What is Sin?
We hear a lot about sin from Sunday pulpits and while there is variance among preachers concerning where the gray area ends and the sin begins the consensus generally is that they are against it. The same can be said for God in scripture. Not surprisingly the Lord has a firmer grasp on the subject.
Paul tells us in Romans 14:23 “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Paul is teaching in this chapter that if God has not by way of revelation given you liberty in an area it is sin for you to do it. He makes the point about whether or not one should eat meat or only herbs saying, “and he that doubteth is dammed if he eat because he eateth not of faith.” But Paul says for himself that God has assured him that it is permissible to eat both telling us in verse 14 “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”
In Romans 2:14-15 Paul talks about the law being written in our hearts “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)”
Paul says this is how even a gentile can do the will of God without actually knowing or practicing the law. God writes the law in the hearts of men. This takes us back to Paul’s premise “ whatsoever is not of faith is sin” which gives rise to the question“How do we get faith?”
Paul addresses this question in Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” Word in this verse is a translation of the Greek word rhema and means that which is spoken. Faith does not come from what is written like Jewish law or even the Bible. Rather faith comes from what Jesus speaks to us by way of the Holy Spirit. This is an ongoing process until the day God takes us home to be with Him.
Romans 8:14 tells us “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The way it works is Jesus speaks, the Holy Spirit shares His words with us by way of our born again human spirit and as a result we have to choose to obey. If we choose to disregard what Jesus says James tells us in 4:17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Roman chapter 1:17 says “…The just shall live by faith.” So quite literally we live by hearing God and obeying the law written in our hearts by Him. This gives understanding to Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him…” Paul indicates that this law written in the hearts of men is an individual process and that as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling we should not judge others that have not received the same faith yet.
Paul says for some it is alright to eat meat and for others their faith will not allow it. He calls neither wrong but only admonishes us not to let our liberty cause another to stumble. Let us all live according to the manner of Paul in Romans 14:22 “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God, Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
Paul is letting us know that we should not look to our brothers and sisters in the Lord to emulate their behavior necessarily. What God has approved for another may not be the case for you. Once again, we cannot escape the truth that the Christian way is to pray, hear and obey.