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What is Sin?

what sinWhat is Sin?

The clearest definition of sin in the Bible is found in 1 John 3:4, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (KVJ). Consider also what James 2:9 says, “But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressor.” To sin is to “transgress the law”. But what law? And what does it mean to transgress the law?

Here’s Jesus’ response to the question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 (This parallels Deut. 6:1-5) So here's Christ summing up of the law that refers to the entire Commandments of God (See, Psalm 119 for its many benefits!) To ‘transgress’ is to break any of these laws and commit sin.

The following Scriptures will provide us an example as to how sin and transgression are played out. Let’s read 2 Chronicles 24:20, “The Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, ‘Thus says God: “Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper?”

Hebrew was the language of the Old Testament, the word for “transgress” in the above verse is ‘abar’, which literally means to “cross over” or to “turn away” (Strong’s #5674). Another Hebrew word for transgression is ‘pesha’, which means rebellion or revolt or sin (Strong’s #6588). (See, Deut. 9:7 Joshua 1:18) To rebel against God is to break or transgress the Law, thereby bringing sin and judgment which is a separation from God. "But your sins have made a separation between you and your God," (Isaiah 59:2).

Another key verse provides helpful link, “Blessed is he whose transgression [rebellion, sin] is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). The Hebrew word for sin here is 'chataah', which means an offense (Strong’s, #2401). So when our transgressions and sins are forgiven, that means our rebellion and revolt against God is removed from us.

The New Testament was written in Greek. The word for transgression in 1 John 3:4 is ‘anomia’, meaning lawlessness (law breaking). The word for sin is ‘hamartia’, which literally means “missing of the mark”. (See, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1997, pp. 1045-1046, 1161)

The apostle John defines sin (the ‘missing of the mark’) as transgression (lawlessness, law-breaking). Thus, both Old and New Testament are clear and consistent with their definition of sin which is an offense against God and a violation (an ‘off the mark’) of His holy and righteous law.
1 John 5:17 “All unrighteousness is sin.”

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