Understanding Sin

[This article was written by Matt Nevins.]

There is at least one thing that everyone has in common – sin. Paul plainly observes, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is sin that severs us from God (James 4:4). The severed relationship is a consequence of sin, and is evident from the beginning with Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:22-24). Because of the forbidden desires one wishes to fulfill, thus yielding to worldly desires (1 John 2:16), sin is produced which ends in a separation from God (Romans 6:23). Understanding sin and its nature, we will become appreciative of the grace God has extended to us.

Sin is the fulfillment of forbidden desires. James draws a diagram for us in James 1:14-15. It all begins with our desires. A desire itself does not have to be evil. One could have a desire to have nice clothes. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have nice things, but when we steal the nice clothes because of our desire, our desire has manifested and mature into sin. It is when our desires are enticed and we yield to it that sin comes about. In some cases it can be very subtle and almost invisible, that is why we need to always be on guard (Ephesians 6:18). It is Satan who tempts us; he is cunning and destructive as a lion (1 Peter 5:8). We need to be mindful of our desires to prevent sin.

Sin is also defined in 1 John 3:4 as lawlessness. This lawlessness, or sin, can be broken down into two groups. These groups are often labeled as sins of omission and sins of commission. The former is simply not doing what we are told, omitting a command, while the latter is doing what we are told not to do, or commissioning an unauthorized command. Both groups are described in Revelation 22:18-19. A person can choose to omit some of the instructions listed in the book, or commission more instructions than was written. In either case, what is the end result? The conclusion of either action is sin.

Sin by nature is destructive. This is evident in the Scriptures, both in the Old and New Testaments. The nations of Israel and Judah faced captivity because of their infidelity to God (Hosea 2, Micah 1). The Israelites broke the covenant that was established at Mt. Sinai and therefore were put away as an unfaithful spouse (Hosea 1:2-3). The same can happen to Christians today. Paul makes this clear in writing, “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” to the Romans (Romans 11:22). If we do not honor the covenant we make when we put on Christ (Hebrews 10:15-16, Galatians 3:27), then our sin will cause us to be cut off from God.

Sin is ultimately a choice we can choose to make when we face temptation. No temptation is too much for us to bear. God has promised this to us and He will remain faithful to what He has said (1 Corinthians 10:13). We can have assurance that it is possible to overcome temptation from the examples that Christ has left us (Hebrews 4:15). When temptation comes, the option is available to persevere and remain pure, or to fall and become subject to sin.

Since all have sinned of their own will, God has extended His grace. Christ redeemed us from the bondage of sin with His blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). In order to have access to the blood, we must wash ourselves through baptism (Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-4; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). “The wages of sin is death,” therefore let this fact cause us to move with godly fear to repentance (Romans 6:23). Understanding the destructive nature of sin and how it comes about, this will teach us to appreciate the reconciliation that is through Christ.


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