I know some big words. Words like existentialism and modalistic monarchianism. I can both define the word empirical and use it in a sentence. I can even spell mayonnaise without using spellcheck (most of the time). So I was surprised as I was scrolling through an edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary and came across some words I had never heard before.
Words like monomachy, mensal, lambrequin, fuligin, and cataphract. Words so ancient and arcane that no one even knows what they mean anymore. Many of these words are so obscure that they have been phased out of modern editions of dictionaries.
There is another word that is quickly becoming lost in modern languages. It is a word with ancient roots and rich in meaning. Unfortunately, it is rarely used by the modern speakers and writers and it is in danger of becoming undefinable by many. This word in danger of being lost is, sin.
Ask someone on the street today, “What is sin?” and you are likely to get a variety of answers. Some would say sin is anything that hurts someone else. Sin might be doing something that is illegal. Some suggest that there is no such thing as sin. Sin is simply an ideological relic of our religious past.
The truth is that sin is a real word with real meaning. We will never fully understand what it means to say, “Jesus died for your sin” unless we understand what sin really is.
Sin is called many things in the Bible. We’re given an array of words throughout scripture that give us an understanding of the nature of sin. It’s called rebellion, folly, madness, idolatry, foolishness, blindness, deafness, and death. Sin is a law at work in the hearts of men and women that challenges the law of God. The Bible is clear that sin is “the transgression of the law” (1John 3:4). Sin is, to put it simply, the act of violating God’s laws and God’s order.
Some sins are things we do, sins of commission, sins we commit. Other sins are things we don’t do and those are called sins of omission. If we lie to someone that is a sin because it violates God’s law of truth. It is a sin of commission. If we fail to protect or come to the rescue of someone who needs us that is sin. That is a sin of omission, something we neglected to do.
Either way, if it’s something we did or something we failed to do, sin is that which violates God. Sin doesn’t just violate God’s law and His order. God’s order and His laws issue from His nature, from what He is. Sin violates the nature of God Himself. It is a rebellion against all that God is.
Sin is the word we use to describe anything that opposes the nature and order of God. That’s why God and sin cannot be in the same place. James reveals the truth that salt water and fresh water don’t come from the same source. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:11-12). Sin is at odds with the nature of God and the two will never blend. God brings righteousness, peace and joy. Sin corrupts, decays and destroys.
Sin ruins everything.
The ultimate problem that sin presents is that it separates us from God. It is our separation from God, caused by sin, that brings the trouble into our lives. Sin is what denies the blessings and promises that a righteous life brings to those who honor God and His order. Sin separated God from Adam and Eve in the garden and God has been seeking to rid us of sin ever since. He wants to restore that relationship we had with Him before sin started ruining everything.