Sin (properly חֲטָאָה, ἁμαρτία, both originally signifying to miss) is any action, word, desire, purpose, or omission contrary to the law, of God; a voluntary violation of, or failure to comply with, the divine law (Ro 3:20; Ro 4:15; Ro 7:7; Jas 4:17). "Whether such a law be revealed in the holy oracles, or in the constitution of our nature, the violation constitutes the transgressor a sinner (Ro 1:19-32; Ro 2:11-15). The various words by which sin and wickedness are set forth in the Old Test. throw considerable light upon the real nature and tendency of the evil.
1. The proper and original idea of sin appears to be that it is a coming short of our true destiny, a "missing" the mark (חָטָא, ἁμαρτάνω). The end of man's being is to be like unto God, to have his will in thorough harmony with the divine will, and so to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God is love; and to love him and be beloved by him is true blessedness. The whole law is summed up in love, whence sin, which is contrary to love, is a failure in the purpose of our existence.
2. This leads us to the second idea of sin, namely, that it is the transgression of God's law. From the Christian theistic standpoint there is no doubt as to the existence of an eternal moral order. That which, according to this rule, ought to be done is good; that which ought not to be done is sin. The law being neither advice nor prayer, but a positive demand, our only relation to it can be either that of submission or transgression. Whether we look upon God's law as moral, that is, stamped upon our nature, or positive, that is, revealed to us from without, in either case it should be considered binding upon our hearts, and should be implicitly obeyed, because it proceeds from the holy and loving Author of our being. Duty is represented in Scripture as a path along which we should walk, and to sin is to transgress or to go out of the way of God's commandments; hence the use of the word עָבִר, to pass over.
3. Again, every transgression is represented in the Bible as an act of rebellion (פָּשִׁע and מָרָה) God is the Ruler of his people, the Father of the human race. In both these capacities he demands obedience. To sin is to rebel against his paternal rule, to revolt from his allegiance. It is to act independently of him, to set up the will of the creature against the will of the Creator, to put self in the place of God, and thus to dishonor his holy name.
4. Further, to sin against God implies distrust of him and a willingness to deceive him, and to act treacherously towards him (עָוִל; camp. also בָּגִד and מָעִל). To entertain a suspicion of God's goodness is to distrust him; and when once that suspicion has been planted in the heart, alienation begins, and deceit is sure to follow.
5. Another remarkable fact about sin is that it is perversion or distortion (עָוִה); it is a wrong, a wrench, a twist to our nature (עָקִל), destroying the balance of our faculties, and making us prone to evil. Man is thrown out of his center and cannot recover himself, the consequence of which is that there is a jarring of the elements of his nature. Sin is not a new faculty or a new element introduced, but it is the confusion of the existing elements which confusion the Son of God came to take away, by restoring man to his right balance, and leading him once more to a loving and self sacrificing trust in God.
6. Sin is also unrest (רָשָׁע), a perpetual tossing like the waves of the sea; a constant disturbance, the flesh against the spirit, the reason against the inclination, one desire against another, the wishes of one person against the wishes of another; a love of change and excitement and stir; and withal no satisfaction. Man was never intended to find rest except in God; and practically when God is not his center he is like a wandering star, uncertain and erratic, like a cloud without water, and like seething foam.
7. Connected with this is the idea which identifies sin with toil (עָמָל), Wickedness is wearisome work; it is, labor without profit; it is painful, sorrowful travail; it is grief and trouble. And after all the labor expended on sin, nothing comes of it. The works of darkness are unfruitful; sin is vanity, hollowness, nothingness (אָוֶן); the ungodly are like the chaff which the wind scatters away; they can show no results from all their toil.
8. Sin is also ruin, or a breaking in pieces (רִע). Adversity, calamity, distress, misery, trouble, are represented by the same words as wickedness, mischief, harm, evil, and ill doing.
Gathering together the foregoing observations, they bring us to this result, that sin is wilful disobedience of God's commands, proceeding from distrust, and leading to confusion and trouble. Sin lies not so much in the act as in the nature of the agent whose heart and life have been perverted. We are taught by the Scriptures that man was led into sin originally by the Evil One, who insinuated suspicions of God's goodness; and was thus misled, deceived, ruined, and dominated over by Satan.
See Burroughs, Sinfulness of Sin; Dwight, Theology; Fletcher, Appeal to Matter of Fact; Fuller, Works; Gill, Body of Divinity, art. "Sin;" Goodwin, Aggravations of Sin; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines; Howe, Living
Temple; King and Jenyn, Origin of Evil; Muller, Christian Doctrine of Sin; Orme, Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost; Owen, Indwelling Sin; Payson, Sermons; Williams, Answer to Belsham; Watts, Ruin and a Recovery.