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Sin is the act of disobeying the Law of God,[1] whether intentionally or unintentionally.[2] Not only is sin disobeying the law, it is failing to do what the law requires in a given situation[3]. The Law delineates penalties to be placed on those that willfully rebel against God in such a way.

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Sin is defined as any act of breaking the law of God[1]. God's law is outlined in the Ten Commandments and even more summarized[4] as loving God with all your being (heart, soul, mind strength),[5] and loving your neighbor as yourself.[6][7]



Sin progresses from one's facing temptation in his own sensual, human nature (desire) [8] to the willful participation in forbidden behavior (sin).[9] The inevitable consequence of this is death.[10] While the reason for the initial choice of Adam and Eve is a mystery, their disobedience to God's command was forced by the original liar,[11] "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan."[12]


The history of God's moral agents, both heavenly and earthly, is a history of sin. Beginning at a time lost to history, sin began in the mind of the angels, beings of great glory. From them, sin was introduced to mankind.

Even in the history of the people of God (Seth's line, Noah, Abraham, etc.), individuals have sinned. The Bible does not hold back from showing this. In the book of Genesis, before the Law was given, there is murder, deception ("false witness," or outright lying), and sexual intimacy based on a lack of faith.

This section highlights that history, starting with one of the most impressive creatures ever created: one who would come to be known as "Satan" (the adversary).

Fall of Satan[]

The first sin was committed by Satan. The fall of this favored heavenly being is mentioned while discussing earthly kings, as well as being mentioned in different contexts in the New Testament. This fall came some time between the creation of the universe and the fall of man. According to the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, Satan's particular sin was usurping the authority of his creator, the Lord. This became apparent as he called on a large company of angels to rebel. It was based on an attitude of pride.

Fall of Man[]

Main article: Fall of Man

As the story of mankind unfolds, there is but one negative command: "Of the the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it..."[13] The punishment for disobeying was "in dying, you shall die." The Hebrew has a double wording: "die die." This command was directly before the creation of woman to be a helper suitable for the man[14]. Based on Eve's response to the snake,[15] it appears that Adam had relayed the command to her. However, she was tricked by the talking reptile, while Adam looked on and then followed her in eating the tree's fruit[16].

The Apostle Paul argues in his first letter to the Corinthians:

21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.[17]

And elsewhere he wrote:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.[18]

As God had warned, sin began a "culture of death" for mankind. Desire for the forbidden fruit had given in to sin, and when that sin was "full grown" the consequence is death.[19] Jesus' best friend on earth, the Apostle John, wrote:

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.[20]

This was the "way of the world" that Eve had chosen. In some way, most likely physically, this tendency to disobey God has passed down to all mankind. Each person has an inner knowledge of a tendency to break the rules.

The Murder of Abel[]

It is seen in the outworking of selfishness and envy, as when the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, Cain, determined to kill his brother Abel.[21]

The Great Flood[]

Violence became a way of life in the days before the great flood.[22] And as Paul put it: "the wages" came due in the destruction of most of mankind.

The Incident with Ham[]

Some time after safely coming through the flood, Noah found the effects of wine, when taken to access, can be embarrassing. It is not clear whether he deliberately sought the drunkenness, but when his son Ham found him unconscious and naked, he ran and told his brothers. This disrespect for his father showed sinful attitude which brought displeasure to Noah, God's representative to his family. The consequences were passed on to the tribes descending from Ham's son Canaan.[23]

The Tower of Babel[]

After the flood, Noah's family stayed close for generations, apparently lacking faith to follow the command to spread out. Seeking faith in numbers, they built a city and a tower "to reach the heavens"—an apparent deification of their own abilities.[24]

The Destruction of the Cities of the Plain[]

After Abraham had begun his sojourn in the land God had promised him, he became associated with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, as long as other cities in their vicinity. It was outside of Sodom, on the banks of the Jordan River, that his nephew Lot, chose to live.[25]


There are both sins of the heart (the inner man) and sins against both God and one's fellow man. About a thousand years after the flood, right after the descendants of Jacob had left Egypt, God acted to let them know what was expected of them.

Ingratitude had rampant in the early chapters of Exodus, leading up to God giving Moses the Ten Commandments, Most of these have the phrase "You shall (i.e. must) not..."

3  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

5  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

7  Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

8  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9  Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work:

10  But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

12 ¶  Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

13  Thou shalt not kill.

14  Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15  Thou shalt not steal.

16  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

17  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

As a general list of sins, this foundational list of laws lays out at least eight forbidden courses of action:

  1. Idolatry
  2. Blasphemy
  3. Disrespect of authority
  4. Murder
  5. Adultery
  6. Stealing
  7. Bearing false witness
  8. Covetousness

Of course, breaking any one of the Commandments (numbers 1 and 2 being four of them) is sinning against God and his Law. The chapters following the giving of the Commandments list applications of these laws to help those following in Moses' and Aaron's footsteps.

Lists appear in the New Testament as well. Whereas none of them include a full list, they are helpful in giving a guideline on behavior to avoid. For example, in what might have been his first letter, Paul writes:

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 

20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 

21 envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.[26]

The list of sins leads off with sexual sin and ends with a total disregard of any limits. Note that in the middle of it all is societal discord. The theme of disinheritance is repeated in the last chapter of the Revelation to John:

14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

15  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whore mongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.[27]

The 'dogs' are a reference to 'unclean' unbelieving enemies of God. "Sorcerers" are those that use drugs in controlling others. The others reflect the worst of the sins forbidden on the tablets given to Moses.

Though there are lists in the Bible, it is clear among men that things are not right between humans and their creator. Paul opens his letter to the Romans speaking of this problem:

18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19 ¶  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23  And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.[28]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1 John 3:4
  2. Lev 4:2, 5:17 (Link)
  3. James 4:17 (Link)
  4. Matt 22:40 (Link)
  5. Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37-38 (Link)
  6. Matt 22:39 (Link)
  7. Luke 10:27 (Link)
  8. James 1:14 (Link)
  9. James 1:15 (Link)
  10. Gen. 2:17; Rom 6:23 (Link)
  11. John 8:44 (Link)
  12. Revelation 12:9 (Link)
  13. Genesis 2:17 (Link)
  14. Genesis 2:18 (Link)
  15. Genesis 3:3 (Link)
  16. 1 Timothy 2:14-15 (Link)
  17. 1 Corinthians 15:11-12 (Link)
  18. Romans 6:23 (Link)
  19. See James 1:15. (Link)
  20. 1 John 2:16 (Link)
  21. Genesis 4:1-8 (Link)
  22. Genesis 6:1-7 (Link)
  23. Genesis 9:20-25 (Link)
  24. Genesis 11:1-8 (Link)
  25. Genesis 9:1-11 (Link)
  26. Galatians 5:19-21 (Link)
  27. Revelation 22:14-15 (Link)
  28. Romans 1:18-23 (Link)