Hi everyone!!! It’s good to have you here with us again. In the coming weeks we’re starting a new series that’s got us all excited here at TTP. As Christians we use words and terminologies to associate our salvation in Christ. Some of these words we readily understand and for some, we have no idea what they mean but we go along with the flow (I know I’m not alone in this one). In this series our quest is to bring clarity to and help us appreciate what we have in and through Christ. We hope you’ll be blessed by this series. Welcome to the Vocabulary of Salvation (VOS).
Today we’re starting with what the bible identifies as the problem with our world – Sin. It doesn’t take much investigation and philosophical enquiry to realize there is something wrong with our world. Many psychologists and philosophers have spent time trying to properly define what is wrong with our world and what is wrong with humans that makes us so deeply flawed. What is the root cause of all the wars, violence, broken homes, corruption etc.? In the bible three words are used in close conjunction in diagnosing the problem of humanity. They are iniquity, transgression and sin. Most common of all is the word SIN. Let’s examine each of these words briefly and see how they fit into the human story.
We start with the most common of these words; Sin. This word has become like the boogeyman in Christian circles and most people avoid the subject altogether if they can. But what does it truly mean to sin?
The word Sin in our English bibles is translated from the Hebrew word “Chata” and the Greek word “Hamartia”. In both instances the word means to miss the mark, fall short or miss your way. Picture an archer shooting an arrow at a target and missing the mark completely or driving to an unknown destination and taking the wrong turn and losing your way. This is what it means to ‘chata’ or ‘hamartia’. But then the question arises; what is the mark that we miss when we sin?
In the opening pages of the Bible we are told that God made man in his image and likeness. This means that our goal us humans is to reflect God in all that we do. We are to showcase his love, mercy, justice and care for each other and all the created order. Whenever we fail to properly represent God, we have sinned. This idea is what the apostle Paul communicates when he says in Romans 3:23 ; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The next word we examine in relation to the concept of sin is the word transgression. In our English translations of the Bible the word transgression is translated from the Hebrew and Greeks words “Pesha” and “Parabesis” respectively. In both cases transgression paints a picture of stepping outside the boundaries of the law and established code of conduct. In the Hebrew Pesha also signifies a break of trust. For instance when Jacob was hotly pursued by his father in-law, Laban, in relation to his missing idols, Jacob furious at the allegations asked Laban; what is my trespass (Pesha)? What is my sin (chata), that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?
Jacob was saying to Laban that how have I broken your trust for you to treat me like a common criminal. Whenever we transgress we break trust with God and go against God’s established code of behavior or law.
As you can see we don’t only transgress against God but we can commit acts of transgression against our fellow humans as well. Interestingly the Ten Commandments outline for us how not to break trust with God and our fellow humans. By honoring God and honoring our neighbors and their belongings we are keeping the sacred trust God committed to us.
The next word which is a bit complicated is the word iniquity. Iniquity carries a wide range of meanings. In our English bibles it is sometimes rendered wickedness and lawlessness. The word iniquity is translated from the Hebrew and Greeks words “avon” and “adikia” respectively. Avon is a noun which means guilt, punishment for guilt or wickedness. For instance when Cain killed his brother Abel and God declared to him his punishment he cried out saying my punishment (Avon) is too much for me to bear. Whenever we commit iniquity God visits our iniquity on us. The word Avon finds its root from the Hebrew verb “Avah” which means to bend or make crooked. So at its core iniquity means crooked behavior. When we commit murder, steal and other acts of violence we are exhibiting crooked behavior. It’s a principle at work in a person. Adikia which is the Greek counterpart refers to the absence of justice or absence of the principle of good within a person. As such a person in iniquity exhibits crooked actions because of the absence of good in him. Hence, we sin because of this crooked nature in us.
So you see sin is not just an action. It is a state of being that motivates our actions as well. Sin is when we fail to properly reflect God. It is when we contravene the commands of God and the code of conduct he has for us. It is also the absence of good in us that motivates all our crooked behavior. But how did humanity get here?
This question is answered in the third chapter of the first book of the Bible. After God made man in his image and likeness he committed all of nature into man’s custody under one condition; Man was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Aside from being a test of humanity’s loyalty, implicit in the instruction was that man was not to define good and evil for themselves but should always rely on God for the parameters for good and evil. Sadly humanity yielded to the temptation to want to play God. They listened to the tempter and broke trust with God. They went against the direct command of God and chose to reflect something other than the image of God (imagine a broken mirror that reflects a distorted image). They missed the mark entirely.
God told them that the day they would perform that act of rebellion they would surely die as such for their punishment they were exiled from the presence of God; the source of all life and goodness. Death entered into the human race and even after centuries of existence it’s still the one thing that levels all humanity. But it wasn’t just physical death, humanity was condemned to an eternity separated from God. A sentence that means until something is done about our situation we are bound for hell (a place reserved for all in rebellion against God). Also we lost the innate ability to do good. Our actions and motivations became crooked. This explains why we struggle to do good even when we know it’s the right thing to do. Take for instance the first humans born to Adam and Eve outside the presence of God. Cain because his sacrifice was rejected and his brothers accepted was filled with rage and instead of doing better lures his brother into the field and kills him out of jealousy. Talk about crooked behavior!!
The rest of human history is a result of this crooked behavior playing out.
Centuries later God appears to a man by the name Abraham and enters into a covenant with him to the end that all of humanity will be blessed through his family. God is setting out to fix the sin and death problem. This family becomes the great nation of Israel (for more on this, check out the first three episodes of the gospel series). Abraham’s family due to a famine end up in Egypt to survive. But the Egyptians ended up breaking trust (Pesha) with the family of Abraham subjugating and enslaving them. But God blessed them and they kept growing in number.
God then raises Moses as a mighty deliverer who leads the nation of Israel out of Egypt. They cross the Red Sea and enter into the wilderness where they would spend a considerable amount of time owing to their own stubbornness before entering into the land God had promised them and their forefathers centuries earlier. In the book of Exodus we see two self-introductions of God to the nation of Israel. In the first he introduces himself as their deliverer, the God worthy of their obedience and loyalty and enters into a covenant with them. This covenant is a call to partnership. As they obey and follow God, He is committing himself to solve the sin and death problem of all humanity through them. This solution is what God calls a blessing.
In the second self-introduction, God is reassuring Moses of his presence with them and his faithfulness to the covenant. In it God reveals something interesting about himself. Let’s read it for ourselves.
Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
God promises to forgive our sins, iniquities and transgressions. The Hebrew word translated forgiveness here is the word Nasa (not NASA lol). It means to carry a burden or weight. God introduces himself as the one who will carry the weight and consequences of humanity’s failures. At the same time he is a just God who will punish crooked behavior. How is God going to carry out burdens and be a just God at the same time?
Years later Jesus appears on the scene. As God in the flesh (really? Find out here)he goes about healing the sick, casting out devils from people and proclaiming the return of the kingdom of God. The religious leaders are enraged by the claims of Jesus and have him crucified for blasphemy. Unbeknownst to them they were playing a part in God’s master plan. In the death of Jesus on the cross, God was carrying the weight and consequences of humanity’s sin. He was paying the price of death on behalf of all. At the same time he was being the just God who did not overlook our sin. The cross, once a symbol of shame now stands as an image of mercy and justice. It is the place we see God staying true to himself. Three days after his death Jesus rises from the grave offering a new life to all who through faith will receive him and pledge loyalty to him. No longer do we have to walk in the crooked behavior we inherit from Adam, we have a new life and righteousness in Christ. Thank God our sins have been paid for!!
What is your response to the offer of life from Jesus?