The Atonement: The Definition of Sin.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).

What is sin? It is wrongdoing. It is acting against the will and the law of God. Sin, as todays text explains, is failing to fulfill one’s duty to God. The Hebrew word hata’ and the Greek word hamartia meant originally to missing the mark of God’s glory and holiness. Other words for sin include pesha’ (Hebrew), meaning “rebellion,” or “transgression”; ’asham (Hebrew) means “trespassing God’s kingly prerogative,” and thereby “incurring guilt”; paraptoma (Greek) meaning “a false step out of the appointed way,” and to “trespass on forbidden ground.”

In light of these extensive definitions for sin, there are also three distinct ways in which sin is biblically categorized. In other words, there are three immediate results of sin which affect our relationship with God.

First, when we sin we incur debt. Sin is described as a debt. Probably, the most familiar biblical text which renders sin as a debt is found in Matthew 6:12 which says, “…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The word “debt” and “debtors” comes from the Greek word ὀφειλήματα (opheilemata). It means to commit an offense, a transgression which results in a moral debt or guilt.

Jesus taught, in Matthew 18:21-35, that we are to forgive other’s their sin, or moral debts, to us as God has forgiven our sin and moral debts to Him. God, in His mercy and grace, has forgiven believers of their sin because of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ paid my debt on the cross. It was a debt paid only by One who demonstrated perfect obedience and sinless perfection to God the Father and the Word of God.

Second, when we sin we incur broken relationships. Sin has created an enmity between us and God. We become God’s enemies. Romans 5:8-10 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Third, when we sin we commit a crime. Sometimes, our sin may be a crime against another human being. If the crime is serious enough, we may have to pay a fine or even go to jail or prison. Those convicted of the most severe crime, pre-meditated murder, may even be executed. At all times, our sin is a crime against God. We are lawbreakers. I John 3:4-5 says, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”

When our sin is called a debt, Jesus Christ is called our surety. Hebrews 7:22 says, “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.” A guarantor (ἔγγυος; engyos) is a person who guarantees the reality of something. Jesus Christ is the One who guarantees our salvation because He is our guarantor.

When our sin is called enmity, Jesus Christ is called our mediator. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says, “that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

The word, “reconciling,” “reconciliation,” and “reconciled” comes from the root word καταλλάσσω (katallasso) meaning to make things right. This is what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. He restored a right relationship between us and God the Father.

When our sin is called a crime, Jesus Christ is called our substitute. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus satisfied the justice of God the Father.

Before God, I am a debtor, an enemy and a criminal. Jesus Christ was the One who assumed my debt, became God the Father’s enemy, and was tried and convicted as a criminal of crimes I had committed. Therefore, by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, I am no longer a debtor, no longer an enemy and no longer a criminal.

What about you?

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

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