What is…

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Hebrew: חַטָּאָה or חַטָּאָ —transliteration: khata or chatta'ah

Greek: ἁμαρτία or ἁμάρτημα or ἁμαρτάνω —transliterations: hamartia or hamartéma or hamartanó

In addition to being a violation of God’s law, “Sin” is also the name of a biblical Egyptian city, a noted area of Sinai wilderness connected to the Exodus (see bottom of this page), a name of a Babylonian moon-god, and a place the idol was worshipped—the Temple of Sin.

What is sin?

also known as: disobedience of God’s commands/laws, wickedness, evil, iniquity, perversity, turning away from what is right and good, transgression, wrongdoing, unrighteousness

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Sin is a word used to denote the willful breaking of God’s law—doing evil (or wishing to)—or failure to do what is good and right, in accordance with His law.

Sin is the transgression of the God’s law” (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 commission or omission (Romans 6:12-17; 7:5-24). The moral character of a person’s actions is determined by the moral state of his heart.

The disposition to sin—the habit of the soul that leads to the sinful act—is itself also sin (Romans 6:12-17 ESV; Galatians 5:17; James 1:14-15).

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

    Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons: Outlines of Discourses Doctrinal and Practical

More information

Origin of sin / original sin

Sin apparently began with a prominent and proud angel in Heaven, known now as Satan, and it spread to many other angelic beings. It is deduced that this happened soon after the Creation of Earth, and Adam and Eve, and before the conception of Cain and his younger brother Abel. As a result, Satan and his rebels were cast out of Heaven to Earth. The Son of God watched him “fall like lightning from Heaven” (Luke 10:18).

These supernatural beings (devils, demons) are treacherous, hate-filled opponents of all goodness and righteousness—relentless adversaries of God and man. Satan’s temptation and deception of Eve, led to the sin of Adam.

See: God’s Story (God’s Creation page 3)

Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:1-6) consisted in his yielding to the assaults of temptation and rebelling against God by eating the forbidden fruit.

This sin involved in it…

  1. the guilt of disobedience to a positive command

  2. the 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 believing God is a liar



By this sin, Adam became an apostate from God, a rebel against his Creator. He lost the favor of God and intimate communion with Him; his whole nature became fundamentally depraved.

The sin of our nature is like a sleeping lion, the least thing that awakens it makes it rage. Though the sin of our nature seems quiet, and lies as fire hid under the embers, yet if it be a little stirred and blown up by temptation, how quickly may it flame forth into scandalous evils! Therefore we need always to walk watchfully. “I say to you all, Watch” (Mark 8:37). A wandering heart heeds a watchful eye. —Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, page 148

This Great Fall from innocence to evil set consequences in motion that man and all creation groan under, to this day (Romans 8:22). Adam immediately died spiritually, and his body began to inevitably die physically.

Adam was created by God to be the head and representative of all his posterity, 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 spiritually dead, 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.

Imputation—sin nature passed on in the DNA of all descendants

Our sinful propensity to do what is wrong, impure, hurtful and unholy is inherited from our parents, without exception. And this sin nature soon becames evident, even when we were tiny children.

“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.”

The term “original sin” is frequently and properly used to denote the moral corruption of humanity’s whole nature, inherited by all from Adam.

This inherited moral corruption consists of:

  1. the loss of original righteousness

  2. Steals happiness
    “Sin is a robber. It steals your joy, your happiness, your fellowship with God.” —Franklin Graham

    the presence of a constant proneness to do evil, which is the root and origin of all actual sin

It is called “sin” (Romans 6:12, Rom. 6:14, Rom. 6:17; Rom. 7:5-17), the “flesh” (Galatians 5:17, Gal. 5:24), “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 taking us 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 descendants of Adam (Romans 3:10-23; 5:12-21; Rom. 8:7).

Streaming video— 
“How wicked is our sin?”
Paul Washer, HeartCry Missionary Society, M.Div. from Southwestern Theological Seminary
Length: 4 minutes

Penalties for sin

Does time cancel your sins?

“We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. I have heard others, and I have heard myself, recounting cruelties and falsehoods committed in boyhood as if they were no concern of the present speaker’s, and even with laughter. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ: if we have repented these early sins we should remember the price of our forgiveness and be humble.” —C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Why was sin ever allowed by God?

Because God is omniscient and omnipotent, He could have blocked sinful events from ever taking place. His permitting them, however, in no way makes God the author of sin. We do not know all the reasons God allowed these events, however, believers trust by faith in His supreme wisdom and love that this course was necessary and serves an eternally good purpose that brings great glory to God.

God tells us that, at the proper time, all evil will ultimately be defeated, and the curse of spiritual death and physical death that it brought upon all living creatures will forever be lifted.

“His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power.

If you choose to say, ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,’ you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words, ‘God can.’

It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities.

It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.” —C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Streaming video— 
Does the reality of evil disprove the existence of God?
J. Warner Wallace, detective, professor and author of Cold Case Christianity and Forensic Faith
Video by Summit Ministries
Length: 2 minutes

Denial of the fall of mankind

Pelagians (and many people today) deny the reality of the original sin, and regard man as by nature morally and spiritually well. Semi-Pelagians regard humanity as morally sick.

Augustinians and Calvinists acknowledge that human beings are (as previously described above), spiritually dead in sins and are living in spiritual darkness (Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 3:14). This is indeed what Scripture teaches.

The doctrine of original sin is proved by…

Types 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” (Psalm 19:13).

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

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

How to identify sin

List of sins (partial)

  1. selfishness

    One of the world’s largest and most common sins is SELF-CENTERED EGOTISM—sinful pride and selfishness.

  2. failure to love others

  3. self-love

    As Dr. John MacArthur, points out, we are living in a generation of self lovers who consider that sin to be a virtue…

    We live in a culture of self love, to put it simply, a culture that is consumed with self love, ego building, self esteem, feeling good about yourself, thinking you’re important, thinking you’re valuable, thinking you’re a hero, thinking you’ve achieved something, thinking you’re worthy of honor. We’re drowning in awards for everything imaginable and unimaginable. Parents are consumed with boosting the egos of their children with every imaginable means, as well as boosting their own sense of self value. This is the generation of self lovers.

    And just by way of reminder, in 2 Timothy chapter 3 the apostle Paul classified “love of self” as a sin—in fact, a dominating sin. In one of his familiar lists of iniquities—there are numbers of them in his letters—he begins the list of iniquities in 2 Timothy chapter 3 with “lovers of self,” and then “lovers of money,” and then goes through the rest of his list. This describes deceivers, unbelievers, those outside the kingdom of God, those who do not know the truth. Self love is at the top of the list in terms of normal human attitude. Sinners are consumed with pride. They’re consumed with themselves. We have made that into the prominent, dominant virtue in our society. —Dr. John F. MacArthur, Litt.D., D.D., The Master’s Seminary and Grace Community Church

  4. self-righteousness
  5. sins of omission—failure to do what is good, right, and love
  6. failure to forgive all who have offended you
  7. failure to believe God-given truth provided to you
  8. abortion
  9. adultery
  10. anger (if excessive, protracted, or without cause)
  11. apostasy—abandoning the truth, turning away from God
  12. astrology
  13. abominable sins
  14. backbiting
  15. bigamy
  16. blasphemy
  17. putting a stumblingblock before the blind (Leviticus 19:14)
  18. coveting
  19. cursing a parent (Exodus 21:17)
  20. cursing God (Leviticus 24:10-16)
  21. cursing the deaf (Leviticus 19:14)
  22. cursing the ruler of your people (Exodus 22:28)
  23. dishonoring parents
    (Exo. 20:12; Eph. 6:2; Deut. 5:16; Matt. 15:4; Matt. 19:19; Mark 7:10; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20)
  24. divination
  25. drunkenness
  26. enchantments
  27. envy
  28. evil-speaking
  29. evil thoughts—dwelling on them and feeding them
  30. fornication
  31. gluttony
  32. greed
  33. hatred
  34. heathen
  35. heresy
  36. homosexuality
  37. hypocrisy
  38. idolatry
  39. marriage to idolators
  40. jealousy
  41. kidnapping (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 27:16)
  42. lasciviousness
  43. not loving God
  44. lust
  45. lying
  46. magic
  47. murder
  48. murmuring
  49. necromancy
  50. pornography
  51. pride (opposite of humility)
  52. gossip
  53. hatred
  54. murder
  55. rioting (revelling)
  56. robbery
  57. sedition
  58. slander
  59. soothsaying
  60. sorcery
  61. stealing
  62. striking a parent (Exodus 21:15)
  63. taking the name of the LORD God in vain
  64. theft
  65. touching the holy Ark of the Covenant
  66. gluttony
  67. uncleanness
  68. worry
  69. witchcraft
  70. 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:

    “…whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled? …What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within…come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. …” (ESV)

God’s remedy for sin

Streaming video— 
I became a Christian, but I still struggle with sin. What do I do?
Video by Red Grace Media
Length: 2 minutes
Streaming video— 
“Is Sin God’s Fault?”
Mark Spence — Display video text »
Video by Living Waters, a Christian Answers Team Member
Length: 2 minutes

More information

Places called “Sin”

Hebrew: סִין

Sin, the moon god of Babylonia

also known as: Sîn, Sīn, Su'en, Suen, Nanna

See: Moon worship

Temples to this false god have been found in…

more information

Article Version: May 17, 2024