Defining Sin

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 3:23

My husband and I started our relationship with each other in church, and through the years we have been doing our best to understand the Bible, who YHVH is, and what He wants from us. Needless to say, what we believe has changed drastically from 23 years ago. There was no overnight revelation, just a simple changing of understanding in foundational beliefs over the years – things like what is faith, what is love, what is our purpose, what does spirit mean, and on and on.

Sometimes these changes in belief happen without my realizing it. That is exactly what happened with my view on sin. As my husband and I were talking one day, we somehow got on the subject of what sin is. We discussed things like what our purpose is and the Strong’s definition of sin. As we spoke about these things and how they related, I suddenly realized that my personal understanding had changed.

Up until recently, my personal understanding of sin was that it was simply disobeying a list of do’s and don’ts. I understood that we are given Torah and the laws, and I thought that by simply obeying those, I was avoiding sin. Sure I make mistakes and sin against YHVH and others by disobeying those laws, but as long as I am consciously trying my best to keep those laws I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. You can even fit Strong’s definition of sin into this understanding – that sin is simply missing the mark. (If I fail to keep one of the laws, I have missed the mark in that area.) Seems like a pretty black and white concept, huh? It just isn’t that simple, though.

Recently, I have realized that sin is not committed by breaking a list of does and don’t. Sin is actually missing the mark of living up to the potential of our purpose.The purpose of man is and always has been to bear YHVH’s image. I have explained this in more detail in a previous study, but let me just give you the bullet points here.

An Introduction to Sin

What was the first commandment ever given to man? Where are we first shown our purpose?

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

When Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they decided that they could define good and evil for themselves. With this decision, they fell from their full potential. Without carrying the image of YHVH, eternal life is not an option, so that was taken from them.

Then YHVH God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore YHVH God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:22-24

In spite of all that happened, Adam and Eve were not doomed to a separation from YHVH. We see this in the story of Cain.

In the course of time Cain brought to YHVH an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And YHVH had regard for Abel and his offering

Genesis 4:3-4

Throughout the story of Cain and Abel, scripture speaks of the relationship this family had with YHVH through their offerings of sacrifices. It seems to me that they still strove towards a relationship with Him and quite probably towards bearing His image. Scripture certainly doesn’t say they stopped striving to be His image, but Cain did. Cain was given a warning and an option.

YHVH said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?2 And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Genesis 4:6

Sin (missing the mark of bearing YHVH’s image) was crouching at the door. Cain did not rule over it – he didn’t even try. Therefore he was removed from YHVH’s presence.

Then Cain went away from the presence of YHVH and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 4:16

We can sin (miss the mark) and still be in relationship with YHVH as long as we are striving to be His image. It is when we stop striving, stop trying to hit the target, that we are separated from Him.

The Law Connection

YHVH is the author of life. He created and gave life, and created us with the purpose to walk in that life forever by reflecting who He is. How did death come about? This is where we kind of jump to another subject that has changed in my understanding. The story of Adam and Eve (and really also the story of Cain and Abel) show that humans are to blame for their own death. It was their decision that brought death. Not only did their decision bring them death, it also influenced everybody who knew them. The example Adam and Eve provided was passed down to their children. Their children passed it on to theirs, and on and on. Death was brought on by man through his influences and examples – not by a serpent, a devil, or demons.

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:21

Through their example and influence Adam and Eve created a world that now lives in separation from YHVH. Through Adam’s example and with the steadily worsening example of each generation that followed, mankind was finally so far from the image of YHVH that we needed instructions or laws to show us who He is. That is the sole purpose of the law. It is in this way that the nation of Israel was reintroduced to the characterics of YHVH so that they could carry His image. Amazingly, all of those laws are reduced to the ten commandments which boil down to two – the two greatest commandments – love YHVH with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself.

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:29

It is no mistake that all the law and prophets are summed up by those two commandments. Just as Adam’s decisions and actions influenced all those who were watching, each person on this planet has the same audience. Our love for our neighbors is the greatest influence that we can have in showing who YHVH is, and if we can accomplish loving YHVH with our whole being, we will automatically strive to be like Him. Through the completion of both of those commandments, we can begin to reflect an accurate image of YHVH.

The Temple Connection

Along with the laws, the children of Israel were given instructions for the tabernacle and priestly services. Believe it or not, there is a lot to be learned about who YHVH is and how we are to bear His image from these instructions. Each sacrifice made was in response to man missing the mark, and each man that missed the mark had individual responsibility for his actions. It was up to him to clean off anything that did not reflect YHVH and make the decision as to whether or not he wanted to continue to strive towards being that image.

This is how a person would move from an unclean status to a clean one. While digging through this concept, I found that a representation of death could be found in most cases of uncleanness. Menstrual discharge, leprosy, touching of the dead and much more made a person unclean. These things had the appearance of somebody approaching death (loss of blood, illness, and – of course – the touching a corpse). In each of these cases, the individual who was found to be unclean was responsible to clean it up. Why? Were they in control of the situation that made them unclean? Not always, but returning to the idea that man is responsible for the occurrence of death, we can see that he is also the one who is responsible for cleaning that stain from the image he is supposed to be reflecting. And while it is not a sin to be unclean, it is a sin to refuse to wash yourself from uncleanness.

But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

Leviticus 17:16

The Atonement of Yeshua

All of these laws, the temple services, and the priestly services were given to us to show us who YHVH is. Through these we see His desires, His character, and His intentions for us. However a list of “rules” or writings is not enough. We are more likely to follow an example than written or spoken words, and the example Adam gave us misses the mark.

This is the purpose for our Messiah. Yeshua came to undo all that man had done. Since it was through man that YHVH’s image had been lost, that we have death, and that we have separation from YHVH, it had to be through man that we are shown who YHVH is. It had to be done through a living example. Yeshua was the living example – the image of YHVH that we should strive to be.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 4:4

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Colossians 1:15

Through Yeshua’s example and influence, we can begin to act as YHVH does so that we can show the world the CORRECT picture of who our God is. Yeshua knew the laws. He knew the purpose of the laws – Love YHVH, and love our neighbors (as YHVH does). This ultimately shows the world who our God is and how we respect Him. While Adam brought death with his example and influence, Yeshua brought life with his.

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22

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