What the Bible Says About Sin

Snake and red apple on top of a pile of leaves.
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For such a small word, a lot is packed into the meaning of sin. The Bible defines sin as the breaking, or transgression, of God's law (1 John 3:4). It is also described as disobedience or rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7), as well as independence from God. The original translation means "to miss the mark" of God's holy standard of righteousness.

Hamartiology is the branch of theology that deals with the study of sin. It investigates how sin originated, how it affects the human race, the different types and degrees of sin, and the results of sin.

While the basic origin of sin is unclear, we know that it came into the world when the serpent, Satan, tempted Adam and Eve and they disobeyed God (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12). The essence of the problem stemmed from the human desire to be like God.

All sin, therefore, has its roots in idolatry—the attempt to put something or someone in the place of the Creator. Most often, that someone is one's own self. While God allows sin, he is not the author of sin. All sins are an offense to God, and they separate us from him (Isaiah 59:2).

What Is Original Sin?

While the term "original sin" is not expressly stated in the Bible, the Christian doctrine of original sin is based on verses that include Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. As a result of Adam's fall, sin entered the world. Adam, the head or root of the human race, caused every man after him to be born into a sinful state or fallen condition. Original sin, then, is the root of sin that taints the life of man. All humans have adopted this sin nature through Adam's original act of disobedience. Original sin is often referred to as "inherited sin."

Are All Sins Equal to God?

The Bible seems to indicate that there are degrees of sin—that some are more detestable to God than others (Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19). However, when it comes to the eternal consequences of sin, they are all the same. Every sin, every act of rebellion, leads to condemnation and eternal death (Romans 6:23).

How Do We Deal With the Problem of Sin?

We've already established that sin is a serious problem. These verses leave us with no doubt:

  • Isaiah 64:6: All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags ... (NIV)
  • Romans 3:10-12: ...There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. (NIV)
  • Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (NIV)

If sin separates us from God and condemns us to death, how do we get free from its curse? Fortunately, God provided a solution through his Son, Jesus Christ from whom believers can seek redemption

How Can We Judge if Something Is Sin?

Many sins are spelled out clearly in the Bible. For example, the Ten Commandments give us a clear picture of God's laws. They offer basic rules of behavior for spiritual and moral living. Many other verses in the Bible present direct examples of sin, but how can we know if something is a sin when the Bible is not clear? The Bible presents general guidelines to help us judge sin when we are uncertain.

Usually, when we're in doubt over sin, our first tendency is to ask if something is bad or wrong. I'd like to suggest thinking in the opposite direction. Instead, ask yourself these questions based on Scripture:

  • Is this a good thing for me and others? Is this beneficial? Will it draw me closer to God? Will it strengthen my faith and my witness? (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
  • The next great question to ask is, will this glorify God? Will God bless this thing and use it for his purposes? Will this be pleasing and honoring to God? (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • You can also ask, how will this thing affect my family and friends? Although we may have freedom in Christ in an area, we are never to let our freedoms cause a weaker brother to stumble. (Romans 14:21; Romans 15:1) In addition, since the Bible teaches us to submit to those in authority over us (parents, a spouse, a teacher), we can ask, do my parents have a problem with this thing? Am I willing to submit this to those in leadership over me?
  • Finally, in all things, we are to let our conscience before God convict us of what is right and wrong on matters that are not clear in the Bible. We can ask, do I have freedom in Christ and a clear conscience before the Lord to do whatever is in question? Are my own desire's submitted to the Lord's will? (Colossians 3:17, Romans 14:23)

What Attitude Should We Have Toward Sin?

The truth is, we all sin. The Bible makes this apparent in Scriptures such as Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:10. But the Bible also says that God hates sin and encourages us as Christians to stop sinning: "Those who have been born into God's family do not make a practice of sinning, because God's life is in them." (1 John 3:9, NLT) Further complicating the matter are Bible passages that seem to suggest that some sins are debatable, and that sin is not always "black and white." What is ​a sin for one Christian, for example, may not be a sin for another Christian. So, in light of all of these considerations, what attitude should we have toward sin?

What Is the Unforgivable Sin?

Mark 3:29 says, "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. (NIV) Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also referenced in Matthew 12:31-32 and Luke 12:10. This question about the unforgivable sin has challenged and perplexed many Christians over the years.

Are There Other Types of Sin?

Imputed Sin - Imputed sin is one of two effects that Adam's sin had on the human race. Original sin is the first effect. As a result of Adam's sin, all people enter the world with a fallen nature. In addition, the guilt of Adam's sin is credited not only to Adam but to every person who came after him. This is imputed sin. In other words, we all deserve the same punishment as Adam. Imputed sin destroys our standing before God, whereas original sin destroys our character. Both original and imputed sin place us under God's judgment.

Sins of Omission and Commission - These sins refer to personal sins. A sin of commission is something we do (commit) by the act of our will against the command of God. A sin of omission is when we fail to do something commanded by God (omit) through a knowing act of our will.

Mortal Sins and Venial Sins - Mortal and venial sins are Roman Catholic terms. Venial sins are trivial offenses against God's laws, whereas mortal sins are grievous offenses in which the punishment is spiritual, eternal death.

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Fairchild, Mary. "What the Bible Says About Sin." Learn Religions, Dec. 31, 2020, learnreligions.com/what-is-sin-700703. Fairchild, Mary. (2020, December 31). What the Bible Says About Sin. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-sin-700703 Fairchild, Mary. "What the Bible Says About Sin." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-sin-700703 (accessed March 31, 2023).