Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 14, 1949
NUMBER 10, PAGE 3-4b

What Is Sin?

Rufus Clifford, Old Hickory, Tennessee

If there is one thing the present day world needs more than anything else it is a sense of sin. The world today regards sin too lightly. Too many have a superficial, cloudy conception of sin. The reason people do not come to the Lord is because they do not feel that they are sinners and therefore they do not believe that they need the Lord. When people do not have a clear conception of what sin is, they do not fear sin. People fail to sense that their souls are in danger because they do not know what sin is.

One of the most obvious facts is the fact of sin in the world. Its existence in the lives of all responsible people cannot be denied. Its consequences are too grave to be ignored by any intelligent person. Sin is the one thing that endangers our happiness for both time and eternity. Sin separates man from God and drives a dividing wedge between man and man. It brings discord where harmony should exist. It sets man against his best Friend. Sin has marred and scarred the world. On both land and sea may be seen the wrecks it has wrought. How terrible the effects of sin upon society! Sin wastes substance, business, energy and skill. It wastes the body, poisons the blood, burns up its tissues, and rots its bones. It cuts deeper and slashes into character, deadens conscience, and destroys the soul bit by bit. One may see a dozen glaring illustrations and proofs of this in any morning or evening paper. Sin puts one out of his right mind so that he uses God-given powers to accomplish the devil's plan and purposes to destroy the soul. Paul said, "The wages of sin is death." (Rom. 6:23) Think of the awfulness of being eternally lost! It is to be lost in hell, lost in outer darkness, beyond the presence of God forever. It is the aggregation of all sorrows, pains, woes, and horrors mixed into one fearful beverage to be drunk, forever! It is a lake of fire where teeth gnash, lost souls shriek, the damned cry, demons congregate! , We should be deeply interested therefore in what sin is. Let us notice briefly some of the things God's Word says about sin.

Sin Is Transgression

"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4) Transgress means, "To go beyond the limits set by; to overpass the bounds established by; to break, as a law or rule; to violate; to exceed." To transgress the law is to manifest a contempt for and disregard of the law. The New Testament contains the law of Christ, and we are to be governed and regulated by this law. John says, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." (2 John 9) Going beyond the law of Christ, then, is sin. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount about some men who had been religious, sincere, zealous, workers for the Lord, and in the judgment they expected to be saved, but he said, "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. 7:21-23) What was their trouble? Why were they lost? They had transgressed God's law; they had disregarded the Will of God.

One should see the sin, then, in wearing names unauthorized by the law of Christ, in subscribing to creeds that contain more than the Bible, in affiliating with churches that you do not read about in the teaching of Christ, and in supporting organizations foreign to the doctrine of Christ. That the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship to God is sin is clearly evident from the fact that one must go beyond the law of Christ to get it. We should be careful, therefore, to stay within the limits of the law of Christ, for to go beyond is sin.

What Is Not Of Faith Is Sin

"For whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23) How does faith come? Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17), and without faith we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Paul declares that "we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7) One cannot do by faith that which God has not commanded, and concerning which God has no revealed will; he cannot know that such is pleasing to God. No one can know the will of God except as God reveals it. (1 Cor. 2:10-16) We cannot walk by faith and act on opinion or human wisdom.

This is one of the reasons why the churches of Christ are so strict in staying with the Bible, and why we seek to persuade men to do Bible things in Bible ways, and to call Bible things by Bible names. This is one of the reasons why we refuse and condemn the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship to God. This is one of the reasons we cry out against human institutions raiding the treasuries of the churches of the Lord. We are to walk by faith, but faith comes by hearing God's Word, and what is not of faith is sin.

Wasted Opportunities

"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17) Someone has said, "Unused knowledge of one's duty is sin, the sin of omission." If we know what is right, and we do not do it, we are guilty of sin. Jesus said, "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." (Lk. 12:47) Here is why we fear for the eternal welfare of many members of the Lord's Church! Christianity is reproducing in our lives the life of Christ. But Christ "went about doing good." One may be clean morally, but if he neglects to do good, serve mankind, help the weak and poor, spread the Gospel, attend the services of the church, give as he has been prospered, and support in an aggressive way the religion of Christ, he is a sinner before God. The person who knows what God expects of him, and does not do it, but goes recklessly with his own plans in rebellion against God, is guilty of sin.

Unrighteousness Is Sin

"All unrighteousness is sin." (1 John 5:17) Unrighteousness includes every branch of duty and everything which does not conform with the teaching of Christ. David said, "All thy commandments are righteousness." (Ps. 119:172) Paul declares that the Gospel of Christ reveals the plan of God for making men righteous. (Rom. 1:16, 17) When we obey the commandments of the Gospel, we are righteous, for "he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." (1 John 3:7) When men spurn Christ and refuse to obey the Gospel of Christ, they are unrighteous. When members of the church fail to live soberly, righteously, and godly, but live according to their own selfish desires, they are unrighteous. All such are sinners in the sight of God.

To be guilty of sin, as defined in the above scriptures, is to condemn our souls to a devil's hell. Forgiveness of sins is found only in Christ. We come into Christ through faith and obedience to the Gospel. When the Pentecostians were convinced by the preaching of the Gospel that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that they were sinners before God, they cried out, "Men and* brethren, what shall we do?" Peter, speaking as the Spirit gave him utterance, answered, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:37, 38) There has never been any forgiveness of sins until the sinner did what God required of him for forgiveness. The forgiveness is promptly and freely given to the one who submits in humility and penitence to divine authority. John says, "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) We should turn in the fear of God from all sin, cultivate a hatred of sin, and walk humbly before God. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." (2 Cor. 5:11)