A Brief Look at Sin
Elder David Green

Ask many church members for a definition of sin, and you will get a whole bunch of different answers. Many folks will make a list of sins. You'll probably see the words adultery, murder, rape, drunk driving, etc. Certainly those are all sins, but we want a definition of sin.

The Word of God gives us a definition of sin in I John 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” Sin isn't a list of things, but it is the breaking of the law! Since after the death of Christ we have no obligation to the ceremonial law, we must assume that this is the moral law of God.

Now, it stands to reason that if there were no law, there would be no sin. Romans 4:15 bears this out by saying “...for where no law is, there is no transgression.” This is the real reason so many people have a problem with the moral law of God. As soon as sinful people realize that the Bible has something to say about their sin, instead of changing their sin they try to change the law.

Not only is sin an act, but it also may consist of not doing an act. Notice the way James 4:17 is written: “To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” We often call this the sin of omission. If you know that you ought to go to church, but instead lay in bed, that is a sin. Laying in bed at any other time would not be a problem, but because you have not gone to church you are sinning.

Sin can also come in the form of a sinful thought. Genesis 6:5 tells us that “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” When Christ was teaching here in the earth, He made this point: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5: 27-28). Thus we see that sin does not have to be an act, nor does it have to be the absence of an act...it can be something as small as a thought. And do not underestimate the power of a thought. God knows what is in your mind. (No doubt some of the people who drowned in the flood had never done anything outwardly but inwardly had sinned.)

If you do ask someone for a list of sins, you will find they almost always list sins such as murder, rape, adultery, etc. You will seldom get a list that includes missing church on Sunday, working on the Lord's Day, watching a movie with nudity or cursing, dressing immodestly, listening to worldly music, etc. Yet, these are all sins!

Another question to ask people is for a list of sinners. You will probably find names like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Osama bin Ladin, Sadam Hussein, Timothy McVeigh, etc. Very few people will actually list themselves.

The Bible (New Testament) says “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). Romans 3:23 tells us “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” This means that we are all sinners! Certainly all of those men are sinners that we listed in the above paragraph, but we also need to remember that we are sinners too!

II Timothy 3:16-17 says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” We have too many men who avoid the passages in the Bible that are words of correction or instruction. They fear making someone angry by preaching against sin. Brethren, the Word of God is offensive to the sinner, but that must not stop us from preaching the entire word of God! I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul said in II Timothy 4:1-5: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” Paul did not say that if the people will not listen to it, we should change it. He did not tell us to preach about love, peace, and joy but avoid preaching against sin. We are to preach the Word! Every bit of it!

When a preacher preaches against a particular sin, do not get angry with him. As long as he is preaching from the Word of God, he didn't say it was a sin. God did. If God said it, that settles it (whether you agree with it or not). And, praise be to God for a man of God who has the courage to stand up and preach every part of the Bible! Would to God that we had more men like that in the Lord's churches.

Unfortunately, sin has become as much a part of the Lord's churches as the song books. We do not take it seriously. As we look at our small numbers, we are too quick to brag about how that we do not use tricks and gimmicks to gain big numbers. Yet, maybe we need to take a closer look. Isaiah 59:1 is very familiar to us. “Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:” And we stop there. But notice the next verse: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” The time has come when we need to take a hard look at ourselves and say with the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

In summary, sin is rebellion of God. It can come in many different forms. Yet, it is never excusable. Even though living a holy life will not save a person, we must live a holy life because we are saved. Our Lord and Saviour said these words while he was on the earth: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Mat 23:25-26) We can then be a testimony to the world when the clean heart is shown by our clean life.