What is the Definition of Sin?

What is the meaning of sin in the Bible?

What is sin?

Some define sin as transgression of God’s law. “We need to keep the law because ‘sin is lawlessness’” (see 1 John 3:4). Okay, but which law?

“We have to keep all of the commands.”

Including the ones about not wearing poly-blend clothing or eating bacon?

“Well, not those ones. But at least the Ten Commandments. Plus everything Jesus said.”

But the Bible says we are not under law (see Rom. 6:14). Which means we can’t use the law to define sin.

“What…?”

And since the law is not of faith, we might say that trying to live under the law is itself a kind of sin (see Gal. 3:11–12).

“You’re breaking my brain.”

What you misdiagnose, you mistreat. If you define sin as law-breaking, you’ll think the remedy to sin is law-keeping. But to live under the law is to walk after the flesh.

We are supposed to look to the Lord, not the law, which means you cannot use the law as a guide for holy living. In the Holy Spirit you have a better Guide by far.

Which brings me back to my original question.

What is sin in the Bible?

In the Bible, the word sin can be a verb (an action) or a noun (a thing). Let’s talk about sin as a verb. Those with a legal mindset define sin (or sinning) as law-breaking, while moral people tend to define sin as immoral behavior. But this is not how the Bible defines sin.

The original verb for sin (hamartano) means to miss the mark and not share the prize. But what is the mark that we are supposed to hit and what is the prize?

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

What does it mean to sin? To sin is to fall short of the glorious life God has for us (to paraphrase the Message Bible).

God has divine life; we do not. His life is whole, good, and perfect, but our lives are bruised and broken.

Because we fall short, we miss the mark and don’t get to share in the divine life that God wants for us. This falling short is called sin.

All of us are sinners and none of us can live at God’s level. It’s impossible. But the next verse reveals God’s plan for closing the gap:

And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24, NIV)

The sinful life is what we have; the glorious life is what he offers, and this new life comes to us through the grace of Jesus Christ.

TL:DR: We are all sinners, but we are freely justified (made right with God) by grace.

Sin is a fruit

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve turned their back on God and the result was sin and death.

Sin and disobedience are the fruit of distrust. Adam and Eve did not believe God and chose the path of independence. Ever since then, humans have been operating from a baseline of self-trust (what the Bible calls walking after the flesh) and the result is sin.

The remedy for sin is to turn back to God and receive the grace he freely offers. Those who do this hit the bullseye and receive the prize. They are made new and get to share in his divine life (2 Pet. 1:4).

Now that we know what sin is (missing the mark), it will help to identify what sin is not. Sin is not merely doing bad things, because any time we walk after the flesh we miss the mark – even when we are doing good.

Nor is sin merely breaking the rules. The devil does not really mind if you are a reckless law-breaker or a religious law-keeper. As long as you are walking after the flesh you are going to fall short of the life God has for you.

What is the definition of sin? It is not rule breaking or acting immorally as much as it is walking by sight and leaning on your own abilities and understanding. It is trusting in yourself and living without regard for the things of God.

And who is a sinner? A sinner is not merely someone who does bad things. A sinner could just as easily be a churchgoer or charity worker, or a Pharisee and a publican. There are good sinners and bad sinners but they are all sinners alike if they are relying on themselves and living independently of God.

Until we come to Christ and receive by faith the gracious gift of his life, we remain dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).

How is sin a noun?

There are two ways that sin is a noun (hamartia). First, if you rake all your sins, trespasses, offenses, and mistakes into a big stinky pile, what you have is a noun: your sin.

Here is the first thing the New Testament says about your sin:

Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people (Matthew 12:31a)

All sinners have a pile of sins, and some piles are bigger than others. But on the cross the Lamb of God bore your sin and my sin and now there are no more piles. Thank you, Jesus!

Because Christ “gave himself for our sins” and “died for our sins”, God is no longer in the business of holding our sins and trespasses against us (1 Cor. 15:3, 2 Cor. 5:19, Gal. 1:4).

You may have sinful regrets, and sin still has consequences – don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise. But the good news is that God chooses to remember our sins and lawless deeds no more (Heb. 10:17). As far as he is concerned, they don’t exist.

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7–8)

“But what about the sin that I sinned just this morning?”

God has no record of that sin. Your conscience may keep a record, and the devil may keep a record, but love keeps no record of wrongs.

Sin as a tyrant

There is another way that sin is a noun. In the Bible, sin is sometimes described as a personality with desires, intelligence, and an agenda.

God told Cain that sin was crouching at his door (Gen. 4:7). Paul described sin as a tyrant with lusts and a desire to master you (see Rom. 6:14).

In the book of Romans, the word sin or sins appears 47 times and on all but one occasion it is a noun. Sin wants to enslave you, deceive you and kill you (Rom. 6:6, 17, 20, 7:14, 7:11). Paul was not talking about a sinful nature or some impersonal power. He was describing Satan.

Both sin and Satan seek to devour us (Gen. 4:7, 1 Pet. 5:8) and kill us (Rom 7:11, John 8:44). But the good news is that both sin and Satan have been defeated by Jesus (Heb. 9:26, John 12:31).

In Christ, you have been freed from sin (see Rom. 6:7). You are not freed from sinning but from sin the tyrant. Because there has been a change of government, you are free to sin no more. You don’t have to obey your former master.

From time to time, we all stumble. The difference now is that when you sin, your new master speaks in your defense.

If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)

When you sin, Jesus speaks to defend you. He does not do it to justify sin, but to justify you and to remind you that you have been freed from sin.

Since you died with Christ, you are a sinner no more. You are a new creature, with a new heart and new desires to please the Lord.

Now go learn to speak the new language of the new covenant and be who you truly are – a saint and a dearly-loved child of God.

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50 Comments on What is the Definition of Sin?

  1. Thank you, Paul… I love to read your articles… to continually learn and renew my own mind and to share with others. This was another blessing!

  2. Absolutely wonderful, thank you! I understand now. What I need to do is really internalise it.

  3. What a great definition of sin. With this in mind, we can only miss the mark by not accepting the life our Father wants to give us.

  4. Joseph Funaro // April 30, 2022 at 2:49 am // Reply

    Awesome.

  5. Jim Lenzmeier // April 30, 2022 at 3:42 am // Reply

    I love that you asked the question, Dr. Ellis, and your explanation too. I think most Christians only consider the “offensive to God” side of this question, and rarely consider that sin is “harmful to humans” – and it may be that the reason WHY sin is offensive to God is precisely BECAUSE it is harmful to humans. He loves us, wants the best for us, and taken collectively – all his guidance on choices and behavior (commands) equate to God being in the “harm prevention business.” Too bad more don’t see him as a “good, good Father” with ceaselessly benevolent intentions.

  6. These are really good points Paul. My favorite is “sin and disobedience are the fruit of distrust”. And Jesus has put his Spirit in our hearts to teach us to trust the Father the way HE trusts Abba. In listening to Jesus’ prayer “Father, I have made you known, and I WILL make you known”, we hear his passion and the motivation behind the Gospel of Christ – Jesus’ observation, even in the middle of Israel with the entire Old Testament in their history, that “no one knows the Father” is the crux of the matter. How could we trust a Father we don’t truly know? He is not scared of or shocked by our sin. He knows all about it and is in it with us leading us, from the inside out, to walk in a new way, in the knowledge of who he and the Father really are, and who we really are… developing trust that frees us from the tyrant’s illusionary grip.

  7. Paul, thank you for a great article. According to Romans 4:7-8, all our sins are forgiven and God does not hold our sins against us. Why then. when we sin, according to 1 John 2:1, do we need an advocate with the father? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Our sin won’t cause our Father to reject us, but sin is still destructive. It opens the door to the Accuser and condemnation. But the good news is we have a mighty Advocate who speaks in our defence.

      • richard elson // April 30, 2022 at 3:40 pm //

        Who does Jesus speak to as the “advocate”. I’ve assumed he speaks on my behalf before his Father, the judge, but maybe I’ve spent too long invested in characterizing God as Judge. i.e if the Father doesn’t remember our sin why would he be judging me? Maybe Jesus is advocating for me in front of the “host of heaven” as described in the opening statements in Job? I know it’s written (john16)the holy spirit is convicting me of my righteousness because of where Jesus went. . .no mention of what I did or didn’t do(hallelujah) And also convicting me of the singular sin of unbelief, which is not trusting in Jesus. and reading further down, “convicting us of judgment”. . .that Satan is judged.

        Maybe, because we are judges, I am meant to understand that Jesus is advocating to me? I really enjoy these articles, thank you for your stirring up some thoughts which have challenged some habitual/traditional and maybe superstitious ideas that lay about in the shadows of my mind.

      • jason b // May 1, 2022 at 2:36 am //

        Richard, I jumped out of my chair with joy reading your comment! You nailed it! You’ve described EXACTLY the process of becoming a New Testament believer. Your words could have just as well come from the mouth of the apostle Paul or Peter or John (or me!). Those guys went through the same discovery. In the words of the wise Yoda, “We must unlearn what we have learned.” Ultimately, the darkness of sin is believing lies about ourselves, God, and creation (the setting we exist in), and all the mayhem that comes with such beliefs. Jesus, who is the Truth, is the solution to our darkness/sin/the distorted image we falsely believe to be our reality – we are blind without Christ’s revealing intervention concerning who we are (he is the blueprint of our identity), the revelation of who God has always been, and holds creation together.

        The evangelical tradition you and I grew up hearing is steeped in a view that has gone on long enough. One that sees the cross as Jesus paying off the Father so that the Father would somehow be satisfied and calm down and then be free to lavish his love on us. Skubala! Jesus did not come to change the Father’s mind and heart about us… he came to change our mind and heart about the Father.

  8. Robin M Waller // April 30, 2022 at 7:07 am // Reply

    Wow! Thank you

  9. Hi brother Paul I agree with your definition of sin as a verb. But your definition of sin as a noun, did not bring out sin as a noun, firstly: You say there are two ways that sin is a noun I see it as one way, You said ” First, if you rake all your sins, trespasses, offenses, and mistakes into a big stinky pile, what you have is a noun: your sin”. I will say defining sin like this is still describing it as a verb not a noun…

    • The word that Jesus used for sin in Matthew 12:31 is a noun, not a verb.

      • Ngunan // May 2, 2022 at 6:47 am //

        You refered to Mathew 12:31. How about 1 John 1:9 . Understanding 1John 1:9, helps in understand Mathew 12:31. Jesus said all manner of sin or you can say every sin. And Jesus came to deal with sin not just as a verb but as a noun…

      • This article is not about who is a sinner and who is not. It’s about the meaning of the word sin and how Christ dealt with our sin on the cross. Whether the word sin is a noun or a verb is not up to you or me. You can use a concordance to find out whether the word sin is being referred to as a noun (hamartia) or a verb (hamartano) in a particular verse.

  10. Did you include this? [Rom 14:23 NASB20] “… whatever is not from faith is sin.”

  11. All I have to say is FANTASTIC! yey for ABBA Gods true Gospel of grace the GOODNEWS about our Lord Jesus and Him coming through clearer by Gods Holy Spirit in willing believers

  12. This is beautiful. Glory to God. I’m grateful He placed your blog and these emails in my path. Before, I was mentally abused and traumatized by 2 different pastors who manipulated me and took advantage of my weaknesses. I was hurt for so long and it made me feel angry towards God.. but now I am on the glorious path of HEALING and knowing God for real. That is freedom. HALLELUJAH!

    • I’m so glad to hear that, Ash. Thank God for his liberating grace!

    • Hahahahahaha good article …especially Rom 7:11describes why ppl still sinning.Today’s christianity still bow’s down under 10commandments which was GIVEN for JEW’s!!!For me personally Holy Spirit helped to forget all 10+ commandments(no law mixture..no sinning)!Nice writings Paul(You are RADICAL Grace preacher)!

  13. The last 2 sentences in this article by Dr. Ellis were great! As a believer, our identity is no longer as a SINNER, but as a SAINT and beloved CHILD of God. However, we are now SAINTS WHO SIN, and miss the mark of God’s holy and righteous character. What we were before salvation: Wretched sinners under the condemnation/wrath of God. If any doubts as to what sin is, look at the description of our sins in Rom 3:2-18. God was my judge and I was guilty as charged.

    Now He is my Father, but when I sin, His Holy Spirit indwelling in me is grieved. I am not under God’s condemnation or wrath (Rom 8:1-2; John 3:36) or fear of losing my sonship as that was taken care at the Cross. But, my heavenly Father may well discipline me, just as an earthly parent disciplines his children (Heb 12:5-11). So what do I now when I sin? Seems to me confession and admitting my sin before a Holy Father would be a correct move to restore the joy of my relationship and fellowship that has been marred and distorted by my sin. My judicial position and identity as a son/daughter is never in doubt. Then in gratitude and love, I give Him praise for His amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.

    • I find that phrase “judicial position” a little weird, and I suspect God does too. My children don’t stop being my children when they sin. They are always 100% my children and I will never withdraw my love or fellowship from them no matter what they do.

      Can confession help restore the flow of grace? Sure. It’s always good to be open and honest with our Father. But we must never fall into the trap of believing that our sin somehow distorts or undermines our place in his family. God’s grace is far greater than our sin.

    • Hi Alex. However we might process the definition of sin through our mind, there are 2 things about sin that are unquestionable. First, that sin is something that hinders our ability to properly relate to God. And second, that God himself has taken full responsibility for doing something about it. Good fathers are like that.

      This part of your comment got my attention: “God was my judge… Now He is my Father”. I would offer that God does not transition from one role to another, but rather it is our faith, our beliefs, that begin to enable us to see who he always was. Discovering gold does not make it become gold. In other words, God WILL ALWAYS BE your judge – and his judgement is (and always was) that you are beautiful, righteous, whole, wonderfully made, a joy for him to behold, the apple of his eye, and his dream come true. And God HAS ALWAYS BEEN your father. Our faith and repentance are monumentally important – it’s the only way we will ever be brought to maturity in Christ. But our faith and repentance do not change God. He is the same God he always was, since way before we started to realize how good he is. If indeed that is true, then it highlights the immense problem that sin has created – our utter blindness and consequently our brokenness. A problem that would take a Jesus sized savor to address.

      • Hi Jason,
        Thanks for your feedback, as I have always enjoyed reading the many helpful comments that you have made in the past on Paul’s excellent articles. My point is that I believe that God’s role/position to an UNBELIEVER is as his JUDGE, NOT as his FATHER. As an unbeliever, I WAS a wretched sinner under God’s condemnation. Now by His amazing grace, I AM a CHILD/SAINT/BELIEVER, and He is my heavenly FATHER.

        Jesus discusses in John 8:42-47 that basically there are only 2 fathers: FATHER God for the believer, and father Satan for the unbeliever. To me the Bible is saying that to an unbeliever, God is their JUDGE and not their FATHER. God is the creator of all people, BUT NOT the FATHER of all unbelievers, as Jesus was declaring. I do agree that God’s character/attributes are unchanging as He is the same yesterday/today/forever. However, God’s wrath and condemnation is on the unbeliever (John 3:36) as His wrath remains on him, and God is not his FATHER until the unbeliever accepts/receives the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus. Unless I misread your comments, you see God as a loving FATHER to unbelievers and believers, and that is admirable, but I respectfully disagree.

      • jason b // May 5, 2022 at 2:26 pm //

        Thanks for responding, Alex. As we grow in Grace and the revelation of the cosmic and infinitely significant player that Jesus is, it’s only natural to have to wrestle with previously held ways of seeing things. The problem for unbelievers is that they don’t believe. In order to become a believer, there must first be something to believe. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Their relationship is the very source of the Gospel. There has eternally been the Son and the Father. Meaning there has never been a time when God was not Father.

        God the Father is exactly like Jesus. He has always been exactly like Jesus and there has never been a time when he was not exactly like Jesus. We haven’t always known this. But now we do! My point is that God is a loving FATHER whether I see him that way or not. It is the Fatherhood of God that brought creation into being, and the Fatherhood of God that sent his Son to obliterate the sin issue described in the above article… all for a world population of unbelievers. God’s Fatherhood precedes our faith in it.

  14. Can someone please help answer this question for me? …

  15. This is great! If I could add one thing that is helpful to me is that if sin is missing the mark, then we are never (in and of ourselves) not in sin. We have not arrived. We are not in all possible ways hitting the mark of being Christlike. Therefore, we are always children of Grace. It is always only though Grace that we are justified. This brings sincere humility. This brings sincere dependence. This is repentance – a continual changing of my mind to conform to his.

  16. Hi Jason,
    I’ll give you the last word in our brief discussion, and will close by thanking you as you gave me much “food for thought” to consider in your two comments to me. Both you and Dr. Ellis give good discussions and arguments for your causes without being judgmental or hyper critical. May God continue to bless both of you in the name of our heavenly FATHER.

    • What a kind and generous response, Alex. Jesus and his Father and the Holy Spirit are so far removed from any brand of religiosity whatsoever that we can barely cope with it. That’s the damage that sin has done to us. It fries our brains too much to accept a gospel with no hoops to jump through, no skill to master, nothing to acquire, and no transaction receipt required. What Jesus is sharing with us is his very relationship that he has always enjoyed with the Father – he wants us to enjoy it as he does. In our hearts (where Jesus calls home) we get this, but our theology won’t allow us to embrace it. It causes a crisis in our very soul to try and live out of the untainted relationship Jesus is sharing with us when we are so tangled up in seeing everything through the legalistic framework we’ve inherited. The straw that broke the camel’s back, for me, that set me on the path to real freedom from religion was when I finally realized Jesus was not on the cross to suffer his Father’s wrath or judgment. He surrendered himself over to suffer our wrath, our scorn, our judgment. We are the ones that don’t get it. We are the ones that think there must be payment for sin. So, God offered a final sacrifice for sin… TO US. Will we accept it and find rest? Or will we continue to tell Jesus he’s wrong about his Father, that God can’t be that good and that he needs to repent and see things the way we do? …Now we can start to see the severity and blackness of sin.

      • I know this sounds nice, but this is just not theologically accurate. I feel like you don’t want a mean God the father, so you’re trying to find away around judgment because it makes God sound bad to you. However, without justice, there is no love. A loving God does not allow wrongs to go unpunished. Could you imagine having someone slaughter your wife and children and God stepping in to give you a hug, and saying, “But let’s just let it go, because I don’t want to be mean to the murderer”?

        This is the true beauty of the gospel: justice demands the price be paid, which means we are all dead. But God in his love was willing to unleash the punishment on His Son: in a sense, take the punishment Himself. This is the only (and brilliant) way to have both justice and love. This God way more loving than the one who doesn’t demand punishment. He is not a mean or vengeful God. What is more loving than sacrificing your own Son for you?

        Those who go to Hell, in essence, don’t really go because of their sins; they go because they refuse the answer. The people in Hell are there because they choose it.

      • jason b // May 20, 2022 at 2:43 pm //

        Hi AllenW. If one reads the gospels, you’d think that they would see Jesus saying he’s on his way to suffer the punishment for sin from his Father. But it’s not there. What is there over and over is Jesus saying he’s going to be handed over to men and suffer at the hands of men. Sin is not something that needs punishment. It’s something that needs to be overcome. That was what Jesus did.

        This god of our fallen imagination that must be appeased before he can properly relate to us is nothing more than the “Great and Powerful Oz” who is the illusion of the Wizard. Don’t you see? The god of this world has pulled the wool over our eyes and Jesus has come to open them.

        Your view of ‘justice’ is straight out of the fallen mind of Adam hiding in the bushes from the lover of his soul. No, you are incorrect, justice does not demand a price be paid. That is our twisted religion talking. Justice is and always has been about RESTORATION. In your example “imagine having someone slaughter your wife and children” the only way for there to be true justice is to HEAL and RESTORE all 3 parties. One – The murdered need to be restored to life. Two – the people grieving the loss of those murdered need to be healed of their pain. And three – the murderer needs to be redeemed from being a murderer. AND all 3 parties need to be brought back to union and fellowship. That is the justice the kingdom of heaven is all about! We think Jesus is just playing some religious game. Oh no. He has embraced fallen and sinful humanity and met us at our very worst to bring us out of the sewer pit reality we’ve made for ourselves. This whole thing is wrapped up in RELATIONSHIP, not legalism. He has stooped to our level and “became sin” because he and his Father and the Spirit simply don’t do abandonment.

      • I’m sure that given the time I could round up all the scripture that contradicts your position, but for now, I can only say that you have rendered the cross meaningless. What was the point if we could all just get over it? Also, nothing in what I said constitutes legalism. Last question, how am I healed of my pain when there are no consequences for the murderer?

      • What a great response, Jason. I have another thought to add. What if we defined the gospel in terms of God’s life instead of from the perspective of sin, death, and law? From the perspective of God’s life, missing the mark would be falling short of His life. We can never attain His life through works, so even if we kept the law perfectly would we miss the mark of God’s eternal life. God’s life can only be received freely as gift through the completed work of Jesus (faith). By grace through faith.

      • jason b // May 21, 2022 at 12:36 am //

        AllenW. We are all caught in an addiction to legalism – performance based thinking. It’s a result of the fall of Adam and it’s the driver of us projecting onto God’s face this horribly distorted view of who he is – we think he’s just a bigger version of us. We think “if I demand consequences for being wronged, certainly God demands punishment for when he’s wronged” – and we are scared to death of this god of our delusion and hide in the bushes no different than Adam. Our hiding may look like church attendance or good deeds, or it may look like trying to lose oneself in debauchery – but the driver of the fear we live in is this twisted view of God that sin/darkness/the fallen mind has riddled us with.

        The cross is the most meaningful event in the history of humanity. But it has zero to do with God the Father taking out his need to punish sin on his Son. Because God has zero need to punish for sin, he’s not offended by our stupidity any more than we would be offended by infant children acting like infant children. He’s much bigger and better than that, he is the one that is able to “just get over it” when it comes to sin. We are the ones with ‘sin issues’. …this is difficult to swallow, our brains can’t handle it – we reason to ourselves that God couldn’t be that good, and we and nearly the whole of western Christianity couldn’t be that wrong. Welcome to the Gospel and our summoning to repent (a radical change of the mind about how you see EVERYTHING).

        Food for thought concerning the meaning of the cross: One of the most famous sermons ever preached is titled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. That title captures our twisted view of God that keeps us trapped hiding and covering with religion. But we’ve got it backwards. The cross, AllenW, is about God in the hands of angry sinners. We have a God who, by his very nature, SUBMITS. This is what blew the apostles minds and we need to invite it in to blow ours.

      • 1. You say the cross is meaningful but you don’t explain how. From what I read from you, it is just a grand gesture with no teeth.

        2. Can you support any of what you say with scripture?

      • jason b // May 21, 2022 at 3:20 pm //

        Allen. I love you brother, but to me the Christian life is about immeasurably more than who can quote the most bible verses to prove their point. So, I just don’t engage in that sport.

        The meaning of the cross is in Jesus’ desire to fulfill what the apostle Paul calls “the eternal purpose of God”. I’ve become fond of referring to it as Papa’s dream for us. Jesus didn’t come as a response to Adam’s fall as if there would have been no need for Jesus to come if Adam didn’t fall. Jesus was always going to come, as our adoption THROUGH Jesus was predestined BEFORE the foundation of the world, whether Adam fell or not. Creation was brought into being in service to the greater purpose of our planned adoption into and sharing in the eternal trinitarian life of God – their dream for us. But Adam did fall, and man rose in his self-referential independent defiance to his creator and sustainer, and lover. The gruesome extent of the cross of Christ reflects not God’s judgement, but our defiant, venomous scorn and rejection of God’s Son, calling him a liar and demon possessed – “Sorry Jesus, but you just don’t fit our vision of God.” “Away with this man. Crucify him.” Do you see Allen? God himself came to be with us and we violently and ferociously rejected him. It is here that we see the depth and darkness of sin. But this didn’t catch the Father and Son off guard. They saw it coming and used our murder of Jesus as the way to accomplish our adoption and plant the seed of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Father, Son and Spirit are redeeming geniuses. The only contribution any of us have made to our salvation is to reject Jesus – the one thing we could be counted on to do! At the cross Jesus was joining himself to us at our very utter worst and identifying with us in the deepest darkest corners of our pain and fears. There is so much more to say here, but my Lord, we’ve got to stop talking about the cross as a sin debt payoff that God made to himself. We can let that go, even if we are not sure what to make of the cross, we can be sure it wasn’t that!

      • I’m not asking you to cherry-pick Bible verses. I’m asking you to ground your theory in God’s Word. I am getting old, and as I grow, I have learned to move away from theory and speculation. If it is not consistent with scripture, if I can’t find a way to ground it in the Bible, it is of little use or interest to me. I don’t need a proof text, but so much of scripture focuses so much on atonement, I can’t imagine how you would explain that away.

        I, also, still don’t see the necessity of the crucifixion. You know, Jesus prayed that if there was a way that he not have the go through with it. So, obviously, it was necessary. In your theology, I just don’t see the necessity of the cross.

        I will be honest with you, so much of what you say, I agree with. But the “if” is huge.

      • jason b // May 22, 2022 at 2:46 am //

        The necessity of the cross, Allen, lies in OUR need to be crucified and resurrected – reconciled. It is our fallen ideas, way of being and thinking, and concepts of God (the crux of the sin issue) that must be melted down and remade in the furnace of God’s love. It is the braking down and refashioning of humanity back to the original design, in Jesus mind you, that necessitated his cross. It is “for the joy that was set before him” that Jesus endured the cross. The resurrection of our innocence was the joy he was foreseeing.

        In order to reach us in our darkness, Jesus had to come inside the confines of Adam’s tragic confusion and death. The problem with that is that the presence of God is not welcome there. Our “do not disturb, go away” sign is up. The exposure to being locked in a room with God’s love is too intense, as our religion offers less and less armor the closer God gets. The shame is too much to bear, and we make plans to remove the source of our pain – “Away with this man”. Do you see the problem God had on his hands – how does he create fellowship with his beloved when we are so lost in our broken self-referential reality that we don’t want anything to do with him? And do you see how the murder of Jesus was destined to happen? The incredible act of grace is the Father, Son and Spirit’s submission to us and ALLOWING it to happen. They saw it coming and used it to ‘flip the script’. Now, in the darkest recesses of our locked away hidden trash heaps of things we are ashamed of… if we open the locked lid and look in, you’ll see none other than Jesus there with you at your worst. “I’ll never leave you or forsake you.”

        LOL. I’m getting old too, brother. And I was blind to this for a long, long time. Every chapter of the bible is screaming this story to me now. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

      • jason b // May 22, 2022 at 4:32 am //

        Allen, to answer your ‘atonement’ query in possibly a more suitable way: I simply don’t see atonement as something couched in the concept of penal substitution. It is couched in Jesus’ identity within the cascading fountain of trinitarian life and love that God is. As the Father’s eternal Son, in his incarnation, he brings his union with the Father and Spirit into the realm of fallen humanity AS A HUMAN – one of us, to establish REAL union with fallen, broken, sinful mankind through his submission to us in our catastrophic blindness and collusion with evil. Jesus literally went through hell on earth for 33 years climaxing at the cross in his ultimate identification with our blindness and pain, and with US in our fallen condition. All the while, in Jesus, the Holy Spirit was accustoming himself to dwell with us in our “flesh” – “the Word became flesh”. The salvific work of Christ is so much more than we have allowed ourselves to believe. Jesus himself is our atonement! He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and he is “the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit”.

      • jason b // May 21, 2022 at 12:51 am //

        Yes, LJP. Exactly! A relationship is something that is enjoyed and shared, and lived in. It’s built on trust and union. And it springs forth LIFE. That is what Jesus is giving us. It’s his faithfulness and faith (that we didn’t have) that is being supplied for us to give us eyes to see and relate to our Father. There’s nothing to earn here. No law to keep. No rule list to check off. We are located in Jesus’ relationship with his Father – that is where we now stand. Is there any better news in all the world than that!?!

      • Hi Jason, i know that the Father’s heart towards us is not to punish, but to save, heal, restore, right from day
        one. Which is why He sent us a savior
        .Man without Christ does not have life and stand condemned . Jesus came to give us life and the gift of no condemnation,He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already,
        I agree with you that sin is something that hinders our ability to properly relate to God. that God himself has taken full responsibility for doing something about it. He gave us the gift of no condemnation not because “sin is not something that needs punishment” grace is an unmerited favour. God wasn’t motivated to save us through pity or even a sense of obligation as our Creator. He was motivated solely by love. You also said ” sin It’s something that needs to be overcome. That was what Jesus did”. But that wasn’t the only thing He did. There are five offerings in the old testament and Christ one final sacrifice covers all the offerings, two of them are the sin offering and the trespaas offerings. the sin offering covered the overcoming part. the trespasses offering covers the remission. The gospel declares that, through Jesus there is forgiveness for sins, and all who believe in Him are made right with God.
        How to fight condemnation/guilt is by letting people know that there is no punishment for them because Jesus took our punishment.
        the Bible says he who fears, fears punishment. The first man who showed fear was Adam because he feared punishment for the sin they committed. That made them hid from God. We are in a warfare and One of the ways the enemy will try to paralyze, disable or disarm the people of God is to try to put a burden of guilt/condemnation and shame on them. The solution is for them to know what Christ has done.

  17. Peter Deneke // May 19, 2022 at 9:57 pm // Reply

    That is a watered-down definition of what sin is. You cant say if somebody kills or rapes somebody, that it’s just missing the mark only. Look at a bible dictionary it has more meanings than what you said.

    • I believe the Apostle Paul’s definition of sin is on the mark (pun intended). It’s human nature to classify sin as big or small as though small sins were less serious than others. But from God’s perspective, sin is sin. Some may get closer to the mark than others, but ultimately we all fall short. We all need grace.

      • To me, the reason why “sin is sin” is because the sin underneath these actions is selfishness. It is the same selfishness that underlies rape, that underlies cheating on your taxes, or telling a white lie to avoid embarrassment. The self-centeredness makes you unholy and separates you from God. That’s why Jesus is the only answer; in and of yourself, you will always fall short.

    • richard elson // May 20, 2022 at 11:54 am // Reply

      I’m pretty sure Jesus would say, “You think you’re closer to the mark if you didn’t physically kill or rape someone? You have cheapened the demands of the law (greasy law). The law demands you to be found guilty of not keeping any of its demands if you once thought hatefilled thoughts, or where once lustful”.

      If we misunderstand the purpose of the law, we will also misunderstand the problem and will always remain self righteous. The answers to the problem is “I can’t do it, I need a saviour”. The so called “beatitudes” are a description of those who have come to that conclusion.

      They are blessed. You are not blessed if you think , “if I try just a little bit hard I can hit the mark”.

  18. Hi Jason,

    Did I understand you to say in your words above to Allen W, that sin only needs restoration and to be overcome and not punishment? I would agree with your assessment, if we are discussing sin in believers. However, an unbeliever that has rejected the free gift of grace will be cast into eternal punishment (2 Thess 1:7-9; John 3:36; Rom 1:18). Those who have trusted in Christ have received eternal life with Jesus.

    God does punish the unbelieving sinner for God’s justice is real and will be satisfied. Those who accept Jesus need not fear condemnation or the wrath of God. However, God will discipline those whom He loves (Heb 12:5-11). Is this a fair assessment of what you wrote?

    • Yes and no. Alex, let’s back up a little. Jesus is the preeminent revelation of the character and nature of God. He made known to us who God is – his life, as a human, was an expression of three individual distinct beings that are so submitted to one another in other-centered (not self-centered) union that they can only be described as one. This eternal trinitarian fellowship is joyful, and bountiful (overflowing), and filled with meaning. Their relationship is the sustaining source and origin (Geneses) of creation and all of us in it. All creation lives and moves and has it’s being inside the love shared between the Father, Son and Spirit. There is no existence outside of that frame. Even Satan swims in Christ, for it is Christ who is holding every molecule together.

      When we start there, Alex, instead of starting with the ‘great and powerful Oz’ deity that is removed and solitary and unapproving and distant (and doesn’t actually exist), we then see new meaning start to emerge for words we use to formulate our Christianity. ‘Holy’ is not moral purity, but rather it speaks of the purity, uniqueness, and other worldliness of the trinitarian relationship that is one of a kind. ‘Justice’ is not about revenge, but about making things right (restored). ‘Wrath’ is not about “God’s gonna get ya”, but rather God’s wrath is his absolute “No, not on my watch!” to our destruction. ‘Repentance’ is not about deciding to start obeying the rules and be good, but about rejecting the old god model for the new one revealed in Jesus. ‘Unbelievers’ are not those destined for an unending flaming rotisserie, but rather they are those who do not believe what is nevertheless true – their blinders have not come off yet.

      Yes, God’s justice is real and it will be satisfied! Amen! That is a good and wonderful and beautiful thing that gives me great hope! And it doesn’t involve a flaming torture chamber.

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