What Is Sin? What Is a Sinner?

REASONABLE FAITH BLESSED IN SATAN'S WORLD_02 FEARLESS-1 Why Me_
Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 100 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Exactly what is sin? To be honest, today it is difficult to know anymore. Just a few decades ago most Christians and even non-Christians would likely mention the “seven deadly sins”: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth. wrath, envy, and pride. However, today, these are common around the world. We have gay pride, racial pride, personal pride and much more that are seen as good qualities. Everyone envies someone. Gluttony has a world of overweight people from excessive eating and habitual greed. We have moved on from adultery, fornication, homosexuality to transgender, no gender, to the point that we now have restrooms for everyone. Moreover, modern technology has created an element of slothfulness.

In short, sin is anything contrary to God’s personality, ways, standards, and will. Sin destroys a Christian’s relationship with God. Sin causes us to miss the mark, even as an archer with his bow and arrow can shoot an arrow but miss his target. We can sin intentionally or by mistake. (Num. 15:27-31) Sin is deeply ingrained in humans and it creates a wall between them and God, their Creator. (Ps. 51:5; Isa. 59:2; Col. 1:21) Thus, humankind, in general, is totally out of harmony with God. Absolutely, sin is the number one damaging disability that afflicts all of humankind. Now, let’s dig a little deeper into sin.

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Sin: (Heb. chattath; Gr. hamartia) Any spoken word (Job 2:10; Ps 39:1), wrong action (Lev. 20:20; 2 Cor. 12:21) or failing to act when one should have (Num. 9:13; Jam. 4:17), in mind and heart (Prov. 21:4; Rom. 3:9-18; 2 Pet 2:12-15) that is contrary to God’s personality, ways, will and purposes, standards, as set out in the Scriptures. It is also a major sin to lack faith in God, doubting in mind and heart, even subtly in our actions, that he has the ability to carry out his will and purposes. (Heb. 3:12-13, 18-19). It is commonly referred to as missing the mark of perfection.

  • Error: (Heb., ʿāwōn; Gr. anomia, paranomia) The Hebrew word awon essentially relates to erring, acting illegally or wrongly. This aspect of sin refers to committing a perverseness, wrongness, lawlessness, law breaking, which can also include the rejection of the sovereignty of God. It is an act or a feeling that steps over the line of God’s moral standard, as something God forbids, or the person ignores carry out (doing) something that God requires, whether it be by one’s thoughts, feelings, speech, or actions. It also focuses on the liability or guilt of one’s wicked, wrongful act. This error may be deliberate or accidental; either willful deviation of what is right or unknowingly making a mistake. (Lev. 4:13-35; 5:1-6, 14-19; Num. 15:22-29; Ps 19:12-13) Of course, if it is intentional; then, the consequence is far more serious. (Num. 15:30-31) Error is in opposition to the truth, and those willfully sinning corrupt the truth, a course that only brings forth flagrant sin. (Isa 5:18-23) We can be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Ex 9:27, 34-35; Heb. 3:13-15.
  • Transgression: (Heb. ’avar; Gr. parabasis) Sin can take the form of a “transgression.” This is an overstepping, namely, to exceed a moral limit or boundary. Biblically speaking, this would be crossing the line and saying, feeling, thinking or doing something that is contrary to God’s personality, standards, ways, will and purposes, as set out in the Scriptures. It is breaking God’s moral law. – 14:41; Deut. 17:2, 3; Josh. 7:11, 15; 1 Sam 15:24; Isa 24:5; Jer. 34:18; Rom. 2:23; 4:15; 5:14; Gal. 3:19; 1 Tim. 2:14; Heb. 2:2; 9:15.
  • Transgression: (Heb. pesha) is wantonness, crime, wrongdoing. One who violates a law, a duty, or a moral principle. An action or behavior that is contrary to a standard be it a human standard or divine, with emphasis on the rebellious nature of the wrong committed.
  • Trespass: (Gr. paraptōma) This is a sin that can come in the way of some desire (lusting), some thinking (entertaining a wrongdoing) or some action (carrying out one’s desires or thoughts that he or she has been entertaining) that is beyond or overstepping God’s righteous standards, as set out in the Scriptures. It is falling or making a false step as opposed to standing or walking upright in harmony with the righteous requirements of God.– 6:14; Mark 11:25; Rom. 4:25; 5:15-20; 11:11; 2 Cor. 5:19; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 1:7; 2:1, 5; Col 2:13.
  • Sinner: (Gr. hamartōlos) In the Scriptures “sinners” is generally used in a more specific way, that is, referring to those willfully living in sin, practicing sin, or have a reputation of sinning. – 9:10; Mark 2:15; Luke 5:30; 7:37-39; John 9:16; Rom. 3:7; Gal. 2:15; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 7:26; Jam. 4:8; 1 Pet 4:18; Jude 1:15.
  • Evil Desire, lust, coveting, craving: (Gr. epithymia) This is an inordinate, self-indulgent craving to have what belongs to another or engage in what is morally wrong, which displaces our affection for God. – 5:16; 1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 1:14)
  • Shameless Conduct, Sensuality, Debauchery, Promiscuity, Licentiousness, Lewdness: (Gr. aselgeia) This is behavior that is completely lacking in moral restraint, indulgence in sensual pleasure, driven by aggressive and selfish desires, unchecked by morality, especially in sexual matters. This refers to acts of conduct that are serious sins. It reveals a shameless, condescending arrogance; i.e., disregard or even disdain for authority, laws, and standards. – Mark 7:22; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 1 Pet. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:2, 7, 18; Jude 4.
  • Sexual Immorality: (Heb. zanah; Gr. porneia) A general term for immoral sexual acts of any kind: such as adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between people not married to each other, homosexuality, and bestiality. – Num. 25:1; Deut. 22:21; Matt. 5:32; 1 Cor. 5:1.
  • Sensuality, debauchery, licentiousness, lewdness: (Gr. aselgeia) This is being completely unrestrained in our moral attitudes and behaviors, with the inference of sexual licentiousness. This is one who indulges in sensual pleasure without any regard for morality. – Mark 7:22; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 1 Pet. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:2, 7, 18; Jude.
  • Shameful Behavior: (zimmā(h)) This is wickedness, shameful behavior or conduct that is lewd, shameless regarding sexual behavior. (Lev. 18:17; 19:29; 20:14; Judges 20:6; Job 31:11; Jer. 13:27; Eze. 16:27) It can also refer to the evil thought process that one goes through in plotting their wickedness. (Ps 26:10; 119:150; Pro. 10:23; 21:27; 24:9; Isa 32:7; Hos 6:9) Finally, it can be the plans that result from thinking person’s evil desires. – Job 17:11.

Sin, Hardened by Deceitfulness of: (Gr. sklērynthē apatē hamartias) The sense of sklērynthē is stubborn or to be hardened. One is being stubborn and obstinate when it comes to the truth. The sense of apatē is deception. A person causes another to believe something that is not true by misleading or deceptive views. The sense of hamartias is sin, failure or falling short. Hamartia is anything that is not in harmony with or contrary to God’s personality, standards, ways, and will. This can be in word, deed, or failing to do what should be done, or in mind or heart attitude. – Heb. 3:13.

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The Bible Gives Us Answers to Questions about Life

The Bible gives us answers to questions about this life and the one to come, which can be found nowhere else, and offers illumination to its readers. Those who take in this life-saving knowledge are freed from the misunderstandings of life that dominate billions of others. For instance, here is one that might come to us as a shock. We are all Mentally Bent toward Evil.

Psalm 51:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Look, I was brought forth in error,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

King David had his adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband exposed, for which he accepted full responsibility. His words about the human condition give us one reason for the evil of man. He says, “I was brought forth in error.” What did King David’s inspired words mean? Error: (Heb., ʿāwōn; Gr. anomiaparanomia) The Hebrew word awon essentially relates to erring, acting illegally or wrongly. This aspect of sin refers to committing perverseness, wrongness, lawlessness, law-breaking, which can also include the rejection of the sovereignty of God. It also focuses on the liability or guilt of one’s wicked, wrongful act. This error may be deliberate or accidental; either willful deviation of what is right or unknowingly making a mistake. (Lev. 4:13-35; 5:1-6, 14-19; Num. 15:22-29; Ps 19:12, 13) Of course, if it is intentional; then, the consequence is far more serious. (Num. 15:30-31) Error is in opposition to the truth, and those willfully sinning corrupt the truth, a course that only brings forth flagrant sin. (Isa 5:18-23) We can be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.–Ex 9:27, 34-35; Heb. 3:13-15.

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David stated that his problem was a corrupt heart, saying; surely, I was sinful at birth. He entered this world a sinner in nature long before he became a sinner in thinking, words, and actions. In fact, this internal corruption predated his birth, actually beginning nine months earlier when he was conceived in the womb. It was at conception that the Adamic sin nature was transmitted to him. The problem with what he did, sin, arose from what he was, a sinner.[1]

What is sin? Sin: (Heb. chattath; Gr. hamartia) Any spoken word (Job 2:10; Ps 39:1), wrong action (Lev. 20:20; 2 Cor. 12:21) or failing to act when one should have (Num. 9:13; Jam. 4:17), in mind and heart (Prov. 21:4; Rom. 3:9-18; 2 Pet 2:12-15) that is contrary to God’s personality, ways, will and purposes, standards, as set out in the Scriptures. It is also a major sin to lack faith in God, doubting in mind and heart, even subtly in our actions, that he has the ability to carry out his will and purposes. (Heb. 3:12-13, 18-19). It is commonly referred to as missing the mark of perfection.

What is a sinner? Sinner: (Gr. hamartōlos) In the Scriptures “sinners” is generally used in a more specific way, that is, referring to those willfully living in sin, practicing sin, or have a reputation of sinning.–Matt. 9:10; Mark 2:15; Luke 5:30; 7:37-39; John 9:16; Rom. 3:7; Gal. 2:15; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 7:26; Jam. 4:8; 1 Pet 4:18; Jude 1:15.

David is not here casting the blame onto his mother, as God never intended mothers to conceive and give birth to children who would sin. Nevertheless, when Adam and Eve rebelled, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they lost their ability to pass on perfection. Therefore, every child was born missing the mark of perfection. The Hebrew term translated “sin” is chattath; in Greek, the word is hamartia. Both carry the meaning of missing the mark of perfection, namely, falling short of perfection.

The verbal forms occur in enough secular contexts to provide a basic picture of the word’s meaning. In Judges 20:16 the left-handed slingers of Benjamin are said to have the skill to throw stones at targets and “not miss.” In a different context, Proverbs 19:2 speaks of a man in a hurry who “misses his way” (RSV, neb, KJV has “sinneth”). A similar idea of not finding a goal appears in Proverbs 8:36; the concept of failure is implied.[2]

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Genesis 6:5 The American Translation (AT)

5 When the LORD saw that the wickedness of man on the earth was great, and that the whole bent of his thinking was never anything but evil, the LORD regretted that he had ever made man on the earth.

Genesis 8:21 The American Translation (AT)

21 I will never again curse the soil, though the bent of man’s mind may be evil from his very youth; nor ever again will I ever again destroy all life creature as I have just done.

All of us have inherited a sinful nature, meaning that we are currently unable to live up to the mark of perfection, in which we were created. In fact, Genesis 6:5 says we all suffer from, ‘our whole bent of thinking, which is nothing but evil.” Genesis 8:21 says that ‘our mind is evil from our very youth.’ Jeremiah 17:9 says that our hearts are treacherous and desperately sick.” What does all of this mean? It means that prior to the fall, our natural inclination; our natural leaning was toward good. However, after the fall, our natural inclination, our natural leaning was toward bad, wicked, evil.

We should never lose sight of the fact that unrighteous desires of the flesh are not to be taken lightly. (Rom. 7:19, 20) Nevertheless, if it is our desire to have a righteous relationship with God, it will be the stronger desire. Psalm 119:165 says, “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.” We need to cultivate our love for doing right, which will strengthen our conscience, the sense of what is right and wrong that governs somebody’s thoughts and actions, urging us to do right rather than wrong. It is only through studying the Bible that we can train the conscience. Once it is trained, it will prick us like a needle in the heart, when we are thinking of doing something wrong. It will feel like a pain in our heart, sadness, nervousness, which is the voice saying, ‘do not do this.’ Moreover, if we ignore our voice, it will grow silent over time and will stop telling us what is wrong. – Romans 2:14-15.

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James 1:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desire.[3] 15 Then the desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

We have a natural desire toward wrongdoing, and Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:3-4), and he caters to the fallen flesh. James also tells us “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desire.[4] Then the desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15) We resist the devil by immediately dismissing any thought that is contrary to God’s values found in his Word. When any wrong thought enters our mind, we do not entertain it for a moment, nor do we cultivate it, causing it to grow. We then offer rational prayers in our head, or better yet, out loud so we can defeat irrational fleshly thinking with rational biblical thinking. The Apostle Peter, referring to the Devil wrote, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Pet. 5:9) While the Bible helps us better to understand the gravity of our fallen condition, this should not cause us alarm as the Bible also shows us how to control our mental bent toward evil. We can renew our mind (Rom 12:2), acquire the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16)), take off the old person and put on the new person (Eph. 4:20-24; Col 3:9-10), among other things.

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[1] Anders, Max; Lawson, Steven (2004-01-01). Holman Old Testament Commentary – Psalms: 11 (p. 266). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[2] G. Herbert Livingston, “638 חָטָא,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 277.

[3] Or “own lust

[4] Or “own lust

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