What is sin? There are many ways that sin is described in the Bible. In the Old Testament, one of the common Hebrew words used to describe sin is chatta’h. It is an action that misses the mark. An example of the word being used to describe a non-moral action is in the book of Judges: ‘Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss [sin]’ (Judges. 20:16). These men were able to sling a stone and not ‘sin’ by missing the hair they were aiming at.
The word chatta’h can also be used to describe missing a goal. An example of it being used in this way is In Proverbs: ‘It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way [sin]’ (Proverbs 19:2).
Thus the word chatta’h is used in a moral sense when someone fails to live up to the expectations of someone else. An example can be found in Genesis: ‘Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended [sinned against] their master, the king of Egypt’ (Genesis 40:1).
In the New Testament, the equivalent Greek word is hamartia, which also means to miss a target or take a wrong road.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the word regularly describes the failure to keep God’s law. God’s commandments are the mark that we are to hit, like the bullseye on a target. His rules are the goals we are to reach, like the objectives you’re meant to fulfil for your employer or customer.
Which means if you fail to keep God’s commands, you are a sinner. You haven’t hit what you’re supposed to hit. You haven’t met your goals. And when we examine God’s commands, it becomes quickly apparent that we are all sinners. We have all failed to live as we should. As the Apostle Paul writes: ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3:23).
But thankfully those verses do not stop there. The surrounding verses say: ‘But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus’ (Romans 3:21-26).
Through faith in Jesus, we can be justified. God can view us as ones who have aimed at achieving his law and done so every time. Christ always kept the law of God perfectly, and so all the time that he hit the bullseye of God’s law, it is attributed to you if you trust in him. It is as though you have received a gold medal in a shooting contest and never missed. Despite the fact that you actually did repeatedly miss. And this is good news because the gold medal is eternal life. So have you trusted in Christ and are viewed as one who never missed the mark? Joel Radford