Sin is an ugly word that has its root and meaning in Scripture. Webster attests to the severity of this word in human terms. In the New Testament, the Greek word that’s translated as sin is “hammeria” which literally means to “miss the mark” (from archery). Our interest here is in how God defines it.

how Scripture answers "What is sin?"

Sin is any deed or action that is contrary to God’s law2,3,5,6 – His word5. It is characterized as “wrongdoing”4, “lawlessness”7, “contrary to sound doctrine”5, “works of the flesh”3, “from the world”2, unrighteousness6, or anytime one doesn’t do what they know to be right9. Sin begins with being tempted by a human desire1 (e.g. lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eyes, pride2) which can then lead to spiritual death1, or not inheriting the kingdom of God3,6, but it doesn’t have to4. This distinction between sin and the practice of it – or continuing in it – is noteworthy1,3,4,7,8.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Any person is tempted when they are attracted and encouraged by their own desire.  Left unchecked, that desire turns into sin which then leads to death.

James is speaking about the “perfect law of liberty” (vs 25) – God’s word – and being doers and not just hearers of it. 

How does it inform?

Sin is predicated by one’s own, unchecked desire that can advance to spiritual death.

Does it apply? Yes

2
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Everything that’s in the world – evil temptations of both the flesh and eyes along with pride – is not from God but from Satan.

The Apostle John is writing to Christians to remain steadfast.  After reminding them that they are “not of this world”, he calls to their attention those that are personally antagonistic to Jesus (“antichrist”) and His teaching.  He marks those false teachers and implores his “children” to “let what you heard from the beginning abide in you” (vs 24).

How does it inform?

Contrasted with doing the “will of the Father” in the very next verse, sin is doing (acting on) “desires” (lust) of the flesh, eyes (e.g. coveting, etc.) and pride (e.g. materialism, vanity, etc.).

Does it apply? Yes

3
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

The works of the flesh include things such as sexual immorality, acts of hatred, discord, jealousy, uncontrolled anger, divisions, drunkenness, covetousness, murder, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I [Paul] am warning you again, as I did before, not to practice such things in order to inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul, much like he does in the letter to the Romans, is imploring and encouraging the Christians (this time in the churches of Galatia) to remain obedient in the walk of faith.  He begins the letter with strong language about resisting false teachers and begins this chapter saying, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  He contrasts practicing the works of the flesh and its result (e.g. not inheriting the kingdom of God) with the work of the Spirit and its result (
Galatians 6:7-8
).
How does it inform?

Sin is various deeds “of the flesh” not in keeping with God’s word, the practice of which will jeopardize one’s heavenly reward.

Does it apply? Yes

4
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
All wrongdoing is sin, but not all sin must lead to death.

John is defining one’s love of God by the obedience (doing) of His word (vs 3).  Opposed to this is “the world” which stands in the way of a “victory” made possible by Jesus Christ (vss 4ff). John wants to remind brethern to remain stong and remember to pray to God for help (vs 13-15).

How does it inform?

Any evil deed is a sin, but it doesn’t have to lead to final, spiritual death for those that seek and pray for forgiveness.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

5
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
How does it inform?

Paul lists several, specific sinful lifestyles but condemns any lifestyle lived that does not align with God’s word.

Does it apply? Yes

6
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

You already know that those that do evil deeds will not enter heaven.  Don’t be deceived into thinking that they will!  This includes anyone that is sexually immoral (any sexual behavior outside of marriage), worships anything other than God, forsakes their spouse, practices homosexuality, steals, loves money, drinks excessively, gossips, or takes advantage of others will inherit heaven.

Paul is addressing the brethren of Corinth that are relatively new to the faith.  He is writing in response to several issues and challenges that have arisen in the congregation and reminds them that they have been “washed”, “sanctified” and “justified” in Jesus Christ (vs 11) and should act accordingly.
How does it inform?

The “unrighteous” are categorized as those that are practicing certain things contrary to God’s law which will jeopardize their inheritance of heaven.

Does it apply? Yes

7
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

Continuing in or practicing sin is lawlessness, therefore sin is lawlessness.

The Apostle John’s letter to the “twelve tribes of the dispersion” (vs 1) – twelve tribes clearly figuratively as the letter addresses Christians as a whole (not just Jewish Christians). John is stating the case for fellow believers to continue in the love of God, here reminding them of the contrast between those that practice sin and those that have accepted Jesus and been cleansed of their sin.
How does it inform?

Sin is lawlessness, particularly continuing in it.

Does it apply? Yes

8
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

God’s temple has nothing to do with idols.  We  are God’s temple, just as He said that He would make His dwelling among us and go with us as our God and His people.  Therefore He says we must separate ourselves from idols/the world and touch nothing unclean in order that He will welcome us as a father welcomes his children.

In this his third letter (13:1), Paul has dealt with numerous issues that have sown division and discord among the Christians in Corinth. In this chapter/section he is addressing yet another problem — apparently, unbelievers have had a negative influence on the church to the extent that they were false teaching. He continues and concludes the contrasts by drawing yet another distinction between the “temple of God” and idols and further supports why they are not to do this since it is perfectly consistent with Old Testament teaching as well (vs 16-18).

The full context points to this instruction being applied to “believers” in the plural,  congregational sense.  This is the more natural application in the immediate context as well as the general tendency of application in both of the recorded letters to Corinth.

How does it inform?

Sin is likened to touching things unclean and the practice of sinning is how we jeopardize God welcoming us as a father does with his children.

Does it apply? Yes

9
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

It is a sin for anyone to know the right thing but fail to do it.

James’ letter throughout is about encouraging and warning Christians to live out the “word of truth” (1:18) in their lives and gives many practical examples of what that looks like.

How does it inform?

Sin is failing to do what you know to be right.

Does it apply? Yes

Do you agree? If so, share this question and the Bible Study Framework with others.

If you know of some other verses or you have something to add to the verses already listed for this question please leave a comment below! We welcome the public discussion and will incorporate your input into the Framework above. We have nothing to hide and invite your help in considering all that God’s word has to say.

what do you think?

Send Us Your Question