Sin is a matter that pertains to every responsible individual because "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3: 23). There are many different views of sin. Some think they have no sin, the more sin, the more grace enjoyed, and they believe they can cover sin (I Jn. 1: 8-10; Rom. 6: 1, 15; Prov. 28: 13). What exactly is sin? One noun translated sin is hamartia. Hamartia is simply defined as, "a failing to hit the mark" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 30). The scriptures teach thus regarding sin: "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness: and sin is lawlessness" (I Jn. 3: 4, ASV).
A closer look at sin reveals a number of considerations. One can sin by commission or omission. When we go beyond God's law, we commit sin (lawlessness, such implies God presently has a law, Gal. 6: 2). Hence, teaching false doctrine (going "beyond the doctrine of Christ") is sin (2 Jn. 9-11). James addresses the matter of failing to do God's will and calls such a failure sin (Jas. 4: 17, omission, see vss. 13-16). The scriptures speak of sins of ignorance and willful sin (Lev. 4: 22 ff, Heb. 10: 26).
The popular notion of degrees of sin. Catholicism advances the notion of venial and mortal sin. People speak of small and big sins. It is true that some sins have greater or more far-reaching consequences than others, however, sin remains sin. To fail in one of God's requirements is sin and places one outside of law (Jas. 2: 10). Sin separates from God (Isa. 59: 1, 2). Sin is not without pay. "For the wages of sin is death ," Paul wrote (Rom. 6: 23). John penned, "All unrighteousness is sin " (I Jn. 5: 17). The latter part of this verse is used to teach venial sin as opposed to mortal sin, " and there is a sin not unto death." Beloved, the sin not unto death is the sin which is repented of (see I Jn. 1: 9). The "sin unto death" is the sin for which there is no repentance (I Jn. 5: 16, compare 1: 9).
Some biblical facts regarding sin. Sin is not simply some disease concerning which the sinner has no accountability. James teaches man's responsibility in his teaching regarding the progression of sin (Jas. 1: 14-16). He began with the denial, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God .But every man is tempted when he " (vss. 13, 14). Notice James' order, "drawn away of own lust, enticed, sin, and death" (vss. 14, 15). Sin offers pleasure, but the pleasure is fleeting and temporary (Heb. 11: 25). Some feed on sin and sin in their thinking (Hos. 4: 8, 6-10; Prov. 24: 9). Man can sin in his deeds, his thoughts, and his speech (Jn. 3: 19; Prov. 24: 9; Jas. 3: 2, 6). However, the word of God can prevent sin. Hear the Psalmist, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Ps. 119: 11).
The effects of sin. Sin causes waste. It would be difficult to find a more graphic example of the waste of sin than the prodigal son, a Jewish boy feeding swine and desiring the "husks that the swine did eat" (Lk. 15: 16). Sin deceives and hardens us (Heb. 3: 12-14; 13, 15). Sin is enslaving and besetting (Rom. 6: 17, 18; Heb. 12: 1). Sin terribly displeases the God we seek to serve. Sin is "grieving" to God (Heb. 3: 17). As seen, sin separates man from God (Isa. 59: 1, 2).
The remedy for sin. A matter as terrible as sin requires something that is correspondingly great. Hear Jesus, "For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26: 28). The blood of animals would not suffice, it took the blood of the sinless Lamb of God (Heb. 10: 1-3, Jn. 1: 29).
The non-Christian contacts Jesus' blood in the watery grave of baptism (Acts 2: 38, notice the same expression "for the remission of sins" as in Matt. 26: 28, see also Rom. 6). The Christian accesses Jesus' blood by walking in the light and confessing sin (I Jn. 1: 7-9).
In closing, sin is not a figment of our imagination, sin is actual and damning. We should ask as those of old did when they learned they were sinners, " Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2: 37-41.)