What Is Sin?
In my previous article we looked at original sin and what brought sin into this world. The reason for writing this series on sin is to bring awareness to the sin that is around us every day. Many people turn a blind eye to the sins of this world and it is sending our society into a downward spiral. We, as Christians, need to be willing to point out these sins and, putting on the full armor of God, go to battle against the evil of this world. In this article, the second of this series, we are going to take a look at what sin actually is and how we can fall victim to it. Though this article can be read on its own, I do suggest reading the first article. The articles in this series are as follows:
Cain and Abel
In order to help us understand what sin is, we need to look at the first place that sin is actually mentioned in the Bible. I know what you are thinking, ‘Adam and Eve committed the first sin.’ Though that is correct, it was never labeled as sin. Just like how the serpent was never labeled anything other than a serpent, Adam and Eve’s original sin wasn’t labeled a sin according to the Bible. We call it “original sin” because of the definition of sin. Sin is the result of breaking a divine law. I discussed this in the first article so I won’t go any further into detail here. It may seem contradicting when I say that the original sin wasn’t labeled a sin in the Bible, even though it is, but then say that the serpent wasn’t the devil when he had satanic qualities. I admit that an argument can be made for the serpent being the devil, but once you understand what sin actually is, you will have a better understanding of my stance and see that it isn’t as contradicting as you may originally think. Stick with me and I will explain. In Genesis 4:1-7 (ESV) we read:
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.””
As you see in verse 7, this is the first time sin is actually called sin, and what does God say? That “sin is crouching at the door.” To add imagery to this, imagine a lioness or even a house cat that lies low on its belly waiting to attack its prey. It will lie there, crouched down and motionless, just waiting for the perfect time to pounce. This is what sin is like. It is constantly around us, waiting for us to make a mistake so it can move in and cause further separation from God. When we let our guards down and allow sinful thoughts enter into our minds, then that sin will wiggle its way in and try to make us act on those thoughts. When we have those thoughts it creates a slight gap in our relationship with God, and that is what sin is looking for. That is sin’s cue to pounce. This is what happened to Cain. He felt that his offering to God wasn’t as good as Abel’s and thought that the only solution was to kill his brother. He had the thought and then sin moved in and caused Cain to act out his thoughts. Why couldn’t Cain see any other option, because sin was able to blind him of the truth. This is how sin works, but notice I keep calling it sin and not the devil. I’m not saying there is no devil because there is plenty of biblical evidence that there is an evil one in this world. If you read my previous article, then you see the devil working against Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11. The evil one is also mentioned in the “Lord’s Prayer.” I’m going to save most of my views on the devil for the last article of this series, but I mention him now to show that sin and the devil are two different things. Sin results from the actions we take where the devil is a spiritual being. The devil may be the mastermind behind your temptation for sin, but your personal acts of rebellion against God is the actual sin.
There is more to this story than just sin crouching at the door. If we continue to the last sentence in verse 7 we see God say, “Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” What does this mean? Well, to understand this then we need to go back to Genesis 3:16 which states, “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”” Notice that the last line of Genesis 3:16 is almost identical to the last line of Genesis 4:7. In Genesis 3:16 God is giving Eve, and all women, her punishment for that original sin. The wording may be a bit intimidating, but the point is that God gave women the desire to be independent. This is very evident in our nation's recent past with the women’s rights movement, which continues today. When we look at those events through a biblical lens then a woman’s desire for equality makes perfect sense. God gave women that desire, but despite all the efforts by women, this is still a male dominated society. I know that may seem controversial, but it is true. I feel like I need to clarify that I am not against equal rights for women. I have zero issues with that agenda. I’m just trying to clarify the meaning behind this text and how it relates to Genesis 4:7. The connection is that sin has that same desire for independence. Sin wants to act freely in our lives, but God has given us the power to “rule over it.” Though sin is constantly crouching all around us and waiting to pounce, it can’t do anything unless we let it. We have to open that door in order for sin to act in our lives.
What is sin?
Now that we have a better understanding of what sin is and isn’t, let’s look at how the Bible defines sin. We can see this in Mark 7:15, 21-23 which reads, “15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”... 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”” Again, notice that Jesus didn’t mention that it is the devil that causes these things, but our own personal acts and desires. The thoughts of doing these sorts of things are what open that door to allow sin to blind us of right and wrong and carry out these sinful acts. Another example of sinful acts can be found in Colossians 3:5-8 which reads, “5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” This entire passage is full of things that echo what Jesus said in Mark, but one word that I would like to discuss is idolatry.
Idolatry is often overlooked in our modern day society because we don’t have things like asher poles, golden calfs or other such pagan symbols that we go to in order to worship some god besides our God. However, an idol is anything that can be worshiped like a god or, in other words, anything that causes separation between you and God. In my opinion, there are more idols in today’s society than there ever was before Jesus. What I mean by this is that if you place your desire to look at Facebook, twitter or any other social media platform before God, then it is an idol. If you choose to binge watch your favorite television show instead of spending time in the Word, then it is an idol. If you worry more about what the world thinks about you instead of what God thinks about you, then your personal image is an idol. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. Putting these idols before God will also create that separation that allows sin into your life. So, along with all the other things mentioned in the previous scriptures, modern day idolatry will have the same effect.
David and Bathsheba
Many of you probably know the story of David and Bathsheba, but I want to use this story to show how sin can blind you from seeing the truth. I will give you an overview of the story since it covers a couple chapters (2 Samuel 11 and 12). David, who became king over Israel after Saul, was a good, God fearing man. His overall story was one of devotion to God. However, there was a brief time during his rule that he became blinded with sin. When the time came for his army to go back to war, he didn’t go with his army. Instead he chose to stay back at the kingdom. One night, while walking on his rooftop, he saw Bathsheba bathing and became lustful for her. He sent people to get her and he slept with her, fully aware that she was married. She became pregnant and instead of admitting what happened, he called for her husband, Uriah, to come home from the war. When Uriah got back, he went to David as ordered. David tried multiple times to trick Uriah into sleeping with Bathsheba so everybody would think that the child was Uriah’s instead of David’s. These tricks didn’t work, so David then sent Uriah back to the fighting with a sealed letter that ended up being orders for Uriah’s death via their enemies. After all this happened, a prophet by the name of Samuel rebukes David on behalf of God. It wasn’t until Samuel pointed out David’s sin that he realized what he had done and the sins that he committed against Bathsheba and Uriah.
David was blinded by that first sin of lust, and it carried over into deceit, lies and murder. David saw Bathsheba and allowed sinful thoughts to enter into his mind. That opened the door and allowed that crouching sin to pounce on him. For reasons unknown to us, he never consulted the prophet Samuel or even prayed to God for guidance. Instead, much like in the story of Cain and Abel, that sin convinced David that his only option was to trick Uriah into sleeping with his wife. When that didn’t work, sin once again blocked him from seeing the big picture and convinced him that the next best option was to have him killed. And even after that, sin was still clouding his mind so that he couldn’t see the truth of what he did. It wasn’t until someone came in and pointed out his sin that his vision cleared. The realization that sin had a hold of him instantly put sin back outside the door and David repented to God for his sinful behavior. It wasn’t the devil that caused David to sin, but his own personal desires. Like we discussed in Mark 7 and Colossians 3 above, those sinful desires came from David’s heart. They came from within, not an external spiritual being. This is what sin is and how we can fall victim to its evil ways, but there are ways to combat against sin.
The Opposite of Sin
If you read further down into Colossians from where we were earlier, then you will find guidance on how to protect yourself from sinful behaviors. We see this in Colossians 3:12-17 which reads,
“12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Another great biblical text that goes right along with this is in Galatians 5:22-23 which reads, “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” If we can manage to build up all of these qualities, not only in ourselves but in others as well, then we will have the tools needed to stand against sin. All of these qualities are in each one of us. We just need to be willing to go against the evil that is abundant in this world. If we unite together as one Christian body, then all things are possible through Christ.