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The Concept of Sin - The fact that we tend to view sin not as God views it is a gargantuan mistake. Why It Is So Important To Understand How The Bible Defines Sin. Imagining A World Without Sin, A Severe Warning - Hebrews 10:26-31
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Part I - Types of Sin
Old Testament Word Study
Defining the most common Hebrew words for sin - Châtâ, Avôn, Pesha and Rûm
Greater and Lesser Sins, Unintentional Transgressions and Sins of Omission
Although, all sin merits the death penalty, God's Word reveals that some sins are worse than others.
Presumptuous, Intentional, or Deliberate Sin
The one thing we dare not forget is that deliberate acts of transgression were seen as "despising" the word of the Lord. Death not sacrifice was usually the punishment.
The Letter Vs. The Spirit of The Law
During His time on earth Jesus made it very clear that sin includes not only our physical actions, but our thoughts and attitudes as well
The Atonement for Sin, Iniquity and Transgression
The daily animal sacrifices of the Old Testament only covered actual sins (Heb. châtâ), not the evil inclinations of the heart (âvôn), nor willful and knowing rebellion (pesha). These were only borne away once a year on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) - a "type" of the main event to come
The Believer's Predicament - The Battle Between Flesh and Spirit
The frustration we all face when confronted with sin and our own inability to conquer it, was perfectly expressed by Paul
Old Testament Word Study
The most common Hebrew words for sin are are Châtâ usually translated sin, âvôn, usually translated iniquity, pesha usually translated transgression, and rûm which literally means to lift up and is translated exalt, high-handedly etc.
There are passages in the Old Testament in which two or even all three of the Hebrew words were used in the same sentence for which there could be no reason other than the fact that all they have different meanings.
I acknowledged my sin (Heb. chatta'ah) to You, And my iniquity (Heb. âvôn) I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions (Heb. pesha) to the Lord"; And You forgave the guilt (âvôn) of my sin (Heb. chatta'ah). Selah. (Psalms 32:5 NASB)
who keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity (Heb. âvôn), transgression (Heb. pesha) and sin (Heb. chatta'ah); yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity (Heb. âvôn) of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." (Exodus 34:7 NASB)
Note: Exodus 34:7 is often used as a 'proof text for Generational Curses probably because those who teach this doctrine are sadly ignorant of the exact meaning of the Hebrew words the original authors used and how they were utilized. Unfortunately many other more traditional church leaders and teachers have also put their own spin on these Hebrew words without a smidgen of Biblical support. Here is a summary of what the words mean.
Châtâ (sin) in the Hebrew Bible châtâ was used in a legalistic way, inasmuch as it almost always refers to an action. Regardless of how badly intentioned a person was or how much evil they contemplated, he or she)had to do something wrong before it was counted as a sin.
Avôn (iniquity) is often described as an "evil inclination" (yetzer ha'ra) - the tendency or inclination to do wrong that could very well lead to châtâ or the actual act
Pâsha: (transgression, revolt, rebellion in Kings and Chronicles). Transgression' itself means the violation of a law, duty or moral principle;
Rûm: literally or figuratively means to raise or exalt. It is applied to sin in the sense of someone 'lifting themselves up' in pride and self magnification. Note that in Exodus 34:7 above sin, iniquity, and transgression and are all mentioned as types of sins God will forgive, but rûm is conspicuous by it absence.
See a detailed word study of the Hebrew words HERE
Greater and Lesser Sins?
It is without doubt that the Old Testament drew a distinction between sins committed mistakenly or inadvertently, those that were due to moral weakness, and those that were committed willfully or "with a high hand".
Although, all sin merits the death penalty, God's Word reveals that some sins are indeed worse than others. The more serious ones brought stiffer penalties and greater condemnation to the perpetrator. For example, the penalty for stealing and selling or killing livestock was restoration - with considerable interest. On the other hand, the punishment for abducting and selling another human was death.
He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:16 NASB)
If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. (Exodus 22:1 NASB)
Jesus' words to Pilate during His trial also confirmed that there are greater and lesser sins.
Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:11 NASB)
Unintentional Transgressions (Shegâgâh)
In Ezekiel 34:6 shegâgâh gives us a sense of going astray without meaning to.
"My flock wandered (Heb. shegâgâh) through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them. (Ezekiel 34:6 NASB)
Many believe that if a sin is committed unintentionally, the perpetrator is innocent in God's eyes however, the Bible makes it very clear that no one was acquitted by virtue of ignorance. If someone, through ignorance or perhaps a misunderstanding of the law, did what God had forbidden or left undone what God had commanded, the person was required to offer certain sacrifices as soon as the transgression or omission came to his or her attention.
For example, the sacrifice for the inadvertent (Heb. shegâgâh) sins of a priest was a bullock (Leviticus 4:2-3). A male goat without defect was to be offered when a leader sinned unintentionally (Heb. shegâgâh) and his sin was made known to him (Leviticus 4:22-23). A sin committed by the entire congregation was atoned for by a bull of the herd (Leviticus 4:13-14). Offending individuals were required to offer a female goat without defect. (Leviticus 4:27-29)
These rules applied both to the children of Israel, and to any stranger that lived in their midst.
You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally (Heb. shegâgâh), for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. (Numbers 15:28-29 NASB).
In the New Testament, Jesus knew that the people who sentenced Him to death did not realize who He was - thus were sinning unintentionally. However, this did not get them off the hook. As He died on the cross He prayed for his executioners. His words - "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34) - tells us that they were accountable for their sins and needed to be forgiven.
Similarly, when Peter addressed the people amazed at the healing of the lame man who daily sat at the door of the temple, he told them that this miracle had been performed by Jesus whom they had delivered up, and denied before Pilate. Peter then added that when they chose to have the Holy One executed in place of a known criminal, they had acted in ignorance. However, they needed to
... repent (Gk. metanoeo) and return (Gk. epistrepho), so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19)
Murder Vs. Manslaughter. It also has to be noted that the 35th chapter of the book of Numbers is largely devoted to the question of premeditated murder vs. manslaughter. Six cities were assigned as places of refuge to protect the person who unwittingly killed another, whereas those who committed intentional murder received the death penalty.
then you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally (Heb. shâgâh) may flee there. (Numbers 35:11 NASB)
Sins of Omission
The Scriptures tell us that we can not only sin by the things we do, but also by the things that we do not do. As James 4:17 says
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
In other words, we also miss the mark if we neglect to do some good that we are aware that we should be doing. In Matthew 25, Jesus elaborated on this principle in the parable of the sheep and goats. His words to the goats were
Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.
Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (vs. 41-46)
Presumptuous, Intentional, or Deliberate Sin
However, the one thing we dare not forget is that deliberate acts of transgression were seen as "despising" the word of the Lord. When a serious intentional or presumptuous sin had been committed death not sacrifice was often the punishment.
'But the person who does anything defiantly (Heb. rûm), whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 'Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.'" (Numbers 15:30-31 NASB)
The sacrifices were meant to be offered by those that had realized they had inadvertently sinned and those that had sinned in weakness, but had since repented. In other words, the regular sin or guilt offerings demonstrated the contrite sinner's desire for forgiveness. Arrogant sinners are neither repentant nor do they seek atonement, and God does not forgive them.
The Letter Vs. The Spirit of The Law In The New Testament
The New Testament Blurring Of Sin (The Actual Act) And Iniquity (The Wrong Tendencies)
Certainly the belief in, and adherence to, the temple sacrifices for sin itself (Heb. châtâ) was alive and well in Jesus' day. It is without doubt that the Pharisees scrupulously observed all the rituals, but this did not mean their hearts were clean. They practiced a vending-machine type of religion in which if they pushed the right buttons (prayer, alms, fasting etc.), God would dispense his blessings to them. In Old Testament language - their actual sins were covered, but the iniquity of their hearts (âvôn) was not.
Jesus' coming changed everything. Much to the chagrin of the Pharisees He turned Judaism's legalistic approach to sin on its head pointing out that a mere adherence to the letter of the law, did not constitute righteousness.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Gk. anomia). (Matthew 23:27-28 NASB)
The religious leaders were considered to be the epitome of righteousness and piety, thus it must have shocked many people when Jesus told them that their righteousness had to surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20)
Jesus clearly showed us that behind every Mosaic command lies a principle that transcends time and culture, and is therefore applicable to all God's people, regardless of when or where they live.
For example, since the Old Testament laws only forbade the actual act of adultery, lusting would not have been considered a violation of the law. However Jesus told them that even looking at a woman with desire constituted adultery (Vs. 27-30). It is one thing never to commit adultery, but quite another to control lust in the heart and mind. There are more examples of intent on THIS PAGE that serve to show that perfect obedience to the law took place in thought, word, and deed.
In other words, the Savior made it very clear that there was no difference between actually committing a sin and thinking about it, therefore the practical implications of the three Greek words is the same.
See The Introduction to Holiness
Hamartano (Greek) - Missing The Mark
In the New Testament the word sin has been overwhelmingly translated from the Greek noun Hamartano (G266) defined by Thayers as
1) to be without a share in, 2) to miss the mark, 3) to err, be mistaken, 4) to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong, 5) to wander from the law of God, violate God's law, sin.
All of which makes it reasonably obvious that hamartano is the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew châtâ. Paul use of hamartano in Romans 3 makes it very clear that the "mark" or target that the Scriptures refer to is the perfection of God Himself. He is the standard of holiness.
for all have sinned (Gk. hamartano) and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 NASB)
Anything short of that absolute standard of good is 'missing the mark'. We might be satisfied with "goodness", but God demands perfection. And, for the record, other than Jesus Christ, no man has ever measured up to this standard. To make matters worse, the apostle James reminded his readers that if a person breaks just one of God's laws, he or she is, in effect, guilty of the whole lot (James 2:10). Quite obviously this makes the goal of keeping the law completely unachievable.
Which brings up the very obvious question of why God gave man so many laws if they are impossible to keep. The answer is simple. The law was not given because God knew that it could be perfectly adhered to, but....
a. Unless there are clearly defined boundaries or standards, no one can possibly know that they have crossed over the line. In other words there has to be a law before someone can know they have broken it.
b. The law effectively put paid to man's cherished belief that he himself can do enough to merit salvation. Nothing but a clear demonstration of man's total inability to achieve the standard set by God, would cause him to realize that without a savior, he was doomed.
In the church today one often hears that salvation is a 'free' gift from God. But does the Bible actually say it is free or is this a completely erroneous idea? I am sure it will surprise many to hear that the word 'free' isn't in the original Greek and that the word 'gift' may not mean exactly what we have been led to believe. Salvation and eternal life do not come without anything being expected of us. Salvation involves more than simply affirming in one's mind that Jesus is Lord and Savior - Repentance and Faith are both absolute requirements for forgiveness.
To imagine that we can live our lives like the rest of the world, but still be welcome in God's presence, is little more than wishful thinking. The kingdom doesn't come cheap. From the very outset Jesus made it clear that He was not interested in casual followers, or even admirers but dedicated disciples whose commitment to Him supersedes all earthly ties. Besides what happened to acknowledging Jesus as Lord? He is called "Lord" over six hundred times in the New Testament and Savior a mere 24 times
Note, there are two other Greek words used - paraptoma (G3900) used a mere 15 times in the NT usually translated 'transgression' and anomia (G458) also used a very few times and usually translated 'lawlessness' John equated sin and the breaking of God's law in 1 John 3:4.
Part II - The Atonement for Sin, Iniquity and Transgression
The "Sin" Offering
The daily animal sacrifices of the Old Testament only covered sins (Heb. châtâ), not the evil inclinations of the heart (âvôn), nor wilful and knowing rebellion (pesha). There were "sin offerings" but never an offering to remove "iniquity".
Since iniquity was an internal 'evil inclination', it had to be "borne away" -a phrase that was never used about evil actions. The Torah speaks of "bearing iniquity" but never "bearing sin".
All of which bring up an interesting point mentioned earlier.
Because, in the Old Testament, sin was considered an action which could be atoned for, it was entirely possible for the ancient Israelite to be in a state of sinlessness. However, just because an person was in a state of sinlessness, did not mean his heart was clean i.e. he or she did not have evil tendencies.
For this there was only one answer...
Yom Kippur... The Only Atonement For "Iniquity" and "Rebellion"
Man's rebellion against God (Heb. pesha) and his evil inclinations (Heb. âvôn) were only borne away once a year, on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), by the scapegoat. (Note however, the Lord did once pardon the iniquities of the people on Moses' request. See Numbers 14:17-20)
Leviticus 16 tells us that on Yom Kippur the high priest Aaron, took two goats and presented them before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting. He then "cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat" (Leviticus 16:7-8). Just like all the other sin offerings, one goat was sacrificed as a sin offering (Heb. chattâ'âh), but the other was sent alive into the wilderness, after Aaron confessed all the nations iniquities (Heb. âvôn) and transgressions (Heb. pesha) over it.
In other words, the rebellions and evil intents of the people were symbolically placed on the head of the goat and sent away.
"Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities (Heb. âvôn) of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions (Heb. pesha) in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. "The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities (Heb. âvôn) to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:21-22 NASB)
However, it is important to note that the iniquities of the people could not have been symbolically transferred to the goat and banished into the wilderness, if there were no repentance involved. No physical act, in itself, can ever rectify the wrongs in the human heart, mind, soul, or imagination.
The reason that Yom Kippur was so important was because it was a "type" of the main event to come... That Jesus once and for all became both the sacrifice for sin, and the scapegoat who bears away all our iniquities and transgressions. That the Suffering Servant came to cover our sins and forgive our iniquities was vividly described by Isaiah, many centuries before Jesus' birth.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions (Heb. pesha), He was crushed for our iniquities (Heb. âvôn); The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity (âvôn ) of us all To fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:5-6 NASB)
Most of all it is wise to remember that as much as things change... they remain the same. Just as, on Yom Kippur, iniquities could not be carried away on the head of the scapegoat without repentance, Jesus does not carry our iniquities without repentance and a turning (or returning) to the Lord.
Since sin is defined as anything that falls short of the perfection of God, we probably sin far more than we ever imagined possible and are thus squarely in the cross hairs of God's justice. This knowledge should be enough to make us realize how much in need of a saviour we are, and lead us to the forgiveness bought for us by Christ's death on the cross. See Salvation HERE
But we can never forget that repentance and salvation go hand in hand.
The word repentance is scarcely ever heard in most churches today. Instead the message heard from too many pulpits has been watered down to just 'believe' and you'll be saved. Yet repentance is presented as an absolute requirement for forgiveness in the Old Testament, as well as in the New. Scripture presents Repentance and Faith as two sides of the same coin. In short, you can't believe without truly repenting. See Repentance HERE
Was There Forgiveness For The Gentiles?
There is no evidence that forgiveness existed for the people of any other nation on earth, other than the Israelites simply because sins were (and are) based upon redemption. Until the coming of Christ, only the people of Israel had been redeemed. They were God's Covenant people, who received His forgiveness and were set apart for His service.
It is true that the Old Testament says that God, through the prophet Jonah, warned the Ninevites to repent of their evil, or He would destroy them. Nineveh's repentance may have been aided by the two plagues (765 and 759 B.C.), and a solar eclipse (763 B.C.) which the Ninevites quite possibly attributed to a deity and caused them to take Jonah's message very seriously.
And, when they did so, God relented concerning the calamity He said He would bring upon them
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil which he said he would do unto them; and he did it not. (Jonah 3:10)
What the account does not say is that God forgave them, simply that He held back the evil that their wicked deeds deserved. And, as we know, the repentance of the Ninevites was not long lasting, because some two generations later, they reverted to their old ways and God brought the destruction on them that their atrocities deserved. (Nahum 2: 4-14).
The Believer's Predicament - The Battle Between Flesh and Spirit
The frustration we all face when confronted with sin, and our own inability to conquer it, was perfectly expressed by Paul, who said...
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:17 NASB)
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (Romans 7:18-19 NASB)
The believer often finds himself in what literally amounts to a life and death struggle, torn between two opposing choices. The temptation to sin on the one hand, and the desire live righteously on the other. Because of this many may wonder how they can possibly handle a lifetime of temptation. Others with a history of failure may despair of ever breaking habits that may have dominated them for years.
See Persistent Sin... The Battle Between The Flesh and The Spirit
Repentance ...The Missing Message
Do not be fooled by the watered down Gospel message of “just “believe and be saved”, heard in so many churches today. Scripture presents Repentance and Faith not as the same thing, but literally as two sides of the same coin.
Is The Sinners Prayer Effective?
Our sense of safety can not come from simply saying a prayer. The goal should never be getting someone to pray a prayer, but rather to follow Jesus. When we emphasize deciding for Christ, instead of living for Him, we often get spiritual miscarriages instead of spiritual births.
Original Sin.. Fact or Fable?
Most Christians who profess to believe in the doctrine of original sin are ignorant of exactly what its teachings really are. They are ignorant of the fact that the doctrine has not always existed. They are ignorant of the fact that it evolved, that it had its roots in a heathen philosophy, and that it was made a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century A.D. They are ignorant of the fact that it is only a theory, and that there is really not one but several differing theories that have evolved and come down to us in the church. They are also ignorant of the fact that the Bible passages used as proof-texts for this doctrine have been taken out of context and tortured into teaching a doctrine that is completely foreign to the Bible. l