What does ‘sin’ mean?

‘Sin’ is one of those Bible words that doesn’t carry a lot of freight in our culture. It’s normally thought of as little ‘naughties’, misdemeanours, humorous mischief, or even related to certain diet plans. For Christians we can easily reduce ‘sin’ to two or three particular images which resonate with us. The truth is the Bible contains lots of different ways of describing sin, some of which I’ve listed below. The challenge for pastors and preachers is communicating the full range of the Bible’s own imagery, and skillfully applying it to particular individuals or contexts. So here’s a list (clearly not exhaustive), in the hope that it may be useful:

  • Transgression/law-breaking (1 John 3:4)
  • Falling short (Rom 3:23)
  • A Coup d’etat (Psa 2:1-3)
  • A dirtiness (Isa 64:6)
  • Vanity (Phil 2:3)
  • Imitating God (in a bad way!! – Gen 3:5)
  • De-humanising (Psalm 115:8)
  • De-creation (Gen 3)
  • False faith (Rom 1:25)
  • Unbelief (Heb 3:19)
  • Arrogance (Rom 11:20)
  • Lostness/Going Astray (Isa 53:6; Luke 15)
  • Folly (Psalm 14:1)
  • Corruption (Psalm 14:3)
  • Covering/Hiding (Gen 3:8)
  • Turning away/running away (Jer 2:27; Luke 15)
  • Perversion (Luke 9:41)
  • ‘fight or flight’ (Lev 26:27)
  • Mistrust (Num 20:12)
  • Defiance (Exod 5:2)
  • Disobedience (Eph 2:3)
  • Disordered love (2 Chron 19:2)
  • Greed/Ingratitude (Eph 5:4)
  • Misplaced desire (Jam 1:15)
  • Sickness (Isa 1:5)
  • Idolatry (1 Sam 15:23)
  • Rejection (1 Sam 15:23)
  • Slavery (John 8:34)
  • Blindness (Deut 28:29)
  • Rebellion/enmity (Rom 5:10)
  • Ignorance (Eph 4:18)
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