These two verses hold some very interesting and important information, not the least of which is the question that is the title of this post. What is sin? The verses read as follows:
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
As I read these two verses it was the last few words that struck me and raised this question as to what sin is.
There are many different opinions about what sin is, and I have held a few opinions over the years myself. But I see that there is a lot more to this question than I had previously imagined, and also a lot more to the antidote for sin, which is grace. So I will look at what I have seen over the past week or so as I examined this matter, and I would be interested in your thoughts also.
The Knowledge of Sin
Verse 20 quoted above tells us that no person will be justified, that is, made righteous before God, through works of the law. The reason why is because through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
Now some people think that the law is sin, but the bible clearly tells us this is not so as Paul writes in Romans 7:7. But what the law does is two things.
Firstly, it defines what sin is. The law tells us what is sinful and what is not. It shows us the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. The law is not sin but it defines sin.
Secondly, because the law tells us the difference between right and wrong, good and evil and it defines what sin is, it makes sin even more sinful. The law gives us the knowledge of sin and by knowing something is wrong, if or when we do that wrong thing it multiplies the sin because not only is the act wrong or evil, we should have known better because the law told us it was wrong.
So we can see that sin could be shown to be the breaking of the law. The law defines what sin is and so if we do not keep the law but break it, we sin.
But I believe sin is much more than just the breaking of the law as we see in the following.
When God made Adam and Eve he made them perfect. They were without sin.
But what is also interesting is that they had no knowledge of sin either. They did not know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, for they had no laws. All they were told when they were in the garden is they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
They had one commandment from God and they broke it. But when we look at what the bible says it is interesting as it relates to what sin is, which is more than just breaking the law. Look at what it says in Genesis 3:3-7.
3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Eating of the fruit of this tree opened the eyes of the man and woman so that they could see the difference between right and wrong and so that they would know the difference between good and evil. What eating the fruit did is it gave them the knowledge of sin.
Through doing this forbidden act their eyes were opened and they understood sin. They knew they had done wrong and recognised other things that were wrong for the very first thing they did was to cover their nakedness by making clothes from the leaves of trees.
And because they sinned they condemned themselves and all of mankind to follow after them to death. Every person dies and is subject to death because Adam and Eve learned the difference between good and evil when they rejected God and chose to follow their own will and the will of the devil.
Now after they were cast out of the garden they had children and all of their children died even those whose sins were nothing like what Adam and Eve did. In fact no one else had the opportunity to carry out the same sin as Adam and Eve for they were cast out of the garden and The Lord put a guard on the garden to prevent anyone from entering.
But if there were no laws, and there were not any laws until the time of Moses, then what was it that condemned all of those people to death? They could not commit the sin of Adam and Eve and there were no other laws given by which they could be condemned, and yet all died and many were condemned.
Consider all the people condemned as sinners prior to the law that died. The whole population apart from Noah and his family were wiped out because God said the world was full of iniquity. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone for the many sins they carried out. And all of this destruction took place before the laws were given to and by Moses.
So if people were condemned as sinners and died for their sins before the law was ever given, then sin is much more than just the breaking of the law. The apostle John gives us an answer.
Sin Is Lawlessness
In 1 John 3:4 he writes,
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
The word in Greek from which the word “lawlessness” is translated means to be without law. Thayer defines it as:
1) the condition of being without law
1a) because ignorant of it
1b) because of violating it
2) contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness
It is the point 2) in this definition that is interesting for it defines the depth of sin.
To be in contempt of the law is to reject the law and to reject the law is to reject the words of God. It is the rejection of what is good and right and true that gets to the depth of what sin is. And more to the point when we reject what is good and right and true then we reject God and all that He has established for us to know, learn and be.
Why did Adam and Eve die? Because they rejected the word of God and chose a different path. Why did God destroy the ancient world apart from Noah and his family? Because they rejected the ways of God and chose violence and evil instead. Why were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed? Because they rejected what was good and right and true and chose unnatural lust and violence. They rejected God.
And in all cases where a person does what is wrong or what is evil they are rejecting God.
When God gave the law he drew a line in the sand showing what was good and evil. And when a person chooses to do otherwise they not only break the law but worse, they reject the good that God has given for mans benefit.
There is also another aspect to this which we can see when we look at the antidote for sin, that is the grace of God.
The Antidote for Sin
In truth there is no real antidote for sin. However, sin has been removed for those who come to Jesus Christ and accept Him and the teachings of righteousness by faith.
The basis of this righteousness that has been given, along with all of the other gifts of God given to man, is grace. Grace is what enables us to come and stand before God set free from sin, set free from the law and ready to be obedient to His will. So in a way, grace is the effective antidote for sin since through grace we have our sins taken away.
Now if we look at grace for a moment we gain an additional insight into what sin is. If grace is the antidote for sin then sin is the opposite of grace. These two are opposed to each other, so if we have some understanding of one, then it gives us an insight into the other.
Let's look at this for a moment.
Grace has been described as the undeserved kindness and favour of God. And we receive grace through faith and obedience to the words of God.
So if sin is the opposite of grace, then sin is the deserved wrath and judgement of God and sin comes about by a lack of faith and disobedience to the words of God. That is, sin is the rejection of God.
Furthermore, the only way a person can be released from sin is to repent and turn around to accept God, accept His grace as a gift which cannot be earned or worked for and receive Jesus as saviour.
So sin is much deeper and more than just breaking the law of God. Sin is lawlessness, which is to violate and reject the authority of the law, specifically the law as established by God.
So we can see that the essence of sin is to reject God. When we stand against His authority, when we choose to do the wrong thing or to do evil as defined in the law of God, when we choose our own desires rather than what God would have us do, then we commit sin. This is what happened to the ancient world that God wiped out apart from Noah and his family. This is what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah for they chose their own desires and fleshly lust rather than to do what was good in the sight of God.
So more than ever we need to thank God for the freedom He has given us through grace and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. By faith and the grace of God He has released us from sin and set us free from the law. Not so we can do as we please, but to obey God and do what He would have us do. And for those who come to God through Jesus Christ, fully understanding how this process works, sin lies dead.
You might also like:
Teachings on the Higher Call of Christ
Jesus Is Lord Of The Sabbath
What Comes Out Defiles A Man
Dealing With Sin In The Church
Perfection In Jesus Christ
The Great Commission Part 2
The Two Deaths
Who Is The Ultimate Advocate
The Resurrection Of The Lord
Grace And Truth Came Through Jesus Christ
Jesus Came To Save Not To Condemn
Go And Sin No More
Are You A Sinner
The Truth Will Make You Free
Satan Cast Out
Why Jesus Died
Holy Spirit Convicts
Protection Of The Father
What Is Truth
Jesus Could Not Be Held By Death
Who Should You Listen To
The Most Important Thing