The word “sin” or “sins” used in the New Testament came from three Greek words: “hamartema”; “hamartia”; and “hamartano.”
A good understanding of these Greek words is very crucial to understanding deeply what the Scripture teaches about “sin” or “sins.”
Literally, sin is “a missing of the mark.” Some synonyms used for “sin” in the Bible includes disobedience; error; fault; iniquity; transgression; trespass; ungodliness; lawlessness or unrighteousness.
The Greek word “hamartema” which denotes “an act of disobedience to Divine law” is only used four times in the New Testament (Rom. 3:25, Mk. 3:28, 4:12, 1 Cor. 6:18). While the Greek word “hamartano” is used more often than “hamartema”; however, it is the Greek word “hamartia” that is mostly used in the New Testament for “sin.”
This is very significant because the Greek word “hamartia” is a noun while “hamartano” is a verb. A noun denotes a person, place, or thing while a verb describes the action of a noun.
The most used Greek word for “sin” in the New Testament, “hamartia,” describes sin as: “a principle or source of action, or an inward element producing acts; abstract for concrete; a governing principle or power, or an organized power acting through the members of the body.”
Though the seat of “sin” is in the will, the body is the organic instrument (“the body of sin” Rom. 6:6). This governing principle or power is often personified in the Scripture (Vine Expository Dictionary).
The Greek word “hamartano” literally means “to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize);” figuratively, it means “to err, especially morally (Strong’s Greek Dictionary).
In the New Testament the focus or emphasis is more on the principle, power, or source of sin in man than on his sinful deeds or actions.
You will never experience and enjoy true victory over sin if your focus, mind, or attention is primarily on overcoming or stopping the actions or manifestations of sin, rather than on getting rid of the source of sin in you.
Your fight against sin is not against individual acts of sin, but against your innate inclination, inner tendency or propensity to sin. If the inherited sin nature or the innate inclination to sin in a man is destroyed or removed, then his actions of sin will cease.
Until the root of sin in your heart is uprooted, your struggle or fight against the fruits of sin in your life is useless and ineffective. Anyone or anything that cannot get to or deal with the source, governing principle or organized power of sin in your heart cannot deliver you from sin or give you victory over sin. This is a pivotal truth! Sadly, not many people have come to realize or accept this truth about sin.
What does the Scripture teach about sin?
First, the Scripture reveals and presents Satan as the author of sin:
The nature of sin is actually the nature of Satan. Satan is the father and master of all sinners.
The Scripture states: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 NKJV).
The Lord Jesus chided the religious Jews, saying, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44 NKJV).
Until you consciously and deliberately acknowledge and surrender to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour; you are a slave of sin, a child and captive of Satan, and by nature a child of wrath (John 8:34, Acts 13:10, Matt. 13:38, Eph. 2:3).
Second, the Scripture teaches that sin entered the world through Adam, the first man:
Sin entered the human race the moment Adam yielded to Satan, the author and father of sin, through his disobedience to God’s express command (Gen. 2:17, 3:6).
The Scripture states: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12 NKJV).
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19 NKJV).
All descendants of Adam inherited his sin or sin nature. That is why it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10 NKJV).
You don’t need to commit an act of sin to be a sinner; you were born a sinner – conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity (Psa. 51:5).
How and why?
The Scripture states: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!” (Job 14:4 NKJV).
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6 NKJV).
You were born with an innate inclination, propensity, or tendency to sin. You were alienated from the life of God from the womb. You don’t need any form of learning or education to think, speak or act contrary to God’s commandment, for the root of disobedience is in your heart; it is just a matter of time before it begins to naturally or effortlessly bear its fruits of disobedience.
The amply Scripture testifies to this truth.
“The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. (Psa. 58:3 NKJV).
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jer. 13:23 NKJV).
Third, the Scripture clearly teaches that sin is not imputed when there is no law:
The Scripture states: “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Rom. 5:13 NKJV).
What does this scripture mean?
The understanding of the word “imputed” is very crucial to understanding this scripture.
The Greek word translated “imputed” here is “ellogeo” which is an accounting term meaning: “to reckon in; set to or put on one’s account; lay to one’s charge.”
Therefore, what this scripture is saying is that God does not put the sin of the first man, Adam, to your account and deal with you based on the sin of Adam until you are mature enough (based on your knowledge of the law of God) to be held accountable for your personal disobedience to God’s law.
In other words, though you were made a sinner (born with a sin nature) through Adam’s sin, yet until you grow up to a point of maturity when you have a true knowledge of God’s plan of redemption and what God requires of you, and you can make a personal decision or choice to either receive or reject Jesus Christ as your Saviour; God does not treat you or deal with you as a sinner although you are a sinner by birth and nature. What a merciful God!
Fourth, the Scripture teaches that the strength or power of sin is the law:
The Scripture reveals that: “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” (1 Cor. 15:56).
The law was given not to strengthen man in his struggle against sin, but to strengthen sin against man.
What a shocking truth!
Sin has already defeated us through Adam but we were too proud to admit that. So, God gave us the law to expose our gross failure and defeat and to reveal our true nature to us and our need for a Saviour.
Paul clearly explains this truth in Romans 7:
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”
8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.
9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. (NKJV).
The sin in us took advantage of the law to show to us that we are slaves to it!
Although we were born with sin nature but because God was dealing mercifully with us, not imputing to us our sins before the law, we erroneously thought we were righteous and perfect. Therefore, God gave us the law to show us how sinful we were and to humble us to see our need for a Saviour (Rom. 3:10).
That is why the Scripture says: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24 NKJV).
The law was not given to take away our sins or to help us overcome sins, but to expose our sinfulness. In a way, the law increases, empowers or strengthens sin against us.
The Scripture attests to this truth.
“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Rom. 5:20 NKJV).
“Because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.” (Rom. 4:15 NKJV).
Was it the law that brought sin? Certainly not!
The law only revived, exposed, strengthened or empowered the sin that was already in man!
While the law is holy and good, it cannot save you or help you in your battle against sin because that is not its purpose.
Paul testifies, “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.” (Rom. 7:12-13 NKJV).
The law was given so that our sins might become exceedingly sinful and so “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom. 3:19 NKJV).
Is there any hope for man since the law could not help us against sin? Yes, there is hope!
God has sent us a Saviour, His Son, Jesus Christ to save us from sin.
The Scripture affirms: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” (Rom. 8:3 NKJV). Praise God!
Fifth, the Scripture clearly teaches and warns that sin always produces or results in death:
Sin and death are inseparable; you cannot yield to sin and shun death (Rom. 6:16).
The Scripture speaks of sin that “when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (Jam. 1:15 NKJV).
Yielding to sin is embracing death!
The Scripture warns: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16 NKJV).
“The soul who sins shall die.” (Eze. 18:4 NKJV).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23 NKJV).
The ultimate fruit of sin is second death (eternal separation from God in hell fire).
The Scripture warns: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8 NKJV).
Not only did we inherit sin nature from Adam, we also inherited all the evils that sin brought including death both spiritual and physical (1 Cor. 15:21-22).
Lastly, the Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ has fully paid the wages of the sin of the whole world by His sacrificial death on the Cross:
Although it is only those who believe in Christ that will enjoy the benefits of His death, yet He died for the sin of the whole world.
John the Baptist testifies concerning Jesus, saying, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV).
“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2 NKJV).
What then are the major implications of this truth?
First, it implies that all those who put their faith in Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross for sin are now reconciled to God, for sin which brought separation between us and God has been removed.
The Scripture says: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13 NKJV).
Through His death on the cross for our sins Christ has brought to an end the hostility or enmity between us and God.
The Scripture states: “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” (Col. 1:21-22 NKJV). Praise God!
The second implication of Christ carrying away the sin of the whole world by offering Himself as a propitiation for our sins is that God is no longer imputing the sins of the world to them. Since Christ has paid the wages of our sins, God will be unfair to impute or lay our sins to our charge again.
This is a radical statement, but it is the truth!
The Scripture attests to this truth declaring, “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:18-19 NKJV).
In other words, God is not presently dealing with us or punishing us according to our sins. However, this does not mean that God now tolerates or accommodates sin. Far from it! But, it means that God is presently very merciful and longsuffering towards sinners.
Peter reveals: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9 NKJV).
Certainly, God has set aside a day when He will judge all those who rejected Jesus Christ as their Saviour and His sacrifice for their sins, thereby rejecting God’s gift of salvation to them (Acts 17:31, John 12:47-48).
Beloved, God is no longer imputing or charging your sins to you if you have put your faith in Christ as a propitiation for your sins. Neither is God condemning you for your sins.
Paul queries, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:33-34 NKJV).
Is this then a licence to sin? Certainly not!
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2 NKJV).
What of if you sin?
God will still not condemn you, but expect you to confess your sins and repent of them!
The Scripture assures: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NKJV).
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1 NKJV).
God has promised in Isaiah 54:
9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10 For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” Says the LORD, who has mercy on you. (NKJV).
What of if you sin and choose not to confess and repent of your sins and accept by faith God’s forgiveness as a gift?
Satan will bring a charge against you, condemn you, and gain access into your life to oppress, afflict or destroy you! Why?
Because sin always gives the devil free access or licence to steal, kill and destroy! (John 10:10, 1 Pet. 5:8).
Therefore, where ever and when ever sin is embraced, tolerated or covered; Satan has the right to reign and operate unhindered (1 John 3:8).
The Scripture warns: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Prov. 28:13 NKJV).
Is it really possible for believers to experience and enjoy daily victory over sin?
Can anyone attain a state of sinlessness in this fallen, corrupt and sinful world?
Find out what the Scripture says about these and many more in the second part of this piece.