What is Sin?

Most Christians consciously or unconsciously lean heavily on the catechism’s definition of sin: “Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” By the law of God the catechism means the Ten Commandments. We know that we are free from the law viz. the Ten Commandments since we in Christ died to its ordinances and requirements. Having such knowledge we cannot longer attach sin to our failures to keep the commandments. This further connotes that we have to abstain from referring to sin in association with conduct and behavior. If we are to deal correctly with the question of sin in the context of the new dispensation our starting-point must be Paul’s definition: Everything which is not of faith is sin.

Effectively Paul has redefined sin in accordance with the new paradigm. The law of God then is transferred to mean “the truth of God in Jesus” From a straight forward legally definition we have moved unto a Christologically definition of sin which is more in harmony with Paul’s words. A pressing question now arises: What is the truth of God in Jesus? He is the Father’s son who anointed by the Holy Spirit became man to reconcile every man to God. In, through and by Him all things were created and are sustained. In Him the entire creation and everything not created viz. the Father and the Spirit are bound together in relationship. Every man is embraced by God in Him and included in the Triune fellowship through Him. Hence sin is a want of conformity unto or transgression to this glorious truth of God in Jesus.

Paul’s definition very distinctly captures what took place in the Garden of Eden. As one of God’s creatures man was given a prominent place in the creation because in man God saw Himself as in a mirror. Our Father granted us abundant provision and we were included in a relationship which trademark was joy, fellowship and adoration. In the midst of this abundance of every good thing man was deceived into believing that he would do better on his own. Sin is thus “to ignore and refuse to believe that we are included in Jesus’ own relationship with his Father. Then in our darkness we invent our own way of relationship, and then impose them on Jesus and his Father, the Holy Spirit and everyone else in the universe. Essentially sin is insisting that Jesus is wrong and that he needs to repent and believe in us. Sin is insisting that Jesus change his view of his Father, change his view of his relationship with us and with all creation, and come believe in us, and join us in our terrible confusion.” (C Baxter Kruger)

It is in this context that John’s words convey comfort and a clear and distinct meaning to every believer: “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” (1 John 3:6) and “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” (1 John 5:18) Why? Because the believer has embraced the truth of God in Jesus!

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11 Responses to What is Sin?

  1. Moriah says:

    Ole, you mention these verses:
    “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” (1 John 3:6)
    and
    “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” (1 John 5:18)

    I think the “debate” around the subject of these verses tends to revolve around whether this means (A) as we abide in Christ, because the definition of sin has shifted to “whatsoever is not of faith”, whatever specific ACT we might do which was once considered sin under the law, is no longer so, because it is part of our freedom in Him; or (B) IF we are REALLY abiding in Him, we won’t be doing anything which the law would consider sin (hence if we do, it “proves” we are “not abiding” in Him).

    So Ole, which way do you interpret this matter? (A), or (B)? Or something else altogether (and if so, what)? And could you elaborate on your justification for that interpretation?

  2. Ole Henrik says:

    Every if in the scripture is fulfilled by our own word of faith. Neither Paul nor John could say that word of faith for us. Hence, I abide in Christ by faith. That’s an extension of rest. If we make abiding into self-effort then we are deceived again.

    • Moriah says:

      I agree … just wanted to hear your thoughts on the matter. I was programmed via religion to adhere to (B) … and I’m transitioning in my thinking into the beautiful freedom of the rest inherent in (A). 😉

  3. Hi Ole, your article and comment remind me of several things, first an old saying of a friend who said, “The world doesn’t have a sin problem any more, just a Jesus problem.”

    Then too, your comment reminds me of the time when I asked Norman why the book of 1 John has so many ifs in it.” He quickly replied in his wry way, “They’re in there so that you can take them out!” Silenced me.

    Then too on the definition of sin, Fred wrote a letter probably 25 years ago in which he drew upon three scriptures to define sin. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17): “for whatsover is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23): “sin is transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).

    I’ve always liked and remembered Fred’s letter for its simple clarity, and he wrote it at a time when there was a swirl about what is sin and what is not; and I’m not bringing up his letter to contradict anything, just to say that it has stuck with me.

    I think John gave such a terse law-sounding definition because of those who didn’t know the difference between not being under the law on the one hand, and lawlessness on the other hand.

    Anyway, your brought up a lot of great points and memories.

    • Ole Henrik says:

      Glad my article had that effect on you. Sometimes reminiscing is good thing, notably when it brings to the surface cherished memories. I have no illusions that my article is perfect. I merely see in parts. I hope, though, that the article can help people say goodbye to a burdensome sin-consciousness.

  4. I’ve been mulling the idea of the perfect article. Of course you and I know that perfection is the Spirit. As a schoolteacher I grade papers all the time, and I think you are a teacher too if I remember correctly. The thing with English themes is that they have a subjective element and an objective element. Often I read a student’s paper, and it is not “perfect” in the objective sense, but it perfectly makes me think in new and interesting ways. Actually, the paper will do worlds more for me than one that is “perfect” in the conventional schoolish sense.

    The idea of perfect that edifies me is the one that communicates not necessarily in format or in survey of all notions on a subject; it is one that hits the perfect note in the moment for a perfect purpose. This is why I don’t bother myself to try and cover every point and thought about topics. How preemptively dull. It’s the gaps that make the riddles, and the riddles draw out the deep sap. That to me is perfection.

  5. Vitum Novus says:

    Hello All- sure enjoyed reading this. As I read this, I thought to myself, “how do I relate to this sin issue, and, how does sin relate to me?” It made me look at my identity: “who AM I, and what is my legal position in this matter?
    I concluded this: sin has nothing in Christ, and, Christ lives in me; I live by faith in Him- He is mine and I am His. When I was baptised with Christ, I died to sin, and am now raised with Him as a new creation, justified and sanctified. Sin, that is, Mr.Sin, has nothing on me. When The Deceiver comes around and shows me the old grave clothes, I merely remind the old serpent, ” Be gone, devil- that’s not who I AM-I am now clothed in RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

    Eventually, we get to KNOW our new identity, accept it, and get on with living as sons of The Most High, for, “There is NOW no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus…”AMEN and thank You Lord.

  6. Ole Henrik says:

    Wonderful, Vitus! Thanks for your awesome comment!!!

  7. Tony says:

    Okay this one just blew my mind. I have never seen the scriptures from 1John in this way. I’ll be thinking about it for a few days. Great article Ole.

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