What is sin? Where did sin come from? Who may define it? The answer to these and many other questions you have wondered about are in this article. IN THE beginning God designed and planned a perfect creation. God's purpose in this creation included a plan of salvation for mankind so that ultimately God's family might be greatly enlarged. In order to bring this plan to fruition, there had to be a spiritual creation and a physical creation. It was necessary that there be spiritual and physical laws so that order instead of chaos would prevail. In this plan there would be a cause for every good or bad effect. For every action there would be a reaction. God designed natural physical laws which were put into automatic action at the Creation. God also established spiritual laws, but few people are aware of them. These laws regulate human and divine relations. They are laws based on the principle of love, which is giving, serving, and having an outgoing concern for others. The violation of this principle of love is a violation of God's way. Since God designed this way of living, and made the results automatic, He, and He alone, can reveal it to mankind. The violation of this right way God calls sin. Therefore, only God, and none other, can define sin. God does not want us to suffer from an unhappy life. He has defined sin for us so that we might avoid the consequences of violating His Law. He has defined righteousness so that we might learn about the way that will automatically bring the good life. If God had not revealed these things, we would not be able to learn them of and by ourselves using the trial-and-error method in our short lifetimes.
The Original Sin
When God first laid the foundations for the earth, the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:7). This creation was designed and prepared so that mankind would have all the necessary essentials for life — and to ultimately fulfill God's plan of salvation. Before the creation of man, God set one of His great archangels, Lucifer, a cherub, to rule over the earth. He apparently was sent here to prepare the earth for man. But in the intervening time this great angelic creature violated the basic spiritual law of love and outgoing concern for others. He wasn't satisfied with God's definition of what was right and what was wrong. He wanted to decide for himself what was sin and what was righteousness. He had been told about God's plans and His spiritual principles of concern for others, including obedience to God the Creator. God had shown him what was right and what was wrong. However, Lucifer was not satisfied with his position as ruler of the earth alone — he wanted to go to heaven and overthrow the entire government of God! He wanted all the other spirit beings to look to him as their leader instead of God their Creator. Lucifer had no downward pull to encourage him in these evil thoughts. There was no one around to deceive him into doing wrong. He decided to do wrong — with full knowledge and aforethought. How could he achieve his goal? There was only one way, and that was to knock God off His throne. In order to do this, he needed henchmen. Incredibly, he was able to sway one third of all the angels to follow him in a rebellion against God. He had developed a hatred against God and His way. That is murder (I John 3:15). He was a murderer from the beginning. And in the process, he also became the father of lies (John 8:44).
As a result of his revolutionary attempt to overthrow God, there was war in heaven. Lucifer, whose name meant "Light Bringer," became an adversary, a rebel, and a destroyer. And so God changed his name, and from that time referred to him by the names "Satan," "Abaddon," "Apollyon" or "devil." His name was changed to fit the change in his character. Satan, with one third of the angels, which became demons (because of their rebellion in concert with Satan), was cast back to the earth. Christ said: "I saw Satan as lightning fall. . ." (Luke 10:18). God had established a way of life, the transgression of which was sin. Satan was the first being to sin, and in the process he, not Adam, fell. Since the earliest times, worldwide traditions have taught that Adam was the first sinner. Mankind has been deceived into thinking that Adam sinned and fell instead of Satan — the real culprit. The subtle Satan is happy to have deceived mankind into such erroneous thinking!
How then did Adam and Eve come to sin? They were placed in a beautiful garden containing all the necessities of life. God gave them commandments which defined the right and wrong ways to live. He also showed them that sin was the violation of His way. Since they were just created, they did not have the valuable lesson of experience. In the beginning they did not have an innate downward pull or propensity to do evil. God did not create them so that they had to sin. They were free moral agents — able to choose to obey or disobey their Creator. God had placed two very important trees in the garden. These were probably literal trees, but, most important, they were symbolic of the essential principles of right and wrong — of good and bad — of sin and righteousness. One tree was the tree of LIFE, and they were not prohibited from eating its fruit — in fact they were advised TO EAT OF IT! The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden on pain of death! Into this idyllic setting, God allowed Satan to enter in the form of a serpent. Adam would someday replace him as ruler of the earth. Satan's realm was threatened. He subtly strove to influence Adam and Eve to also sin and rebel against God! The account in Genesis 3 shows how Satan first deceived Eve. Satan realized that she was the "weaker vessel" (I Peter 3:7) — the more naive or gullible of the two. The way he deceived her was to put a question in her mind — to put her on the defensive, to make her question the motives of Almighty God. "Hath. God said. . . ?" was the approach. Satan showed her how desirable it would be to partake of the forbidden fruit. She fell for his appealing deception and ate of the tree. She had disobeyed God and apparently gotten away with it. Satan must be right and God must be wrong! She did not realize the long-reaching and sometimes delayed penalty of sin (Eccl. 8:11-13). She did not know that she was now as good as dead (Gen. 2:17). In order to justify herself in her crime, she sought to persuade Adam to take of the fruit, too. But he could not be so easily deceived as she. In fact, Adam was not deceived (I Timothy 2:14). But his wife was so appealing in her plea, and he so much wanted to please her and to "keep peace" in the family, that he gave in to her. Adam sinned! Eve sinned! The penalty was death (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, what did they pass on to the rest of mankind? They could not pass on immortality because they didn't have it. They could only pass on mortality!
Man Is Not Forced to Sin!
None of their children were forced to sin just because Adam and Eve had sinned. Abel was righteous, but their son Cain became a murderer (Genesis 4:1-8; Heb. 11:4). No one has been forced to sin, but all have sinned (Rom. 3:23). Why? For the same reason that Eve, and then Adam, sinned. They were deceived by Satan. Satan has been around with his demons ever since that time, deceiving all of the rest of mankind in the same evil way. God says Satan has deceived the whole world! (Revelation 12:9.) He has used every possible influence to deceive all of mankind. Satan has broadcast his philosophy far and wide — appealing to our vanity, lust and greed to influence us. Each of us has been tuned into this deceitful bombardment from an early age. Satan has used this method to insert wrong thoughts, and he uses the environment and circumstances to influence us to make wrong decisions just like Adam and Eve did. When we were born, we had no hatred or animosity against God or His perfect way. We didn't even know that God existed, or that He had a right way for us to live. But in due time we, too, developed the same attitude as Satan, of selfishness, of greed and lust, and of wanting our own way. When we were little children, we may have been like those that Christ spoke of (Matthew 18:3, 4). They were humble and teachable — not yet fully deceived by Satan and his society. In that state we were like those who will ultimately inherit God's Kingdom. Satan and his demons originated sin, and they have deceived all of us into sinning, too.
What Is Sin?
We have seen how sin came about. Next, we should see what God says about sin. What is God's definition of sin? It is not up to us to decide what sin is. That is what Satan tried to do. Instead of accepting God's definition of sin, Satan decided for himself what "sin" was. Since then, the whole human race has followed Satan in deciding what "sin" is. Each person tries to reason for himself what is right and what is wrong. God has not left it up to us to decide what sin is. If He had, then there would be as many definitions for sin as there are persons. Of course, that is what people are trying to do now, because they do not know the true Creator God — and His power and His authority. It seems that every religion, church and sect has its own idea of what sin is. Many of these ideas are exceedingly vague. They range from strict do's and don'ts of certain fundamentalist sects to "there is no sin" by some metaphysically oriented religions. But God is specific! God is definite and clear! God leaves no doubt to the earnest seeker after truth. The only problem is with any person who does not want to hear this clear, plain truth. Instead of accepting a simple, straightforward answer, it seems many people would rather hear a vague definition. A vague definition gives one the opportunity to decide for himself what is sin and what is righteousness. Here is God's definition: "Sin is the transgression of the law"! (I John 3:4.) How can you be more specific than that? How can you be any clearer? How is it possible that people who talk so much about sin — who spend their whole lives studying the Bible — do not see this clear definition? The reason? They don't like God's Law. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). People think God's Law has been done away with, and indeed if it has, there would be no sin (Rom. 4:15). But God's Law was not done away with! True, as a result of Christ's sacrifice — the anti-typical fulfillment of the sacrificial system and its attendant laws — certain rituals and ordinances are not now obligatory. Paul shows which ones in Hebrews 9:10: "Which stood only in meats and drinks [sacrifices), and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation." Compare this, for a moment, with the laws of the United States. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights give the basic underlying principles for all law. Then other laws expand and expound these principles. The laws made by Congress or other properly constituted legislative bodies remain in effect as laws of the land until repealed or nullified by later laws. But no law may be instituted which is contrary to the basic Constitution.
Paul Kept God's Law
One reason people don't understand about God's Law is that they misconstrue some of Paul's writings. "As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16). They do not realize that Paul everywhere upheld God's Law and obeyed it (Romans 7:25). And, they misunderstand Paul's remarks that we cannot gain or earn salvation by keeping the Law. We can only receive life by grace or unmerited pardon. If you are not clear on this subject, please write for our articles "The New Testament Teaching on Law and Grace" and "What'll You Be Doing in the Next Life?"
Which Law Defines Sin?
The specific law which defines sin is shown by Paul to be the Ten Commandment Law. "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Romans 7:7). Notice two points in this scripture. We saw where the Apostle John said in I John 3:4, that the Law defines sin. Paul gives the same definition here: "I had not known sin, but by the law." Secondly, the particular law which defines sin is the Ten Commandment Law. One of these commandments is mentioned in Romans 7:7 so there can be no mistake as to which-law defines sin. From this it is clear that God's Ten Commandment Law is the basic, fundamental law which defines sin. This Law was never done away with, at the cross or any other time. "The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness" (Psalms 111:7, 8). This Ten Commandment Law is in effect today and will be throughout all eternity (Revelation 12:17 and 22:14). These basic, all-encompassing commands are the foundational principles on which all of the other laws of God are based. David amplifies this principle by saying that they are exceedingly broad (Psalms 119:96). There is another definition of sin in the Bible, which says in different words what we have already seen in John's and Paul's writings. John also says "All unrighteousness is sin" (I John 5:17). Unrighteousness is sin; therefore righteousness is the opposite, or lack of sin. David shows that righteousness is the keeping of God's commandments. "My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness" (Psalms 119: 172). Moses shows the same principle in Deuteronomy 6:25: "And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us." From all these plain and clear scriptures, how can anyone say that sin is anything else than the transgression of God's Law? Don't let Satan's clever arguments deceive you as they did Eve and the whole world. Choose to believe the simple, clear, plain statements of your Creator God.
The Spiritual Law Explained
Christ came to make the Law honorable and to show the spiritual meaning and intent. In fact, He explains very clearly in the "sermon on the mount" that we must obey the spirit and intent of the Law. Now, it is just as much a sin to lust in a sexual way as to commit the physical act. It is a sin to hate just as much as to actually commit murder (Matthew 5:17-48). Christ came to MAGNIFY the Law (Isa. 42:21). Christ explained that the Ten Commandments are based on one important principle. That principle is love towards God and love towards neighbor. The first four commandments show how to love God and the last six define how we should love our neighbor. Paul explains the same principle in Romans 13:10: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." From this text it should be evident that the person who does fulfill God's Ten Commandment Law is showing the proper love toward his neighbor. Therefore love equals the fulfilling of the Law, and the fulfilling of the Law equals love.
What's Wrong With the Law?
How could anyone find fault with God's perfect law of love? Is there anything wrong with being faithful to a mate and not committing adultery? Of course not! And how could anyone say there is something wrong with not stealing or coveting someone else's property? Could anyone find fault with being truthful and honest? Surely not. God's Law is a great Law! It does no harm to those who keep it in all its points. It can only bring blessings and happiness. Why then do people hate it so? It is not because there is any weakness in the Law! Rather it is due to the fact that people are weak — lacking in character. Of and by ourselves, we are too characterless to keep the Law in the in the spirit. This was the problem in ancient Israel. The Law itself is holy, just and good. The weakness — the fault — lies with people. "For finding fault with them [the people of ancient Israel), he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . .." (Heb. 8:8). The new covenant or agreement that God will make with the united nation of Israel in the future will be based on the very same laws! The difference will be in the fact that God will give the people His Holy Spirit to enable them to keep those laws (Jer. 31:31-34). God's righteous laws will be written in the "inward parts" — the minds — of the men in Tomorrow's World. Love is the fulfilling of God's Law. Where do we get this love? "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:5). With God's power — His Spirit — working in one's mind, it is always possible to keep God's Law! Some people have the false idea that it is impossible to keep God's commandments and laws. Christ kept them perfectly, because He did not sin (I Peter 2:22). We also read that the parents of John the Baptist "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:6). What people do not realize is that with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26). With Jesus Christ living His life within us, It is possible to keep God's commandments (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 4:13).
How Does a Person Sin?
James explains that sin is a process. He shows that a person is first tempted of his own lust; secondly, enticed; and thirdly, when this lust continues, it ultimately brings forth sin. The ultimate result of sin is death (James 1:13-15). The further a person proceeds in this process, the harder it is to turn around and avoid sinning. The easiest time to prevent sin is to immediately put the original thought out of the mind. In order to put a wrong thought out of your mind, fill your mind with good thoughts (Philippians 4:8). What better thoughts are there than those about God and His Word? All human woe, unhappiness, pain and misery have come as a direct result of sin — the violation of God's spiritual and physical laws. Happiness and a full abundant life are the automatic results of obedience to God's Law. If you want to enjoy the good things in life and enjoy in the future the reward of a true Christian, you must obey God and His Law. Everyone really wants the best things in life and a good reward at the end. But, most people don't know the way to this kind of life. Now you know the right way. Choose it and you will choose life!