die!

but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear.(Isaiah 59:2)

For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)

In other words ALL sin carries the death penalty. Life, both symbolically and physically, is in the blood. Therefore the penalty for sin is the shedding of blood… yours.

The judge has already delivered his verdict, and that verdict is death. You, have been condemned to death, far more surely than any person sitting on death row in a federal penitentiary.

Let me say that again..

YOU are under the a death penalty sentence.

Blood, in the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, was a vivid reminder that God demanded death as a punishment for every wrongdoing [Leviticus 17:11]. The animal functioned as a substitute for the offender, and bore the punishment of the person who had sinned.

If you think the Bible seems too harsh when it says that all sin merits hell and a tiny infraction deserves death, You need for a few moments to envision a world without sin, without transgression of God’s laws which, by the way, is God’s plan for the world …also called Heaven.


Imagining A World Without Sin
What would it be like to never have to worry about the safety of our children, and never have to lock the doors to our homes, or have locks on cars? A young woman could walk home in the late evening and know she would get there safely. Pornography would not exist. There would have been no Enron and no Watergate. What would it be like if politicians and used car salesmen told nothing but the truth? Children would be raised in the security of two parents who are committed to one another.

While there is little doubt that some crimes arise out of need and desperation, the vast amounts of funds we would save on our police force, judiciary, armed forces and related organizations would ensure that no one would be in want.

Are we getting the picture yet? Perhaps the Bible has a point after all.

But how can a tiny infraction deserve death?

Lets look at it this way… Where does one draw the line between a ‘big’ sin and a ‘small’ one? If I as a ‘friend’ of yours, walked away with a paper clip from your desk you probably would not consider it theft. If you thought about it at all, you would probably conclude that I needed a paper clip for some reason and dismiss it. If I walked away with a ten-dollar bill you probably would consider it theft but may look the other way. However if I took $100 you would probably jump up and down. So where shall we draw the line between a paper clip and a hundred dollar bill? At a penny? A dime? A nice pen? A fiver?

And how much are you willing to bet that, if asked, ten people would give ten different answers. And how much more would you be willing to bet that (sooner, rather than later) some one will eventually come to the conclusion that the thief was ‘dysfunctional’ and should see a psychologist, instead of paying for the crime. And, once more, we would be back to square one.

Besides which, cultures and people across the globe have different standards.… So whose standard shall we judge by?

God made it simple. He set the standard… He said “no sin”.

So are all of us destined to pay the very heavy price for our sin? The answer to that question is No! Because God in His infinite mercy sent His Son to pay the price for us.. The animal sacrifices have long been done away with, replaced by the one perfect sacrifice that pays for the sins of all men everywhere. [See Salvation]

So Why Do We Sin?

The frustration we all face when confronted with sin, and our own struggle to conquer it, was perfectly expressed by Paul, who said:

For that which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practise; but what I hate, that I do. But if what I would not, that I do, I consent unto the law that it is good. So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not.” (Romans 7:15-18)

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:17)

Jesus and James respectively put it this way:

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak(Matthew 26:41).

“…but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14-15)

The magnitude of the problem is summed up in Paul’s words in Romans 7:24:

Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?”

In simpler words, we may even have the desire to do what is right, but we fail because every Christian has within themselves two natures that are in completely opposition to one another. The old nature, or “old man”, as Paul expressed it in Roman 6:6 is the person we used to be before coming to faith in Christ, and before being born again. This old nature conflicts with the the Christian who is now a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The believer often finds himself in what literally amounts to a life and death struggle, torn between two opposing choices. The temptation to sin on the one hand, and the desire to do good on the other. Because of this many may wonder how they can possibly handle a lifetime of temptation. Others with a history of failure may despair of ever breaking habits that have dominated them, perhaps for years.

However this is one of the reasons that God gave us His Holy Spirit. By the grace of God and the power of His Spirit, we can and do overcome temptation.

To Summarize:
Since sin is defined as anything that falls short of the perfection of God, we probably sin far more than we ever imagined possible, and are faced with a huge debt before God. This knowledge should drive us to a greater awareness of our need for a saviour, and lead us to the forgiveness bought for us by Christ’s death on the cross.

But we can never forget that repentance and salvation go hand in hand.
[Related Article: Repent or Perish]


The word repentance is scarcely ever heard in most churches today, and pastors rarely call for their congregations to sorrow over sin. Instead the message heard from way too many pulpits has been watered down to just ‘believe’ and you’ll be saved.
Yet repentance is presented as an absolute requirement for forgiveness in the Old Testament, as well as in the New.
Scripture presents Repentance and Faith as NOT the same thing, but are literally two sides of the same coin. You can’t believe without truly repenting, and you can not experience ‘Godly sorrow’ without believing.

While repentance involves confessing our known sins, we also need to pray for the Spirit’s help in bringing to light our unintentional and/or hidden sins (some that we may not even realize exist), and His sanctifying work in overcoming them. As king David once prayed:

Search me, O God, and know my heart, And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way ever lasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
[Related Article: Persevere!]

End Notes

[1] Wayne Jackson. A Realistic Look at Sin.

[2] Cathy Grossman. Has the ‘notion of sin’ been lost?

[3] Jimmy Williams. Why A Moral Life Won’t Get Us to Heaven. Probe Ministries. []

FootNote I
And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve Jehovah; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgression (pesha) nor your sins (chattâ’âh). (Joshua 24:19)

“How many are mine iniquities (âvôn) and sins (chattâ’âh)? Make me to know my transgression (Hebrew pesha) and my sin (chattâ’âh).” (Job 13:23)

“For he addeth rebellion (pesha) unto his sin (chattâ’âh); He clappeth his hands among us, And multiplieth his words against God.” (Job 34:37)

“Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because ye have made your iniquity (âvôn) to be remembered, in that your transgressions (pesha) are uncovered, so that in all your doings your sins (chattâ’âh) do appear; because that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand.” (Ezekiel 21:24)

“For our transgressions (pesha) are multiplied before thee, and our sins (chattâ’âh) testify against us; for our transgressions (pesha) are with us, and as for our iniquities (âvôn), we know them.” (Isaiah 59:12)

For I know how manifold are your transgressions (pesha), and how mighty are your sins (chattâ’âh) ye that afflict the just, that take a bribe, and that turn aside the needy in the gate from their right. (Amos 5:12)

I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions (pesha) for mine own sake; and I will not remember thy sins (chattâ’âh). (Isaiah 43:25)

“But He was wounded for our transgressions (pesha), He was bruised for our iniquities (âvôn); the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)



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