The Definition of Sin and Redefining Sin – The Great Controversy


There is some great controversy going on surrounding this issue right now. But its been going on since the beginning of time. Why the big controversy? Is it important? Let’s look at those questions.

Most have no idea what sin is today. Ministers are redefining it. I heard a minister many of us know recently say “Sin is THE BELIEF THAT YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR and you cannot be forgiven.”

Now. What’s wrong with that definition? Look carefully. Let’s just propose that I have murdered 12 people. But I didn’t BELIEVE that I’ve gone too far. Was it sin? Think about it.

That is a redefinition of sin from a minister many of us have listened to and admired. “Sin is transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4)

It doesn’t matter one iota what I believed about it. It didn’t matter a shred as to whether or not I believed that I had gone too far or not. It matters what the law says is sin. It was still SIN.

Sin is what You Know to be Wrong – James 4:17

Another popular minister said “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17). They’ve said this is ANOTHER DEFINITION of SIN. But wait, is this minister not contradicting the following:

“Sin is the transgression of the law.” This is the only definition of sin. Without the law there can be no transgression. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” The standard of righteousness is exceeding broad, prohibiting every evil thing (Manuscript 27, 1899)

James 4:17 is not another definition. Notice:

Jas 2:8-12 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: (9) But if ye have respect to persons,*** ye commit sin,*** and are CONVINCED OF THE LAW as transgressors.

THE LAW makes you a TRANSGRESSOR, and that is THE ONLY THING that makes you a transgressor. James is saying “Read the law.” It is written in the book of the law “Ye shall not respect persons” (Deuteronomy 1:17, 16:19)

But wait… Here is where it gets tricky. If I don’t know the law, then to me it isn’t sin. Some are saying that if we don’t know that it isn’t sin, that then it is justified and we will inherit eternal life. In other words they are saying “all ignorant sin is justified.” That is ERROR. You see, most in Jesus day were ignorant when they crucified Jesus.

“Had they known that they were putting to torture one who had come to save the sinful race from eternal ruin, they would have been seized with remorse and horror. But THEIR IGNORANCE DID NOT REMOVE THEIR GUILT, for it was their privilege to know and accept Jesus as their Saviour.”—(The Desire of Ages, 744)

You see, sometimes we should know better, but we have mishandled and abused our PRIVILEGES to KNOW better, and we have been ignorant because of our rejection of knowledge. (See Hos 4:6) And sadly many will come to the judgment not knowing that they could have had the PRIVILEGE of KNOWING Jesus as their savior.

I understand that there are small details of the law that we don’t understand. However, when it comes to self and pride. We must understand and it must be put to death.

So to answer this plainly, this is not another definition of sin, but it is only expounding on the fact that “Sin is transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4)

Anything Not of Faith is Sin – Romans 14:23

“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom 14:23) Some have said this is another definition of sin. And have interpreted the word to fit their carnal thinking. The interpretation has been things like “I have graven images set up all through my church building and my house, but it’s okay because I do it in remembrance in FAITH and therefore it is not sin.” Another says “I’m homosexual. I know that the law says the man and woman shall be one flesh, but our understanding of loving our neighbor as ourselves is defined thus and thus…” And therefore they confess “I am still a FAITHFUL Christian.” Or yet another says “I know it says the Seventh day is the Sabbath, but I rest every day BY FAITH and therefore observing the Sabbath day is not necessary.” Even though God wrote it with His own finger in stone.

It is amazing how many directions people can get led into when they don’t have a light on their path to teach the right way.

So why is anything not of faith sin? Because “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17)

Furthermore, in the same chapter of Romans Paul quoted many Old Testament passages, for anyone who wants to look at it, go and study how many times Paul quotes verses from the Old Testament. That’s all they had in Paul’s day. There was no New Testament.

So when Paul said “faith cometh by hearing…the word of God” He was talking about believing the Old Testament. Even in Verse 6-8 of chapter 10 of Romans when talking about FAITH he quoted Moses and the book of the law.

Rom 10:6-8 But the righteousness which is of FAITH speaketh on this wise, ****Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) (7) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) (8) But what saith it? THE WORD IS NIGH THEE, EVEN IN THY MOUTH, and IN THY HEART:**** that is, THE WORD OF FAITH, which we preach;

This is quoted from Deutoronomy. The law. Moses preached “the word of faith” which Paul preached when He wrote:

Deu 30:14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

So then if “anything not of faith is sin.” And “faith cometh by hearing…the word of God.” And that word is the law, since Paul quoted from Deutoronomy, that book of the law is “the word of faith” which he preached, then clearly anything not of faith would be SIN, and SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF THAT LAW.

The Statutes DEFINE the LAW CLEARLY – The Microscopic Definition of Sin

The Bible says it plainly that “sin is transgression of the law”. (1 John 3:4) But it seems that some have felt that this is a very narrow definition of what sin is and have come to believe that the law is much broader. Though the definition of sin is “transgression of the law.” There are finer details of the law that God would have us understand. Without the statutes the ten commandments could be reinterpreted to mean “whatever feels good”.

The following quote makes clear the DEFINITION of the LAW. And since transgressing the LAW is SIN. Then the Statutes make it more CLEAR AND DETAILED as to what the DEFINITION OF SIN is.

“In consequence of continual transgression, the moral law was repeated in awful grandeur from Sinai. Christ gave to Moses religious precepts which were to govern the everyday life. These statutes were explicitly given to guard the Ten Commandments. They were not shadowy types to pass away with the death of Christ. They were to be binding upon man in every age as long as time should last. These commands were enforced by the power of the moral law, and they clearly and ***DEFINITELY EXPLAINED*** that law.” {RH, May 6, 1875 par. 10} –E. G. White –The Review and Herald May 6, 1875 –The Law of God.

Notes about this quote:
Statutes guard the ten commandments
These explained the moral law.
These were given to Moses.
These were repeated at Sinai indicating they existed before Sinai.
They will be binding as long as time should last.
They were not nailed to the cross and did not pass away at the death of Christ.

The statutes define laws such as adultery, murder, what it truly means to love your neighbor as yourself. But oftentimes because SELF is still alive, it doesn’t want to know the DEFINITION of the LAW, nor the DEFINITION of SIN. However, it is CLEARLY and DEFINITELY EXPLAINED for those who will accept and not abuse the PRIVILEGE of KNOWING the truth on this matter so they are not ignorant in the shining light of it when the time of judgment comes.

Some might be objecting right now and saying that we have two new commandments. We love our God with all our heart, and love our neighbor as yourself. This fulfils the law. These are written in the book of the law. And they mean the same today, as they did yesterday, and they will still mean the same tomorrow. They were written in Deutoronomy and Leviticus.

Mat 22:37-40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. (See Deu 6:4-8) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (See Lev 19:18) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

All of the law is summed up in these two commandments. We need to UNDERSTAND THEM in their broader sphere rather than REDEFINE THEM. Our government today has redefined marriage, yet the book of Genesis was clear what God desired in the beginning. Not only do we need to be clear on WHAT SIN IS, but notice how important it is to UNDERSTAND just WHAT SIN IS in this next quote:

“Not one should be buried with Christ by baptism unless they are critically examined whether they have ceased to sin, whether they have fixed moral principles, ****WHETHER THEY KNOW WHAT SIN IS,*** whether they have moral defilement which God abhors. Find out by close questioning if these persons are really ceasing to sin, if with David they can say, I hate sin with a perfect hatred.”—EG White Letter 26d, 1887, p. 6

Study the word. Search it prayerfully, and be careful to take note of the erroneous teachings that speak not according to this word. (Isa 8:20) And what is the reason for all these redefinitions? The Bible says:

Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

It is the same thing that happened in heaven. Lucifer wanted his own way, and felt that God’s law was arbitrary and not given for our good always that it might be well with us. (See Deu 5:33)

“Many are deceived on this point. Their minds are confused, and THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT SIN IS. But they can know, by studying the word of God.” [EGW 5MR 255]

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