Harmartiology comes from the Greek word hamartos meaning sin. Harmartiology, in Christian theology, is the study of sin from a biblical perspective. The study includes biblical definitions of sin, the origin of sin, how sin was introduced into the world, man and the basic sin nature, the solution to the sin problem, the judgment and punishment of sin, and the removal of sin at the end of time.
THE DEFINITION OF SIN
Sin is defined as “missing the mark” of God’s righteousness through transgression of His laws or rebellion against His rule. It is like shooting a weapon and missing the target. It is falling short of what you should be and of God’s perfect plan for your life. The Bible clearly states that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). There is no one righteous (Romans 3:10 NIV).
The Bible uses several different words for sin:
Wickedness means to have an evil mind-set to do mischief. It is a mental disregard for righteousness, justice, truth, and virtue:
So shall it be at the end of the world: The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just. (Matthew 13:49)
Transgression means breaking the law. It is like a man stepping across a line over which he has no right to step, invading forbidden territory, and crossing the boundary between right and wrong:
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgression…
This word means injustice, wrong, iniquity, falsehood, and deceitfulness:
All unrighteousness is sin… (1 John 5:17)
Ungodliness means dishonesty, wickedness, and total disregard of God. It is treating God as if He did not exist. Ungodliness is not the same as atheism, which believes there is no God. Ungodliness is knowing there is a God, yet totally ignoring Him and His laws:
For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness… (Romans 1:18)
Iniquity means to be lawless, either without the law or violating the law:
…Depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:23)
Disobedience is the opposite of obedience. It means to ignore God and His law:
By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners… (Romans 5:19)
Trespass means to leave the right path and cross the boundary from right into wrong. It is like being on another man’s property where you do not belong:
And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)
THE ORIGIN OF SIN
Evil existed before man was created. Sin was originated by Lucifer, also known as Satan. The Bible records that Lucifer was a special angel who was originally created perfect by God. Lucifer sinned when he tried to stage a rebellion against God. Because of this sin, Lucifer was cast out of Heaven to earth:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High… (Isaiah 14:12-14)
Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: Thou wast upon the holy mountain of God… Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee…I will cast thee to the ground… (Ezekiel 28:14-16)
HOW SIN WAS INTRODUCED INTO THE WORLD
On earth, Lucifer (who became known as Satan) continued his rebellion against God. When God created the first man and woman (Adam and Eve), Satan led them to sin against God. This rebellion is sometimes called “the fall of man”, meaning that man fell from righteousness into sin.
Satan enters the scene on earth in Genesis chapter 3 appearing as a serpent, which is another name for him (Revelation 12:9). He actually appeared in the shape and form of a serpent or snake. To fully understand the temptation, we must note God’s initial instructions to man:
And the Lord God commanded the man saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it;
for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:16-17)
The first step in Eve’s fall into sin was being in the wrong place. In Genesis 3 we find her near the forbidden tree. Proverbs states of the path of wickedness:
Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. (Proverbs 4:15)
Second, Eve should never have entered into conversation with Satan whose first words questioned the instructions given by God:
And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1)
Questioning the truth of the Word of God is often how Satan starts the temptation process. In answering Satan, Eve misquoted God’s Word. She added to God’s instructions as well, and minimized the penalty for sin:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Genesis 3:3)
Compare this verse with Genesis 2:16-17. God did not say “neither shall ye touch it.” This is added by Eve. Right from the beginning, man started adding his ideas, instructions, and legalism to the Word of God. God also said “thou shalt surely die.” This was the penalty for eating of the tree. Eve changed this to “lest ye die,” meaning “you might die.”
Today, there is the same tendency to minimize the penalty for sin. People say, “Surely a righteous God could not send anyone to Hell!” Actually, God does not send anyone to Hell. Man chooses to go there by his own sinful actions. The penalty for sin remains everlasting separation from the presence of God in Hell. People often do not identify sin for what it is. Abortion is called a method of “birth control” instead of murder. Adulterous relationships are sometimes referred to as “affairs.”
In answering Eve, Satan contradicted God’s Word:
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die; For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:4-5)
Satan wanted to alienate Eve from God. Satan claimed God knew she would receive great benefits from eating of this tree. She would be more knowledgeable and become like a god. In essence he was saying, “God must not think much of you, Eve, to deny you this wonderful opportunity.” Eve should have answered, “I am already like God,” because she was created in God’s image.
Genesis 3:6 describes the darkest moment in human history:
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6)
To summarize: Eve was in the wrong place. She put herself in a place where she was likely to be tempted. Then she listened to the enemy, Satan. Next she looked longingly upon that which God had forbidden. Then Eve proceeded to take and eat from the tree. She partook of that which God had labeled SIN. The final result was that her sin affected Adam when she gave the fruit to him and he ate. When you sin, it usually affects those around you and when they sin, they enter the same destructive cycle of sin.
RESULTS OF SIN
Immediate Results Of The Fall Into Sin:
-Knowledge of good and evil: Immediately after the fall, Adam and Eve were no longer in a state of innocence. They recognized the difference between good and evil and realized they were naked and sinful (Genesis 3:7).
-Self-righteousness: Adam and Eve tried to make clothing from fig leaves which is a type (an outward example) of what man tries to do spiritually. Realizing we are sinners, we think self-improvement will correct our sin (Genesis 3:7), but our self-righteousness is as inadequate as the fig leaves were to cover Adam and Eve: “But we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousness are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
-Fear and shame: When God came to walk and talk with Adam and Eve, they hid themselves in shame and fear (Genesis 3:10). Shame and fear are basic emotions from which all other negative emotional responses evolve.
-Separation from God: God did not remove Himself from man’s presence, rather, it was man that removed himself from God. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God.
Specific Judgments On The Serpent: These included:
-Changed physical form: The physical form Satan used for the temptation was cursed. The serpent originally walked upright, but from this time on he wiggled on his belly through the dust.
-Enmity between Satan and man: This was the beginning of what we call “spiritual warfare,” with Satan struggling for the soul of man. This warfare continues to the present day. Harvestime International Institute offers a course entitled “Spiritual Strategies: A Manual Of Spiritual Warfare” which focuses on this spiritual battle and provides strategies for victory over the enemy.
-A crushed head: The third penalty on the serpent is actually a promise to sinful man. Although Satan would “bruise the heel” of man spiritually through sin, the seed (descendant) that would come from woman would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15). This was the first promise of a Savior for the sin of mankind. Although Satan would affect man through sin, a Savior would be sent by God through woman and the power of sin would be crushed. The tragedy of sin came through the fall of a woman. Redemption would also come through a woman who would give birth to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Specific Judgments On Adam: These were:
–Labor a weariness: Prior to sin Adam tended the ground in joyful ease, but now he must labor hard. The environment of the earth changed. The ground that was once fertile and without pests or weeds became filled with thorns and thistles.
-Death: The penalty of natural death was imposed on Adam. God said his body would return to the ground, for “dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Spiritual death was also a penalty of sin. God said “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Without forgiveness, man would die the spiritual death of eternal separation from God.
Specific Judgments On Eve: These were:
-Sorrow in childbirth: The curse of pain and sorrow was placed upon child bearing.
-Subjection: Eve would become subject to her husband.
Penalties On Both Adam And Eve: God removed Adam and Eve from the beautiful environment of the Garden of Eden to a world filled with sorrow, pain, thorns, and death.
God warned Adam and Eve that the penalties of sin would include physical and spiritual death. Spiritual death was a loss of their relationship with God. Physical death was death of their physical bodies. The only bright spot in the entire chapter of Genesis 3 is the promise of the coming Redeemer who would crush the power of Satan (Genesis 3:15).
MAN AND THE BASIC SIN NATURE
Originally, man was created in the image of God. He was innocent and righteous. As the first human, he lived in a perfect environment so therefore his sin did not result from his environment or because of his ancestors–factors which are often erroneously blamed for sin.
Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, however, sin and death were passed on to all men:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)
Everyone born inherits the basic nature of sin. His conscience (1 Timothy 4:2); his will (Romans 1:28); his heart (Ephesians 4:18); his intellect (2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 1:28); and his total being have all been corrupted (Romans 1:18-3:29).
Just as physical traits are inherited, the spiritual trait of the basic sin nature is inherited. Each person sins and faces the penalties of physical and spiritual death. Everyone inherits the basic sin nature and each person sins individually when he is drawn by this sinful nature to rebel against God:
Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:14-15)
All have sinned, but God has provided a way to escape the penalties of sin. Through repentance from dead works and accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior you can be “saved” from the penalties of sin. (See the doctrine of Soteriology in this manual.)
THE SOLUTION TO THE SIN PROBLEM
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Acts 4:12 confirms, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Jesus Christ is the answer to the sin problem. He is the only way to God and the only way to be forgiven. Romans 10:9 declares, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord: and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Ultimately, sin separates people from God, yet God has provided reconciliation and forgiveness of sin through His Son Jesus Christ. The solution to the problem of sin is repentance and redemption through Christ (Romans 5:12-21; Romans 7:21-25; Colossians 2:13-15).
THE JUDGMENT AND PUNISHMENT OF SIN
All people deserve judgment for sin, yet Christ saves those who trust in Him for eternal life and forgiveness of sins (John 3:16). Believers who sin may be judged by the Lord for corrective purposes, yet they do not lose their salvation each time they sin (Romans 8:37-39; Ephesians 2:8-9). Those who do not trust in Christ receive eternal punishment as their judgment (Matthew 25:46).
Spiritual death, physical death, and eternal death are all punishments for sin, as are certain sufferings in this life. But beyond question, eternal death is the gravest punishment for sin imaginable because there is no other opportunity for reconciliation with God as it results in eternal separation from God (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
Sin always has consequences for both the present life and the next. A believer cannot escape certain consequences and/or discipline for his unconfessed sin, but this judgment does not revoke his salvation unless he totally turns his back against God. There are penalties connected with the believer’s unconfessed sin, however. These include:
-Losing his joy and peace: Galatians 5:22.
-Becoming a spiritual hindrance to others: 1 John 2:10.
-Hindering their prayers: 1 John 3:19-22.
-Grieving the Holy Spirit: Ephesians 4:30.
-Feelings of shame at the Lord’s return: 1 John 2:28.
-Losing fellowship with God and other believers: 1 John 1:6.
-Discipline from God for persistent sin: Hebrews 12:6.
-Church discipline for certain sins: 1 Corinthians 5:4-5.
-Physical death as a result of certain sins: 1 Corinthians 11:30.
The remedy for the believer’s sin is to confess and forsake it (1 John 1:8-9).
THE END OF SIN
Sin will continue to exist until the end of time as we know it, at which time judgment will occur and the curse of sin will be removed as God’s children experience eternal joy in the presence of the Lord (Revelation 21). Sin will no longer exist. Revelation 22:3 reveals that there… “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.”
- The following references are a compilation of sins listed in the Bible. Some are repeated in more than one list. There are…
-Seven which come from the heart and defile: Matthew 15:18-20
-Thirteen which come from the heart and defile: Mark 7:21-23
-Twenty-three which bring the judgment of God: Romans 1:29-32
-Seven which believers cannot do: Romans 13:13,14
-Six with which believers should not associate: 1 Corinthians 5:9-11
-Ten which prevent entrance into the Kingdom of God: 1 Corinthians 6:9,10
-Seventeen which prevent entrance into the Kingdom of God: Galatians 5:19-21
-Four which bring wrath and prevent entrance into the Kingdom of God: Ephesians 5:5-6
-Eleven from which believers must turn away: 2 Corinthians 12:20-21
-Nine in which the unsaved live and in which believers should not live: Ephesians 4:17-19
-Six which must not exist among believers: Ephesians 5:3,4
-Nine which believers should put away: Ephesians 4:25,28,29,31
-Six which believers must put off: Colossians 3:8,9
-Six which believers must mortify and which bring the wrath of God: Colossians 3:5-6
-Fourteen for which the law was given: 1 Timothy 1:9-10
-Nineteen from which believers must turn away: 2 Timothy 3:1-5
-Nine from which believers are saved: Titus 3:3-5
-Five which believers must lay aside: 1 Peter 2:1
-Seven sins of the flesh in which believers no longer live: 1 Peter 4:2-4
-Eight which condemn to the lake of fire: Revelation 21:8
-Six which prevent access to the tree of life and the holy city: Revelation 22:14
- Study the following outline of the teaching of Jesus regarding sin:
Satan And Sin:
Matthew 4:10; 12:26,27; 13:19; 16:23; 25:41
Mark 3:23,26; 4:15; 8:33
Luke 4:8; 10:18; 11:18,19; 22:31
John 8:34-36; 14:30
Matthew 12:31,32; 15:19
Mark 3:28,29; 7:21,22
Matthew 14:31; 17:17,20
Mark 2:8; 9:19; 16:16
John 3:11,12,18; 4:48; 5:38,40,43-47; 6:64; 8:24,45-47; 12:47,48; 15:22,24,
Matthew 6:2,16; 15:7,8; 23:13-15,25,27-29
Mark 7:6; 12:40
Luke 11:44; 12:1; 20:47
Mark 7:21,22; 12:38,39
Luke 11:43; 14:11; 20:46
Matthew 5:21; 15:19; 19:17,18
Mark 7:21; 10:19
Adultery, Fornication, Lasciviousness:
Matthew 5:27,28,32; 15:19; 19:9,11,12,17,18
Mark 7:21,22; 10:11,12,19
Luke 16:18; 18:20
Matthew 5:31,32; 19:8,9
Matthew 15:19; 19:17,18
Mark 7:21,22; 10:19
False Witness, Deceit, Fraud:
Matthew 15:19; 19:17,18
Mark 7:21,22; 10:19
Evil Thoughts, Evil Eye, Wickedness, Foolishness:
Matthew 6:23; 9:4; 15:19; 20:15
Materialism And Worldliness:
Matthew 6:19-21,24; 12:39; 13:3,22; 16:4; 24:38,39
Mark 4:3,7,18,19; 8:12
Luke 8:14; 9:60; 10:41,42; 11:29; 14:16-24; 16:1-9,13,15; 17:26-29; 21:34
John 4:48; 6:27
To procrastinate means to continuously delay doing something.
Luke 12:42-47; 13:25-28; 14:16-20
Matthew 7:1-5; 12:7
Blindness Of Heart:
Matthew 13:13-15; 15:14; 16:2,3
Mark 4:12; 8:18,21
Luke 8:10; 12:54-56
To backslide means to turn from following Jesus.
Sacrilege is the violation of that which is sacred: Matthew 7:6.
Denunciations Of Sin:
Matthew 10:14,15; 11:22,23; 12:34,41,42; 13:13-15; 16:4; 18:7; 21:19; 23:13-15,25,27,29,33-36
Mark 6:11; 8:12; 11:14
Luke 6:24-26; 9:5; 10:10-15; 11:29,32,42,44,46,47,49-52