Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 10, 1953
NUMBER 18, PAGE 8-9a

Sin -- What Is It?

Thomas Allen Robertson, San Bernardino, California

Sin Is Universal

That sin is in the world hardly any thinking person would deny. This world is full of all sin and immorality. To catch the truth of this statement one needs but look at the advertisements in the newspapers and magazines or drive down the highway and look at the billboards. This wickedness that is in the world has brought about much suffering and this sin has separated men from. God. When Christ came into the world this wickedness was so universal that there were none who did good and sought after God. (Romans 3:9,10) The apostle John said, "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." (1 John 5:19) Since sin is so universal, and since sin is what separated man from God it behooves us to look into the scriptures to see what sin is.

Sin — What Is It?

As we turn to the word of God we find that sin is classed under four headings: (1) Sin is a transgression of law. (1 John 3:4) Whenever man goes beyond to cross over the law of God he has sinned. Any violation of the law of God is sin. (2) But again, the Bible says that all unrighteousness is sin. (1 John 5:17) Everything that is not right within itself is also held as a sin before God. To understand this point we need but to think of the world as it was before the Law of Moses was given. The Apostle Paul says that sin was in the world but that it could not be imputed because there was no law. (Romans 5:13) Men did those things that were not right, that were immoral and mean but it was not imputed as sin because there was no law to cover them. But under the gospel of Christ we are dedicated to the task of doing that which is right so much so that even those things that are not specifically mentioned as sin are comprehended and included in "all unrighteousness is sin." (3) Again, the word of God says, "What so ever is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) That our conscience was given to us as a spiritual safeguard is plainly recognized by the word of God. But the Bible recognizes the conscience only as a safeguard and not as a safe guide in matters of religion. Our conscience is only a subconscious reminder of what we know or believe to be right or wrong. Thus it has a tendency to push us in the direction we believe to be right. If we refuse to heed that prompting and do those things we believe to be wrong we are in danger of searing our conscience to the point that it will no longer be sensitive to sin. Our conscience is subject to education since it is only what we believe to be right or wrong. Thus we are to study to know the truth of God and then walk by what we have learned to be the will of God because whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (4) Finally the Bible says, "To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not to him it is sin." (James 4:17) Often people say to me, "I know I ought to obey the gospel," or "I know I ought to live a better life." The very fact that they admit that they know they ought to obey God but are not doing it is a sin in the sight of God. If we know that God would have us to do a thing but do not do it our very knowledge of what we ought to do but are not doing is sin. All sin, no matter of what type it might be, can be classed under one of these headings.

Why Do Men Sin?

With all of the warnings in the Bible against sin, and stating the awful end of the sinner one would hardly think that man would dare to sin. Ezekiel said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:20) The Apostle Paul said, "For the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) And again, "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 1:7,8) If the end of the sinner is to be thus why would one sin? In the Bible we find two reasons for man sinning in spite of the clear warnings of God. 1) One reason for man sinning is because payment for sin is deferred. The preacher said, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." (Ecclesiastes 8:11) Because God does not strike a man down the very minute he sins many think they are getting away with sin. But men should not forget that there is to be a day of reckoning when we "must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10) 2) A second reason why men sin is because of the temporary pleasure derived from sin. That sin has its pleasures to offer to those who engage in it we are not going to deny. If sin had nothing to offer no one would sin. The question is, is it wise to accept the fleeting pleasures of sin and lose the abiding and eternal pleasures of service rendered unto God. The wise men will make the choice Moses made when faced with the choice between the pleasures of sin and the recompense of the reward. For Moses chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." (Hebrews 11:25) Thus, for these two reasons, because punishment for sin seems a long way off and because of the temporary pleasures offered, men choose to sin rather than to obey God.

What Produces Sin?

Christ said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Matthew 15:19) The wise man said, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23) James said, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." (James 1:14,15) Thus from these passages we can see that every sin a man commits in the flesh comes from the heart. No man ever sinned until the thing was first committed in his heart. Either through, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life sin is conceived within man and is then finished in the overt or outward act. John mentions these three avenues of temptation in 1 John 2:16. And when we look at the temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11), and the fall of Adam and Eve as Eve is tempted of Satan (Genesis 3:1-6), we find that all three elements of temptation are present on both occasions.

The Method Of Entering Sin

No man ever became a hardened sinner in one bold step, but rather departure from God and the hardening of the heart in sin is a gradual process. In Psalms 1:1 we find three degrees of this separation from God. The first is stated as walking in the counsel of the ungodly, the second as standing in the way of sinners, and the third is sitting in the seat of the scornful. We think all can see the degree and the manner of departing from God set forth in this passage. First bad counsel, then bad acts, and finally a scornful attitude toward God and that which is right. Many of the millions of this world are a long way down the road that leads away from God and to final destruction. Many are so far along the way that they will not incline their ears unto the truth of God's word, others are rapidly losing all spiritual perception, but to those of you who still have alive within you the desire to be right in the sight of God we urge you to turn to the New Testament, the last will and testament of Jesus Christ, and search therein that you might come to a knowledge of the truth. For long ago Christ said, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) The only way you can escape the consequences of your sin is through a knowledge of the truth and an obedience thereto. For Christ said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16)

The Consequences Of Sin

But someone says, just what is the consequence of sin? The consequence of sin has always been death. (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23) God told Adam and Eve that the day they ate of the forbidden fruit they would surely die. They made the mistake of considering only physical death, for so the devil convinced them, by saying thou shalt not surely die. A death that far overshadows the physical is the spiritual. Man can be dead spiritually while he is alive physically. The Ephesians had been dead in trespasses and sins but they had been made alive through Christ. (Ephesians 2:1-5) Physical death is not the death God warned Adam and Eve about, neither is it the death under discussion in Romans 6:23. Physical death is only a consequence of Adam's sin. Because of Adam's sin all men die physically because when Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden of Eden they, and as a consequence the whole human race, were cut off from the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24) But men die spiritually only because of their own sin. (Romans 6:23; Isaiah 59:1, 2; Ezekiel 18:20) In Adam all men die — go to the grave; in Christ shall all men be made alive — come from the grave. (1 Corinthians 15:22; read all of chapter 15) Since men are not born in sin, but die spiritually only for their own sin, a baby (one who has not reached the age of accountability — does not know right and wrong) has no sin. Therefore it needs Christ only to raise him the from the dead — the grave. The distinction between those of the age of accountability and those not accountable, those old enough to know right from wrong and those not old enough is clearly made throughout the whole of the Bible. (Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 7:16) Thus we see that the consequence of Adam's sin to us is physical death — the grave. The consequence of our own sin to us is spiritual death — hell. To the man who has reached the age of accountability and has sinned either by omission or commission, and the Bible says that all have sinned (Romans 3:9, 5:12), Christ is the sacrifice for sin. Christ tasted of death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9) He became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him. (Hebrews 5:8,9) And He is the propitiation for the sins of the world. (1 John 2:2) If the sinner will but accept Christ through obedience to His commands his every sin is washed away by the blood of Christ. When one believes in Christ as the Son of God as commanded in John 8:24, and repents of his sins as commanded in Luke 13:3, and confesses Christ as the Son of God as commanded in Matthew 10:32 and Romans 10:10, and is buried with Christ by baptism into death and is raised up to walk in newness of life as commanded in Mark 16:15,16 and Romans 6:3-7 he stands before God free from every sin having been pardoned through the propitiation of Jesus Christ.

We have seen that an obedient believer has no sin. His sins were forgiven at the throne of God. (Mark 16:15, 16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-7)

And an infant has no sin having not yet sinned in the sight of God. (Matthew 18:3; 19:14) Therefore the obedient believer and the infant who does not know right from wrong are raised to life and happiness.

Who Will Be Lost?

The sinner who does not obey the gospel of Christ, the man who does not receive forgiveness at the throne of God shall be lost throughout all eternity. (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) And we must keep in mind that man sins not only by being overtly mean and wicked but there are four ways a man can sin and be lost. 1) By commission — transgressing the law of God. (1 John 3:4) 2) By omission — failing to do the commands of God. (James 4:17) 3) Doing that one believes to be wrong, whether it is wrong or not. (Romans 14:23) 4) And by engaging in any kind of unrighteousness. (1 John 5:17)

Will you not study to show yourself approved unto God? (2 Timothy 2:15)