We are living in a society that takes offense when you call any action, behavior, attitude or way of life a sin. And one is certainly scolded if one happens to call someone a sinner. We want to eliminate the word from our vocabulary. In 1973 Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled, Whatever Became of Sin? The answer to that question is nothing has happened to sin, as humanity is very proficient in indulging in sin without restraint and without shame. When a culture loses the concept that sin exists, that there is a standard of right and wrong, then hope of having a moral and orderly society vanishes. Any society that becomes desensitized to sin and drops the word from its language, it is the mark of a society that has forgotten God and will eventually be among the dust heaps of history.
Now the question arises, “Just what is sin? Can the term be defined?” For an understanding of the depth and scope of the term sin, we must turn to God’s revelation to man as found in the Bible. One truth is clear in reading the sacred Volume is the universality of sin. Every man is involved in sin (Romans 3:23). Sin is a universal human problem. The Bible is clear that we were born as sinners (Ps 51:5). We don’t become sinners by sinning, we sin because we are born sinners. We inherited a sinful nature from our parents, who inherited a sinful nature from their parents, who in-turn inherited a sinful nature from their parents, well, you get the picture. In actuality we are sinners by nature and choice.
Experience teaches us that we have a corrupted nature. You don’t have to teach a child to lie, to take what is not theirs, be dishonest, disrespectful, selfish, greedy, etc. Those are actions that are instinctive in human nature. Why do we so easily exhibit such behavior? We are born with a nature that is bent toward the tendency to sin. Also, proof that we are sinners by nature and choice, is that fact that we die. The Bible says the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and the fact we all eventually die is testimony to the fact we all are sinners who have sinned.
The final proof that we are sinners by nature is our alienation from our Creator. Man is born with a nature that insists on his way regardless of the “instructions” from the One who made him. Men count it as a personal affront when any suggestion is perceived that he should render worship to the One who created him and gives him life and breath. Such a suggestion brings forth resentment and anger, giving clear evidence that man is in rebellion to the very One to whom he owes the existence of his life. Sin says, “I want to do as I please, and no one will tell me any different, not even the God who gave me life.”
Sin has many dimensions and facets. Because sin is multidimensional, the Bible uses many different terms to describe the affect and effect of sin. While this is not exhaustive, eight words from the Old Testament (Hebrew) and seven words from the New Testament (Greek) will be cited that will give understanding to this thing called sin.
Eight Old Testament words which help in describing what sin is will be considered first.
(1) The word Avah means bent, twisted or crooked and pictures man as bent and twisted in his relationship with God and fellowman. In the OT the word is translated “amiss, bowed down, crooked, iniquity, perverse, perversely, perverted, troubled, turn, wickedly, wrong.”
2) The word Ra means breaking up, ruin, injury or calamity and is a picture of something ruined, in other words that which God has made has been marred and ruined. In the OT the word is translated “evil, wickedness, grievous, disaster.”
(3) The word Pasha means rebellion against a right authority, to revolt, to trample underfoot and pictures sin as treason, rebellion and mutiny against God. In the OT the word is translated “offended, rebelled, revolt, transgress, transgression, transgressor, trespassed.”
(4) The word Rasha means confusion or tossing and pictures someone running about confused which way to go and causing confusion. It the OT the word is translated “miserable, displeasing, wrong, evil, bad, wicked (Is. 57:20), danger, unpleasant.”
(5) The word Maal means a breach of trust, unfaithfulness and pictures one who violates a covenant agreement with God or another person. In the OT the word is translated “trespass, unfaithful, treacherously, violated.”
(6) The word Aven means to exert oneself in vain, unprofitable behavior and pictures one whose efforts result in one being unproductive and unprofitable. In the OT the word is translated “iniquity, wickedness, vanity, affliction, mischief, unrighteous, evil, false, idol, mourners, mourning, sorrow, vain.”
(7) The word Amal means to labor or sorrow and pictures one who is laboring and sorrowing over a burden. In OT the word is translated as “burden, sorrow, labor in reference to one under the load of sin.”
(8) The word Aval means unjust or unfair, to deviate from and pictures a deviation from God and what is fair, just and right. In the OT the word is translated “unjustly, unrighteous, wrongdoer.”
Moving to the New Testament, the NT employs words that also speak of the multidimensional aspect of sin.
(1) The word Hamartia means to miss the mark and pictures one whose arrow misses the intended target. It speaks of one who misses God’s intended purpose for their life, who falls short of obedience to God’s divine law; one who is unable to comply with God’s holy demands. It is translated “sin” in the NT 172 times
(2) The word Parabasis means crossing the boundary line, a stepping across and pictures someone who steps across a line which they have no right to step across, it speaks of crossing the bounds of that which is right in the sight of God. The word means trespassing and is translated “transgression” in the NT.
(3) The word Anomia means one who is lawless and pictures one who disobeys God’s law. It stresses the deliberate choosing of that which is wrong. The word is translated the majority of times as “lawlessness.”
(4) The word Parakoe means to not hear or to fail to hear and pictures a mother calling her son but there is no response; the word speaks of those who don’t respond to God’s voice. The word is translated in the NT as “disobedience,” one who doesn’t respond to the voice of the Lord.
(5) The word Paraptoma means a slip, a trip up, a blunder one makes who is not looking where they are going and pictures someone slipping up as result of being off his guard because of failure to look where he is going or because of lack of concentration. The word is translated in the NT as “trespass, offence, sin, fall, fault.”
(6) The word Adikia means a deliberate violating of law and justice and pictures someone who violates was is right and has total disregard for God. It is living as if God does not exist. It is translated in the NT as “unrighteousness, iniquity, unjust, wrong.”
(7) The word Porosis describes a process of hardening as result of loss of all ability to feel sensations and pictures in a spiritual sense someone who has lost all feeling toward God and no longer senses the need to respond to Him. In the NT the word is translated “hardness and blindness.”
Having briefly examined fifteen words from the OT and NT that give picturesque meaning to the word “sin,” it is clear to see that sin is not a nebulous concept that has no real meaning. The Bible is explicit in its description of what sin is and who is a sinner. Sin is universal that effects all humanity; sin is every person possessing a nature that is bent, twisted in regard to ones relationship with God and ones fellowman; sin is man marred as to the image of God within; sin is treason, rebellion and mutiny against God; sin is humanity running about confused which way to go and causing confusion as he goes; sin is man’s breach of trust and unfaithfulness to his Creator; sin is man exerting himself in vain and being unprofitable in regard to complying with the demands of a holy God; sin is a deviation from what one knows to be fair, just and right; sin is one who misses God’s intended purpose for their life; sin is one who falls short of obedience to God’s divine law; sin is trespassing and crossing the bounds of that which is right in the sight of God; sin is one who with lawlessness willfully disobeys God’s law; sin is failure to hear or respond to God’s voice; sin is one’s spiritual failure to give attention to God in the paths taken in life; sin is one who has a total disregard for God in regard to what is right or wrong, just or unjust; sin is living as if God doesn’t exist; and the progressiveness of sin can harden one’s soul whereby one may find themselves no longer sensing the need to respond to the loving invitation to come unto Him.
Ignoring sin will not diminish its stranglehold on individuals or society nor sweeping sin under the rug make the real culprit of man’s woes disappear. For sin is both an inner and outer reality, that infects all humanity. Sin is a hole in the soul of human nature and is a menacing power that holds all of humanity in a bondage that cannot broken in man’s own strength. Regardless of society today trying to strip the word sin from the dictionary or trying to minimizing sins grip on humanity by whitewashing the devastating power and effects of sin, sin has its death-like grip on individual lives and society at large.
What is the remedy for this universal malady? There is only one remedy for sin, there is only one antidote for the spiritual cancer of sin that manifests itself in alienation from God and destructive attitudes and lifestyles. That remedy is Jesus Christ.
It was at the cross Christ broke the back of sins power as He was triumphant over the devil, sin and death. The Good News is Christ’s victory is our victory. The sin debt we could never pay Jesus paid it for us and, as well, He purchased for us all we need to have sins power broken in our lives. In Christ we can experience freedom from sins vicious grip that seeks to hold us in bondage. Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, makes it possible for sins power to be broken and its power rendered inoperative in our lives. This can’t be accomplished in our own ability but only by realizing that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). As we daily abide in Christ, yield our lives to Him, we can walk in the victory He has already won for us and is available by surrender to His empowering grace.
Yes, Christ’s victory immerses us in His holy-love which went to the cross for us to conquer sin and capture our hearts with His loving grace which will never let us go….and therein lies our hope and daily power for living. O, what a Savior!!