Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:21-23)
Much of the “theology of sin” has to do with what we do. Taking that view, there are right deeds and wrong deeds. OK, is casting out devils in Jesus’ name a right deed or a wrong deed, a work of iniquity, a sin?
If you look on the internet at the definitions of sin given by various organizations, you get answers such as:
Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). (GotQuestions.org)
Sin is a riddle, a mystery, a reality that eludes definition and comprehension. Perhaps we most often think of sin as wrongdoing or transgression of God’s law. Sin includes a failure to do what is right. But sin also offends people; it is violence and lovelessness toward other people, and ultimately, rebellion against God. (biblestudytools.com)
The Christian definition of sin is purposely disobeying the rules of God (1 John 3:4). (crosswalk.com)
Sin is a transgression, an iniquity, an unrighteous act. Sin is a deviation from the will of God. It is a form of evildoing since it is in opposition to God’s decrees and desires. Sin is not…merely a deficiency. (carm.org)
The truth is that sin, as defined in the original translations of the Bible, means “to miss the mark.” (allaboutgod.com)
All these definitions have to do with our deeds. Look again at Jesus’ statement above. Sin has more to do with our ears than with our hands; with our teacher than with our deeds. Yes, there are deeds, but the deeds have their rise in the teacher. The righteousness or the sin comes not with the deeds but with the teacher of those deeds. Look at Eve who sought for the knowledge of good. God’s teaching was “You can eat from every tree of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I alone am the source of the knowledge of good.” Satan’s teaching was ” Eat. You can be your own source of the knowledge of good. You can be your own God.” Look at Cain who sought contentment and happiness. God’s teaching was “sin is crouching at your door, you must overcome it. Then you will find happiness and contentment. Satan’s teaching was “kill Abel. That will solve your problems.”
Most of Christendom looks at the Bible as God’s rule book, a written standard by which we are to live. Sin, therefore, is judged by comparing our behavior to these rules. Usually the rules begin with the 10 commandments. However, the first commandment God gave to the Israelites is not one of the 10. First, God said:
Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)
Jeremiah puts that command this way,
“…in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.'” (Jer. 7:22-23)
The Hebrew word translated as “obey” has connotations of both “hear” and “obey.” It is a living relationship rather than a static follow-these-rules command. After establishing this dialogic relationship, God gave the 10 commandments beginning with:
“Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
Notice the conjunction of “obey my voice” with “I will be your God” in the Jeremiah passage above. This is the condition, and no other, upon which the Creator will be your God. “You shall have no other Gods before me” means you shall not hear/obey any other voice.
Sin comes into the picture when we hear/obey the wrong teacher, when we fail to hear/obey The Word who was in the beginning, the Creator who speaks to his people without measure.