Does "sin" exist anymore? No.
Does bad behavior, murder, hatred and lying still exist. Yes, of course.
When we think "sin" we think, disobedience to God, breaking the Law of God, sinful behavior, i.e. that which offends God, and so on. But is that really what sin is?
Take a little journey with me and discover a life-giving truth that will re-frame "sin" for us in a way that produces freedom and peace. By that I don't mean we will change the meaning. Rather, we will discover what it has always meant, but we weren't able to see.
The most common word for "sin" is the word hamartia. This word for sin is used 174 times in the NT so it must be very important. But what many don't realize is that in most cases the word "sin" is not a verb. It is not an action at all! In Romans for instance, nearly every time "sin" is used, it is not a verb. That by itself ought to raise some red flags for us, as well as take some pressure off. Jesus didn't come to deal with OUR individual actions, as much as he came to deal with sin, a power, a thing.
It is a noun which is a person, place or thing. In many cases, the word is preceded by the definite article "the" to denote it is a particular "sin".
When the definite article “THE” is in front of the word faith, (“the faith”) for instance, it refers to the faith of Jesus Christ that he exercised his whole life and representatively on our behalf.
So then what is THE sin? It is the SIN of Adam. Did you ever notice how John the Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away THE SIN (singular and with the definite article) of the world." Not sins, plural, but sin, singular. Let that sink in for a moment.
Some of you were taught the Romans Road as a method for evangelism where verses are cherry picked into order to explain the gospel. One of those is Romans 6:23, "For the wages of... (wait, notice the next word which doesn't get translated is the definite article)... THE SIN is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Paul is not talking about our individual behaviors. He is talking about the sin of Adam!
This Greek word is made up of two words 'a-martia. One is the “a” with the ha sound and means “not”. And the other is martia which could have two closely related meanings. We have been told it means miss the mark of the prize. But the actual word itself is either “a part of, a share of” or it means “to grasp.” So the word means to not share in, or not grasp. So THE sin of Adam is that by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he failed to share in or grasp something.
What was it? The serpent said, if you eat of this tree you will become like God, and Adam was already created in the likeness and image of God. His sin was to, by his own effort become like God…when God had already made him in his likeness. He failed to grasp his own identity and likeness. He failed to share/participate in God’s image and likeness and instead saw himself less than he was, and immediately it created a spiritual-blindness in him about himself and about God.
Here is the even larger problem: his failure to continue to "share in, grasp, and hold on to" his identity and the knowledge of God, affected every person after him. They all shared in the spiritual-soul-death that it created. But Jesus the LAST ADAM came to "hold on to, share in" the truth of who he was and who his Father was, so that what is passed to everyone is the knowledge of God, and an unshakable identity of being accepted, forgiven, blessed, and righteous. Jesus' ministry, in the universal sense, was the undoing of the sin of Adam.
Hebrews 9:26, "Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away (THE) sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (NASB).
At the beginning stage of the consummation of the previous ages of sin, death and Law, Jesus manifested to put away THE sin by his sacrifice. Note that this says it was a one time action. That means it need never be repeated again because it has totally accomplished its purpose. It can't be UNDONE by any individual action on our part.
The Law and the Power of The Sin
Romans 5:20, "And law came in, that the offence might abound, and where the sin did abound, the grace did over-abound!"
The Law was never to make anyone holy. Paul said, "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin" (Rom 3:20, ESV). That word sin, is a noun. The Law was never designed to make us right with God. It was in fact, a more intense version of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It said, "if you do good you will be blessed, and if you do evil you will be cursed." It was designed for the opposite effect of making them holy. It was given so that the offense might abound and he calls this again THE sin (5:20).
Don’t get confused here. God didn’t give the law so that people would be stirred up and abound in killing more people, or committing more adultery. The law came in so that THE SIN of Adam in people (to strive to be like God instead of identifying as already like God) would abound. It would bring to the surface that striving to become like God. It was to bring them to the end of works righteousness and religion.
The Law was given so that "SIN" the noun, would increase. Not sins, individual acts resulting from the loss of our identity.
That is why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:56, "the strength of THE sin is the Law." Do you get it? The Law strengthened the striving to "become like God" so it would come to the surface and the Jews would realize that relationship with God is a gift, not a work. Relationship with God is free. We are created in Christ Jesus, accepted, loved, forgiven, righteous, and renewed in the likeness and image of the one who created us. And it can't be UNDONE.
That is why Paul told his generation, "Sin shall not have dominion over you for you are not under Law, but under grace."
So does THE sin still exist? No. Let's look further...
What about Sin(s)?
Romans 5:13-14, "for till law sin (noun) was in the world: and sin (noun) is not reckoned when there is not law; but the death did reign from Adam till Moses, even upon those not having sinned (the verb) in the likeness of Adam's transgression..."
A couple of important observations here. Sin, the noun, was not even counted against anyone in terms of their relationship with God until the Law.
Interestingly enough, even when the word sin is used in the plural, it is still a noun, not a verb in most cases. How can one have sins? Apparently their framework was that it was not considered an action on their part, but rather the manifestation of the sin power.
Ephesians 2:1, "and you being dead in the trespasses and THE sins (noun) of you" (literal Greek), "he made alive..."
Colossians 1:14, "in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of THE sins (still a noun)" (literal Greek)
All who had manifestations of the power of sin were forgiven AND made alive in spite of it.
AND as hard as it is for some to grasp, the Law no longer exists... for anybody. Gentiles were not even under the Law to begin with. Some were converted to the Law in Paul's day, but it never applied to anyone except Israel.
The cross made the Law obsolete and it eventually faded away in AD 70 when the entire system was destroyed by the Romans (Mathew 5:17-18, Hebrews 8:13). This is why the NT writers are still talking about the Law in the present tense even after the cross... because every jot and title wasn't fulfilled until one generation, 40 years, after the cross. John said, "sin is lawlessness." But when the Law was totally removed in AD 70, there can technically no longer be sin.
So any manifestation of the power of striving and grasping to be like God through effort and unbelief, now have no connection us and no connection to Law in any form anymore. Plus, one cannot break a Law that no longer exists.
And besides all that, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting men's sins against them" (2 Cor. 5:19).
One final note here that is very important. According to Colossians 2:11:
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of THE SINS (plural noun) of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried WITH Him in baptism, in which you also were raised WITH Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
“In the circumcision of Christ, you were set free
from your sinful nature.” (NOR)
“In Him also you were circumcised with a
circumcision not made with hands, but in a [spiritual]
circumcision [performed by] Christ by stripping off the
body of the flesh (the whole corrupt, carnal nature with its
passions and lusts).” (AMP)
I HOPE YOU GRASP THE MEANING HERE. JESUS' DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION TOOK AWAY THE OLD SIN NATURE... FROM EVERYONE. EVERYONE WAS BURIED AND RAISED WITH HIM. IN CHRIST EVERYONE HAD THE OLD SIN NATURE REMOVED, CUT OFF FROM THE ADAMIC RACE, REPLACING IT WITH THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST. He is the Lamb of God who took away THE sin!
Does that Mean Morality no Longer Exists?
Does that mean God doesn't care about behavior anymore?
Of course he cares. But the WAY that he deals with bad behavior is TRUTH and LOVE. Jesus began to talk about how the New Covenant works in the Upper Room Discourse of John 14-17 and said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you." He goes on and says, "Abide in my love." So there is only one commandment, and the violation of it is not called sin. It is that we receive the love of God toward our lives, and learn to stay in awareness of it, and then the overflow will impact others. In addition, it will cause us to love God more because as John said, "we love him because he FIRST loved us."
Yes, murder, sex outside of marriage, lying, stealing, etc are bad behaviors... they are NOT GOOD. Not because they break some Law, but because they are contradictions to love and the image of Christ. In addition, on a personal level, Paul said in 1 Cor. 6:12, "All things are lawful for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "All things are lawful for me"--but I will not be controlled by anything" (NET).
Besides that, remember that Rahab the Harlot lied to hide the spies and she was counted in the list of the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. David killed men in battle, and so do people today, and it wasn't considered punishable even under the Law. The Preacher (Solomon) wasn't speaking of moral relativism, but he realized even then that things couldn't be put neatly into "sin" categories. He said in Ecclesiastes 3 that there was a:
3 A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
8 A time of war,
And a time of peace.
All bad behavior comes from blindness to the truth of God's love, care, provision, and value for that person. It comes from them failing to understand that they are already accepted, forgiven, right with God, blessed, and redeemed. We do what we do because we don't see yet who we are or who he is. We live in fear in our relationship with God and it affects everything we do, instead of living in love which heals everything in us.
Again, let's remember that though John said, "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves"... he also said "sin is lawlessness" (1 John 1:8; 3:4). That Law was made obsolete at the cross, but did not fade away until AD 70 when it was permanently destroyed. Therefore, "sin" cannot exist, in a technical sense, anymore.
So trying to change the world with a behavior modification program, a self-help guru, or a sin management process of reading the bible, praying, fasting, or going to church.... completely misses the point:
THE POINT IS THAT THERE IS NOTHING SPIRITUALLY WRONG WITH YOU EXCEPT THAT YOU THINK THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOU.
And God is doing everything in HIS power to get you to see this truth. You are in Christ, therefore whatever is true of Jesus is true of you!
So he "put away" sin, he was the Lamb of God who took the sin away, even the word sin in the plural was primarily a noun, Paul said, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself NOT counting our sin(s) against us" (2 Cor. 5:19) and then in AD 70 the Law ceased to exist.
Be careful about defining "sin" according to something other than the gospel AND mistakenly trying to position yourself within that transitional generation before the end of the Law in AD 70.
Where are we now? We are in the period of history where God has taken responsibility for everyone knowing him, "For no one will say to his brother, Know the Lord, for they will ALL know me from the least to the greatest". Or as John said, "the dwelling place of God is with mankind" (Hebrews 8:11; Revelation 21:3)
God is not relating to us according to our past, or our behaviors, except to reveal the truth to us of who he is and who we are so that we don't get stuck there. God the Father is relating to you as a son/daughter and when you lose sight of it, he is there to father you back into the truth.
So of course there are bad behaviors in the world that violate love. Your role is to receive the love of God for yourself and then to love THEM in the same way God loves you.
Technically, then, there is no such thing as "sin" by the biblical definition anymore. Sadly Sunday mornings all across the world people will be focusing on sin, instead of on the finished work of Christ!