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What is…
Sin

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: 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

ALSO SEE

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

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 was 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.

See:

Consequences

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).

Question: Did Jesus Christ inherit the sin nature of Adam? No, see article about Mary, the mother of Jesus, which explains why Jesus did not inherit the DNA of any descendants of Adam and Eve.


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


Does the reality of evil disprove the existence of God?

J. Warner Wallace, detective, professor and author of Cold Case Christianity and Forensic Faith, and a faculty member of Summit Ministries, a Christian Answers Team Member
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…

  • The fact of the universal sinfulness of human beings

    “…of Adam and fall short of the glory of God” —Romans 3:23

    “There is no one who does who does not sin.” —1 Kings 8:46 ESV

    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way…” —Isaiah 53:6 ESV

    “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?” —Psalm 130:3 ESV

    Also see: Rom. 3:19; Gal. 3:22

  • The total depravity of mankind

    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).

  • Its early manifestation (sinful from birth) (Psalms 58:3; Proverbs 22:15)

  • The necessity—absolutely and universally—of regeneration (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

  • The universality of death (Romans 5:12-20)

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” (Psalms 19:13).

  2. “Secret”, i.e., hidden sins (Psa. 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

  • The 10 Commandments, the the Decalogue
    also see: Why should followers of Christ use The Ten Commandments in evangelism? Answer
  • breaking laws—judicial, moral or natural
  • How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer
  • How can I decide whether a particular activity is wrong? Answer
  • What is “the unpardonable sin”? How does sin become “unforgivable?” Answer
  • Is the new morality acceptable in Christian conduct today? Answer

List of sins (partial)

  1. 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-righteousnes
  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. adultery
  9. anger (if excessive, protracted, or without cause)
  10. apostasy—abandoning the truth, turning away from God
  11. astrology
  12. abominable sins
  13. backbiting
  14. bigamy
  15. blasphemy
  16. putting a stumblingblock before the blind (Leviticus 19:14)
  17. coveting
  18. cursing a parent (Exodus 21:17)
  19. cursing God (Leviticus 24:10-16)
  20. cursing the deaf (Leviticus 19:14)
  21. cursing the ruler of your people (Exodus 22:28)
  22. 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)
  23. divination
  24. drunkenness
  25. enchantments
  26. envy
  27. evil-speaking
  28. evil thoughts—dwelling on them and feeding them
  29. fornication
  30. gluttony
  31. hatred
  32. heathen
  33. heresy
  34. idolatry
  35. kidnapping (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 27:16)
  36. lasciviousness
  37. not loving God
  38. lust
  39. lying
  40. magic
  41. marriage to idolators
  42. murmuring
  43. necromancy
  44. pride (lack of humility)
  45. gossip
  46. hatred
  47. murder
  48. rioting (revelling)
  49. robbery
  50. sedition
  51. slander
  52. soothsaying
  53. sorcery
  54. stealing
  55. striking a parent (Exodus 21:15)
  56. taking the name of the LORD God in vain
  57. theft
  58. touching the holy Ark of the Covenant
  59. gluttony
  60. uncleanness
  61. worry
  62. witchcraft
  63. 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

I became a Christian, but I still struggle with sin. What do I do?

length: 2 minutes

Also see


Places called “Sin”

Hebrew: סִין

  • Sin—an important city in ancient Egypt

    also known as: Seyân, Sena, Pelusium, Pelousion, Per-Amun, Peremoun, Peromi

    The Greeks called it Pelusium (Pelousion), which means, as does also the Hebrew name, “clayey” or “muddy,” so called because of the abundance of silt clay found there.

    The prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 30:15) called this city the “the strength of Egypt,” because of its strategic importance and impressive fortifications. This gateway to Egypt was also famous for production of flax (linum) and beer, and was once Egypt’s second most important port, following Alexandria. Both ships and caravans stopped in this busy city, where goods from the Israel, Syria and beyond were sent throughout Egypt by way of the Nile and land routes.

    The modern name for the city’s ruins is Tell el-Farama, which is almost 4 miles long. Archaeologists have made many discoveries here, including a “20-acre fortress with 36 towers, 3 gates, and 7-foot-thick walls.” Much more remains to be uncovered.

  • The Wilderness of Sin—an area of the Sinai Peninsula (Exodus 17:1)

    also known as: Desert of Sin, Ẓin

    The name “Sinai” means “of Sin”—that is, of the moon god named Sin.

    This wilderness is located between Elim and Sinai (Exodus 16:1; 17:1; Numbers 33:11; 3:12). In this area, the children of Israel murmured against God, and, in response, “the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud” (Exodus 16:10), and He provided them with quails and manna.

    Sinai Peninsula, Egypt—satellite view

Sin, the moon god (aka Sīn, Suen, Su'en and Nanna)

See: Moon worship

Temples to this false god have been found in or at:

  • Harran (E-hul-hul)—a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia (near the modern village of Altınbaşak, Turkey)
  • Sumatar Harabesi, Turkey
  • Khafajah, Diyala Province, Iraq (ancient Tutub)—near Baghdad
  • Ashur
  • Ur
  • Sumer
  • Akkad
  • Assyria
  • Babylonia
  • Hadhramaut (south Arabian Peninusla)
  • etc.
Article Version: May 22, 2019