The Best Definition of Sin in the Bible

The good news isn’t good until we understand the bad news is bad.

This is a fundamental truth of gospel understanding. Jesus turns no one away – not the idolater or the murderer or the adulterer or the liar – just as long as they come to Him cognizant of their need. In order to embrace the gospel, we must first accept our overwhelming need of the gospel, and that means understanding that we are all, without exception, hopelessly lost in sin.

It is key, then, that we not only share about sin with our children, our neighbors, and the world, but that we also understand the depth of our sin ourselves. If we don’t, we will slowly but surely drift into the distorted kind of thinking that causes us to drift away from the gospel:

I wasn’t really that bad, was I?

I didn’t kill anyone or anything…

Of course God saved me. I mean, why wouldn’t me?

And all other kinds of lies by which we bolster and sooth our own gospel-destroyed egos. The Bible speaks into these lies time and time again by reminding us of the sour truth regarding human nature and our unending propensity for evil and rebellion apart from the intervening grace of God.

But there is one single verse which, in my opinion, captures the essence of what sin it. It’s the last verse in the book of Judges, a book which chronicles the downward spiral of disobedience of those that were called to be radically different as the people of God. Here’s how the book closes:

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted” (Judges 21:25).

This is sin, for in this one verse, we see the prideful root of self-lordship, self-exaltation, and self-determination at the core of all our rebellion. We are, in our minds, gods of our own universe. And as such, we have the right to choose whatever is right and wrong for ourselves, and anything that imposes some authority over us other than our own autonomous minds, hearts, and desires is a constraint that must be thrown off.

But be careful, friends, lest we look at this verse that think that we have grown beyond this point, that we have moved past such tendencies, that we have overcome such self-determined habits. Let us instead take this verse as a solemn and humbling warning, for as they were so we might also be.

Save for God’s grace.

Subscribe to

Never miss a new post. Subscribe to receive these posts in your inbox and to receive information about new discipleship resources.

You have successfully subscribed. Click here to download your bonus.