What Is Sin?

What Is Sin?

Written by Guy M. Richard |
Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Sin is, fundamentally a rejection of God as God. It is idolatry at its very core or, as so many ministers and theologians have said down through the ages, it is “cosmic rebellion” against God. When we think or act as though there is no God, we are sinning—which is why it is possible for a good deed to be a sin. If we do good deeds in order to give glory to ourselves, then we are falling short of the glory of God and are, therefore, sinning. If we do good deeds out of a desire to be recognized or appreciated or simply to feel good about ourselves, then we are falling short of the glory of God and are, therefore, sinning. Sin is a complete anti-God state of thinking, speaking, desiring, intending, and doing.

It doesn’t take much in the way of discernment to see that something is drastically wrong with the world in which we live. The mere fact that people would even think of walking into an elementary school and casually and violently extinguishing the lives of the most precious and, yet, most vulnerable among us ought to be enough to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that something is not right in the universe. Who of us hasn’t watched with horror and profound grief as images from these kinds of ghastly events have been displayed on our televisions or our phones and ipads? Who of us, in these moments of unbelievable tragedy, hasn’t longed for a world that is utterly free of this kind of evil and injustice?

But we don’t need to confine ourselves to only looking at school shootings. Many other things in the world show us that something is wrong. We put locks—and, sometimes, alarms—on our houses, our cars, our offices, our schools, and our stores for a reason. We hire police officers and security guards, because we think that we need them. We take to the streets to protest injustice, because even the very authorities that we look to for protection oftentimes fail us. We buy and carry guns, because we want to protect what we have and don’t trust others to do it for us. Something is wrong with the world in which we live, and that much should be overwhelmingly obvious to us all.

But it doesn’t take much self-reflection to realize that whatever is wrong with the world is also within each of us. No one has ever had to teach anyone to lie or to steal or to be selfish. Those things seem to come naturally for every human being. We all know that the testimony of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25 applies to us as well. We recognize that there is a battle going on inside of us between the things that we should do and the things that we actually find ourselves doing. We are all aware that we fall short in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We don’t always think the right things; we don’t always say the right things; and we certainly don’t always do the right things. And this isn’t just a problem “out there” in the world at large. It’s a problem “in here” within each of our hearts as well. Something within every man, woman, and child is not right. It doesn’t take a lot of soul-searching to see that. But I’m not so sure that every man, woman, and child would be able to put their finger on exactly what it is that isn’t right either within themselves or within the world.

The Bible teaches that the problem with the world and with every person living in it is something called sin. According to the Bible, sin has separated us from God and from one another. It has set us at enmity with God, with ourselves, and with everyone else around us. Sin has infected our hearts, our minds, and our wills such that every aspect of our human psychology is affected. We can’t think sinlessly. We can’t desire sinlessly. And we can’t speak and act sinlessly. The Bible says that even our best deeds are tainted with sin (see Isa. 64:6).

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