“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break.”
Romans 5:12-13 NLT
The word “sin” is not one that is used very much in today’s societies. It is mostly associated with religion, being defined as an immoral act, or when a law is broken. It is one of those words that make people feel uncomfortable, so they attempt to reduce or eliminate the potential pain by calling it something else, or projecting its reality into a treatable illness rather than calling it what it really is. This particularly applies to words defining sin in the Bible. So “adultery” becomes “an affair”. And, perhaps controversially, taking drugs, or stealing, or drinking alcohol to excess, are illnesses. And so on.
A typical dictionary definition of the word “sin” is “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law”. So without even mentioned God, the definition connects morality with law, and particularly in a way that involves a higher being. So is breaking a secular law a “sin”? Technically yes, but perhaps not in a way that complies with the dictionary definition of the word. It is rare, even unheard of, to hear the word “sin” associated with a traffic offence, for example.
In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. God doesn’t sin. He never has done. So His original intention for mankind, having made them in His own image, just like Him, was that they would be sinless as well. We must therefore consider what it was that violated God’s creation, and why.
In parallel with the Eden story, a battle raged in Heaven, with an angel called Lucifer trying to take over from God, a sort of Heavenly coup. We read what happened to him in Isaiah 14:12, quoting from the King James Version. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” Lucifer ended up in the only place available to him – Planet Earth. And it is here that he introduced his rebellious and wicked spirit, here he introduced “sin”. In the guise of a serpent, he caused Eve and then Adam to break the only law that they had been given by God. We read in Genesis 2:16-17, “But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die””. And we all know what happened next – the sad story is recorded in Genesis 3. Sin started with a rebellious angel in Heaven and in due course infected Planet Earth.
Sin happens when we break laws. And in particular God’s laws. The one overriding law that underpins all others was told by Jesus to a local Jewish religious expert. We read in Matthew 22:36-40, ““Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”” So the root of sin is disobedience to God. These simple laws power all other laws, and those who don’t want to sin must start here. And in so doing, they must bring everything they do under God’s scrutiny to see if they line up with these laws.
Perhaps we wonder what would have happened if Adam and Eve had confessed their sin, and were made right again in God’s presence. Their relationship with Him restored. Their sin wiped away and forgotten. But sadly it didn’t happen, and the disease of sin has been with us ever since. A pandemic of all pandemics.
Paul, in today’s verse from Romans 5, states that Adam’s sin became human sin. All have sinned, he said. And it is very true. I don’t know of anyone who has not broken any laws, let alone God’s laws. And all those who sin will ultimately die. That is, unless, they find forgiveness and redemption in God’s presence. Through Jesus we can discover that sins can really be washed away. Forever.
Father God. Only You, the Sinless One, has the power to forgive sins. On our knees today we worship You, deeply thankful for Your amazing grace. Amen.