Section 4 .. The Heart Of The Matter/Sin


003white  Index To   The Heart of The Matter ...  Sin,  Repentance, Salvation, Born Again Etc.


What Is Sin?

Carol Brooks

The problem is that people consider themselves good people by the generally accepted ideas as to what constitutes acceptable behavior. Their lives may appear to be fairly respectable by the world's standards, but fall very, very short when it comes to the benchmark set by the Bible.

In light of the fact that the verdict is already in... because of your sins, YOU have been condemned to death, far more surely than any person sitting on death row in a federal penitentiary, perhaps it is wise not to trust in your own ideas of what constitutes sin, but find just how God defines sin.


The Concept of Sin in The Modern World

Why It is Imperative To Know How The Bible Defines Sin

Greater and Lesser Sins?

 Were Mistakes or Unintentional Transgressions Overlooked?

The Old Testament
The Old Testament - The Hebrew Words for Different Types of Sin

Cht - Missing The Mark

Rm - Presumptuous, Intentional, or Deliberate Sin

 The New Testament
Missing The Mark... Unintentional Sin In the New Testament

What Mark?

The Letter Vs. The Spirit of The Law.

Sins of Omission

The Consequences of Sin

Imagining A World Without Sin

A Severe Warning - Hebrews 10:26-31

So Why Do We Sin?

To Summarize

The Concept of Sin
From the beginning of time until the present day, virtually every ethnic group in the world has had their own unique set of beliefs that help them cope with the issues of life and death.

More often than not, they have also practiced some form of appeasement of the gods. These acts of conciliation have taken many forms including, food or flower offerings, personal penance, animal sacrifices etc. The most gruesome involved the ritual human sacrifices of the Aztec, Mayan and Incan civilizations and the child sacrifices of the ancient Canaanites. Even the worst of the Roman emperors felt the need to propitiate the gods.

In other words, humans often instinctively sensed that they were accountable to a "higher being". Either they felt that had not done what that being required or expected of them and the offering was 'fire insurance' or they had a request to make.

In the 21st century

Even in the 21st century, most people's consciences usually tells them that there is a "right" and a "wrong". An inbuilt check, often more powerful than the fear of being caught, can prevent us from doing something inappropriate, improper, or even illegal. We are instinctively aware of an invisible benchmark.

Yet, the word "sin" is becoming increasingly obsolete - its definition increasing vague.

To some people the very concept of "sin" seems rather quaint - remnants of simplistic and naive religious beliefs. On the other hand, many of us downplay any sense of personal responsibility because we tend to consider ourselves (and others) victims of social or biological forces,  As said by Wayne Jackson of Christian Courier,

    Some will suggest that the idea of sin is an arrogant imposition of "religion" an invention of the priest craft and clergy for the purpose of exercising control over the masses. Others will pontificate that "sin" is simply an ignorant appellation for those cultural and psychological aberrations which plague our society. [01]

Even those that believe in a higher power tend to have extremely diverse opinions regarding sin and its consequences. Considering the place of honour the Ten Commandments often occupy on the walls of our courtrooms, school rooms, and churches, I suspect the vast majority of people, Christians and non-Christians alike, believe that these are basic rules by which all of us are to live. But is this true? Are these the rules by which present-day Christians are supposed to live their lives? Since this is a subject too detailed to cover here, See Jesus and The Law

Other very popular beliefs include

    A "Loving" God: If there happens to be a God against whom we sin, He is too "loving" to actually hold our 'mistakes' against us, much less punish us for them.

    The Golden Rule: Others say that they try to live their lives by the Ten Commandments, or some form of the Golden Rule, which premise is simple - we treat others exactly as we ourselves would wish to be treated in the same situation.

    Not That Bad: If pressed, possibly the majority of people in the western world would place themselves in the 'not perfect' category, but a far cry from 'sinners', or really bad people, usually defined as the serial killers, rapists and child molesters of the world.

    Santa Claus: One of the more common beliefs is that, when we die, our good deeds and our bad deeds will be weighed on a pair of divine scales to determine whether we will spend eternity balancing on a fluffy cloud and strumming a harp, or in a blistering cauldron being constantly poked by a guy in a red suit and horns. This almost universal 'Santa Claus' mentality of rewards for those who's good deeds outweigh the bad, and punishment for those for whom the opposite is true, must mean God is quite busy keeping everyone's record up to date, carefully making tick marks in either the credit or debit column of everyone's ledger of life.

Additionally, the modern world has it's own definition of what constitutes sin that, needless to say, is going to vary from person to person. According to a survey conducted by Ellison Research in Phoenix, adultery (81%) and racism (74%) top the list of what people consider sins. However, only 45% call premarital sex a sin, while 30% say gambling is sinful. [02]

The problem is that none of these views come anywhere near agreeing with the Biblical definition of sin, judgment, or even heaven and hell - God and His word are no longer the yardstick by which sin is determined and measured. We tend to view sin not as God views it, but according to our own belief system. As said by Albert Mohler

    Even some people who say sin is real still steer by a compass of "moral pragmatics," not a bright line of absolute truth, Mohler says. "People say, I have high moral expectations of myself and others, but I know we are all human so I'm looking for a batting average.

    We find a comfort zone of morality, a kind of middle-class middle level where we think we are doing well. We cut the grass. We don't double-park. But we ignore the larger issues of sin.

    Instead of violating the law of the Creator, it becomes more a matter of etiquette. We want our kids to play well in the sandbox and know their place in line. We want people to do things decently and in order... [03]

This is simply because few know, or understand...

Why It Is So Important To Understand How The Bible Defines Sin
The subjects of sin and salvation are the warp and weft of very the fabric the Bible is woven out of and crucially important to every one of us. As the prophet Isaiah told us..

    "... your iniquities have separated you and your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2).

If you do not know or understand how the Bible defines sin, then you have absolutely no idea what it is that separates you from God, and why He will not hear you.

Also, as the following statement shows, the penalty for sin is permanent

    "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

However, understanding God's view of sin means having at least an overall knowledge of Old Testament law and what the consequences were when a person disobeyed them.

Greater and Lesser Sins?
It is without doubt that the Old Testament drew a distinction between sins committed mistakenly or inadvertently, those that occurred because of moral weakness, and those that were committed willfully or "with a high hand".

Although, all sin merits the death penalty and requires the blood of Christ for expiation, God's Word reveals that some sins are indeed worse than others. The more serious ones brought stiffer penalties and greater condemnation to the perpetrator. For example, the penalty for stealing and selling (or killing) livestock was restoration, with considerable interest. On the other hand, the punishment for abducting and selling another human was death.

    He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:16 NASB)

    If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.  (Exodus 22:1 NASB)

Jesus' words to Pilate during His trial also confirmed that there are greater and lesser sins.

    Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:11 NASB)

Sheggh - Unintentional Transgressions 

Many believe that if a sin is committed unintentionally, the perpetrator was innocent in God's eyes. However, the Bible makes it very clear that no one was acquitted by virtue of ignorance - even unintentional sins had to be atoned for by a blood sacrifice. In Ezekiel 34:6 sheggh gives us a sense of going astray without meaning to.

    "My flock wandered (Heb. sheggh) through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them."'" (Ezekiel 34:6 NASB)

If someone, through ignorance or perhaps a misunderstanding of the law, did what God had forbidden, or left undone what God had commanded, he could not use ignorance as an excuse and go about his daily business as if nothing had happened. Much to the contrary, as soon as the transgression or omission came to the person's attention, he or she was to offer certain sacrifices - 

    A one year old she-goat for the inadvertent sins of an individual. (Leviticus 4:27-29

    A male goat without defect for the inadvertent sins of one of the leaders (Leviticus 4:22-24)

    A bullock was offered for the inadvertent sins of the priest or the entire congregation. (Leviticus 4:2-3, 13-14)

 Note that these rules applied both to the children of Israel, and to any stranger that lived in their midst.

    'You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally (Heb. sheggh), for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. (Numbers 15:28-29 NASB).

It also has to be noted that the 35th chapter of the book of Numbers is largely devoted to the question of premeditated murder vs. manslaughter. Six cities were assigned as places of refuge to protect the person who unwittingly killed another, whereas those who committed intentional murder received the death penalty.

    then you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally (Heb. shgh) may flee there.  (Numbers 35:11 NASB)

Unintentional Sin In the New Testament
Jesus knew that the people who sentenced Him to death did not realize who He was - thus were sinning unintentionally. However this did not get them off the hook. As He died on the cross He prayed for his executioners. His words "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34) tells us that they were accountable for their sins and needed to be forgiven.

Similarly, when Peter addressed the people who were amazed at the healing of the lame man who daily sat at the door of the temple, he told them that this miracle had been performed by Jesus whom they had delivered up, and denied before Pilate. Peter then added that when they chose to have the Holy One executed in place of a known criminal, they had acted in ignorance. However they needed to 'Repent and turn, that their sins may be blotted out, and there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:12-19)

The Old Testament - The Hebrew Words for Different Types of Sin

Which brings us to the most commonly used Hebrew words for sin - Cht is usually translated sin, vn - iniquity, pesha - transgression, and rm, which literally means to lift up, is translated exalt, high-handedly etc.

There has to be some difference in the meaning of these words since two or more were sometimes used in the same sentence . For example, in Exodus 34:7, iniquity and transgression and sin are all mentioned as types of sins God will forgive. Notice that rm is missing.

    keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity (Heb. vn), transgression (Heb. pesha) and sin (Heb. chatt'h) ; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity (Heb. vn) of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." (NASB)

Cht - Missing The Mark
The most common word translated 'sin' is the Hebrew cht - it's derivatives, and related words used literally hundreds of times in the Old Testament -  including all the verses above. That the word means to miss - or to fail to achieve a certain result is made clear by two Old Testament verses that have nothing to do with sin. Neither the archers nor Solomon and his mother were guilty of any moral wrong. 

    Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss (Heb. cht ) (Judges 20:16 NASB)

    Otherwise it will come about, as soon as my Lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be considered offenders (Heb. chatt ) (1 Kings 1:21 NASB)

In other words, the word that the Bible uses (far more than any other) to define sin literally means to miss the mark. However, if merely falling short of some mark does not sound very serious to some, then note what happened when the nation of Israel made, then proceeded to worship, a golden calf. The people who 'missed the mark' did not merely suffer having a tick made in the debit side of their ledger - Many of them died and the Lord threatened to altogether blot them out of His book.

    On the next day Moses said to the people, "You yourselves have committed (Heb. cht) a great sin (Heb. chatt'h) ; and now I am going up to the Lord, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin (Heb. chatt'h). "Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, "Alas, this people has committed (Heb. cht) a great sin (Heb. chatt'h), and they have made a god of gold for themselves. "But now, if You will, forgive their sin Heb. chatt'h) --and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!" The Lord said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned (Heb. cht) against Me, I will blot him out of My book. (Exodus 32:30-33 NASB)

However, on Moses' appeal, the Lord did not immediately inflict any further punishments, but instructed Moses to

    "... go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin." (Exodus 32:34 NASB)

Leviticus 26 lists the formidable punishments that the Lord would bring upon the people who, among other things, indulged in idol worship.

vn and pesha: Although there are opinions galore on the subject, whenever vn and pesha are used, I do not find that the context necessarily enlightens us as to the exact meaning.

Rm - Presumptuous, Intentional, or Deliberate Sin
Rm literally or figuratively means to raise or exalt. For example, rm is used to describe Noah's ark being lifted up (Genesis 7:17) an Isaiah seeing the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted (Isaiah 6:1). It also applied in the sense of someone lifting themselves up' in pride and self magnification. To sin with a high hand - with an unwarranted and  impertinent boldness..

    But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise (Heb. rm) my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north". (Isaiah 14:13 NASB)

    Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt (Heb. rm) and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.  (Daniel 11:36 NASB)

However, regardless of the exact meaning of every word in the Old Testament translated sin, the one thing we dare not forget is that deliberate acts of transgression were seen as "despising" the word of the Lord, and breaking His direct commandments. When a serious intentional or presumptuous sin had been committed death, not sacrifice, was often the punishment.

    'But the person who does anything defiantly (Heb. rm), whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 'Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.'" (Numbers 15:30-31 NASB)

Pay attention to the words of the prophet Micah

    Woe to those who scheme iniquity, Who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, For it is in the power of their hands. They covet fields and then seize them, And houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, A man and his inheritance. Therefore thus says the Lord, "Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; And you will not walk haughtily (Heb. rmh), For it will be an evil time. (Micah 2:1-3 NASB) Note: rmh is the feminine of rm, a derivative of rm

If you defiantly turned your heart away from the Lord then all the animal sacrifices in the world would do you no good.

The sins that carried the ultimate penalty were quite obviously done intentionally. They included blaspheming the lord, profaning the sabbath, sorcery, idolatry, murder, child sacrifice, adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality etc. See Footnote I for specific verses. Disobedience to priest and judge also carried serious consequences

    The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NASB)

    When Korah and a company of men accused Moses and Aaron of taking too much upon themselves, and challenged their right to the privileges of the priesthood, the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them and their households up, and they "went down alive into Sheol". (Numbers 16)

The leaders were certainly not immune from immediate and serious consequences were they to knowingly disobey the Lord.

    Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, the first High Priest of Israel were, in many respects, very privileged. They however, seriously transgressed against the Lord which resulted in instant death. (Leviticus 10:1-2) [See The Sons of Aaron]

    King Saul's failure to totally destroy the Amalekites as God had commanded resulted in him losing the kingdom (1 Samuel 15).

    Although Miriam was a prophetess and Aaron the high priest, God's anger was kindled when they spoke out against Moses. Miriam was smitten with leprosy, but later restored through Moses' intercession.

As Russell Kelly writes

    "The judicial punishment of presumptuous sins explains why God did not command a sacrifice when Aaron allowed the golden calves to be made (Ex. 32), when Moses struck the rock (Num. 20), when Achan was caught stealing (Joshua 7), and when David was declared guilty of murder (2 Samuel 12). The guilty persons "bore their own iniquity." (See Numbers 5:31; 30:15; Ezekiel 18:20.)" [04]

The point being that the sacrifices were meant to be offered by those that had realized they had inadvertently sinned, and those that had sinned in weakness, but had since repented. In other words, the regular sin or guilt offerings demonstrated the contrite sinner's desire for forgiveness. On Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, God demonstrated His willingness to deal with sin that had been repented of.

Arrogant sinners, on the other hand, are neither repentant nor do they seek atonement, and God does not forgive them. Exactly the same holds true in ...

The New Testament
When John wrote sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4), he made it very clear that sin is the breaking of God's laws.

Missing The Mark... Unintentional Sin In the New Testament

In the New Testament the word sin has been overwhelmingly translated from the Greek noun hamartia.  The verb form (to sin) is Hamartano defined by Thayers as

    1) to be without a share in, 2) to miss the mark, 3) to err, be mistaken, 4) to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong, 5) to wander from the law of God, violate God's law, sin

All of which makes it reasonably obvious that hamartano is the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew cht.

    Jesus knew that the people who sentenced Him to death did not realize who He was - thus were sinning unintentionally. However this did not get them off the hook. As He died on the cross He prayed for his executioners. His words "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34) tells us that they were accountable for their sins and needed to be forgiven.

    Similarly, when Peter addressed the people who were amazed at the healing of the lame man who daily sat at the door of the temple, he told them that this miracle had been performed by Jesus whom they had delivered up, and denied before Pilate. Peter then added that when they chose to have the Holy One executed in place of a known criminal, they had acted in ignorance. However they needed to 'Repent and turn, that their sins may be blotted out, and there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:12-19)

So if, more often than not, sin means missing the mark in both the Old and New Testaments, the obvious question is what this unseen mark is that we seem not to be able to hit?

What Mark?
The problem is that people usually judge themselves by standards that are either self-imposed/set by other people. Their lives may appear to be fairly respectable by the world's standards, but fall very very short when it comes to the benchmark set by the Bible. Paul used hamartano when he emphasized that the "mark" or target that the Scriptures refer to is the perfection of God Himself. In other words, God does not live by some standard of holiness, He IS the standard of holiness.

    for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  (Romans 3:23 NASB)

Anything short of that absolute standard of good is 'missing the mark'. We might be satisfied with "goodness", but God is not. He demands perfection. And, for the record, other than Jesus Christ, no man has ever measured up to this standard.

To make matters worse, the apostle James reminded his readers that "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all" (James 2:10). In other words, if a person breaks just one of God's laws, he or she is, in effect, guilty of the whole lot, which makes the goal of keeping the law completely unachievable.

So the very obvious question that arises is why God gave man so many laws if they are impossible to keep? The answer is simple. The law was not given because God knew that it could be perfectly adhered to, but....

    a) Unless there are clearly defined boundaries or standards, no one can possibly know that they have crossed over the line. In other words there has to be a law before someone can know they have broken it.

    b) The law effectively put paid to man's cherished belief that he himself can do enough to merit salvation. Nothing but a clear demonstration of man's total inability to achieve the standard set by God could cause him to realize that without a savior, he was doomed.

The Letter Vs. The Spirit of The Law.
Besides which, it is actually far more difficult now than it was in the Old Testament. During His time on earth Jesus made it very clear that sin includes not only our physical actions, but our thoughts and attitudes.

In the New Testament, Jesus openly confronted the religious leaders (the scribes and Pharisees), who did a great job at keeping the letter of the Law. They not only kept the law, but introduced hundreds of rules and prohibitions of their own, which were their interpretation of God's law. These religious leaders were considered to be the epitome of righteousness and piety, thus it must have shocked many people when Jesus told them that their righteousness had to surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).

How so?

Jesus clearly showed us that behind every Mosaic command lies a principle that transcends time and culture, and is therefore applicable to all God's people, regardless of when or where they live. Although it is the principle or the spirit of the law that God wishes us to live by, it was the very thing that the Scribes and Pharisees ignored.

Four example, Jesus drew attention to the law's underlying principle in Matthew 5. In verses 21-26, Jesus expanded the meaning of the sixth commandment thou shall not kill" (Exodus 20:13) telling us that even whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. (Note that thou shall not kill is better translated You shall do no murder) Prior to this, unjustified negative feeling towards another human being was acceptable, as long as one did not actually commit murder. However since murder, like all sin, begins in the human mind, Jesus was addressing the adverse emotion behind the deed and calling it wrong.

    Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15 NASB)

Since the Old Testament laws only forbade the actual act of adultery, the spirit of the law was ignored, and lusting would not have been considered a violation of the law. However Jesus, once again getting to the heart of the matter, said that even looking at a woman with desire constituted adultery (Vs. 27-30). It is one thing never to commit adultery, but quite another to control lust in the heart and mind.

Similarly, beginning in verse 43, Jesus instructed his listeners to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, repudiating the commonly held belief that hating one's enemies was acceptable. [See Deuteronomy 23:3-6]

These examples, encompassing even our thoughts toward others, served to show the intent of the law extended far beyond the exact wording. Perfect obedience to the law took place in thought, word, and deed. See Jesus and The Law.

This fundamental shift in theology was first introduced in Matthew 4:17, which says "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". Repent, translated from the Greek metanoia, means a complete change of mind and emphasizes the idea of a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God. See Repentance ...The Missing Message

And there is more...

Sins of Omission

The Scriptures tell us that we can not only sin by the things we do, but also by the things that we do not do. As James 4:17 says

     Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (NASB)

In other words, we also miss the mark if we neglect to do some good that we are aware that we should be doing. In Matthew 25, Jesus elaborated on this principle:

    (31) "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  (32)  "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; (33) and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. (34) "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (35) 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  (36)  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 

    (37) "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? (38) 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  (39)  'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'  (40)  "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

    (41) "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;  (42)  for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;  (43)  I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 

    (44) "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' (45) "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' (46) "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

The Consequences of Sin
The Bible's definition of sin is very clearly established. But the consequences of sin have not really changed since Old Testament days - you sin... you die! The only difference is that justice is not immediate like it used to be. Nonetheless it is certain.

    For the wages of sin is death (Gk. thanatos) , but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NASB)

Please note that the second verse above, the word thanatos means a literal death. In other words, the wages of sin is death, not eternal life in hell. For more see Those Overlooked Greek Words

In other words ALL sin carries the death penalty. Life, both symbolically and physically, is in the blood. Therefore the penalty for sin is the shedding of blood - yours. Blood, in the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, was a vivid reminder that God demanded death as a punishment for every wrongdoing [Leviticus 17:11]. The animal functioned as a substitute for the offender, and bore the punishment of the person who had sinned.

So are all of us destined to pay the very heavy price for our sin? The answer to that question is a resounding no! God in His infinite mercy sent His Son to pay the price for us. Because Jesus' death on the cross was sufficient to cover all sin, the animal sacrifices have long been done away with, replaced by the one perfect sacrifice that pays for the sins of all men everywhere.  As the ancient prophet wrote

    But He was pierced through for our transgressions (Heb. pesha), He was crushed for our iniquities (Heb. vn); The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:5 NASB)

Unfortunately, this and other verses like John 1:29; Romans 5:18 have been taken to mean that Christ's death on the cross provides atonement for sin and redemption for all humanity. This regardless of whether they have repented of their sins, trusted in Christ for salvation etc.

    The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  (John 1:29 NASB)

    So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.  (Romans 5:18 NASB)

  Unfortunately, this belief can be assigned to the wishful thinking category. See Universalism

If you think the Bible seems too harsh when it says that all sin merits hell and a tiny infraction deserves death, You need for a few moments to envision a world without sin, without transgression of God's laws which, by the way, is God's plan for the world ...also called Heaven.

Imagining A World Without Sin
What would it be like to never have to worry about the safety of our children, and never have to lock the doors to our homes, or have locks on cars. A young woman could walk home late in the evening and know she would get there safely. Pornography would not exist. There would have been no Enron and no Watergate. What would it be like if politicians and used car salesmen told nothing but the truth? Children would be raised in the security of two parents who are committed to one another.

While there is little doubt that some crimes arise out of need and desperation, the vast amounts of funds we would save on our police force, judiciary, armed forces and related organizations would ensure that no one would be in want.

Are we getting the picture yet?

Perhaps the Bible has a point after all.

But how can a tiny infraction deserve death? Lets look at it this way... Where does one draw the line between a 'big' sin and a 'small' one? If I as a 'friend' of yours, walked away with a paper clip from your desk you probably would not consider it theft. If you thought about it at all, you would probably conclude that I needed a paper clip for some reason and dismiss it. If I walked away with a ten-dollar bill you probably would consider it theft but may look the other way. However if I took $100 you would probably jump up and down.

So where shall we draw the line between a paper clip and a hundred dollar bill? At a penny? A dime? A nice pen? A fiver?

And how much are you willing to bet that, if asked, ten people would give ten different answers. And how much more would you be willing to bet that (sooner, rather than later) some one will eventually come to the conclusion that the thief is a cultural and psychological victim and should see a psychologist, instead of being punished for the crime.

And, once more, we would be back to square one. Besides which, cultures and people across the globe have different standards. So whose standard shall we judge by?

God made it simple. He set the standard... He said "no sin".

A Severe Warning
Hebrews 10:26-31

    For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "vengeance is mine, I will repay." and again, "the Lord will judge His people." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31 NASB)

In these verses, the author of Hebrews speaks about those who after receiving the knowledge of the truth, shows no change in behavior, instead paying lip service to Christ continues to live as the world lives, adopting it's values and standards.

He warns that the professed believer who knowingly and deliberately keeps on sinning even after they fully understand the way of escape Jesus has provided for them, has "insulted the Spirit of grace". Thus they have no hiding place from God's wrath. Rejecting the escape God provided for them means that all they have to look forward to is a terrifying judgment. If immediate death was the penalty for violating the law of Moses, a severer punishment will befall anyone who tramples the Son of God under foot.

Also See What is Holiness
In the 21st century, the word "Holy" often coveys some very negative connotations. It is often used to describe someone who is self-righteous, smug, sanctimonious, goody-goody, priggish etc. Even to most Christians, the word "holy" implies moral goodness. However, this is only part of the meaning.

And See What and Where is Heaven?
Christians who believe they will spend an eternity in "heaven", seem to have little or no idea where this heaven is, what it will look like, or what they will do there. Either they have fleeting, half formed ideas about some ethereal place 'out there', or resort to pious phrases that amount to little more than spiritual gobbledy gook. If this is the best we can do then it is little wonder that non Christians are not in the slightest bit interested in our "heaven", and Christians themselves so rarely seem to look forward to the coming of the day of God. Luckily the Bible isn't at all silent on where "heaven" is and, even more importantly, what it will be like. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far, far, more practical than that of our theologians.

So Why Do We Sin?
The frustration we all face when confronted with sin, and our own inability to conquer it, was perfectly expressed by Paul, who said...

    For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:17 NASB)

    For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (Romans 7:18-19 NASB)

He also said that his body and mind waged war against each other (Romans 7:22-23), the magnitude of the problem summed up in the next verse

    Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24 NASB)

In simpler words, we may even have the desire to do what is right, but we fail because every Christian has within themselves two natures that are in completely opposition to one another. The old nature, or "old man", as Paul expressed it in Roman 6:6 is the person we used to be before coming to faith in Christ, and before being born again. This old nature conflicts with the Christian who is now a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The believer often finds himself in what literally amounts to a life and death struggle, torn between two opposing choices. The temptation to sin on the one hand, and the desire to do good on the other. Because of this many may wonder how they can possibly handle a lifetime of temptation. Others with a history of failure may despair of ever breaking habits that have dominated them, perhaps for years. However this is one of the reasons that God gave us His Holy Spirit. By the grace of God and the power of His Spirit, we can and do overcome temptation.

Jesus put it this way

    "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41 NASB)

To Summarize...
Since sin is defined as anything that falls short of the perfection of God, we probably sin far more than we ever imagined possible and are thus squarely in the cross hairs of God's justice. This knowledge should be enough to make us realize how much in need of a saviour we are, and lead us to the forgiveness bought for us by Christ's death on the cross.

But we can never forget that repentance and salvation go hand in hand. Tragically, the word repentance is scarcely ever heard in most churches today. Instead the message heard from too many pulpits has been watered down to just 'believe' and you'll be saved. Yet repentance is presented as an absolute requirement for forgiveness in the Old Testament, as well as in the New. Scripture presents Repentance and Faith as two sides of the same coin. In short, you can't believe without truly repenting.

While repentance involves confessing our known sins, we also need to pray for the Spirit's help in bringing to light our unintentional and/or hidden sins (that we may not even realize exist). As king David once prayed ...

    Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalms 139:23-24 NASB)

See Repentance
Do not be fooled by the watered down Gospel message of just believe and be saved, heard in so many churches today. Scripture presents Repentance and Faith not as the same thing, but literally as two sides of the same coin.

   and   Salvation
You can be wrong about a lot of things but if you are wrong about the Gospel of Jesus Christ you are in trouble. A large percentage of the modern church will tell you that in order to receive salvation and life eternal, you merely have to "believe in Jesus Christ" or "receive Christ as your Savior". Unfortunately, although the words come from the Bible, by themselves these instructions are horribly abbreviated. They neither tell you what you are saved from, and what you gain by being "saved". Nor do they accurately convey all that is involved in a person being saved.


 Is The Sinners Prayer Effective?
Our sense of safety can not come from simply saying a prayer. The goal should never be getting someone to pray a prayer, but rather to follow Jesus. When we emphasize deciding for Christ, instead of living for Him, we often get spiritual miscarriages instead of spiritual births.

Original Sin.. Fact or Fable?
Most Christians who profess to believe in the doctrine of original sin are ignorant of exactly what its teachings really are. They are ignorant of the fact that the doctrine has not always existed. They are ignorant of the fact that it evolved, that it had its roots in a heathen philosophy, and that it was made a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century A.D. They are ignorant of the fact that it is only a theory, and that there is really not one but several differing theories that have evolved and come down to us in the church. They are also ignorant of the fact that the Bible passages used as proof-texts for this doctrine have been taken out of context and tortured into teaching a doctrine that is completely foreign to the Bible.


Footnote I

Blaspheming the Lord: Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.  (Leviticus 24:16 NASB)

Profaning The Sabbath: 'Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.  (Exodus 31:14 NASB) Numbers 15:32-36 relates the story of a man who was put to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. See Does Picking Up Sticks Deserve the Death Penalty?

Sorcery: You shall not allow a sorceress to live.  (Exodus 22:18 NASB)

As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. (Leviticus 20:6 NASB)

Idolatry: "He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed. (Exodus 22:20 NASB)

Murder: If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.  (Leviticus 24:17 NASB)

Child Sacrifice: "You shall also say to the sons of Israel: 'Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. 'I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name. (Leviticus 20:2-3 NASB)

Note that the Lord also "cut off" the people who failed to put to death anyone who sacrificed a child to Molech...

If the people of the land, however, should ever disregard that man when he gives any of his offspring to Molech, so as not to put him to death, then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech. (Leviticus 20:4-5 NASB)

Various Forms of Adultery 'If there is a man who commits adultery with another man's wife, one who commits adultery with his friend's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 'If there is a man who lies with his father's wife, he has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death, their bloodguiltiness is upon them. 'If there is a man who lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed incest, their bloodguiltiness is upon them... 'If there is a man who marries a woman and her mother, it is immorality; both he and they shall be burned with fire, so that there will be no immorality in your midst. (Leviticus 20:10-12, 14 NASB)

Homosexuality: If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13 NASB)

Bestiality: Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 22:19 NASB). 'If there is a man who lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death; you shall also kill the animal. 'If there is a woman who approaches any animal to mate with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them. (Leviticus 20:15-16 NASB)

Incest: 'If there is a man who takes his sister, his father's daughter or his mother's daughter, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the sons of their people. He has uncovered his sister's nakedness; he bears his guilt. (Leviticus 20:17 NASB

End Notes
[01] Wayne Jackson. Christian Courier. A Realistic Look at Sin. http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/458-a-realistic-look-at-sin

[02] Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today. Has the 'notion of sin' been lost?

[03] Albert Mohler. Has the Notion of Sin Disappeared? http://www.albertmohler.com/2008/03/25/has-the-notion-of-sin-disappeared/

[04] Russell Kelly Proclamation! Magazine / 2010 / April May June / Does Blood Defile The Tabernacle?


The Heart Of The Matter