ChristianAnswers.Net WebBible Encyclopedia


Sin is the word used to denote the willful breaking of God’s law—wickedness, doing evil.

In addition to being a violation of God’s law, “Sin” is also the name of a biblical city and a wilderness (see bottom of this page).

  • Sin, a city in Egypt, called by the Greeks Pelusium, which means, as does also the Hebrew name, “clayey” or “muddy,” so called from the abundance of clay found there

    It is called by Ezekiel (Ezek. 30:15) “the strength of Egypt,” thus denoting its importance as a fortified city. It has been identified with the modern Tineh, “a miry place,” where its ruins are to be found. Of its boasted magnificence, only four red granite columns remain, and some few fragments of others.

  • The Wilderness of Sin

Sin is “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God” (1 John 3:4; Romans 4:15), in the inward state and habit of the soul, as well as in the outward conduct of the life, whether by omission or commission (Romans 6:12-17; 7:5-24).

It is “not a mere violation of the law of our constitution, nor of the system of things, but an offense against a personal lawgiver and moral governor who vindicates his law with penalties. The soul that sins is always conscious that his sin is…

  1. intrinsically vile and polluting, and…

  2. that it justly deserves punishment, and calls down the righteous wrath of God.

Hence, sin carries with it two inalienable characters,

  1. ill-desert, guilt (reatus); and

  2. pollution (macula).”

[Hodge's Outlines]

The moral character of a man's actions is determined by the moral state of his heart. The disposition to sin, or the habit of the soul that leads to the sinful act, is itself also sin (Romans 6:12-17; Galatians 5:17; James 1:14-15).

The origin of sin is a mystery, and must for ever remain such to us. It is plain that for some reason God has permitted sin to enter this world, and that is all we know. His permitting it, however, in no way makes God the author of sin.

Original sin

Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:1-6) consisted in his yielding to the assaults of temptation and eating the forbidden fruit. It involved in it:

  1. the guilt of disobedience to a positive command

  2. lack of trust in God’s goodness in what He might do about his mate, Eve—she having been deceived by Satan into disobeying God’s command

  3. the sin of unbelief, virtually making God a liar

By this sin, he became an apostate from God, a rebel in arms against his Creator. He lost the favor of God and communion with him; his whole nature became depraved, and he incurred the penalty involved in the covenant of works.

“Our first parents being the root of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature were conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.”

Adam was constituted by God the federal head and representative of all his posterity, as he was also their natural head, and therefore when he fell they fell with him (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:22-45). His probation was their probation, and his fall their fall. Because of Adam's first sin, all his posterity came into the world in a state of sin and condemnation, i.e., (1) a state of moral corruption, and (2) of guilt, as having judicially imputed to them the guilt of Adam's first sin.

“Original sin” is frequently and properly used to denote only the moral corruption of their whole nature inherited by all men from Adam. This inherited moral corruption consists in, (1) the loss of original righteousness; and (2) the presence of a constant proneness to evil, which is the root and origin of all actual sin. It is called “sin” (Romans 6:12, 14, 17; 7:5-17), the “flesh” (Galatians 5:17, 24), “lust” (James 1:14-15), the “body of sin” (Romans 6:6), “ignorance,” “blindness of heart,” “alienation from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18-19).

It influences and depraves the whole man, and its tendency is still downward to deeper and deeper corruption, there remaining no recuperative element in the soul. It is a total depravity, and it is also universally inherited by all the natural descendants of Adam (Romans 3:10-23; 5:12-21; 8:7).

Pelagians deny original sin, and regard man as by nature morally and spiritually well; semi-Pelagians regard him as morally sick; Augustinians, or, as they are also called, Calvinists, regard man as described above, spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 3:14).

The doctrine of original sin is proved…

  1. from the fact of the universal sinfulness of men

    “There is no man that sinneth not” (1 Kings 8:46; Isaiah 53:6; Psalms 130:3; Romans 3:19, 22-23; Galatians 3:22).

  2. from the total depravity of man

    All men are declared to be destitute of any principle of spiritual life; man's apostasy from God is total and complete (Job 15:14-16; Genesis 6:5-6).

  3. from its early manifestation (Psalms 58:3; Proverbs 22:15)

  4. It is proved also from the necessity, absolutely and universally, of regeneration (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

  5. from the universality of death (Romans 5:12-20)


Kinds of sin

Various kinds of sin are mentioned in the Bible.

  1. “Presumptuous sins,” or as literally rendered, “sins with an uplifted hand”, i.e., defiant acts of sin, in contrast with “errors” or “inadvertencies” (Psalms 19:13).

  2. “Secret”, i.e., hidden sins (19:12); sins which escape the notice of the soul.

  3. “Sin against the Holy Ghost” (q.v.), or a “sin unto death” (Matthew 12:31-32; 1 John 5:16), which amounts to a wilful rejection of grace. [See: Unpardonable sin]

Partial list of sins

  1. abominations
  2. adultery
  3. anger (if excessive, protracted, or without cause)
  4. apostasy—abandoning the truth, turning away from God
  5. astrology
  6. backbiting
  7. bigamy
  8. blasphemy
  9. putting a stumblingblock before the blind (Leviticus 19:14)
  10. coveting
  11. cursing a parent (Exodus 21:17)
  12. cursing God (Leviticus 24:10-16)
  13. cursing the deaf (Leviticus 19:14)
  14. cursing the ruler of your people (Exodus 22:28)
  15. dishonoring parents
  16. divination
  17. drunkenness
  18. enchanting
  19. envy
  20. evil-speaking
  21. evil thoughts—dwelling on them and feeding them
  22. fornication
  23. gluttony
  24. hatred
  25. heresy
  26. idolatry
  27. kidnapping (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 27:16)
  28. lasciviousness
  29. not loving God
  30. lust
  31. lying
  32. magic
  33. marriage to idolators
  34. murder
  35. murmuring
  36. necromancy
  37. excessive pride
  38. rioting (revelling)
  39. robbery
  40. sedition
  41. slander
  42. soothsaying
  43. sorcery
  44. stealing
  45. striking a parent (Exodus 21:15)
  46. taking the name of the LORD God in vain
  47. theft
  48. touching the holy Ark of the Covenant
  49. uncleanness
  50. witchcraft
  51. DIVINE COMMANDS UNIQUE TO THE HEBREWS—There were various specific commands and ceremonial laws given uniquely to the Hebrews, as a set apart people in Old Testament times. It was a sin for a Hebrew to break these laws. For example, they were prohibited from using as food certain animal substances (unclean). The chief design of these regulations seems to have been to establish a system of regimen which would distinguish the Hebrews from all other nations. Regarding the design and the abolition of these regulations, the reader will find all the details in Leviticus 20:24-26; Acts 10:9-16; 11:1-10; Hebrews 9:9-14. The laws about uncleanness were removed during New Testament times. Jesus Christ explained what truly defiles a person in Mark 7:18-23.

How to identify sin

  • the 10 commandments
  • What does God expect of you? Answer
  • How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer
  • How can I decide whether a particular activity is wrong? Answer
  • breaking laws—judicial, moral or natural
  • What is “the unpardonable sin”? How does sin become “unforgivable?” Answer
  • Is the new morality acceptable in Christian conduct today? Answer

Penalties for sin

Tip: Why should followers of Christ use The Ten Commandments in evangelism? Answer

God’s remedy for sin


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Author: Matthew G. Easton, with minor editing by Paul S. Taylor.