As we continue our series on sin, I want to answer the question, ‘What exactly is sin?’

The best definition of sin is lawlessness. This definition is given to us in 1 John 3:4: ‘Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.’ This definition matches up with the many words that describe sin in both the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek. One word speaks of sin as an act that misses its mark – it is like you shooting an arrow at a bullseye and missing.  The bullseye is the law and you don’t hit it. Another word for sin indicates a crossing of set boundaries – it is like you are on a path, which is the law, and then you walk off it. Other examples are words in the Bible that describe sin as a deviation, injustice, disobedience, violation, apostasy, guilt, falseness, folly, evil, unfaithfulness, betrayal, nothingness, deviant, rebellion, twistedness and wrongness.  Basically sin is described in the Bible as something totally appalling, never something that even comes close to being positive.

It must also be remembered that sin can be unintentional as well as intentional. Yes, many sins are deliberately committed when people step away from God’s law and know that they are doing wrong.  But the Bible speaks also of unintentional sin: ‘Now if you unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the LORD gave Moses– any of the LORD’s commands to you through him, from the day the LORD gave them and continuing through the generations to come – and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering’ (Numbers 15:22-24). This means that often you are unaware that you are sinning and breaking God’s laws. Yet God is clear that you are accountable for the sin even if don’t know about it. Have you considered how pervasive sin is in you? You can’t even know how much sin you have actually committed!

But thankfully God forgives our intentional and unintentional sins against him if we offer the right sacrifice. In the Old Testament it was to offer the sacrifices as taught by Moses. But these sacrifices pointed to the only sacrifice that can take away sin from humans, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Do you want to offer a sacrifice for your lawlessness against God. Then offer Jesus Christ. You do that by repenting to God of your sin and trusting that Jesus’ death was for you.

Joel Radford