What is Sin?

By Franklin Burns

If there is one thing the present, day world needs more than anything else it is a sense of sin. The world regards sin too lightly. The reason many people do not come to the Lord is that they do not feel they are sinners. Therefore they do not realize how badly they need the Lord.

Sin is the one thing that endangers our happiness for both time and eternity. Sin separates man from God and drives a wedge between men. It sets man against his best friends. Sin has marred and scared the world. Sin cuts deep and slashes into character, deadens conscience, and destroys the soul bit by bit. Paul said, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Think of the awfulness of being eternally lost! It is to be lost in Hell, lost in outer darkness, beyond the presence of God forever. Hell is a lake of, fire where teeth gnash, lost souls shriek! Let us notice briefly some of the things God’s Word says about sin.

Sin is Transgression

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). This means “to miss the mark, to veer away from that which is .right. It is a general term embracing every form of wrong-doing, all divergence from that which is right” (Guy N. Woods, Peter, John, Jude, p. 260). “It properly means lawlessness in the sense that the requirements of the law are not conformed to or complied with; that is, either by not obeying it, or by positively violating it” (.Albert Barnes, James, Peter, John, and Jude, p. 314). The New Testament contains the law of Christ. We are to be governed and regulated by this law. John says, “whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (2 John 9). Some brethren who have a considerable amount of education and aspire to be recognized as scholars tell us that the expression “doctrine of Christ” in (2 John 9) cannot refer to the doctrine which Christ taught. They say it means only the doctrine about Him, that He has come in the flesh. Without being a scholar, any one can see the thought in 2 John 9 is the same as in 1 John 3:4. To break the limits set by God is to sin and to have not God, no matter what particular limit is broken. 1 John 3:4 and 2 John 9 show the sin of doing in religion those things which God has not commanded us to do. Therefore if we practice or teach anything that is not revealed in the scripture it is sin.

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount about some men who had been religious, zealous, sincere workers for the Lord. In the judgment they expected to go to heaven, but He said, “and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:21-23). What was their trouble? Why were they lost? They had transgressed God’s law; they had disregarded the will of God.

Some of my brethren seem to .think that one needs to go back to the original Greek or some other book to define sin. That “sin” applied to different subjects is suppose to mean different things. Brethren, whether it be the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of God, the support of organizations foreign to the doctrine of Christ, the wearing of names unauthorized by the law of Christ, sin is sin! This is evident from the fact that one must go beyond the law of Christ to practice any of these things; therefore they are all sin. We should be careful, therefore to stay within the limits of the law of Christ. To go beyond is sin.

What is not practiced according to God’s word is sin. “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). How does faith come? Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), and without faith we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Paul declares that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). One cannot do by faith that which God has not commanded, and concerning which God has no revealed will; he cannot know that such is pleasing to God. No one can know the will of God except as God reveals it (1 Cor. 2:10-16). We cannot walk by faith and act on opinion or human wisdom.

This is one of the reasons why we refuse and condemn the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship to God. This is one of the reasons we cry. out against human institutions raiding the treasuries of the church of our Lord. We walk by faith, but faith comes by hearing God’s word, and what is not of faith is sin.

Wasted Opportunities

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not to him it is sin” (James 4:17). If we know what is right and we do not do it, we are guilty of sin. In fact we are self-condemned. Jesus said “and that servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47). This is why we fear for the eternal welfare of many members of the Lord’s church: One may be clean morally, but if he neglects to do good, serve mankind, help the weak and poor, spread the gospel, attend the services of the church, give as he has been prospered, and support in an aggressive way the religion of Christ, he is a sinner before God.

We should turn in the fear of God from all sin, cultivate a hatred of sin and walk humbly before God. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11).

Truth Magazine XIX: 47, p. 738
October 9, 1975