The Biblical Definition of Sin
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Our Total Human Depravity

The Hebrew Old Testament has some 12 different words to define sin and the Greek New Testament about five. Together they represent seven categories of sin. To fully appreciate God’s unconditional agape love and the incredible good news of the gospel — the truth as it is in Christ — it is important that we first come to grips with these seven categories of sin. They are as follows:

  1. A deliberate act against the law of God. See 1 John 3:4. (The King James Version uses the word “transgression,” but the Greek word means “lawlessness,” which is deliberately choosing to live a life of sin.)

  2. A mental consent to a temptation or a sinful desire, the sin of coveting. See Rom. 7:7,8. (See also Matt. 5:27,28; James 1:14; Prov. 24:9.)

  3. Unbelief, a deliberate rejection of a Biblical truth. See Rom. 14:23. (See also John 3:18; John 16:8,9.)

  4. Neglect of known duties or opportunity. See James 4:17. (See also James 2:14; Matt. 23:23; Matt. 25:43-46.)

  5. Doing the wrong thing out of ignorance. See Lev. 5:17-19. (See also Luke 12:48; 1 Tim. 1:13.)

  6. Our sinful natures, which we inherited from Adam. See Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3. (See also Rom. 5:19,20; Eph. 2:3b; Phil. 3:20,21.)

  7. A law, principle, or constant force, dwelling in our sinful natures (indwelling sin in the flesh). This makes us slaves to sin. Therefore, holy living, in and of ourselves, is impossible. See Rom. 7:14, 20-23. (See also Luke 11:39; John 8:31-34.)
Note: The first four definitions of sin (#1-4) involve guilt because we choose to commit these sins (guilt involves responsibility or volition). But the last two definitions of sin (#6 & 7), which we all inherit at birth because of the Fall, do not involve guilt (i.e., responsibility) but only condemnation (see Rom. 5:18). While these last two definitions of sin do not involve guilt, they nonetheless make us sinners by nature and, therefore, disqualify us from heaven (see Rom. 5:19; Eph. 2:3b; 1 Cor. 15:50).
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