Sin: Overview

Some might define sin as hurting other people, not fulfilling our potential, negatively impacting the planet, a morality tale to control the “weak,” or an illusion. Genesis reveals how man came to be in his sinful and helpless state and provides the foundational information of the gospel message.

Was there Death Before Adam Sinned?
by Ken Ham from The New Answers DVD 3

What Is Sin?

Sin is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). God tells us what is right and what is wrong in his Word, the Bible. Whenever we do something that God tells us not to do—like lying to a friend, cheating on our spouse, or stealing something—it’s wrong. It’s “sin” in God’s eyes.

There are many negative consequences to sin. In other words, bad things happen when people sin. For instance, when you steal something from a store, it affects the store’s profitability, your conscience, and God’s order in the universe. It especially affects your relationship with a holy God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin is why we see so much death, destruction, catastrophe, hatred, and negativity in the world. Because of God’s pure moral character, God imposed a strict sentence on anyone who sins. Those who sin are deemed worthy of a just punishment by God, death and hell (Romans 3:23).

Origin of Sin: Satan’s Pride

When Christians think of the first sin, they usually think of Adam and Eve. Though this was the first human sin, it is not the first recorded sin in Scripture. The serpent tempted Eve in Genesis 3, but the devil’s fall from grace set the stage for humankind’s later fall in the garden.

We catch a glimpse of Satan’s fall in the following passages, In Ezekiel 28:14–15, Satan is judged as an exalted being when iniquity (sin) was found in him. He was an elevated angel but fell from his lofty height.

Satan’s sin was pride. As an angel, he was so beautiful, wise, and powerful that he began to covet God’s position and authority. He did not want to serve; he wanted to be served; he, as a creature, wanted to be worshipped. How starkly contrasted to our savior Jesus Christ, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for sinners (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6).

Jesus' Miracles

Adam’s Sin and “Original Sin”

Before Satan’s fall, God had placed our first parents, Adam and Eve, in a beautiful and perfect garden of Eden. In that garden, he gave the man permission to eat from every tree but commanded him not to eat from one of those trees. God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16–17).

Then Satan, the original rebel, took the form of a serpent and entered the garden. He tempted Eve to eat from the forbidden tree, and she did. Adam followed his wife and fell into sin also.

Adam didn’t obey God. Adam, along with his wife, sinned when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6). They rejected God’s rule and thus corrupted the entire human race with their disobedience. Every person after Adam and Eve is a sinner, just like them.

That is “original sin,” also called “inherited sin.” We received a sinful nature from Adam since every person is related to Adam. We share in the blame and the sin, as well as his punishment. As the representative head of all mankind, Adam’s sin is passed on to each person in our sin nature (Romans 5:12). We are all sinners collectively in Adam and individually by our own actions and choices.

Types of Sin

There are many types of sin that God reveals in the Bible. Here’s an incomplete list of sins we find in Scripture:

  • Not loving God with all of your being (Mark 12:30)
  • Irreverent use of God’s holy name (Exodus 20:7)
  • Coveting your neighbors’ things (Luke 12:15)
  • Blaspheming God’s name (Revelation 13:6)
  • Whining and complaining (Philippians 2:14)
  • Speaking ill of your parents (Leviticus 20:9)
  • Suing other Christians (1 Corinthians 6:1–8)
  • Division among brothers (Proverbs 16:28)
  • Sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18–20)
  • Loving yourself too much (2 Timothy 3:1)
  • Talking to dead people (Leviticus 19:31)
  • Homosexual activity (Romans 1:26–27)
  • Forsaking the church (Hebrews 10:25)
  • Not loving your neighbor (Mark 12:31)
  • Disobedience to God (John 14:15)
  • Unforgiveness (Matthew 6:14–15)
  • Laziness (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
  • Pornography (Matthew 5:27–28)
  • Loving money (1 Timothy 6:10)
  • Crude joking (Ephesians 5:4)
  • Idol-worship (Colossians 3:5)
  • Making idols (Leviticus 26:1)
  • Substance abuse (Proverbs 20:1)
  • Gluttony (Proverbs 23:21)
  • Stealing (Ephesians 4:28)
  • Cursing (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Anger (Matthew 5:21–22)
  • Bribery (Proverbs 15:27)
  • Abortion (Exodus 20:13)
  • Adultery (Proverbs 6:32)
  • Hypocrisy (Matthew 7:5)
  • Gossip (1 Timothy 5:13)
  • Greed (Proverbs 28:25)
  • Sorcery (Exodus 22:18)
  • Murder (Exodus 20:13)
  • Lying (Proverbs 12:22)
  • Slander (Psalm 101:5)
  • Lust (Matthew 5:28)
  • Hate (1 John 3:15)
  • Pride (James 4:6)

Consequences of Sin

There are many effects of sin. For one, sin causes a separation from God. In both Adam’s sin and our sin, we become separated from God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin caused an estrangement between God and people, which can only be fixed through reconciliation in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18–21).

Secondly, the environment was cursed through sin. The punishment of Genesis 3:17–18 reveals that man’s sin caused the curse against the ground, resulting in the troublesome thorns and thistles and a change in the way the natural world works (Romans 8:19–22). The ground was cursed not only in the garden of Eden, from which Adam was taken. It was also cursed outside of it throughout the whole earth.

Third, people will physically die because of sin. God said to Adam he would die for disobeying God’s command (Genesis 3:19; cf. 2:17). Adam disobeyed, and physical death came not only to him but also to all his descendants (Romans 5:12). With a couple of exceptions in Scripture (Enoch and Elijah), every person since Adam has died and every person who is alive right now will also die if the Lord does not return before. That is the punishment for our sin.

Fourth and finally, the consequence of our sin is eternal death. Apart from faith in Jesus, when we die, we will go to a place of permanent estrangement from God in the lake of fire, suffering eternal, conscious punishment for our sins. It is God’s just punishment for rebellious humans and angels. The Book of Revelation declares, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Death before Sin

Death Before Sin?

Scripture makes it very clear there could not have been human death (physical death) before Adam sinned. Romans 5:12 states: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” This “death” referred to in Romans 5 cannot have just been “spiritual” death, but also included physical death. The context confirms this. In Romans 5:6–11, the Apostle Paul repeatedly speaks of Christ dying for us, and of someone dying for a good man. Christ did not merely die spiritually on the cross, but also physically.

What then about animal death? No Scripture specifically teaches that there was no animal death before sin. However, there are passages of Scripture that, when taken together, affirm this conclusion.

  • Animals were given plants to eat at creation, not other animals (Genesis 1:29–30). That suggests animals were not originally food at creation, thus not necessitating their death.
  • God subjected creation to the bondage of corruption after the fall (Romans 8:20–22). Most commentators understand that animals were included in “creation.”
  • At the end of creating, God declared everything “very good” (Genesis 1:31). If animals died before the fall, God would have been calling animal death “very good.”
  • God does not delight in the death of wicked people (Ezekiel 33:11). That also suggests God would not take pleasure in the death of animals before sin enterd the world.
  • Biblically speaking, death is considered an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).

For all these reasons, we can see how animals began to die only after Adam and Eve fell into sin in Genesis 3. The resulting fossil record would, therefore, be dated after the fall about six thousand years ago. In fact, the first animals to die were killed by God to clothe Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:21).

How to React to Sin

King David provides us with a great example of how to react when we sin. After committing adultery with Bathsheba and trying to cover it up by murdering her husband, David's sin was exposed by God through Nathan the prophet. David was devastated by his sin, and he pled for God’s mercy.

“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:1–4)

If we sin, we should acknowledge our sin before God and pray for his forgiveness like David. We should understand sin is primarily against God, but other people made in the image of God are also harmed. Although our sins may have negative effects on our relationships and society, sin ultimately affects our relationship with God by causing estrangement from him.

The Deceitfulness of Sin

Sin is deceitful. It has the power to turn us from following God to turning completely against him. Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, once wrote about the deceitfulness of sin:

We only have to look back to the beginning of our race to be sure of this. Eve, in the garden, was pure, intelligent, and filled with good dispositions: her faculties were well-balanced, for no original sin or natural depravity had put her mind out of order. Yet that lovely woman, without a taint upon her heart or will, perfect as she came from her Maker’s hand, was overcome by Satan, who embodied in himself the deceitfulness of sin.

The serpent played his part very cunningly with the woman, and soon withdrew her from her loyal obedience to the Lord God. She began to question, to parley, to argue with rebellious suggestions, and after a while she reached out her hand, and she took the fruit which had been forbidden, and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. If man in his perfection was so readily deceived by sin, what do you think of yourself, fallen and inclined to evil as you are? Will not sin soon deceive you?

Spurgeon reasoned that we can be deceived more easily than Adam and Eve. If they could be deceived, being in such a place of peace and tranquility without a sin nature, how much more would we be deceived in a broken world with a sin nature? Indeed, sin can easily deceive us.

Why Did God Allow Sin?

Why Did God Allow Sin?

Why God allowed sin can be an emotionally heart-wrenching question to answer. All of us have personally encountered the destructiveness of sin in betrayal, abuse, or injury. We have also heard about the mass-scale horrors of sin in mankind as in the Holocaust, where Nazis murdered six million Jewish people in the 20th century. Evil is all around us, but it is also in us.

Why would God allow such evil in our world? Ray Comfort offers an illustration that provides more context on why God would allow evil in the world. He describes two situations where one seems very bad, while the other seems good—though they are the exact same situation with different details.

When I was a child, my father beat me, left my mom, and once killed a defenseless animal with his bare hands. With that information, you could be quite justified in saying that my father was an abusive pig of a man.

But you’re missing some information. He physically corrected me when I lied or stole. He left Mom because he worked long hours to financially take care of his beloved family. When he found a helpless, dying animal on the side of the road, he put the poor animal out of its misery, and it grieved him to do so. The missing information shows that my dad was a very loving man.

Comfort reminds us that we often don’t have all the information. God allows evil to persist right now, but he has a good reason for it. One day we will see the reasons why, at least in some measure (Romans 8:28–30). Christians should take comfort in the fact that he will judge sin in people and in the world (2 Corinthians 5:10). God’s justice will ultimately prevail and the creation will be restored to its original perfection.

Unforgiveable Sin

The Unforgivable Sin

Many people wonder about the “unforgivable sin.” There are three passages in the Gospels that address this seemingly unique sin. Here are Jesus’ words recorded by Mark:

Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin. (Mark 3:28–29)

This blasphemy “against the Holy Spirit” is a serious sin—with eternal consequences. But what exactly is this deadly blasphemy?

Blasphemy indicates a willful speaking against a spiritual being, causing deep offense. Though all blasphemies are sinful, Jesus said that “normal” blasphemies would be forgiven. However, there’s a special category of blasphemy that is so serious it’s “unforgivable.”

The context of these passages indicates a very serious denial of Jesus’ work and ministry. The leaders of the people were attributing the good works Jesus was doing to Satan. They saw what Jesus was doing, but instead of acknowledging Jesus’ miracles as divine, they called them satanic. These leaders were guilty of speaking against the Holy Spirit’s work in Jesus and had gone so far as to “blaspheme” the Holy Spirit in their hearts and actions. And there is no forgiveness for such people who persist in this sin.

This sin is very similar to another well-known biblical truth. If one dies without receiving Christ’s offer of forgiveness, that person will be judged eternally (Romans 6:23).

God's Solution

God’s Solution for Sin

Thankfully, God gave us a solution from the deadly consequences of our sin. Though sin earns us a just condemnation in death and hell, God has mercifully provided forgiveness to anyone who repents of their sins and puts their trust in Jesus—God the Son.

Through Jesus Christ’s life of perfect obedience and work on the cross, God offers us his mercy (Romans 5:8). Through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God’s approval of the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus and his victory over sin and death was confirmed (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). The triune God of heaven and earth promised us that when we confess our sins to him, he will gladly forgive us. First John 1:8–9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What an amazing release from the bondage of guilt and remorse from our sin.

But a perfectly just and holy God can only do this because of the substitutionary death of Jesus on behalf of sinners. You can be forgiven from the penalty of sin and then freed to walk in joyful obedience to his will when you repent and turn to Christ. Though we may still die, we will not suffer eternally in the lake of fire. Christ has paid the penalty for our sins. Instead of judgment, God promises eternal life to everyone who believes (John 3:16). But to those who do not turn to Christ, there is condemnation (John 3:18).

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20–21)

For more information, see The Gospel of Jesus Christ

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