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What matters the mostSin is pictured as a debt, and the sinner as a debtor. Accordingly, the word represents sin both as a wrong and as requiring satisfaction.

Sin is seen as a burden, but one that has been borne by the Messiah. It is a debt, but one that has been paid by the Messiah. It is an offense, but one that has been removed by the Messiah.

God’s goal: Through the mighty work of Jesus, we have been forgiving. It is a stunning thing to experience. God wants us to show the same compassion and mercy on others. We must forgive.

Sin is an illness, but one that can be healed by the Messiah. It is defiling, but one can be made pure through the Messiah. All of this is actualized through the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist, in which the disciples participate in the Messiah’s death and resurrection.

In the Jesus Manifesto, “Their trespasses” shows that “our debtors” didn’t refer to those who owe us money but referred to those morally indebted to us by having trespassed against us, as when they persecuted us.

“As we also have forgiven our debtors” draws a comparison. Our forgiveness of others presents God with an example of the forgiveness sought from him and demonstrates the sincerity of our asking him to forgive us. The comparison will shortly turn into a condition.

If we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us. But a condition isn’t a cause, so that his forgiveness of our debts will still arise out of mercy and grace, not out of any merit in our having forgiven others.

  • Matthew 6:12  — 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
  • Matthew 18:21–35  — 21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Master, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his Master commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 “And the Master of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their Master all that had happened. 32 “Then summoning him, his Master said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 “And his Master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
  • Luke 7:41–50  — 41 “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 “When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Digging Deeper – What is sin?

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If you want to dig deeper, here are some additional resources. One of the themes is understanding that sin is missing the mark. I see that as missing God’s goal for our lives. Sin, the Greek hamartia, is generally associated with military usage and means to “miss the mark.” It indicates failing to make a bull’s-eye. In moral and ethical contexts, it means to fail of one’s purpose, to go wrong, or to fail to live according to an accepted standard or ideal i.e. God’s goal.. Sin is the failure to be what we ought to be and could be.

Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology Definition

The history of the human race as presented in Scripture is primarily a history of mankind in a state of sin and rebellion against God and of God’s plan of redemption to bring many people back to him. Therefore, it is appropriate now to consider the nature of the sin that separates man from God.

We may define sin as follows: sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature. Sin is here defined in relation to God and his moral law. Sin includes not only individual acts, such as stealing, lying, and committing murder, but also attitudes that are contrary to the attitudes God requires of us. We see this already in the Ten Commandments, which not only prohibit sinful actions but also wrong attitudes: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exod. 20:17). Here God specifies that a desire to steal or to commit adultery is also sin in his sight. The Sermon on the Mount prohibits sinful attitudes such as anger (Matt. 5:22) or lust (Matt. 5:28). Paul lists attitudes such as jealousy, anger, and selfishness (Gal. 5:20) as works of the flesh opposed to desires of the Spirit (Gal. 5:20). A life that is pleasing to God is one that has moral purity not only in its actions but also in its desires of the heart. In fact, the greatest commandment of all requires that our heart be filled with an attitude of love for God: “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” (Mark 12:30).[1]

Baker Encyclopedia

Evildoing seen in religious perspective, not only against humanity, society, others, or oneself, but against God. The concept of God, therefore, gives to the idea of sin its many-sided meaning. Other gods, conceived as capricious and characterless, exercised unlimited power in unbridled behavior; they engendered no such sense of sin as did Israel’s one God, holy, righteous, and utterly good. This religious conception of wrongdoing with the terminology it created, persists into the NT.

Israel’s God sets the ideal, the standard for human behavior, and the most frequent biblical words for sin (Heb ḥāṭā’; Gk hamartēma) meant originally “to miss the mark, fail in duty” (Rom 3:23). As Lawgiver, God sets limits to man’s freedom; another frequent term (Heb ‛ābar; Gk parabasis) describes sin as transgression, overstepping those set limits. Similar terms are peṡa‛ (Heb) (rebellion, transgression); ‛āṡam (Heb) (trespassing upon God’s kingly prerogative, incurring guilt); paraptōma (Gk) (a false step out of the appointed way, trespass on forbidden ground).[2]

Lexham Bible Dictionary

The broad concept of sin as failing to live up to an expected standard of conduct or as a violation of cultural customs or laws can be seen in every culture and society throughout history. Various religions also see sin as a violation of the divine will. This concept has developed in various ways in different societies. By examining the background of the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the ancient Jewish and Christian canons themselves, we can see particular ways in which early Jews and Christians came to understand sin.

In some contexts, particularly in some Old Testament texts, the term “sin” is primarily used in reference to external actions performed by human beings (e.g., murder, adultery). In other parts of the Bible, the term “sin” is expanded to include the inner actions of humans, such as their thoughts and desires. Sin is also often portrayed as an entity not dependent on human actions, such as a state of being in alienation from God or an impersonal force acting within humans or societies against God.[3]

Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics

That fundamental defect or missing of the mark that results when humans fail to trustingly center their lives on God. Sin can be viewed both as a state in which humans are alienated from God and as actions that stem from an unfaithful heart and thus go against God’s will. In addition, sin can be understood both as a reality within individuals and as a factor shaping social structures.[4]

Bible Word Study

As defined by the Bible, sin is a violation of God’s standard for human behavior. The most frequent biblical words for “sin” speak of violating that standard in some fashion. The Greek equivalent, hamartia meant, originally, “to miss the mark, fail in duty” (Rom. 3:23). As Lawgiver, God sets limits to humanity’s freedom; another frequent term (Greek parabasis) describes “sin” as “transgression,” which means overstepping those set limits. A similar term is paraptoma (Greek); it denotes “a false step” or “a trespass on forbidden ground.” Two other New Testament words are anomia, which means “lawlessness,” and paranomia, which means “lawbreaking.”[5]

Quotes on Avoidance of sin

I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 NRSV

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness, or sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:11–14 ESV

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13 NIV

If hell were on one side and sin on the other, I would rather leap into hell than willingly sin against my God. St Anselm of Canterbury

Kill sin before it kills you. Richard Baxter

It is the great moment of our lives when we decide that sin must die right out, not be curbed or suppressed or countenanced, but crucified. Oswald Chambers

Sin is to be overcome, not so much by direct opposition to it as by cultivating opposite principles. Would you kill the weeds in your garden, plant it with good seed; if the ground be well occupied there will be less need of the hoe. Abraham Fuller

When thou attackest the roots of sin, fix thy thought more upon the God whom thou desirest than upon the sin which thou abhorrest. Walter Hilton

It would be better to eschew sin than to flee death. Thomas à Kempis

To mourn a mischief that is past and gone / Is the next way to draw new mischief on. William Shakespeare[6]

[1] Grudem, W. (2020). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Second Edition, p. 619). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

[2] White, R. E. O. (1988). Sin. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1967). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[3] Henderson, J. J. (2016). Sin. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Evans, C. S. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of apologetics & philosophy of religion (p. 107). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[5] Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 392). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Manser, M. (Ed.). (2016). Christian Quotations. Martin Manser.