foundation topic

What Is Sin?

Sin is any disobedience to God’s revealed commands either in heart or deed.

Related Topics
What's on this page?

Our human condition

The Bible says that every one of not only sins, but is by nature infected by sin, which is an inner rebellion against God.

Theme Verse
1 John 1:8-9 ESV

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Short Content

Why the Bad News About Sin Is a Good Thing

Every worldview includes a perspective about our identity as people. Understanding who or what we are as humans greatly impacts the rest of our worldview.

In many places, what the Bible tells us about ourselves resonates with our reality, but also rubs us the wrong way because what it says is uncomfortable. Sin is one of these uncomfortable topics.

No one likes to hear about sin. It’s not comforting to read what the Bible says about us and our sin. In fact, what the Bible tells us about ourselves and our world is really bad news.

The Bible doesn’t paint a pretty picture of us. In fact, it’s a much darker picture than we would imagine on our own. But friend, please don’t leave at this point in the conversation! What the Bible teaches, though really bad news, is very good for us to know. This is true for two reasons.

First, simply, because it’s what’s true! Imagine you’re suffering from pains all over your body that you can’t explain. You go to the doctor. After looking at your test results and seeing cancer, the doctor does not want to discourage you, so he says, “You’re healthy!”

You’d probably be upset if you found out he lied. You want to know what’s wrong, not only to understand your experience, but also to know how to respond accordingly.

In the same way, God’s Word diagnoses the state of our souls. It’s clear that there is much wrong in our world and within ourselves. We need to know the truth about ourselves. And, like a good doctor, the Bible tells us straight.

This brings us to the second reason that the bad news about sin is a good thing. When we’re properly diagnosed, we can find the proper cure.

When, in our thought experiment, your doctor lied about your cancer, he also cut you off from any cure. Unlike the doctor, the Author of the Bible loves us enough to give the dismal diagnosis so that he can lead us to the cure.

We want you to understand this before we talk more about what the Bible means by sin. Understanding sin can be a hard pill to swallow.

One of the wisdom books in the Bible, Proverbs, instructs us that only fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7), reminding us that when we reject truth because it’s distasteful, we’re only hurting ourselves.

We believe the Bible to be the authoritative truth written by our loving Creator to lead us to him. Therefore, we believe his Word that there’s something terribly wrong with us (Jeremiah 17:3). We also believe he has provided the cure.

We share his Word with you because we know ourselves to be sinners in the way the Bible describes, sick with rebellion, regret, and wrongdoing—yet we have also discovered the cure in its pages. We know that if you understand yourself to be a sinner too, then perhaps we may have the joy of introducing you to our Great Physician.

He’s ready to see you, whatever your malady. For he told us, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

We’re sick and in need of a cure. Will you entrust yourself to the Great Physician?



What Is Sin?
Article: 12 Min

An Honest Look at Our Wrongdoing



An honest man
with an open Bible
and a pad and pencil
is sure to find out
what is wrong with him
very quickly.

Romans 1:18-32 ESV

What is sin as it's defined in the Bible? 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Article: 10 Min

Sin, and How It Wants to Kill You


Video Series

What Does Sin Mean?


Genesis 2-3

Where did sin come from?
Messages: 60 Min

What Happened at the Fall?

by John MacArthur

Article: 15 Min

The World’s Joy-Tragedy

by Tony Reinke at Desiring God

by Alistair Begg, 25 Min
Romans 5:12-13 ESV

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned. In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to a person’s account when there is no law.


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

Romans 3:23 NIV

We are not sinners
because we choose to sin.
We choose to sin
because we are sinners.

Video: 4 Min
by Shai Linne and IV Conerly
Genesis 6:5 NIV

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.


every inclination
of the human heart
is evil from childhood.

Genesis 8:21 NIV
Am I a Good Person?
Video: 6 Min
Video: 9 Min


Truth Be Told

by Matthew West
Video: 4 Min
Article: 10 Min

Do You Excuse Your Own Sin?

by Don Straka at Desiring God

Video: 6 Min
by Matt Chandler
at Truth Endures
Romans 3:10-12 ESV

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

Messages: 45 Min

Whatever Happened to Sin?

by Russell Moore


No man knows
how bad he is
till he has tried very hard
to be good.

Jeremiah 17:9 ESV

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Messages: 40 Min

Source and Surface Idols

by Matt Chandler

Jeremiah 2:12-13 ESV

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Folk | Country Gospel

I've Got News

by Andrew Peterson
Devotional: 5 Min

God's Wrath Against Sin and His Love for Us

by Nancy Taylor and Phil Ryken, adapted by


Biblical Description of Sin

by A.W. Tozer from his book, "The Knowledge of the Holy"

Eight hundred years before the advent of Christ the prophet Isaiah identified sin as rebellion against the will of God and the assertion of the right of each man to choose for himself the way he shall go. "All we like sheep have gone astray," he said, "we have turned everyone to his own way," and I believe that no more accurate description of sin has ever been given (Isaiah 53:6).  

See quote source

You’re the problem.
Your heart is the problem.
It’s not outside of you;
it’s in you, which is why
you can’t solve it.

Romans 7:15-23 NIV

 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.