What is Sin?

What is sin? 1 John 3:4 says, “Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law.”  If sin is “breaking of law,” then what law or whose law are we breaking? Obviously, we are breaking God’s law. Romans 3:23 defines sin as falling short of the “glory of God.” Both passages mentioned here reference not just what I’ve done (I have sinned), but what I’ve done in relation to Another, namely, God Himself (falling short of His glory, breaking His law, etc.). In “The Valley of Vision,” by Arthur Bennett, the writer prays, “Lord, it is the special evil of sin that every breach of Thy law arises from contempt of Thy person, from despising You and Your glory, from preferring things before Thee.”  Oftentimes when we speak of sin we are usually referencing ourselves, such as, “I have failed” or “I have made a mistake” or “I am imperfect.”  All of this is well and true, but sin is more than just about “I,” it’s about God. The prayer above says that “every breach of Thy law arises from contempt of Thy person,” and if this is true, then every time we transgress God’s law it is because we hate God. Sin is less about me and more about God in the sense that it is God who, by His unchangeable, holy nature, defines what sin actually is. Sin will never change because God Himself will never change. Sin is not just about me wanting my own glory, but it’s about withholding glory from God and despising the fact that He gets the glory instead of me. Sin is not just about my love for material possessions, but it’s about loving those material possessions more than I love God. Sin is not just about finding my satisfaction in the things of this world, but it’s about me not finding full satisfaction in Him, whether I have anything in this world or not. Sin is not wrong just because I have offended others, but because I’ve offended God.  Sin is about more than just breaking man’s laws; it’s about breaking God’s laws.


John Piper, from his OneDay 2003 sermon, has said that sin is not to “be seen first as damaging man but dishonoring God. And sin would not be seen as the choice of pleasure, but the loss of pleasure.”  Jeremiah 2:13 says, “For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.” We not only turn our backs on God when we sin, but we turn our backs on the only One Who can bring us true joy and we seek, instead, to dig our own cisterns which are “cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.”  We are foolish to think that our way is better than God’s way, yet we make this choice most of the days of our lives.


Listen to John Piper again on defining sin: “What is a sin? It is the glory of God not honored. The holiness of God not reverenced. The greatness of God not admired. The power of God not praised. The truth of God not sought. The wisdom of God not esteemed. The beauty of God not treasured. The goodness of God not savored. The faithfulness of God not trusted. The commandments of God not obeyed. The justice of God not respected. The wrath of God not feared. The grace of God not cherished. The presence of God not prized. The person of God not loved. That is sin” (Source).  Notice that in this last quote that sin is not just about what I’ve done, but it’s in reference to God and what I have not done in relation to Him.


King David, speaking of his adultery and murder, realized that he had sinned first and foremost against God: “Against You, You only, have I sinned…” (Ps. 51:4a). If we are to see sin in its true and hideous nature, then we must see it as David has seen it, which is primarily against God.


“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace..” (Ephesians 1:7).

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10).

“But God demonstrates his own love towards us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Yes, we sin against God, but God offers forgiveness through Christ.  Have you put your trust in Him to save your soul?


  1. Take a moment and think about the worst sin you’ve ever done. Yes, it’s difficult to think about and Yes, it’s something you’d rather put out of your mind, but for a moment, think about that sin. The worse, deepest, darkest, the most despicable sin you’ve ever done. We all have them.  Now think of this: THAT sin is Precisely what Christ died for. There is Hope for you, my friend. No sin is beyond the forgiveness of God. Trust in Christ today to forgive you of your sins. His sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to save you.

“This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15)

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