The Golden Isles church of Christ

Weekly Bulletin

Volume 3, Number 8

February 23, 2003

What is Sin? - Part 1

by Mark J. Ward


 The Bible clearly teaches us that "the wages of sin is death" in Romans 6:23. In Romans 3:23, we read that"all have sinned" and fall short of the glory of God. Sin is so terrible that Christ had to die on the cross in order that we might have access to God's plans of salvation (See Matthew 26:28; John 3:16; Hebrew 9:28). In this article, let us answer the question "What is Sin?" by looking at God's Word on this important topic.

SIN is a trespass

In I John 3:4, the King James translation of the Bible reads, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." If we are in England and violate the applicable laws that are currently in force in that country, we are guilty of transgressing that law (and are subject to being punished). If we lived under the law of Moses, for example, and violated the requirements of that law, we would be guilty of sin (i.e. trespassing that law). Similarly, if we today violate the new law, the law of Christ (i.e. the perfect law of liberty: James 2:12; James 1:25) we trespass, transgress and thus are said to SIN.

In the similitude of one traversing over a property line of a neighbor who has "no trespassing" signs up on their property, a person who "steps over the limitations" set by God's Word is guilty of sin. In this way, committing an action that is contrary to God's Word, or unauthorized by the law of Christ, is said to be SIN.

SIN is lawlessness

Another way of looking at this is that of sin being "law-lessness". The same verse noted above, I John 3:4, in the New American Standard Bible reads, "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." To engage in sin is to act in such a way as to act WITHOUT law, without the authority of Christ (in our case, since we live accountable to the law of Christ today).

If we are doing something that Christ has authorized, we are not "without law" for we HAVE law (we have authority from Christ) for such activity. But, on the other hand, when we do something that is either strictly forbidden or something that is simply not authorized, we act on the basis of being "without law" and thus SIN.

But, engaging in acts of unauthorized activity are not ALL that can be called sin. Please read on.

If you violate your conscience you SIN

Another point that needs to be made concerning sin is that if we violate our conscience, we sin. Please notice that one's conscience may NOT be in harmony with the law of Christ, that is, a person may not have the proper understanding of God's Word on a particular issue, but if that person violates the law of his conscience, he sins. Notice the teaching of Romans 14:23, "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."Never violate your conscience, but don't rely on your conscience to be right without being sure that it conforms to God's Word.

NOTE: So, the conscience is not a safe guide! Don't heed the wrongful advice, "Let your conscience be your guide." God's Word is truth (John 17:17) and our perfect guide (2 Tim. 3:16,17; 2 Peter 1:3). The solution to this delimma is to learn the truth of God's Word and align our conscience with truth. Paul did many things that were sinful, that were NOT against his conscience prior to his obedience to the gospel as noted in Acts 23:1. But he was wrong since he was violating God's word.

If you violate the conscience of another you could SIN

Did you know that we can sin by wounding the conscience of another? The Bible clearly teaches in I Cor. 8:11, 12 and in Romans 14:12-15 that when we engage in a liberty (i.e. something that is authorized by God, but is not mandatory for us to engage in) in the presence of another who has a conscience that believes that such activity is sin, we SIN!

These passages indicate that we should strive to know the convictions of those around us, that we should continue to strive to grow into the truth on every Bible subject (so we are in agreement with our beliefs, teaching and practices) and that we should be considerate of those who have convictions (in liberties) different that we to the extent that we don't violate or wound their conscience.

NOTE: This is not applicable to things that God teaches us that are MANDATORY. We MUST engage in activity that is mandatory, even if it were to violate the conscience of another. The problem arises when one party thinks something IS mandatory or forbidden, for example, and the other party thinks that same activity is a "liberty". God's Word has the real answer, but we need to learn to dwell together respecting the consciences and convictions of others, given their various stages of spiritual growth on Bible matters. Maturity in Christ would have believers in AGREEMENT on the truth set forth by God on subject matter over which there was previous disagreement. But this takes study, digestion time, disagreement, listening to others' points of views, more study, then a conviction arrived at that is tested and tried/proven to be the truth of God on the subject.

Not doing good, when we know to do good, is SIN

James 4:17 teaches, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." This passage lets us know that if we know to do good ("good" being defined as being permitted by God's authority, not man's) and fail to do it, we are guilty of a SIN of OMISSION. So, we can see that SIN is not limited to only DOING WRONG per se...SIN also includes the concept of NOT DOING RIGHT when we know to do right and have the opportunity to do good and simply fail to act upon it! Beware! The devil loves to catch folks in this type of sin...sins of inactivity! Christianity is not a passive religion. Action is required in authorized areas in running the spiritual race.

Ignorantly disobeying God is still SIN

Sometimes I fear that people limit SIN to trespasses in only those topics that are KNOWN by an individual. In other words, a person only would be able to sin if they did something they knew was wrong or failed to do something they knew was right. But, the Bible teaches that those who are in various states of ignorance (on Bible subject matter) are still guilty of SIN and will be held accountable. To read of some who were ignorant, were wrong and were accountable to God while in their ignorance, please note Acts 17:23-30 and Romans 10:1-14.

We have already pointed out that Paul noted that he was wrong, even tho' he was not disobeying his conscience (Acts 23:1), while he persecuted the cause of Christ prior to his conversion. Also, please notice the teaching of Acts 26:9. Ignorance is no excuse before God today.



Have we been reading the Bible lately?

God speaks to us today through His Word (Heb. 1:1ff)

God is talking...are we listening???

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