What Is Sin?

By Danny Saavedra

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”—Romans 3:22–24 (NLT)

Every year we celebrate Christmas. It’s a beautiful time of joy and good tidings. We decorate a tree, string up lights, sing beautiful carols, and give wonderful gifts. And every year Christians like to remind people that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Have you ever wondered what that means? Have you ever asked a Christian why He is the reason for the season? Why is there a season at all? Why did Jesus leave heaven to come to Earth?

The short answer? Our sin. That’s right, the story of God’s perfect gift to us was set into motion by the very first act of rebellion. You see, the Lord loves us so much. In Genesis 1:27, we’re told that God created us in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). We were the crowning jewel of God’s creation, made to glorify Him and enjoy a perfect relationship in His presence forever as His beloved children. This was our destiny, what we were made to experience. It’s what the first two people, Adam and Eve, experienced. They walked with God, talked with God, and enjoyed His presence. They got to live their calling and enjoy the fruits of the Garden (Genesis 2:15–16). But then it all went wrong . . . when the fall happened.

What is the fall? It’s found in Genesis 3. You see, Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan, the serpent in the Garden of Eden, into disobeying the one command given by God. In that moment, they allowed their pride and selfish impulses—their desire to be “like God”—to cloud their judgment. And because they allowed themselves to be deceived by the serpent, they brought sin, wrongdoing, imperfection, suffering, disease, decay, and death into the world. In that moment, the apostle Paul tells us, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 NIV). The worst part is that the very thing they were seeking, to be like God, they already had. They bore His image and likeness and His imprint was on their hearts and souls.

What Is Sin?

According to The Gospel Coalition, “Sin is acting or behaving in a way that does not conform with God’s character or commands. It is about crossing lines that have been laid down for us by God. Sin is thus an act of rebellion and distrust. It is us saying to God: ‘You don’t get to make the rules! I am capable of deciding right and wrong for myself!'”

In Sin and Redemption, John Garnier states that, “Sin, thus produces alienation and enmity towards God, or, in other words, a moral separation between the sinner and God, which is spiritual death; and the contrary to this is to be quickened, or given life, i.e., to be reconciled to God.” The sin of Adam and Eve infected all of their children, every single person in human history. It caused a rift, a separation between us and a holy and perfect God. Every child born since then has been born spiritually dead, separated from God—except for One. Thus, if we are born spiritually dead, once physical death has occurred, it becomes a permanent death with no chance for reconciliation.

In Romans 6:23 (NIV), Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death.” The sin in the Garden of Eden brought immediate spiritual death upon all humanity, and the final debt for one’s sin is the complete death that occurs upon physical death. Thus, in order to cover the debt of sin (which is death), something (or someone) else needed to die in place of the sinner. For this reason, the act of sacrifice became necessary in order to pay for the debt of sin. Why? Because the cost of our sin is death “and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV).

The first instance of this is seen directly after the fall. In Genesis 3:21 (NLT), it says, “And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.” You see, in order for God to clothe Adam and Eve and take away their shame, He had to kill an animal, to shed its blood. But here’s the thing, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4 NIV). It simply wasn’t enough. Only a perfect sacrifice from a perfect, eternal God would do. This is what makes the story of Jesus’ coming so powerful!

It’s the moment God’s glorious plan became reality. How? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV, emphasis added). Timothy 1:15 (NIV) tells us, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” 1 John 4:10 (NLT) says, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” He paid the wages of our sins, once and for all, in order to give us the gift of God, which is “eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NLT). When we receive Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we are made right with God. We are born again (John 3:1–21), our spirits now come alive (Ephesians 2:1–10) and the Spirit of God indwells us (John 14:16, John 14:26; Romans 8:9)—comes to live with us, to guide us, teach us, help us, and comfort us. Because of Jesus, we can know and enjoy God even more intimately than Adam and Eve ever could. We not only get to walk with God, but also we have the Spirit of God within us!