Sin, what is it and what does it mean for us? Don’t worry; this is no diatribe against any particular group as you will see as we progress in our consideration dear reader. But sin is an important subject, one which is uncomfortable for most for good reason. Yet it is one every one who wants to be a footstep follower of the Master, Jesus Christ, must bring themselves face to face with because accepting the facts concerning it is the first step down the road to the prize of immortal and eternal life.
I count six nouns which Unger and White’s Hebrew section in my Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words Tells me are translated as sin at least part of the time. Instead of trying to cover each and every one, some are more often translated other things such as “sin offering,” I will hit the ones most used for the concept and what they tell us since that will allow me to keep things within the limitations of space I try to keep to.
‘Awen (H205) carries the thought of “iniquity, vanity and sorrow” (all definitions for the Hebrew will be taken from Unger and White). Unger also states that the word “’awen means the absence of all that has true worth; hence, it would denote ‘moral worthlessness’ as in actions of wrongdoing, evil devising, or false speaking.” So what we see here is how God views the actions of mankind. This word is used at Psalms 90:10 to indicate the futility of all our efforts to prolong our lives as our sinful natures bring our downfall into death anyway.
‘Asham (H817), means “sin; guilt; guilt offering; trespass; trespass offering.” This word highlights two aspects of sin, that of trespassing and the guilt thereof. What is it we trespass? The answer is obvious, God’s righteous standards and laws. While Gentile Christians aren’t under the Law of Moses, they are under another law, that given to Noah as part of God’s covenant with mankind in consideration of his promise never to bring a flood again. Its requirements were articulated for us by the Council in Jerusalem in the first century at Acts 15:23-29. But even were we to keep that covenant as per written for us we still fall short of God’s perfect standards, but more on that later. So we are still trespassers and guilty before God.
‘Awon (5771) has the idea of being twisted or perverted in life. Who can doubt that in this modern world it is nearly impossible not to live a life which is perverted in some way? Most of the entertainment marketed to us through TV, books, music, magazine and other means is every bit as twisted as ancient Rome. And throughout history such things have tended towards the lowest common denominator.
We think the sexual revolution of the sixties and the resulting immorality is something all that new. Look around the world in all times at what was called “art" and even enters the hallowed confines Churches and temples and it’s easy to see our times aren’t really unique. Read the records of punishment in the Colonies, or even Europe and other places of women being sentenced to public flogging for having children out of wedlock or being caught in adultery and about the only thing striking about our day is the availability of effective contraceptives to hide the conduct and the lack of penalties. So our times are not so unique in people leading sinful and twisted lives on one level or another.
Chatta’t (H2403) is the last of the ones I will consider from the Old Testament Hebrew. “The basic nuance of this word is ‘sin’ conceived as missing the road or mark.” This will be important later on. But this is another aspect of sin and why in the absence of a law code all are still guilt of sin. God’s Standards are high and such that imperfect people just can measure up or hit the mark. So no matter how good we try to live our lives we still “miss the mark,” or sin and fail. This is probably the most important aspect of sin to understand and keep in mind.
In the New Testament the Basic word for “sin” is hamartia (G266) and this is the word around which all other words in the NT for "sin" are built. It is the Koine Greek equivalent of chatta’t and means to miss the mark as well. This is the concept around which the New Testament writers built their theology. The whole idea is the truth that no matter how stringent and intense our efforts to live up to God’s perfect standard, or law, we just cannot make it and we need help.
Probably the best illustration of this I’ve ever seen is in the street ministry of both Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. They go out on the streets and pick those who will talk to them and using the Ten Commandments and some of Jesus’ teachings which touch on them they question those people, many of whom consider themselves to live righteous lives and they demonstrate just how far they “miss the mark,” and sin. If you don’t have an idea what I’m talking about just go here and watch the movie 180, where you’ll get to see Ray comfort in action. It’s worth your half-hour.
Paul wrote his letter to the Romans as an exposition on basic Christian truth. He opens up his letter describing the condition of man, how fallen and twisted in life most have fallen. It reads like today and what he had to say in the first chapter is often quoted by many to condemn one sin in particular, homosexuality. But he was speaking of much, much more. In the second chapter he expounds on the fairness of the judgment on God’s part. But we want to take particular note of chapter five.
In Romans Chapter five Paul brings home the point that all of us sin, all are lost. He does this by explaining to his readers that we all sin because of the act of our father, Adam, in taking the fruit and sinning against God through his disobedience. Thus, through his sin we all are dying because we sin (vs. 12, 14, 18, 19 and 21). It can be stated no more plainly than this:
“So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” (Rom 5:18-19; ASV)
That, my dear readers, is the state we all find ourselves in. The bottom line is that all of us are sinners. Not the greedy, or homosexuals, or robbers, or fornicators, whores, people in the church pews, the synagogues, the mosques or whatever else we can think of. ALL of us are sinners and all deserving of nothing but death without help. There are no exceptions. I wrote earlier that this is an uncomfortable topic. But as you ponder that, dear reader, do know there is hope. It is mentioned in the verses I quoted for you. That is what I hope to start on next.