Home   About Us   Holiness Library   Bible Prophecy   Listen to Sermons  History of the Holiness Movement   Early English Bibles   Bible Studies   Links





Lesson 13 What Constitutes Sin?


Devotional Reading:   Psalm 51.


Memory Verse:           James 4:17.


Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.




John 9:41. Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.


John 15:22. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.


Matthew 5:28. I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.


Mark 7:21. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders.


1 John 3:4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.


1 John 5:17. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.


Romans 5:13. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.


Romans 4:15. Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.


Romans 14:23. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.




John 9:41. Sin is rated according to light.

John 15:22. Hearing truth, whether admitting it or not, removes excuse for transgression. Responsibility is not voluntarily assumed but is forced on men through knowledge of the truth.

Matthew 5:28. Sin need not be acted. Unlawful desires of the heart are likewise sinful.

Mark 7:21. Unlawful desires of the heart become the cause of sinful deeds.

James 4:17. There are sins of omission. These are based on one’s knowledge.

1 John 3:4. The standard by which sin is judged is God’s law. Men are not left to set their own standards of right.

1 John 5:17. Sin is sin because of its very nature. This is not an arbitrary standing given an act regardless of its value.

Romans 5:13, 4:15. The law was made the basis for the imputation of sin. It defined the requirements placed on man. Without such knowledge sin is not imputed.

Romans 14:23. To do what one believes to be wrong, whether the act in itself is sinful or not, is sin.






1. It is not an illusion.


Mrs. Eddy [the founder of Christian Science] told us that sin only seems real. The terrible experiences of the human race prove the reality of sin. It is impossible to get away from the fact of its existence.


2. It is not a human invention.


“Ethical standards are created by men. A thing is sinful because he, or the community, so considers it. The standard is relative and arbitrary. What he esteems to be sin is sin.” If this were true man would be responsible to no higher being. Our responsibility is to God’s law.


3. The Bible treats sin as a reality.


A) Direct texts. The doctrine of sin is found on most every page of the Bible. B) The atonement. The entire sacrificial system and particularly the death of Christ testifies to the awful reality of sin. If there is no sin there is no need of atonement.




1. The supreme moral law.


A) The law of right and wrong. By the moral law we mean those fixed principles of right and wrong that are everywhere and always in force. Such a law is eternal and universal in its very nature. Every moral being is bound by it. B) This law was written in man’s nature. Man instinctively distinguishes right from wrong. Through sin this law has been much weakened in man, but it is greatly restored through salvation. C) It is to this law, as men may be conscious of it, that those who have not the Bible are amenable. D) Any violation of this law is sin. “All unrighteousness is sin.”


2. Enacted laws.


A) Through legislation. These are laws, not essentially moral in themselves, that come in force only through commands. Much of the old system was of this character as are some of the commands of the New Testament. B) They are temporary. Having come into force through legislation they may also be annulled. Many were intended only for a limited time. C) They are binding while in force. God possesses full right to enact such laws. The keeping of the great moral law is briefly stated as loving God with the whole heart. To so love God requires obedience to every known command hence it is morally necessary to obey enacted laws.




1. According to knowledge.


A) Justice requires it. It is manifestly unfair to hold one responsible for what he does not know and has no opportunity to know. Human courts make some allowance for ignorance. God who knows all hearts deals justly. B) Knowledge comes through the Scriptures. The chief source of information concerning our duty toward God is the Bible. “Sin is not imputed where there is no law.” If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin. The Bible reveals to us the true moral standard as well as enacted laws. C) Willful ignorance is not excusable. Some do not like “to retain God in their knowledge” but are willingly ignorant. Our responsibility extends to what we have the privilege of knowing. D) Ignorance does not save. Knowledge gives added opportunity for either obedience of sin; it is the attitude toward the knowledge possessed, and not the degree of knowledge, that determines the sin.


2. According to motive.


A) Sin is a heart act. Sin, being a moral question, is not determined by the mere deed. It is the soul that sins, the body is but the instrument. The motive determines the guilt. B) Good intentions justify the act. Unto the pure all things are pure. The act itself may require confession and restitution, but it is not imputed as sin when prompted by pure motive. C) Evil intent makes a deed evil. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. To do that which is not wrong itself, if the doer regards it wrong, it is sin (Romans 14:14).




1. In deeds.


A) In acts. The many acts forbidden by God’s word when committed are sin. An act willfully done in violation of knowing the law brings certain guilt. The sin of Adam was of little importance if judged by the mere act but was enormous when judged by its deliberate character and its consequences. B) In words. Words are an act. Falsehood, profanity, and vile conversations are sin. C) By omissions. To know to do good and do it not is sin. Maybe a deliberate refusal.


2. In heart.


A) Evil desires. The consent of the heart to an evil deed is counted sin. There is sinning in thought. B) Unpremeditated deeds. A profane man often swears through the force of habit. You are responsible for the habit. Evil desires. C) Sincere sins. You may be deceived in what you believe and be sincere. Ill feelings.