Letter 7: Just a simple word: Sin

At the very beginning, when Adam was created, God had already given man the choice of acting in agreement with or against Him. Without such an option man would be little more than a programmed robot. He could not be held responsible. He would not be able to love God and his fellowman. The ability to choose is fundamental.

We read that Adam and Eve decided against God’s purpose. Every human being since that time has made wrong choices. Adam, as all the people who have lived since then, again and again questioned God’s good intentions, and endeavoured to be ‘god’ of their own lives. But it is Satan, the deceiver, who becomes that ‘god’. That is why we cannot stop sinning at will.


The New Testament states a case that we all can unhesitatingly confirm:


“I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not, but what I hate I do . . . I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:15 – 18).


Are we really like that? Why do we fail? To answer our question rightly, we will have to define the meaning of the word ‘sin’.


The exact meaning of the word translated as ‘sin’ in the Hebrew and Greek (the languages in which the Bible was originally written) is “missing the mark, the target or aim”. A warrior takes bow and arrow, aims and shoots. But the arrow misses! The purpose is not fulfilled. It does not really matter whether he misses by one millimetre or a kilometre. Even his good intention to hit is ultimately of no consequence. Other meanings of the word are “departure from a laid down path, a revolt against legitimate authority, transgression of the law of God, the breaking of a covenant, unfaithfulness, treason and vanity” – all in relation to God. At the root lies the “fundamental and positive choice or preference of self instead of God” (A.H. Strong).


The underlying principle governing our inclination to do wrong is explained in the New Testament:


“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17).


I am sure we agree that by virtue of the fact that God created us and is Lord, He can rightfully expect us to think and do according to His will and purpose. To instruct us about this, He has given us His Word, which tells us about the conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, and how to overcome evil. He also tells us about His will for us: