Category: Sin


No sin is greater than another sin in the eternal sense. All sin separates us from God, and all sin needs to be atoned for. Also, there is no “greatest sin” in the sense of “mortal” and “venial” sins, as the Catholic Church teaches. All sins are “mortal” sins in that even one sin makes the offender worthy of spiritual death and eternal separation from God. At the same time, the Bible does state that on the day of judgment some sins will merit greater punishment than others (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 10:12, 14).

Jesus also referred to one sin being a “greater” sin (although not the “greatest”) in John 19:11. Speaking to Pontius Pilate, He said that the one who had handed Him over to Pilate was guilty of the “greater sin.” He meant that the guilt of the person who delivered Him to Pilate, whether Judas or Caiaphas, was greater than Pilate’s because of the deliberate and cold act of handing Jesus over after seeing the overwhelming evidence of His miracles and teaching, all pointing unmistakably to Him as the Messiah and the Son of God. That sin was greater than that of those who were ignorant of Him. This could indicate that those who have been given knowledge of Jesus as the Son of God and still reject Him would be subject to a greater punishment than those who remain ignorant of Him: “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41).

These incidents, however, do not prove that one sin is the “greatest sin” of all. Proverbs 6:16–19 is a catalog of the seven sins God hates and are detestable to Him: “Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” But none of the seven are identified as a greater sin than any of the others, and none are identified as the greatest sin.

Although the Bible doesn’t name any one sin as the greatest sin, it does refer to the unpardonable sin, which is the sin of unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in unbelief. The Bible is clear that, in His love for mankind, God provided the means of eternal salvation—Jesus Christ and His death on the cross—for “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:16). The only condition under which forgiveness would not be granted concerns those who reject the only means of salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), making it clear that He and He alone is the path to God and salvation. To reject the only means of salvation is unpardonable and, in that sense, is the greatest sin of all.

Advertisements

The Roman Catholic Church divides sin into two categories, mortal sin and venial sin. The issue of sin as the Bible teaches it is one of the most fundamental aspects of understanding life with God and what it means to know Him. As we walk through this life, we must know how to respond biblically to our own sin and the manifestations of humankind’s sinfulness that we encounter moment by moment, day by day. The consequences of not having a biblical understanding of sin and, thus, not responding to sin accordingly, are devastating beyond words. An incorrect understanding of sin can result in an eternity separated from God in hell. But praise to the glorious name of our God and Savior Christ Jesus! In His Holy Word, God has shown plainly what sin is, how it affects us personally, and what the proper response to it is. Thus, as we try to understand the concepts of mortal and venial sin, let us look for final answers in God’s all-sufficient Word.

In order to know if the Bible teaches the concepts of mortal and venial sin, some basic descriptions will be helpful. The concepts of mortal and venial sin are essentially Roman Catholic. Evangelical Christians and Protestants may or may not be familiar with these terms. Working definitions of mortal and venial sins could be these: Mortal Sin is “sin causing spiritual death,” and Venial Sin is “sin that can be forgiven.” Venial sin is invariably used in contrast with mortal sin. Mortal sins are those sins that exclude people from the kingdom; venial sins are those sins that do not exclude people from it. Venial sin differs from mortal sin in the punishment it entails. Venial sin merits temporal punishment expiated by confession or by the fires of purgatory, while mortal sin merits eternal death.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church is found this description of mortal sin: “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: ‘Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.’” According to the Catechism, “Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments.” The Catechism further states that mortal sin “results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell.”

Regarding venial sin, the Catechism states the following: “One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent. Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of virtues and practice of moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God; it does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. ‘Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.’”

In summary, mortal sin is an intentional violation of the Ten Commandments (in thought, word or deed), committed in full knowledge of the gravity of the matter, and it results in the loss of salvation. Salvation may be regained through repentance and God’s forgiveness. Venial sin may be a violation of the Ten Commandments or a sin of a lesser nature, but it is committed unintentionally and/or without full consent. Although damaging to one’s relationship with God, venial sin does not result in loss of eternal life.

Biblically, the concepts of mortal and venial sin present several problems: first of all, these concepts present an unbiblical picture of how God views sin. The Bible states that God will be just and fair in His punishment of sin and that on the day of judgment some sin will merit greater punishment than others (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 10:12, 14). But the fact is that all sin will be punished by God. The Bible teaches that all of us sin (Romans 3:23) and that the just compensation for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Over and against the concepts of mortal and venial sin, the Bible does not state that some sins are worthy of eternal death whereas others are not. All sins are mortal sins in that even one sin makes the offender worthy of eternal separation from God.

The Apostle James articulates this fact in his letter (James 2:10): “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” Notice his use of the word “stumbles.” It means to make a mistake or fall into error. James is painting a picture of a person who is trying to do the right thing and yet, perhaps unintentionally, commits a sin. What is the consequence? God, through His servant James, states when a person commits even unintentional sin, he is guilty of breaking the entire law. A good illustration of this fact is to picture a large window and understand that window to be God’s law. It doesn’t matter if a person throws a very small pebble through the window or several large boulders. The result is the same–the window is broken. In the same way, it doesn’t matter if a person commits one small sin or several huge ones. The result is the same–the person is guilty of breaking God’s law. And the Lord declares that He will not leave the guilty unpunished (Nahum 1:3).

Second, these concepts present an unbiblical picture of God’s payment for sin. In both cases of mortal and venial sin, forgiveness of the given transgression is dependent upon the offender making restitution of some type. In Roman Catholicism, this restitution may take the form of going to confession, praying a certain prayer, receiving the Eucharist, or another ritual of some type. The basic thought is that in order for Christ’s forgiveness to be applied to the offender, the offender must perform some work, and then the forgiveness is granted. The payment and forgiveness of the transgression is dependent upon the offender’s actions.

Is this what the Bible teaches regarding the payment for sin? The Bible clearly teaches that the payment for sin is not found in or based upon the actions of the sinner. Consider the words of 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” Take note of the wording, “Christ also died for sins once for all.” This passage teaches that for the person who is believing in Jesus Christ, all of his or her sins have been taken care of on the cross. Christ died for all of them. This includes the sins the believer committed before salvation and the ones he has committed and will commit after salvation.

Colossians 2:13 and 14 confirms this fact: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God] made you alive together with Him [Christ], having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” God has “forgiven us all our transgressions.” Not just the sins of the past, but all of them. They have been nailed to the cross and taken out of the way. When Jesus, on the cross, stated, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was stating that He had fulfilled all that was necessary to grant forgiveness and eternal life to those who would believe in Him. This is why Jesus says in John 3:18 that “he who believes in Him [Jesus] is not judged.” Paul states this fact in Romans 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Why are believers not judged? Why is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? It is because the death of Christ satisfied God’s righteous wrath against sin (1 John 4), and now those who trust in Christ will not bear the penalty of that sin.

Whereas the concepts of mortal and venial sin place responsibility to gain God’s forgiveness for a given transgression in the hands of the offender, the Bible teaches that all sins of the believer are forgiven at the cross of Christ. The Bible does teach by word (Galatians 6:7 and 8) and example (2 Samuel 11-20) that when a Christian gets involved in sin, he or she may reap temporal, physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual consequences. But the believer never has to reacquire God’s forgiveness due to personal sin because God’s Word declares that God’s wrath toward the believer’s sin was satisfied completely at the cross.

Third, these concepts present an unbiblical picture of God’s dealings with His children. Clearly, according to Roman Catholicism, one of the consequences of committing a mortal sin is that it removes eternal life from the offender. Also, according to this concept, God will grant again eternal life through repentance and good works.

Does the Bible teach that a person who is truly saved by God through Christ can lose his salvation and regain it? It clearly does not teach this. Once a person has placed his faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal life, the Bible teaches that that person is eternally secure–he cannot be lost. Consider the words of Jesus in John 10:27-28: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” Consider also the words of Paul in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Reflecting back upon the fact of the total satisfaction of God’s wrath toward our sin in the death of Christ, our sins cannot separate us from God’s love. In love, God chooses to take Christ’s death as payment for believers’ sins and doesn’t hold them against the believer. Thus, when the believer commits sin, the forgiveness of God in Christ is already present, and, although the believer may experience self-inflicted consequences of sin, God’s love and forgiveness are never in jeopardy. In Romans 7:14-25, Paul clearly states that the believer will struggle with sin throughout his earthly existence, but that Christ will save us from this body of death. And “therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Whereas the concept of mortal sin teaches that a person can lose his salvation through personal sin, the Bible teaches that God’s love and favor will never be removed from His children.

God’s grace not only redeems the believer from every lawless deed, but it also guides the believer into holy living and makes the believer zealous for good deeds. This doesn’t mean that the believer never sins, but that his passion will be to honor God because of God’s grace working in the believer’s life. Forgiveness and holiness are two sides of the same coin of God’s grace–they go together. Although a believer may stumble and fall into sin at times–maybe even in a big way–the general path and direction of his life will be one of holiness and passion for God and His glory. If one follows the concepts of mortal and venial sin, he or she may be deceived into viewing sin with a flippant attitude, thinking that he or she can sin at will and simply seek God’s forgiveness at a point of personal desire. The Bible instructs us that the true believer will never view sin flippantly and will strive, in the strength of God’s grace, to live a holy life.

Based on the above biblical truth, the concepts of mortal and venial sin are not biblical and should be rejected. In Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, the problem of our sin is completely taken care of, and we need look no further than that amazing demonstration of God’s love for us. Our forgiveness and right standing with God is not dependent upon us, our failings, or our faithfulness. The true believer is to fix his eyes on Jesus and live in light of all that He accomplished on our behalf. God’s love and grace are truly amazing! May we live in light of the life we have in Christ! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we be victorious over all sin, whether “mortal,” “venial,” intentional, or unintentional.

To remit is to forgive. Remission is a related word, and it means “forgiveness.” The “remission of sin,” then, is simply the “forgiveness” of sin. The phrase used in eight places in the King James Version of the Bible.

Matthew 26:28, for example, says, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Modern translations such as the English Standard Version render the phrase “for the forgiveness of sins.”

Luke has three examples of this phrase. Luke 1:77 says, “To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.” John the Baptist “came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3). When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He said that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).

In Acts, Peter tells a Roman named Cornelius that “whosoever believeth in [Christ] shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). Cornelius and those in his home did believe, and they received forgiveness in Christ.

God remits sin on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Romans 3:24-25). The teaching of Scripture is that remission only comes by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The modern dictionary definitions of fornication (voluntary sexual intercourse between persons not married to each other, which would include adultery) and adultery (voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse) are simple enough, but the Bible gives us greater insight into how God perceives these two sexual sins. In the Bible, both are referred to literally, but both are also used figuratively to refer to idolatry.

In the Old Testament, all sexual sin was forbidden by the Mosaic Law and Jewish custom. However, the Hebrew word translated “fornication” in the Old Testament was also in the context of idolatry, also called spiritual whoredom. In 2 Chronicles 21:10-14, God struck Jehoram with plagues and diseases because he led the people into idolatry. He “caused the people of Jerusalem to commit fornication” (v. 11, KJV) and “to go lusting like the fornications of the house of Ahab” (v. 13 NKJV). King Ahab was the husband of Jezebel, a priestess of the lascivious god Baal, who led the Israelites into idol worship of the most egregious kind. In Ezekiel 16, the prophet Ezekiel describes in detail the history of God’s people turning away from Him to “play the harlot” with other gods. The word “fornication,” meaning idolatry, is used numerous times in this chapter alone. As the Israelites became known among the nations round about them for their wisdom, riches, and power, which was a snare to them as a woman’s beauty is to her, they were admired and courted and complimented by their neighbors, and so drawn into idolatrous practices. The word “fornication” is used in connection with pagan idolatry because much of pagan “worship” included sex in their rites. Temple prostitutes were common in the worship of Baal and other false gods. Sexual sin of all kinds was not only accepted in these religions, but encouraged as a means to greater blessings from the gods for the worshippers, particularly in the increase of their flocks and crops.

In the New Testament, “fornication” comes from the Greek word porneia, which includes adultery and incest. Porneia comes from another Greek word that also includes indulging in any kind of unlawful lust, which would include homosexuality. The use of the word in the gospels and the epistles is always in reference to sexual sin, whereas “fornication” in the book of Revelation always refers to idolatry. The Lord Jesus condemns two of the churches of Asia Minor for dabbling in the fornication of idolatry (Revelation 2:14, 20), and He also refers to the “great harlot” of the end times, which is the idolatrous false religion “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Revelation 17:1-2, NKJV).

Adultery, on the other hand, always refers to the sexual sin of married people with someone other than their spouse, and the word is used in the Old Testament both literally and figuratively. The Hebrew word translated “adultery” means literally “breaking wedlock.” Interestingly, God describes the desertion of His people to other gods as adultery. The Jewish people were regarded as the spouse of Jehovah, so when they turned to the gods of other nations, they were compared to an adulterous wife. The Old Testament often referred to Israel’s idolatry as a wanton woman who went “whoring after” other gods (Exodus 34:15-16; Leviticus 17:7; Ezekiel 6:9 KJV). Further, the entire book of Hosea likens the relationship between God and Israel to the marriage of the prophet Hosea and his adulterous wife, Gomer. Their marriage was a picture of the sin and unfaithfulness of Israel which, time after time, left her true husband (Jehovah) to commit spiritual adultery with other gods.

In the New Testament, the two Greek words translated “adultery” are nearly always used, from their contexts, to refer literally to sexual sin involving married partners. The only exception is in the letter to the church of Thyatira which was condemned for tolerating the “woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess” (Revelation 2:20). This woman drew the church into immorality and idolatrous practices and anyone seduced by her false doctrines was considered to have committed adultery with her.

In Psalm 32:5, the psalmist says, “I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’” In this one verse, “sin,” “iniquity,” and “transgression” are all mentioned. Basically, the three words communicate the same idea: evil and lawlessness, as defined by God (see 1 John 3:4). However, upon closer examination, each word also carries a slightly different meaning.

The word sin and its cognates are used 786 times in the New International Version of the Bible. Sin means “to miss the mark.” It can refer to doing something against God or against a person (Exodus 10:16), doing the opposite of what is right (Galatians 5:17), doing something that will have negative results (Proverbs 24:33–34), and failing to do something you know is right (James 4:17). In the Old Testament, God even instituted sacrifices for unintentional sins (Numbers 15:27). Sin is the general term for anything that “falls short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sin leads to a downward progression that, without the restoring power of the Holy Spirit, we all tend toward. The sin nature is present in every human being born since the Fall of Adam (Genesis 3:6–7; Romans 5:12). If left unchecked, continual sin leads to a “reprobate mind,” spoken of in Romans 1:24. Our sin nature causes us to gravitate naturally toward selfishness, envy, and pride, even when we are trying to do good. The apostle Paul alluded to his propensity to sin when he wrote, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18).

The sin nature leads to trespassing. A trespasser is someone who crosses a line or climbs a fence that he should not cross or climb. A trespass may be intentional or unintentional. Trespass can also mean “to fall away after being close beside.” Peter trespassed when he denied Jesus (Luke 22:34, 56–62). We all “cross the line” in thought, word, or attitude many times a day and should be quick to forgive others who do the same (Matthew 6:15).

Transgression refers to presumptuous sin. It means “to choose to intentionally disobey; willful trespassing.” Samson intentionally broke his Nazirite vow by touching a dead lion (Numbers 6:1–5; Judges 14:8–9) and allowing his hair to be cut (Judges 16:17); in doing so he was committing a transgression. David was referring to this kind of sin when he wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1). When we knowingly run a stop sign, tell a lie, or blatantly disregard an authority, we are transgressing.

Iniquity is more deeply rooted. Iniquity means “premeditated choice, continuing without repentance.” David’s sin with Bathsheba that led to the killing of her husband, Uriah, was iniquity (2 Samuel 11:3–4; 2 Samuel 12:9). Micah 2:1 says, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.” In David’s psalm of repentance, he cries out to God, saying, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2).

God forgives iniquity, as He does any type of sin when we repent (Jeremiah 33:8; Hebrews 8:12). However, iniquity left unchecked leads to a state of willful sin with no fear of God. The build-up of unrepentant sin is sometimes pictured as a “cup of iniquity” being filled to the brim (Revelation 17:4; Genesis 15:16). This often applies to nations who have forsaken God completely. Continued iniquity leads to unnatural affections, which leads to a reprobate mind. Romans 1:28–32 outlines this digression in vivid detail. The sons of Eli are biblical examples of reprobates whom God judged for their iniquities (1 Samuel 3:13–14). Rather than repent, Eli’s sons continued in their abominations until repentance was no longer possible.

The biblical writers used different words to refer to sin in its many forms. However, regardless of how depraved a human heart may become, Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to cover all sin (John 1:29; Romans 5:18). Psalm 32:5, quoted at the beginning of this article, ends with these words: “And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” The only sin that God cannot forgive is the final rejection of the Holy Spirit’s drawing to repentance—the ultimate fruit of a reprobate mind (Matthew 12:32; Luke 12:10).

We often think that our lives can be simplified if we just have a checklist to follow. We have shopping lists, to-do lists, wish lists, and more. Surely, if God wants us to have success in living for Him, there must be a list in the Bible of sins to avoid. When we look to the Bible, we certainly do find lists of sins, but we also discover that the lists never seem to end.

From the very beginning, God told man what was right and wrong. To Adam in the Garden, God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God established His Law with them at Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) were not the whole law, but a summary of all that God had to tell them. The entire books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are devoted to revealing to the Israelites God’s laws. Jewish rabbis say that there are 613 laws in the Torah (Books of Moses). Of those, 365 are in the “thou shalt not…” category.

What are some examples of these sins? From the Ten Commandments we have false worship, idolatry, misusing God’s name, violating the Sabbath, dishonoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying/libel, and coveting. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus took some of these same sins to a new level. Regarding murder, Jesus said, “Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22). Regarding adultery, Jesus said, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). In Galatians 5:19-21, we are told, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Just these brief lists will give most people plenty of things to work on for a lifetime. In addition to the various lists that can be found in Scripture, we are told in 1 John 5:17 that “all wrongdoing is sin.” Not only does the Bible tell us the things not to do, but in James 4:17, we are informed that anyone “who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

When we try to compile a list of sins, we find ourselves buried under the guilt of our own failures because we discover that we have sinned far more than we realized. The Scriptures inform us, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’” (Galatians 3:10). While that statement might seem self-defeating, it is actually the best news possible. Since we can never fully keep God’s Law, there must be another answer, and it is found in the very next verses: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’

“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:13-14). The Law of God, or the lists of sins that we find in the Bible, serve as a tutor to “lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

John Wayne Gacy was put to death by lethal injection in the early morning hours of May 10, 1994 for murdering 33 young men and boys, 29 of whom he buried in the crawl space beneath his own Chicago home between the years of 1972 and 1978. After Gacy’s death, he was delivered into the hands of Dr. Helen Morrison to perform a very unique autopsy. Dr. Morrison had previously interviewed Gacy, along with many other serial killers, in an attempt to isolate personality traits that were common among such ruthless murderers. Now at the request of Gacy’s family, Dr. Morrison was going to remove the brain of the notorious serial killer in hopes of discovering some sort of physical abnormality that would provide answers for why Gacy destroyed so many innocent lives.

In her book, My Life Among the Serial Killers, Dr. Morrison commented on what she believed to be a genetically predetermined factor in people like Gacy: “He is a serial killer when he is a fetus, even as soon as sperm meets egg to create the genes of a new person.” In other words, according to Morrison, there was no hope for Gacy; his genes determined his actions and his behavior. In some sense, Gacy could be excused for his behavior if there were no laws prohibiting his actions. Morrison did not see any separation between the natural ability in her patients and their moral ability.

Is such a thing true? Or is there instead a division between each person’s natural body and their intrinsic essence or nature—that which makes them who they are from a moral standpoint? Atheists and naturalists say ‘no,’ but the Bible counters with the reality that there is a spiritual and moral side to every person that is distinct from their physical body. And Scripture also states that it is this component of a person who has inherited what is called a ‘sin nature’ that produces everything from white lies to atrocities such as those committed by John Wayne Gacy.

The Reality of the Sin Nature
Some psychologists and scientists have attempted to deny that humanity is inherently sinful or ‘bad.’ For example, the founder of humanistic psychology, Abraham Maslow, said: “As far as I know we just don’t have any intrinsic instincts for evil.” Agreeing with Maslow is noted psychologist Carl Rogers who stated, “I do not find that…evil is inherent in human nature.” Both Maslow and Rogers dismiss sin and instead say if a person is committing evil acts, then the ‘patient’ is psychologically ill and must be brought back to mental sanity through medication and therapy.

However, history has shown that the evil actions of humanity transcend mere mental disorders. Commenting on the Nazi atrocities, Catholic monk and priest Thomas Merton observed, “One of the most disturbing facts that came out in the Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. . . . And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.”

Various philosophers have also tried to either deny a sin nature or explain it away through various means. One example is Jean Jacques Rousseau, an 18th century philosopher, writer, and composer of Romanticism, whose political philosophy heavily influenced the French Revolution. He believed that mankind was naturally good and that each person was born an ‘innocent savage.’ If each person was born innocent, how did Rousseau explain humanity’s evil actions? Simply put, Rousseau claimed that society corrupted people, and that is why they end up exhibiting bad behavior. However, as various opponents of Rousseau’s claims soon pointed out to him, societies are comprised of people, and are therefore only a collective manifestation of individual wickedness.

Even some theologians have tried to deny an inherent sin nature in humanity, with the most famous being the Culdee Monk Pelagius who rejected the notion of a person being born anything but perfect and innocent. Pelagius’ theological wrestling matches with the famous Augustine resulted in the condemnation of Pelagius’ teaching in the early church, although it still lives on in various places today.

The fact is that the reality of a sin nature is clearly seen in human behavior. Such truth caused Reinhold Niebuhr to comment, “The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.” Expounding on Niebuhr’s statement in more detail, R.C. Sproul describes the situation this way: “If each one of us is born without a sinful nature, how do we account for the universality of sin? If four billion people were born with no inclination to sin, with no corruption to their nature, we would reasonably expect that at least some of them would refrain from falling. . . . But if everybody does it, without exception, then we begin to wonder why.”

The Bible provides the answer as to why every person sins. Scripture says that God created humankind originally good and without a sin nature: “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. . . . God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). However, Genesis chapter 3 records the fall of Adam and Eve, and with that fall, sin entered into the two previously sinless creatures that God had made. And when they, in turn, had children, their sin nature was passed along to their offspring. That sin nature immediately manifested itself in the very first man born from Adam and Eve, a man named Cain who became a murderer (Genesis 4:8).

Instead of only the image of God being passed down through the human procreation process, a sin nature was passed as well: “When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5:3, emphasis added). The fact is that each and every person born from the beginning has inherited the sin nature of his parents, with both the Old and New Testaments speaking to this fact. For example, David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). In another Psalm, David states: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth” (Psalm 58:3). His son Solomon wrote: “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

The Old Testament prophets also affirmed that a sin nature exists in everyone born of human parents. Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The prophet Isaiah stated: For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

In the New Testament, Paul affirms an inherited sin nature when he says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). And the Apostle John says this to his readers: If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Students of Scripture have all reached the conclusion that the Bible teaches each and every person possesses a sinful nature, with Charles Spurgeon summing up the reality when he said: “As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.”

In one sense, Dr. Helen Morrison was right in her assessment of human nature. When children are conceived, they are predetermined—not to necessarily become a serial killer like John Wayne Gacy, but to sin in some form or fashion.

Misconceptions about the Sin Nature
Although the biblical teaching of a sin nature is clear, there are a number of misconceptions that both Christians and non-Christians have about it. First, some people think that a sin nature means that a person cannot tell right from wrong or behave in a ‘good’ manner towards someone else. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Jesus acknowledged that someone could perform good acts and yet still have an evil sin nature when he said, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9–11, emphasis added).

In fact, the Bible says each person is equipped by God with a conscience that instinctively knows right and wrong. Paul confirms this truth when he says, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:14-15).

Next, some believe that a sin nature means that every person will eventually end up a like a Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. However, this isn’t the case at all. A sin nature does not mean that every person will be as bad as they can possibly be, but rather than each person is as bad off as they can possibly be from a spiritual standpoint. Every person is spiritually dead and cut off from God, but the degrees of wickedness in each person will vary.

Lastly, some Christians have been taught that they lose their sin nature once they receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. But Scripture says that the sin nature remains after a person becomes a believer in Christ and that a struggle with that sin nature will continue until they are glorified in eternity. Paul bemoaned his struggle when he said, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (Romans 7:15, 20).

The struggle between the sinful and regenerated spiritual nature in a Christian will be quite evident to a person who has been born again, but such a battle will not occur in a person who has not become a believer in Christ. They remain spiritually dead and are not sensitive to sin as a Christian is.

The story is told of a man who once came to a preacher and said, “You talk about how heavy sin is, but preacher, I don’t feel a thing.” The preacher thought for a minute and then asked, “If we put 400 pounds of weight on a corpse, do you think he’d feel it?”

The Consequences of the Sin Nature
The reality of the sin nature brings with it many disappointing consequences. The first effect is that each and every person in born spiritually dead. That is, they are devoid of any spiritual life or desire for the things of God. Jesus affirmed this condition when asked by a person if he could first go bury his father before following Christ. Jesus responded by saying, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul (describing his readers’ condition prior to being born again) says simply “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

The lack of spiritual life in a person results in behavior that is both hostile toward God and mindfully ignorant of His truth. In Romans, speaking about the hostility and inability of spiritually dead people to respond to God, Paul says, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:6-7). The Apostle underscores the same fact in his first letter to the Corinthian church: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The final and natural consequence of the sin nature is eternal death—an eternal separation from God. God’s wrath remains on those who are not born again (John 3:36), and so their destiny is only one of judgment, which is spelled out in the book of Revelation: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15).

The Cure for the Sin Nature
Fortunately, there is a cure for the sin nature and a way to escape the judgment of God. The cure is the new birth, which is described by the Apostle John in Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. The Spirit breathes where He desires, and you hear His voice, but you do not know from where He comes, and where He goes; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit’” (John 3:3–8).

The good news is that Christ’s sacrifice supplies spiritual life for any person who calls on the name of the Lord for salvation. Paul says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). The Apostle also highlights this spiritual regeneration when he writes, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The Spirit of God takes up residence in each person who is born again and supplies the power to not only defeat the effects of the sin nature, but to supply strength to defeat the old sinful nature’s pull to do wrong in God’s sight. Paul says it like this: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16–17).

The great news is that the sin nature can be defeated by the One who did not inherit a sin nature from His earthly parents (Jesus was born of a virgin). Through His finished work on the cross, Jesus, being sinless, satisfied God’s wrath for sinners and rose again to offer life to those devoid of spiritual life.

Conclusions
The fact that each person ever born possesses a sin nature is verified by human experience and the Word of God. The good news is that Christ provides a way of conquering the inherited sin nature and a victory that can be experienced both in this life and the next. No matter how bad off the person is, Jesus can defeat the sin that enslaves him. As John Calvin put it, “For certainly, Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.”

The concept of sex addiction being a psychological disorder similar to other obsessive-compulsive disorders, or similar to other addictions, such as alcoholism or illicit drug use, is a recent development. Previously, a man (or woman) who was promiscuous was said to be immoral and filled with lust. The issue now is that something the Bible says is a sin, promiscuous sex outside of marriage, is being labeled as a psychological disorder. For some, this is an excuse, an explaining away of a clear sin. So, is there such a thing as sex addiction, and if so, what does the Bible say about it?

First, let it be said that sex outside of marriage is always a sin (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). There is never a time when it is right to have sex outside of marriage. With that said, it is important to note that sex is indeed addicting. A person who engages in sexual intercourse regularly will almost always become psychologically and physiologically addicted to it. Sex between a husband and his wife in marriage is “pure” (Hebrews 13:4) and is the God-ordained way of releasing the tension of a “sex addiction.” Should a married couple allow themselves to become addicted to the point that sex becomes an obsession, a hindrance to other aspects of life? Of course not. Is it wrong for a husband and wife to desire regular sex with each other? Absolutely not. Sex in marriage is not sinful. A husband and his wife are biblically allowed to have sex as often as they want, in the spirit of mutual consent (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Sin itself is addicting. Most, if not all, sins are addicting if engaged in regularly. Lying, drinking in excess, smoking, gluttony, rage, pornography, etc., can all become habitual. Ultimately, all of us, in our fallen bodies, have a sin addiction. Immoral sex, just as other sins, can lead to “ever-increasing wickedness” (Romans 6:19). Just as illicit drug use leads to increasingly potent amounts of the drug being needed to achieve the same “high,” so can immoral sex lead to increasingly frequent and “wild” intercourse in order to receive the same satisfaction. Yes, there is a such a thing as sex addiction. A person truly can become psychologically and physiologically addicted to frequent, wild, experimental, and even obscenely immoral sex.

The fact that sex is addicting, and the biblical truth that sin is addicting, combined, lead to the conclusion that sex addiction does indeed exist. The fact that sex addiction exists, though, does not change the fact that it is sin. It is very important to recognize sex addiction as a sin, not to excuse it away as a psychological disorder. At the same time, we should not minimize the powerful hold sex addiction can have on a person. As with all sin addictions, the only true cure for sex addiction is Jesus Christ. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Because of our sin, we all deserve the judgment of eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus, who was God in human form, paid the eternal/infinite penalty for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). If we fully trust His sacrifice on our behalf as the full payment for our sin, receiving Him as Savior in faith, He promises that all of our sins are forgiven. Then, God makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and begins the process of conforming us to His will (Romans 12:1-2), including enabling us to overcome sin and break any sin addictions we have. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

Studies show that terms relating to porn are by far the most commonly searched-for terms in the internet search engines. Every day, literally millions of people do searches related to the porn industry. The powerful imagery of internet pornography is highly addictive. Many men (and women) have been caught in the snare of internet porn and find themselves helplessly addicted to its visual stimulation. This results in uncontrollable lust, an inability to experience true sexual intimacy in marriage, and often intense feelings of guilt and despair. Pornography is the #1 cause of masturbation, sexual assault, and sexual deviancy. Most importantly, pornography is offensive to God, and is therefore a sin that must be confessed, repented of, and overcome.

There are two primary aspects in the battle to overcome an addiction to internet porn: spiritual and practical. Spiritually, addiction to pornography is a sin that God desires you to overcome and therefore will enable you to do so. The first step is to make sure you have genuinely placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you are unsure, please visit our page on salvation and forgiveness. Without salvation through Jesus Christ, there is no possibility of a true and lasting victory over pornography: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

If you are a believer in Christ and are struggling with an addiction to internet porn, there is hope and help for you! The power of the Holy Spirit is available to you (Ephesians 3:16). The cleansing of God’s forgiveness is available to you (1 John 1:9). The renewing capacity of God’s Word is at your disposal (Romans 12:1-2). Commit your mind and eyes to the Lord (1 John 2:16). Ask God to strengthen you and help you to overcome pornography (Philippians 4:13). Ask God to protect you from further exposure to porn (1 Corinthians 10:13), and to fill your mind with things that are pleasing to Him (Philippians 4:8). These are all requests that God will honor and answer.

Practically speaking, there are numerous tools to combat an addiction to internet pornography. There are good programs available at www.PureOnline.com and www.PornAddiction.com. There are several quality internet filtering programs that will completely block your computer from accessing pornography, such as www.bsecure.com. Another fantastic tool is available at www.X3Watch.com. X3watch is accountability software. It tracks your internet browsing and sends a report of any objectionable websites you have visited to an accountability partner of your choosing. Your temptation to view internet porn would be greatly reduced if you knew your youth pastor, parent, friend, pastor, or spouse would receive a detailed report about it. There are also quite a few good books on overcoming porn addiction: Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Purity One Victory at a Time by Stephen Arterburn, Pure Freedom: Breaking the Addiction to Pornography by Mike Cleveland, and The Game Plan by Joe Dallas.

Do not despair! An addiction to internet porn is not an “unforgivable sin.” God can and will forgive you. An addiction to internet porn is not an “unconquerable sin.” God can and will enable you to overcome it. Commit your mind and eyes to the Lord. Commit yourself to filling your mind with God’s Word (Psalm 119:11). Seek His help daily in prayer; ask Him to fill your mind with His truth and block unwanted thoughts and desires. Take the practical steps listed above to keep yourself accountable and block access to internet porn. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

First, it is good to recognize that lust is sin (Matthew 5:28; 1 John 2:16). However, is it also important to be honest with ourselves. Porn and erotica are meant to incite lust in the heart. The only reason pornography exists is that so many people give in to lustful thoughts. It is impossible to view pornography and not struggle with lust—the desire to have something or do something that conflicts with the will of God. Even if one is not lusting after the particular person in the picture or movie, he or she is harboring desires that conflict with God’s holiness. Viewing porn is always sin.

We are responsible to guard our hearts against lust (Proverbs 4:23). This is important because the result of letting down our guard can be fatal: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15).

Trying to narrow the definition of lust or splitting hairs concerning the object of lust is a way to make sin seem more acceptable. We must remember the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). The flesh says, “I want this,” and God says, “No, it’s not good for you.” That’s when Satan steps in and says, “Maybe we can work out a compromise.”

If we desire something God has forbidden, we are lusting. Jesus said that lust in the heart is just as sinful in God’s eyes as the actual act of adultery (Matthew 5:27–28). God has blessed the sexual union of a husband and wife (Song of Solomon 5:1), and He has issued severe warnings against sex outside of marriage (e.g., Hebrews 13:4). No one has the right to look at the nakedness of another person—or to look lasciviously at a clothed person—unless he or she is married to that person.

It’s difficult to live purely in an impure world, and all of us struggle with this issue. We need the armor of God as we fight this battle (Ephesians 6:10–18). We should follow the example of Joseph, who, when confronted with temptation, ran away (Genesis 39:12; cf. 2 Timothy 2:22). We should commit to purity as Job did: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1). “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14).