According to the Westminster "Shorter Catechism":

Q. 14. What is sin? A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.[1]

That is to say, both refusal to obey known laws and deliberate disobedience of those laws is a sin. The Law delineates penalties to be placed on those that willfully rebel against God in such a way.

The "Larger Catechism" adds, " given as a rule to the reasonable creature."[2] This restricts "sin" to creatures that have capacity to think and reason, and thus being able to discern right from wrong.

Original Sin Edit

As the story of mankind unfolds, there is but one negative command: "Of the the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it..."[3] The punishment for disobeying was "in dying, you shall die."[4] This command was directly before the creation of woman to be a helper suitable for the man.[5] Based on Eve's response to the snake[6], it appears that Adam had relayed the command to her. However, she was tricked by the talking reptile, while Adam looked on and then followed her in eating the trees fruit.[7]

The Apostle Paul argues in his first letter to the Corinthians:

21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.[8]
And elsewhere he wrote:
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.[9]
As God had warned, sin began a "culture of death" for mankind. Desire for the forbidden fruit had given in to sin, and when that sin was "full grown" the consequence is death.[10] Jesus' best friend on earth, the Apostle John, wrote:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.[11]
This was the "way of the world" that Eve had chosen. In some way, most likely physically, this tendency to disobey God has passed down to all mankind. Each person has an inner knowledge of a tendency to break the rules. It is seen in the outworking of selfishness and envy, as when the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, Cain, determined to kill his brother Abel[12]. Violence became a way of life in the days before the great flood[13]. And as Paul put it: "the wages" came due in the destruction of most of mankind. After the flood, Noah's family stayed close for generations, apparently lacking faith to follow the command to spread out. Seeking faith in numbers, they built a city and a tower "to reach the heavens" -- an apparent deification of their own abilities.[14]

Particular Sins Edit

Throughout the history of the people of God (Seth's line, Noah, Abraham, etc.), individuals have sinned. The Bible does not hold back from showing this. In the book of Genesis, before the Law was given, there is murder, deception ("false witness," or outright lying), and sexual intimacy based on a lack of faith.

Ingratitude was rampant in the early chapters of Exodus where, finally, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, Most of these have the phrase "You shall (i.e. must) not..."

3  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7  Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9  Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work:
10  But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 ¶  Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13  Thou shalt not kill.
14  Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15  Thou shalt not steal.
16  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
17  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.
As a general list of sins, this foundational list of laws lays out at least eight forbidden courses of action:

  1. Idolatry
  2. Blasphemy
  3. Disrespect of authority
  4. Murder
  5. Adultery
  6. Stealing
  7. Bearing false witness
  8. Covetousness

Of course, breaking any one of the Commandments (numbers 1 and 2 being four of them) is sinning against God and his Law. The chapters following the giving of the Commandments list applications of these laws to help those following in Moses' and Aaron's footsteps.

Lists appear in the New Testament as well. Whereas none of them include a full list, they are helpful in giving a guideline on behavior to avoid. For example, Paul writes:

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 
21 envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.[15]
The list of sins leads off with sexual sin and ends with a total disregard of any limits. Note that in the middle of it all is societal discord. The theme of disinheritance is repeated in the last chapter of the Revelation to John:
14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whore mongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.[16]
The 'dogs' are a reference to 'unclean' unbelieving enemies of God. "Sorcerers" are those that use drugs in controlling others. The others reflect the worst of the sins forbidden on the tablets given to Moses.

Though there are lists in the Bible, it is clear among men that things are not right between humans and their creator. Paul opens his letter to the Romans speaking of this problems:

18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 ¶  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23  And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.[17]

References Edit

  1. Leviticus 5:17. And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. James 4:17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 1 John 3:4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
  2. 1 John 3:4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. Galatians 3:10, 12. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.... And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
  3. Genesis 2:17
  4. The Hebrew has a double wording: "die die", or as Young's Literal Translation has it: dying, thou dost die.
  5. Genesis 2:18
  6. Genesis 3:3
  7. 1 Timothy 2:14-15
  8. 1 Corinthians 15:11-12
  9. Romans 6:23
  10. See James 1:15.
  11. 1 John 2:16
  12. Genesis 4:1-8
  13. Genesis 6:1-7
  14. Genesis 11:1-8
  15. Galatians 5:19-21 There is evidence that Galatians was one of the first letters written by Paul.
  16. Revelation 22:14-15
  17. Romans 1:18-23