What is Sin?

"Born with it and going to hell." 
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What is sin, trespass, iniquity, transgressions

I had a conversation recently with a person that revealed he didn’t understand God's judgment for sin. So I asked, “Do you understand the meaning of sin?” 

To which he replied, “Perhaps not. What is it? We are born with it and going to hell, right?”

The following article is inspired from that conversation. (I have yet to hear back from him.) 

God created men and women to be his image bearers; to represent him on earth. He gave people dominion over the earth to fill it and be good stewards of it. We learn in Genesis chapter 3 that Adam and Eve disobeyed God. As a result of their disobedience, humankind's relationship with God and his good creation was corrupted. We see evidence of this corruption in our environment with the decay of things, plants, animals, and people. Sin separates us from God and there is division and hostility among people because of it. Our minds and bodies suffer too from sickness, disease, and death. 

The Bible uses a lot of different words for sin: transgressions, iniquities, offenses, evil, trespass, wrongdoing, and wickedness to name a few. 

Read Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is a prayer-Psalm written by King David after committing terrible sins against God (and people). In his confession he mentions several kinds of sin. Let’s look at the first two verses:

Psalm 51: 1 
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to Your loving devotion;
according to Your great compassion,
blot out my transgressions. 

Transgression means to rebel, a breach of trust, rebellion, rebellious acts. A transgression is an act that goes against a law, a vow, or a command.

Psalm 51:2 
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

Iniquity means guilt, blame. David prayed that the guilt he felt for sinning would be removed. Iniquity has something to do with how we feel over our sinful failure to live up to God’s standard.

Sin has been defined as missing the mark, as in an arrow missing the target. Likewise, we miss the mark of God's perfection. We do not measure up to being his good representatives. 

When David admitted his sin. He recognized that God is merciful and loving, one who shows compassion, and the one who could cleanse his sin and take away his guilt.

In the New Testament, when Jesus taught the disciples to pray, he told them to ask God for forgiveness and to forgive others when they sin against them (see Matthew 6:9-14). In these passages he mentions two other kinds of sin: debts and trespass.

Trespass means “a false step, a falling away, a slip." People put up No Trespassing signs to warn others to stay away, so they don’t get hurt. If the sign is disregarded, the perpetrator could be fined or experience bodily danger. 

A trespass in Scripture is disobedience against God's law; it is stepping into the wrong place or activity that God warns us against. The warning is for our protection.

A Debt is that which is owed. But what do we owe God? The Bible says our sin demands a wage to be paid. The wage is death, our deaths. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" Romans 6:23.

But because of God’s great love for his image-bearers, he paid our fine by coming to earth to die on the cross; he died in our place, he paid our debt! The Scriptures declare, "To all who receive [Jesus], to those who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God" John 1:12.

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ. . ." 2 Corinthians 5:17-18.

Reconcile is an accounting term, meaning to balance accounts. When an account is reconciled, the debit entry is equal to the credit entry.

If Christ hadn't reconciled us to God, we would never be able to pay our debt to him, we would be eternally unbalanced. But Christ, who knew no sin, bore our sins on the cross. He paid our debt, he reconciled our account. Now, through Christ alone, our debit entry is equal to our credit entry! 

Sin separates us from the love of God and others. The good news is, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.

Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Let's pray: "Dear Lord, thank you for dying in my place and taking my sins away; a debt that was impossible for me to pay! Amen."

Copyright 2022 S.A. Keith
Photograph by: Andrea Piaquadio @Pexels.com 

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