Sin condemns the soul to Hell and destroys everything it touches. Only faith in Jesus Christ can remove the eternal penalty of sin and restore fellowship with God. Learn the Biblical definition of sin so you can avoid it.

There is a lot of confusion about what sin is today. Make sure you know what sin is so you can evade its devastating effects. Only God has the right to determine what constitutes sin. He gave us His definitions of sin in the Bible. Click To Tweet

Consider this information from a poll that highlights the confusion about sin.

“According to an Ellison Research study, 87% of Americans believe in the concept of sin, defined as “something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective.” That is good news of a sort, since the absence of any notion of sin would spell social and theological disaster. It is somewhat reassuring to know that most of our neighbors believe that at least some acts are “almost always considered wrong.” It is hard to imagine how we would sleep at night if a majority believed otherwise.
But all that reassurance quickly dissipates when the rest of the data are considered. It turns out that Americans do not have a very clear idea of which acts are sin. A significant majority of Americans were agreed that the following are sins: Adultery 81%, Racism 74%, Using “hard” drugs such as cocaine, heroine, meth, LSD, etc. 65%, Not saying anything if a cashier gives you too much change back 63%, Having an abortion 56%, Homosexual activity or sex 52%, Not reporting some income on your tax returns 52%. A “significant percentage” of Americans agreed that these acts are also sinful: Reading or watching pornography 50%, Gossip 47%, Swearing 46%, Sex before marriage 45%, Homosexual thoughts 44%, Sexual thoughts about someone you are not married to 43%, Doing things as a consumer that harm the environment 41%, Smoking marijuana 41%, Getting drunk 41%, Not taking proper care of your body 35%.
A much smaller percentage believed that these acts are sins: Gambling 30%, Telling a “little white lie” to avoid hurting someone’s feelings 29%, Using tobacco 23%, Not attending church or religious worship services on a regular basis 18%, Playing the lottery 18%, Watching an R-rated movie 18%, Being significantly overweight 17%, Not giving 10% of your income to a church or charity 16%, Drinking any alcohol 14%, Working on Sunday/the Sabbath 14%, Spanking your child when he/she misbehaves 7%, Making a lot of money 4%, Dancing 4%.
There are surprises here, at least as measured against similar surveys. The Ellison Research survey indicates that only 52% of Americans believe that homosexual acts are sin and only 45% defined sex before marriage as sin. These two data points may indicate the evaporation of biblical morality in the worldviews of many Americans — at least when it comes to sex.
The worldview of personal autonomy, wedded to the Sexual Revolution, may have produced a moral reversal on these matters of sex. Homosexual acts and extramarital heterosexual acts are clearly identified as sins in the Bible. This research indicates that only adultery is generally understood to be sin.”

Today, multitudes accept abominations like pride, rebellion, witchcraft, fornication, adultery, and sodomy while condemning faith in God, pollution, or carbon emissions.

We cannot define sin from personal experience or popular culture.

Only God has the right to determine what constitutes sin. He gave us His definitions of sin in the Bible.

A lack of Bible knowledge results in misunderstandings of vital spiritual concepts.

We must define sin properly! Why?

We can’t be saved without acknowledging our sinful condition.

Mark 1:15  “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Repentance is acknowledging our sinful condition and turning to Christ for salvation.

Acts 26:20  “But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”

We won’t want to be saved if we don’t know we are sinners facing impending judgment.

What if the next time you got on an airplane, the stewardess came down the ailse passing out parachutes. They strap the 30-pound parachute to your back as you complain.

Imagine the uproar of all the passengers. “This is ridiculous!” they say. One cries, “I’ve flown many times and never had to wear one of these restrictive things!” Another shouts, “Why would I wear this uncomfortable pack?”

Then the captain comes over the intercom and explains that the plane will crash soon. The parachute is the only thing that can save them.

Oh, how the conversation would change! The same passengers that complained are interested now. “Is this thing on right?” “When do I pull the cord?” “Do you have one for my wife in seat B3?”

What made the difference? The knowledge of impending doom.

We must help people see they are lost before they will want to be saved.

Each of these verses about salvation includes a warning of coming damnation.

John 3:36  “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
John 5:24  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
Revelation 21:8  “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

There are many sins listed in the Bible. However, God in His eternal wisdom, gave us four formulaic definitions of sin that can be used to identify sin at any time and in any culture. Let’s examine them now.

God’s Four Definitions of Sin.

1. Sin Is the transgression of the Law.

1 John 3:4  “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”

Sin is the transgression of God’s law.

1 John 3:4 is not speaking of transgressing the law of man unless the law of man is built upon the law of God.  In cases where man’s law contradicts the law of God, obedience would be criminal. It is talking about transgressing the law of God.

What is a transgression?

Webster’s 1828 dictionary provides this definition of transgression.

TRANSGRES’SION, n. [Fr.] The act of passing over or beyond any law or rule of moral duty; the violation of a law or known principle of rectitude; breach of command. He mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away. Ezra 10. Forgive thy people all their transgressions. 1 Kings 8. 2. Fault; offense; crime.

A transgression is a trespass. You have entered territory that is off-limits to you. You have crossed the line and penalties must be enforced.

God gave Moses the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai. They are the 10 basic rules for mankind from the Creator. More commandments were added throughout the Bible.

Some commandments are ceremonial dealing with the Jewish religion, separating them unto God and pointing them to a coming Messiah.

Some are moral commandments teaching people how to live blameless before a holy God.

The ceremonial law was nailed to the Cross with Jesus Christ. We are not bound to the ceremonial law during the New Testament Church age.

Colossians 2:13–17 “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
Ephesians 2:11–16 “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:”

The ceremonial law of feasts, sacrifices, holy days, Sabbath days, food restrictions, etc. have been abolished through Christ’s work on the Cross.

Thank God we don’t have to live according to all the Old Testament law today!

Jesus did not come to do away with the moral law. On the contrary, He came to fulfill that law.

Matthew 5:17  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

With that crucial understanding in mind, let’s dive deeper into the doctrine of sin.

Our understanding of sin begins with the 10 commandments. They are found in Exodus chapter 20.

Exodus 20:1–17  “And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
God in His eternal wisdom, gave us four formulaic definitions of sin that can be used to identify sin at any time and in any culture. Click To Tweet

This is a list of the 10 Commandments taken from Scripture.

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
  5. Honor thy father and mother.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
  10. Thou shalt not covet.

The Bible says that we are guilty in the eyes of God for breaking these laws.

The bad news keeps getting worse.

If we have broken one commandment, we are guilty of them all!

James 2:10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

The weight of our sinfulness and God’s abiding judgment drives us to the Saviour.

Galatians 3:24–25 “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”

Sin is the transgression of God’s law.

2. All unrighteousness is Sin.

1 John 5:17  “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.”

What does it mean to be unrighteous? Here’s what Webster’s 1828 dictionary says.

UNRĪGHTEOUS 1. Not righteous; not just; not conformed in heart and life to the divine law; evil; wicked; used of persons. 2. Unjust; contrary to law and equity; as an unrighteous decree or sentence.

Everything coming short of right is sin. 

One definition of sin means “to miss the mark.”

How many people have tried to please God, live a righteous life, or be “good enough” to enter Heaven. Good works earn no favor with God for eternal salvation.

The standard to earn your way into Heaven is perfection. No matter how sincere you are in your heart or how hard you try, you will never be perfect. You fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

Not only do we fail to keep the 10 Commandments, but God gave us other commandments in addition to them.

The Bible is full of commandments that we should observe.  God could not list every sin that would ever exist between the covers of your Bible.

In His eternal wisdom, He gave us principles of righteousness that trancend time and apply to all cultures.

Transgression of the principles of righteousness is sin.

3. Omission of what we know to be good Is Sin.

James 4:17  “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

Knowledge without practice is a sin.

One man said, “Inconsistency is the very essence of sin.”

Satan knows more about the Bible than any of us, but he doesn’t practice it.

There are two types of sin.

1. Sins of COMMISSION. It is a sin when we do what God said not to do.

2. Sins of OMMISSION. It is a sin when we don’t do what God commanded. Knowledge without practice is a sin. Click To Tweet

When we don’t do what we know to do, the urgency to obey fades. We get comfortable with sin and disobedience.

Cotton Mather had this principle. “The ability to do good in any case imposes an obligation to do it.”

How often do we fail to do what we know if right and good? It is sin.

RELATED: Have you read my 40-day devotional book about how to say NO to temptation? Check it out HERE.

4. Whatever is not of faith is Sin.

Romans 14:23  “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

The word “damned” in this verse does not speak of eternal punishment in Hell. It means “condemnation.”

Doubt condemns us.

“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

This is a principle of unspeakable importance in the Christian life.

This verse means that whatsoever is not done with a full conviction that it is right, is sinful.

Doubt is not a good motivation for action. Typically, it leads to sin.

We should have a strong conviction that our actions are right.

Alber Barnes wrote in his Notes on the New Testament :

“In all cases, if a man does a thing which he does not believe to be right, it is a sin, and his conscience will condemn him for it.”

Happy is the man who lives by faith with an approving conscience.

How often do we act in doubt? Why do we say such things as:

  • “I know I shouldn’t but…”
  • “I probably should but…”
  • “I’m not sure if this is right, but…”

The old adage says, “When in doubt, don’t.” My preacher gave me this good advice years ago – “Don’t undo in the dark what you decided in the light.”

Clearly, this principle is high-level Christianity! But don’t be discouraged. God gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us to live a supernatural life.

We are called to live by faith, not by sight. We should strive to live so much by faith that every decision, every action, is made if full assurance of faith.


God gave us formulaic definitions of sin that can be used to identify sin in any culture at any time. The revelation of these definitions increases in difficulty and commitment. As we grow in grace, we must grow in our understanding of and hatred for sin.

God will continue His work of sanctification (freedom from the present power of sin) as we yield to Him.

Sin condemns the soul to Hell and destroys everything it touches. Only faith in Jesus Christ can remove the eternal penalty of sin and restore fellowship with God.

Have you been born again? Learn how to have your sin’s forgiven here.

Christian, God calls us to live a life of holiness. Now that we can define sin, let’s strive to live a righteous and holy life.

Make sure you know what sin is so you can avoid it and its devastating effects.

You can listen to the audio sermon based on this information below.