What is Sin?

What is Sin?

What is Sin?


The Truth Shall Make You Free

What is sin? When you tell a person what sin is, the Holy Spirit maximum leverage to do what only He can, convict people of sin and show them their need of Christ (John 16:8). In Matthew chapter five, Jesus revealed the spiritual nature of sin.  A person must realize he has sinned before he can be saved from its consequences.

“The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it, such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are ‘words and names’ which convey no meaning to the mind.

“The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner. The material creation in Genesis began with ‘light,’ and so also does the spiritual creation.

“God shines into our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit, and then spiritual life begins . . . . I believe that one of the chief wants of the church . . . has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.” J.C. Ryle

There are two primary words used in the Bible to communicate the essence of sin:

  • The first is hamartia (ham-ar-tee’-ah), translated into English as “sin.” It literally means to “miss the mark and so not share in the prize.” This word is well illustrated by a marksman shooting an arrow and missing the bull’s eye. Romans 3:23 assures us that all of us have “missed the mark.”
  • The second word is anomia (an-om-ee’-ah), translated “transgression,” which unlike “missing the mark” (because we were all born imperfect), refers to an act of willful disobedience. That is to willfully, knowingly violate God’s Law.  So, from these two words, we learn that we are all sinners by nature, and we are all sinners by choice.


 “Unless people are truly convicted of sin, if they don’t fully see that they are totally condemned by the requirement of God’s Law, then it is virtually impossible to show them the need of a Savior. Why, what would they need to be saved from? fun? That is why our modern Gospel must dwell on “all the good things God’ll do for you if you’d just accept Him!”

“We can’t convince a sinner that he needs a savior by just getting him to admit that, “Well, generally, yes, I am a sinner.” He must see how the Law of God totally condemns him as a sinner, and then the beauty of the gospel, the glory of the cross, the marvelous power of Christ’s blood will be able to penetrate his anxious, waiting mind and heart.

“But because there is so little real conviction of sin brought about by the preaching of our modern gospel, we cannot truly require repentance anymore. If we did, no one would “come forward” at all. For repentance is easy to him who sees how ugly and horrible sin is, but repentance is impossible where the Law does not convince the sinner of his wicked heart, compelling him to turn from his sin into the arms of a waiting, compassionate God.

“The natural tendency of the flesh is to avoid unpleasantness or discomfort, so we offer people a less confrontational, more indirect approach—something Jesus never did.”

Walking a person gently and lovingly through the Ten Commandments, and explaining the spiritual application of each one, showing how all of us have broken God’s Law in thought, word, and deed, is absolutely the most convicting, compelling, personal, politically incorrect, embarrassing, in-your-face, none of your business, and most loving things you can say to another human being!

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prv. 27:6).

Sadly, most people are unwilling to discuss these extremely personal issues.  So, in order to avoid pain or embarrassment, we offer people a “Gospel” that has little or no conviction of sin. Just believe Jesus died for you, pray this prayer, and you’re in! I have seen this over and over again by well-meaning, but misinformed people in the ministry.


This article was taken from my book, Jesus Christ the Master Evangelist-How to Present the Gospel the Way Jesus Did.

For more helpful resources see our website, www.voice-wilderness.org

Love in Christ,