What is sin? An important yet grim subject in scripture is that of sin. Sin is the reason for pain, suffering, and sorrow. Sin is the reason for death. Sin is the reason why Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross. Sin the reason the present universe will one day be dissolved, and a new heavens and earth made. What is sin, and why is it so bad? The Bible gives its most concise definition in 1 John 3:4; “sin is lawlessness”. Sin is when a non-sovereign person (i.e. anyone but God) does what they want without reference to anyone or anything else. Sin is the exercise of an independent will. Anything that we do, if not done in fidelity to God is sin; “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23). Often people, and even Christians, think that sin is limited to only breaking known commandments from God. But a correct reading of 1 John 3:4 will show that to be false.
Different words. Sins, transgressions, iniquities, unrighteousnesses, and offenses are all a little different. Sin is general lawlessness; doing what I want to do (1 John 3:4). Transgression is doing what I want to do when there is a known law telling me not to do it. Iniquity involves a perversion of God’s order; doing what to do when it goes against laws of creation. Unrighteousness is any inconsistency with the behavior that is fitting to our relationships, both toward God and man. Offenses are sins against another person; whether it be my fellow man, or God Himself. To summarize:
|A sin is…||‘doing what I want to do’||Acting recklessly because it feels good.|
|A transgression is…||‘doing what I want to do against a known commandment’||Littering on the highway after seeing signs.|
|An iniquity is…||‘willfully violating God’s order in creation’||Engaging in incest.|
|An unrighteousness is…||‘acting inconsistent with my relationships’||Failing to keep a promise.|
|An offense is…||‘acting in a way that injures or grieves another person’||Speaking rudely to someone on the street.|
Moral Standards. What are our moral standards of right and wrong?