A Biblical View of Sin

by Mike Ratliff

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 ESV)

Those who have a problem with the Doctrine of Original Sin and the Wrath of God against all sin attempt to paint the God of Reformation Theology as some sort of ogre full of anger with very little love manifest except in the case of a chosen few. In their examples of how God operates in saving people, sin is never the issue. They portray God as loving everyone to the maximum and even if their sin amounted open rebellion against Him on their part. In their theology He just looks the other way and attempts to save everyone, but the point of contention is that the God in their example is unable to save anyone. The salvation of people is only made a possibility with those actually being saved being those who hear the Gospel and respond by exercising their sovereign Free Will. On the other hand, the God of the Bible is not anything like this. He is Sovereign. He saves those whom He has elected or chosen unto eternal life. No one limits Him in any way. Man’s will is in no way a barrier to God fulfilling His Will. From these two vastly different understandings of theology comes to very different understandings of sin.  Let’s look at a biblical view of sin and I invite you to compare your own understanding of it to what we unpack here. If your’s is different, I suggest to you that the Bible is not in error… 

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5 ESV

και εστιν αυτη η αγγελια ην ακηκοαμεν απ αυτου και αναγγελλομεν υμιν οτι ο θεος φως εστιν και σκοτια ουκ εστιν εν αυτω ουδεμια (1 John 1:5 WHNU)

What did John and the other apostles preach? Did they preach what the people wanted to hear? Did they preach a message that was designed to reach a changing culture? Did they alter their message to reach the next age group? No, they preached the αγγελια (message) they ακηκοαμεν (had heard) from God, not men (Galatians 1:12). Isn’t this the difference between man-centered religiosity and true God-centered preaching? You know the answer to that one. I would really like to hear someone try to justify their rejection of God’s truth to go after the man-centered, feel-good message of the day after they read this. What is the message that αναγγελλομεν υμιν (they proclaim to you)? John proclaimed, “ο θεος φως εστιν και σκοτια ουκ εστιν εν αυτω ουδεμια!” or “God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all!”

That sounds profound, but what does it mean? In Sacred Scripture, light and darkness are symbolic both intellectually and morally. Intellectually, light refers to biblical truth, while darkness refers to error or falsehood (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23; John 1:4; 8:12). Morally, light refers to holiness or purity, while darkness refers to sin or wrongdoing (Romans 13:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7). All those with a wrong view of sin and the nature of God toward it claim to be the truly enlightened ones, walking in the real light, however, since they reject the seriousness of sin, they prove they are walking in darkness so, in this, they have denied their Christian authenticity. They do not recognize their sin. In God is no darkness at all. With this doctrinal phrase, John forcefully affirms that God is absolutely perfect and nothing exists in God’s character that impinges upon His truth and holiness (James 1:17).

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:6 ESV)

εαν ειπωμεν οτι κοινωνιαν εχομεν μετ αυτου και εν τω σκοτει περιπατωμεν ψευδομεθα και ου ποιουμεν την αληθειαν (1 John 1:6 WHNU)

If we say that we have fellowship with Him while we live in darkness, we lie and do not live the truth. (a personal translation of 1 John 1:6 from the Greek text)

This is a statement of mutual exclusivity. John is saying it is impossible for a person to be a true Christian, that is, in fellowship with Christ (same thing) while living or walking in darkness (same thing as living in the world as the world does). If anyone claims that they are in Christ, but their life shows that they are of the world then they are are a liar. (Matthew 7:15-20). Notice also the standard set for true Christians here. Genuine Christians do have fellowship with Christ and so must have none with darkness. Also, instead of living a lie or practicing a lie as these false professors are doing, genuine Christians are called to living out the truth. We are not to be Christians in secret.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 ESV)

εαν δε εν τω φωτι περιπατωμεν ως αυτος εστιν εν τω φωτι κοινωνιαν εχομεν μετ αλληλων και το αιμα ιησου του υιου αυτου καθαριζει ημας απο πασης αμαρτιας (1 John 1:7 WHNU)

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with on another and the blood of Jesus the Son cleanses us from all sin. (a personal translation of 1 John 1:7 from the Greek text)

As we have already seen in the previous verses, John is focusing on how we “walk” or how we “live” out our lives each and every day. This is how we walk habitually. A genuine Christian walks habitually in the light, that is, in truth and holiness, not in darkness, that is, falsehood and sin. The Christian walk also has built into it a cleansing process from sin as the Lord continually works to expose sin in us each and every day so we will confess in agreement with Him about out sinfulness and His righteousness. This humbles us and causes us to turn from self-sufficiency to abide in Christ. We cannot walk in the light and walk in pride and self-focus at the same time. Since those walking in the light share in the character of God, they will be habitually characterized by His holiness (3 John 11), indicating their true fellowship with Him (James 1:27). A genuine Christian does not walk in darkness, but only in the light (2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:12, 13), and cleansing from sin continually occurs (1 John 1:9).

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 ESV)

εαν ειπωμεν οτι αμαρτιαν ουκ εχομεν εαυτους πλανωμεν και η αληθεια ουκ εστιν εν ημιν (1 John 1:8 WHNU)

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (a personal translation of 1 John 1:8 from the Greek text)

I have had some interesting discussions about this lately with some people who actually deny the severity of sin in their lives or in the lives of anyone. It is as if they are totally blind to it. The word translated here as “we deceive” is πλανωμεν the plural, present, indicative, active form of πλανάω or planaō. This is a form of spiritual blindness that is occurring in these people’s lives on a constant basis just as the genuine Christian is not habitually walk in darkness, the deceived person who thinks they never sin is continually blinded to the darkness within which they are walking. It is a form of judgment brought about by a deception invoked by self.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

εαν ομολογωμεν τας αμαρτιας ημων πιστος εστιν και δικαιος ινα αφη ημιν τας αμαρτιας και καθαριση ημας απο πασης αδικιας (1 John 1:9 WHNU)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (a personal translation of 1 John 1:9 from the Greek text)

The words “we confess” translates ομολογωμεν the form of ὁμολογέω or homologeō, Basically, this word means to acknowledge one’s sin to God, to agree with Him. When we sin, and we all sin, we must take the time to confess these sins to God because the consequences of hardening our hearts to guilt can cause serious damage to the conscience, but even more serious, it can harden our hearts God and we can enter into a long dry spell in our relationship with God that is not so good. I have been there. We must confess our sins, agree with God about them, to seek the path of repentance from them. Ask God to grant us the grace to walk away from whatever it is that is causing us to stumble to gain victory over some fleshly thing that is trying to ensnare us. Whatever it is. By God’s grace, as we abide in Christ, do His will. If we try to do any of this by ourselves, we will fail.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 1:10-2:2 ESV)

My brethren, carefully read this passage. Are you in Christ? Notice that John insists that we all sin, but then he says he is writing these things that we “may not sin.” However, we all do and we do have an advocate with the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is awesome my brethren. Jesus Christ is our defense attorney before God. Satan is the prosecutor who accuses us before God continually, but Christ’s hight priestly ministry guarantees not only sympathy, but also acquittal (Hebrews 4:14:-16).

I think it is foolish to set a goal to be sinless. However, it is wise and discerning and  the Christian thing to do to seek to continually walk in repentance. I know I am going to sin. I know I am going to lose a battle here an there with my flesh. However, I pray continually that God will grow me more and more that I will learn to walk in repentance and humility as I learn to mortify the sins my flesh so wants me to partake of. Pride has to be denied and humility has to be cultivated as I abide in Christ. I can’t consciously do this! I can only seek to abide in Christ in all that I do. God’s will be done. That means that in all things I do I do in light of that abiding. If something comes up that my flesh wants or someone wants me to do, but it would cause a disruption in me abiding in Christ then I can’t do it! That would be sin wouldn’t it? What about being impatient? What about losing my temper? What about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life? Yep, all of that would put a wedge between me and abiding in Christ so… How do I remain in that abiding and not feed these other things? Jesus said that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him… Is it that costly?

Is sin that costly that death is the result? Yep, look at the Cross. That is why our Lord went to the Cross to be that perfect sacrifice to redeem a people for Himself. These people, however, were sinful people and that death on the cross was the payment for their sin…Therefore, if I am to live in the light as Jesus is in the light, can I also play around with sin like its nothing? Not on your life! John made that very clear in these passages. We have to learn to live in this life in the light and stay out of the darkness by the grace of God, not by the works of the Law.

Soli Deo Gloria!

One thought on “A Biblical View of Sin

  1. Sin is transgression of the law, and the law is a light unto our path. If we walk in light, we will not transgress the law. Sin is defined this simple in the scripture. Many want to continue in sin so they make light mean other things, but the bible must interpret bible. We can’t continue in sin that grace may abound, God forbid.

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