From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 6 – The bad news first – sin and its consequences.
We have no excuse for not believing in God, or for our sins, even if we have never heard of the Bible or Christianity. Verses 19 and 20 (on the previous page) from Romans chapter one show that God has made the truth about Himself completely obvious. Nature itself, i.e. the beauty and order of God’s creation, show us plainly that God exists and is real. Yet, we choose to ignore Him and do whatever we please rather than obey our conscience.
We are born knowing that God exists. It is self-evident anyway. But it does not suit us, so we blank Him out of our minds. If we do that we are guilty, no matter who we are, or how little we know. Therefore there is no unfairness on God’s part. We all deserve His judgment.
The three main definitions of sin
In the verses above, three main words are used to define the different types of sin:
a) “Sin” – This is the widest term and means falling short of God’s perfect standard. It is like an arrow which is fired at a target but which falls several yards short of it. We are sinners because we simply do not match up to God’s standard of holiness. Every failure to reach His standard is sin.
b) “Transgression” – This means breaking some known law or rule. Thus, because Adam and Eve were told not to eat from that particular tree, it was a transgression when they did so. It was a specific rule that they broke. Thus,transgression is a particular category of sin. It is one of the ways that we ‘fall short’.
c) “Iniquity” – This means our tendency towards rebellion or lawlessness. Rebellion is the root of our sin problem. Every one of us, deep down, is a rebel against God. We defy Him and reject His authority in our lives. We refuse to obey, honour or serve Him in the way that we should. We go about it in different ways and it takes different forms, but it is all based on rebellion. Thus, rebellion is a particular form of sin, but it is also a cause of sin.
Everybody is a sinner. There are no exceptions.
Every one of us is guilty of all three of these different aspects of sinfulness. We all fall short of God’s standards. We all break God’s laws. We are all rebels. There are no exceptions. The Bible makes that unmistakably clear:
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.1 John 1:8-10 (NIV)
And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,Psalm 143:2 (NASB)
For in Your sight no man living is righteous.
9What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands, no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.” 13“Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”14“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16in their paths are ruin and misery, 17and the way of peace they do not know.” 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”Romans 3:9-18 (RSV)