Are you sure you know what sin is? Do you realize how broad, how gigantic and ghastly sin is? Most of you do already know the main Bible definition of sin – I John 3:4: “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” But that’s not all the Bible says about sin!
Did you know that the Bible defines sin in many ways? The Bible portrays and defines law-breaking in several dozen ways! The subject “sin” becomes so gigantically broad and ugly (if you study God’s Word) you will be amazed.
And did you know that all sins fall into three kinds – three categories?
Sin Is a Trinity
Turn to I John 2:15-16. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world (Greek cosmos meaning “society, way of life”), the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world (cosmos), the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Do you love your “way of life,” your way of doing things? If so, God says you love this world. And this world is perishing (v. 17) or – as the Greek can be translated – “Destroying Itself” (King James “passeth away”). You must forsake your way, or you too will perish!
Now notice that John divides everything “in the world” into three classes or categories (v. 16) – three divisions. One: the “lust of the flesh.” This particular lust is that pulling, yearning, down-dragging powerful desire, temptation to satisfy and please the body. Remember, lust is an unlawful desire to satisfy, not just the normal, lawful desire to be comfortable. God want us to be comfortable, to prosper and be in good health (III John 2).
Two: “the lust of the eyes.” Here is another illegal desire, but this time through the eyes. Our eyes focus on things that do not belong to us. Then we think “Ah, now that would be nice, wouldn’t I like to have that – wouldn’t I like to lay my hands on that!” Our eyes incite us to lust and covetousness, greed and envy. This is the lust of the eyes.
Three: “the pride of life.” John is here speaking of physical life. John’s original word for “pride” means the puffing, swelling, heady, billowing, superior, proud, exalted feeling which all human beings experience. The pride of life is that warm, “good,” elevated self-satisfied feeling we get when someone pats us on the back, when someone tells us we are pretty good.
Come on now, admit it! We have all experienced the “pride of life” somewhere in our lives, haven’t we? We thought deep down inside we were right in our general way of lounge near the bow of the ship, thought we were right, we were wrong! Our “righteousness” whatever its form, whatever its brand was just so much vanity and pride. All sin fits into one or more of these three categories of I John.
Let’s see how closely man’s first sin fits John’s three-way descriptions. Turn to Genesis 3:6, “And when the woman saw that the tree was (1) good for food, and that it was (2) to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.”
Did you catch that? Eve – not satisfied with the food God gave her, saw that the fruit was “good for food.” That is, her flesh, her taste buds, her appetite lusted for that particular food. Eve had an illegal desire to satisfy her body. What is that, but “lust of the flesh”?
Secondly, it was “pleasant to the eyes” – her mind (through the eyes) lusted after something pleasant to the sight. The same as John’s “lust of the eyes”!
Lastly, in her mind she desired it to make her wiser. She looked for something to exalt, puff up, expand, and swell the self. That is the “pride of life”!
So both Adam and Eve yielded to the triple temptation, they disobeyed God, they sinned. Man’s first sin fit all three of John’s categories for law-breaking.
Too many of us in God’s Church today are like Adam and Eve. The fruit God gave them was not good enough. It is always the forbidden fruit that appeals to us. It’s the other fellow’s house, the other fellow’s championship, the other woman’s fur coat, somebody else’s name on the record book, the other fellow’s wife and not our own that appeals! Our eyes, our mind, our bodies deceive us into thinking the grass is always greener on the other side.
Now we know how sin affected our first parents. Let’s go on through the Bible to see how sin affects us today! We must know more about sin in order to root it out.
Sin Is Many-Sided
The Bible uses various words for “sin” in the original texts, showing various shades of meaning. God shows us that sin is complex, not as simple as we thought. We will analyze some of these “sin” words to see what special facet of sin God is emphasizing.
Remember one thing before we continue. All these words can be correctly translated “sin”; therefore, their meanings all overlap to a certain degree. However, God’s various words for sin in the Bible are not exactly the same. These words bring out the kinds of sin – they emphasize a different aspect of law-breaking, of sin, of “anti-law.”
The first and most common word that appears in the Bible for sin is chattah. Chattah means to miss the mark. Here’s the point for us, brethren. “Missing the mark” is not necessarily from the habit of sinning. If you miss the mark in daily Christian living, it isn’t necessarily because you are a practicing sinner. Of course, you can fail for that reason too.
We often fail, not because we want to sin, not because we hate God in our conscious mind, but because, even though we are aiming for the mark, we are not able to hit dead center. The purely carnal human cannot keep God’s law!
But don’t most of us want to hit the mark? Don’t most of us desire to serve God? If so, that is God’s Spirit in us! Desire to serve God, desire to live righteously does not come from our “good” carnal minds. There is no such thing as a good carnal mind!
We need to wake up! We miss the mark because we don’t want to hit the mark badly enough, because we don’t practice hitting it enough, because we don’t have enough of God’s help! We need to realize we are built short of the mark; we are mark-missers, misfits by nature! God knows we will begin by missing but with His help we can start hitting!
Too many of us yield to temptation. If you yield to temptation you miss the mark, you chattah. Notice what David said when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned (chattah), and done this evil in thy sight” (Ps. 51:4). David had allowed himself to drift away from God, the temptation got to him.
God told Cain sin (chattah) would try to pull him down. God’s words to Cain apply to the whole human race: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? and if you do not well (If you disobey), sin (chattah) lies at the door” (Gen. 4:7) The Revised Standard Version makes the last part of this verse clearer, saying in effect: “sin’s desire will be to pull you down, but you must master it!”
We must resist temptation, we must not yield! We must strive always to hit the mark!
Jeremiah 51:5 shows that the entire land of Israel is filled with sin. The Hebrew word for sin here is asham meaning negligence in conduct, or failure in duty (sometimes through ignorance).
Are you guilty? Do you really produce on your job? Do you men produce poor work? You machinists, you draftsmen, you design engineers, gas station attendants, farmers, bus and truck drivers, workers of all kinds – do you put out sloppy, dowdy, half-done work?
Remember, a Christian does the job – or at least ought to do the job better than anybody else. Not that Christians are to be great concert violinists, star baseball players, or seven-foot-tall basketball stars. Christians are not the great of the world! We just pump gas. We just sit and type what the boss dictates. We just answer the phone. We drive trucks. We plow the soil. Whatever our employment, we just do an ordinary job, routine work. But we must do it right and the best!
You say you don’t have as much ability as the next man; you can’t do as well as him? Your zeal, your attitude, your zest for work can put you in front! (Remember, you are in competition against yourself, not the other person).
How about wage cheating? Do you punch the clock a little early? Earlier at quitting time, that is? Or do you punch it earlier, before work starts? Do you do the job as you would want it done for yourself? For Christ?
Another very common Old Testament word for sin is aven: Nothingness, vanity. Nothingness, vanity, emptiness – quite often connected with idolatry. An idol is nothing and vanity. Remember, an idol is anything in your mind higher than God, or anything you love more than God.
Read I Samuel 15:22-23, aven occurs in the phrase “and stubbornness is as iniquity (aven) and idolatry.” The Bible says stubbornness is “vanity” and a form of idolatry!
Notice how the concept of idolatry connected with “aven-type” sin helps explain Isaiah 1:13. “The new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity (aven), even the solemn meeting.” As the next verse says, these days were “your new moons and your appointed feasts.”
Remember Christ’s famous rebuke of the false ministers in His Sermon on the Mount? Perhaps you did not know part of His condemnation is a quote from the Old Testament: “depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (aven in Hebrew, quoted from Ps. 6:8). False ministers are still “working” idolatry (aven) in their lives today!
Are you still stubborn? Bull-headed? Or is your particular brand of vanity personal idolatry? Have you ever watched the women who read women’s magazines? Women today seem to like to jealously scrutinize models dressed in “sack” outfits. Yet the men will say “ugh!” Yes, women, of all the strange things are jealous of other women! They love to copy other women, they want to know what a certain person is wearing, and that is vanity of dress: it goes through the eyeballs, it goes back of the eyes, gets inside the mind and inflates the brain with great big, swelling, pinkish puffing clouds of vanity, nothingness – (aven).
Many other “common sins” come under aven – bragging on our children, frivolity or “goofing-off,” etc., but let’s go to the next word, remembering one thing. You will either inherit everything (that’s something) or nothing, aven (that’s sin).
Vanity is not all that is wrong with our society! Satan is twisting everything he can. Crazy, weird, outlandish, far out, offbeat, perverse, that describes our society! Avon means exactly that: Perverseness. The root meaning of this word is to be “bent” to be “crooked, twisted out of place.
What about some of our modern music? Have you heard some of the weird, outlandish, yes, fiendish – modern noise? It seems that the goal of modern composers is to make as many notes clash and discord as possible.
God knew this final generation would bend, twist natural laws and natural beauty into a wrong use. That is why He inspired the word avon to describe our sins today. “Wherefore has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? Or what is our iniquity (avon)? Or what is our sin (chattah) that we have committed against the Lord our God? Then shall you say to them, because your fathers have forsaken me, says the Eternal, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law. Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that you know not.” (Jer. 16:10-13).
National captivity is coming on the United States because of law-breaking, because of avon – perversion!
God knew that we would come up with crazy, offbeat modern art, weird music and lustful dances! God knew that we would half undress our women, cut dresses off above the knee so as to incite lust in men. God correctly called us a “a people laden with iniquity” (Isa. 1:4). And surely our iniquity (avon) is not hidden from God’s eyes (Jer. 16:17).
Gamal is another Hebrew word for sin! Gamal really means “labor, toil” (usually including the idea of wearisome, painful effort). Though this word can be translated “sin,” it brings out a special aspect of sin. Sin is not delicious or sweet. The results of sin always brings painful, agonizing unhappiness and toil.
Imagine how much work a gambler goes to, just to make a “fast buck.” Stays up all night, drives all the way across the state, skips meals, worries, schemes and plans and plots, fights off headache, backache and hangover, just to get something for “nothing.” It doesn’t work!
A lot of painful labor and toil (sin, Gamal) goes into the body-building game. Have you ever stopped to wonder just exactly what in the world mirrors have to do with lifting weights? I am speaking of these popular – and money-making -- gymnasiums which advertise the “body beautiful” for men (!) and women. We know what bars are for, what disks of iron, weights, pulleys, rowing machines, etc. are for. But what about the mirrors?
Mirrors are an essential part of body-building apparatus. The mirrors are there so you can see yourself. That is why a body builder can’t walk normally. He must stretch his neck, he cocks the arms slightly to make the biceps bulge, he spreads his “lats” (the muscles that make the V-shape in the upper part of the back), etc.
You will note that body builders usually work in tight bathing trunks, or at least stripped to the waist. The treason for all this is simple. They want to see themselves! They have to build up that vanity! The “pride of (physical) life”! And all the labor and toil they go through becomes Gamal – that is sin, as long as it is for a vain purpose.
It actually hurts to build a body. It actually takes pain and sweat and strain. But as long as you have a mirror in front of you, you’re in business. The mirror pulls you on, that vanity of seeing yourself grow.
Gamal also includes the great, strenuous effort so many students put forth to cheat. Remember the scandal in which the top men in the nation at the Air Force Academy were expelled for cheating?
The work involved in cheating is phenomenal. It takes great effort, much eye strain, and a very fine pen to inscribe answers and formulae on a fold of skin or on the palm of the hand. It takes great effort for a woman to write answers on her knees and the inside of her thighs so the teacher (who is a man) can’t ask her to lift her dress if he catches her cheating.
Stop to ask yourself how much effort you are putting forth just to get around the law! It takes pain and toil (Gamal) to get around God’s laws, man’s laws. Stop being a cheat, just keep God’s law.
Once upon a time men used to keep their word! Sounds like a fairy tale now doesn’t it? A fairy tale because so few men today keep their word! If you are disloyal, faithless, perfidious, or hypocritical you are sinning, you are ma’aling. Ma’al is a Hebrew word meaning to act treacherously, covertly, or fraudulently. This word is used with adultery which is a form of disloyalty and dishonestly, and adultery fills our nation! The returned captives from Babylon under Ezra had transgressed ma’al in taking their strange wives and thus acting treacherously and perfidiously with Almighty God (Ezra 10:10).
You may not be an adulterer, but how good is your word? It should be “good as gold”! Christians are supposed to place so much stock in their word so as to bring back the old days of “once upon a time.” Are you willing to suffer in order to keep your word? God is.
God’s word never fails! “Thy testimonies are very sure” (Ps. 93:5).
Ask yourself how loyal you are to God’s Work. Are you loyal only while it is convenient for you? Or are you – as David was – willing to hurt yourself, suffer loss, sacrifice whatever, rather than to see the Work take a loss? How about before the judge and the magistrates? How about before the police, the medical profession or the boss? If you are loyal, God will reward. If you are not loyal, you are a sinner, you are guilty of ma’al.
When Uzziah the king stepped out of his office and tried to gain God’s favor by burning incense, Azariah and the priests condemned Uzziah of treachery, faithlessness, disloyalty, saying to him, “thou hast trespassed” (ma’al). See II Chron. 26:16-18).
Another common sin coming under this category is sneakiness and petty thievery. Have you broken all your habits of petty thievery? You must train your children against this vice also. Petty thievery and sneakiness are very common among children.
Are you tired of reading about sin? Have you had enough? God has had enough! God is fed up with sin. Christ is busily preparing for a new world which will gradually stamp out sin! Right now Christ is purging sin out of the Church. You need to read yet more about the many sides of sin catalogued in the Bible.
By using different words to identify the different kinds of errors, God helps us to know our enemy. Your enemy – sin – has a real target: YOU. “Yea, on you its desire (is set), but you should rule over it” (Gen. 4:7). It we don’t master sin now, while we have the chance, we will end up a reprobate: a person who “cannot cease from sin”! (II Peter 2:13-15).
Sin of course is not a person or personality. Sin is a force, a power. Sin is that part of your human nature which pulls you down, makes you want to go the wrong way, which makes you want to give up, quit. In short, sin in what makes us the carnal miserable wretches we are.