Category: (07) What is Hamartiology?


Hamartiology is the study of sin. Hamartiology deals with how sin originated,  how it affects humanity, and what it will result in after death. To sin  essentially means to “miss the mark.” We all miss God’s mark of righteousness  (Romans 3:23). Hamartiology,  then, explains why we miss the mark, how we miss the mark, and the consequences  of missing the mark. These are some important questions in  Hamartiology:

What is the definition of  sin? Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion  against God (Deuteronomy  9:7; Joshua  1:18).

Did we all inherit sin from Adam  and Eve? Romans 5:12 speaks to this, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and  death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all  sinned.”

Are all sins equal to God? There  are degrees to sin—some sins are worse than others. At the same time, in regards  to both eternal consequences and salvation, all sins are the same. Each and  every sin will lead to eternal condemnation (Romans  6:23).

How can I know if something is a  sin? There are things that the Bible specifically mentions and declares to  be sin. The more difficult issue is in determining what is sinful in areas that  the Bible does not directly address.

It might seem that studying a  depressing subject like sin would be counter-productive for the Christian. After  all, aren’t we saved from sin by the blood of Christ? Yes! But before we can  understand salvation, we must first understand why we need salvation. That is  where Hamartiology comes in. It explains that we are all sinners—by inheritance,  by imputation, and by our own personal choice. It shows us why God must condemn  us for our sins. Hamartiology points to the solution for sin—the atoning  sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we truly come to grips with our sinful natures,  we begin to fathom the depth and breadth of the nature of our great God who, on  the one hand, condemns sinners to hell in righteous judgment, then, on the other  hand, satisfies His own requirement for perfection. Only when we understand the  depth of sin can we understand the height of God’s love for sinners.

A  key Scripture on Hamartiology is Romans  3:23-24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are  justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ  Jesus.”

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Yes, all people inherited sin from Adam and Eve, specifically from Adam. Sin is  described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion  against God (Deuteronomy  9:7; Joshua  1:18). Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and His  command. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin has been an “inheritance”  for all of their descendants. Romans 5:12 tells us that, through Adam, sin entered the world and so death was passed on to  all men because all have sinned. This passed-on sin is known as inherited sin.  Just as we inherit physical characteristics from our parents, we inherit our  sinful nature from Adam.

Adam and Eve were made in the image and  likeness of God (Genesis  1:26-27; 9:6).  However, we are also in the image and likeness of Adam (Genesis 5:3). When Adam fell into sin, the result was  every one of his descendants also being “infected” with sin. David lamented this  fact in one of his Psalms: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time  my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).  This does not mean that his mother bore him illegitimately; rather, his mother  had inherited a sin nature from her parents, and they from their parents, and so  on. David inherited sin from his parents, just as we all do. Even if we live the  best life possible, we are still sinners as a result of inherited sin.

Being born sinners results in the fact that we all sin. Notice the progression  in Romans 5:12:  sin entered the world through Adam, death follows sin, death comes to all  people, all people sin because they inherit sin from Adam. Because “all have  sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans  3:23), we need a perfect, sinless sacrifice to wash away our sin, something  we are powerless to do on our own. Thankfully, Jesus Christ is the Savior from  sin! Our sin has been crucified on the cross of Jesus, and now “in Him we have  redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches  of His grace” (Ephesians  1:7). God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided the remedy for the sin we  inherit, and that remedy is available to everyone: “Therefore, my brothers, I  want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to  you” (Acts  13:38).

In Matthew  5:21-28, Jesus equates committing adultery with having lust in your heart  and committing murder with having hatred in your heart. However, this does not  mean the sins are equal. What Jesus was trying to get across to the Pharisees is  that sin is still sin even if you only want to do the act, without actually  carrying it out. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day taught that it was okay to  think about anything you wanted to, as long as you did not act on those desires.  Jesus is forcing them to realize that God judges a person’s thoughts as well as  his actions. Jesus proclaimed that our actions are the result of what is in our  hearts (Matthew  12:34).

So, although Jesus said that lust and adultery are both  sins, that does not mean they are equal. It is much worse to actually murder a  person than it is to simply hate a person, even though they are both sins in  God’s sight. There are degrees to sin. Some sins are worse than others. At the  same time, in regard to both eternal consequences and salvation, all sins are  the same. Every sin will lead to eternal condemnation (Romans 6:23). All sin, no matter how “small,” is against  an infinite and eternal God, and is therefore worthy of an infinite and eternal  penalty. Further, there is no sin too “big” that God cannot forgive it. Jesus  died to pay the penalty for sin (1 John 2:2).  Jesus died for all of our sins (2  Corinthians 5:21). Are all sins equal to God? Yes and no. In severity? No.  In penalty? Yes. In forgivability? Yes.

There are two issues involved in this question, the  things that the Bible specifically mentions and declares to be sin and those the  Bible does not directly address. Scriptural lists of various sins include Proverbs  6:16-19, Galatians  5:19-21, and 1  Corinthians 6:9-10. There can be no doubt that these passages present the  activities as sinful, things God does not approve of. Murder, adultery, lying,  stealing, etc.—there is no doubt the Bible presents such things as sin. The more  difficult issue is in determining what is sinful in areas that the Bible does  not directly address. When the Bible does not cover a certain subject, we have  some general principles in His Word to guide us.
First, when there is no  specific scriptural reference, it is good to ask not whether a certain thing is  wrong, but, rather, if it is definitely good. The Bible says, for example, that  we are to “make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians  4:5). Our few days here on earth are so short and precious in relation to  eternity that we ought never to waste time on selfish things, but to use it only  on “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).
A good test is to determine whether we can honestly, in good conscience, ask  God to bless and use the particular activity for His own good purposes. “So  whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1  Corinthians 10:31). If there is room for doubt as to whether it pleases God,  then it is best to give it up. “Everything that does not come from faith is sin”  (Romans  14:23). We need to remember that our bodies, as well as our souls, have been  redeemed and belong to God. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the  Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your  own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians  6:19-20). This great truth should have a real bearing on what we do and  where we go.
In addition, we must evaluate our actions not only in  relation to God, but also in relation to their effect on our family, our  friends, and other people in general. Even if a particular thing may not hurt us  personally, if it harmfully influences or affects someone else, it is a sin. “It  is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause  your brother to fall….We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the  weak and not to please ourselves” (Romans  14:21; 15:1).
Finally, remember that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, and nothing  else can be allowed to take priority over our conformity to His will. No habit  or recreation or ambition can be allowed to have undue control over our lives;  only Christ has that authority. “Everything is permissible for me—but not  everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be  mastered by anything” (1  Corinthians 6:12). “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all  in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians  3:17).

There is no verse or passage in the Bible that says, “Lucifer is Satan,” but an examination of several passages reveals that Lucifer can be none other than Satan. The fall of Lucifer described in Isaiah 14:12 is likely the same that Jesus referred to in Luke 10:18: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” A similar fall is depicted in Ezekiel 28.

Isaiah 14:12-18 describes the fall from heaven of one called “Lucifer” in the King James Version and the “morning star, son of the dawn” in the NIV. Other Bible versions call him “Day Star,” “shining star,” and “the bright morning star.” These variations are due to differences of opinion about how to translate the Hebrew word helel. Regardless, the description of the one referred to shows us it can be none other than Satan. We know from Jesus’ own words in Luke 10 that Satan fell from heaven. So, when Isaiah refers to Lucifer or helel being cast down to earth (Isaiah 14:12), it can be none other than Satan. The reason for his fall is found in verses 13 and 14: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” This has always been Satan’s desire – to be God, and it is the very temptation he used in the Garden of Eden to get Eve to disobey God: “You shall be as God” (Genesis 3:5).

Ezekiel 28 is another passage thought to refer to Lucifer/Satan. Although it begins with Ezekiel being commanded by God to “take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre” (v. 12), an evil idolatrous king, it soon becomes clear that the passage is referring as well to the power behind that king—Satan. Verse 13 says he was “in Eden, the garden of God.” Clearly, the king of Tyre was never in Eden. Verse 14 says, “You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you.” Apparently, Lucifer/Satan had a position of guardian angel in heaven “among the fiery stones,” thought to be the shining precious jewels that are seen in other descriptions of heaven (Exodus 24:10; Revelation 21:18-21). Since the king of Tyre was never in heaven, either, this can only be describing Lucifer. The rest of the passage describes the reason he was cast out of heaven. Because of his beauty, his heart became proud and his wisdom was corrupted (v. 17). Pride in his perfection, wisdom and beauty (v. 12) became the source of his downfall, and God threw him to the earth (v. 17). This was witnessed by the Lord Jesus in heaven before His incarnation (Luke 10:18).

To summarize, the Hebrew word helel is translated “Lucifer.” He was cast out of heaven for his sin of pride and his desire to be God. Jesus referred to seeing Satan being cast out of heaven. Therefore, we can conclude that Lucifer and Satan are one and the same.

The age-old question of where and how sin began has been explored and debated by some of the greatest minds of history, yet no one can give a completely definitive or satisfying answer. Some, quoting Isaiah 45:7, seek to make God the author of sin: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (KJV). However, the KJV’s word evil, from the original Hebrew rah, is better translated as “calamity.” The context of this passage concerns God’s sovereignty over natural disasters. God is sovereign over all things (Exodus 4:11), but He is not the author of sin (1 John 1:5; cf. James 1:13). He hates sin (Proverbs 8:13). Moral evil originated with the creature, not the Creator.

John Calvin wrote, “The Lord had declared that ‘everything that he had made . . . was exceedingly good’ [Genesis 1:31]. Whence, then comes this wickedness to man, that he should fall away from his God? Lest we should think it comes from creation, God had put His stamp of approval on what had come forth from himself. By his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall drew all his posterity with him into destruction. Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity—which is closer to us—rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God’s predestination” [Institutes, 3:23:8]. In other words, sin was not part of the original creation, nor was it decreed by the Creator’s will.

The first man, Adam, sinned, and his transgression spiraled mankind into sin, but this was not sin’s origin. Ezekiel 28:13-15 speaks figuratively of Satan, who was originally created without flaw, as all things created by God were. Verse 15 gives us a hint as to the origin of sin: “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.” Isaiah 14:12-14 further indicates that Satan (Lucifer) sinned in his pride and his coveting of God’s throne. When he rebelled against God, Satan was ejected from heaven (Ezekiel 28:15-17; cf. 1 Timothy 3:6).

Which brings us to the question, how did evil manifest itself in a perfect creature? It may be good to mention that evil is not a created thing—it is not a creature and has no independent being. Also, evil has no standard as goodness does; it is a lack, a deficiency, a falling short of the standard of God’s perfect goodness. All sin, no matter how trivial it may seem, falls short of moral perfection. God is always consistent with His perfect nature (Deuteronomy 32:4). All sin, therefore, must come from the creature, and the desire for evil comes from within the creature (James 1:14-15). Sin was “found” in Lucifer because of a choice that angel made to seek something other than what God had chosen for him. Any time we seek “other” than God’s choice, we sin.

To say sin originated within God’s creatures does not mean God was surprised or caught unaware by it. Although God did not bring about sin, He certainly allowed it or it would not exist, since God is sovereign over all things. It’s true that He could have prevented sin, but that would have meant stripping His creation of its free will (Daniel 4:17; cf. Psalm 33:10-11). All His ways are good. In Him is “no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), and He is right now working all things for His good pleasure (Romans 8:28; cf. Isaiah 46:9-10).

The mystery of evil and why God has allowed its reality with all of the suffering it causes may never be fully known in this world, but Scripture assures that evil is temporary. Once the culmination of God’s redemptive plan is complete, Jesus Christ will have destroyed the devil’s work forever (1 John 3:8).

 People’s beliefs concerning Satan range from the silly to the  abstract—from a little red guy with horns who sits on your shoulder urging you  to sin, to an expression used to describe the personification of evil. The  Bible, however, gives us a clear portrait of who Satan is and how he affects our  lives. Put simply, the Bible defines Satan as an angelic being who fell from his  position in heaven due to sin and is now completely opposed to God, doing all in  his power to thwart God’s purposes.

Satan was created as a holy angel.  Isaiah 14:12 possibly gives  Satan’s pre-fall name as Lucifer. Ezekiel  28:12-14 describes Satan as having been created a cherubim, apparently the  highest created angel. He became arrogant in his beauty and status and decided  he wanted to sit on a throne above that of God (Isaiah  14:13-14; Ezekiel  28:15; 1 Timothy  3:6). Satan’s pride led to his fall. Notice the many “I will” statements in  Isaiah  14:12-15. Because of his sin, God barred Satan from heaven.

Satan  became the ruler of this world and the prince of the power of the air (John 12:31; 2  Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians  2:2). He is an accuser (Revelation  12:10), a tempter (Matthew 4:31  Thessalonians 3:5), and a deceiver (Genesis 3; 2  Corinthians 4:4; Revelation  20:3). His very name means “adversary” or “one who opposes.” Another of his  titles, the devil, means “slanderer.”

Even though he was cast out of  heaven, he still seeks to elevate his throne above God. He counterfeits all that  God does, hoping to gain the worship of the world and encourage opposition to  God’s kingdom. Satan is the ultimate source behind every false cult and world  religion. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to oppose God and  those who follow God. However, Satan’s destiny is sealed—an eternity in the lake  of fire (Revelation  20:10).