What Is Sin?

The apostle John wrote: “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” ( I John 3:4).  The apostle directs us to the law of God, not man-made rules and traditions, and teaches that whoever fails to do what God commands or does what God forbids is guilty of sin.

But what does God say in his law?  What does he command?  What does he forbid?  We might look at a list such as: honor your father and mother, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony … the Bible, of course, does this in the 10 Commandments.

Jesus, however, summed up God’s law this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart … and … love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37f.).  Jesus’ reminder that God demands love reminds us that God’s law deals not just with outward actions like murder, adultery or stealing, but also condemns as sinful matters of the heart like hatred, lust and greed.

If even impure desires and unclean thoughts are sinful in God’s eyes, it’s no wonder that the apostle Paul heaps up all people on one big pile and says: “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22,23).  Paul means that there is no one who has ever achieved the perfection God demands inside and out, and so no one can expect God on the day he judges all people to say: “Way to go, you did everything I required you to do and you did it perfectly.”  Instead, we can only expect to hear God say: “Depart from me you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).  For the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

So far the news about sin is only bad.  But there is good news for sinners.  The good news is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15).  God knew we couldn’t save ourselves by living a sinless life—so he sent his Son to do that for us and credits his obedience to us (Romans 5:19).  And because God in his love didn’t want us die eternally in hell for our sins, he sent Jesus to die for us on the cross and suffer the punishment for sin we deserved.  When God raised Jesus from the dead, he proclaimed that his work was complete and our sins were forgiven.

What wonderful news for people who know their sins and the punishment they deserve for their sins to have the Bible point us to Jesus and hear the Bible say: “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life!” (John 3:16).

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