What is sin?

by Matt Slick

What is sin?  Sin is breaking the Law of God.  1 John 3:4 says, "Sin is lawlessness." Sin is a transgression, an iniquity, an unrighteous act.  Sin is a deviation from the will of God.  It is a form of evildoing since it is in opposition to God's decrees and desires. Sin is not a merely a deficiency. It is an open rebellion and disobedience to what God has declared is right.  Sin can only be properly understood in relationship to God since God is the holy one (1 Peter 1:16) and all sin is unholy. God's standard of moral perfection is what we are all obligated to obey and when we do not, we have sinned.  God has revealed his moral character in the law as the standard of good and to violate that standard is sinful.

Everyone commits sin

Every person who's ever lived, except for Jesus (1 Pet. 2:22), commits sin. This is because when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden, we inherited his sinful nature. This is why the Bible says that sin entered the world through one man, Adam. (Rom. 5:12) Furthermore, we are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). In other words, because we are fallen in our sin natures and we deserve damnation. But God is merciful in that he sent Jesus to cleanse us of our sins.

Again, what is sin?

Sin is doing that which is contrary to the revealed will of God. It's plain and simple.  If God says "Do not lie" and you lie, then you have broken His law and sinned.  When you sin, you offend God because it is against his character.  It is wrong to lie because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).  It is wrong to steal because God cannot steal, etc.  Sin goes against the holy character of God.  How do we know?  Because of the Law.

Sin and the Law

The Law, then, is a standard of moral purity.  The Old Testament contains the Law of God.  It is a perfect standard because it is God's standard.  When we fail to keep the law, we sin.  When we sin, we offend God.  This offense against God results in a judgment.  Laws are laws because they have penalties.  There is no law without a penalty.  Therefore, breaking God's law brings judgment which is separation from God.  "But your sins have made a separation between you and your God," (Isaiah 59:2).  And, "the wages of sin is death . . . " (Rom. 6:23).  So, to sin, to break God's law, results in judgment.  The judgment is known as damnation which is the righteous judgment of God upon the sinner.  If God did not judge the sinner, then He is not upholding His holiness; and he would be allowing sinners to go unpunished.

Sin and Repentance

To repent means to turn from sin. Repentance is a heartfelt conviction to turn from wrong doing and do what is right. This is part of what it means to be a Christian. We are not called to continue in wrongdoing. We are called to repent, to stop sinning, to do what is right and honor God. Though we are not saved by our repenting, our repentance is something that we do when we forsake sin because we are trusting in Christ who died to cleanse us from our sins (1 John 1:9).

Jesus died to forgive us our sin

Of course, Jesus came to take our place and die for our sins (1 Pet. 2:24).  This means that Jesus bore our sin in His body on the cross and paid for them.  He took the judgment upon himself.  This further means that anyone who trusts in what Jesus did on the cross will have his sins removed; he will be saved from God's future judgment.

So, replying to the question "What is sin?" is best answered by saying that it is breaking God's law.  All people have sinned.  Therefore, all people are under God's judgment - except for those who've trusted in God's provision to escape that judgment.

Where are you?  Are you in the place of God's judgment or of salvation in Christ?





About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.