For sin is the transgression of the law” I John 3:4

by Steven Chan

The biggest problem afflicting the world today is not the problem of the global financial crisis or our health or other problems that we may face in our lives. The greatest problem required the most precious solution in the offering of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as a sacrifice or atonement on the cross in order to secure salvation for man. That problem is described as the “the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb 12:1).

The Bible declares in Rom 3:23: “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God”. The awful consequence of sin is stated in Rom 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death”. But thanks be unto God who “commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (Rom 5:8-10).

In order to be saved from our sins, we need to die to our sins and be raised to walk in newness of life – and that process is described in the Bible as that of having been baptized into Christ: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein? Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:1-4). Saul the persecutor of Christians was told to be baptized so that his sins may be washed away (Acts 22:16). If one has not been baptized, then one would yet be in his sins.

Even though we have been raised from the watery grave of baptism to walk in newness of life, and are exhorted not to continue in sin (Rom 6:1-2; I John 2:1) the Bible warned us that we may yet fall into sin ( I John 1:6-10). But by God’s marvelous grace, we can still receive for forgiveness of our sins if we confess our sins to our Lord and repent of our sins (I John 1:9; 2:1-2; Luke 13:3; 2 Cor 7:10).

We must ensure that we do not continue in sin (Rom 6:1-2; I John 2:1). But the Bible warns us that “sin doth easily beset us” (Heb 12:1).  Some fall into sin because they do not know what constitutes sin. Let’s consider some actions that the Bible deemed sinful.

1. An action is a sin if it contravenes God’s law or Word even though it may not adversely affect the well-being of another person, and the action itself may appear alright in our own eyes.

Gen 3:6: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat”. Prov 3:5: “Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart, And lean not upon thine own understanding” Prov 14:12: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death.” Isa 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God said thou shall not eat of that fruit. The fact that it may make one wise (as interpreted by the devil) does not justify one eating of it. If God forbids it then to contravene it, is sin – for sin is the transgression of God’s law! No amount of twisting the interpretation of the plain statement of God will change its truth. We need to be aware of those today who twist plain statements of Scriptures to make them mean something other than what it plainly says.

2. An action is a sin if it contravenes God’s Word even though one may say that one may have a noble objective in doing such an act – eg. it was intended for the purpose of worshipping God.

John 4:23-24: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

By faith Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice to God whereas God rejected the sacrifices offered by Cain (Gen 4:3-5; Heb 11:4) – this tells us that God does not accept just any kind of offerings we may bring to Him (Mal 1:6-8; I Sam 15:21-25; Matt 15:8-9). Behold to obey is better than to sacrifice. We must worship God in accordance with His expectations.

3. An action is a sin if even though the action itself is not a forbidden act, it is done without regard to the effect it has on the faith of other believers – eg. recklessly causing them to stumble in their faith. Such acts are considered not expedient for the salvation of others.

1 Cor 8:8-13: “But food will not commend us to God: neither, if we eat not, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to the weak. For if a man see thee who hast knowledge sitting at meat in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through thy knowledge he that is weak perisheth, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And thus, sinning against the brethren, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat causeth my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh for evermore, that I cause not my brother to stumble.”

1 Cor 10:31-33: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give no occasions of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God: even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.”

1 Cor 6:12: “All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful for me; but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

4. An action is a sin if one doubts that it is the right thing to do based on God’s Word.

Rom 14:23: “But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” This is how ESV translates it: Rom 14:21-23: “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

The Bible requires us to live by faith (Rom 1:17) and to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7); and we are told that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17). So if we do something against our conscience and in the absence of faith based on God’s Word, then according to Rom 14:23, it is sin.

5. A failure to act is a sin if one knows that it is the right thing to do and one fails to do it.

James 4:17: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

This is somewhat akin to what Jesus said in Luke 12:47: “And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.” He is like the servant who was entrusted with one talent in Matt 25:25 -26: “so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant!”

Herein is a category of sin of omission that many fail to realize. To fail to love is a sin as it is God’s command to love one another (john 13:34-35). To fail to bear one another’s burden is a sin as it is the law of Christ that we bear one another’s burden (Gal 6:2). To fail to forbear with one another is a sin as it is a command of God that we forbear with one another in the bond of love (Eph 4:2-3, 32).

To fail to act when we are obligated to act is a sin. Unfortunately, many do not realize their obligations to God and to their fellow brethren. They merrily go on with their own lives without regard whatsoever for the well-being of other brethren in spite of the exhortation of the scriptures such as in  Phil 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The account of the good Samaritan warns us that knowledge of God’s Word is not sufficient to be acceptable to God (the priest and the Levite knew God’s Word for they were servants of God), one must act positively or do what God expects of us, in order to please Him (Luke 10:25-42).

One ought not to simply walk past our brethren when we have our assemblies (or during the week) and fail to express any care or concern for their well-being. We may not have brethren who have been robbed and left on the roadside but we do have many brethren who are struggling along the road of life – do we stop to ask how we may be of help to them?  Do we walk right past them like the priest and the Levite?

Rom 14:7-8: “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”

Matt 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” James 1:25: “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

Some may think that it preferable not to know the right thing to do so that one may not be obligated to do it! But the Bible does require us to know to do the right things as there are many scriptures that use the phrase “ought to”, as Jesus Himself told the Pharisees in Matt 23:23 what they ought to have done: “these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone.”

When we fail to do what we ought to do, it is sin. So, ignorance is no excuse for our failure to act! Consider the many passages of scriptures that tell us what we ought to do:-

Acts 20:35: “In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Rom 15:1: “Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

Eph 5:28: “Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies.

1 Thess 4:1: “Finally then, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as ye received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, even as ye do walk, – that ye abound more and more.”

1 Tim 3:15: “but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

Heb 2:1: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them.” Heb 5:12: “For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers,”

1 John 3:16: “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 4:11: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

We are thankful to God that we have been delivered from the captivity of sin: Rom 6:17-18: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Having been set free from sin, let us be careful not to continue in sin.

We need to understand what constitutes sin and then to avoid sin in our lives so that we may be found pleasing in His sight. Let us not forget that sin is the transgression of God’s law – and so it behooves us to know God’s Word so that we may not sin against Him. Let us be like the Psalmist who said in Psa 119:11: “I have stored up your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Do we seek to avoid sin in our lives? Are we oblivious to the sin that so easily beset us?