Q14: What is sin?
A: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God (1 Jn. 3:4).

I. The law that sin is a transgression of.

A. Any law or command of God which man is obliged to obey.

1. God’s preceptive will (1 Jn. 5:14).

Relevant quote from Francis Turretin:
Hence have arisen various distinctions of the will of God. The first and principal distinction is that of the decretive and preceptive will. The former means that which God wills to do or permit himself; the latter what he wills that we should do. The former relates to the futurition and the event of things and is the rule of God’s external acts; the latter is concerned with precepts and promises and is the rule of our action. The former cannot be resisted and is always fulfilled: “Who hath resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:19). The latter is often violated by men: “How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not” (Mt. 23:37).  Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 1 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997), 220.

2. God’s law engraved upon the heart (Rom. 2:14-15).

3. God’s moral law has not passed away (Matt. 5:17), while the ceremonial and judicial delivered to Israel have.

B. God alone defines right and wrong (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-8).

1. Adam could only safely know right and wrong by remaining true to God’s Word (Gen. 2:17).

2. This is why Satan levied his attack there, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4).

a. Temptation to Adam was that God’s Word did not have to be accepted as the only sure rule.  Adam should decide for himself what is best.

3. Satan had tried to redefine sin as that which is harmful.


II. What is sin?

A. A want of conformity to the law of God. The law of God is the rule, the mark to aim at, and missing this mark is sin. Transgression is a swerving from the line, a going across it (Ps. 14:30).

1. Conformity is to be: of the heart (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28; Mk. 12:30); of the life in both words and deeds (Ps. 24:3-4).

B. Original sin is truly and properly sin (Rom. 5:12).

1. The first motions of sin, and the rising of that natural corruption in us (Rom. 6:12)—before it is completed with the consent of the will to the evil motion towards sin, though they never break forth into action—is sin (Matt. 5:28) [See Appendix F: III, IV]

C. All omission of duties to God and neighbor is sin (Ja. 4:17).

III. Why is sin so bad?

A. Principally: in the wrong done to God. It is contrary to His nature (Ps. 51:4), and to His will.
B. Secondarily: in the wrong done to ourselves (Prov. 8:36; 13:15).

1. Leaves a stain and spiritual pollution upon the soul (Isa. 1:15).

2. Brings shame and confusion (Gen. 3:7).

3. Incurs guilt and binds one to punishment (Rom. 6:23).

C. Particularly: in the transgression of divine law one opposes the rights of God’s throne and assaults His attributes, in which many evils lie.

1. It is high rebellion against the sovereign majesty of God, especially for one who commits sin with pleasure and by design. Such a one declares autonomy (Ps. 12:4).

2. It strikes at the root of every divine perfection.

a. Such is contrary to God’s holiness (Hab. 1:13; Rom. 7:12).

b. Sin vilifies God’s wisdom, as the rewards and punishments which God has attached to the law to secure obedience are accounted as weak and ineffectual motives.

3. Sin is contempt for divine goodness (Isa. 1:2).

a. God’s creating goodness and the faculties that man is endued with should bring forth adoration (Ps. 139:14-16).

4. Justice is disparaged as the sinner promises himself peace and safety though wrath and vengeance is promised by God (Deut. 29:19-20).

5. Sin denies that God is omniscient.

6. Sin is a defiance to the divine power, which can at one stroke send the body to the grave and the soul to hell (Matt. 10:28).


IV. Application.

A. Use, of knowledge.
1. Sin is cosmic treason, a dethroning of God, and a direct assault upon the Almighty. This assault takes the form of both doing what we shouldn’t and not doing what we should; it even includes the thoughts and intents of the heart.
B. Use, of testing.

1. Do we view sin lightly? Look at the Cross—the cost.

2. Are we complacent? Look to the law of God (Rom. 7:7) and be humbled for past and present sin.

C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.

1. Sinners. Flee to Christ for pardon of sin, for His blood and Spirit to remove the same. Repent and forsake your sin or it will be your ruin.

2. Saints. Put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13) daily, for as long as you live sin inheres and designs your demise. Cast your soul upon Christ for deliverance and daily victory in the power of the Spirit. [See Appendix G]

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