TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

I.  General

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Chapter 9  Part I

General

Knowing what sin is and what its consequences are is vital to understanding God’s relationship with humankind and to appreciating the need for Jesus Christ’s mission. It also helps us not to sin by: clarifying what sin is (which this chapter does in general terms); and providing great motivation to avoid sin.

What Sin Is

Sin is breaking God’s law

1Jn 3:4  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. ▤ 

Sin is lawlessness – acting apart from and contrary to God’s law. As such, basically it is breaking God’s law. Conversely, breaking God’s law is sin,

Lev 26:43  But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. ▤ 

The term “iniquity” means an offense/s against God’s law. Thus “iniquity” (v. 12) is equivalent to “sin”.

1Sam 15:24  Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. ▤ 

In addition to breaking any command in God’s law, disobeying any other command or instruction from God is also sin.

Neh 1:6-7  … let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. ▤ 

Neh 9:29  And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. ▤ 

Ps 89:30-32  If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules,x 31if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, 32then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, … ▤ 

x Or my just decrees

The terms “transgression” and “sin” are synonyms. The former speaks of acting out of line in regard to rules or breaking them. The latter speaks of missing the mark or target.

Isa 42:24  Who gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey? ▤ 

Note that in saying “we” have sinned, the prophet appears to identify himself with his people – “they” who had not obeyed God’s law.

Dan 9:11  All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. ▤ 

James 2:8-9  If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. ▤ 

To show partiality breaks the law to “love your neighbor as yourself” – and so is committing sin.

Even unintentionally breaking God’s law is sin

Lev 4:2-3, 13-14  Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionallyy in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, 3if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering. ▤ 13“If the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionallyz and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they do any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and they realize their guilt,a 14when the sin which they have committed becomes known, the assembly shall offer a bull from the herd for a sin offering and bring it in front of the tent of meeting. ▤ 

y Or by mistake; so throughout Leviticus

z Or makes a mistake

a Or suffer for their guilt, or are guilty; also verses 22, 27, and chapter 5

Lev 4:22-24, 27-28  When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, 23or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish, 24and shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the Lord; it is a sin offering. ▤ 27“If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, 28or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. ▤ 

Lev 5:17-18  If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. 18He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. ▤ 

Ezek 45:20  You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple. ▤ 

The reference to sin has in view breaking God’s law.

  • However, sinning unintentionally is not as serious as sinning defiantly:

Num 15:27-28, 30-31  “If one person sins unintentionally, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering. 28And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. ▤ 30But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.” ▤ 

To act as such “with a high hand” (v. 30) is to do so “defiantly” (NASB, NIV). Forgiveness could be obtained for a person who sinned unintentionally (vv. 27-28) but no such provision is given for one who sinned defiantly (vv. 30-31).

Doing evil and acting wickedly is sin

Deut 9:18  Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger. ▤ 

1Ki 14:22  And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. ▤ 

Ps 51:4  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. ▤ 

Eccl 8:12  Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. ▤ 

Rom 7:20-21  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. ▤ 

Dan 9:15  And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. ▤ 

1Ki 8:47b  ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ … ▤ 

Ps 106:6  Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. ▤ 

Prov 5:22  The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. ▤ 

  • Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of Satan:

1Jn 3:8a  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. ▤ 

This illustrates that sin is evil, indicating that those who habitually continue to sin show that they are of – or belong to – the devil.

All wrongdoing is sin

At least in terms of the Bible’s perspective, wrongdoing involves breaking God’s law. Any morally wrong action can be shown to break one or more of God’s commands. Thus wrongdoing is sin – as is any evil action.

1Jn 5:17  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. ▤ 

Dan 9:5  … we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. ▤ 

Ex 9:27  Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. ▤ 

Num 5:6-7  Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, 7he shall confess his sin that he has committed.b And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. ▤ 

b Hebrew they shall confess their sin that they have committed

Ezek 18:18  As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity. ▤ 

Not doing what we should do is sin

James 4:17  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. ▤ 

Lev 5:1  If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity; … ▤ 

Num 32:23  But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. ▤ 

2Chr 19:10  … whenever a case comes to you from your brothers who live in their cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or rules, then you shall warn them, that they may not incur guilt before the Lord and wrath may not come upon you and your brothers. Thus you shall do, and you will not incur guilt. ▤ 

This indicates that the judges would sin if they did not warn the people as they had been instructed to do.

Luke 12:47  And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. ▤ 

Those who know God or Christ’s will and do not do it will be punished – indicative of the fact that not doing what one should is sin.

  • Acting contrary to one’s beliefs is sin:

Rom 14:14, 23  I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. ▤ 23But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.c ▤ 

c Some manuscripts insert here 16:25-27

In v. 14 Paul is referring particularly to food, as in v. 23. In v. 23 “faith” is being used in a subjective sense. It refers to our beliefs or convictions (cf. AMP) as to what is right – or at least what is right for ourselves – before God. As such, Paul is saying that acting in a way that is opposed to our beliefs and conscience is in effect sin.

 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Sin Is against God

See also:

Sin is action against God

Sin is against God primarily because it is acting contrary to his commands and so against his will. As such the previous section also reflects the fact that sin is against God, by defining sin as breaking God’s law (cf. Neh 1:6-7 ; ISA 42:24 ; Dan 9:11 ; Rom 8:7 ).

Lev 26:40  But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, … ▤ 

Neh 1:6-7  … let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. ▤ 

Ps 41:4  As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me,d for I have sinned against you!” ▤ 

d Hebrew my soul

Isa 3:8-9  For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence.e 9For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. ▤ 

e Hebrew the eyes of his glory

The fact that the people’s words and deeds are said to be “against the Lord” (v. 8) and are latter referred to as “sin” (v. 9), implies that sin involves words and deeds against the Lord. This is reinforced by v. 8 indicating that sinning defies God’s glorious presence.

Isa 42:24  Who gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey? ▤ 

Jer 14:20  We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, and the iniquity of our fathers, for we have sinned against you. ▤ 

Dan 9:11  All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. ▤ 

Gen 13:13  Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord. ▤ 

Rom 8:7  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. ▤ 

Those who are “under the control of their sinful nature” (NLT) are actively hostile towards God.

Num 15:30  But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. ▤ 

Sinning defiantly actually “reviles, and blasphemes the Lord” (AMP) as it is very dishonoring to him. This is largely because it: discredits his laws and him as the one who instituted the laws; and shows disdain towards him as the one to whom we are accountable for breaking the laws.

Even acting wrongfully against other people is sinning against God

Gen 39:6-9  So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” ▤ 

The proposed action (v. 7) would have been acting against his master, but ultimately it would have been sin against God (v. 9).

Lev 6:2  If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor … ▤ 

Being “a breach of faith” against God is equivalent to sinning against him (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT). Thus deceiving one’s neighbor is sinning against God.

1Sam 12:23  Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. ▤ 

Failure to fulfill one’s responsibilities towards others – which is wronging them and so in effect acting against them – is sinning against God.

2Sam 12:10, 13a  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ ▤ 13David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” ▤ 

Note that in v. 10 Nathan is conveying God’s words to David.

Ps 51:4  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. ▤ 

Here David reiterates his words above in 2 Samuel 12:13a, acknowledging his committing of adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah (her husband) as sinning against God.

Luke 15:21  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’f ▤ 

f Some manuscripts add treat me as one of your hired servants

The prodigal son is saying in effect: “I have sinned against God in heaven and against you.” (CEV)

  • Sinning against other Christians is sinning against Christ:

1Cor 8:12  Thus, sinning against your brothersg and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. ▤ 

g Or brothers and sisters

The sins referred to in the verses above are against God because they are acting against his commands. Here the sin is spoken of as being against Christ because Christians are members of Christ’s body and so what one does to another Christian, one in effect does to Christ.

Sin is rebellion against God

See also:

Ps 5:10  Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. ▤ 

Ps 78:17  Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. ▤ 

Jer 33:8  I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. ▤ 

Lam 3:42  We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven. ▤ 

Ezek 2:3  And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. ▤ 

Dan 9:9-10  To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. ▤ 

Hos 8:1  Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law. ▤ 

For sin involves: turning away from God and his commands; . . .

See also:

Isa 59:12-13  For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: 13transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. ▤ 

Job 34:26-27  He strikes them for their wickedness in a place for all to see, 27because they turned aside from following him and had no regard for any of his ways, … ▤ 

Sin or wickedness involves turning from following God and his ways (or commands).

Isa 1:4  Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. ▤ 

In their persistence in sin, the people had forsaken God – and so “turned away from him” (NCV™; cf. CEV, GNT, NASB, NIV, NLT). Thus they had alienated themselves from God, becoming “utterly estranged”.

Dan 9:5, 11a  … we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. ▤ 11All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. ▤ 

Rom 3:12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. ▤ 

All have sinned and turned away from God (cf. GNT, NLT).

2Sam 22:22-23  For I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not wickedly departed from my God. 23For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside. ▤ 

In contrast to the subjects of the above verses, David had not sinned by turning away from God and his laws.

. . . and going our own way

Isa 53:6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. ▤ 

In committing iniquity we in effect turn from God to our own way.

Jer 8:5-6  Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return. 6I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. ▤ 

Jer 16:12  … and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. ▤ 

Jer 18:11-12  Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ 12“But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’ ▤ 

Eccl 7:29  See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes. ▤ 

God made people upright, but they have “turned to follow their own downward path” (NLT).

Sin is hated by God

Isa 61:8  For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong;h I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. ▤ 

h Or robbery with a burnt offering

Deut 12:31  You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. ▤ 

Any such “abominable thing” is sin – as are the actions mentioned in the verses below.

Prov 6:16-19  There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. ▤ 

Zec 8:17  … do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord. ▤ 

Ps 5:4-6  For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. 5The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. 6You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. ▤ 

In conjunction with hating sin, God hates those who willfully persist in sin – as spoken of in the following three references. In conjunction, note the comment below on Psalms 11:5.

Ps 11:5  The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. ▤ 

The Hebrew word translated as “hates” speaks of rejection and disassociation.

Prov 3:32  … for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence. ▤ 

An “abomination” is something that is detestable.

Hos 9:15  Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels. ▤ 

  • God cannot tolerate sin:

Hab 1:13a  You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong … ▤ 

Further to God hating sin, he cannot tolerate it.

God can be grieved by sin

Ps 78:40  How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! ▤ 

Isa 63:10  But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. ▤ 

Ezek 6:9a  … then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. ▤ 

To have been “broken” is to have been grieved (cf. NIV, NLT).

Gen 6:5-6  The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. ▤ 

This is not saying that God was grieved by the sin, but it is apparent that sin was the root cause of the grief.

  • Sin can burden and weary God:

Isa 43:24  You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. ▤ 

Sin – particularly that of his people – burdens God in the sense that it weighs heavily on his heart. In saying that it wearies God, Isaiah may be alluding to the fact that it tries his patience.

Pray for persecuted Christians

Sin Is Universal

All people have sinned

See also:

1Ki 8:46  If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, … ▤ 

Ps 130:3  If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? ▤ 

Prov 20:9  Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”? ▤ 

Isa 53:6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. ▤ 

Rom 3:9, 23  What then? Are we Jewsi any better off?j No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, ▤ 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, … ▤ 

i Greek Are we

j Or at any disadvantage?

Rom 5:12  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned ▤ 

Rom 11:32  For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. ▤ 

Note that this is not generally interpreted to mean that God made all people become disobedient – but rather that “God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience” (NLT, cf. CEV).

Gal 3:22  But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. ▤ 

The reference to “the Scripture” primarily has the law in view. Under the law the people were effectively imprisoned by sin, with one implication being that all people have sinned.

James 3:2  For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. ▤ 

1Jn 1:8, 10  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ▤ 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ▤ 

  • The original sin:

Gen 3:1-6  Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘Youl shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,m she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. ▤ 

l In Hebrew you is plural in verses 1-5

m Or to give insight

Presumably why Adam and Eve were commanded to not eat from the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil” (v. 2:17) was that having such knowledge would lead to reliance on their own imperfect knowledge and wisdom, which in turn would lead to independence from God. The end result of this is death.

No one is righteous before God

Ps 143:2  Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. ▤ 

Rom 3:10-12  … as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” ▤ 

The clause “no one does good” (v. 12) is quoted from Psalms 14:3. It may be hyperbole emphasizing the depravity of human nature, or a generalization of sinful man’s conduct. Possibly the writer may be taking the view that no matter what one does, as a whole one’s acts do not meet God’s standard of righteousness.

Job 15:14-16  What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? 15Behold, Godk puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; 16how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water! ▤ 

k Hebrew he

Job 25:4-6  How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? 5Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes; 6how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm! ▤ 

Eccl 7:20, 29  Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. ▤ 29See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes. ▤ 

Isa 64:6a  We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. ▤ 

In saying “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” Isaiah may be: speaking of the people’s righteous acts being polluted or stained by their sin; implying that even their good acts do not meet God’s standard of righteousness, as per the comment on Romans 3:12 above; or using “righteous” in an ironic sense.

People have a sinful nature . . .

Gal 5:24  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ▤ 

Here and in Colossians 2:13 immediately below, the term “flesh” refers to our sinful human nature.

Col 2:13  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, … ▤ 

In speaking of the “uncircumcision” of their sinful nature, Paul underlines the sinfulness of one’s nature by alluding to its non-renewed or pagan state.

Deut 31:20-21  For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. 21And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give. ▤ 

By nature people are inclined to turning from God and breaking his law.

Job 14:4  Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. ▤ 

This is speaking of how human beings are essentially “born impure” (NLT; cf. Ps 51:5 ; Gen 8:21a ); i.e. they have an “unclean” nature from the start.

Ps 51:5  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. ▤ 

Matt 7:11  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! ▤ 

In describing his listeners as “evil”, Jesus is probably alluding to their sinful nature. Having a sinful nature, all people are evil – particularly in comparison to God and his standards.

Rom 5:19  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. ▤ 

Adam became a sinner through his disobedience, by which his nature either became or proved to be sinful. People were made sinners through their relationship to Adam. Possible reasons as to why this is so include: it is due to Adam’s descendants naturally inheriting this characteristic and his susceptibility to sin; and it is due to their association with Adam as the head of the human race.

Rom 6:6  We know that our old selfn was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. ▤ 

n Greek man

The term “the body of sin” points to our sinful nature – our “sinful selves” (NCV™; cf. GNT).

. . . People have hearts and minds inclined towards evil

In the Bible “heart” is usually used figuratively, to denote one’s conscious self – somewhat akin to one’s mind. As such it can be used to refer more specifically to one’s intellect, one’s will or one’s emotions.

Gen 6:5  The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ▤ 

Gen 8:21a  And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curseo the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. ▤ 

o Or dishonor

Ps 64:6  They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep! ▤ 

The Hebrew of the last statement is somewhat difficult to translate (cf. CEV text note). The context suggests that it has in view the corruptness of people’s “mind and heart”, implying that they are “cunning” (NIV®, NLT).

Eccl 8:11  Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. ▤ 

This is probably not meaning that people’s hearts are always “fully set to do evil”. But it does point to their natural disposition towards such wrongdoing – particularly if they think it may go unpunished.

Eccl 9:3b  Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. ▤ 

Note that “madness” – or foolishness (cf. CEV, NCV, NIrV) – is often associated with evil and sin.

Jer 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ▤ 

People are led into sin by their sinful nature . . .

See also:

Rom 7:5, 18-25  For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. ▤ 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ▤ 

Verse 5 indicates that our sinful natures are such that the effect of the law is actually to arouse sinful passions. The expression “sin that dwells within me” (v. 20) reflects the fact that sin is something that is within us, a part of us and so a part of our nature. In vv. 21-25, the use of “law” is similar to “rule”, referring to a ruling power and/or a prevailing principle (cf. NSB).

Rom 8:8  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. ▤ 

When a person’s sinful nature controls them, they act contrary to God’s will; i.e. they sin.

Gal 5:17, 19-21a  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. ▤ 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy,p drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. ▤ 

p Some manuscripts add murder

In v. 17, “to keep you from doing the things you want to do” is probably speaking of the influence of the sinful nature in hindering one from doing the good one wants to do – in conflict with the Holy Spirit; in effect sinning. Alternatively, it possibly could be speaking of the Spirit helping us to not indulge the desires that we naturally want to fulfill.

Eph 2:3  … among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyq and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ▤ 

q Greek flesh

2Pet 2:18  For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. ▤ 

Peter speaks of false teachers enticing people into sin by the sensual passions of their sinful natures.

Matt 26:41  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. ▤ 

Here “temptation” most likely is referring to the temptation to be unfaithful in the testing time about to begin, rather than simply to giving in to sleep (cf. v. 40). If this is the case, “the flesh is weak” would primarily be speaking of the spiritual weakness and sinfulness of the sinful nature, not just physical limitations such as need for sleep.

. . . People are led into sin by their corrupt hearts and minds

Most of the following references are speaking of notably wicked or corrupt people. But what they say regarding the hearts and minds of such people is true to some degree of all people and illustrates the sinful effects of the corrupt human heart and mind.

Ps 73:7  Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. ▤ 

Isa 44:20  He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” ▤ 

Jer 7:24  But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. ▤ 

Ezek 20:16  … because they rejected my rules and did not walk in my statutes, and profaned my Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols. ▤ 

Mark 7:21-23  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. ▤ 

Rom 8:5-7  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. ▤ 

Those who carry on in sin – living according to the “flesh” – do so because their corrupt minds are focused on the desires of their sinful natures (v. 5). Such sinful minds are opposed to God and his laws (v. 7), ultimately producing death (v. 6).

Eph 4:17-19  Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. ▤ 

Due to “their hardness of heart” (v. 18b), such people’s minds and thinking become so darkened that in fact they end up spiritually ignorant (v. 18a). As such their thinking is futile (v. 17b) and leads to a sinful lifestyle (vv. 17, 19).

Col 2:18  Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions,r puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, … ▤ 

r Or about the things he has seen

Corrupted unspiritual minds lead to “foolish pride” (NCV™) – which is associated with sin.

2Tim 3:8  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. ▤ 

This suggests that the men’s depraved minds had led them to oppose the truth – effectively leading them into sin.

  • Those who become accustomed to doing evil cannot change and do good:

Jer 13:23  Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. ▤ 

Note: God is aware of all sins . . .

See also:

Job 10:14  If I sin, you watch me and do not acquit me of my iniquity. ▤ 

Ps 44:20-21  If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, 21would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. ▤ 

Ps 69:5  O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. ▤ 

Ps 90:8  You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. ▤ 

Ps 94:6-11  They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; 7and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” 8Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? 9He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? 10He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge11the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.s ▤ 

s Septuagint they are futile

Jer 16:17  For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. ▤ 

Jer 29:23  … because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord. ▤ 

Amos 5:12  For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. ▤ 

. . . and God remembers sin

Hos 7:2  But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face. ▤ 

“Now their deeds surround them” probably means that in God’s eyes their sins covered them; he could not help but see their sins.

Hos 13:12  The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is kept in store. ▤ 

This indicates that God keeps a record of sin (cf. GNT, NCV). The suggestion appears to be that sin is “kept in store” till the time of judgment (cf. NCV, NLT).

Hos 9:9  They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins. ▤ 

Amos 8:7  The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. ▤ 

Rev 18:5  … for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Sin’s Intrinsic Ill Effects

Shame and disgrace

Ezra 9:6  … saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. ▤ 

Prov 6:32-33  He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. 33He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. ▤ 

Prov 13:5  The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shamet and disgrace. ▤ 

t Or stench

Isa 1:29  For theyu shall be ashamed of the oaks that you desired; and you shall blush for the gardens that you have chosen. ▤ 

u Some Hebrew manuscripts you

Idolatry is referred to here.

Jer 3:25  Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God. ▤ 

Jer 31:19  For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth. ▤ 

Ezek 16:52-54  Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous. 53“I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, 54that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. ▤ 

Note that the last statement in v. 52 indicates that Jerusalem’s sins were such that they made sinful “sister” cities appear relatively righteous.

Ezek 36:32b  Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. ▤ 

Dan 9:7-8  To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. ▤ 

Rom 6:20-21  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. ▤ 

  • The secret acts of the ungodly are too shameful to talk about:

Eph 5:12  For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. ▤ 

Spiritual defilement . . .

See also:

Isa 59:3  For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. ▤ 

Ezek 14:11  … that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God. ▤ 

Ezek 20:43  And there you shall remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves, and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils that you have committed. ▤ 

Matt 15:18-20  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. ▤ 

2Cor 7:1  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of bodyv and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ▤ 

v Greek flesh

Here “every defilement” would appear to refer to all sinful influences that defile both our body and spirit – effectively our whole being.

Heb 12:15  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; … ▤ 

The “root of bitterness” denotes either sinfulness itself (cf. AMP), or a person (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) who exhibits such sinfulness. In light of the earlier reference to God’s grace, possibly unbelief in particular is in view (cf. NLT). Sin in the church can influence others to sin accordingly; thus by it many can “become defiled”.

Jude 1:7-8  … just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,w serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. 8Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. ▤ 

w Greek other flesh

. . . Spiritual uncleanness

See also:

Lev 18:24-25, 30  “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. ▤ 30So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.” ▤ 

The acts to which vv. 24, 30 refer, were unlawful sexual relations (vv. 6-23). The nations’ sin was such that in God’s eyes even the land was made unclean (v. 25), resulting in God wiping the land clean of them.

Ps 106:39  Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds. ▤ 

Lam 1:8-9a  Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away. 9Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future;x therefore her fall is terrible; she has no comforter. ▤ 

x Or end

“Her uncleanness was in her skirts” (v. 9a) refers to Jerusalem’s uncleanness clinging to her, due to her sin (v. 8a).

Isa 64:5b-6  Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?y 6We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. ▤ 

y Or in your ways is continuance, that we might be saved

For comment on v. 6a, see Isa 64:6a – under No one is righteous before God.

Prov 30:12  There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth. ▤ 

This speaks of uncleanness and filth caused by sin (cf. vv. 11-14).

Isa 1:18  Come now, let us reasonz together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. ▤ 

z Or dispute

The blood-guilt of murder had stained the people, like a red dye – thus making them unclean.

  • Sin is spoken of as making God’s dwelling place among the Israelites unclean:

Lev 20:2-3  Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. ▤ 

The sin referred to here was a particularly serious one, but any sin – particularly if not appropriately addressed – would have in a sense defiled God’s dwelling place among the Israelites. Note that similarly – in regard to the sin of murder defiling the land, where God dwelt – Numbers 35:34 says: “You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”

Separation from God . . .

See also:

Because sin defiles us and makes us spiritually unclean, it necessarily separates us from God. For God is holy – set apart from sin and consequent spiritual “uncleanness”.

Isa 59:2  … but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ▤ 

Eph 2:3, 12  … among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodya and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ▤ 12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. ▤ 

a Greek flesh

Separation from God and Jesus Christ involves exclusion from God’s people and the associated blessings (v. 12).

Eph 4:18  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. ▤ 

Such people are alienated or separated from God and the life only he can give, due to their willful ignorance and stubbornness towards God – which is itself sin and also points to other sinful behavior.

Col 1:21  And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, … ▤ 

Rom 3:23  … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, … ▤ 

With the expression “fall short of the glory of God”, Paul most likely is saying that all have failed to measure up to a standard compatible with God’s glory – which is required by God – and so cannot share in his glory. As such, a further implication is that we cannot stand in God’s presence, i.e. sin causes us to be separated from God.

Ezra 9:15  O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this. ▤ 

This is not speaking of sin actually separating us from God, but it does illustrate that sin impairs our relationship with God.

. . . and spiritual death

See also:

The state of spiritual death involves being cut off from God – “dead to God” – without his Holy Spirit, who brings spiritual life and spiritual awareness.

Rom 7:5, 9-11, 13  For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. ▤ 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. ▤ 13Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. ▤ 

In this passage, “death” appears to primarily refer to spiritual death, although not all commentators would agree. It possibly encompasses being under condemnation of death – both physical and eternal. In v. 5, “bear fruit for death” presumably is referring to “sinful deeds” (NLT) that produce death. In v. 9, “when the commandment came” may refer to the introduction of the law which brought sin into the picture, but more often it is interpreted to be referring to Paul’s full realization of what the law meant in his own life. This caused sin to come to life in him – i.e. sin was aroused and usurped control – bringing his death (vv. 9b-11). Verse 13 further speaks of sin producing death in us through the good law, showing sin for what it is – with the last clause possibly meaning that sin is shown to be evil and contrary to the law, beyond any argument or by any measure.

Eph 2:1-2  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— ▤ 

Col 2:13  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, … ▤ 

1Tim 5:6  … but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. ▤ 

Giving oneself up to luxury and self-indulgence is sinful. Accordingly, anyone who lives as such is “spiritually dead” (NLT).

Rom 8:6, 13  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. ▤ 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. ▤ 

Here the references to “death” (v. 6) and to dying (v. 13) are probably referring to – or are at least inclusive of – spiritual death in both the present form and the future form of the afterlife.

Hos 13:1  When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel, but he incurred guilt through Baal and died. ▤ 

Spiritual death may well be in view here, along with physical destruction – “he died [spiritually, and then outward ruin came also, sealing Israel’s doom as a nation]” (AMP).

  • God’s law is spiritual but people are not:

Rom 7:14  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. ▤ 

Captivity to sin . . .

Acts 8:23  For I see that you are in the gallb of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. ▤ 

b That is, a bitter fluid secreted by the liver; bile

Gal 3:22  But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. ▤ 

Under the law the people were effectively imprisoned by sin.

Rom 7:21-24  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ▤ 

The final question (v. 24), though not actually mentioning sin, reflects Paul’s captive state under the rule of sin. The power of sin held such sway over him (v. 21) that in his body or sinful nature, he was its prisoner (v. 23). Note that opinions differ on whether Paul is speaking in this passage (including vv. 14-17, 25 ) of a Christian or a pre-Christian experience.

Rom 3:9  What then? Are we Jewsc any better off?d No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, … ▤ 

c Greek Are we

d Or at any disadvantage?

All people (both Jews and Gentiles) are sinners. The phrase “under sin” appears to primarily refer to being “under the power of sin” (GNT, NLT; cf. AMP). Being under the condemnation that results from sin may also be encompassed.

Rom 11:32  For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. ▤ 

As noted earlier in the chapter, this is not generally interpreted to mean that God made all people become disobedient – but rather that “God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience” (NLT, cf. CEV). As such it alludes to people’s captivity to sin, produced by sin (i.e. disobedience to God).

Gen 4:7  If you do well, will you not be accepted?e And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is forf you, but you must rule over it. ▤ 

e Hebrew will there not be a lifting up [of your face]?

f Or against

“Its desire is for you” speaks either of sin desiring to have one as a captive or desiring to have one so as to devour one.

Eccl 8:8  No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. ▤ 

The second statement appears to be teaching that wickedness enslaves the wicked – indicative of the fact that sin enslaves sinners; hence its inclusion here. However, in light of the first statement, it could instead mean that wickedness will not deliver one from death (cf. GNT, NLT).

Hos 5:4  Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the Lord. ▤ 

Their sinful deeds prevented them from returning to God. As such their deeds effectively held them captive.

. . . involving enslavement to sin

John 8:34  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slaveg to sin. ▤ 

g Greek bondservant; also verse 35

Rom 6:16-20  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,h you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. ▤ 

h Greek bondservants. Twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20

Rom 7:14-17, 25  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ▤ 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ▤ 

In saying, “… it is no longer I who do it …” (v. 17), Paul is not portraying himself as innocent, but pointing out his helplessness in the face of sin’s control over what he does – “I can’t help myself” (NLT). (As noted on vv. 21-24 in the previous subsection, bear in mind that here Paul may well be speaking of his pre-Christian experience.)

Titus 3:3  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. ▤ 

2Pet 2:19  They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slavesi of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. ▤ 

i Greek bondservants

The latter part of the verse may be implying that we are all mastered by something, whether it be sin and the devil, or God.

Eph 4:19  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. ▤ 

Giving oneself up to or over to sin is in a real sense giving or offering oneself to it as a slave (cf. Rom 6:16 ).

2Tim 3:6  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, … ▤ 

Being “burdened with sins” points to being “slaves of sin” (CEV). In such a predicament, sinful desires hold sway over a person.

Gal 5:17  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. ▤ 

The latter part of the verse may be in the same vein as Romans 7:15 above, reflecting one’s captivity and enslavement to sin. However, as noted earlier in this chapter, it could instead be speaking of the Holy Spirit’s influence in inhibiting us from simply doing as we please; as such it would not be so pertinent to this subsection.

Foolishness and spiritual darkness

See also:

Ps 107:17  Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; … ▤ 

Ps 36:3  The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. ▤ 

The fact that those who work “trouble and deceit” have “ceased to act wisely”, illustrates that sinful behaviour brings foolishness.

Eccl 7:7  Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart. ▤ 

Here “madness” speaks of foolishness (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV).

Rom 1:18-22  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, … ▤ 

The “truth” (v. 18) is the truth about God revealed to all through the testimony of creation (vv. 19-21a). By ungodliness and unrighteousness, such people “suppress” the truth – in which they “push the truth away from themselves” (NLT). Verses 21-22 also demonstrate that ungodliness, with its disregard of God, leads to spiritual darkness and foolishness. The following references (Ezek 12:2; John 3:19-20) further indicate that sin leads to a lack of spiritual insight, or spiritual ignorance.

Ezek 12:2  Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house. ▤ 

John 3:19-20  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. ▤ 

Because of their evil deeds, such people spurn the light of Jesus Christ and his truth.

Further intrinsic harmful consequences

See also:

Jude 1:10  But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. ▤ 

The things that such people “understand instinctively” are their immoral practices – by which as a natural consequence “they are destroyed”.

Num 32:23  But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. ▤ 

The final clause appears to imply that sin brings its own harmful consequences – sin “catches up with you”. As such it is a similar concept to reaping what one sows (the theme of the above cross reference).

Prov 13:21-22  Disasterj pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good. 22A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous. ▤ 

j Or Evil

Isa 30:12-13  Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, 13therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; … ▤ 

This is possibly speaking of the natural harmful consequences of the people’s oppression and deceit; hence its inclusion here. Alternatively it may have in view God himself implementing such destruction in judgment.

  • Sin produces nothing good:

Rom 6:20-21  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. ▤ 

Note: Sometimes God “gives people over” to sin

Living according to God’s ways produces a fullness of life – a spiritual life, founded on a relationship with God. However for those who choose to live a life apart from God, the Bible at times speaks of God in a sense handing over such people to sin. This appears to mean that God leaves them captive to sin and facing the consequences that naturally result from living contrary to the way that produces a fullness of life.

Ps 81:11-12  But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. 12So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. ▤ 

Acts 7:41-42  And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: “‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices, during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? ▤ 

Rom 1:22-29a  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. ▤ 

Note that the latter part of v. 27 clearly supports the concept of sin having intrinsic harmful consequences.

Job 8:4  If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. ▤ 

Here Bildad hypothesizes about what was behind the fete of Job’s children.

Pray for persecuted Christians

Sin Brings God’s Judgment – Ultimately Death

See also:

When one sins, one becomes guilty

Lev 6:1-7  k The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor 3or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby— 4if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found 5or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt. 6And he shall bring to the priest as his compensation to the Lord a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering. 7And the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and thereby become guilty.” ▤ 

k Ch 5:20 in Hebrew

Num 5:5-6  And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6“Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, … ▤ 

2Chr 19:10  … whenever a case comes to you from your brothers who live in their cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or rules, then you shall warn them, that they may not incur guilt before the Lord and wrath may not come upon you and your brothers. Thus you shall do, and you will not incur guilt. ▤ 

This indicates that sin incurs guilt.

Ps 5:10  Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. ▤ 

Isa 24:5-6  The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. ▤ 

Jer 33:8  I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. ▤ 

Ezek 22:4a  You have become guilty by the blood that you have shed, and defiled by the idols that you have made, and you have brought your days near, the appointed time ofl your years has come. ▤ 

l Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, Targum; most Hebrew manuscripts until

Ezra 9:6-7, 13, 15  … saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. ▤ 13And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, ▤ 15O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.” ▤ 

Ezek 21:24  Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have made your guilt to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your deeds your sins appear—because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in hand. ▤ 

Hos 13:1  When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel, but he incurred guilt through Baal and died. ▤ 

  • People cannot themselves remove their guilt:

Jer 2:21-22  Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? 22Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God. ▤ 

God holds one responsible for one’s sin

As reflected by verses in this subsection, being held responsible for one’s sin involves such concepts as: bearing one’s sins, facing its consequences (Lev 5:17; Num 9:13; Ezek 16:58; Hos 13:16); and being held accountable to God (Rom 3:19; James 2:10; Deut 18:19; Job 31:13-14).

Lev 5:1, 17  If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity; ▤ 17“If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. ▤ 

Num 9:13  But if anyone who is clean and is not on a journey fails to keep the Passover, that person shall be cut off from his people because he did not bring the Lord’s offering at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin. ▤ 

Ezek 16:58  You bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, declares the Lord. ▤ 

Hos 13:16  m Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword; their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open. ▤ 

m Ch 14:1 in Hebrew

Rom 3:19  Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. ▤ 

Accountability for sin is clearly in view (cf. vv. 9-20).

James 2:10  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. ▤ 

The thought behind this appears to be that whenever a person sins and breaks one command of the law, the person is held accountable for breaking the law as a whole.

Deut 18:19  And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. ▤ 

Not listening to God’s words involves disobedience to them – i.e. sin. The final clause speaks of God holding people accountable for this (cf. NIV, NRSV).

Job 31:13-14  If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me, 14what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? ▤ 

Verse 14 suggests that God calls people to account for their sin (cf. NASB, NIV).

  • Sinners face having to pay for their sins:

Lev 5:5-7, 15-16  … when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, 6he shall bring to the Lord as his compensationn for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin. 7“But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin that he has committed two turtledoves or two pigeons,o one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. ▤ 15“If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the Lord, he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valuedp in silver shekels,q according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. 16He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven. ▤ 

n Hebrew his guilt penalty; so throughout Leviticus

o Septuagint two young pigeons; also verse 11

p Or flock, or its equivalent

q A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams

This speaks of guilt offerings, required in matters where restitution was quantifiable and so could be made for the wrongdoing. As indicated in the text note on v. 6, such “compensation” (vv. 6, 7, 15) was a “guilt penalty”. Note that the concept of payment for sin is also referred to later in Leviticus in 26:43 – “they shall make amends for their iniquity.”

Sin makes one subject to God’s wrath

See also:

Being guilty of sin and held responsible by God for it, means that one becomes subject to God’s wrath.

2Ki 17:11b  And they did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger, … ▤ 

2Ki 22:13  “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” ▤ 

Rom 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. ▤ 

Rom 2:5  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. ▤ 

Those who stubbornly do not repentant of sin and disobedience face the ultimate expression of God’s wrath on the final judgment day.

Eph 2:3  … among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyr and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ▤ 

r Greek flesh

The expression “children of wrath” speaks of facing God’s wrath. Because of who and what we are, with our sinful nature, we stand to “inherit” God’s wrath (cf. AMP).

Eph 5:5-6  For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. ▤ 

1Thes 2:15-16  … who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!s ▤ 

s Or completely, or forever

Opinions vary as to which revelation of God’s wrath is being referred to here. It could be a contemporary occurrence, or possibly a future one – with the present tense being used to indicate its certainty. Note that “fill up the measure of their sins” (v. 16) may be speaking of: excessive sin; reaching some limit of sin, possibly that which can trigger manifestation of God’s wrath; or perhaps bringing the sin that they were destined to do to completion. The preceding phrase “so as always to” suggests that the third alternative is less likely.

God’s wrath against sinners is manifested in punishment

See also:

Ps 90:7-9  For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. ▤ 

Isa 57:17  Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. ▤ 

Dan 9:11, 16  All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. ▤ 16“O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. ▤ 

Ps 38:3-5  There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. 4For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. 5My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, … ▤ 

Ps 102:9-11  For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink, 10because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down. 11My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. ▤ 

Zeph 1:17-18  I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. 18Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. ▤ 

Note that this and the following references appear to refer to a final fulfillment at the end of the age.

Zeph 3:7b-8  But all the more they were eager to make all their deeds corrupt. 8“Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed. ▤ 

Isa 13:9, 11  Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. ▤ 11I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. ▤ 

Isa 26:20-21  Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. 21For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain. ▤ 

The reference to God’s “fury” (v. 20b) may be to his fury or wrath against Israel, which they are assured will pass. But it is more likely speaking of his wrath manifested in his punishment of the nations due to their sins (v. 21a), notably their killings of many innocent people (v. 21b) (cf. ZBC).

  • Those who persist in sin will certainly receive their due punishment:

Prov 11:31  If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner! ▤ 

Sin results in physical death – through Adam’s original sin

See also:

People may experience God’s wrath and judgment for sin in various forms during their lifetime, but common to all is the judgment of physical death.

Rom 5:12, 15-18, 21  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— ▤ 15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18Therefore, as one trespasst led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousnessu leads to justification and life for all men. ▤ 21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ▤ 

t Or the trespass of one

u Or the act of righteousness of one

Paul appears to be saying that all people are viewed as having sinned in Adam’s sin (at times referred to as “original sin”) and therefore are subject to death. Presumably this has to do with Adam being the head of the human race. The thought may be intended in a legal sense, with Adam being the representative of all people. Alternatively it may be intended in a natural or physical sense, with all people viewed as being seminally in Adam and thus “participating” in his sin. (cf. BKC)

Death reigned (v. 17) in the sense that it held sway over all people, with all people being subject to it, destined to die. In turn, v. 21 teaches that sin reigned or “exercised dominion” (NRSV) “by means of death” (CEV, GNT). However the supremacy and finality of the reign of sin and death no longer extends over those who receive God’s grace and his gift of righteousness, through Jesus Christ (vv. 17-18, 21; cf. vv. 15-16).

Rom 8:10  But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. ▤ 

The clause “the body is dead because of sin” most likely is referring to the fact that believers will die physically as a consequence of their sin (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT).

1Cor 15:21-22  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. ▤ 

As with the extracts above from Romans 5, Paul is speaking of all people being subject to death because of their relationship to Adam, with Adam’s sin being in view as the cause.

1Cor 15:56  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. ▤ 

“The sting of death is sin” means that death gets its power to harm from sin (cf. CEV, GNT); without sin there would be no death. This is indicative of the fact that physical death is a consequence of sin.

Sin brings the prospect of eternal “death”

See also:

Because of his justice God demands that unforgiven sin be punished with what is sometimes referred to as eternal “death” or destruction, involving eternal separation from God in hell. A complementary reason for this state is that sin necessitates separation from God, because of his holiness.

Rom 6:16, 21, 23  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,v you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? ▤ 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. ▤ 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ▤ 

v Greek bondservants. Twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20

Here “death” appears to primarily refer to or at least encompass eternal “death”, particularly in view of the contrast with “eternal life” (v. 23). But quite possibly it also encompasses being dead spiritually in the present life as well – which may also be the case in James 1:15 below. Additionally, with physical death being prominent in the previous chapter of Romans (cf. Rom 5:12, 15-18, 21 ), arguably Paul could be speaking of death generally. (A similar point could be made regarding the extracts from Romans 5 in the previous subsection.)

Rom 8:13  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. ▤ 

Gal 6:8  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. ▤ 

The term “corruption” denotes “decay and ruin and destruction” (AMP), things which have an eternal application in keeping with the latter reference to “eternal life”.

James 1:15  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ▤ 

James 5:20  … let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. ▤ 

The reference to saving one’s “soul” from death suggests that eternal “death” is in view.

Rom 2:12  For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. ▤ 

Only those who have the law will be judged by it; others will be judged according to whatever revelation they had. But the common principle is: all who are found wanting because of their sin will perish.

Rev 21:8  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. ▤ 

The “second death” is eternal “death”.

Ex 32:33  But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. ▤ 

The reference appears to be to the “book of life” spoken of in the NT as containing the names of those who will live forever. One can infer from this that those who have sinned – and have not accepted God’s provision of forgiveness – will not be listed among those who will live forever; i.e. they will die an eternal “death”.

Note: Sin can lead to consequences that affect others – notably children . . .

See also:

Heb 12:15  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; … ▤ 

For comment, see the comment on Heb 12:15 – under Spiritual defilement . . ..

Josh 7:1, 25a  But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel. ▤ 25And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” ▤ 

Josh 22:18b  And if you too rebel against the Lord today then tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. ▤ 

Joshua is here speaking to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Joshua says that any rebellion of theirs against God would lead to God’s anger against the Israelites as a whole (cf. Josh 7:1, 25a ).

Ex 20:4-6  You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing steadfast love to thousandsw of those who love me and keep my commandments. ▤ 

w Or to the thousandth generation

Verse 5b (cf. Ex 34:7 ) appears to speak of the ongoing effects of punishment still being felt by future generations. Some commentators think that it alludes to the sin itself filtering through to later generations, and so being accompanied by appropriate punishment – although this would not apply to repentant children. Note the contrasting blessings for those who love God, with God blessing them with his love to a thousand generations.

Ex 34:6-7  The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for thousands,x forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” ▤ 

x Or to the thousandth generation

Lev 20:4-5  And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, 5then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech. ▤ 

Lev 26:39  And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them. ▤ 

Note that this says that such people will “rot away” because of their own sin in addition to their fathers’ sins.

Num 14:33  And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. ▤ 

Jer 32:18  You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, … ▤ 

Lam 5:7  Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities. ▤ 

. . . but it is the one who sins who will die for their sin

Under the Mosaic Law, one who sinned intentionally was to be put to death for their sin. Whatever other repercussions a father’s sin might have for his children, the father alone was to be put to death for his sin; no one was to die for another’s sin. The stipulation has an eternal application: one will not suffer eternal “death” for another’s sin; those who will be condemned will be condemned for their own unforgiven sin.

Deut 24:16  Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. ▤ 

2Ki 14:6  But he did not put to death the children of the murderers, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, where the Lord commanded, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. But each one shall die for his own sin.” ▤ 

Jer 31:29-30  In those days they shall no longer say: “‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ 30But everyone shall die for his own sin. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. ▤ 

The proverb quoted (v. 29; cf. Ezek 18:3 ) spoke of the fathers doing wrong and the children supposedly suffering the consequences, effectively sharing in the guilt of the father (v. 19a). God indicates that this is not the case, that only the one who sins will die for his or her sin (v. 30; cf. Ezek 18:3-4, 19-20 ).

Ezek 18:2-4, 19-20  What do youy mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? 3As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. ▤ 19“Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. ▤ 

y The Hebrew for you is plural

  • We alone are responsible for our sin:

Job 19:4  And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians