How Would you Define "Sin"? Last week I stated that sin at it's core is more than just "breaking a rule". The "rules" in the Bible reflect God's character and nature. Therefore sin is sinful because it breaks the image of God both in His Nature and Character as well as the personal image of God in which we were created.
Sin is What we do (or don't do)
The Bible describes sins of commission (doing the wrong thing either intentionally or unintentionally) and sins of omission (not doing the right thing either intentionally or unintentionally). This includes instances where the God's law is known as well as unknown.
Sin is What we think
In the Sermon on the mount Jesus starts to clarify some misconceptions that people held about sin. They believed that murder was only murder if you actually killed someone. Jesus told them instead that hating a person is the same as murder in God's eyes (Matthew 5:21-22).
Suddenly we realize how much harder it is to be holy when we discover that our thought life is part of the problem. The thought life is a constant source of trouble. Thoughts of lust, hatred, envy and all sorts of things are really just the precursor to sin.
James 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Sin is What we are
We were created in the image of God; but in Adam that image was broken, glory was lost and innocence was replaced with guilt. Now, our very nature is sinful because we are people born with a broken image of God. This is what theologians call "original sin" though Wayne Grudem prefers the term "inherited sin".1 (see Romans 5:12-21)
The Burden and The cure for sin
Romans 6:23 is straight to the point; whatever it's origin, sin's cost is death. Worse yet, everyone is guilty (Romans 3:23). God however has not abandoned us to death "“ but has provided a substitute in Jesus. Jesus, as the sacrificed and resurrected son of God restores the broken image of God within us. He absorbs the penalty for what we do, what we don't do and what we think. He also transforms who we are. In the same way that God imputes Adam's sin to us, he imputes the righteousness of Christ (what he did, thought, and was) to all believers. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Theologians can argue till the cows come home about original sin and how it comes to us (and they do). The point of impact on our lives however is where we acknowledge our own sinfulness in thought, deed and being. You and I have sinned and we are sinners. God has provided cleansing from that sin and it's consequence with the sacrifice of Jesus.
The best application then as we study sin is to confess our sin to God and to rest in the promise of 1 John 1:9. "if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Before Christ is accepted, every person is under sin and it's consequences. After Christ comes into our lives we are not only freed from the penalty of sin in the realms of what we do, think and are; we are also given a choice in the future. It is impossible for the unsaved to not sin "“ because they are sin. After Christ comes in however, we now have the choice not to sin. (Romans 6:5-19)
But what happens if we fail and choose to sin anyway (1 John 1:8) after coming to Jesus? We do not lose our salvation since our salvation is by grace and not by works, we live in that grace. We do however lose God's pleasure (Eph 4:30, Heb 12:6; ), and risk his judgement (1 Corinthians 11:32). God pleas with his people to repent before that judgement needs to fall (Revelation 3:19)
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Questions For Personal Study
Before starting: how would you define sin?
List some sins of Commission.
How might the sins of commission above be either intentional or unintentional?
List some sins of Omission.
How might the sins of omission above be either intentional or unintentional?
Why is what we think equivalent to action even if we don't act on it?
How has your thought life caused trouble for you?
What are some consequences to "inherited sin"?
Are some sins worse than others? Why or why not?
What happens when Christians sin?
Have you confessed your sinfulness and your sin to God "“ and have you received his forgiveness? (1 John 1:8-9)
1Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), 494.